Tag Archives: genre: fiction

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Eleanor

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Published by: Broadway Books on March 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Eleanor’s twin sister, Esmerelda, died in a tragic car accident that nearly broke her family. Her mother, Agnes, lost her mother at a young age, and the loss of another family member may very well have proved too much. But when Eleanor begins to experience strange moments where she is transported to mysterious places, an already unstable situation appears like it might only get worse. But the force behind all of this is one that Eleanor never would have expected. And it just might lead to a solution from across time that can help heal her family and make it whole once again.

The story here is honestly a bit surreal and comes across as a bit strange at first. But as things move forward, the connections between the various characters–those named and those unnamed–starts to become clear. And the power of grief and love to transcend the impossible is illustrated in some unexpected ways.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book received from the publisher via the Blogging for Books program.]

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Published by: Hogarth on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Author Lady Daniels needs to finish her memoir. And now that she’s separated from her husband, she realizes she may need some help. And that help comes in the form of S., a young artist who is willing to work as a nanny to make ends meet. She connects right away with Lady’s younger son, and Lady’s capable-of-taking-care-of-himself older son, Seth, does not seem to mind her all that much either. But as everyone in the house gets to know each other better, secrets bubble to the surface that everyone hoped would stay hidden. And sometimes the truth can be the most poisonous of all…

I found this to be an enjoyable and interesting read. There’s quite a bit of embedded commentary here on mother-daughter dynamics, both between Lady and S. and between each of them and their own mothers. Add in the interactions between Lady and her two sons, and there might be more here about parent-child relationships in general. And, of course, there is the question of truth and omission of fact. Is it okay to keep information from someone if you think it will protect them or make their life easier? Or is that really up to anyone else to decide besides the person it all affects? And when our secrets are revealed, regardless of how it happens, do we really have anyone else to blame but ourselves?

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via the First to Read program.]

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

There Your Heart Lies

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

Published by: Pantheon Books on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Marian never really felt like she fit with the rest of her family, with the exception of her brother, Johnny, who she felt was truly a kindred spirit. And after his tragic death, she broke ties with them and headed to Europe to volunteer during the Spanish Civil War. Now in her nineties, Marian relays her experiences to her granddaughter, Amelia, telling a story that spans two continents and over seven decades. Having been tested by family, friends, strangers, and circumstances, Marian’s story challenges notions of what it means to be a woman, a sister, a daughter, a mother, and a moral person in the face of adversity.

If you enjoy historical fiction and character studies, then this is a book you would be likely to enjoy. Mary Gordon weaves a tale that keeps you turning the pages, watching and waiting to see what happens next in Marian’s journey. Her story is a reflection of an eventful life lived, one of a woman who did the best she could despite the circumstances in which she found herself.

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Published by: Berkley Books on April 18, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Hannah comes home one day to find her boyfriend has completely disappeared. It’s not just that he’s not at home. Everything of his is gone. He’s disappeared from her social media. His phone number is missing from her contacts. And his place of employment says he no longer works there. It’s as though his entire existence was a figment of her imagination. Except she knows it wasn’t. And her friends can confirm that for her. But where did he go? And why did he leave? And why do things keep turning up in her apartment when she’s not home? And why does she have the feeling that someone is watching her from a distance? She’s determined to find answers, regardless of what it means for everything else in her life.

This is definitely a page-turner. It opens with such an incredible question: How can someone completely disappear from your life? And did they do so willingly or should you immediately suspect foul play of some kind? Hannah feels like she might be losing her mind, and there’s clearly good reason why she may feel that way. The complicated web of connections and the untangling of it that is the plot of this story will keep you wondering right through to the end of the book.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Before This Is Over

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Published by: Little, Brown, and Company on March 28, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The epidemic seemed to come out of nowhere, but Hannah knows that it does not take long for something like this to spread. And she is determined to do everything she can to protect her family from contracting the highly communicable and deadly illness. But staying alive in the face of disaster is not easy. And it can be further complicated when one cannot leave the house or be sure who to trust. And with symptoms taking up to two days to show themselves, Hannah also cannot be sure that she or any of her family have managed to avoid exposure. But where there is a will to survive, there’s always a way. Right?

