Just Giblets

Michael’s #1 Book Read in 2016 + a recap of the whole list

16th January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #1 Book Read in 2016 + a recap of the whole list

Kingfisher#1 – Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

It should come as not too much of a surprise that if there’s a new McKillip novel published in any given year, it’s likely to be near, or at the top of this list. Now, it’s not a given. Patricia’s books are coming more slowly in recent years, and there were a couple of story collections to fill in some gaps, but somehow, the quality of her stand-alone novels just doesn’t diminish. Believe me, I’m waiting for it. Nobody’s streak can last this long. Each time I pick up one of her books I think, this will be the one that disappoints me. And while I certainly do have favorites, I have yet to really be disappointed. Her latest novel, Kingfisher is no exception, and features all the McKillip hallmarks that I love so much.

It may be cliche, but I must start this review with, “How does she do it?” Without being at all formulaic, Patricia A. McKillip has managed to write a stunning series of stand-alone novels (shocking in the fantasy genre) that consistently weave wonder, magic, romance, adventure, and stunningly complex characters, male and female with such startling consistency and nary a misstep in over thirty years!

In her latest novel, Kingfisher she creates an astounding number of well-define, diverse characters in a fantastic world that blends modern day, with the time of knights, and the remains of magic. Each character is distinct and memorable, even when they don’t appear for chapter on end. She also deftly creates several factions all seeking the same goal for different purposes, but in such a way that the reader is never quite sure who to root for? Is there one group that is in the right? Another working for nefarious purposes? It’s hard to tell, right up to the fantastically mystical denouement.

As usual, her prose drips with exquisite language that in and of itself is a joy to experience. And again, coupled with a complex and delicious stories mainly centered around food, in fact, and the magic inherent in the creation of a superb meal. Patricia A. McKillip, admittedly, is my favorite author, so take this review with a grain of salt, but I stand by it.

And now a recap of my top books read in 2016:

  1. Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip
  2. The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta
  3. At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
  4. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  5. Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
  6. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
  7. Mercury by Margot Livesey
  8. Christodora by Tim Murphy
  9. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Hanslett
  10. An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao
  11. Opportunity Knocks by Alison Sweeney
  12. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  13. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal  by KJ Charles

And a few other titles I enjoyed last year:

  • A Wild Swan and other stories  by Michael Cunningham
  • A Case of Possession and The Magpie Lord: A Charm of Magpies by KJ Charles
  • Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly

In an upcoming post I will talk about some of the other books I read including graphic novels, children’s books and plays. In addition, there were a few books I read that I did not like, or I did not finish, but I won’t be mentioning those here. And I’m off to a good start in 2017 too!

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 5:46 pm | 0 Comments
11th January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #3 & #2 Books Read in 2016

And now we go full-on fantasy. It’s been a while since I’ve found some really great fantasy novels to top my list of books read in a given year. What’s so great about these next two books is that they took me completely be surprise, with one being an author I had never heard of before, and another being an author whose debut I had read and liked well enough, but her new novel blew me away.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees#3 – At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson

Those who know me, know I am fascinated by bees, and this eye-catching book cover and title could hardly fail to catch my eye despite it’s 2012 publication date. What an extraordinary find. This collection of mysterious and magical stories captivated me quickly and did not let go. I am thrilled to have discovered this new author and hope to read many more works form her pen.

From the first couple of paragraphs of “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss,” I knew this collection of short stories by Kij Johnson was going to be something special. Johnson’s stories explore the lives of animals, and their relationship with humans, but also explore realms of science fiction — alternate earths, or alien lifeforms. While every story is enjoyable, the standouts for me revolve around the inner lives of every day animals. The monkeys in the aforementioned tale are delightful and mysterious. The protagonist of “The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles” is as heroic as any literary protagonist as she makes her way from Japan’s capitol city to The North. And the mysteries of the swarm in the title story includes a benevolent queen whose kindness will break your heart.

There are some dark stories as well, including the horrific “Spar”, the devastating yet hopeful “The Horse Raiders,” and a shockingly brutal take on the entire “My Little Pony” phenomenon as told in “Ponies.” Johnson’s longer tales, including the title story, the afore-mentioned “The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles,” and the powerful science fiction story, “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” could easily be spun into full novels. I look forward to reading her novel, The Fox Woman, which surely emerged from her story included here, “Fox Magic.” Kij Johnson plays with language as deftly as she plays with ideas and preconceived notions. This is a magical collection for anyone who enjoys a little imagination in their stories.

