Archive for Literary Fiction
By: Meg Cabot
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub. Date: June 2010
Formats: Hardback, Paperback and Electronic
Genre: Literary Fiction/Paranormal
Age Group: Older Teens and Adults
Review: Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper. What a great opening line for a book synopsis. Ha! Fooled you! INSATIABLE is about vampires, but this isn’t your typical vampire story. INSATIABLE is charming, funny, and downright wicked. It’s so good that it’s like eating your favorite candy all in one sitting. You know what protagonist Meena Harper’s fave candy bar is? Butterfinger. And she has a whole secret candy stash in her drawer. Sounds like me when I was at the PD. LOL
Meena Harper lives in NYC and is a dialogue writer for a weekly soap opera called “Insatiable.” She loves her job and desperately wants to become head writer…that is until Shoshana Lowenstein..er..wait! Wasn’t that Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend? I meant Shoshana Metzenbaum. When Meena’s arch-enemy is promoted to head writer, Meena wants revenge. According to Meena, Shoshana is a lazy bum who only works there because her aunt and uncle are executive producers. Sounds like a bad case of nepotism to me! Then….to top it off the network wants to go vampire on “Insatiable.”
Meena’s thought she’s heard it all…this is her worst nightmare. She can’t stand vampire stories, especially since the world seems obsessed with vampires. It’s hard to escape the creatures of the night. While at work, Meena receives an invitation to attend a party at her neighbors — who she readily avoids at all costs. The party is being held in honor of Lucien Antonescu’s visit to New York City. He’s her neighbor’s relative and he also happens to be from Romania…where he’s a prince. Meena wants to groan and say “thanks, but no thanks” until she gets an idea. She decides to use the prince as an angle on her show.
Meena soon learns that Lucien is not only devastatingly handsome and mysterious, but he’s the Prince of Darkness better known as Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula. Oh, did I mention Meena also holds a supernatural gift? She’s psychic. She can predict when and how someone will die. Personally, I’d rather predict the winning lottery numbers and so would Meena.
Lucien is not in NYC for a social visit. Young woman across Manhattan are being found dead and drained of blood. Lucien wants to find out who is responsible…but his attraction to Meena begins to complicate matters.
INSATIABLE is a riot and a hoot. I fell in love with the witty and clever one-liners and vampire knocking. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vampire book, but you have to admit there is some vamp storyline over-kill at the moment. INSATIABLE is also intermixed with the history of Vlad the Impaler and the legendary Palatine Guard who are a secret Vatican organization who want to end all things supernatural. There really was a Palatine Guard, but I don’t believe that was their real mission. But it’s definitely an interesting twist for INSATIABLE. There are some quirky characters apart of the Palantine Guard which adds high drama to the story.
The characters are real and imagined. I like that Meena doesn’t believe vampires exist and when she finds out she’s dating one…the scene is hilarious! What can I say about Lucien…dreamy, dark, dangerous and Mr. Unattainable. He’s striving to make the world a better place with vampires in it…which he wants kept on the down low. Lucien has made his responsibility to not let the secret vampires exist out into the world. He feels it will only cause more chaos.
The one thing that drove me crazy is that Meena says “oh” a lot. Some of the other characters get in on the act, too. Sometimes it feels like Meena is saying “oh” on every page. Many of the sentences would have been much more powerful by leaving out this word. It often makes Meena more of a damsel-in-distress instead of the kick-ass heroine she’s supposed to be.
I read INSATIABLE at a furious pace, until the end began to drag a little bit. Fortunately, it picked up and ends with a great cliffhanger…leaving the reader and Meena wondering what will happen next. Other than that, I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the second book in the series, OVERBITE.
I’m giving INSATIABLE 4 “Relaxing with a Good Book” Retro Pictures for being a satisfying adult vampire book with bite!
