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US jacket

Yes it’s Wednesday, and I’m skipping my Wordless Wednesday post (even though I have several fabulous doors to share!) because I told myself I wouldn’t  participate unless I had shared a review since my last WW.  So here I am; writing about vintage clothing instead of sharing some vintage doorways.

Last week while delayed in yet another airport, I went on a little Kindle buying spree (for conservative spenders, it’s really convenient that Kindle doesn’t give you a combined order total but charges for every title) and among the new Larsson, Evanovich and Roberts, I discovered a jewel in THE VINTAGE AFFAIR by the charming Brit,  Isabel Wolff.

While this novel has stories of romance, the protagonist Phoebe is an independent woman, who opens a vintage clothing store in London.

A warning to all you with a propensity to shop: be careful upon finishing this book! I happened to be in Newport, RI for a gorgeous wedding last weekend and found myself spending hours in the vintage store, determined to find the dress that spoke to me, as deliciously described by Wolff.  Unfortunately (fortunately for my wallet) I found no such dress, but I will keep looking.

UK jacket

Beyond the gorgeously described vintage threads, there is a story of two female friendships woven throughout.  One is that of Phoebe and her late best friend, Emma, and the other is through a connection discovered with an ill, elderly woman who lived during WWII.   The emphasis on the novel is strongly in the friendship camp, although there is a bit of romance (or discussion of the lack there of) in Phoebe’s dating life and the recent demise of her parent’s marriage.

This book isn’t life changing, though it definitely offers more depth than traditional chick lit.  It will make you think about some of your personal regrets you’ve been carrying with you, and may offer some insight on how to let it go.  Perfect read for a trip, especially if you’re escaping to a charming countryside with many vintage offerings!

Which jacket do you prefer? UK or US?

I like to think I’m not a superficial book buyer or reader (I trust you fellow bloggers to tell me about books!), but if I were to buy a book for its cover, I definitely would choose 31 BOND STREET.

Beyond the jacket, the cover language of: “A Novel of Murder, Innocence and Power in New York City” is very compelling. Additionally (like I need another reason), I walk by Bond Street at least once a day, as it’s located between my current apartment in the East Village and just about every other place I go.

Though the house of the “society dentist” in this novel no longer stands, the intersection of Bond Street and Bowery is still a hive of activity, with pedestrians walking and cabs honking all day and well into the night.  Though in this novel, the setting of 31 BOND STREET was in many ways a simpler time of horse-drawn carriages, though the simple times didn’t stop evil from rooting.

Based around a murder that stole the newspaper headlines back in 1857, this novel introduces us to the widowed Emma Cunningham, struggling financially while trying to hold her place in society and raise her two daughters (less raising them than trying to rope good husbands).  When a summer trip to Saratoga (which sounded like an old-fashioned Hamptons!) introduces Emma to wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell, she thinks her future is accounted for.

Bond St & Bowery intersection today

Upon moving in to Harvey’s brownstone at (you guessed it) 31 Bond Street, Emma awaits the marriage proposal she thinks is imminent.  The short time in this abode, she alienates the servants while making the location more pleasant for her daughter’s suitors.  It doesn’t take long for her to realize that while she’s sleeping with Harvey, she may not be next in line to be Mrs. Burdell.

Then Harvey is found brutally murdered, his head almost detached from his neck.  With no witnesses, Emma is quickly the only suspect.

Filled with power, corruption and greed, this novel has many strands of historical significance weaving through.  From the “good” lawyers to political corruption to issues of slavery and power, it is not only a courtroom drama but a colorful fictional look at a different time.

Beyond the rough-edged paper, my other favorite unique aspect of this book were the fictional clips from The New York Times, which did a wonderful job setting the scene and lending a feeling of legitimacy to the time and place.

While I enjoyed the historical imagery, throughout the book I was disappointed by the lack of emotion felt by all characters.  Not once does Emma seem to consider falling in love with Harvey (or anyone else), nor does she seem to have many maternal affections toward her daughters beyond finding them a suitable husband.  I found the most feelings to be from the lawyer who seems to accept Emma’s case rather spontaneously and accept the loss of position with a prestigious law firm.  I also enjoyed the young character John.  Beyond those, I was surprised by how unemotional the book felt, when murder trials typically incite very passionate responses.

This is a wonderful book for readers who appreciate historical details and a setting painted with a talented hand.  It really did take me back to a different time period.  If you enjoyed Jed Rubenfeld’s THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER you should definitely pick up 31 BOND STREET.

You can find this debut novel for sale on Amazon, B&N, Borders and IndieBound.  I look forward to Horan’s next novel.

