I played a bit of literary Russian Roulette during the months of July, August and September. My To Read pile grew exponentially without a whole lot of investigation into what was being added. I know. Risky, right? As a result, I wound up with a few choices outside my usual realm of interest: some I’m happy about, some… not so much. But I think not sticking to any one specific genre and sometimes diving in blind is a fantastic way to discover some pretty random and fun escapes. Of course, it also helps to uncover some appallingly wretched bits of dreck. But, as we all know, those judgements are all quite subjective. Nevertheless, I do like to judge.
The Cinderella Pact
By Sarah Strohmeyer
New American Library
I recently discovered an AMAZING online book retailer (BookCloseOuts.ca) that deals exclusively in discounted and so-called “scratch & dent” items. Imagine my delight when I also discovered that they have a warehouse that ships from right here, in Ontario! One of my finds was this fun little bit of chick lit. Nola (our frumpy protagonist) is an editor at a gossip magazine who longs for something more. So, when she’s denied the opportunity to helm a new column, she creates a new alter-ego, Belinda, who – naturally – lands the gig. Thin, gorgeous and fabulous (everything our heroine thinks she isn’t), her new alter-ego becomes the toast of the town… while Nola scrambles to keep the truth about ‘Belinda’ from being leaked. Side plots involving BFFs whose perfect lives aren’t nearly as perfect as they seem and a charming-yet-mysterious new potential love interest (it is chick lit, after all) help this add up to a great Sunday afternoon read.
By Jennifer Haigh
At first glance, one would assume that the titular condition is that of Gwen McKotch (who is diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome – a chromosomal irregularity that prevents her from ever physically maturing), the only daughter in a dysfunctional New England family. As it turns out, however, it really is so much more than that. Each and every character introduced suffers with their own personal condition in a way that is unique to them and, at the same time, so universally human. Ordinarily my work and life schedules preclude me from finishing most novels very quickly (usually a week and a half, at best.) This one, though, I devoured in two nights. It’s author Haigh’s third novel and you can bet I’ve added the first two to my To Read pile… and I’ll be keeping an eye out for any subsequent releases.
By Naomi Kramer
Amazon Digital Services
I won’t lie – I totally got sucked in by the über-cute cover art and the comically creepy premise of a dead girl/ghost hiring a detective to find out what her dead-beat, murdering boyfriend did with her body after snuffing out her life. Neither were enough to detract from a poor writing style, unfortunately. Oh well. My own fault for falling into the old cliche: I should have known better than to judge a book – in this case the first novella in a series – by its cover.
By Jamie Lynn Braziel
Two words: Christian. Romance. I’m neither Christian nor a fan of romance novels. You do the math.
The Demon Queen and the Locksmith
By Spencer Baum
If Stephen King wrote YA novels, this is what they’d be like. I actually didn’t realize this was a YA novel, when I grabbed it for my Kobo. And, honestly, I didn’t really care once I started reading. The classic Good versus Evil plot is definitely firmly in place here. And it’s joined by all of the juicy over-the-top Sci-Fi/Fantasy nuggets (disappearing radio announcers, shape-shifting middle-aged women, giant town-destroying fire ants, secret codes, super powers) one would expect of a story geared toward the attention deficit disorder set. Honestly? I hope this becomes a series. I’d keep reading.
The Devil’s Lover: The Wish (Book 1)
By Dahlia Lu
Amazon Digital Services
I honestly have NO idea what this book is about because, by the third chapter, the only things that had been revealed were enough typos and spelling/grammar mistakes (mismatched tenses? really?) to make an English professor prematurely gray. Confusing and illogical plot progressions didn’t help, either. But what really stood out in this book were the blatantly misused words; it makes me wonder, actually (without the slightest bit of facetiousness), if English might not be a language recently learned by the author.
By Marybeth Smith
This was another accidental YA selection. My how things have changed since the days of Sweet Valley High and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Then again, teenagers aren’t exactly the sheltered creatures they were back when I trod amongst them. I tried to put myself into the head space of a teenager while I read this – and, honestly, I quite enjoyed it. Annabelle is a 16-year-old girl who feels the need to always clean up after her bi-polar, older brother’s debacles. Her constant need to fight his battles for him keeps her from seeing that sometimes people need to be allowed their mistakes in order to move on and grow up. While a bit predictable, it’s definitely something I’d share with any teenagers looking for something to read.
By Diana Dempsey
I’m pretty sure this novel was, once-upon-a-time, a pivotal Melrose Place (the original; not that 2.0 nonsense) story arc. And, if not, it certainly could have been. A female news anchor (Natalie), in the super-competitive news world of Los Angeles, finds herself at the mercy of a cut-throat news director looking to replace her with a young and ruthlessly-ambitious former Playboy playmate who now fancies herself a reporter. Also – Natalie’s marriage to a wildly successful sitcom writer has fallen to pieces while something seems to be a-brewin’ with her happens-to-be-drop-dead-gorgeous-with-a-to-die-for-Aussie-accent agent. Scratch that: this wasn’t a Melrose Place story arc. It was a Harlequin made-for-TV movie of the week.
Following My Toes
By Laurel Osterkamp
Faith gets itchy toes when good things are about to befall her. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the extent of her so-called psychic ability. Which is too bad as, I’m sure, she would have liked a bit of a heads up with regard to her boyfriend’s impending heave-ho. But, as she picks up the ruins of her life, she muddles through the motions of rebuilding friendships, learning to accept siblings and, generally, accepting her world for what it is – rather than trying to change things that don’t necessarily need changing. This is a cute take-it-to-the-cottage read. I don’t have a cottage. But if I did, this is the sort of novel I’d bring along for the weekend. It’s not amazing. It’s not horrible. It is, however, a great accompaniment to a sunny deck and a glass of chilled Chardonnay.
By Thaisa Frank
I’m a sucker for any fiction set during World War II. I don’t know why; I just am. And this novel grabbed me because it enlightened me with regard to an atrocity to which I’d previously been unaware: Briefaktion (Operation Mail) wherein concentration camp victims were required to write postcards or letters to home indicating that all was well with their ‘resettlement.’ Pretty grim. So that alone should have been premise enough for a piece of fiction to have been set. Unfortunately, the author felt it necessary to expand upon this grisly bit of history by creating a fantastical underground world (an abandoned bunker, to be precise) where select prisoners were able to escape the horrors of the internment camps as they were able to help assuage the fears/superstitions held by high ranking officers who believed that letters to the dead needed to be answered (playing upon the Nazi preoccupation with the occult and the aforementioned Briefaktion.) It just seems to me that so much of what went on during this time was already so unimaginable that creating an even more over-the-top scenario in which to set your human drama… just doesn’t make sense. That said, I didn’t hate this book. I just didn’t find the fantasy aspect all that necessary.
By Reed Farrel Coleman
If you’re a fan of mysteries or crime fiction (which – I’ll be honest – I’m not, for the most part) then you’ll appreciate this whodunnit. Retired gumshoe Moe Prager gets dragged back into his former line of work when his estranged daughter comes to him for help; the eleven-year-old art prodigy daughter of her childhood friend has been abducted and is presumed dead. Naturally, he unearths all sorts of seedy, sordid details and dark secrets a number of unsavoury characters would rather were kept hush hush. And, while there were certain plot points that weren’t entirely surprising, the story’s climax did not disappoint.
Nerd Do Well
By Simon Pegg
This is a must-read for fans of Simon Pegg, Star Wars, or underdogs of any sort. Subtitled A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid, Nerd Do Well takes us from Pegg’s obsession with Star Wars (which started in childhood and, as with all true nerds, exists to this day – despite what George Lucas continues to do with the franchise) right up to his blockbuster successes with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and, most recently, Paul. This book made me giggle out loud. Repeatedly. It also made me want to re-watch Spaced in its entirety. Hmm… it might be time for another Amazon order.
Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1)
By Melissa de la Cruz
Take The Witches of Eastwick, throw in a little Norse mythology and pepper it all with a few nighttime soap opera-esque antics and you end up with a tasty little treat to get you through the daily drudgery of your public transit commute. It turns out this is the first in a planned series, as well. Which is good. Traffic & the TTC seems to be getting worse every day. I’ll need something to distract me from its painfulness.