Tag Archive | Fiction

A Price for Genius

by Lin Wilder

This is my third Lin Wilder book in the last 4 months, and I’ll be reading her Dr. Lindsey McCall series as long as she writes them.  Although each book could stand alone, as a methodical reader, I really appreciate reading a series sequentially. Watching characters grow and develop make or break any series, and Wilder is proving herself adept at stretching the boundaries for her characters.

Book 3 in the McCall series, “A Price for Genius” is very different than books 1 and 2. Reviews for those books can be found here:

https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/the-fragrance-shed-by-a-violet/

https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/do-you-solemnly-swear/

This book is primarily set in Switzerland, and much of the plot centers around a kidnapping. Wilder keeps the material fresh by introducing new characters, and they assemble to form a rescue team. Unlike the McCall we met in book 1, by book 3 a small community (more accurately a family) develops and we get to enjoy relationships growing deeper. It will be interesting to see how the group grows in book 4.  Yes, book 4 is in the works already.  blog

One thought which runs through my brain while reading all of Wilder’s books is that she must be very, very intelligent. Her writing is not dumbed-down and she manages to use her own previous experience in the medical field to write material which is interesting as fiction, but which also is informative to a reader.  I read a wide variety of material and I really am drawn to that which challenges me, rather than simply turning pages to finish. Wilder writes for a smart audience.

Here is an example of the level of intellect found throughout the novel:

But the threats to twenty-first-century man can rarely be solved by fighting or fleeing. Rather than dissipating through extreme physical exertion, these hormonal and neurochemical products are built up over time and can be toxic. The consequences of severe stress and adrenal exhaustion over prolonged periods of time can be fatal, leading to the belief that stress is considered one of the top contributors to the leading causes of death in the twenty-first century, heart disease and stroke, cancer.

The only thing I did not like, and I didn’t even realize it until the last chapter, is that one of my favorite characters didn’t get much time in this novel.  Max.  A Doberman. Yes, I missed the dog.

 

 

Taking on Water

by David Rawding

This was another book that was given to me, so I started out having no idea of plot or genre and was pleasantly surprised to find this a very good Audible listen. Set in a small fishing town in New Hampshire, this is a mystery/thriller novel involving the decline of the blue collar worker and the influx of illegal drugs.

blogAs a debut novel, Rawding was very successful in penning characters who seemed very real. Having grown up in a small fishing village on the coast of New Jersey, I was impressed with the attention to detail about fishing, and appreciated the time spent explaining the industry. Rawding also was very accurate (not speaking to the drug running, lol), but I certainly saw my share of fisher-families devastated by bad seasons, acts of God and industry regulations.

The main character, James Morrow, is employed as a social worker who has lived, and seen, his fair share of abuses. He is more than a 9-5 worker and because of his off work hours spent with young teen Kevin, Morrow is drawn into the underside of this “quiet” fishing village. A mixed race marriage to a police woman adds to the investment Morrow makes in the mystery of fishing and drugs and ultimately leads to traumatic loss and questionable choices.

“Taking on Water” is a very solid mystery worthy of a read. Having listened to this via Audible, my experience with the material, as always, is influenced by the ability of the narrator.  I’d never heard Curt Simmons before, but instantly connected with his voice. If you are an audio book listener, you likely know that it’s sometimes a hit or miss. There are some voices, inflections, pauses….which can ruin good writing. In my new world order, if I don’t enjoy a book, I’m out. Life is too short to waste on bad material. Simmons helped make this novel pleasurable and the time passed too quickly. His voice choices for each character were fitting, and aided in my own visualization of who was speaking which brought the work to life for me.

I recommend “Taking on Water” and would read more by Rawding and would definitely listen to another Simmons narration.

 

For the US Book Challenge – this was set in New Hampshire.

