Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Recent Release Review- The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The Best of Adam Sharp

Title: The Best of Adam Sharp

Genre: Literary Fiction

Author: Graeme Simsion

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, May 2, 2017

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 320

Rating: 5

Sexy Rating: 5

Violence Rating: 0

Description from Amazon.com:

Two decades ago, Adam Sharp’s piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and strong-willed actress. They had a chance at something more—but Adam didn’t take it.

Now, on the cusp of turning fifty, Adam likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT. But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been.

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

Set to the soundtrack of our lives, The Best of Adam Sharp follows along with emotion and humor as one man looks back on his past and decides if having a second chance is worth the risk.

***

It would be very easy to give spoilers for this terrific book so I’m going to be very careful with what I say.  It is a book about love, regret, long term relationships and also if we can let go of the past or get a second chance.  There is a theme of classic pop songs that runs through the story and makes us wonder at the emotional manipulation of music. We are at times rooting for Adam and at other times wondering what he was thinking.  Angelina is selfish, self-centered and we wonder if she is truly a match for our hero.  Claire is not as well developed a character and Charlie and Richard are no match for Adam’s intelligence, although they think themselves superior.

I read this book straight through. Getting out of my reading chair only for snacks, coffee and potty breaks. I loved the author’s THE ROSIE PROJECT and although this one doesn’t have the same humorous intent, it is still a 5-star read.  It is provocative and so intensely sensual you will either admire, dislike or relate to the characters, or perhaps all three.

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Review-Faithful by Alice Hoffman

faithful

Title: Faithful

Genre: Literary Fiction

Author: Alice Hoffnman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Nov. 1, 2016

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 272

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 5 (not explicit)

Violence Rating: 5

Description from Amazon.com:

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt. What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

**

The book blurb pretty much says it all. This a story of the journey from the depths of despair to the realization of dreams and happiness. Shelby is nearly totally destroyed by the accident that left her best friend in a vegetative coma.  She struggles through that despair with drugs, time in the mental ward and self-hatred by shaving her head. She makes mistakes that cost her emotionally but at the same time encourage her growth as a mature person.  The prose in this book is superb, the characterization of every character true to each personality.  You will laugh and cry for Shelby and with her but you won’t forget this book.

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Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Title:  The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of broken Wheel

Genre: Literary Fiction/Romantic elements

Author: Katarina Bivald

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, Jan 19, 2016

Pages: 386

Source: Free for review from the Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 5

Sexy Rating: 4

Description from Amazon.com:         

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor — not much else to do in a small town that’s almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she’d start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together – and change everything.

There’s a book for every person … and a person for every book.

**

This is a book about Sara, yes.  It also has another protagonist, the town of Broken Wheel, Iowa.  It is the personification of small towns everywhere, especially small dying towns.  Many of the residents have left for better opportunities but there are those who hang on, and they are devoted to helping one another. They somewhat adopt Sara and when she wants to set up a bookstore with Amy’s room full of books they are skeptical but lend her a hand. No one thinks this endeavor will work since there are no other readers in Broken Wheel.

A story of friendship, personalities, secrets, and love.  The romance is realistic and slow developing on many levels.  Almost totally character driven with a gentle story arc. I felt like I too was a resident of Broken Wheel, that is how well Ms. Bivald brought this town to life.

Truly a wonderful, feel good, book and perfect for book clubs.

 

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Recent Release Review- The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Title:  The Girl You Left Behind

The girl You Left Behind

Genre:  Historical/Contemporary Romance

Author: Jojo Moyes

Publisher: Penguin, Pamela Dorman Books, Aug. 20, 2013

Source:  Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 5

Sexy Rating: 5 (not explicit)

Description from amazon.com:

France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

**

Jojo Moyes does it again, an absolutely stunning book. The book see-saws between the early, war torn twentieth century France and one hundred years later to today in London, England. What links the two eras is a painting and , not unlike some other books I have read about the art world, the obsessive nature and power a painting has on the lives of its owners.

The romances in this book are powerful but they tend to take a back seat to the story. And what a story, not so much romance but a story of love. Jojo Moyes kept me riveted to the book to find out what had become of Edouard the artist, Sophie his wife, Herr Kommandant the German officer, Liv the modern day owner of the painting and Paul her lover. Those were the major players in this novel but side characters were also pivotal to the plot and so very well characterized.

If you are looking for a superbly constructed plot and wonderful prose, look no further. This book illuminates the personal devastation that war brings and the legacy of that devastation. It also illuminates the absolute power of hope, love and endurance.

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Review-Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Title:  Me Before You

Me before you

Genre: Literary Fiction/love story

Author: JoJo Moyes

Publisher: Penguin, Dec 2012/Jul 2013

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 3

Description from amazon.com:

Before Louisa met Will, her plans didn’t reach beyond their tiny English town. Will, when he wasn’t closing multimillion-dollar deals, blew off steam scaling mountains, leaping from planes, and enjoying exquisite women–until an accident left him paralyzed and seriously depressed. When his mother hires Lou to keep his spirits up, he meets her awkward overtures with caustic contempt, but she’s tenacious and oddly endearing. Their fondness grows into something deeper, gaining urgency when she realizes his determination to end his life, and her efforts to convince him of its value throw her own bland ambitions into question. Plumbing morally complex depths with comedy and compassion, Jojo Moyes elevates the story of Lou and Will from what could have been a maudlin weepie into a tragic love story, with a catharsis that will wring out your heart and leave you feeling fearless. –

**

Do not start this book unless you intend to finish it in one day.  I could not put it down.  The romance is a long time unfolding which makes the actual confession of love so much more profound.  This book raises questions of euthanasia, and it does present the moral arguments for and against.  The characters presented are not always admirable but they are totally understandable even if at times we doubt them.  I thought the presentation of the trials of a quadriplegic was well done although I have limited personal knowledge with which to judge.  This book delivers laugh out loud moments as well as tears.  A wonderful book.

