Tag Archive | Contemporary

Review of Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

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About Hot Milk

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.

My Thoughts

Well written. Explores mother daughter relationship, identity. Enjoyed Levy’s writing style but that was about it, just wasn’t up my alley.

Sophie was too opaque, aloof, can’t really figure her out. Highly intelligent, she is a detailed observer. I felt she uses her mother’s illness as an excuse, scapegoat of sorts as a way to skirt the actual reason(s) for her uncertainty in both private and professional aspirations. Could be wrong since she is so vague bordering on discombobulated. Both women come across as enablers, resentful of each other, a silent hostility lingering.

My interest strayed early on due to unlikable protagonists and a boring plot going nowhere. The pieces set before me failed to fall into place, I have no idea what was to be constructed with the nonsensical fragments given. Frustrating at best. I’m sure there is deep meaning woven within the narrative, however it was elusive to my grasp although Sophie and Rose are memorable, their fractured dynamic surprisingly forceful.

I’m sure my aversion will be the minority, no doubt most will sing praises. Well written yet it failed to convince me of more, I require more than outstanding writing.

About Deborah Levy147246

Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their “intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination”, including PAX, HERESIES for the Royal Shakespeare Company, CLAM, CALL BLUE JANE, SHINY NYLON, HONEY BABY MIDDLE ENGLAND, PUSHING THE PRINCE INTO DENMARK and MACBETH-FALSE MEMORIES, some of which are published in LEVY: PLAYS 1 (Methuen)

Deborah wrote and published her first novel BEAUTIFUL MUTANTS (Vintage), when she was 27 years old. The experience of not having to give her words to a director, actors and designer to interpret, was so exhilarating, she wrote a few more. These include, SWALLOWING GEOGRAPHY, THE UNLOVED (Vintage) and BILLY and GIRL (Bloomsbury). She has always written across a number of art forms (see Bookworks and Collaborations with visual artists) and was Fellow in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1989-1991.

Expected publication: July 12th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA

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Review: The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross

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About The Last Days of Disco

Early in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands. A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted. The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance.

My Review

This book was not to my taste but I cannot deny the authors talent. This was too coarse and masculine for my liking, nonetheless it is a masterpiece in its own right.

The setting is brilliant. The Falklands War is highlighted along with government excerpts dispersed throughout. This really gives you a sense of the time and tension of country and people. Politics pepper the narrative just enough to add as opposed to take away from the overall plot and players. Another strength, I felt immersed in Kilmarnock – the dialogue, the slang, the people. The area felt too familiar which isn’t a surprise since Ross is more than familiar with the area, he manages to pull the reader into this colorful hamlet. At times the accent was a challenge to read, however, it made the reading experience totally authentic.

The characters are a motley bunch. There are numerous players a few stronger than others, some bit players with a known presence, as the story unfolds you become more familiar with their roles, and each one fits into the narrative with great surprise.

Ross captures the Cassidy family perfectly. Each member is sketched with great emotional detail. There are a few moments displaying such feeling and emotional clarity you will be moved. The family endures much yet despite their many fractures and dysfunctionality they pull together.

The music references will jar your memory to the sounds of the 80’s. The 80’s vibe is clearly felt, lots of nostalgia claiming your memories.

Despite this not being my cup of tea, it is well crafted and quite a showpiece. I look forward to more from Ross, his gift cannot be denied. Stirring debut.

About David F. RossDavid-Ross-195x300

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964, and he lived in various part of the city until the late ‘70s. He subsequently moved to Kilmarnock, where he has lived since. He was educated at James Hamilton Academy until being politely asked to leave.
 (Expulsion is such a harsh word, isn’t it?)
 Following a frankly ludicrous early foray into sporadic employment (Undertakers, Ice Cream Parlour, Tennis Groundsman, DJ … he’ll save these stories until he knows you better), David found himself at Glasgow School of Art, studying architecture.
In 1992, he graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture. He is now the Design Director of one of Scotland’s largest, oldest and most successful practices, Keppie Design. (Funny old world, eh?)

David has worked all over the world and he led his practice strategy for projects in countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Malaysia, India and Libya. He is a designated business leader for East Ayrshire Council, a Board Mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark and he was design advisor to Strathclyde Passenger Transport for their modernisation programme of the Glasgow Subway in advance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
 
He is married to Elaine and has two children, Nathan and Nadia, who have both signed legally binding agreements to house him in the best Old Folks Home his money can buy. He is a Chelsea fan – from long before the cash-rich days – and occasionally writes stream-of-consciousness rubbish for @ByTheMinChelsea and other @ByTheMinSport feeds on Twitter.

David’s most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP, and The Last Days of Disco is his first novel.

 Anything else you’d like to know?