 

 

 

all we had

by annie weatherwax

Many of the books I read and review are given to me, and I’m grateful for the chance to experience such a wide variety of material.  I’m not complaining.  But there is something wonderful about selecting a book, anticipating the story and immersing yourself in the novel.  For Christmas a friend gave me a B&N gift card and I spent HOURS perusing the online store and was like a kid picking up, and putting back, the new toy until I found exactly the ones I wanted.

The first of my treasures I chose is “all we had” by annie weatherwax and, to be completely honest, I selected it because I was entranced by the cover. Yup, I judged this book by its cover and I’m so glad I did.

This is a story about a transient, underemployed, kindhearted mother Rita and her daughter, 13 year old Ruthie.  Rita has led a hard life becoming a mom at 16 and forced to use sex as a tool of power to find men willing to take them in and provide shelter and food.  This lifestyle is unimaginable to me, but Weatherwax managed to pen the character in such a way that she seems like a tragic human caught in a terrible situation doing what she has to in order to survive. She also understood the circle of poverty which can trap a person and she was determined to ensure her daughter got into an Ivy League school and made a better life for herself.  Commendable especially as a 29 year old having to resort to using, and being used, by men.  blog

Mom and daughter hit the road in a barely drive-able car and head from California to Boston, home of many top colleges. Despite the fact Ruthie is only 13, Rita is working toward the future and wants her daughter educated in the best schools and nearer to her future freedom from poverty.

…..and then things take a turn for the unexpected.

The women end up at a diner in a dying town in New York state and a cast of characters become the family they never had before.  Rita ends up waitressing, Ruthie works part time as a dishwasher and we get to watch a life build as money is made, housing is secured and friendships blossom.

I really loved the time in the diner. Weatherwax fleshed out each character, and as a reader, I was impressed with her ability to hook me despite my own initial misgivings.  One of the waitresses is transgender and not someone I’ve ever experienced in my own life but by the end of the book, Peter Pam was my favorite. I felt an attachment I wouldn’t have thought possible and was invested in her character.

And like many great novels, there is more to the story than just the adventures of a mom and daughter. Weatherwax was writing a fictionalized account of what much of America suffered during the sub-prime mortgage crisis in our country. People wanting to create their own American dream and instead ending up worse off than before.  Dreaming of home ownership but instead becoming caught even further in a cycle of poverty.  Besides the main characters, this is represented throughout the novel as factories move, diners disappear, neighbors going from frequent Walmart truck deliveries to destitution and, of course, Walmart encroaching on mom & pops which used to be a way of life.

I read this book in 2 days and had to force myself at 3am to put it down. I hope Weatherwax writes many more books. She is stellar.

 

For the US Book Reading Challenge – this was set in New York.

 

Jackaby

by William Ritter

The past year I’ve invested a lot of time seeking out new authors using social media.  Thanks to fellow bloggers and peeps on Twitter, I’ve managed to win many books and discover new talent I would never have come across.  There are pluses and minuses to this method of building a TBR list, but as long as you are open to adventures you might otherwise have missed, I’m finding this an excellent way to read some amazing works.

Jackaby by William Ritter was a novel I won, and to be honest, I entered the contest because of the gorgeous cover.  I rarely read the book descriptions and roll the dice whether the material will be my cup of tea.  I’d classify Ritter’s first novel as a detective fantasy work.  It is also considered a YA novel, but it easily crosses over to readers of all ages.  Set in 1892 New England, this tale features Jackaby, a Sherlockian detective with a flare for the paranormal and his new intrepid girl Friday, Abigail Rook, who is on the lam from her boring life seeking adventure.  I love these two characters together.  blog

The writing is witty and the characters are both charming and strong. A heroine who doesn’t faint in the face of danger, especially in a 19th century setting, is very much appreciated.  Despite fantasy and paranormal not being my regular choice of genres, Ritter created a story which was highly entertaining, and which I looked forward to returning to every day.

The small town of New Fiddleham is the stalking ground of a serial killer and between Jackaby’s knowledge of mythical underworld beings, and Abigail’s ability to notice everyday nuances, the team leads the reader on a very enjoyable adventure.

