Posts Tagged ‘Adult Fiction’
Summary: Despite the struggles of the small bookstore, Sempere and Son, that Daniel Sempere runs with his father in the 1957 Barcelona under Franco’s brutal rule, life is looking is looking up. He has married the beautiful Bea, fathered a beautiful son, and his best friend Fermin Romero de Torres is about to be married. Yet as Christmas draws near, a dark and tormented figure carrying a secret from two decades will alter the fates of Daniel and his family forever.
Review: The Shadow of the Wind, the first in what is currently a three book series, remains a work of atmospheric beauty. This third entry, like Ruiz Zafon’s second work The Angel’s Game, is lovingly translated by poet Robert Graves daughter Lucia Graves. Ruiz Zafon is one of the rare writers who could write an utterly enthralling telephone book. While set in the same fictional world, Ruiz Zafon’s previous two books were each captivatingly capable of standing alone. This third book, at half the length of either of the previous two entries, binds together the standalone tales of the previous books and injects a hearty dose of nitroglycerin into a series that hardly needed it. The caveat is of course that you need to have read the previous two books in the series; you’ll be lost (if happily so) otherwise. If you have read the previous two books, however, you will likely devour this latest entry in a single sitting and begin counting down the days until the next installment.
Read-a-likes:Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s books are difficult to compare. Reader’s interested in Spanish history might give Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones de Sierra or the Captain Alatriste novels of Arturo Perez-Reverte.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library currently owns this books as a book and audiobook. Click here to check on the availability.
Review by Eric.
Summary: This story is set in 18th century England and it is here that Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a Philadelphia trained anatomist, has come to continue his own education as a medical doctor and forensic scientist, as well as lecture to the anatomy students of Christ Church College. As a forensic expert, he is called upon to investigate the sudden death of Lady Lydia Farrell’s brother, Sir Edward Crick. Despite the fact that his fellow townsmen despised Sir Edward, their rumors have implicated her husband, Captain Michael Farrell in his death. Silkstone, with the help of his forensic and medical training along with deductive reasoning, navigates his way through unforeseen twists and turns and ultimately determines who killed Crick.
Review: The Anatomist’s Apprentice is a fairly fast paced mystery that chronicles the progress made in understanding scientific principles and human anatomy, as well as the reluctance of some to embrace these new theories acquired during the age of enlightenment. References to social class and mores of the day also help to establish the true nature of characters within the storyline. Vividly descriptive language enable readers to see, smell, and hear every detail used to explore and unravel the mystery. Overall, this book is an intriguing tale of good versus evil, love, murder, mystery, and heroism. Any reader who watches NCIS or CSI will enjoy reading this period, forensic mystery.
Read-a-likes: Cat of the Century by Rita Mae Brown, Double TakebyCatherine Coulter, The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen, Port Mortuary by Patricia Daniels Cornwell, The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, and The Alienist by Caleb Carr are all novels which feature sleuths in historical context.
Review by Valerie.
Summary: Major Ernest Pettigrew, retired and widowed, leads a quiet life in a small town in the Southeast English village of St. Mary. Until, unexpectedly, the death of the Major’s brother ignites a friendship with local Pakistani shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. Finding that they have more in common than they could ever have imagined, friendship begins to blossom into something more. Can their rural English society, still holding onto the lingering traditions and prejudices of the past, accept this turn of events? And more importantly, can the Major himself?
Review: This is an excellent, and funny book. The characters are unique and well written, the English humor accessible to an American audience, and the issues (both personal and societal) are timely. While this will be most approachable to Anglophiles and fans of gentler reads, this is the rare title that I would recommend to almost any reader.
Read-a-likes: Other similar English titles, such as Old Filth by Jane Gardam or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, should be of interest to fans of Simonson’s work. But other titles dealing with older individuals adapting themselves to a new life and world, such as Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan are worth a look as well.
Review by Eric.
Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared in to the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father’s greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom. Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and a chance to win his heart.
Review: Turgeon’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved classic, The Little Mermaid, is darker and possibly more foreboding than the original tale. When two women vie for the heart of one man, it’s pretty obvious there is going to be heartache and misery. After rescuing a human from the sea, mermaid Princess Lenia falls hard for Prince Christopher. She is willing to give up her beautiful voice and endure the constant pain caused by her new legs in order to pursue him on dry land. Meanwhile, Princess Margrethe has also set her sights on the handsome prince in hopes of uniting their two warring kingdoms.
Unlike the original fairytale, Turgeon’s brooding retelling gives a voice to both women, giving us a tragic tale of destiny and desire that shatters our heart in pieces. Lenia is an optimist, completely enchanted with fragile humanity. She yearns to have a soul that will live forever instead of just turning into sea foam when she dies in the sea. Though she is warned that nothing good can come out of humans, she desires above all else to explore the upper world.
