Category: literary fiction

Review: Amity and Sorrow

Posted June 10, 2013 by Hillary in literary fiction, Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Amity and Sorrow, peggy riley, polgamy, cult, incest



Amity and Sorrow, peggy riley, polgamy, cult, incestAmity and Sorrow is a book that touches on a lot of sensitive themes. It starts with Amity and Sorrow running away from their father. They have been driving for 4 days when they have a wreck and end up stuck in OK. Then they stop running and start to heal from what they have left behind. Sorrow however is determined to get back home. As the story unfolds you will be horrified to learn exactly what their mother is trying to save them from.

This is a book that will make you squirm. It touches on topics that we really would rather not see the light of day.  The book jumps from present day to the past so you get the whole picture in glimpses. It is reveled to you in bits.

It starts with a polygamous cult. It gives a clear picture of how that cult operates. At first  when you learn they are 50 wives to one man you are slightly aghast but then as they explain you start to think that maybe just maybe there is nothing wrong with it. This is a good example of how the author pulls you in and makes you think the way that the cult members think. If we stay on the outside then it is easy for us to condemn the characters but once we get inside their minds we start to see the way they see and we can begin to sympathize.

During the book I kept wanting to slap some sense into Sorrow. She is an extremely unlikable character. Then I came upon what happened to her, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to smack her or hug her. Try as I might I really couldn’t bring myself to have any real sympathy for her. It seemed she had a chance to escape but she runs right back to her situation. In the end I just decided she was an idiot who deserved what she got.

As I was reading the book I could see where they people got their ideas in the bible but at the same time I wanted to scream that not what it really means! The author did a good job a researching how people can take something and change it a tiny bit and make it seem all wrong.

This is also a book about redemption and hope. For Amity and Sorrow’s mother  realizes that they way they are living can’t go on and she runs away to bring her daughters to a life outside the cult. Amity once she realizes that if she breaks the “rules” that her father invented that the world will not end embraces life outside of the cult. All through the book we cheer her on as she learns to live in the real world. She learns to read and do other stuff. Amy learns that there are men who are real and who do not twist things into a grotesque mask of what they are supposed to be. The only one who fails to find redemption is Sorrow and in a way it is fitting as there are people who remain stuck in their ways.


Posted April 5, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

I get that this book is supposed to be about freedom and the consequences thereof, but seriously it just felt sloooooow and nothing happens for pages and pages.
This is like the epitome of character driven novels. Frazen goes into detail about each character and why they do the things that they do. I understand that this is central to the plot but seriously throw some action in there with it.
I stuck with it because it is supposed to be this “great novel” and I was hoping it would redeem itself in the end. I started to see beauty in the way it seemed that everyone was decaying but then Frazen had to go and tie it up in neat little ways. So even the end disappointed me.
I could not connect with any of the characters. I felt like punching each one and tell them to do thing differently. Especially the main character Patty. I was like what IS her problem? She spends most of the novel falling in love with her husbands best friend and wishing her husband was better in bed. I was like make up your damn mind. And this goes on for PAGES. There is a whole section where we are subjected to Patty’s thoughts on the two.
Then there was her son who I hated. He seemed stuck up and to think he knew best about everything. I wanted to punch him in the face and tell him to get over himself.
The parts I like about this novel was the talking about the issues. There was talk of overpopulation, environmental issues among other things. That was the one redeeming feature.
Just because I hated this novel does not mean you will. Most people at Good Reads liked it. So If you like long character driven novels that talk about important issues then this might be for you.


From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant- A Review

Posted April 3, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments


From GoodReads:

High fashion and homeland security clash in a masterful debut.
Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of design school in Manila. With dubious financing and visions of Fashion Week runways, he sets up shop in a Brooklyn toothpick factory, pursuing his goals with monkish devotion (distractions of a voluptuous undergrad not withstanding). But mere weeks after a high-end retail order promises to catapult his (B)oy label to the big time, there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic Boyet is brought to Gitmo, handed a Koran, and locked away indefinitely on suspicion of being linked to a terrorist plot. Now, from his 6′ x 8′ cell, Boy prepares for the trial of his life with this intimate confession, even as his belief in American justice begins to erode.
With a nod to Junot Diaz and a wink to Gary Shteyngart, Alex Gilvarry’s first novel explores some of the most serious issues of our time with dark eviscerating wit.

