Tag Archives: fiction

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

harrietchanceHarriet Chance has always taken a back seat in her life.  As described in the novel, she’ “cheap” with herself.  She decides to take a chance on a trip, not knowing that she’ll soon discover everything she’s known is turned upside down.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
by Jonathan Evison
Algonquin Books
September 2015

Harriet Chance just spent the last two years of her life caring for her husband during his rapidly declining mental health.  Two years after his passing, she gets a call telling her he’s won a cruise to Alaska.  Against what’s normal for her, she decides to go and invites her spontaneous best friend on the trip.

At the last minute, her friend backs out.  Sending a cryptic letter explaining the absence.    What follows are glimpses into Harriet’s past and the way that Harriet has justified her life and treatment from Bernard during their marriage.  The picture painted is very different than what Harriet has created in her mind.

The tale that Jonathan Evison weaves in this novel is in turns hilarious and tragic.  You meet Harriet’s adult daughter and learn things about Harriet that change your view of her.  Overall, I think younger generations get the idea of the “cute little old lady,” and Evison tosses that to the wind.  You get to know Harriet as an individual, you see how she’s treated as a senior citizen, and you are challenged in the way YOU treat those in generations before you.

As the novel unfolds, Evison uses flashbacks that are tied to what’s occurring in Harriet’s present.  This is the PERFECT way to incorporate flashbacks into a novel.  It’s relevant to what you’re reading, and it doesn’t feel jarring like flashbacks used in other novels I’ve read recently.

No spoilers, but the ending left me floundering.  I was expecting something completely different, and Evison threw me for a loop.  While I LOVED the novel as a whole, the end left me unsatisfied.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 3rd grade science nerd and toddler aged busy body. You can visit her world of randomness at justwanderingnotlost.net, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

blackeyedTessa is the lone survivor of a serial killer. The only Susan to survive several brutal murders. She helped put the killer behind bars. Years later, as his execution date approaches, Tessa finds messages left for her. Is the wrong man behind bars?

Black-Eyed Susans
by Julia Heaberlin
Ballentine Books
June 2015

 At seventeen years old, Tessa was subjected to pain and torture, left blinded by psychosis, and survived the rampage of a serial killer.  She fought to put the pieces of her life back together, slowly but surely.  She’s even been able to heal enough to have her own daughter.

Many times over the years, Tessa was approached by an inmate’s advocate who questioned the guilt of the man sentenced for the crimes.  It’s not until his exectution approaches that Tessa also begins to question.  And she only questions based on “gifts” that are being left for her.

I really wanted to like this.  The premise seemed solid, as did the characters.  The flaw in Julia Heaberlin’s novel is really in the formatting.  I don’t mind flashbacks as a general rule.  However, every other chapter in this novel flashes back to Tessa’s past, followed by a chapter in present day.  This continues through the entire book.

After a few chapters, it gets cumbersome to wade through.  I want to be able to enjoy fiction and focus on the building suspense in thrillers.  For me, this jumping back and forth only served as a disruption, never really allowing that suspense to build.

In the end, it became so disruptive to me that I couldn’t finish the novel.   I wasn’t left like I NEEDED to find out what happened.

So I didn’t.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 7 month old busy body.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

wabanaki-blues-coverMona Lisa LaPierre’s parents give her little notice that she’ll be spending the summer after graduation  in a remote cabin with her curmudgeonly grandfather.    Mona must learn who she is in the face of family secrets and her dual Native American heritage.

Wabanaki Blues
by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel
The Poisoned Pencil
June 2015

When Mona’s parents announce they’ll be heading to Russia to study bears, Mona is shocked to learn she’ll be spending the time with her granfather in remote New England woods.  She is forced to miss graduation and the chance to get her crush, Beetle, to notice her before they part.

Mona, the child of both Mohegan and Abenaki tribes, has a passion for blues.  This passion and the voice of her grandmother Bilki keep her grounded as she goes on a journey to learn the truth about a young woman’s disappearance and in reality, about herself.

Zobel, being Native American herself, really paid tribute to her heritage.  Instead of watering down Native traditions and stories, they took forefront in this novel.  Zobel shares her traditions and writes them with such reverence and respect.

I REALLY wanted to like this book.  Unfortunately, too many story lines and crossing details made it hard to keep the different parts of the story straight.  It’s a genuine coming of age story told in an uncoventional way, which I appreciate.  It just became very complex in a way that wasn’t able to keep me engaged.  Complex in the name of suspense is fantastic.  This just fell short of that for me.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 5 month old busy body.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

 

Eeny Meeny by Arlidge

arlidge

What would you do if you had to make a choice?  If you were imprisoned with no food, no water, someone you know, and a gun?  Two go in, but only one can come out.   How do you choose?

Eeny Meeny
by M. J. Alridge
Penguin Group
June 2015

Helen Grace is a respected, hard-working Detective Inspector.   She has been charged with leading the investigation into a heinous serial killer who forces victims to make a choice between his/her own life or the life of his/her fellow captive.  Initially, Grace doesn’t believe the stories the victims are telling, until the capture repeats itself several more times.

Grace must follow a sadistic mind, battling her own demons as she goes.  She is forced to confront the limitations of her present and the horrors of her past as she races to stop the orchestrator of these horrible crimes.

Based on the background, I was really hoping to like this novel.  I am a fan of a crime stories, so I was really excited to get into this one.  As the story started, it seemed pretty promising.  There’s the central crime, as well as some office intrigue that leaves many of the inspectors and officers distrustful.

Even with that, as the story progressed, it was less and less what I thought it would be.  Sometimes, this is a good thing.  In the case of Eeny Meeny, it wasn’t.   There were many moments where the change in point of view was jarring.   While I think the intention was to keep the character shrouded in mystery, the transitions weren’t smooth.

Also, I completely recognize this is the first in what will be a series of novels featuring Helen Grace.  That being said, as a reader I needed more of her background to be unfolded earlier in the story for the ending to not be so jarring.  It felt completely out of left field, again not in a good way.

So overall, I’m not sure I’d be interested enough in this series or Helen Grace as a character to read additional entries into this series.  She needed more to humanize her and make her likeable to the reader.  That didn’t really happen for me.

 


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com.  She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 5 month old busy body.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.