Monday, March 21, 2016

The Setup Wizard - Tumblr Fan Fiction Must Read!

Many thanks to Books on the Nightstand for introducing me to this gem!

STOP what you are doing and go to this link, which will take you to an online Tumblr fan fiction account of a muggle who becomes the IT guy at Hogwarts.

Hilarious, right?

It is a continuous work-in-progress, so you will want to bookmark it, and keep track of the adventures of Jonathan Dart.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name Is Lucy BartonSummary:

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
My take: 4 looks

I almost felt like a voyeur reading this book. It is so visceral and honest; and yet, at the same time, hauntingly vague.

It is true that mother/daughter relationships are complicated and multi-faceted, always changing, developing, growing as the two people do. Lucy and her mother share an odd bond. In what hints at an abusively dependent bond, Lucy is very often torn between oddly traumatizing memories and the love she feels for her mother's presence and voice.

The writing here is typical Strout: lyrical and layered. Beautifully crafted sentences form ethereal paragraphs to slowly draw an outline of these two women. And an outline is all we will get. Strout very deftly allows the reader to fill in gaps, color opinions, and draw conclusions. Going back and forth in time, and touching on a number of characters, this book is, at its heart, about five days in which a mother and daughter reunite.

Highly recommended.

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Literary Fiction vs. Commercial Fiction

Ran across this on one of my fave podcast sites, Books on the Nightstand, and had to share:

We tackle the difficult task of trying to define literary fiction and commercial fiction. Before getting into those subjects, we define genre fiction which is the term used to describe romance, mystery, and science fiction & fantasy.

 Throughout our discussion we mention several times that the defining characteristics of these fiction types are generalizations and they can easily apply to both fiction categories. Also, none of these properties are meant to imply that one of these categories is better than the other.
Commercial Fiction
  • A heavy reliance on plot
  • Less interior character development
  • Page-turner
Literary Fiction
  • Much of the action comes from internal character development (“Nothing happens.”)
  • More ups and downs from emotions than events
  • More complex writing needed to imply emotional states

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Barkeep by William Lashner

The Barkeep by William LashnerSummary:

Justin Chase is the perfect barkeep, tending bar as he lives his life, in a state of Zen serenity. At least until Birdie Grackle, a yellow-haired, foul-mouthed alcoholic from Texas, walks into his bar, orders a Mojito, and makes a startling confession. Six years ago Justin's life was ripped apart when he discovered his mother's bludgeoned corpse in the foyer of the family home. Now Justin's father is serving a life sentence and Justin, after a stint in an asylum, drowns his emotions in a pool of inner peace. But when Birdie Grackle claims to be the hit man who murdered Justin's mother for the money, Justin is hurled back to the emotions, the past, and, most frightening of all, the father he tried to leave behind.

My take: 2.5 looks

An entertaining read, for sure. I was drawn in from the startling revelation at the end of the first chapter, and held, for the most part, through the majority of the book. While some of the other reviews cite the characters as being flat and stereotypical, I found it to read more like a noir book from Hammett or Cain. I am not comparing the quality to these authors, merely the style.

The one problem I had with the book, and keeping me from a hearty recommendation, was the plot. It became so convoluted and ultimately unbelievable that, if the end was not already in sight, I may have put this one down. I agree with another reviewer that "the plot became overly complicated in an effort to give us surprise twists". As a matter of fact, I am still not sure exactly what happened or who the true murderer was. Unfortunately, I wasn't invested enough to reread to find out.

Since there are so many other great mystery/thrillers available, this one is not recommended.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Can You Keep a Secret? by R.L. Stine


Eddie and Emma are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emma discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it's safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emma's family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There's only one problem. When Emma returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.
My take: 3 looks

An easy read, and probably well-suited for the YA crowd who likes a little bit of a scare, a tad of romance, and an end with a twist. It took me longer to read this one that it should have, but I found it easy to put down. However, it's a good choice for the middle-school set.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan


Menina Walker was a child of fortune. Rescued after a hurricane in South America, doomed to a life of poverty with a swallow medal as her only legacy, the orphaned toddler was adopted by an American family and taken to a new life. As a beautiful, intelligent woman of nineteen, she is in love, engaged, and excited about the future — until another traumatic event shatters her dreams. Menina flees to Spain to bury her misery in research for her college thesis about a sixteenth-century artist who signed his works with the image of a swallow — the same image as the one on Menina’s medal. But a mugging strands Menina in a musty, isolated Spanish convent. Exploring her surroundings, she discovers the epic sagas of five orphan girls who were hidden from the Spanish Inquisition and received help escaping to the New World. Is Menina’s medal a link to them, or to her own past? Did coincidence lead her to the convent, or fate? Both love story and historical thriller, The Sisterhood is an emotionally charged ride across continents and centuries

My take: 3 looks

Going back and forth in time, this is an epic tale spanning centuries, continents, and lives. It was gripping from the first chapter, and very easy to get lost in the story. However, as the past was explored and a number of characters were introduced, I found myself getting a little confused by the number of nuns, orphans, sea voyages, and nunneries.

 While the story of Menina started the tale, I felt that it quickly took a backseat to the events in the 1500s, including the Spanish Inquisition. I was left with many questions about Menina's life, whether or not she returned to the United States, and the possible estrangement from her adopted family.

On the other hand, I knew all I wanted to know about several nuns and novitiates, and young girls living under the protection of them. Without giving too much away, I felt a little cheated at the end, where time lept to the future, sharing what had become of Menina with little description of how she had traveled much of the path to get there. There were also questions about the suspicious people looking for Menina. What happened to them? What happened to Theo and his family? Did he ever get his comeuppance?

While this was an entertaining historical fiction tale, it left me less than satisfied. I will read one more by Bryan before recommending.