My Thoughts: This is a book that packs a political punch. We get the story from Boy perspective and we are left wondering if he is really that naïve or did he know and just did not care?

I did not agree with the whole Gitmo debacle and this book in its sometimes light sometimes dark meanderings shows why. It is easy to see how one can so easily get caught up in the wrong people and take the fall.

This book is not preachy but rather through excellent storytelling shows the reader what happens when one gets caught up in dubious circumstances. While one thinks that in America we have our freedom and protection in reality we can fall victim to circumstances.

I found myself invested in the story. I could understand that Boy wanted to realize his dreams and when the opportunity for money came along he took it. I think this is a decision that most of us can empathize with. The plot is believable. It flows effortlessly from one event to another. It gives a face to those we find ourselves criticizing.

When the story starts Boy is a strong character who proclaims his own innocence. As the story progresses we see how the system breaks someone down to the point where Boy no longer is sure of his innocence. He becomes a broken man.

This book is recommended for no other reason than this issue is one that needs to be discussed. If you like issue books without being preachy then I would recommend you read this book.


Review: State of Wonder

Posted September 20, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

state of wonderFrom Goodreads:Sometimes being on the vanguard of scientific progress thrusts you into the teeth of danger. For Minnesota pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh, that means being sent into the remotest region of the Amazon jungle to track down her former mentor. Finding Dr. Annick Swenson promises to be perilous: The last scientist assigned to find her has disappeared too. What follows is the most ambitious novel yet by Bel Canto author Ann Patchett as its adventure story opens into a penetrating study of personalities, loyalties, and ethics.

My Review: I had heard wonderful things about this book so when I saw it at the library I had to get it. I was not disappointed. This was a riveting read. With Anne Prachet’s writing one is drawn into the lush jungles of The Amazon complete with how life is really lived there.

The superficial story is the Marina the main character goes to the Amazon to find out what happens to her co worker who has died. But it goes much deeper than that Marina finds a kind of salvation through her work there. She has been haunted by an accident that she had during medical school and her old professor is the same woman who she goes to meet in the Amazon. First she is terrified but then as the story weaves tales of Amazon way of life and interactions with her old teacher she is in a way relived of the burden.

There is also exploration of ethics that one must choose when confronted with a different non Western way of life. I feel that the author got to the heart of this and through a story beautifully told she also showed that human no matter where they are or where they came from are not fallible and can make what would seem at home a blatant display of wrong ethics seems almost right in a  strange environment.

This is a story that borrows from the book Heart of Darkness but while there are similarities in themes the author makes it her own book. This is a testament to the authors writing. This book comes highly recommended.


Posted August 17, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments


This is a historically imagined polio outbreak in Newark in the summer on 1944. Bucky who wishes he was in the military fighting in the pacific is disqualified because of his bad eyesight. Instead he is the playground director for a local school. Apart from his bad eyesight he is the epitome of manliness.  When the chance arises he goes to the Poconos which is polio free. Then the twist occurs which I am not giving away for it is spoilirsh.

I have to be honest I had a hard time getting through this book as it seemed nothing happened. I know usually the first 100 pages is used for scene setting but this book dragged on past that. The book went into detail about the playground. Kids died. It described in excruciating detail about Bucky’s past and how he wanted to join the military. The overall theme of the book was what kind of God would let polio happen? I was getting pissed. I wanted a twist or SOMETHING big to happen in the book. In the end I got what I wanted. I really did not see that twist coming. It is at the end of the book so you will have to suffer through 200 pages to get to it but boy, it it worth it!