Thank you to TLC Book Blog Tour for planning this tour!  Hop over and visit the rest of the tour stops here.

I really wanted some sort of clever title for this, but came up with nothing (and am trying to get better about SEO).  I won an ARC ages ago from Shelf Awareness (this novel has been on sale since March), where it remained under my desk until I grabbed it to read in the park while I devoured my Subway (if we’re friends on Facebook, you’ll know I’m addicted to their limited edition Orchard Chix Salad footlong).

Though I hate drama and the unknown in real life, I like to read about it.  So the promise of “mystery, betrayal, and family tragedy” had my expectations high.

This is Dianne Dixon’s debut novel, and she had me interested for the first few chapters, but also confused: how did this man know the address of his supposed estranged family, but not know the how, the why, or that they’ve died?  Unfortunately, these questions are never answered to my satisfaction.

The chapters jump between time and narrator, and after having read the “twist” at the end I believe this author’s style was inspired by Jodi Picoult.  It’s an interesting story, but I was left with wanting more.  Not wanting more in a sequel, but left feeling unfilled by the explanations and discoveries given.  There were too many plots running and none seemed to reach their potential, or a satisfactory conclusion.

THE LANGUAGE OF SECRETS wasn’t unenjoyable; I believe if I had read this as a book club pick I would appreciate the discussion and insights from other people instead of leaving my questions bouncing around in my head unanswered.  I will buy the next book from this author, but plan to download to my Kindle as I don’t think it would be one I would be compelled to keep in my (physical) library.

Visit the author’s website: http://www.diannedixon.com/
Available on Amazon here.

I love book blog tours and the lovely hosts at TLC, so was thrilled and honored (and more than a  bit nervous) to join this tour for the recently released novel THE ONE THAT I WANT from beloved woman’s fiction author Allison Winn Scotch (visit her lively and fun blog here: http://www.allisonwinn.com/ask-allison).  Though I’ve never read her previous two novels, I’m a dedicated follower of Allison on Twitter (@aswinn) and had been hoping to get my hands on her work.

The gorgeous cover initially drew me in.  At first glance, it seems to depict a joyful child… when upon cracking open the spine, I realized the “child” on the front was actually Tilly Farmer, main protagonist and a woman who in her 30s had managed to maintain a childlike innocence and happiness.  Married to her high school sweetheart, Tilly was content in her unchallenged, consistent, and mundane small town life.

Being from a small town myself, I understood Tilly’s comfort in her in life – knowing everyone and everything, with very few surprises.  However, I related much more to the feelings of her husband Tyler, who felt restricted, as if he had settled too early and was missing out on trying new things and new ventures.

Tilly is similar to many people I knew in high school that were content to settle down and make a life for themselves and their family, on the same street they had always known and continued to go to the same grocery store and walk their dog past the same houses.  I found it rather frustrating that it took magic forced upon Tilly by an old friend and fortune teller for her to open her eyes and realize that there may be more to life; that her husband may not be sharing her feelings of simple contentedness and things may not always be as they appear.

I’m not usually a paranormal reader, but the “magic” that allowed Tilly to see the future didn’t turn me off, since it just helped her open her eyes to what was already there.   Tilly was a tough character for me to root for.  You want people to be happy (and I totally believe in happy endings), but she was only happy in her ignorance – which drives me crazy. Like when yet another person from my small town marries their high school sweetheart without having left the state, I kept on asking myself “This is all  you want from life? You’re happy with just this?”

Allison writes very convincingly of life in a small town, which intrigues me, since I know from Twitter that she lives in NYC (which is far from Tilly’s comfort zone).  The one day it took me to read this book made me have feelings all over the map – a sense of comradeship with Tilly at the beginning over the comfort she feels in her small town, to disgust that she is unwilling to look at her husband’s dreams, to a feeling of “finally! You get it!” towards the end.  I must admit, the ending did surprise me.  I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just a warning ending is going to be discussed: I was pleased with THE ONE THAT I WANT not having a cookie-cutter happy ending, but I do wish Tilly had expanded her wings just a little bit more instead of throwing in the towel.

I enjoyed THE ONE THAT I WANT and if you’re looking for a not-totally light hearted but still enjoyable summer read, encourage you to pick this one up!  While the storyline has been told before, Allison is talented at weaving in many facets (sisterly relationships, a mother’s death, a father’s drunkenness, high school memories) to make it a fresh tale.

You can purchase this novel from the following retailers: Amazon, B&N, Borders, IndieBound, and I encourage you to “get to know” Allison via her blog and Twitter, or visit her website.

Thank you, TLC!