The Weaver#2 – The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta

What an extraordinary surprise, and what was so lovely, was that even after just a couple of chapters, I knew I was going to love this book. I did. Emmi Itäranta is a Finnish novelist , who writes in both her native language and English. She impressed me with her debut novel a couple of years ago, The Memory of Water, which boasted strong, lyrical writing, and in intriguing story, but fell short of really reaching greatness. Itäranta writes in the acknowledgements of The Weaver, how difficult it is to write that second novel. Well, it may have been difficult, but the hard work paid off. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Weaver near the top of my books read for 2016.

The world Itäranta has created is mythic, complex, intriguing, mystical, harsh and fascinating. Eliana is a young woman living on the island, a weaver in the House of Webs. When during her night-watch, she finds another young woman who has been brutally attacked and left to die, her life is suddenly altered with the discovery of her name tattooed in invisible ink on this woman’s palm. This discovery leads to a journey so unexpected, so imaginative, and so compelling that I didn’t want it to end.

The characters are rich with nuance, from the mysterious young woman Valeria, to The Spinner, monstrous, wise and ancient. Alva, the healer at the House of Webs, and Weaver, who runs the house and retains her own council. The intricate society revealed in The Weaver is as fascinating  as Frank Herbert’s Dune, (and fully realized in half as many pages!) I can only hope Itäranta revisits it again someday.

posted in 2016, Books, Fantasy, Year-end lists | at 7:47 am | 0 Comments
10th January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #5 & #4 Books Read in 2016!

The Top 5 — and there are some really great authors and titles here along with a couple of new finds/surprises! Anchoring the Top 5 are a couple of reliable favorite writers who turn in some pretty impressive stuff.

Heat & Light#5 – Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh

Jennifer Haigh tackles a challenging, often polarizing subject, and somehow manages to interweave dozens of characters and a compelling story in to a thoroughly absorbing novel that doesn’t take any easy shortcuts.

With Heat & Light, Haigh’s ambitious novel about a town experiencing its controversial second shot at life, the Bakerton trilogy comes to a close. After years of prosperity as a mining town, Bakerton, PA falls into the quintessentially American depression that comes with progress. Then unexpectedly, fracking comes to Pennsylvania, a process by which oil and natural gas is obtained.

There’s nothing simple or black & white about the issues Jennifer raises in Heat & Light, as people struggle to get by suddenly find themselves with an opportunity to make some money by leasing their land to the fracking companies. In addition, drill workers are brought into town to do the work, thereby stimulating the economy to some extent. Yet environmentalists and other concerned townspeople feel very different, worry about the long term effects that fracking could cause. It is here that Haigh draws parallels to the Three-Mile Island incident and the ill-defined that catastrophe had on nearby residents.

Jennifer juggles multiple points-of-view deftly, infusing her skilled prose with the thoughts and beliefs of her character, whether it be the salesperson trying to lease a resident’s land, a corporate exec, a concerned environmentalist, or a lonely bar waitress. This is a dense, complicated novel that takes on issues that are hard to dismiss. Whether Bakerton has yet another renaissance in its future is unknown, but Jennifer Haigh is certainly an author on the rise.

Commonwealth#4 – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Wow. Ann Patchett has written a family drama that perfectly captures both the absurdity and the heartbreak of domestic life. This is what Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone should have been. The Cousins and the Keatings, two Califorina families forever intertwined by infidelity, and permanently shattered by it. Bert Cousins leaves his wife Teresa to raise four children on her own, to be with Beverly Keating, with two children of her own. She leaves her husband Fix and travels with Bert to live in Virginia. The six children are forced together every summer where they forge a childhood bond not based on love or admiration, but the combined disappointment in their parents. As adults, they find their combined families’ stories suddenly revealed in a way they couldn’t possibly expect and are forced to reexamine some of their drama-forged relations.

Patchett chronicles each character’s life over the span of 50 years or so in the most remarkable way; joining them at a particular moment in time and bringing the reader up to speed on their lives and loves in a way that is both natural and effective. Even one character who I thought was getting the short shrift in the book got her moment near the conclusion. Her writing is compelling and elegant, and her story, while skimming the surface of a brilliant AM Homes satire, emerges as heartfelt and real.