IN SEARCH IN OF THE ROSE NOTES
By: Emily Arsenault
Pub. Date: July 2011
Formats: Paperback and Electronic
Genre: Literary Mystery
Age Group: Older Teens and Adults
“What is a use of a book, without pictures or conversations?” I would first like to thank TLC Book Tours for having me be a part of the tour. I received the book from HarperCollins via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
During the fall of 1990, pre-teens Nora and Charlotte often read their coveted collection of Time-Life books. They are mysterious and strange stories to two young girls who are curious about their world and the people in it. They also are fond of their babysitter, Rose, a teenager who shares their love of the unusual and macabre. She regales them with stories and plays games with them — stuff that usually has to do with psychic ability and the paranormal. Then one day, Rose, goes missing. The girls attempt to investigate her disappearance through a series of notes she leaves behind. But they can’t figure out what happened to Rose. Years later, the police have discovered a skeleton and believe it to be Rose. The girls, now in their twenties, reconnect and once again try to unravel the mystery of what happened to their beloved babysitter and friend.
“We’re all mad here.” The story is engrossing as it is told from two different time periods. Mainly told in Nora’s POV, IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES is a great book for fans of literary mysteries. The characters have their own unique personalities. As I read the novel, I began to question which one of the characters might have had something to do with Rose’s disappearance. I became caught up in their lives and the entire mystery surrounding the unusual events in the story.
“Off with their heads!” There were some parts that were slightly boring and I wanted to get to the heart of the story. For example, when Rose and Nora reconnect they chat about old school friends and their lives, but to me these sections slowed the story down. Sometimes, it felt like the story was stagnant. I was expecting a little more from the novel, but because it’s literary it was a slower read and not as face-paced as I would have preferred in a mystery.
While the book has some issues, all in all the characters’ emotions, particularly Nora’s (who was the last to see Rose alive) has always remained troubled by her disappearance. This is the heart of the story. Since that time, Nora has left her old neighborhood and has not wanted to go back. She’s torn about returning but has missed her childhood friend and wants to know what happened to Rose. I definitely felt like I was solving the mystery along with Nora and Charlotte. I also liked how the girls relied on the books to help them solve the mystery, as well.
“Sentence first – verdict afterwards.” I’m giving IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES 3 “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Characters” for being an interesting literary mystery.
EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER
By: Simon Van Booy
Pub. Date: July 2011
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Electronic and Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction
Age Group: Adults
“What is a use of a book, without pictures or conversations?” I would first like to thank HarperCollins for sending me the ebook via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
“What is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?” Looking for a romantic summer read? After reading the debut novel EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER by Simon Van Booy, I must say that I am now a fan. I guarantee you will be, too.
The powerful novel revolves around three people in Athens: Rebecca, a French flight attendant, who moves to Athens to paint, George, an American linguist who has moved to Greece to study the culture and language, and Henry, a Welsh archeologist who has moved to the same area to dig and discover Athens origins.
The beginning of EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER opens with a young girl reflecting on how her parents met. She doesn’t tell us who her parents are but compares their life before her to that of a caterpillar forming into a butterfly within a cocoon. The story goes on to relay the lives of Rebecca, George and Henry and how their lives connect. All three have journeyed to Athens to escape their pasts and find an inner peace. Rebecca, is upset her mother left her when she was younger, George drowns his sorrows in drink over a father who traveled and was never around, and Henry longs to forget a death of a family member when he was younger. All of them are searching for something missing in their lives and hope they can find it in Athens.
Rebecca meets George and they begin a tumultuous romance. They find comfort with each other, until Rebecca tires of George’s drinking and his erratic behavior. By chance, Rebecca meets Henry. But let’s not forget about fate. George, drunk and distraught over losing Rebecca, literary stumbles into Henry. Of course, he doesn’t know Henry is seeing Rebecca. Henry and George form a bond over archeology….bringing Rebecca into the picture changing all of their lives forever.
“We’re all mad here.” EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER is filled with quiet, stolen moments between the characters, a love of language, culture and history which comes to life off the page. Van Booy describes the lives of the three characters, their backstories, and other minor characters which come in and out of the picture in exquisite detail.
I enjoyed learning the character’s secrets, especially since they wanted to keep the secrets hidden from each other as long as possible so they didn’t spoil their relationships, but they soon were revealed as the story progressed. I once read the best way to create memorable characters is to give them a secret. Van Booy is a master of this technique. Once the secrets are revealed, I believe it makes Rebecca, George and Henry understand what each of them has been going through, but also makes them question if they really know the person beyond the surface.
The setting, lush and vivid, is very much a character of EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER. I felt like I was in Athens, listening to the sights and the sounds of the city while eating a piece of sticky Baklava with a glass of sweet Greek wine.