There is endless entertainment to be found in the incorrectly, humorously translated signs featured in the “Strange Signs from Abroad” article on the NYT:

I found myself laughing in the obvious, and for the most part harmless, confusion on display as language barriers turn toilets into fishing ponds and the occasional crude translation.

But it also makes me think to my own confusion (and I admit, occasional irritation) as I try to order take out from the delicious Thailand Cafe (for you NYC’ers, make note they open their front windows and have $5 pineapple lychee mojito specials) down Second Ave, and I look at my iPhone in confusion, wondering is my voice breaking up? It says I have full service so why are they not understanding that I want pad thai and cashew chicken with brown rice?  So I speak louder, thinking if only I can enunciate enough it will be understood, and my order won’t incorrectly be beef chow-mein or spicy noodles.

Obviously, the problem isn’t my phone (though seriously, AT&T if you’re reading this, do something about my dropped calls pleasssssssssssssse) but the language barrier between my English and the order-taker’s non.  I’m not ignorant though – I only speak one language (and I think to think I speak it well, but still – single language speaker here) as opposed to these people crossing oceans and coming not understanding a single word spoken and somehow picking it up… which is just incredible.

My thoughts seem to be all over the place, but really my point is to suggest that you read GIRL IN TRANSLATION, the amazing debut novel from Jean Kwok.  A Riverhead title, I first read this book in manuscript form on my patio last year and was instantly hooked.  I could feel the pain of protagonist Kimberly Chang as she and her mother immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn and lost everything along the way.  History, tradition, language… everything was gone, and replaced with poverty and sweatshops and a freezing cold apartment during NYC winters.

What really struck me about this novel is how Kwok was able to capture the confusion of languages.  She explains how Chinese sounds to outsiders, and her mother’s struggle at understand the English language.  And in this situation, when it really is life, it’s not funny like the signs shown above.  Also incredible is how Kimberly measures cost by how many skirts she and her mother would have to clean at the sweat shop:  “…the jackets cost at least 20,000 skirts each.” – it gives a whole new value to the dollar.

So my point to  you (and a reminder to myself) is to have tolerance and patience.  My intention is not to make this book sound like a downer – it’s a lovely summer read and definitely one you can share with your mom, sister, and any YA reader in you life.  In fact, I suggest you do share it with them; it will give you lots of discussion and things for which to be thankful!

According to Jane

According to Jane

Yes, this is my FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY so please be kind and participate!

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…

I am not a Jane Austen fanatic.  Truthfully (ashamedly), I’ve never even read

My Austen "collection"

My Austen "collection"

the works of Ms. Austen, though I have her large red omnibus on my bookshelf, along with an old garage-sale copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the same book with the irresistible, re-designed cover from Penguin classics.  They are on my ever growing, never dwindling shelf of to-be-reads (I’m sure many of you can sympathize).

So even though I’ve never officially been introduced, I now feel I’m on intimate terms with Jane, after hearing her wit and euphemisms through the voice of author Marilyn Brant and in the head of protagonist Ellie Bartlett, in the debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Press, Sept. 29, 2009).

While the premise sounds odd (Jane Austen in a role similar to an invisible friend or “A kind of literary twilight zone thing”), the witty banter, lovable characters and unforgettable story take me to my happy “I don’t actually want this book to end but I just want the characters to find what they’re looking for” place.

Brant manages to jump around time and place without making you lose a second of the story to confusion.  She has the rare ability as an author to take you from reliving your awkward high school years along with Ellie (and the traumatic male/female interactions) to within the psyche of a single, searching, adult woman in the next paragraph.  Ellie is a unique female protagonist that I find endearing in her failures and utterly relateable in her fears, while trying to find herself (though I wish she weren’t already worried about marriage at the mere age of 26!).

It’s no surprise to me that this book took home the coveted Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements in 2007.  Brant has the humor of Sophie Kinsella with the best-friend-esque (made that up) intimacy of Jennifer Weiner.  The sex scenes are humorous in an actual funny, relatable way as opposed to the over-done, awkward to read (unless that’s just me) scenarios found in other novels featuring “strong romantic elements.”

Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant

In an effort of full disclosure, I was lucky enough to meet Marilyn back in June, when I wrote an article on the romance genre.  But, just because I like you doesn’t always mean I’ll like your book – so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my friendly, vivacious penpal can translate her personality so splendidly to an entire book!  I invite you all to hurry and visit Marilyn at her personal blog Brant Flakes ASAP, so you can boast about how you “knew Marilyn Brant before she was a huge author”!  Even better, visit her blog and let her know you’ve already pre-ordered ACCORDING TO JANE and are anxiously awaiting its arrival (discounted to only $10.29 – a steal! I’m thinking book club…)!