Published December 5th 2014 by ORENDA BOOKS

Review: Reunion by Hannah Pittard

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About Reunion

Five minutes before her flight is set to take off, Kate Pulaski, failed screenwriter and newly-failed wife, learns that her estranged father killed himself. More shocked than saddened by the news, she reluctantly gives in to her older siblings’ request that she join them–and her many half-siblings, and most of her father’s five former wives–in Atlanta, their birthplace, for a final farewell.

Written with huge heart and bracing wit, REUNION takes place over the following four days, as family secrets are revealed, personal deceits are uncovered, and Kate–an inveterate liar looking for a way to come clean–slowly begins to acknowledge the overwhelming similarities between herself and the man she never thought she’d claim as an influence, much less a father.

My Review

Pittard’s book forced me to contemplate my relationship with my siblings. I also reflected on the tight bond I possessed with my late mother. I kept asking myself how well I know my siblings and what secrets/issues are they harboring from me since I’m not exactly an open book. Provoking read.

I enjoyed the plausible individual struggles the trio faced, as they ferreted their unresolved feelings towards their father, and as they maneuver the present with their blended siblings and the feelings attached.

Pittard weaves an incredible story, powerful yet splattered with dark humor. The emotions are evident, Kate is a challenging character. She’s a train wreck yet she’s captivating as you wait for her next fumble, you know what’s coming as you hope she miraculously changes the outcome. Pittard excels in creating an unappealing character you can’t get enough of in a weird way, all the characters make you bristle or gasp at some point in some way.

Enjoyable read, Pittard is on my list of authors I want to keep track of, wonderfully written, emotionally charged characters.

About Hannah Pittard4079377

Hannah Pittard is the author of four novels, including two forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: LISTEN TO ME and ATLANTA, 1962. Her second novel, REUNION, was named a Millions’ Most Anticipated Book, a Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice, a BuzzFeed Top-5 Great Book, a Best New Book by People Magazine, a Top-10 Read by Bustle Magazine and LibraryReads, a Must-Read by TimeOut Chicago, and a Hot New Novel by Good Housekeeping. Her debut, THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY, was an Oprah Magazine selection, an Indie Next pick, a Powell’s Indiespendible Book Club Pick, and a “best of” selection by The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, Details Magazine, The Kansas City Star, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader, and Hudson Booksellers. She is the winner of the 2006 Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and a consulting editor for Narrative Magazine. She teaches English at the University of Kentucky.

Published October 7th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2014)

Review: The Kill Shot (Jamie Sinclair #2) by Nichole Christoff

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About The Kill Shot

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.

Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

My Review

Jamie is a likable character, a true professional, however, I am confident all the romance in both novels overshadows Jamie’s full potential to the point where it solidly distracts. Given the seriousness of her assignment, she wasn’t as sharp as she was previously. She seems overly preoccupied with both men’s interests – Barrett and Philip, which is understandable to a degree. Her diversion conflicts with the impression she’s created of herself with the reader, at least for this peruser.

I would have preferred more action, thriller, mystery as opposed to yet again, hefty romance. Too much for my taste, a repeat of my issues with the first book. I would have preferred more development in the personalities of the two men in the quasi love triangle over the political hand.

Jamie’s distraction, the weighty political facet, the romance component deflected what could have been an even better narrative. I’m not opposed to my thriller/mystery containing romance, only a much smaller dose and less domineering. Showcase Jamie’s smarts, professionalism, independence along with strength and a whole lot less amorous man hunting.

About Nichole Christoff8393402

Nichole Christoff is the award-winning author of three Jamie Sinclair thrillers: The Kill List, The Kill Shot, and The Kill Box. A writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on-air and behind-the-scenes for radio, television news, and the public relations industry in the US and Canada, Christoff is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America. She also belongs to Private Eye Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and three of RWA’s local chapters, in which she’s served as an officer and a member of the board.

Published March 17th 2015 by Alibi

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

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About The Word Exchange

A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word.

My Review

This book served as a reminder of how much we rely on technology. Look around, you rarely see a person without a cellphone, MP3 player at least etc clutched in their hand. Imagine a day without our beloved electronic devices, jeez we’d actually have to interact face to face like they did in the dinosaur days. Interesting premise leaving you thinking.

The layout was clever, each chapter is a letter from the alphabet. The perspectives are from Anana and Bart leaving you with plenty to digest. I was intrigued by the story and couldn’t wait to see where each chapter would lead.

I enjoyed the story, however, it started out slow, dragged a bit eventually picking up. It could be shorter and a few unnecessary areas less detailed allowing for a quicker pace engaging the reader earlier and maintaining captivation. The excessive footnotes drove me crazy, very distracting, ignoring them completely. Overkill. Not a fan.