To be fair it did give an accurate portrayal of the horrifying conditions and the panic that ensued.I was able to empatize with the characters. While reading this book I felt bad for the people that got polio and suffered it devastating effects before the vaccine was created. What it must have been like for those people not knowing where polio came from or how it was spread.Philip Roth does a brilliant job of creating a historically accurate portrayal of that summer. How the kids on the playground felt when their friends died or was confined to an iron lung. How healthy kids were falling one by one to the disease.

The part that bothered me was the long drawn out descriptions of the summer camp. That I could do without. I am sure most of us have been to summer camp and is aware of what it entails. However it is here that the twist comes up and it makes suffering through the 200 pages prior worth it.


Review: Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Posted July 26, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments


I have to be honest this is my first Hakuki Murakami book. I have heard good things of his work. Along with he is one of Japans most beloved authors. This was a book I had on my selves for a LONG time. I decided it was finally time to read it. I was not disappointed.

It is hard to describe this book exactly. It encompasses two stories. One is real while the other takes place in the mind. The characters have deep philosophical conversations and there are plenty twist and turns. The biggest twist comes near the end but I don’t want to give anything away. Once you come to it the whole novel makes sense. Up until that point you as a reader are left hanging of what exactly the two stories have to do with each other but trust me it is worth the read.

This book will make you think about what is real. Is what goes on in our minds real? It will also make you think of the dangers of messing with the mind. Is changing the brain good or does it bring more despair? There are a lot of question this book grapples with. While you wont find the answers in this book it will make you think.

If you like philosophical questions and a mind bending read you will love this book!


Review: A History Of Love

Posted July 21, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

Review: A History Of LoveThe History of Love: A Novel by Nicole Krauss
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on May 17th 2006
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Jewish, Literary
Pages: 252

ONE OF THE MOST LOVED NOVELS OF THE DECADE. A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness.   Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of “extraordinary depth and beauty” (Newsday).

history of love

From Goodreads:”Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn’t know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives.” Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.

My Review: I cant believe it took me so long to read this book! I had heard good things about it but did not read it until I picked it up a the library. the characters are extremely likeable and the twist and turns just keep on coming.

I did find it hard in the beginning to keep all the characters straight but as I became more engrossed in the story I found this to be less of a problem.

It explores relationships and how they came to be. It revolves around the fictional book “The History of Love”. It details how this book impacted all who came into contact with it. It even has passages so you can get an idea of what the book is. I loved this. It was a story within a story.  Actually there were several plotlines that all came together beautifully  in the end. And the end! It was beautiful.

It also delves into the emotions of the characters. It explores loneness in old age. A young girl who is trying to understand the woman she was named after. Even the little brother Bird we get to see the inner working of his seeming warped mind. The characters all develop beautifully in the course of the novel. There is growth and maturation as each character comes to the end. I became invested in all of the characters and wanted things to work out well for them.

I have to say again this book is a must read. If you haven’t read it yet go now and do it!


Review: A Sport and a Pastime

Posted May 19, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

a sport and a pastime

This is a novel that on the surface is about an unnamed narrator and lovers Dean and Ann-Marie.

Dean is a Yale school dropout and comes to France for what is supposed to be a short holiday. The narrator meets him at a party in Paris and lets him stay in the narrator’s borrowed house in the French countryside (The real France). It is in the village of Atun that Dean meets Anne-Marie and begins an affair which increases in volume and passion until his departure from France.

We can also get a sense of the narrator thru his retelling of Dean and Anne-Marie affair. The narrator is seemly impotent and thus cast his desires onto the couple. Even though there is few direct evidence of the narrator by paying attention to the subtle retelling of the story we can glean a second story underneath.

Beneath that story is stories about love and sex and classism among other things. As this story was published in the 60’s and retains reverences to subtle racism this story is easily dated but the language which is at the heart of this book remains as beautiful as ever.

Salter is known for his artful writing and how to best craft a sentence. This book is full of evidence of that. Not one word wasted and the prose is precise and inflicts the exact sort of mood it portrays.

