Category: Literary Fiction

Smoke City
January 22nd, 2018 by diane92345

Have you ever thought, “Every plot has already been used so what’s the point in reading (or writing) another”? If so, Smoke City is going to surprise you. No book or movie is anywhere near its plot for imagination and creativity.

Smoke City is a captivating genre-smashing novel. Here are the major genres that are colliding like atoms within this novel:

  • Historical fiction (Joan of Arc’s death)
  • Horror (ghost story)
  • Tragedy (predestination during reincarnation)
  • Adventure (adult male bonding during a road trip)
  • Literary fiction (famous artist hits the skids)
  • Magical realism (see above)

It sounds like it would be a huge mess. But somehow it works!

Half-visible wraiths nicknamed smokes are appearing in Southern California and northern Mexico. Mike Vale, a washed up previously famous artist is desperately trying to get to a funeral in Los Angeles.

Mike picks up Marvin Deitz after Marvin is unceremoniously kicked out of his record store’s lease by his shady, possibly mob-connected, landlord. Marvin is convinced that he will die violently before his 57th birthday in a few days. Why? Throughout his multitude of reincarnations, he never lives to 57. Marvin is convinced he is being punished for executing Joan of Arc in 1431. His therapist thinks it is just a delusion. Convinced he has seen the current incarnation of Joan of Arc on a talk show, Marvin is going to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding forgiveness from a woman he has never met–at least in this lifetime.

On the way to LA, the pair pick up a stowaway, Casper. The plot continues to get curiouser and curiouser from there.

Deciding to read this book takes a leap of faith. There is no comparable book or movie to say it resembles. Smoke City was written by a relatively unknown writer and published by a small press. However, take this reviewer’s advice and read this book. It is truly fantastic and totally different from any other book you will read this year! Kirkus Reviews gushed (for them) that it was “strangely satisfying”. It is worth 5+ stars!

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: , ,

Hundred Small Lessons
December 20th, 2017 by diane92345

A Hundred Small Lessons is a haunting discourse about life wrapped around two families’ stories within a single house.

Elsie and Clem buy a newly built house soon after World War II is over. They have eight-year-old twins and Elsie finds the reason for her existence in motherhood. Sixty-one years later, the twins are almost seventy themselves and Clem is dead. After a bad fall at home, Elsie is shuttled quickly into a nursing home and the house is sold to a new family.

Lucy and Ben are just starting out with their young son. After finding the former owner’s overlooked family photos, Lucy begins to imagine Elsie’s life within the house.

A Hundred Small Lessons alternates between Elsie’s and Lucy’s stories. The language is languorous practically poetic. It feels as if the reader is dreaming, rather than reading, the story. The setting of Brisbane Australia, with its unbridled nature encroaching into everyone’s attempt at order, is a perfect and subtle metaphor for how life can never be controlled.

The holidays and the start of a new year are the time for reflection about the meaning of life and our place within it. Elsie and Clem’s life juxtaposed with Lucy and Ben’s depict one such meaning. Sometimes a book’s plot is just a starting point for thinking about one’s own life. While there is melancholia here, there is also something rather sweet about how life moves through its cycle regardless of our petty triumphs and struggles. As Clem so eloquently says,

All these moments, he thought as the boat edged away from the riverbank. They added up to something, but he could never quite see to what.

A Hundred Small Things is a book to slowly savor. Its evocative setting and thought-provoking plot are perfect starting points for deeper self-reflection. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, for sponsoring the Goodreads giveaway that gave me this wonderful book.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Literary Fiction Tagged with: ,

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June 30th, 2017 by diane92345

Stream-of-Consciousness Literary Short Novella (or long short story)

When telling an anecdote at a cocktail party, it is natural to embellish it to increase the entertainment value.  The narrator of this short story is trying to determine why he is not entertaining and further, why he is not believed.  He decides to go a quest to find out what really happened during the incident described in his anecdote.


I liked the narrator especially his insecurities.  However, it takes a while to get used to his stream of consciousness style of thinking.  It reminded me of James Joyce, where you have to spend some time unraveling the meaning in each sentence.  Here is an example from the beginning of the book.


I had always known one fact of the incident to be 100% true—a ball of some sort collided with my crotch and I experienced some of the most excruciating pain I would encounter until a basketball collided with my crotch in secondary school (an anecdote that can’t be told due to the unfounded accusation that the thrower—a ginger tomboy—was doing so out of spite, and the distinct possibility she remembers me, and the less plausible one that she might ever read this story and recognize a slanderous portrait of herself), and that my sister was in hysterics.


When the narrator is speaking to someone, as he does throughout the second part of the story, he thankfully speaks in normal length sentences.


Overall, I liked the plot of the story especially the resolution.  If the length of the sentence shown above doesn’t disturb, then this short story would be good for those people who enjoy literary fiction with a sense of humor about life.


I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review.

Posted in Literary Fiction

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July 31st, 2016 by diane92345

Literary Horror (but not simultaneously)

This book was promoted as literary horror. I loved the literary first half of this book but was disappointed with the horror aspect of the remaining portion. It’s hard to say why without being a spoiler so I won’t. However, if I had known what type of horror was coming, I probably would not have chosen to read it. I finished the book in the hope that the literary bent would return but it didn’t.

I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that did not impact my review.

Posted in Horror, Literary Fiction

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November 29th, 2015 by diane92345

Literary Fiction Disguised as a Thriller.

Stephen King wrote in his latest book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, that he likes short stories because it prevents him from going off on tangents. Vienna is a book full of tangents on European history and art. While some do relate to the main mystery, most do not. However, I actually enjoyed the asides better than the main plot. The main plot is a mystery and a treasure hunt, which is why it is sometimes compared to the DaVinci Code. However, it is not fast moving enough to be labelled a thriller and I found the ending to be both obvious and anticlimactic. I also really disliked the two main characters due to one’s annoying mental disorder and the other’s conceit. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book to thriller or mystery readers like me as it would be better suited for literary fiction readers. I think it deserves 2.5 stars but I rounded up to 3 because I really liked the obscure history and art facts within the story.

I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review.

Posted in Literary Fiction