I admit, I’ve already read my bound manuscript twice and have thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing even more — in one instance, out loud at sushi by myself in NYC – now that got me some looks.

And now for the fun part:

  • Do you like free books?
  • Are you a Jane Austen fan?
  • Ready for some new chick-lit/women’s light contemporary fiction?
  • Enjoy reading a new voice?

Marilyn was nice enough to send me two extra bound manuscripts PERSONALLY SIGNED (!!!) for your reading & reviewing pleasure!!!! Hurry now for these limited pieces.

To enter to win your copy of ACCORDING TO JANE, please comment below including your email address.  For an additional entry, share your most embarrassing high school makeout (ok kidding…unless you want to – I would reward you!) – for an extra entry up to 1/day, tweet this giveaway with a link and include my @novelwhore handle.  The contest ends Friday, September 25 at 11:59PM EST.  I’ll contact the two winners via email, and you must respond within two days to claim your prize.

The Chosen OneLast night, after a few drinks for a friends’ bday and a sleepless night before, I was ready for an early bedtime.  Since reading before bed is like a religious ritual for me, I decided I would just grab a YA novel for some quick, light reading.  Well, I made the wrong decision when I pulled THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams from my (new, beautiful and well organized) shelf.

This novel follows Kyra, a 13 y/o that is one of 20 siblings living in a polygamist cult ruled by a Prophet that oversees the lives of his apostles.  Oversees may be too kind of a word – dictates, rules, decides all fit as well.  Kyra has a tough time conforming and living within the rules of the commune, especially after becoming a member of the library on wheels and diving into the outside “world of satan”. When she is chosen to be the 7th wife of her 60 y/o uncle, Kyra realizes she has to make some big changes.

I used to be so very intrigued by the Amish, but now the polygamists have my undivided attention in the sector of my brain focused on “I don’t understand why the hell people live like that.”  At least the Amish people don’t do harm unto others – it seems to be similar to get out of a polygamist situation is more similar to leaving a gang.  While this novel is fiction, there is murder by weapons as well as by lack of medicine.

I’m still astounded by the lack of power found within the family – Kyra’s father seems to be more human than the cult leaders (though he does have three wives) but he has no influence over his daughter being married off to his brother (hard to believe, right?).  And it’s so sad in the story because Kyra believes her dad can take care of the situation – equivalent to my dad going along with my sister or I being sold into sex slavery.  I want more details – this story is starkly written, without the everyday details I would find fascinating, like no descriptions of the clothing and few details about the father dividing time between wives.

I finished this book without moving from my bed, and when done I ran out to give it to my roommate and instructed Women in a Polygamist Culther to read it immediately.  So much for a good nights sleep – I was thinking about this story (and wishing for a sequel!) and the real lives of the Warren Jeffs followers.  I’ve already added STOLEN INNOCENCE to my shopping cart, to dive into the true story of one young girl who lived Kyra’s fictional life as a teenage bride in a polygamist society.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: THE CHOSEN ONE
  • Author: Carol Lynch Williams
  • St. Martin’s Griffin

My booklist has taken an R-rated twist

I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill.  Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!).  Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.

 

Tucker Max

Tucker Max

Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing.  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.

For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit.  He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly.  I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular.  If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
  • Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  • Author: Tucker Max
  • Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)

candygirlOn-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody.  Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota.  The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill.  This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things.  Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
  • Author: Diablo Cody
  • Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)

Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged.  Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).

Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane.  The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact.  Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
  • Title: Striptease
  • Author: Carl Hiaasen
  • Publisher: Vision

Cover Blurb:  “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society BookSweet but never boring.  Intense but never overdone.  Inspiring but never preaching.  Loving but never raunchy.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.

Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success.  This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”).  Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.

The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II.  You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor.  Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.

This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word.  Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.

Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book  appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches.  I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A
  • Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Publisher: Random House
chick lit

PostSecret

In case you weren’t aware, Romance is the most successful genre of books; it’s also the most popular/successful type of EBook purchase.  Coincidence? I think not.  This PostSecret “secret” really touches on the secretive nature of the new digital mediums that are allowing people to read whatever they want without anyone knowing.  The conservative Christian reading Chelsea Handler?  The heterosexual reading about being gay?  The wife looking into divorce? Handheld devices have really returned reading to a private endeavor.

Interesting insight in an amusing/frivolous way.  Now if I could just get someone to donate an EReader to me so I could explore what non-socially acceptable books I may enjoy…

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