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:26 am | 0 Comments
6th January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #7 & #6 Books Read in 2016

And here is where I know that I read some really good books in 2016. Both of these books should be much closer to the #1 slot in a normal year. From here on up, these books all thrilled me in some way or another. It’s great to finish a book that really satisfies you, and these certainly fit the bill.

Mercury#7 – Mercury by Margot Livesey

A new Margot Livesey novel is always something to look forward to. Her thoughtful and incisive writing tantalizes and  my literary mind every time With Mercury, Margot Livesey tackles obsession and how it can have catastrophic effects on a family. Donald is an optometrist living in suburban Boston after a childhood spent in Scotland. After a particularly difficult illness, Donald’s father dies, and Donald finds himself a little adrift. His wife, Viv, has found renewed passion in the form of a horse named Mercury, who is stabled at the ranch where she works. Gradually, Viv begins devoting more and more of her time on Mercury, to the point that Donald believes she is keeping things from him, and putting her family second to the need of the horse.

When Viv and Donald’s actions, or sometimes lack of actions, lead to an unimaginable accident, both must confront the realities of their behavior and how many other must suffer the consequences. Livesey doesn’t make it easy for any of her characters, and the outcomes do not fall in the happy-ever-after category, but she creates compelling, believable characters and weaves stories that are compelling and urgent. Mercury is a novel that has lasting impact.

Lily and the Octopus#6 – Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

When it comes to imaginative, creative, funny, emotional debut novels, Steven Rowley’s Lily and the Octopus definitely tops the list. While coming in at #6 overall, it’s my top debut novel of the year, and I so thoroughly enjoyed it. Reading Lily you can so clearly see the love and care that so infuses the writing that we can’t help but fall in love with Lily as well.

Anyone who has lost a pet knows how that pain of that loss defies explanation. Of course there is sadness and grief, but there’s also that niggling, irrational sense that other people don’t take it seriously, after all, it’s only a pet. After his own dog died, Hollywood screenwriter Steven Rowley decided to write a short story about the experience to help cope with his own grief. That short story turned into Lily and the Octopus a novel of great emotional impact that truly had me laughing out loud on one page, and weeping on the next.

Ted is a writer living in L.A., who noticed one morning that there is an octopus perched on the head of his beloved dachshund, Lily. He’s not sure where it came from, but he’s certain it’s not a good thing. What follows is a man’s journey through denial to realization and how his reactions to his Lily’s impending fate may have more to do with his own life than hers.

Rowley is a good writer: his humor unexpected and quirky, his moving passages authentic and without overblown pathos. There is a slight edge of that entertainment-business cynic present, but it’s offset by Ted’s inherent geekiness. The narrative uses magical realism beautifully, giving both Lily and the octopus unique, satisfying voices, and sending Ted and Lily on a daring sea adventure the likes of which ballads were written.

I also appreciated how Ted’s emotional roller coaster was so much different than my own, when my beloved, 22-year-old cat passed away nearly a year ago. Rowley explores not just the sadness of loss we feel, but how our emotional state and view of life shape that grief. It’s a beautiful and highly entertaining book, and my heart is warming up just writing about it.

 

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 8:04 am | 0 Comments
5th January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #9 & #8 Book Read in 2016

Imagine Me Gone#9 – Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone received a lot of pre-pub acclaim, and I was quite excited about reading it. Perhaps it was the anticipation, but I was left slightly disappointed after reading it. For such an emotionally charged subject, there was a distance from the characters that undercut the effectiveness of this family drama. Still, this is a smallish quibble in what is mostly a masterful read.

Adam Haslett has produce a beautiful novel that tells the story of a family struggling with depression. When Margaret learns that her fiancee has been hospitalized due to his severe depression, she has to think hard as to whether she want to enter a life with him. It is 1960’s London, and depression was treated very differently than it is today. Several years later, Margaret and John are living in New England with three children, Michael, Celia and Alec. Touching in with this evolving family while the kids are young, then again as teens, and as adults, we see the arc of the life of a family struggling with an illness that effects them all.