If you’ve ever played the online game “Pandemic,” you know how this story starts. A disease starts in one small corner of the world, but with world travel being such a thing it quickly finds its way to other cities, other countries, and other continents. Before long, places start closing themselves off to outsiders, not wanting to let anyone in who could have been exposed. This also closes people in, though, and makes the struggle for resources almost as important as the quest to stay disease free. And thus is the world in which Hannah finds herself. It’s an interesting read that made me think how I might react myself in such a situation. It’s not something we ever expect to happen, but the reality is that it could probably happen just as quickly as it is described here. And would we be prepared?

[This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.]

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

The Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Published by: Hogarth on June 2, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Kate Battista knows people can perceive her as abrasive at times. But she’s honest, independent, and isn’t intentionally mean. Everyone just seems to expect her to fit a mold that doesn’t fit. Even the coworker she really wishes would notice her.

Everything comes to a head when Kate’s father presents her with a ridiculous demand. He wants Kate to marry his lab assistant, Pyotr, so he can stay in the country. Kate rejects the proposal outright (How could he ask her that?) at first, but eventually she decides it might not be so bad. She can manage it for a year, right? And it will get her out of her father’s house, where her needy father and sister dominate her life.

Pyotr gets on Kate’s nerves, especially at first. He’s always so optimistic and reads their interactions more positively than Kate intends. But as she gets to know him better, could she discover something deeper? What really makes Pyotr tick? An unexpected event on their wedding day gives Kate the chance to truly see what life with Pyotr would be like. Can she manage it for a year? Or could it even become something that lasts?

I often enjoy modern retellings of Shakespeare plays. There’s something about adapting a classic into a new work that reflects the challenges and realities of today’s society that gets me thinking. Some issues we face as people transcend time. And others change shape but still linger over us regardless of the decade. I have to say that I do like what Anne Tyler did here with The Taming of the Shrew.

If you weren’t a fan of 10 Things I Hate About You (or even if you were), this is probably the story that you needed instead. It’s well-written, dynamic, and paced in a more interesting and realistic way.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

Another Country by James Baldwin

Another Country

Another Country by James Baldwin

Published by: Dial Press in 1962 (original publication)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In the 1950s, liberalism took a different form than it does today. For many, rejecting the norm and what was proper meant possibilities. For others, it wasn’t subversive–it was just who they were. But society didn’t do anyone any favors. Race, sexuality, and class weren’t areas where there was much room for latitude or forgiveness.

Another Country follows a group of friends who try to navigate this environment while seeking truths about themselves. What does it mean to be an artist? How does one know when their life is fulfilled? Are they really universal truths in life? All questions with no easy answers. But over the course of several months the characters wrestle with them in search of some truth.

Glimpses of history are always very interesting to me. And here James Baldwin gives us just that. And not only is this book a window into the time period, he wrote it at a time when these weren’t the kinds of things people regularly wrote about. So the book itself goes against convention by telling the story of people who went against convention. It’s a bit meta, but it’s also really well written and engaging.

2 A.M at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

Cat's Pajamas

Book Info

Title: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
Author: Marie-Helene Bertino
Published: August 5, 2014
Pages: 288
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Madeleine Altimari is a precocious young girl who aspires to be a jazz singer, inspired by her late mother who was also a performer. The death of her mother is still fresh, and her father is still coming to terms with it himself. Sarina Greene is Madeleine’s teacher, fresh off a divorce and preparing to attend a dinner with her old high school circle of friends (including her former crush and prom date). And the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, Lorca, recently broke up with his girlfriend, is struggling to keep a connection with his son, and has just learned he may be forced to close down his club forever. The lives of these three people (and a large cast of supporting characters) intertwine in some very unexpected ways during the span of 24 hours on the day before Christmas Eve. Madeleine searches for the place where her voice can be heard. Sarina is wrestling with whether to reignite an old flame. And Lorca wants stability and opportunity for his son. Will any of them be able to find what they are looking for?

This story is broken down into timestamped snippets that jump around from character to character. It’s an interesting method of storytelling, but I did find it to be confusing at times to know what was going on (there are flashbacks thrown in that aren’t clearly indicated, as well). The side characters definitely add to the story, but the few scenes that solely focus on them with no connection back to one of the main characters also left me a bit puzzled at times. Overall, I did find this book to be engaging and entertaining, but part of me was left scratching my head at the end to really understand the point of it all. Perhaps that’s what happens with a day-in-the-life/slice-of-life novel. I ended up giving this three stars because of quality of the overall story balanced with the less-than-stellar execution.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.]