Category: Literary Fiction

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


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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Posted in Giveaways, Literary Fiction Tagged with:

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


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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Posted in Giveaways, Literary Fiction Tagged with:

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.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with:

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.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with:

Family Trust
October 30th, 2018 by diane92345

Stanley is dying. All any of his family are concerned about is whether he has set up a Family Trust and named them as trustees.

Stanley is the domineering and occasionally abusive father of Kate and Fred. Their mother and Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, is concerned that Stanley will leave his substantial estate to his new younger wife Mary rather than their children. Linda, Kate and Fred have romantic issues. The siblings work in the high stress Silicon Valley. Kate as a manager in an Apple clone and Fred in corporate venture capital.

Family Trust is Crazy Rich American Asians set in San Francisco rather than Singapore. There is still the need for children to attend Ivy League schools, to have the best job titles and to leave a legacy behind. This book had more emphasis on careers, which I enjoyed. I especially liked Linda’s story of what it was like to be divorced later in life in Taiwanese-American culture. All the characters had intricate personalities that were totally believable and were well-matched to their actions.

Family Trust is perfect for fans of family pathos or anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a different culture than that which is in most books. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, William Morrow, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: ,

The Darkness
October 16th, 2018 by diane92345

An interesting character study of a lonely police detective forced to retire. The Darkness is another character as is the beautiful isolation of Iceland.

Hulda is 64. She is dreading retiring to her lonely apartment when her superior tells she has been replaced effectively in two weeks. He allows her to investigate one cold case. She selects a drowned Russian girl who was awaiting asylum in a remote hostel. Was her death an accident, suicide or murder?

Telling three alternating stories of an unwed mother forced to give up her daughter in the 1940s, Hulda’s investigation and a mysterious woman’s adventure in the Icelandic winter. The Darkness is a slow-simmering tale rather than a thriller. The mystery was extremely easy to solve. However, Hulda’s story is an interesting one. Plus the exceptional conclusion has to be read to be believed.

The Darkness is recommended for literary fiction fans rather than those readers looking for an exciting thriller or challenging mystery. This is a tale within a tale within a tale. 4 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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

Witch Elm
October 11th, 2018 by diane92345

The Witch Elm was an acceptable family drama but not much of a thriller.

Toby is a lucky privileged jerk. His girlfriend, Melissa, is a sweet bubblehead. After celebrating his ability to talk his way out of a possibly career-ending mistake at work, Toby goes home. There he surprises two burglars, who promptly beat the tar out of him. While his broken ribs and tailbone will heal, his facial scars and head injury possibly will not fade with time. Toby’s lucky days are over.

While recuperating, Toby stays with his Uncle Hugo, who is dying of brain cancer at Ivy House. When a skull is discovered in the Witch Elm, Toby decides to investigate. Toby is literally the worst detective ever. However, he does stumble over some secrets. 

Overall, I didn’t like the pacing of the Witch Elm. It seemed overlong with an extremely slow build to the mystery. While the conclusion was shocking, I’m not convinced that it was worth the six hours of my time to get there. If this had been marketed more as literary fiction rather than a thriller, the pacing would have made more sense. However, it is hard not to rate this based on the author’s previous excellent Dublin Murder Squad series. The Witch Elm is recommended only for fans of family drama and literary fiction rather than mystery or thriller fans. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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

Under My Skin
October 4th, 2018 by diane92345

Marvelous psychological thriller that totally got Under My Skin.

Poppy, a former travel photojournalist, now owns a boutique agency representing other photojournalists. Her husband, Jack, died a year earlier—attacked early one morning while running in a local park. After his death, Poppy had a nervous breakdown with a two-day blackout. Still seeing a therapist, Poppy realizes a mysterious man is following her. She is also having dreams of what happened during her blackout. She is downing both legal and illegal pills with alcohol. Is the person following her only in her fevered imagination? Is she going crazy again?

The soporific mood of Under My Skin is addicting. It feels like the reader is dreaming rather than reading the story. There is also a strong feeling of apprehension of what the denouement will bring. It feels like finally discovering the reason for Jack’s murder will blow Poppy’s entire life apart.

I’ve read a multitude of family thrillers. This is the best of the bunch. By the end, you are no longer reading about Poppy—you are Poppy struggling to maintain your sanity among increasingly untenable facts.

Under My Skin is an excellent micro-thriller. Nothing much happens on the surface but oh so much occurs in Poppy’s mind. If you have given up on sleep one night, this creepy little thriller is a perfect midnight read. 5 stars!

Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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

Dinner List
September 14th, 2018 by diane92345

It’s a familar party game. Put your five favorite people, living or dead, on your Dinner List. This book speculates on what would happen if the dinner actually occurred.

Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner at a trendy restaurant. Seated at the table are the five guests she named. Audrey Hepburn, her college philosophy Professor Conrad, her ex-boyfriend Tobias, her estranged father Robert, and her college best friend Jessica are all relaxed and not surprised to be at dinner together. Sabrina is worried that she is either insane or dreaming.

During dinner, flashbacks show the history Sabrina has with these people and why they were added to her dinner list. However, the focus is Sabrina and Tobias’ relationship and why it ended.

I love the magical realism genre (I’m looking at you Haruki Murakami). This book has a magical atmosphere in a more realistic setting. It was innovative of the author to use an old party game as a plot driver. The conclusion is heartfelt and felt organic to the characters. Be aware that the Dinner List is sad in parts. Several of the dinner guests are dead so any revelations will be ultimately bittersweet with the knowledge unusable after the dinner ends. The Dinner List is highly recommended for fans of Me Before You and the Fault in our Stars. 5 stars!

Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction Tagged with: ,

Lake Success
September 6th, 2018 by diane92345

The rich and obnoxious American is alive and well in Lake Success.

Barry is an uber rich hedge fund manager. He has a just diagnosed autistic 3-year old son. He has split from his wife, Seema, a first-generation Indian immigrant. And he wants to recapture his youth by taking a Greyhound bus trip to visit his college girlfriend, Layla, who he hasn’t spoken to in more than a decade. Unfortunately, Barry doesn’t have much real life experience. He has to ask his chief of staff to pull strings to get him a bus ticket after the depot is closed.

Barry is the most unlikeable main character I have ever encountered. Seema isn’t much better—having an affair less than two days after their split. It took me about a quarter of the book to see that Barry is intended to be a Trump parody (or possibly satire) even while Trump himself serves as a background to the story. Generally, parodies/satires are humorous. This one wasn’t. While Barry eventually has a human feeling, it was a long time coming.

I think Lake Success will probably be a hit with critics and win some literary awards. It’s recommended for literary fiction fans but decidedly not for Trump supporters. While I loved the author’s Super Sad True Love Story, Lake Success just didn’t resonate with me. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction Tagged with:

August 19th, 2018 by diane92345

A literary take on a post-apocalyptic novel sure to be nominated for a literary award or two.  Severance is the story of Candace, a Chinese immigrant and millennial, who is trying to just live her dull life when a real apocalypse hits.

At first, Candace is in denial and continues to live in an eerily empty NYC.  Eventually, she leaves in an old NYC taxi and collapses by the side of the road.  A group of other NYC survivors take her on a trip to the Facility, where the nerdy leader, Bob, says he has a crash pad perfectly suited to the apocalypse he knew was coming thanks to gaming and Internet conspiracy sites.

I enjoyed the beautiful evocative prose of this novel the most.  The plot works but some of its satirical aspects seem forced.  I get that Candace’s life is an endless repetition of the same tasks with no knowledge gained from them.  Why does the epidemic have the same symptom?  It is like getting hit over the head with her point. Also, I would have liked characters other than Candace to be more fully fleshed out.  Most seem like stereotypes like Bob the nerd.  It is hard to care if something bad happens to a stereotype.

While I don’t think this will appeal to most Walking Dead or World War Z fans because it is too slow as literary fiction often is, it will be a fine change in setting for literary fiction fans. Since I am more the first choice, I give Severance 3 stars. I wanted more horror or more satire. However, your star rating may vary depending on your genre preference.

Thanks to the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Humor, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction Tagged with: , ,

Meet Me at the Museum
August 9th, 2018 by diane92345

I adore epistolary novels. I feel like I am the “fly on the wall” in the writers’ life. Meet Me at the Museum is one of the best of that style of novel that I have read.

 Tina has recently lost her best friend.  She is past 60 and thinking that her opportunity for fulfilling her life goals is fast escaping her. She decides to see the prehistoric Tollund man (a real object located in the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark) so she writes to her old pen pal who works at the museum.  Unfortunately, he has died but the current museum’s curator, Anders, responds.  Thus begins the short and romantic tale Meet Me at the Museum.

In the first letter Tina writes,

“it must have occurred to you that what you thought would happen when you were young, never did.”