Haslett brings this family so thoroughly to life, with moments of great sadness, and sudden hilarity. The caustic and embellished diatribes from oldest son Michael are so outlandish I found myself laughing out loud. The story is told from all point-of-view, so the hearts of each character are explored and laid bare. As the powerful novel nears its conclusion you will no doubt recognize some part of your own family despite the unique and sometimes tragic humanity of this fictional one.

Christodora#8 – Christodora by Tim Murphy

I picked up Tim Murphy’s Christodora based on a recommendation by Scott Heim and was very pleasantly surprised. Focusing on an iconic building in the East Village, and spanning decades Murphy explores elements of the historic AIDS movement through the lens of a diverse group of artists whose paths cross in unexpected ways. Milly and Jared are a young couple coming of age in the 90’s, exploring their art, and struggling with their pasts and their future together. They adopt a 5-year old boy named Mateo, whose single Mom has died of complications from the AIDS virus. This is the central core of this sprawling story that includes Milly’s Mom, Ava, who worked for the Department of Health; their neighbor Hector, once a pivotal force in AIDS activism, now a drug addict who can’t let go of the past; Drew, Milly’s best friend, who overcame her addiction, fled New York City and found success as a writer, and Yssa, a young Latina woman who left a small but powerful impact on the world after contracting the AIDS virus and fighting to show that women get AIDS too.

The narrative jumps around through time, with interesting revelations emerging at surprising moments. It’s a compelling read, with flawed characters… some almost to the point of alienation, but Murphy manages to skirt that pitfall. His descriptions of heroin use are visceral and disturbing, and the complex relationships between characters are kaleidoscopic.

One of two epic books about New York City that I attempted to read, and unfortunately, the only successful one. I enjoyed what I read of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire but something is just preventing me from completing it.

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:07 am | 0 Comments
3rd January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #11 & #10 books read in 2016!

Opportunity Knocks#11 – Opportunity Knocks by Alison Sweeney

Yes, it’s true, I’m a big fan of Sami Brady, the character Alison Sweeney played on Days of Our Lives for year. But you know what? Sweeney rights some darn entertaining books too! Opportunity Knocks is the third novel that Alison has written, following The Star Attraction and Scared Scriptless. They’re pure chick lit, but Ms. Sweeney has two things in her favor: extensive knowledge about television and the entertainment industry that brings such color and character to her novels, and she can actually write!

With her third outing, Alison tells the story of Alex, aspiring make-up artist, who moves from L.A. to New York to prove herself to her parents, her boyfriend, and most importantly herself. Opportunity knocks, and she answers. But how could Alex know that in mere weeks, while successfully serving as make-up artist to a popular cooking show host with severe diva tendencies, it would all come crashing down, threatening not only her newly found independence, but her very welfare!

Fortunately, Alex has caught they eye of super-celebrity actor Billy Fox, perfect specimen of gorgeousness, and eager to help Alex get out of the incredibly tight spot she has found herself in. While some of the romantic elements of the novel slightly undercut Alex’s true road to independence, Sweeney works hard to keep Alex as the primary focus and agent of her life. As Billy points out to her, there’s a difference between letting others make decisions for you or swoop in to save your bacon when you’re in trouble, and asking friends for some help.

An Unrestored Woman#10 – An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao

Shobha Rao has created a powerful and elegant collection of short stories around the separation of India and Pakistan in 1947. While the stories take place all around the world, the characters in this story are all experiencing the effects of the uprooting and displacement of families. Women in particular face a rough ride during this time and in this culture, but Rao spares no one in this hard-hitting, yet thoughtful collection that explores race, class, religion, sexuality, and love during a tumultuous time.

In addition to writing a sparkling collection of writing, Rao is one of the most delightful and engaging authors I’ve met over the course of the year. An Unrestored Woman heralds the debut of a talented and lovely writer. Each short story is like a drop of water in the desert, leaving a parched throat aching for more. I can’t wait to see what Rao does with a full-length novel.

 

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 10:52 pm | 0 Comments
2nd January 2017
by Michael

Michael’s #13 and #12 books read of 2016!

2016 has come and gone, and I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, but more than I thought. Of course, many of them were graphic novels and some were plays, so there’s that. One thing that did surprise me was the number of really good books I read. My list of books worth listing is a little shorter than usual, coming in at thirteen, but the number of those thirteen that I really liked a lot was much larger than usual. So all in all, a good year for books.

