Category: Literary Fiction

Alice's Island
April 18th, 2019 by diane92345

Alice’s Island starts out with a mystery that quickly turns into an obsession.

Chris is killed on a road he shouldn’t have been on while traveling home to his very pregnant wife, Alice. Alice obsesses about finding out where Chris was on the night of his death. Once she uncovers his secret life, she spends a healthy chunk of Chris’ $1.5 million insurance on spying on the neighbors in Chris’ hideaway.

In Alice’s Island, Alice goes off the rails and really should have spent her money on therapy. It is painful to watch her continuing downward spiral. Worse, after the first 25% of the book, the constant spying on her new neighbors was just boring. I kept thinking it would tie together in the end. It, or at least most of it, didn’t.

However, the romance was interesting. If you don’t mind having an unsympathetic narrator, you may like Alice’s Island. But for me it was a 3 star read.

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

Best Microfiction 2019
April 17th, 2019 by diane92345

Mystery, romance, mythology and pathos. It is all here in the Best Microfiction 2019.

In the time taken to watch another catheter ad on daytime tv, you could slip into a fully formed life. It may be the story of a dragon, a protective older brother, or a murder victim. Some of these super-short stories may linger for days while others quickly fade from memory. However, all 87 are worth the reader’s time. My personal favorites are the post-apocalyptic “You’ve Stopped” by Tommy Dean and the heartfelt “Any Body” by Sarah Freligh. The Best Microfiction 2019 deserves 4 stars!

Thanks to Petekinesis and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

The Last
April 9th, 2019 by diane92345

An isolated hotel in Switzerland after multiple nuclear bombs are detonated is the setting of The Last.

Jon, an American historian at the hotel for a conference is the book’s narrator. After the bombs drop, the Internet soon fails. Most of the hotel’s guests drive or walk to the city and its airport. By the tenth day, only five staff and fifteen guests remain in the hotel. They are waiting for help that never arrives.

When Jon and two of the staff find a body in the water tank on the roof of the hotel, Jon decides to find the murderer. As their food supplies dwindle and the weather turns colder, the survivors turn on one another. The group must decide how to administer justice and how to run their government.

I was so excited to read this book. The Shining and Agatha Christie in a Walking Dead setting? Yes, please! Those are some of my favorite books. Of course here comes the however, heavy sigh. However, The Last is much closer to The Road.

The Last is a slow-burning philosophical trip into the meaning of life and how a worldwide disaster would force or allow us to act. Would we still care about anything other than our own survival? Would we still have our humanity or would we devolve back into animals? Would we be more religious or fully convinced God had forsaken us?

II you are a thriller or mystery fan, look elsewhere. The mystery here is an afterthought at best. Even with its slow pacing, I felt compelled to read it in one day. I would recommend it only for literary fiction fans. I took one star off for the ending, which I don’t want to spoil, leaving it at 3 stars.

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

The Spectators
April 6th, 2019 by diane92345

The Spectators is literary fiction but the two portions of the plot make strange bedfellows.

Mattie M. is a talk show host (think Jerry Springer) in the late 1990s. When a horrific school shooting is determined to be by hard-core fans of Mattie’s show, it opens a national discussion on the pros and cons of sensational television. It also reveals Mattie’s history as a disgraced NYC politician. In separate chapters, Mattie’s former lover, Semi, tells the story of the carefree 1970s NYC gay culture and how the 1980s’ AIDS crisis effected that culture.

I’m not sure who would be the perfect reader of this clearly divided book. The discussion on the talk show phenomenon appeals to me but not the gay culture portion of the book.  Others will feel the other way, I’m sure. The Spectators was not for me but perhaps it will be for you. 3 stars!

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with:

Daisy Jones & the Six
March 11th, 2019 by diane92345

Daisy Jones & The Six is the best non-thriller that I have read this year!

Set in the turbulent late 1970s Sunset Boulevard band scene, The Six is a five member middle-of-road rock band who are effectively forced by their label to add a sexy new lead singer, Daisy Jones.  Daisy is a free spirit who dresses and acts without worrying about what others think. She is also stunningly beautiful and a drug addict. The Six’ singer, Billy, has recently returned from rehab and is determined to not relapse for his wife and newborn daughter’s sake.

Daisy Jones & The Six is compulsively readable.  I was late to work two out of the three days that I read it.  I just had to read the next interview. While not a traditional thriller, the book has a mystery: why did the band break up. However, it was the convincing character interactions that heightened my enjoyment of the book. All the characters seemed so real with genuine and frequently conflicting emotions driving their actions. I can’t recommend this Reese’s Book Club pick highly enough. 5 stars!

Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books, Romance Tagged with: , ,

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes)
March 7th, 2019 by diane92345

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes) is the story of small town Minnesota life over the past fifty years seen through the eyes of a local journalist. The title refers to the name one of her readers called her, a “radical hag”, plus she felt that if she added recipes it would encourage people to read her column.

A homespun Minnesotan newspaper columnist (think Garrison Keillor) suffers a stroke and is in a coma. While hospitalized, her newspaper begins to publish reprints of her prior articles along with the audience’s response.

I really wanted to like this story. However, it seemed extremely slow and nothing much happened that you didn’t see pages before it occurred. It is possible that I have just read too many thrillers to appreciate a literary fiction book that so heavily emphasizes characters over plot. Therefore, I’ll give Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes) 3 stars for fans of that genre.

Thanks to University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: , ,

Finding Dorothy
February 22nd, 2019 by diane92345

Fascinating story about how the author of The Wizard of Oz went about Finding Dorothy interspersed with the making of the movie in 1938-39.

Maud Baum is the unifying character in the two strands of her life described in the book. It begins with a 77-year-old Maud attempting to get on the MGM lot to ensure that her long-dead husband’s book would be faithful carried to the silver screen. While the bright colors of Technicolor including the bright green of Oz were unfamiliar, Maud sees a vulnerability and talent in Judy Garland when she hears her singing “Over the Rainbow”. After proving her worth to the MGM honchos, Maud covertly takes Judy under her wing with the help of the studio head’s secretary.

In a parallel story, Maud at nineteen is one of the first woman at Cornell. Her mother, a famous suffragette, insists that she become an attorney. However, Maud only has eyes for handsome actor and small theater producer, Frank Baum. Once married, the couple are deeply in love but have ongoing financial problems. When Frank is convinced to publish the book he spends travel time on the train writing, the Wizard of Oz thrusts them both into the spotlight.

I enjoyed both parts of Maud’s story but perhaps the movie one slightly more. Finding Dorothy is an excellent look behind the scenes at the cost of both movie and literary stardom. 4 stars!

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

Such Good Work
February 14th, 2019 by diane92345

Such Good Work is the inspiring tale of addiction and recovery based on a true story.

Jonas works as an adjunct creative writing teacher in the US. When he isn’t being fired. And if he isn’t high on oxy or another opiate. When Jonas hits rock bottom, he makes the unusual decision to get a Master’s degree, and hopefully teach in, Sweden. He has dual citizenship so the paperwork is simple. Once there, he works with Middle Eastern refugees teaching them Swedish while also going to school.

This is autofiction, or a fictionalized autobiography. It is a story of overcoming addiction and replacing it with Such Good Work. It is recommended to literary fiction readers and those struggling with addiction issues. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

Miraculum
February 7th, 2019 by diane92345

Miraculum is a carnival with a big top, a midway, and freak show in 1922. It is also the setting for a battle of good against evil.

After the suicide of the carnival’s chicken biting geek, a mysterious well-dressed man applies for the job. Despite a lack of experience, he is hired for the job. Ruby, the daughter of the owner of the Miraculum, is a heavily tattooed snake charmer. As soon as she sees the new geek, Daniel, she feels something is off about him. As more tragedy befalls the troupe, Ruby tries to discover if Daniel is behind them.

Miraculum is a great gothic tale of good fighting evil in the picturesque 1920s carnival setting. There is a substantial paranormal aspect to the tale and it isn’t really a mystery or thriller. However, I enjoy magical realism so I relished it. It appears to be a beginning of a series so I am looking forward to another installment of Ruby and Daniel’s story.

This book is an excellent choice for fans of Neil Gaiman. 4 stars!

Thanks to Polis Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: ,

Take-Out
January 30th, 2019 by diane92345

Loosely tied together by the theme of food, the sixteen stories contained in Take-Out vary from crime stories to humor.

While I enjoyed reading all the stories, my favorite was “The Gift of the Wiseguy”. It’s the story of a Mafioso’s son who writes a memoir. His father had ratted out his colleagues and entered witness protection twenty years earlier leaving his family behind. This story has crime, twists and pathos. The characters are well-defined with clear motivations. Due to its length, not a word is wasted. Many of the other stories are also great reads.

Take-out is highly recommended to thriller readers. 4 stars!

Thanks to Polis Books for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Mouthful of Birds
January 11th, 2019 by diane92345

You awaken in a cold sweat with a fast-beating heart. Was that just a dream? It takes you several minutes to calm down. Still, the dream’s story continues to haunt you until the next feverish dream occurs. This is the feeling you will have after reading each story in the marvelous Mouthful of Birds.

Twenty surreal stories populate Mouthful of Birds. Translated from Spanish, they have the taste of another country’s mindset, while still being relatable to anyone human. The writing is luxurious as if each word was thoughtfully selected so kudos to the translator, Megan McDowell. The plots vary widely, which is good as that means there is something for all tastes here. The title story is about a young girl who must eat live birds to survive. It is left to the reader to surmise why. In The Test, a man is forced to kill a dog on a job interview.

The author, Samanta Schweblin, was a Man Booker finalist in 2017 for her short novel, Fever Dream. These stories are equally good. For those that like thought-provoking plots, Mouthful of Birds is a delight. 4 stars!

Thanks to Riverhead Books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with:

Looker
January 8th, 2019 by diane92345

The unnamed narrator of Looker is having a bad year. After years of unsucessful infertility treatments, her husband has left. Her job as adjunct professor has shrunk to only one poetry class. Despite having a PhD in Literature, she can’t find another job.

The professor falls into an increasing obsession with her famous actress neighbor. She envisions them becoming great friends despite never meeting her formerly. As her fixation grows, the professor watches the actress and her family through their uncovered windows day and night.

Marketing Looker as a thriller is a mistake. For the first half of the book, I kept waiting for a murder or something exciting to occur. It never did. Instead, I realized this a story of woman’s descent into delusion and insanity. Readers who like woman’s fiction will gobble this short novel up in one sitting. However, thriller readers will be bored silly. 3 stars.

Thanks to Scribner Books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

Book Giveaway of the Optimist's Guide to Letting Go
December 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Enter this book giveaway to grab an advance reader’s paperback copy of The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert.  The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go is a heartfelt tale of a family trying to communicate during a trying time by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake.

Giveaway begins December 6, 2018 at 12:01 A.M. PDT and ends December 14, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

How To Enter

Complete the entry form below.

Enter once per person.

Giveaway Rules

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.

Winners will be selected at random on or about December 15, 2018.

Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Book Giveaway of the Last Wish of Sasha Cade
November 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Enter this book giveaway to grab an advance reader’s paperback copy of The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young.  If you loved The Fault in Our Stars, you will love this life-affirming young adult book. It has 4.9 stars out of 5 on Amazon.

Giveaway begins November 29, 2018 at 12:01 A.M. PDT and ends December 7, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

How To Enter

Complete the entry form below.

Enter once per person.

Giveaway Rules

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.

Winners will be selected at random on or about December 8, 2018.

Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Not a Clue
November 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Very literary version of a mystery using the characters and mechanics of the board game, Clue. Throughout most of it, I felt Not a Clue who would find this book an enjoyable read.

“There are six of you and you killed me. One of you or maybe each of you.”

Each of the characters in the board game are used as pseudonyms in an insane asylum. Fully two-thirds of the book is used for only two of them. Miss Scarlett is an office worker sleeping with her boss who is in an asylum for amnesia. Professor Plum is an unsuccessful writer and suicide practitioner.

I can’t overestimate the importance of the book’s language to your enjoyment of the book. If you have a Kindle, download the sample. If you are in a bookstore (and good for you if you are), read at least the first two chapters before purchasing the book. You will immediately know if Not a Clue is for you.

After reading it in its entirety, I can assure you it is not for me. Using the forced concept of a game of Clue just made this book pretentious. I’m sure this book will be discussed in many English literature Master’s theses but it didn’t work for me. I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters and was just praying for the last page. 1 star.

Thanks to University of Nebraska Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Quantum Convention
November 19th, 2018 by diane92345

Containing eight science fiction/fantasy stories, Quantum Convention has a story for all tastes.

A man sneaks away from his wife to a Quantum Convention where he meets himself from 100 different universes each where a single different decision was made. An orphan finds a career as a professional mourner. A young boy discovers his true self in his love of dressing up as Dorothy while the Wicked Witch loses herself in her role. A group meeting whose goal is to make better decisions in dreams. A young girl’s unique relationship with Jesus. A man realizes his neighbor is Merlin the Wizard. A one-eyed boy finds a friend. The marriage of a college roommate makes a man question his sexuality.

Quantum Convention is more literary fiction than the advertised science fiction/fantasy. However, each story makes you reflect long after the story is complete. I had my favorites as will you. Quantum Convention is good choice when you are feeling philosophical. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to University of North Texas Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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