Who of us over a certain age hasn’t had that feeling of regret at roads not taken? The love story and tale of second chances regardless of your circumstances is beautifully written with just the right tone. This book has many asides that discuss archeology, knitting, farming, and opera among many more subjects. But ultimately it is a fictional memoir of two strangers’ lives made closer by their impersonal method of communicating by letter. Using such a slow and detached medium allowed both Tina and Anders to talk about their true feeling without embarrassment much like Americans talk to a therapist.

I enjoyed both of their stories though they veered from sorrowful to joyful to resigned and back. It is definitely a compelling read. I stayed up past midnight and read it in one sitting.  Meet Me at the Museum is perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. 4 stars!

Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with:

A Double Life
July 30th, 2018 by diane92345

Claire desperately wants to find her missing father to discover his reasons for living A Double Life.

Claire was only eight when her father bludgened her live-in babysitter Emma to death and attempted to do the same to her mother. After her mother escaped the house, her father disappeared. When she is told he may have been found, Claire reminisciences about her mother and father’s romance and life before the crime. Claire’s father is the first British Lord accused of murder in the 20th century. He and her mother were separated and planning to divorce before the incident. Could her mother have set up the crime to keep her father’s wealth?

A Double Life begins slowly with a very long flashback about how Claire’s parents relationship began. If I hadn’t been reading this book to review it, I probably would have stopped reading as it was boring and seemingly pointless. The book does have an eventful conclusion. However, the overall melancholy feel and depressingly dark inevitability was just not for me. A Double Life is recommended to those readers of literary fiction who enjoy escaping into someone else’s, so much worse, life. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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

Manga Classics Romeo and Juliet
May 11th, 2018 by diane92345

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Shakespeare’s words are the best part of his plays.  However, I look to Manga Classics to shorten classic literature to manageable lengths. By including the entire play using Shakespeare’s original words, this book is just as difficult to read as the original.

Recommended for students who have to read the original anyway and would prefer to do it with really beautiful pictures. If you are a cheater like me, look to the Cliff Notes version. 3 stars!

Thanks to Udon Entertainment and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Graphic Novel, Literary Fiction Tagged with: , ,

Girls Burn Brighter
March 5th, 2018 by diane92345

Girls Burn Brighter is a thick flavorful soup of a novel full of the spices of India. It is also a heart wrenching tale of two poor young Indian women’s hopes, dreams and grim realities.

Young Poornima is the oldest of two sisters with a younger brother when her mother dies from cancer. Needing someone to run the other sari fabric loom, her father hires Savitha, another young woman from an even poorer family. Poornima and Savitha become best friends. When tradition and violence divides them onto separate life paths, the novel alternates their stories.

Growing up poor is harsh anywhere, but in India in 2001, female baby’s names aren’t even recorded in the village records. Within this novel, females are useless except for three things: housekeeping, sex and babies. It is an unrelentingly dark viewpoint that permeates this book. However, parts of the book show an excitement for the physical details of life: the smells, sounds and colors of India.

Girls Burn Brighter had some great pre-release reviews so I picked it up. I didn’t even know the basic plot when I began reading this book and I believe that is best. It is highly recommended literary women’s fiction. While reading its heroines’ horrifying stories, it does make your relatively insignificant problems seem petty at best. I just pray that this story is not in any way based on fact. 4 stars!

Be aware that this novel has some adult content and themes and so should be read only by adults.

Thanks to the publisher, Flatiron, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction Tagged with: , ,

Great Alone
January 31st, 2018 by diane92345

“In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you.”


It’s 1974 and the world is imploding. Watergate. Vietnam. Black panthers. Gas shortages. Protests. Revolutionaries. Kidnappings. Serial Killers. After receiving an unexpected inheritance, thirteen year old Leni and her parents, Cora and Ernt, move to rural Alaska. With no running water or electricity, the family work hard to make their house a home before winter sets in. As their friendly neighbor Large Marge says, winter “will cull the herd, and fast.”

Ernt has dark moods and nightmares since returning from Vietnam. The moods get darker in the long and frigid Alaskan winters. Cora takes the brunt of it. Leni dreams of a life for herself and her mom away from Ernt.

Seeing a family spiraling downwards into death and madness, The Great Alone puts the reader into an untenable situation along with Leni. Run away alone leaving her mother to her fate or fight the monster who used to be her loving father. This gripping thriller grabs the reader by the throat and causes their real life to be put on hold as they rush to read the conclusion. The Great Alone is highly recommended. Be warned! Starting this compelling novel at bedtime may reduce sleep time significantly. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: