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Search tags: first-read-by-this-author
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review 2017-11-07 04:14
Little Heaven
Little Heaven: A Novel - Nick Cutter

Why, why, why, does someone like me, who is terrified of horror movies and books, keep choosing these books from NetGalley? To be fair, I have not chosen a lot of them, and they all have one commonality — they were all written by Nick Cutter (or Craig Davidson, who uses this name as a pseudonym.) I don't know what it is about these books, but I've said it before (here) and (here), I just find Cutter's writing completely compelling. This time, I didn't even tell my husband about it, I just went ahead and read it without the horror-shaming that usually comes first from him. And guess what? I loved this one too, more than The Deep, and a teensy-bit less than The Troop. Maybe next time I'll try a Davidson book, so I won't have to sleep with the lights on for a week after I finish.

 

Honestly, that's all I'm going to say about this, you don't need anything else from me. Get the book and read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Freaked out, confused and sleepless, but definitely not disappointed.

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review 2017-10-17 03:59
Faithful
Faithful: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

This, for me, was not a typical Alice Hoffman story. Having read several of her other books (including her middle grade novel), this one, ironically, seems lighter, despite the weight of serious, complex themes. I appreciated that Hoffman tackled a conventional subject from a new angle — the car crash described at the start of the novel does not take lives in the literal sense— but both of the girls involved, and their families, cope with the "life" they each have left. Shelby has been dealt what may seem like the better hand (her friend Helene is comatose), but her guilt for the circumstances related to the crash, her experiences in the hospital after, and the fact that she has managed to build a life beyond it, all overwhelm any relief she might feel.

 

Hoffman is at her best rendering the finer details of ordinary life; here, even the minor characters provide transcendent moments with simple acts of kindness and compelling stories of their own. At some point, I found I was almost more interested in them than with Shelby, but that is not a criticism, Hoffman's powerful writing ensures each character is a fully realized, compassionate individual, worthy of our time and attention.

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review 2017-08-28 00:37
The Night Guest, Fiona McFarlane
The Night Guest - Fiona McFarlane

The Night Guest opens with elderly Ruth fearing she can hear and smell a tiger in her house--in Australia. One of the great pleasures of this book is its unreliable narrator, unreliable not because she's deceptive but because her mind isn't what it used to be and may be getting worse. Yet the phantom of the tiger presages what may be a real danger: the arrival of a woman named Frida who claims to be a government carer. Is she, or is she fleecing Ruth?

 

Ruth's narration leaves just enough room for the reader to come to their own conclusions about her and Frida. Some things are left diaphanous, but not so hazy as to cause confusion. On top of that, the prose is terrific: distinctive but not overbearingly poetic. McFarlane capture fine states of feeling or consciousness with her language and imagery. I really delighted in reading it.

 

Not so delightful is the nature of what's going on, or even the suspicion of it. My grandmother, who died a few years ago, suffered from dementia. She had an excellent aide, but my parents eventually had to put her in a nursing home close to where they live. Even the best of those places upset me, and it was hard for me to see my grandmother--the smartest person in my family--lose herself. This recent experience made it difficult to continue at times.

 

I also found myself thinking about Frida's race and physicality--she's a brown-skinned and heavyset woman. Ruth is tiny and was fair-haired. What's being said about Frida and race? I searched reviews and finally found one that addresses the issue by referencing the author's own explanation (in the Sydney Review of Books, here). This explanation satisfied me, though I'm still wondering about Frida's size.

 

Finally, it was lovely to see a bit of romance between Ruth and her almost-love from the past, who's even older than she is. A delicately handled rarity in literary fiction.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-09 08:42
A Review of the Feminist Fantasy book, A Plague of Angels, by Sheri Tepper in 6 Quotes
A Plague of Angels - Sheri S. Tepper

 

My second Tepper read was succulently good! I wanted to savor the book, so I took my time with it. I am sharing my favorite parts of the book here like I do in most reviews. However, this time, I have chosen 6 quotes that sum up how I felt about the book.

 

Quote # 1

Sometimes, it was the way the author described an emotion, such as the horror that a character felt when the Witch took her mask off.

 

 

Quote # 2

Other times, it was how a character expressed a philosophical thought about gangers simplifying language to such an extreme that they started looking down at poetry and literature. The quote below reminded me of the restrictions being placed on characters in the novel 1984.

 

If you take out the different words that describe completely different things that are also the same, what are you left with? For instance, I think love when I read the word, red. I don’t think that when I come across scarlet because I associate it with scandal. Then there is crimson, which reminds me of blood.  

 

 

Quotes # 3 & 4

Then there were times when a character stated the truth in the simplest manner. The line is easy to miss with so much else that is going on. Yet, if you stop and think about it, there is depth in those words. Two particular examples that made me shudder are mentioned below:

 

 

 

Quote # 5

As were the times when a character who is still young and inexperienced said something profound. I went back and read this quote multiple times because it resonated with me. If you find it touching your heart too, you might want to check out my review of The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

 

Quote # 6

Finally, there were some parts that sparked something in me. While reading them, I thought I could base my next story on these lines. I find that the books that end up on my favorites’ shelf have that in common. I think that each line in those books could be hiding a story in itself.

 

 

I would very much love to read the second book in the series even though it would be lacking one of my favorite characters from this one. Care to join me for a buddy read?

 

Image

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review 2017-07-27 04:45
Cruel Beautiful World
Cruel Beautiful World: A Novel - Caroline Leavitt

This is a painful, heartbreaking story about expectations, disappointments, love and secrets. When Lucy leaves her already fragmented family to run away with William, her 30-year-old high school English teacher, she has no idea how isolated her life will become. (Time out a second - What is it with students and their high school teachers? I loved mine, but I never wanted to run away with them. I know they were nuns, but still.) While the story is primarily Lucy's, Leavitt gives vibrant life to each of her characters, who face their own demons and regrets with grace and dignity.

 

As usual, Leavitt delivers a beautifully written story, moving in its courage, raw emotion, and unflinching hope. William's selfishness and immaturity made me wonder why Lucy, a young, beautiful girl, would stay with him. Then I listened to this NPR interview that someone kindly posted on Goodreads, and I understood it a little better. This is not an easy story to read, but it is moving and thought provoking, and it is worth the effort you will have to put into seeing it through its final pages. Not because it is hard to read, but instead, because Leavitt has created a world so real that you will worry about these people until the very end, and then, maybe even a little bit longer.

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