Note: This book, written by a British author, uses many British slang words and colloquialisms.  I did not find them difficult to understand although I had not heard many of them previously.

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Review- The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

Title: The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage

Genre: Literary fiction

Author: Anne Tyler

Publisher: Ballantine, 2006

Source: Library

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: (behind closed doors)

Description from amazon.com:

They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.

Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.

From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.

**

I read this book for my neighborhood book club and I did so reluctantly, thinking it would be another literary tome that would have me struggling to finish.  Surprise! I started reading at 8 pm and stayed up until 4 am to finish.  I was riveted to the story of Michael and Pauline.

This is the story of two people who loved each other but were totally unsuited to be married.  Anne Tyler makes every nuance come alive and we ache for these two suffering souls.  It is no surprise that the writing here is exquisite, Tyler won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and has not lost her touch.  The characters in this novel are familiar to all of us, from the bitter, demanding mother-in-law to the disenfranchised daughter, they are not caricatures but real people with real lives and their own seeming insurmountable problems.  Tyler’s perception is also shown in how the character of the son, George, seems to thrive and become successful in spite of the chaos of his home life.

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Review and Question-A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

Title: A Working Theory of Love

A working Theory of Love
Genre: Literary Fiction
Author: Scott Hutchins
Publisher: Penguin, 2012
Source: Free for Review from Amazon Vine Program
Rating: 2
Sexy Rating: 0- alluded to, behind closed doors
Description from amazon.com:
Settled back into the San Francisco singles scene following the implosion of his young marriage just months after the honeymoon, Neill Bassett is going
through the motions. His carefully modulated routine, however, is soon disrupted in ways he can’t dismiss with his usual nonchalance.

When Neill’s father committed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals, journals that are stunning in their detail, and, it must be said, their complete banality. But their spectacularly quotidian details, were exactly what artificial intelligence company Amiante Systems was looking for, and Neill was able to parlay them into a job, despite a useless degree in business marketing and absolutely no experience in computer science. He has spent
the last two years inputting the diaries into what everyone hopes will become the world’s first sentient computer. Essentially, he has been giving it language—using his father’s words. Alarming to Neill—if not to the other employees of Amiante—the experiment seems to be working. The computer actually appears to be gaining awareness and, most disconcerting of all, has started asking questions about Neill’s childhood.

Amid this psychological turmoil, Neill meets Rachel. She was meant to be a one-night stand, but Neill is unexpectedly taken with her and
the possibilities she holds. At the same time, he remains preoccupied by unresolved feelings for his ex-wife, who has a talent for appearing at the most unlikely and unfortunate times. When Neill discovers a missing year in the diaries—a year that must hold some secret to his parents’ marriage and perhaps even his father’s suicide—everything Neill thought he knew about his past comes into question, and every move forward feels impossible to make.

With a lightness of touch that belies pitch-perfect emotional control, Scott Hutchins takes us on an odyssey of love, grief, and reconciliation that shows us how, once we let go of the idea that we’re trapped by our own sad histories—our childhoods, our bad decisions, our miscommunications with those we love—we have the chance to truly be free. A Working Theory of Love marks the electrifying debut of a prodigious new talent.
***********
Okay, if you’ve read the above blurb then you don’t have to read this book. I like the premise of geeks and non-geeks developing artificial intelligence and having a relationship with the computer. Interesting, for sure. But in this book from page 30 I said to myself, “Where is this going.” Then as I read on and on and on I repeated that phrase like a mantra until I finished (yes, I did read the whole thing) and I was still stating the same phrase.
I thought the protagonist was unlikable. His on again off again girlfriend much too young for him although now that I think about it they were probably quite close on the maturity level. The shallowness of every character annoyed me. Perhaps I’m just too old for all of the “finding oneself” nonsense. Scott Hutchins can write characterizations well, perhaps all that I disliked was what he intended.
**
An aside comment and a question:

I don’t read too many books by male authors where there is a running theme of romance/love. Most of the ones I read are written by women with a woman’s sensibility. I’ve noticed that when men write love it is often very clinical, not in the sexual way although that does happen, but in a remote, kind of uninvolved, unemotional way. Am I the only one to notice this? What do you think?

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Review- The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Title: The Art Forger

Genre: Literary Fiction

Author: B.A. Shapiro

Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2012

Source:  Free for review from Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from amazon.com(Abriviated):

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

 

**

I liked this novel but it was flawed.  The protagonist, Claire was someone who needed serious guidance since she made one career misstep after another.  Because she seemed so clueless at times I wanted to stop reading.  The pace in the beginning was slow and I kept asking myself where this story was going.  The author kept informing me that there was no crime in forging a painting only in selling the forgery as an original.  Okay, but still Claire knew it was wrong but she still participated and this left me at odds with the books ending.

What I thought was especially good in this book was the instruction on how to forge a painting.  This was fascinating and informative.  I also liked the information about the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum and the theft of paintings a number of years ago.  The author gives valuable information  at the back of the book in “A note on Research” to help define what in the novel was fact and what was fiction.

 

 

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