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Category Archives: General Fiction

Never the Face: A Story of Desire by Ariel Sands

He’s way ahead of you, observed a small voice in my head. You don’t often meet a man who makes you feel like an ingenue.”

Our heroine, who is never named, is dissatisfied with her life and finds everything, including sex, a bore. Over dinner with David, an old friend she’s always had chemistry with, he quietly says, “I spent the weekend choosing a stick to beat you with.” With these words a previously unknown world opens up to her. A world of submission and a dark intimacy that shakes everything she thought she knew about herself.

 I am reading a lot of erotic fiction and erotica for a workshop I’m doing in September. Like our heroine, I am expanding my reading horizons even more so than usual. This book will not appeal to many readers. It is unflinching in its portrayal of Dominant/submissive relationships and there is no doubt that it is brutal and also much more. I came at it from the angle of understanding the characters involved and the intimacy and openness a relationship like this must posses. A hard and intriguing read that made me think outside my comfort zone. Ariel Sands is a pseudonym for an international bestselling nonfiction author. In an interview, she said she wanted to write with a pseudonym so there would be no preconceived notion of what the book would be like. 2011, 216 pages.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

“My life, I thought, is built on quicksand. It shifts from one day to the next.”

Christine wakes up every morning wondering who the guy is sleeping in the bed beside her. Sometimes she feels like she’s in her twenties and other times she feels like a child. It is only when she goes to the bathroom and sees an older woman staring back that she begins to panic. Every day, her husband Ben gently calms her down and reminds her of her life. Christine has amnesia and forgets everything she’s been told each day when she falls asleep. When a doctor calls and tells her to read her journal hidden in her closet and to not tell Ben-Christine has to decide who to believe and how much she can unravel before she falls asleep again.

This book is getting a lot of press, including a rave review from Dennis Lehane comparing it to the movie Memento. A classic thriller it is full of fast paced suspense that will keep the reader hooked. What makes it memorable is the engaging depth of character in Christine-who can remember nothing of her life day to day. The plot is tightly written and does not fall into too many cliches. The twists and turns are fun and thoughtful. If I am any example of a typical reader, I was throwing theories around in my head throughout the whole novel. Only a few of them came true. For that, I tip my hat. 2011, 358 pages.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

“I’ll know when you get your memory back.”
“How?” said Alice.
“The way you look at me. As soon as you remember, I’ll see it in your eyes.”

Alice wakes up after a fall from her bike in Spin Class (boy have I been there) believing she is 29 and about to have her first child. Life couldn’t be grander with her adoring husband Nick and the new fixer upper they just purchased. Trouble is, Alice soon discovers that she is actually 39, the mother to three children she doesn’t remember and is in the middle of a horribly nasty divorce from Nick. Every single memory of the last ten years of her life is gone.

This could easily have been a fairly light chick lit book. Instead it is a unique take on the midlife crisis. What if everything you’ve become in the last ten years is wiped away and you are dealing with the present with your past mentality? How does that help you or harm your growth as a person? A strong character study with a touch of mystery as the reader hangs on wondering what really happened with Nick and how it will all play out. Two side stories-journal entries from Alice’s sister about her troubles having a child and letters her Aunt Fannie writes to a mysterious man-add to the journey of discovery the book provides. 2011, 432 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

“She thought about what Sebastian said about every life needing a little space, and how that leaves room for good things to enter.”

In Walls of Water, North Carolina strange things are afoot. Paxton Osgood, local good girl who still lives with her parents and is the president of the Women’s Society Club has everyone fooled that she can do anything. Renovations on the stunning Blue Ridge Madam into a B&B are almost complete and Paxton is determined to have the 75th anniversary of the club celebration there.

Willa Jackson, part of the Jackson family that used to own the Blue Ridge Madam, has returned to Walls of Water and is trying to lead a quiet life that her father would have been proud of. Her reputation as a prankster in high school follows her constantly. When a body is found under a peach tree on the grounds of the mansion, Paxton and Willa join forces to find out the identity of the body and perhaps find a way to break out of the self-made molds they are living in.

Sarah Addison Allen has become an automatic purchase for me. As my first boss and queen of readers’ advisory taught me-there are some books that you just know you want to read again in retirement. Indeed. Allen wraps together an intriguing mystery with raw, emotional characters with a touch of magic in a southern package that is hard to resist. Light, easy and by the end you usually have a happy sigh and want to eat a cupcake. Did I really just say that? Yes, yes I did. That is the ultimate compliment I can pay to an author. Peach Keeper isn’t her best but the elements that have garnered her many fans are there. 2011, 288 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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The Intimates by Ralph Sassone

“At least he and Maize had each other. If they didn’t have romance or jobs or money or position or good housing just yet, they had their friendship. Friendship and company while they flailed.”

Robbie and Maize have been friends since high school when a brief romantic encounter gave way to friendship with the realization that Robbie was gay. After losing touch in college, the two are reunited and become fast friends sharing everything and living together as they struggle with what they imagined their life to be versus reality.

 
This book is the oddest little thing. Robbie and Maize are the best of friends yet their friendship is defined by so many moments of this reader going, what? I’d never do that to my friends or seriously? You care that little? Each character “thought” wonderful things about the other but their actions rarely transferred that affection into reality. The moments of the book that hit home were the individual reflections on the status of their life. You know, when you find yourself not settled down or not secure in a job when the rest of your peers are. Life doesn’t seem to be working quite right and it is in those moments that friendship shines through. Not a quick read despite its slim size. 2011, 247 pages.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

“Larry lay thinking of Silas, how time packs new years over the old ones but how those old years are still in there, like the earliest, tightest rings centering a tree, the most hidden, enclosed in darkness and shielded from weather. But then a saw screams in and the tree topples and the circles are stricken by the sun and the sap glistens and the stump is laid open for the world to see.”

Larry and Silas grew up as secret friends in the small town of Chabot Mississippi. Larry the son of a poor white family, Silas or “32” the son of a single black woman who lived on the property of Larry’s family. Their friendship is split apart by a racial slur and Silas goes on to be a popular, accomplished student who goes off to college. When the girl of Larry’s dreams doesn’t ever return from their first date, Larry is quickly labeled a murderer and is ostracized by the community-even with no proof he committed any crime. When a second girl disappears years later Larry is again under scrutiny and Silas has returned home as an officer of the law to investigate.

This novel is positively dripping in Southern literary style. Listen to the languid rhythms and cadences of the poor and rural south as you read. While it is a thriller the setting and the sad and dark tone force the reader to slow down as to take it all in. The characters of Larry and Silas are well-developed and flashbacks between the present and the past provide an intimate, visceral portrait into the mysteries of friendship, hope and redemption. I couldn’t put it down. 2010, 272 pages.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

“Didn’t I just know it! She looked like somebody who reads books all the time, voluntarily. Long ones, with small print and no pictures. Wretched woman!”

Shrimp is a recently widowed librarian who has a fondness for beige and poetry. Benny is a dairy farmer barely keeping his head above water after the death of his beloved mother. Sharing a bench for months at the cemetery they both frequent they both grow to loathe each other. Then Benny imagines Shrimp in a dominatrix outfit at the same time she looks up at his amazing smile. Cupid strikes quickly and they fall in love. But really, what does a dairy farmer who appreciates the tackier things in life and a refined librarian have in common?

This book charmed my socks off! Each chapter alternates between Benny and Shrimp’s view of their life and the relationship they both share. Both are struggling to come to terms with the death of people they loved but ultimately have trouble grieving. Both are intelligent, quirky and want more from the life they are living. A fascinating character study that reminds us that while people find and come together as friends or lovers, they rarely see the simplest of events the same way. One caveat, the ending is left open and the sequel has not been translated into English. I’m working on my Swedish as I type! 1998, 209 pages.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in General Fiction

 

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