The story is beautifully told. It often moves at a leisurely pace as if taking a walk through a park on a clear spring day, but then picks up in certain places moving quickly like a busy marketplace. Most of the chapters are long, some are short. It’s best to savor EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER with each turn of the page. I never knew what to expect or where Van Booy was taking me with the story, but it’s a work of art. Even after closing the novel, I can’t stop thinking about it The cover of lovers standing in a darkened alleyway is perfect.
“Sentence first – verdict afterwards.” I’m giving EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER 4 “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Characters” for being breathtakingly lovely!
Publisher: Penguin Book Group
Pub. Date: July 5, 2011
(Also Available in Electronic and Audio Formats)
Age Group: Adults
Review: I would first like to thank TLC Book Tours and Penguin Group for sending me a finished copy of THE KID in exchange for a fair and honest review.
THE KID by Sapphire is emotional and intense from the very beginning to it’s conclusion. It’s a tough read, seeped in a gritty reality that often reads more like non-fiction than fiction. THE KID is the sequel to Sapphire’s bestselling, PUSH, which inspired the Academy Award-nominated film, Precious. The movie garnered the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique.
I haven’t read PUSH, so I can’t compare the two novels. But once I opened THE KID I was quickly immersed into the world of the contemporary Harlem where Abdul Jones, the nine-year-old son of Precious, has been raised. At the opening, Abdul has lost his mother to AIDS. He doesn’t understand why his mother is no longer around or what the disease is. All he knows is that he’s attending her funeral and is in the care of her friend, Rita. He’s a normal kid who wants to play his video games, read his books and go to McDonald’s…most of all he desires to be with his mother.
Abdul wants desperately to go home, but the safe haven Precious created for the two of them no longer exists. Due to an unspoken illness of her own, Rita is forced to turn Abdul over to a foster mother. Smart, wise, and charismatic, Abdul wants nothing of the sort. However, he quickly finds comfort in the imaginary world he has created in his mind — a world that includes his mother. As a way of keeping his Precious’s memory alive, he has an ongoing dialogue with her spirit which keeps a watchful and strict eye over him. At the foster home, which is a brief stay, he gains a new nickname, J.J. He doesn’t like it at first but it grows on him.
Finding the foster home doesn’t pan out — thank God, I didn’t like that place either — J.J. moves into a Catholic orphanage, St. Ailanthus. He throws himself into his studies and his love of books, despite the frightening trouble at his new residence. I felt relief he was away from the foster home and possibly someplace safe. But it’s not a comforting place at all. Within the walls of St. Ailanthus, J.J. becomes the victim of sexual abuse and soon becomes the victimizer. Some of these scenes were extremely difficult to read, but I found it understandable and logical that J.J. becomes the predator.. He has no one helping him and doesn’t know right from wrong. This is often a sad fact that happens to victims of abuse. It’s a vicious cycle.
At the orphanage, J.J. finds an alliance in Jaime. However, the two find themselves in trouble. But when they stumble into the classroom of an African dance school, J.J. sees a future for himself, in music and dance. Applying himself, J.J moves through the treacherous waters of life at St. Ailanthus, connecting to Shakespeare, questioning faith, discovering history and just trying to survive. He even earns a scholarship to college. However, he turns his life towards music and art…a calling which has always seemed to be within him. The ending was quite a surprise and again comes full circle.
I must admit, THE KID is generally not my kind of book. But as I have mentioned before, in other reviews, it’s good to break out of your comfort zone and read something different. Reading a story like THE KID gives readers a different perspective on life. This life is certainly not something I’m familiar with as it’s not my own, but I could picture it all clearly.
The characters are believable and unique. J.J. is an extremely well-developed character and so are the side characters that filter in and out of his world. Sometimes the dialogue J.J. has with his mother’s spirit is hard to follow, but I liked how his mother stays with him. The story has a staccato rhythm like the beating of a drum. I found this interesting because J.J. beats to his own drum throughout the novel.
Sapphire’s lyrical and poetic writing gives us a glimpse into an urban landscape filled with haunting violence. A word of warning, THE KID has a lot bad language and is not for everyone. Yet THE KID and J.J. will stay with you long after you turn the final page. I wouldn’t be surprised if THE KID was made into a movie like Precious.
I’m giving THE KID 4 “Relaxing with a Good Book” retro pictures for being soulfully realistic!