Like Lenia, Princess Margrethe of the Northern Kingdom is also sheltered, living in a convent disguised as a nun to ensure her security from her warring kingdom. Margrethe keeps to herself and her destiny has been preordained: to become the next best ruler. As she lives amongst the peasants, she realizes how the poor status her people are living in and vows that she will make everything better when she has the throne.
Turgeon follows the outline of Christian’s fairytale pretty well for the most part. The chapters are divided by Lenia and Margarethe’s point of view in alternating chapters. I felt myself torn between the two female characters who share many similarities. I wanted both of them to be happy. What I couldn’t understand is why they both loved the womanizing prince so much. If I could find a flaw in the book, it would be the flat, uninteresting prince who actually has very little page time. Nonetheless I found Mermaid to be a compulsive read. I wanted to know how all of the three characters will collide in the book’s climax. It kept me guessing who if anyone will live happily ever after. Mermaid is definitely a dark tale meant for adults and not exactly a cozy bedtime story. Readers interested in fairytale retellings should definitely pick this one up and will find it hard to put the book down once they begin reading it.
Readalikes: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, The Mermaid’s Maddness by John C. Hines, Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
Delphine Khanum fantasizes about rekindling her relationship with her father-in-law Zaki, whom she loved long before she met and married his son. But as she discovers in this richly layered, multi-generational tale, the closer one’s dreams become, the more risk there is of losing sight of what really matters.
Review: Aspirations and family ties are examined across three generations of the Khalil family in Farooki’s enjoyable novel. Lucky Khalil is a talented young soccer player with his sights set on taking the World Cup home for England. His father, Jinan, is the serious-minded, hard-working son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, married to Delphine, who feels her perfect marriage is confining. The patriarch of the Khalil family, Zaki, is a shopkeeper and gambler with wanderlust and an attraction to his son’s wife. As you discover earlier on in the book, Delphine is approximately fifteen years older than Jinan and Zaki was once her lover.
When Delphine gives in to Zaki’s advances, family bonds are stretched to the breaking point and the character’s true colors appear. As each of the characters advance in their ambitions, the cross-purposes of their desires and responsibilities blend intricately and threaten to crush the family.
The Corner Shop is clearly a character driven novel. Each character struggles with attaining their dreams or rather the mere idea of what their dreams should be. Reality and aspirations clash. With the exception of Jinan, who achieved his dreams and is happy with the results, it was interesting how other Khalil family members felt trapped yet at the same time freed by their dreams. Before being a contender of England’s football (what we in the US call soccer) team, Lucky is already plagued by a nightmare of failing his country. Delphine who came across as a modern day Madame Bovary is tired of her “perfect marriage” where she is adored and respected by her husband. Delphine wants more of the romantic notion of a marriage rather than the banal day to day moments with her husband. Zaki is suffers from the Peter Pan complex who abandons his conventional shopkeeper’s life and responsibilities when things get too complicated for him and abruptly leaves to search for something fulfilling.
I like how The Corner Shop avoids the overly discussed theme of being immigrants adjusting to a new lifestyle and zeroes in what we all, regardless of our cultural, religious, social backgrounds may be, think of: what, exactly, leads to a more fulfilled life? Though told mostly in the omnipresent third person narrator, there are sections where the narration style breaks and some of the characters narrate their side of the story, which can be challenging to follow and interrupts the pace and tone of the book. For the most part I enjoyed the flawed characters, but the twisted love triangle between Delphine, Zaki, and Jinan was hard to wrap my head around and just felt wrong. All in all, a nice quick read for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith.
Readalikes: Interpreter of the Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, White Teeth by Zadie Smith
In rural India, where only sons matter, a young woman saves her daughter’s life by placing her in an orphanage. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent.
Join Librarian Carol Carter and the Tuesday Afternoon Book Club as we discuss Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s debut novel The Secret Daughter on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm in the library’s Spruth Room.
Description: Kimberly Chang and her mother have immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn in the 1980s with the help of Kim’s Aunt Paula. As a result, they are are forced to work for Aunt Paula in a Chinatown clothing factory earning one and a half cent per item they make in order to repay their debts. With barely enough to keep them alive and living in a dilapidated, rodent and insect infested house house without heat, Kimberly is determined to make her and her mother’s life better.
Review: There are many immigrant stories told throughout the years. Their struggles with culture shock and poverty are nothing new, but nonetheless familiar. What sets apart Girl in Translation is the voice and strength of the main character, Kimberly Chang. Kim is a very smart girl who is practical, incredibly intelligent, hard working, loyal, and a dutiful daughter. She knows her limits in terms of her poverty and learning a new culture that is completely different from her own, yet she is resolute in finding a way out of her situation as well as naive. I connected with Kim right away. I understood her desire to grab on to education as her way to gain freedom, both economically and personally. Her dutiful roles and thinking of her family mirrored my own beliefs. Although she has her own share of flaws, Kim never resorts to long term angst and anger towards her mother for their dire situation, which is mainly due to the fact that her mother is doing all that she can to survive. The book is Kim’s odyssey from adolescence to womanhood.