The Secret Case of Simon Feximal#13 – The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K. J. Charles 

2016 was the year I completed my first ebook. It was also the year I read my first gay, erotic, historical, paranormal, fantasy romance. And surprise, it was the same book, this book, by K. H. Charles. I stumbled across this book in a very unusual way as well. While vacationing in St. Martin last January, I met a lovely British lad whose sister-in-law is the author in question. He was charming and delightful so I told him I would try one of his sister-in-law’s books. He recommended I start with this one, which I did. I was surprised to find it well-written, sexy, and a great deal of fun.

Some might say the plot is really irrelevant, but I find it adds a lot to my enjoyment. Simon Feximal is an imposing, well-respected, and some might say notorious occultist who is called upon to help out with hauntings, possessions, and other manner of dark dangers. A solitary man, he comes into contact with journalist Robert Caldwell during one particularly troubling haunting that forces the two men in quite a compromising position (or several). Fortunately, the mutual attraction was already there, and thus begins a long, shared life for the two men, through harrowing challenges and several near-deadly encounters with the paranormal, or with government officials using unsavory methods to coerce the two men to do their bidding. This is the first in a series of books, which were also quite entertaining, but this first made the biggest impression, hence it’s place on this list.

Behold the Dreamers#14 – Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel is a highly readable modern tale of immigration and the challenges faced with tackling the American Dream… especially during a recession. Jende comes to America from Cameroon with big dreams, and through the help of an earlier transplant, his cousin Winston, gets a job as a chaffeur for a wealthy, Wall Street executive, Mr. Clark, driving him, his wife and two kids around and making a fairly good salary doing it. Certainly a salary that is astronomically more than he would make in Cameroon. His pregnant wife, Nemi, and their son arrive soon after, and she embarks on an educational mission to become a pharmacist. It’s all going wonderfully, with savings accumulating and bosses who appreciate them, but there’s one problem. they’re in the country illegally, and despite the fact that it takes months for any action to be taken, it is likely they will be deported sometime in the future.

Then fortunes turn as Wall Street implodes. Their lives, so optimistic and seemingly certain, take a precarious dive as their relationship with the Clarks and with each other, start to fray. Mbue captures the essence of the ups and downs of the immigrant experience beautifully, and while there is an element of char throughout, the challenges faced by those struggling to make it in America is not downplayed. This is a debut novel that demands attention, and resonates strongly with today’s America.

posted in 2016, Books, Year-end lists | at 11:05 pm | 0 Comments
3rd February 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 2 & 1

2015 was a good year for speculative fiction, with four out of the top 5 books I read this year coming under the science fiction/fantasy/horror genres. My top 2 books feature a favorite author, and one I’ve been meaning to read for years, and finally did. And they’re both named Nei/al.

#Trigger Warning2 – Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Has Neil Gaiman ever disappointed? I can’t say that he has, and this collection of short stories continues that streak. Using a title that was born from the internet to alert readers/viewers etc. to potentially offensive/disturbing content, Mr. Gaiman ponders the idea that his own work would one day bear the label, “trigger warning.” Good fiction should challenge the reader, often disturbing, scaring, challenging us. This collection certainly succeeds on that level.

Ranging from re-imagined fairy tales, Holmes’ tales, or Dr. Who stories, to several ruminations on death, memory and love, Gaiman’s stories reel you in with fanciful flights of imagination, then grab you somewhere startling and potentially upsetting. The result is delight, and a terrific read that will keep you pondering what your own personal trigger might be.

 

Seveneves#3 – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

When the moon explodes scientists soon predict that the resulting debris burning in the earth’s atmosphere will eliminate all life on earth in a couple of years. The majority of Stephenson’s nearly 900 page book follows the urgent, yet tenuous plan for an ark to small habitats to be constructed around an existing space station to save the brightest of humanity to one day repopulate the human race. The latter portion of this epic jumps forward 5000 years too explore what has become of the human race in a way that rivals the space epics of Frank Herbert or Mary Gentle.

Stephenson spins a riveting tale by blending a space thriller with a deft character study, exploring the character traits that may ultimately form the basis of humanity. While 900 pages is a daunting task, the book never drags, and urges you to keep reading to see how the characters will overcome the herculean obstacles that inevitably end up in their path. This is my first Neal Stephenson novel… I guess it’s finally time to read Snow Crash.

posted in 2015, Books, Lists | at 11:18 pm | 1 Comment
23rd January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 4 & 3

A debut novel and the first of two short story collections take the #4 & #3 spots on this year’s Best Books Read in 2015. And the #3 book is the second book by Simon Van Booy to appear in the Top 10! Nice work, Simon!