In the end I craved tangible items containing words, MORE physical books, actual letters, a phone book, encyclopedia, dictionary. Imagine a world without printed words? Halting and terrifying. Straightaway I’m rethinking my technological dependence, great job on Graedon’s part.

About Alena Graedon7177780

Alena Graedon was born in Durham, North Carolina, and is a graduate of Carolina Friends School, Brown University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has worked at Columbia, Knopf, and the PEN American Centre.

The Word Exchange, her first novel, was completed with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies, including MacDowell, Ucross and Yaddo.

Translated into eight languages, it was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and a Kirkus Best Fiction Book of 2014.

Her non-fiction has been published in The New York Times Book Review, The Believer magazine and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Guest Post: Austin Williams, author of Blind Shuffle: A Rusty Diamond Novel

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Austin Williams is the author of The Rusty Diamond Series of crime thrillers published by Diversion Books. The second novel in the series, Blind Shuffle, released in October 2015.

Other books by Williams include the cult suspense novels Crimson Orgy and The Platinum Loop. He is the co-author (with Erik Quisling) of Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Connect with Austin: Twitter | Goodreads

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Guest Post

About two years ago, a New York-based editor of commercial fiction invited me to create an outline for a proposed series of suspense novels that would feature a recurring protagonist. This represented something of a departure from my earlier books, which were stand-alone novels populated with large ensembles of characters. Considering the offer, I experienced a wave of depression so strong I actually retreated to my bed for a uncharacteristic midday nap. What had me feeling down was the prospect of trying to insert a new figure into a mystery/suspense marketplace already teeming with established book series centered around popular recurring characters and written by capable authors.

How to find a niche in that crowded arena? I had no idea, but I knew one thing: the character I came up with had to possess a background and skill set distinct from the norm. That ruled out ex-cop, retired Secret Service agent, discharged Special Forces officer, jaded gumshoe, burnt-out investigative journalist, ex-con trying to make good, and a handful of other familiar tropes. I had no inkling of a fresh concept that might help my character find his or her place, and it felt like a bit of a lost cause. So I lay down for a nap, and woke up with an idea: “How about a magician?”

Not a working magician, that was too implausible to take even a little bit seriously. I couldn’t conceive of a character who spent his nights performing feats of illusion to sold-out crowds and then dabbled in crime-solving as a way to fill his spare hours. But a former magician, someone no longer in the spotlight … that idea held some potential. Better yet, a disgraced former magician, someone who’d not quit his profession by choice but had been forced out. And even better still, a person who’d not only quit but had to go into hiding to escape the consequences of his own misdeeds. It was starting to make sense. I could see the outlines of an agreeably complex character beset with a range of faults as well as strengths that would separate him from the bland category of “hero.”

That germ of an idea bolted me from the bed after my brief but productive siesta. And it was with a flawed but relatable protagonist in mind that I wrote an outline for three books in a proposed trilogy. The disgraced magician-turned-vigilante/detective was named Rusty Diamond. It took more than a year to secure a publishing deal (not with the editor who extended the original invitation) and to then complete the first of the three intended novels. The opening installment in the Rusty Diamond Series, entitled Misdirection, was published by Diversion Books in the summer of 2014. The second book, Blind Shuffle, comes out on October 20th.

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About Blind Shuffle: A Rusty Diamond Novel26074301

Far from the neon lights of Bourbon Street, heinous crimes are being committed against young women, and a street magician seeks to pull off his greatest trick by staying alive long enough to see justice done. The stage is set for a New Orleans noir perfect for fans of James Lee Burke and George Pelecanos.

Rusty Diamond abandoned the Crescent City years ago to pursue fame in Las Vegas, leaving Marceline Lavalle, the daughter of his mentor, with a broken heart. Now Rusty has come back to make amends with his former teacher and his first love―but Prosper Lavalle won’t face him, and no one has seen Marceline for days.

Five months pregnant, Marceline’s vanished without a trace. Her estranged boyfriend, a casino boss with criminal ties and a hair-trigger temper, claims no knowledge of her whereabouts. With the police not yet ready to declare foul play, Rusty launches his own investigation.

The search for Marceline will take Rusty into the darkest corners of New Orleans, where enormous profit can be made from human misery, where desperate people hunt on the fringes, and where not all magic is sleight of hand. It will force him to confront the mistakes of his past, and offer him a shot at redemption. And it will leave him―if he’s not careful―at the bottom of a bayou.

Interview: Harry Patz Jr., author of The Naive Guys

NaiveGuysPaperback.inddThe Discerning Reader extends a warm welcome to Harry Patz Jr. Thank you for joining The Discerning Reader Harry.

To begin, can you tell us about yourself and your novel, The Naive Guys

Thanks so much for reaching out, Melinda!