The writing of Girl in Translation is very simple and straightforward. I liked how Chinese proverbs and sayings are interspersed throughout the book. The anguish and plight of the Chang women are well developed and tangible. I couldn’t help but root for Kimberly in her small and large victories. Just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a big twist at the end that made me cry. Looking at Kimberly’s story and knowing her personality, I don’t think it could have ended any other way but it still broke my heart. Girl in Translation is an immigrant’s story, a story of coming of age, of love and loss, and of dreams to achieve. It is one that you should definitely read and experience.
If you like this book try: A Step From Heaven by An Na, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, or Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Description: Eight stories that take the reader from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter and uncover the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.
Review: My main complaint about short stories is one of its trademarks: brevity. By the time I get comfortable with the plot and warm up to its characters, the story is over and I feel cheated. Perhaps, I’m reading them wrong and should not approach them in the same way as I normally do with any fiction book. Writing a short story must be very hard and it takes a rare and particular talent to write captivating short stories. The author must perfectly craft every word, every sentence, in order to develop character, plot and intrigue in a limited space.
Lahiri’s eight stories featured in Unaccustomed Earth are much lengthier than most short stories I’ve read, but I welcomed them. I felt they gave her much needed room to explore not only the different themes, but also a showcasing the various relationships throughout her stories. Lahiri’s stories always feature characters of Bengali descent who reside in America but they are far from formulaic. In the title and personally my favorite story, Unaccustomed Earth, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. In another, the alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha, who struggles with her own disappointment, guilt, bewilderment and sense of duty. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years, first in 1974 when she is six and he is nine; then a few years later when, at 13, she swoons at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen’s reappearance; and again in Italy, when she is a 37-year-old academic about to enter an arranged marriage, and he is a 40-year-old photojournalist. Lahiri’s stories are surprising, aesthetically marvelous and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability. Her skill of storytelling is enchanting and I look forward to whatever she publishes next.
If you like this book try: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhmpah Lahiri, Bittersweet by Roopa Farooki
Summary: Ankh-Morpork, the foremost city of Discworld, is on the verge of chaos thanks to warring factions of dwarves and trolls. The anniversary of the battle of Koom Valley, source of hundreds of years of animosity, is drawing near, and a dwarf newly arrived in the city is determined to see the conflict reenacted in the city streets. Can Commander of the City Watch Sir Samuel Vimes prevent violence from sweeping through the city, and solve the mystery of Koom Valley?
Review: There is, simply put, no one who manages the balance of humor, insight, compassion and fantastic setting of Pratchett. Gaiman, who collaborated with Pratchett on Good Omens, comes close on occasion. Vimes remains a likable series mainstay, and Discworld continues to be fresh and funny after 39 books (this is the 34th). The volumes also stand alone extremely well.
Availability: This book is owned by the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Description: A fictionalized biographical account of the lives of the Bronte family. From the death of the mother Mia to the death of Charlotte Bronte, who died at the age of 38 and outlived all of her siblings.
Review: The title of the book is misleading. The novel doesn’t focus on the two leading sisters, Charlotte and Emily, but rather the entire family. Branwell, their egocentric brother whom their father, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, doted upon is a complex character. At times I couldn’t help but like his charm, but my opinions of him definitely changed by the end. There is also a keen observation of the talented youngest sibling, Anne, who can’t help but be in the shadow of her elder sisters. The two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom died after falling ill at a nightmarish girl’s school, are also included in the tale.
Charlotte’s personality of constantly seeking approval and love is shown quite nicely. Branwell’s hubris can be a bit much, but I could see glimpses of the male characters in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in him. I wonder if he inspired his sisters while they were writing. Emily was a fascinating character. She doesn’t speak much, but when she does it usually profound. I also really liked strong, but silent Anne. Now I have a desire to read her books too.
I wasn’t aware that there were two older Bronte sisters before Charlotte, so that was a treat to learn about them too. Despite relentless struggles and early deaths, the Bronte sisters are rightfully memorable and celebrated.
Morgan stays pretty close to the real biographical facts of the Bronte family. She deftly shows the struggles of each individual as well as the evolution of great, female writers. Her writing is excellent. The language is extremely descriptive and detailed. When reading the novel, I could totally picture myself at Halworth and observe what is going on, but also know what the characters are feeling. Though the pacing is a bit off at times, I found The Brontes a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
Readalikes: Passions by Jude Morgan or Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael