Category Archives: Fiction

Review: The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi

wishmakerTitle: The Wish Maker

Author: Ali Sethi

Genre/Pages: Fiction/432

Publication: Riverhead Books; June 11, 2009

Rating: 2.5 BOOKMARKS

A sweeping saga told in lyrical prose about one Pakistani boy’s coming of age during a climate of political and social change.

Ali Sethi’s debut novel, The Wish Maker, is an ambitious novel–almost an epic–spanning two decades (plus flashbacks), several governments, and much social and political unrest.  Make no mistake, Sethi is a masterful storyteller with a mature voice that belies his young years–he was in his early 20s when he wrote this novel–but I felt that the story suffered from information and sensory overload.

The Wish Maker tells the story of Zaki Shirazi, a young boy growing up in a house filled with women.  Zaki’s mother is a journalist who writes for a magazine and leans toward the liberal left, while his grandmother is more of an old-fashioned conservative.  Zaki’s cousin also lives in the house and struggles to find herself throughout the novel.

The pages were filled with scores of secondary characters and it was challenging to keep everyone straight.  Additionally, unfamiliar terms and foreign phrases were peppered throughout and  I looked up several to give myself a more solid understanding of the story and dialogue.   

This book could very well go on to receive much critical acclaim–the writing is wonderful–but for me it had too much going on and ambled along accounting for all the daily minutia of Zaki’s days.  I appreciated the imagery and characterization but felt that there was no real resolution with some characters and that some of the secondary story lines just petered out.

Thanks to Matt at Penguin Books (Riverhead) for this review copy!

How about you?  Have you read this novel?  Am I way out in left field with my review?   What’s your take?  

Review: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

silenceTitle: The Weight of Silence

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Genre/Pages: Fiction/373

Publication: Mira; July 28, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

Employing multiple narrators, Heather Gudenkauf weaves a suspenseful novel about two young girls who go missing from their beds early one summer morning.

In the pre-dawn hours of an August morning in Iowa, seven-year-old Calli Clark is violently dragged into the woods against her will.  Her fear is palpable, but Calli can’t call out for help because she suffers from selective mutism.  Nearby, Petra Gregory, Calli’s best friend and voice, is lured from her own bedroom after spying something from her window.  Does she see her friend or is it someone more sinister?

As the novel progresses, the narrators shift with each new chapter.  We take in the story through the eyes of Calli, her mother Antonia, her older brother Ben, Petra’s dad, and Deputy Sheriff Louis.  Through each of their narratives, we get the backstory about Calli’s mutism, the family dynamics of the Clark household, life in the Gregory house, and Antonia’s relationship with Louis.

Gudenkauf gives Calli a voice as a narrator despite the fact that she doesn’t speak, while Petra, Calli’s mouthpiece in life, remains silent–her perspective of the story untold.  Anxiety builds as the novel progresses and suspicion is cast on several characters.  Compounding the fear is the  local unsolved murder of another little girl who went missing from her bedroom.  Will Calli and Petra meet the same end?

The Weight of Silence is such a page-turner–I read it in one night, staying up until the wee hours to finish it!  The novel is rife with symbols–the woods, the yellow house, the music note chain–and themes of family, friendship, substance abuse, and loss.   This book would be ideal for a book club selection and comes with discussion questions at the end of the novel. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book!

 

Review: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

darcyTitle: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers

Author: Marsha Altman

Genre/Pages: Regency Romance/368

Publication: Sourcebooks; August 1, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

 

Second in a series, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers finds Fitzwilliam Darcy making hasty travel plans to the Continent to save yet another Bennet daughter from scandal.

It’s been an unintentionally (though enjoyable) Austen-esque summer here at Chez Book, Line, and Sinker. In addition to Altman’s terrific sequel, I’ve been (slowly!) working my way through the Spanish version of  Pride and Prejudice and finished Prada and Prejudice, at the recommendation of another blogger.  

part of my 'on the nightstand' stack

part of my 'on the nightstand' stack

It seems that Jane Austen fans can be divided into roughly two camps: the purists and the rest of us.  Austen purists may struggle with contemporary authors serializing Pride and Prejudice (or the other novels), but I think that if the author does his or her research and tells a solid story, these sequels can find success and have a place in the literary world.  (Take my poll at the end of this review and tell me how you feel about serializing classics!)

Marsha Altman is one such author, creating a realistic continuation of Pride and Prejudice while seamlessly incorporating new characters without detracting from the original story.  The Plight of the Darcy Brothers is the second installment in her continuing series and though I haven’t read the first book, had no difficulty following this story.

The novel follows Darcy and Elizabeth as they travel to the Continent, Italy specifically, in an effort to save the reputation of yet another Bennet sister.  Along the way, Darcy comes to learn several shocking things about his father and the Darcy family.  As they travel on, Darcy wrestles with  internal conflict, trying to come to terms with what he’s discovered.

Altman’s skillful use of narration helps the reader understand what motivates each character.  Told in the third-person omniscient, we can see into the minds of the majority of characters and it gives the story greater depth and authenticity.  Austen herself also wrote in this narrative style.

Altman doesn’t skimp on details and fills readers in on all the characters from the original novel.  The subplots keep the story moving and it’s a quick and entertaining read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and have plans to read the first book shortly.  Readers who can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice should give Marsha Altman’s series a whirl. 

Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for this review copy!

Review: Summer House by Nancy Thayer

summer houseTitle: Summer House

Author: Nancy Thayer

Genre/Pages: Fiction/368

Publication: Ballantine Books; 6/23/09

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

On a few acres of her Nona’s beachfront property in Nantucket, Charlotte Wheelwright operates an organic garden and farm stand, self-imposed exile for a transgression that comes to light at the end of this thoroughly enjoyable read.

Nancy Thayer’s honest and captivating novel examines the family dynamic over several generations.  From the first page, I was hooked.  Told from the third person omniscient point of view, we are able to see into the minds of the three main women characters–Charlotte, Nona, and Helen, Nona’s daughter-in-law and Charlotte’s mother.  We are also given a window to Nona’s past, through stategic flashbacks.  This narrative style helps to give readers and understanding of motivations and behaviors.

Summer House examines the relationships between the extended members of the Wheelwright clan, a well-to-do banking family with roots in Boston and Nantucket.  Thayer develops her characters and the conflicts–both internal and external–that they face are realistic and I could relate to them.

The group gathers on Nantucket three times during the course of the summer—once to usher in matriarch Anne ‘Nona’ Wheelwright’s 90th birthday, once for Charlotte’s brother’s wedding, and once for the annual Family Meeting.

Nona, as she is known to her children and grandchildren, has lately taken to spending most of her time in the comforting bubble of her memories, while her son and daughter and their children and grandchildren, struggle with infidelity, divorce, children, dating, petty jealousy, and all the other things that families deal with.  Nona survived her own personal struggles and is now left to reminisce and reap the goodness that family brings.

As with all families, there are a few secrets that come to light as the novel progresses.  Why has Charlotte abruptly left the family banking business to do hard, manual labor in an organic garden?  What is Charlotte’s father hiding from her mother?  Is Charlotte’s brother, Teddy, able to get his act together to take on the new responsibility?  What secret is Nona keeping?

Summer House is a relatively quick read with good pacing and an entertaining story line.  It’s meatier than a standard chick-lit novel, and for that I was thankful.  It really is a story about families and coming to terms with the fact that different people, even though they may be related, can have different ideas and opinions.  Being family is the glue that holds the variety of personalities together.

Nancy Thayer is an accomplished author with scores of published works to her name.  I look forward to picking up some of her earlier works and am interested in reading her daughter’s new book.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to read this book!

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