Although I’m not a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes movies and television offerings of my youth (70s and 80s), I do like Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and couldn’t help but see his face as I read Jackaby’s nonplussed reactions to a world most of us cannot see.

Ritter is an author to watch and the first chapter of book two of the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones, is included at the end of this novel.  Glad to know he is continuing the characters, but, of course, I didn’t read this teaser.  I prefer to open a book having no idea where I am to be led.

 

The Fragrance Shed by a Violet

by Lin Wilder

If you follow my personal blog, https://newoldgirl.wordpress.com/ you are aware that I am NOT A FAN of the medical profession and feel great disdain for Big Pharma.  This attitude change occurred in the last 4 years and one additional side effect of the trauma of my iatrogenic illness was losing an entire genre of books.  I used to read every single medical thriller I could find, and laugh at the memory of my one overnight hospital stay where the book I was reading was by Robin Cook.  As a sort of exposure therapy, I decided to delve back into medical fiction and see if I could separate my own trauma from a fiction book.  I am so glad I discovered new indie author, Lin Wilder.  She was the perfect author to pull me back into my old stomping grounds.  blog

“The Fragrance Shed by a Violet” is not your typical medical thriller.  I would probably not even add “thriller” to the descriptor except that most books set in the medical industry do involve mayhem – murder, espionage, the evils of the industry, etc.  Wilder has written a book which involves the medical profession, but truly I felt this book was character driven.  Yes, Dr. Lindsey McCall is a brilliant researcher employed by a large Texas medical center, but there are so many pieces to this story, it felt more like contemporary fiction involving relationships rather than subterfuge.  This, I think, was key for me truly enjoying the work.  Wilder presents us strong, driven, intelligent female characters like McCall and investigative reporter Kate Townsend.  As the foil to those strong women, we also spend time with Lindsey’s sister, Paula a nurse with a troubled past who proves prominent in the direction Lindsey’s life takes.

As the sister of two alcoholic brothers who passed very early because of their disease, I felt a real connection to the siblings in this book.  As a reader, finding connections to characters brings the story to life and Wilder wrote a good story.  Wilder pulled me in not only with her writing but with the use of prophetic quotes at the start of each chapter, and the presence of spirituality in the story.  This did not read like smack-you-in-the-face Christian fiction, but as in many real lives, faith plays a role for some of her characters.  Reading this book was comfortable and enjoyable.

I did read the author bio prior to starting the book and I appreciated throughout my reading the fact that Wilder spent decades employed in the medical field.  Somehow, to me, knowing she had real life experience behind her gave a sense of legitimacy to her writing, especially during the parts where research and drug development was explored.  It was also quite clear that Lin Wilder is one smart cookie.  The novel is very well written, the characters are fleshed out and the story felt complete.  This was a great first medical book for me to start with and I highly recommend “The Fragrance Shed by a Violet.”

 

 

For the US Map Reading Challenge, this one is set in Texas.  Yes, I’ve read another Texas book this year, but it’s a big state so I’m recording this one as well.

The Bleeding Door

by Todd Cook

As a new resident to Appalachia, I was excited to read “The Bleeding Door” as it is set in the woods of Kentucky in the 19th century.  Todd Cook clearly spent a lot of time studying the culture and integrating it into the story.  In fact the author bio explains his passion for, and investigation of, the well known Hatfield-McCoy feud, and acquaintanceship with sources who live in the area in which he sets this historical fiction.  “The Bleeding Door” is a retelling of this feud with characters who are fleshed out and made real to the reader. blog

It took a while to become immersed in the story.  The first part of the book develops slowly and jumps among time and characters.  I am glad I stuck with it, though, because the author builds upon that early material in order to tell a good, old-fashioned tale.  By the time the story ended, I had favorite characters and connected to them and their ultimate fate.

“The Bleeding Door” is a novel which uses the setting as a main character.  The geography of Kentucky, the mystery of the dark woods, the isolation of those who reside there are all critical to exactly what happens in the hills.  The Civil War was very impactful for those states whose residents could go either way.  Face it, a Massachusetts neighborhood was more likely to be all pro-Union while the residents of Kentucky had decisions to make.  This resulted in in-fighting and danger for families and vengeance was a popular problem solver.

I hesitate to make this criticism because I never know if what I experience is as a result of the writing, or remnants of my brain injury with which I still deal.  Keep that in mind as this may not affect other readers in the same way.  Cook worked hard at incorporating the language of the hills from the 1800s.  While much of the story is written in our modern English, character dialogue is written in its original Appalachian speak.  For example:

“Whar are you fixin’ to take us?” demanded Melvin. “We hait done nothing’!” The captors did not answer.

Melvin grew more frantic.  “I hain’t never throwed off on Vance and Phillip! Them two never throwed off on me!”

“I sware t’warn’t me,” interjected Robert. “I was out fightin in Virginny when they was shot, I sware hit!”

From context I could understand the plot, but I did find myself having to read (and sometimes re-read) much more methodically.

“The Bleeding Door” is a nice tale and I will look for the next book Todd Cook pens.

 

 

US State Reading Challenge – Kentucky

 

 

Tupelo Honey

by Lis Anna-Langston

Coming from a very dysfunctional childhood, at 52 both my parents and my brothers are now gone and I find myself drawn to novels which deal with childhoods filled with hardship.  If I was Oprah or Dr. Phil I’d probably say I’m using fictional works to help myself reflect on my past and mourn the imperfect world in which I lived until marriage.  Whatever the reason, I can definitely say that when I find a gem like “Tupelo Honey” and when the tears fall over that character, I feel a cleansing of my own pain.  And it is good.

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Set in Mississippi in the 1970s, author Lis Anna-Langston has penned a story which is touching and insightful. Main character Tupelo Honey is an 11 year old with an absentee junkie-mom, a loving grandma called Marmalade and slightly ‘off’ uncle Randall.  She is a smart, savvy child who faces more challenges at her young age than most will see in a lifetime.  As all of us do, Tupelo Honey craves a feeling of being wanted.  Loved.  This is a need which is supposed to be lavished on us as youngster by our parents, but never knowing her dad and a mom not interested in parenting leaves a void in her young life.

Interestingly, mom introduces a boyfriend into the picture who ends up being a blessing.  Nash, a low level drug dealer initially made my own mom-hairs on the arm rise, but Anna-Langston uses him to show normalcy and love the way a parent should behave.  I enjoyed this unexpected character twist and appreciated the fact that the author shows the reader appearances can be deceiving.

My other favorite thing about this novel is the feeling of nostalgia it offers.  I found myself smiling at my own childhood fondness for bologna sandwiches with mayonnaise.  Our world of gluten free ancient grain whole wheat bread with organic mustard and sprouts is just not the same as Wonder Bread and Kraft Mayo.  Anna-Langston does not punch us in the face with the fact this is set in the 70s, but there are enough mentions to bring that time period to life.

This is a can’t-put-it-down page turner. Despite my feelings of guilt that the author likely spent thousands of hours writing, and I’m whipping through it like a tornado, I read this in two days. And my emo was high through most of it. I cannot praise enough a book which makes the reader feel all range of emotions – sadness, laughter, joy, relief….  To be completely honest it took three days to finish the book. I had just 20 or so pages left to go at 2am, but I forced myself to stop. I knew my heart needed to see the end during the light of day and not while I laid awake processing the ache of this character.

I don’t keep every book I read because I don’t have shelf space and I won’t waste precious reading time going back to re-read something which was not wonderful.  “Tupelo Honey” gets my highest recommendation when I tell you this one sits in pride of place on my bookshelf to be picked up again and again in the years to come.