More erotica than literary

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The Girl at the Door by Veronica Raimo

Book Review:  2 out of 5 star rating

A nameless 6-months pregnant woman is finding her place in Miden.  Miden is a future society that has grown out of “The Crash”.  The woman lives with her nameless boyfriend, who is a professor.  One day the woman receives a visit from a young girl who claims that she once had a violent relationship with the woman’s boyfriend while the girl was his student.  The girl has made a complaint to those in charge of Miden and they are taking testimony and deciding whether the boyfriend should be banned from Miden.  In alternating chapters, the woman and man reflect on their relationship.

This book is being publicized as literary fiction.  I would place it more in the erotica genre, and low class erotica at that.  The language is consistently and needlessly obscene as are the sex scenes.  I don’t consider myself a prude and believe that sexual scenes can have a powerful effect when done properly.  However, this is more of a case where the story is just an excuse for writing trashy scenes.

I really did try to ignore the language and look beneath that for something of substance but was unable to find it.  I was fooled by the literary fiction description, by the fact that it has been bought for a TV series, by the fact that it was felt good enough to translate into English from Italian, and by reviews such as this:  “this uncompromising, fiercely intelligent novel confirms the moral usefulness of serious art”.  Maybe it was just me.  I’ll give it two stars because there were short sections involving the pregnant woman when she was talking about the baby that I found interesting.  But this is not one that I can recommend.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Out of this world, breathtaking literary masterpiece

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The Need by Helen Phillips

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Mary is a paleobotanist who has discovered some odd artifacts in a fossil quarry, seemingly almost but not quite of this world, including a controversial Bible.  Word gets out about these finds and people are flocking to the pit for tours.  Their discovery has also sparked quite a bit of hate mail and Mary is a bit on edge.  She’s also sleep deprived and stressed from caring for her one-year-old son and four-year-old daughter during her husband’s music tour.  When a stranger in a deer mask appears in her home and seems to know more about her world than possible, Mary’s fragile connection to her world begins to disintegrate.

This is truly a literary masterpiece.  I’m blown away and stunned by its beauty.  There’s absolutely no genre this book can be placed in.  Even without the surreal aspect of this book, it’s a profound look at being a parent, both the high and low, both the joy and anguish.  Coupled with the mind-bending happenings, this makes for an exquisite, unique read.  Not only will this author change the way you look at the world, but she’ll break your heart while she does it.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

A mind-bending tale of memory and time

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Recursion by Blake Crouch

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A new phenomenon has started throughout the world – False Memory Syndrome.  Victims have memories of a whole other life they’ve led and it’s driving many of them completely mad. One of those victims is Ann Voss Peters and she’s sitting on the edge of a high rise building ready to jump.  Detective Barry Sutton tries to talk her off of the edge but he isn’t able to save her.  Barry understands despair as he lost his 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, in a hit and run accident.  Barry begins to look into this False Memory Syndrome and is unwillingly pulled into a life-altering experience.

Eleven years before, neuroscientist Helena Smith is working on a memory chair that she hopes will help her mother who has Alzheimer’s as well as others with this disease.  When she’s approached by Marcus Slade with an irresistible offer of full funding for her research, she readily accepts.  She lives to regret this decision when Slade’s concept of her memory chair differs greatly from hers and she may have to destroy her dream to save the world.

You always know that when you pick up a book by Blake Crouch, you’ll be in for a unique experience.  This is his best work yet.  My fascination with this thrilling story never lagged at any time.  This book has a beauty to it that I didn’t expect.  This is an in depth study of grief and time and memory and is so much more than a thriller.  The love story is an emotional one.  Crouch never fails to make his readers look at the world in a whole new way.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Lackluster collision of alternate realities

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If, Then by Kate Hope Day

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Four neighbors begin to feel their worlds upend when they start seeing visions of either themselves or a deceased family member.  Mark is a devoted father whose visions of himself start him on a paranoid past to protect his family.  He’s also convinced that the local volcano Broken Mountain isn’t as dormant as others think.  His wife, Ginny, is a surgeon who hasn’t spent much time with her family.  She begins to think she has a brain tumor when she begins to see visions of herself apparently having a loving relationship with her female co-worker.  Samara is seeing visions of her deceased mother.  Cass is a young mother, struggling with taking care of a new baby while her husband is away.  She’d like to return to her scholarly work but she’s having visions of herself having another baby.

I’ve become quite interested in alternate realities and the law of attraction so I felt this book was a must read for me, but I definitely have been left with the feeling that something was missing.  I had difficulty becoming emotionally involved with these characters and found Cass and Ginny to be annoying.  Samara was my favorite character and I loved the scene where she goes to the thrift store where her father had taken all of her deceased mother’s things, gathering them up with the intent to buy them back.  She’s really the only character I felt any connection with.  The visions of the alternate realities was one thing but when the realities began to overlap, that sometimes became confusing.

This felt like a screenplay for an upcoming TV show and it may well work better in that capacity.  While it kept my interest throughout, I didn’t feel it was anything special and can only give this one 3 stars.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

A new nightmare for motherhood

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The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

In an America in the near future, there is little natural water and most is artificially engineered.  The people have technological portals embedded in their skin, which keep track of their every movement.  There’s a fertility crisis and those women who do become naturally pregnant are considered miracles but their independence is taken away from them and they’re fined for every small thing they do that isn’t within a certain code that has been set up to ensure the safety of these babies, a code that is practically impossible to adhere to.

Carter Quinn is a marine who has fought the battle to protect the engineered water and now has come home after 2 and a half years.  He’s obviously ill from the “triggers” used in battle.  His sister, Fred, has miraculously conceived and now has permission to wed.  She’s frantic due to the disappearance of their sister, Gard, a Nurse Completionist, one who helps women through their pregnancies.  Carter sets off on a quest to find Gard.

The author has created a unique and horrifying future world, yet doesn’t explain how we got to this point.  Apparently, the problem was in the water and therefore there is now a need to engineer water.  The main characters are each have their own distinctive voices and you can tell who’s telling the story or writing a letter just by their written voice, which I believe shows the author’s talent.  The characters are very realistic and down to earth and believable, except for Carter.  While I liked the guy, I found the character to be very frustrating.  Granted, he was ill from whatever was being used as a weapon in the war and was not thinking clearly.  But he was constantly drunk which just didn’t seem to go with his determination to find his sister.  The thought “you can’t be that stupid” came to mind too often.

The most problem I had with this book was that I found it to be very repetitious and far too drawn out.  Also it seemed to be very unrealistic that such a ridiculous child care code would be set up, which defeated the purpose of protecting these treasured unborn children.  But it was an interesting concept and I found it to be a horrifying world for women to live in.  Just the fact that women’s independence was so jeopardized by this situation compelled me to keep on reading.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Unexpected joy of a book

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Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Francine (Frankie) is finally able to live her life the way she’d like to.  Up until now, her life has been full of pain due to an undiagnosed disease but now she’s pain free.  She’s well known for her scientific discovery, “The Theory of Bastards”, and has been given a grant to study bonobos.  When a dust storm is expected and mandatory evacuation is imposed, she makes a decision to stay and care for the bonobos, along with the man she loves.

This was an unexpected joy of a book.  It takes place in a futuristic world, full of human computer implants and driverless cars.  The story jumps back and forth from Frankie’s life when she struggles with her pain and present day.  I would have given it five stars except for the fact that there were parts of the book that I felt dragged a bit, especially when Frankie first comes to the Foundation to start work with the bonobos.  The slow parts are not completely without merit, though, as they include real-life studies of the bonobos that I found to be quite interesting.

The story really picks up when the dust storm hits.  I hadn’t realized up until that point how much I had grown to care about each of the bonobos and Frankie.  The last quarter of the book was very suspenseful and I clung to every word.  There’s quite a lesson on the dangers of a society so dependent on technology.

Ms. Schulman has given us a well-written book with true heart.  It’s a very original look at humanity and mankind’s relationship to the animal world.  Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

The emotional impact of leaving earth behind

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The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

Book Review:  4 out of 5 stars

Helen Kane, Sergei Kuznetsov and Yoshihiro Tanaka have been chosen by Prime Space to possibly be the first astronauts to land on Mars. But first they have to prove themselves by submitting to a closely studied simulation of the flight, which will take 17 months.  They don’t have a minute’s privacy as they’re constantly watched by employees of Prime Space.  The simulation is so realistic that it’s sometimes hard for the astronauts to believe they’re not really on their way to Mars.  Meanwhile, their families await the return of the astronauts as they deal with their own issues.

The spotlight in this book isn’t so much on space travel as it is on the effect of that travel on those who venture out into the unknown. The author takes a close look at the hearts and minds of the three astronauts who so long to see what has never been seen before – their fears, their hopes and also their guilt for leaving their families so often.  This is a beautiful character study with great insight told in a poetic and sometimes humorous manner.  I wasn’t surprised to read that the author had been a ballerina as she has the heart of an artist.    This engrossing book brought back all the excitement and wonder of the 1960’s space travel to the moon and reminded me of what a special time in history that was.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.