Archive for the Fiction Category

TBR Challenge: Murder with Reservations by Elaine Viets (2007)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on November 19, 2008 by Gina

Murder with Reservations is the sixth installment in Viet’s Dead End Job mysteries.    Helen Hawthorne is on the run in South Florida.  She must stay under the radar to avoid her former, St. Louis corporate life from coming back to haunt her.  Staying under the radar for Helen means taking a series of dead end jobs.   In this book, we find Helen working as a maid at the Full Moon Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  As always, Helen finds herself involved in the middle of murder and mayhem.  

This series consists of light, easy to read mysteries and this one is no different.  The mystery is interesting and fun.  Helen’s job as a hotel maid lends itself to many funny moments.  Most of the book takes place at the hotel.  The usual cast of supporting characters seems to be under utilized in this book.  Peggy has a superficial role.  Margery was her same old self, but she still seemed to be written without as much depth as usual.   We do get to delve into Helen and Phil’s relationship more deeply than in previous books which was nice.  

All in all, I enjoyed the mystery but felt that the supporting cast should have been showcased more prominently.

TBR Challenge: For A Few Demons More by Kim Harrison (2007)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge, Uncategorized on October 15, 2008 by Gina

This is the fifth book in The Hollows series by Harrison.   This is one of my favorite paranormal series.  I love the cast of characters and how they interact.  Jenks, Ivy, and Rachel make a great team.   I will admit that this is my favorite of all five books.  I have moved The Outlaw Demon Wails (Book 6) to the top of my TBR pile.   While this was my favorite, I would not have chosen the direction of the story Harrison chose.  (That is all I am saying about it.   I will not be held responsible for ruining the book for you.)

Here are five parts that warm my heart and make me love this book so much. 

1)  Kisten and Rachel’s Date on his boat.

2) Glenn’s love of tomatoes.

3) Quen…you gotta love Quen.

4) Jenks and his children…Jariathjackjunisjumoke

5) Rachel’s transportation issues.

When I examine the list, I find that it is the characters that I adore.   I love their interactions and their lives.  The story is a good one, too.   The characters are highlighted and it flows well – except for in one part where it doesn’t, but that is resolved by the end of the book.  

If I rated books, which I don’t, I would give this one a 5/5 or two thumbs up.

TBR Challenge: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on September 17, 2008 by Gina

The Hours has been holding up other books on my bookshelf rather well since 2002 when the movie came to theaters.  I had rushed out to buy a copy because I just had to read it.  I bought it and placed it on the shelf to get lost in the shuffle of books for four years.  I re-found it this month, while looking for another book, and decided that it would really be a good read for this month’s TBR Day. 

In college, I read my first and only Virginia Woolf book, A Room of One’s Own. I loved it.  I thought it was brilliant.  I felt a strong connection down deep inside me.  However, now upon recollection I can only remember my strong feelings of it and not really the reasoning behind those feelings.  Mr. Cunninham’s writing of Virginia has rekindled my excitement for her.  I am excited to reread A Room of One’s Own as well as read her other works including Mrs. Dalloway, which is the book she is working on when this novel is set.     

Now, for Mr. Cunningham’s novel.  As per the back of book,

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women:  Clarissa Vaughn, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950’s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway.  By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.

I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I felt the bouncing back from one woman to another added drama and kept the story moving along.  I loved how Cunningham followed them and used everyday moments to show us the character of these women.  I enjoyed his writing style.  He took his time reveling layer upon layer of these women and the characters that came and went from their lives.

Though the women lived in three different times and were living three vastly different lives, they were similar in the heart of the matter.  They all pretended and played roles for the world and for the people around them.  Laura the role of a dutifully wife and mother.  Clarissa the role of a ‘wife’ and intimate friend.  Virginia, it seemed, had to pretend to be and do most everything in her life. They pretended to be what the world/their loved ones wanted or needed them to be.  They judged themselves unworthdy because they could not attain the perfection they desired.  Perfection seemed to be a disease of them all.   This perfectionism can be seen most clearly in Laura’s cake, Clarissa’s flowers, and Virginia’s interactions with Nelly, the servant.   This perfectionism still effects women today.  Is my house clean enough?  Are my children well behaved enough?  These are just two of the questions women ask themselves each day.  How do I measure up to others?   Why is it we always measure ourselves against the best, most perfect ideal which often times does not exist?  (end tangent)

This book was a great read.  It isn’t an overly difficult or long (226pgs) read.  It was well worth the time it took to read, which is not always the case.

TBR Challenge: Fledgling by Octavia Butler (2005)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on August 19, 2008 by Gina

This book has been on my TBR for probably the longest of all my books.  My husband heard a NPR review of it sometime in late 2006 and asked me to put it on my TBR list.   Even with a near 2 year wait for this book, I was not disappointed.  The only disappointment I have is that Ms. Butler tragically died in February of 2006 and will not be able to finish the story which she began in Fledgling

Fledgling is not just another vampire tale.  The creativity in which the Ina are introduced is astounding.  The writing beautifully woven to just give the reader enough information to connect to the characters.  Shori is tragic and strong with each stroke of the pen.  

I found Ms. Butler’s story to be one that flowed well.  I was engaged and involved with the lives of Shori and her symbionts.  The first two-thirds of the book had Shori and her symbionts on the run from the murderous racist that annihilated her family.    The last third of the book focused on finding justice.  The final third of the book deals with many societal issues.  Racism.  Crime.  Justice System. 

Overall, Fledgling is a well written, enjoyable book that leaves you wanting more.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Gina’s review)

Posted in Fiction, Gina on July 25, 2008 by Gina

“Nothing good ever happens in the cafeteria.   The cafeteria is a giant sound stage where they film daily segments of Teenage Humiliation Rituals.  And it smells gross.”   Melinda (pg 104)

The first day of high school is difficult under the best of circumstances:  Melinda’s circumstances are far from best.   Her friends aren’t talking to her.   The other kid’s at school are talking about her.  And Melinda…well, she’s just not talking.  

