Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the tag “Domestic”

Friend Me by John Faubion

friend meThis debut novel by a former software developer is an interesting mash-up of suspense fiction and Christian fiction. Even though I’d never imagine those two terms in the same sentence, this newbie writer seems to be comfortable tackling both genres head-on.

When Rachel and Scott experience a difficult spell in their marriage, each of them decide to “friend” a virtual avatar who they believe will be the answer to all their problems. Little do they know that what they believe to be a fictional animated persona is actually a disguise for Melissa, a desperately lonely psychotic who also happens to be a genius software designer. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Catfish, then you know where this is going.

The story successfully alternates the three point of views which helps the reader  get inside the head of each character and explains why they do what they do. The suspense is ratcheted up a little bit with each chapter until it reaches a screeching climax. The end of the story is an interesting surprise but just a little too tidy for me. I also felt that the Christianity themes were too sporadic and so subtle that I wasn’t sure they coalesced successfully with the rest of the story. If you are looking for a solid Christian novel then you may feel slightly disappointed that the religious views take a major backseat here.

It’s hard to pigeonhole this one-and that is to say- I’m not sure which type of reader would enjoy it the most. It should be very interesting to see which of your patrons decide to check it out.

– Susan

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Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

9780061458576 brotherAs anyone knows, Lionel Shriver isn’t the kind of person to mince words or pull any punches. For this reason she is one of my literary heroines. I can still remember the shock and horror I felt when I read the chilling We Need to Talk About Kevin (years before the movie came out). It’s not often a book can trigger both my disgust and admiration at the same time, so I was very excited to get my hands on Shriver’s latest hot-button issue: Big Brother.  Like her previous works, this delightful novel will encourage a vast amount of arguments for both sides in reading group discussions.  Shriver fearlessly and triumphantly tackles her subject by showcasing different viewpoints in a remarkable manner.

As the main character, Pandora Halfdanarson shines in her role as the gutsy, sometimes irritable, yet always lovable protagonist who finds herself torn between her love for her brother, Edison, and her devotion to her husband, Fletcher. When Edison shows up for a surprise visit a few hundred pounds heavier than when the family last saw him, no one is more surprised than Pandora. The fact that neither Edison nor Fletcher can stand each other doesn’t help matters.

As Pandora strives to keep the peace, she finds herself falling further and further down a rabbit hole. Try as she might, she ends up completely miserable. I totally loved reading about her ongoing quandary which was both hilarious and spot-on.  While Pandora tries to delicately skirt around the issue, Fletcher sees no sense in sugar-coating it. Add to this the fact that Fletcher is a fitness buff, and soon Pandora wants nothing more than to wipe the smug expression off her husband’s face.

Frantic, Pandora hatches a plan when Edison quickly wears out his welcome. After he finally hits bottom (after a very graphic and disturbing bathroom scene!), Pandora shocks everyone by coming up with an outrageous idea to help Fletcher finally lose weight. Although not everyone is on board, she proceeds anyway. The storyline of Pandora’s Good Samaritan Plan is highly entertaining and contains more than a few surprises.

I loved the brilliantly comic, caustic, and abrasive dialogue that is Shriver’s trademark. And just when you think you have the story all figured out, Shriver delivers her coup de grâce and you are just blown away.  I would have never predicted the surprise clever ending and I can’t really decide if I liked it or not. But that’s what makes her novels so much fun. Readers will no doubt find themselves on both sides of the fence for this not-to-be-missed tale about family relationships and humanity’s ever-puzzling relationship with food.


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Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

9781616200541 isIf you love a story that revolves around American suburbia during the 1950’s and ‘60’s as much as I do, then you’ll no doubt enjoy the latest fare by popular novelist Caroline Leavitt. The story centers around Ava Lark, a new divorcee who in 1956 moves to a Boston suburb with her preteen son Lewis to start a new life. With little money but lots of chutzpah Ava struggles to make a loving and comfortable home in their new neighborhood. But with two strikes already against her— she’s Jewish and a single mom—Ava discovers out how hard it is to fit into her new environment. Fortunately Lewis is able to find and latch on to a brother and sister who are also fatherless and soon the three become inseparable. Lewis, Jimmy, and Rose are a scrappy crew who spend all of their time together.  One afternoon Lewis and Rose decide to wander off on their own but plan on catching up with Jimmy later.

When later comes and Jimmy is missing, a dramatic shift takes place when the quiet cul-de-sac suddenly becomes a danger zone for all its inhabitants. Skillfully playing up the fears of Communist-era ‘50’s Leavitt uses the overblown paranoia to lay the groundwork of the plot: how could this happen to a seemingly safe community and who could have taken Jimmy?

The novel is nicely paced as it journeys through the following decades where we read about Ava’s determination to find a man who will love her and to make a happy life for herself. Lewis and Rose who never fully recover from the loss of their childhood friend strike out on their own, moving to different states, hoping to outrun the sorrow that is a constant shadow in their lives.

When a shocking discovery brings all the characters back together years later the trio attempts to find ways to reconnect and forgive each other. The heartbreak that each one endures makes you sad but hopeful they will eventually find the solace they are seeking. This novel will make an excellent reading group selection, as it invites animated conversation and stays with the reader long after the last page is read.


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