One gets a sense that in the retelling it has lost some of its glamour or novelty. There seems to be a veneer of dullness that is spread across the words. Like a knife that has lost it sharpness and is now only a dull blade.

Many people love this book for the telling of a principle story but if you ask me this fails to give it justice. There are so many more gems that this book has to offer than just a story about love and sex.

My one complaint about this book is that I wanted to know more about the narrator. I have read that many people feel this way but it is perhaps one of Salter greatest achievements that he is able to disregard this and still have a book that offers so much and does not distract from the story.

Review: The Weird Sisters

Posted May 11, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

thewired sisters

GoodReads Summary:The three Andreas sisters grew up in the cloistered household dominated by their Shakespearean professor father, a prominent, eccentric academic whose reverence for the Bard left its imprint on his daughters’ names: Rosalind (As You Like It), Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordelia (King Lear). The siblings eventually left home and escaped their ponderous monikers with nicknames, but their mother’s medical maladies brings them back. Before long, their unwelcome reunion reveals that they all have problems: Rose is force-feeding a troubled relationship; Bean is entangled in a big city case of embezzlement; and unmarried Cordy is pregnant. Eleanor Brown’s first fiction has justly won praise as “thought-provoking… poignant… sparkling and devourable.”

I have to admit when I first started reading I was confused by the narrating style. Then I realized it was a first person plural style and it made perfect sense. The way the story is told you get the sense that the events have already happened and the sisters are re telling it along with their new insights. It was the perfect way to tell this story.

The author selects something that a majority of people, especially women, can relate to. The sisters come home because in one way or another they are not where they want to be in life and decided to return home in the hopes of finding their way. The fact that their mother has cancer is just a superficial reasons that they used to hide the real reasons from each other and themselves. As many people do they lose their way in life and have to find a way to go on. They book has illustrates how what we imagined is not what we have planned but sometimes the way things work out is exactly what we need.

The author poignantly uses sister relationships to describe ultimately human relationships in candid honesty. The relationships reflect how people keep secrets and attempt to hide them but ultimately through sharing and exposing oneself you can  find redemption. But at what cost does this redemption come? Does it mean being more free and having to give up a dream and settle into a new life? If you give up something is it worth the cost or is the alternative even better?

There are many  surprises in this book that keep the reader engaged. The reader should be able to feel a bond with one of the sisters and relate to how things are going and how things ended. I myself could relate to more than one and was invested in how the story ended. It kept me turning the pages until the end.

Review: Swallows of Kabul

Posted May 9, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

swallows of kabul

We have all heard about the hoours of the Taliban. What about ordenariy people? We don’t get much glispe of them and how they manage to surrive under such an oppressive regime. Swallows Of Kabul aims to do just that.

This book showcases people as they go about their lives in Afghanistan. In this book the Taliban blend into the background while the characters attempt to lead their lives.

It is difficult enough to lead a life with out any extra adversity thrown in. To throw in a regime as strict and totalitarian as the Taliban make things even more difficult.

Even something as simple as wanting to go for a walk as a woman is rife with perils. As one part of the story illustrates one woman’s husband  wanting to take a nice romantic walk with his wife. Things go fine until they run into some Taliban Guards. They assault the man for laughing. Then force him to endure preaching while his wife has to wait outside alone. The woman is never the same.

With these stories we are allowed a glimpse into the life of living under the Taliban. What we see on TV and hear on the radio only gives us a superficial view. We can see that not everyone feels oppressed. There are some who go on about their lives with the politics in the background. This offers a window into those lives.

The writing itself is beautiful. The author is skilled at creating imagery that makes the reader feel as if they have been transported to Kabul and is actually witnessing the events. We get a taste of how the people who live there used to see this ancient city and how the views change with modern Kabul.

The characters are real and believable. The reader becomes invested in what the characters do. They are fully developed and act in what one would expect in the circumstances that they find themselves in. There are plot twist and turns that will leave the reader wanting to see what happens next.

This is a beautiful story. If you are interested in getting a taste of a culture not your own then this book will give you that. This is a highly recommended read.