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Mini Reviews – Fiction

Here I am at the end of the year scrambling to catch up on my 2012 reading so I can start 2013 fresh and minty clean.  I swore I wouldn’t do this, but I suppose good blog hygiene is commendable.  I’m actually cheating a bit because I’m leaving a couple of books for 2013 reviews so I don’t start the year barren.

Blogging is a funny thing.  It’s both connected to and disconnected from my reading.  This year has certainly underscored this for me.  At the end of the day, I read no matter what is going on, but when life is crazy I don’t review quite fast enough.  At least I’m very clear about what is central and constant in my life – reading lots of different kinds of books and reading all the time!

Today, I’m posting mini-reviews of fiction:

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce.  This is the first book I’ve read by Graham Joyce, but it won’t be the last.  A classic tale of a child stolen by faerie and then returned, this novel will keep you reading and reading until the bitter end.  All the elements are there – a mystery, a missing person returned, time and history elided and rediscovered.  At times this book is so creepy it gets right underneath your skin and this is one of its strengths.  I wasn’t terribly fond of the descriptions of faerie and that’s probably okay because whether or not that’s the key to what happened remains unclear and this makes the entire experience mysterious and wonderful.

Publication Info:  Doubleday – July 10, 2012

A Detailed Man by David Swinson.  A wonderfully gripping and well-written police procedural, as much a hero’s journey as a mystery its writing held me in the grip of its story.  Detective Ezra Simeon has always been driven in his work – so much so that he has begun suffering from Bell’s Palsy and is living with a partially paralyzed face.  In a holding pattern waiting for retirement, Simeon is called by an old friend to take over a high profile case from their mutual friend who has been murdered.  The course of the case, the discovery of the mystery, and the reclamation of a great detective makes for a super read.

Publication Info:  Dymaxicon – November 29, 2011

The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams.  Set in London in 1840 this is nominally a book about a serial killer terrifying the city.  On a deeper level this is a wonderful exploration of one woman’s plight, and in many ways the plight of women of the time – trapped, objectified, corseted by convention and bone.  Thought provoking, frightening, extremely well-written, Ms. Williams is a debut writer who is going to give Sarah Waters a run for her money.

Publication Info:  Hyperion – August 7, 2012

Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault.  Despite its workmanlike writing and story interspersed with musings on various country stars, I found this sort of negligible.  Nothing really stands out about it aside from the fictional memoir entries which are wonderful.  I wish Ms. Arsenault had just written that.  I think this is too much on the women’s fiction/chick lit side of things for me and there were too many elements in the story that were unnecessary add-ons – like a woman accessorizing her big outfit and ruining it with too much of the wrong kind of jewelry.  A decent read, but not a great one.

Publishing Info:  William Morrow – July 31, 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.  It is difficult for me to express how much I am over books written for young adults that glorify abusive relationships – whether physical or emotional abuse is abuse.  Yet another book of this flavor.  Dear authors – please stop encouraging young women to seek out and carry out these awful relationships with never a hint from you of all the ways it’s utterly damaging.  Enough.

Publishing Info:  Simon and Schuster – May 26, 2011

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black.  One of the best debuts I’ve read all year, The Drowning House is a beautifully written atmospheric thriller that asks and explores all the best questions – What does is mean to live through loss, to return home, to discover things about your past, to put everything together into a new future?  Galveston is as much a character in the book as Clare Porterfield and the authors’s knowledge of place informs every sentence.  This is related in my mind to The Cutting Season (another fabulous book) by Attica Locke for subject matter and quality of writing about place.  The Drowning House is a great read all on its own, but read Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson for an even better experience.  Highly recommended.

Publishing Info:  Nan A. Talese – January 15, 2013

A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee.  I just wasn’t as impressed with this as I thought I would be given previous reviews.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t think it’s all that special.  Perhaps if I hadn’t read Shannon Moroney’s memoir in a similar vein, Through the Glass, I might have felt differently about it, but the whole think left me feeling that I’d read an average book – not terrible, just not anything compelling or special.

Publishing Info:  Random House – March 13, 2013

A great mix of books here, many of them very very good.  Thanks for your patience with me as I get myself caught up.  Tomorrow – non-fiction!

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