Just For Fun

Diane Giarrusso

Genre: Literary Fiction
When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

Appeal Factors: Pacing: relentless, engrossing; Characterizations: some stock, but protagonist is well developed over the course of the tale; Language/Style: vivid, political nuances carried to the extreme; Tone/Mood: chilling, feminist/political, moral implications of individual decisions, satisfying ending; Frame: an intriguing reimagining of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, very interesting dystopian future that is completely plausible; Storyline: linear, thought provoking, chilling look at a potential future in America if the Religious Right were to win the majority of political power…

Reimagines The Scarlet Letter in a near future where the lines between church and state have been eliminated and convicted felons are not imprisoned but chromed–they have their skin recolored according to the category of their crime–and released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah Payne is a newly chromed red for her crime–abortion. A chilling and compelling portrait of the US after religious conservatives are in power.

Setting is in Texas, dystopian fiction, although technically could be considered SF, it is more literary in style.

Similar Authors: This book is most closely linked to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and is reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I also think people who read Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy… would also enjoy the book.

NB: I had to take a moment to hug the book when I was done. I loved this book and was both sad to see it end and also happy that the ending was satisfying.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Tainted (First in the Blood Lily Chronicles) – Julie Kenner
Appeal Factors: Pacing: fast, plot twists at every turn, action-oriented.
Characterization: stereotypical characterizations, but not unpleasant, typical
hero(ine) saving the world and losing her way sometimes, earnest and honest
protagonist, sexy and dangerous love interest. Language/Style: action, accessible, easy to read, demon mythology. Tone/Mood: dark, violent, gore/blood, dark humor, puzzle to solve. Frame: shadowy dark underworld of urban Boston; heroes will save the world but be damaged and healed as a result. Storyline: Action oriented, steamy but no “action”, mythic demon lore

From NoveList: “When she is given a second chance at life in exchange for fighting for the forces of good, Lily Carlyle finds herself in the body of Alice Purdue, a barmaid who is very familiar with the battle between the light
and the darkness.”

Expect further adventures in books 2 & 3 “Torn” and “Turned”. I bought these
because I enjoy Julie Kenner’s demon-hunting soccer Mom in “Carpe Demon” as well as her romance, rom coms, and other paranormals. I found this book easy to get through, I think because the the Lily character is figuring out what’s going on as well as being one kick **s woman!

Similar authors: Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Kelly Armstrong. Got these from NoveList as I’m a neophyte reader of urban fantasy!

Genre: Romance
Bet Me – Jennifer Crusie
Appeal Factors: Pacing: fast, lots of dialogue, plot that is fun and compelling,
Characterizations: well drawn primary and secondary characters, strong women and strong men both with their quirks, characters you LIKE and appreciate; Language/Style: snappy dialogue, smart wit, much action, steamy scenes; Tone/Mood: upbeat, witty, steamy, funny, poignant but reassuring at the same time; Frame: Contemporary, but minimal; Storyline: Character centered, plot occurs over 1 month’s time, steamy scenes, multiple (related) plotlines and most everyone is felled by love!

Min Dobbs knows how to work the odds. Cal Morrisey always plays to win. But when fate deals the cards, neither one is prepared for love. (endflap)

Quirky characters, snappy dialogue, and a fast-paced plot provides a great romantic read! You care about these characters and want them to be happy. Superb romantic comedy (think Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies!). For more like this, read her “Welcome to Temptation”, “Faking It” and “Fast Women”. Her reissued lighter, category romances are good, but not as good as those I mentioned (and “Bet Me”).

Similar Authors: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Katie MacAlister, Nora Roberts

Genre: Literary
Walks with Men – Ann Beattie
Appeal Factors: literary, urban, episodic, pared down writing style

In 1980, Jane, a recent Harvard graduate and aspiring writer becomes involved with Neil, an older man who is a writer and professor. She believes their relationship will help her understand men and the world.

Pacing: Deliberate, short sentences, pared down writing

Characterizations: Surface treatments of all characters, I believe the reader is to observe and infer, not to empathize. It appears that this is Beattie’s style of writing. I found the characters unlikeable. Neil was a pompous jerk, and Jane allows Neil to manipulate her.

Language: Beattie’s pared down style comes across to me as affected, remote and abrupt. Some readers may love this, but I did not.

Tone/Mood: Dramatic, affected, writing style makes reader an observer and remote from the storyline and characters.

Frame: Contemporary (1980-2000), episodic, includes flashbacks Story Line: Intent is to observe behavior of characters.

Personal Notes: I did not like this book, but can see that the writing style would appeal to certain readers. There is a seemingly fair review of the book in the NYT. Follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/books/review/McInerney-t.html The review helped me understand the book more (I don’t like it any better, but now I understand more of it–LOL! )

Genre: Literary, YA
Sex and Violence – Carrie Mesrobian
Appeal Factors: Fast paced, closely observed characters, blunt/intense language with lots of interior and exterior dialoge that develops the character and plot, darkly funny tone that has uneasy moments and is emotionally-charged, the frame of private school experiences, then small town life allows character to pull apart the sex and violence that occurred and move along to a healthier emotional mindset, the linear storyline allows the author to talk about the hook-up culture in a way that is based on Evan’s characterization and not on any particular value system–very effective.

(Summary melded from PW and Kirkus): Used to being the new guy at a series of boarding schools, 17 year old Evan may not be much at making lasting friendships, but he’s great at finding “the girl who will say yes”. This time things go very wrong: Evan is brutally beaten and the girl raped. At the hospital, Evan’s distant father finally realizes he must change their lives. Evan recovers at the small, tightly-knit, lakeside town in Minnesota that his father grew up in. Evan’s recovery includes rethinking and reevaluating his attitude toward girls and sex as he discovers who he is.

This was an intelligent, darkly funny, emotionally honest coming of age story. The sex is descriptive, violence blunt, and there is drug and alcohol use–none of this would stop me from recommending this book to a teenager. Evan’s voice is smart and self-aware and he’s used to making his own way in the world in which his father places him. We experience Evan dissecting what happened and placing it into the contexts of before and after the violent attack. The Evan who emerges has lost none of his humor, and has gained a new respect for himself, girls and his family.

I would recommend this book to readers who like Chris Crutcher’s “real” teens facing and working through very adult issues and Kevin Brooks for his blunt/honest realistic violence and teen experiences. For someone who wants a female author, Maya Angelou’s biographical works come to mind. Not having read “A Separate Peace” or “Rats Saw God” I can’t compare the coming of age stories.