Join#4 – Join by Steve Toutonghi

Steve Toutonghi’s debut novel, Join is a lovely piece of speculative fiction that explores a near future that explores the next phase of humanity and how the changes to the race have dire impact to the planet itself. In an unspecified future, individualism has a whole different look as more and more people chose to join. Small groups of people merge minds into a single consciousness while retaining their physical bodies, allowing them to experience life through multiple bodies, and in affect, living forever, for while individual bodies die, the consciousness remains alive in the Join. While much of humanity has chosen to live this way, there are still solos living individual lives either by choice, or because the process is more than they can afford.

But even as humanity moves toward its next phase of life, the planet itself is in grave environmental peril. Worse, Chance, a join of five, stumbles upon the existence of a potentially mad, and decidedly murderous abomination called Rope. Meanwhile Chance’s friend Leap finds itself in grave peril from a rare condition that only affects Joins. Chance and Leap must find a way to save Leap, while avoiding the terrifying fate that could await them both through Rope’s machinations.

Reminiscent of recent work by David Mitchell and Neal Stephenson, Steve Toutonghi has created a fascinating future for humanity, all the while exploring the concepts of individuality and immortality, posing questions with no easy answers.

 

Tales of Accidental Geinus#3 – Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy writes beautiful books filled with deep longing and transcendent love. He is also a keen observer of human nature, from different points of view, ages, and backgrounds. His novels are lush and thought-provoking, but his short stories are masterful. Mr. Van Booy follows the great Alice Munro in the examination of human nature.

In his latest collection of stories, Simon travels around the world to provide the rich tapestry that make up his character. England, Nigeria, Beijing and New Jersey are among the backdrops that form these tales. He explores the nature of poverty and invention in ‘Golden Helper II: An Epic Fable of Wealth, Loneliness, and Cycling,’ and unspools a tender act of human kindness in ‘The Goldfish.’

I always look forward to Simon’s carefully constructed tales, and Tales of Accidental Genius adds another beautiful chapter in his literary body of work.

posted in 2015, Books, Year-end lists | at 12:25 pm | 0 Comments
20th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 8 & 7

Contemporary fiction with female leads — some might call it women’s fiction. For me, I’m just more interested in stories about women, and these next two novels were definitely very interesting! Lydia Millet and Jojo Noyes come in at #’s 8 & 7 respectively.

 Mermaids in Paradise#8 – Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet has constructed a complex novel that still serves as a light-hearted, entertaining read while exploring deeper issues along with protagonist, Deb.

While honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands, Deb & Chip find themselves among a small group of tourists who inadvertently discover the existence of real mermaids. Despite their best attempts to share their discovery in a responsible way, various factions such as the tourism industry and religious zealots threaten to turn this spectacular scientific discovery into something frightening or even murderous.

Millet weaves a narrative that includes ironic humor, modern romance, and speculative fiction that works on every level. The slyly subversive ending puts a unique spin on the novel as a whole.

One Plus One#7 – One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes writes romantic comedies that have a bit of a bite and earn any sentimentality that they display. In ONE PLUS ONE, Jess is a hard-working single mom who cleans houses to try to make ends meet. Her daughter Tanzie is at that awkward pre-teen stage, but she is a math wiz beyond compare. She also cares for her ex-husband’s son, Nicky, who is awkward and sensitive, and often the victim of local bullies.

When an opportunity arises that could lead to Tanzie attending an exclusive private school, Jess finds herself with no alternative than to depend on Ed, a wealthy man whose house she cleaned. Ed has hit a rough patch himself, but he finds himself drawn into Jess’s family drama and the two reluctantly find themselves drawn to each other. But life is rarely smooth, despite Jess’ eternal optimism, and the roadblocks these two face are large.

The emotions shared by these characters, both positive and negative, don’t come cheaply and are beautifully played out. This is a fun book to read that will make you laugh and make you cry. It’s got real chops and I highly recommend it.

posted in 2015, Authors, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:32 am | 0 Comments
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