I’ve been in the tech industry for over twenty-years with time at Microsoft and a mobile marketing firm, Velti. A part of me has always been a writer, going back to an editorial role on the literary magazine in high school and the thousands of emails, presentations and briefs I’ve written in corporate America.

I finally brought to life all these thoughts and observations that have been in my head for years and completed my novel, The Naive Guys. It’s part coming-of-age, part historical fiction seen through the eyes of Mark Amici, a recent college graduate. It’s set in New York in the early 1990s, as he meanders his way through life, love and work.

What is Mark Amici up to presently?

Well, in the alternative universe where he lives (likely a third sequel!), he’s probably middle-aged and celebrating the New York Mets playoff success by taking his wife and five children to Mass to thank God, or celebrating in a different manner on a three-day bender in Las Vegas with Pete and Sally (Kostas having disappeared again). Possibly he’s doing both!

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?

This is a good, but tough question:) I essentially wrote the first four or so chapters, then put it down for eighteen months, then picked it up again and created a new “first” chapter, due to some other career commitments. While there was growth for me as a writer during this period, I would have probably started the whole project sooner and then tried to do it without that long break.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

On the criticism side, some may not care for the occasional ribald actions of Mark and company. On the positive side, from both reviews and direct feedback, there is a huge outpouring of affection for Mark from female readers, who really identify with him, his family and friends, his challenges and his story. Honestly, I would not have predicted those reactions.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

It’s for everybody! Actually it’s not. I believe though that anyone who has gone through that transitional period of graduating college and then trying to find their way in the world will appreciate it and identify with it…the awkwardness, the frustration, the highs and lows of love and work, family and friends. Those who “came-of-age” in that period will be reminded of the signposts of that era, and the next generation or two after that will like to read it to see what Mom and Dad (maybe) were up to. If you’re a student or participant of corporate bureaucracy, or possibly spent some time in sales and the tech industry, you’ll be rewarded with some smiles. And anyone who likes to laugh, you’ll love this story!

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

I am actually a modest person by nature, so the racy scenes are challenging for me. But as the writer/creator, you have to make sure you are being true to the story and the characters, and relate it as you believe it would happen. I noted how Stephen King essentially said, “you have to write for yourself.” So even if I felt squeamish, if it was germane to the story, I worked my way through it.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

At least this writer, like I would imagine others, write (some of) what they know. But I could not write in any depth about my wife and daughters. It’s too personal.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I absolutely read them, and always try to thank anyone who takes the time to provide written feedback, good or bad. I aspire, but do not always succeed, in trying not to get to high or low when consuming them. But writing can be a very personal craft, so it’s hard not to take it personally. My advice, which I am giving to myself, says the more one writes, the better one will be able to handle the criticism. It’s simply part of the deal.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Part of the challenge of this question is that the actors I would recommend keep getting too old to play these parts! Nevertheless, for the core “Naive Guys,” I have a , darker-haired and less built Matt Damon play Mark Amici; I always see him as a thinking man’s actor. For Sally, perhaps Robert Pattinson from “Twilight” and for Pete perhaps Emile Hirsch or Channing Tatum. Kostas is a tough one for me; perhaps a younger John Stamos (with long hair!)?

What literary character is most like you?

I don’t know if he is that much like me, but I strongly identify with Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe from his four novels, including The Sportswriter. He’s a gebtleman who is always observing everything around him, and often lost in hos own thoughts.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

I get asked often about the title, how much is inspired from my own life, and why I named the company “Fishsoft,” but no one has asked about my favorite character, and why.

I love them all, but Uncle Frankie is absolutely my favorite. And the reason is: the arc of his storyline went in ways I could have never imagined when I first started writing the novel. From the writer’s perspective, he “grew” so much more than I ever thought possible.

What can we expect from you in the future?

These characters lived in my head for such a long-time; I am taking a needed break from them. Yet, they still communicate to me at different times and unexpected ways! At some point there will be at least one sequel, taking place some years after the story ends in 1994.

I continue to participate with my Writer’s Group in Nantucket monthly, and for those interested our anthology collection, The Moving Pen: A Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group Anthology is on Amazon.

Thanks again for hosting me, Melinda. I enjoyed the conversation!

About Harry Patz Jr.8509321

Harry has been a participant of the Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group since October, 2013. He contributed a short story, “Offseason” for the group’s published anthology collection, The Moving Pen: A Nantucket Atheneum Writer’s Group Anthology, published in June, 2014.

Harry is president of Gondolin Advisors LLC, providing strategic advisory services to Communications, Media and Technology firms. He is a 20-year veteran of the tech and media industries, with executive positions at Microsoft Corporation and Velti. Harry holds an MBA from The Johnson School at Cornell University and a BS in Management from Boston College. He resides in Westchester, NY.

Connect with Harry: Website | Facebook | Twitter