They want me to speak”  -Melinda (pg 113)

This is a well written book about a young girl’s struggle with the truth.   Anderson reveals the story slowly and methodically.  The reader travels the road to enlightenment and truth with Melinda with beautiful phrasing and eloquent writing.   We get to know Melinda through her thoughts.  

“Do they chose to be so dense?  Were they born that way?  I have no friends.  I have nothing.  I say nothing.  I am nothing.  I wonder how long it takes to ride a bus to Arizona.”   – Melinda (pg 116)

You can find my fellow Rather Reader’s reviews here and here (major spoiler in this one).

gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , on July 20, 2008 by Lisa

Review also posted at Books. Lists. Life.

“THERE ARE GODS in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.”

With a first line like that, how can this NOT be a great book? I first put gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson on my PBS wishlist some time last summer. I wanted to read it for Maggie’s Southern Literature Challenge. Well, I failed the challenge and I never read the book either. I did, however, add it to my list of books I was DEFINITELY going to read in 2008. I started reading it on Sunday, at the tail end of a perfect day spent on the back deck. From start to finish, I felt no urge to dip into any other book.

I’ve been reading Joshilyn Jackson’s blog for a while. I knew she was funny, but I guess I just didn’t expect her humor to carry over to the book so well. She has quite the way with words, and knows just how to turn a phrase to evoke a perfect picture. For example, her blog is called Faster Than Kudzu. Now, if you’re not from the South this will mean nothing to do, but if you are from the South you know, that’s FAST. There are trees under those vines.
Here’s a little snippet from a recent blog post:

“WHAT RADICAL DOOM IS LIKELY TO HAPPEN IF WE PUT UP A PIER IN THE PLACE
WHERE A PIER HAS STOOD FOR HALF A CENTURY?

My patented radical Doom-meter needle barely moved. It didn’t even get
past diddly into SQUAT territory.”

Here’s Publisher’s Weekly summary of the book, stolen from Amazon.com:

From Publishers WeeklyArlene Fleet, the refreshingly imperfect heroine of
Jackson’s frank, appealing debut, launches her story with a list of the title’s
deities: “high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.” The first
god, also a date rapist by the name of Jim Beverly, she left dead in her
hometown of Possett, Ala., but the last she embraces wholeheartedly when high
school graduation allows her to flee the South, the murder and her slutty
reputation for a new life in Chicago. Upon leaving home, Arlene makes a bargain
with God, promising to forgo sex, lies and a return home if he keeps Jim’s body
hidden. After nine years in Chicago as a truth-telling celibate, an unexpected
visitor from home (in search of Jim Beverly) leads her to believe that God is
slipping on his end of the deal. As Arlene heads for the Deep South with her
African-American boyfriend, Burr, in tow, her secrets unfold in unsurprising but
satisfying flashbacks. Jackson brings levity to familiar themes with a spirited
take on the clichés of redneck Southern living: the Wal-Mart culture, the subtle
and overt racism and the indignant religion. The novel concludes with a final,
dramatic disclosure, though the payoff isn’t the plot twist but rather Jackson’s
genuine affection for the people and places of Dixie. Copyright © Reed Business
Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Now doesn’t that sound good? Now imagine you’re from Alabama, lived there for the first 27 years of your life, and have now been living in South Dakota for the past 6 years? Doesn’t it sound great? Well, it is. The story alternates between the present and the past and hits both perfectly. Somehow she manages to tell you what happened and still keep you in suspense about.. what happened. The characters are great including the character of Alabama itself. I loved so many of the scenes with Burr and her family, Jackson totally nails the old home racism. Arlene has promised God she won’t lie and some of the ways she gets around that are amazing. (Yes, I realize the author had plenty of time to think of creative ways of NOT lying. I’m still impressed.)

If you want a sneak peak, you can follow this link and read the first chapter at Amazon.com. I recommend that you do, and then, buy the book and read the rest. This is such a great debut book, once again I am amazed at what authors seem to have in their heads, just waiting to be written into a book. I have her second book (Between, Georgia ) sitting on my shelves, and I think I might just read it next!

You can see the other TBR Day participants here.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Lisa’s review)

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags on July 18, 2008 by Lisa


Review cross posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Speak was an excellent book and will definitely be at or near the top of my list for the year. Speak is the story of Melinda Sordino. Mel called the cops at a party last summer and is now a social outcast. Now she has to deal with the fallout of her actions as well as dealing with why she called the cops in the first place.

The plot line of this book is dark. Mel is tormented, her grades are slipping, her parents are unsupported and distant. The only class she enjoys is art where she spends the entire year trying to draw a tree. Her best friend abandons her for the popular crowd and the popular guy. Mel stops talking. Despite all this, there are moments of great humor as well. The high school environment is captured perfectly.

The writing is terrific. The book is written as a series of very short paragraphs, sometimes only a sentence long. Some of the turns of phrase are simply breathtaking. Here’s a few examples:

“Maybe I’ll be an artist if I grow up.” (p. 78)

“Of course I want to be a model. I want to paint my eyelids gold. I saw that on a magazine cover and it looked amazing- turned the model into sexy alien that everyone would look at but nobody dared touch.” (p.82)

It’s hard to say much about this book without giving it away, but if you have an interest in YA fiction you should read this. If you know a teenager or were a teenager, read this. It’s so very good.

Speak has also been reviewed by one of my co-bloggers here on We’d Rather Read. Be warned though, her review does contain a major spoiler. I’d recommend not reading it until after you read the book.