Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Literary Fiction Review (including Chick Lit)



Rosalind by Judith Deborah

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An Odd Combination of Parts

This book is an odd combination of parts. It is told from the perspective of a male doctor who doesn’t have much of a life outside of the hospital until he meets Rosalind, a good friend of one of his patients. He becomes nearly instantly obsessed by her, even following her out of the hospital one afternoon while she goes about her errands. Interestingly, while Rosalind is initially upset when she catches him, she feels something between them, too. The middle section of the book details, with some degree of sensuality, their budding relationship. A surprise twist takes the latter half of the book in a completely different direction.

I thought the pacing of this book was uneven. It’s relatively short, so too much time seemed to have been spent detailing the doctor’s obsession, even to the point of distraction while he was working. In one scene, or was it two, that I found a little icky as someone who has been a nurse in a hospital, the doctor closed and locked his office door so he could fantasize and—shall we say—act on his thoughts while alone. The sensual aspects of the book were actually written in a way that turned me off completely. I’m not sure why. Rosalind herself was a bit of an enigma to the hero, but we slowly learned more about her. I didn’t particularly like these characters, and I found parts of the plot just to be too slow moving or off-putting to keep me interested.

Song of the Robin by R. V. Biggs

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Song of the Robin*

Immersive Psychological Read

This is an intense psychological read. The prologue puts you on edge right away because you don’t know precisely what is going on. Then within the main book itself, it seems as if we are thrown into a completely different world. The author has pulled off an intense deep third-person perspective. We feel like we’re living in the protagonist’s head. Yet the author us able to pull this off without it feeling like it is just navel-gazing. The protagonist is truly struggling through a difficult time in her life, so her sometimes physical, emotional, or mental paralysis makes sense given her thoughts as well as what is going on in her life as it unravels. We are truly on the journey with her; I read a lot, and I don’t see a lot of authors pulling this off successfully without making the protagonist thoughts seeming too selfish or is if they think themselves the center of the world. I love a good psychological drama, and this is one of them.

Healing Zen to Empty the Brain by Leonid Altshuler

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Healing Zen to Empty the Brain*

Book of Short Poems

A fascinating collection of short poems buy a psychiatrist. I like to use poetry for writing prompts, so I was curious what this book had to offer. the poet has a good sense of the spare but artistic use of language in poetry. the poems are not very long, but they still managed to evoke a memory, and image, or a sense. Autumn seems to be an inspiration. I think this book might be fun for me to explore as the basis for stretching my own creativity.

The Girl in the Painting by Renita D’Silva

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The Girl in the Painting*

Lyrically Written, but Tense is Annoying

This is my first time to read this author, and I am impressed with the way that she describes settings and emotions with such lyrical fluidity. This book is complex, with suspense that was kicked off in the very first section. The author seamlessly weaves between an early 20th-century past in India and present-day England. The story deals with loss, choices, and forgiveness, amongst other themes. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that it is written in the present tense. I just find that a really awkward narrative tense to read; it jars me when I just want to be immersed in the story. The present tense sticks out like a sore thumb, beckoning me to acknowledge it when I just want the mechanics of language to fade into fade into the background. That said, I do appreciate this author’s poetic way with words; I just wish it was in the past tense!

Pagan Death by Sam Taw

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Pagan Death*

A Violent Look at Pagan Britain

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the level of violence that’s in this book, given the title. But I have to say that, nonetheless, I was surprised. The book starts off with a violent scene of human sacrifice. Fiction books about this time period are rare, so it intrigued me when I saw it on my favorite book review site. Unfortunately, at that site we only have the blurb to go on, so I wasn’t prepared for what this book actually was. I just found it to be too violent without much letup. In a story, there needs to be balance, and this story felt too dark. As one who has done some pagan studies, I also thought that the author showed a bias towards only showing the worst imaginings of what pre-Christian societies could be. Yes, it does make for more drama, but I don’t like the demonization of these ancient cultures.

The East End by Jason Allen

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The East End*

Not My Cuppa Tea

I did not like this book. When reading a contemporary book, I like it to feel at least moderately close to my reality, and this book depicted lifestyles that I hope aren’t realistic. Everyone in this book seems to be messed up in some way: problems with alcohol, problems with drugs, problems with petty crimes, problems with terrible spouses, etc. The first near quarter of the book just showed a teenager who vandalizing the rich mansions on his Island on the Hamptons (while contemplating actually stealing) and then one of those owners coming back to town from New York City while he just got crazy high and drunk on the way. I actually wondered, Can somebody do that much cocaine as he did on that short drive and still live?! Plus he was drinking scotch after scotch at the same time. This book had a world I just didn’t want to live in, even in my imagination. The author did have a good way of describing things and getting you into the characters heads, but at times in the early part, it felt like the description was too much, making the pacing slow to a crawl. After the incident with Henry in the pool, things did speed up. But I still just couldn’t get into this world because I just didn’t like it or the people in it.

The Other Blue Sky by Shari J. Ryan

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The Other Blue Sky*

An Enthusiastic 5+ Star Read

Having recently read Last Words, I was very interested in Annie’s story. I’ll admit that I started the book in an already emotional state because I just knew that her story, as told by this author, was going to blow me away. I was not wrong. The author has managed to craft yet another tale that is heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant, that will resonate with you for long after you’ve finished it. The story weaves between the modern-day where Annie is talking with her mother and Charlie, filling in the gaps of what she knows of her history, and the past starting when Annie realized that she wasn’t her parents’ biological child and going through the years as she developed as a young woman, wife, and mother. This book touches on so many themes I hardly know where to start. It is about identity, family, your place in the world, grief, forgiveness, love of several sorts, and grace. And I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I don’t know how this author can create such heartfelt and beautiful words that perfectly express such a wide range of human emotions and experience. This book, like Last Words, is simply stunning. As it does deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust, parts of it are not an easy read, but the author doesn’t dwell on this. Rather, this book—like the other one—is about the triumph of the human spirit. That sounds a little high falutin’ and cerebral, but the author makes it real with believable characters that we can immediately identify with and root for as they face the challenges in the book. I can recommend this fantastic book wholeheartedly.

The Specter by Tam May

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The Specter*

Intriguing Tale of Northern California in the 1800s

As someone who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I nearly laughed out loud at the first sentence in this book–and not in a good way! The author states that San Francisco hadn’t seen as damp a day like as was happening since the Civil War. As the novel takes place in the early 1890s, that would mean that San Francisco hadn’t seen such a damp day in nearly thirty years! Having been in San Francisco in all seasons, I can say that it can be very damp there quite often! These would be hard to quantify, and there certainly wouldn’t be thirty years in between damp days.

Once I got beyond that, I found parts of this book to show an interesting glimpse of Northern California in the Gilded Age as well as harkening back to the early days of the city and state around the time of California’s statehood. I find myself wondering at the accuracy of the history, especially the part referring to the 1850s, when San Francisco was still kind of a rough western city. True, not as rough as the little shanty towns that sprung up around state during the gold rush, but certainly nothing like the city as we think of it now (or even as it would have been in the 1890s. The term Gilded Age was really an accurate reflection of San Francisco at that time because of the wealth that many San Franciscans had because of the former gold rush as well as the Comstock silver rush. In a tiny little detail that I found odd, the author mentioned two prominent newspapers in the city during the 1890s, one of them the Chronicle and the other the Sun. I was surprised that the Examiner wasn’t mentioned, because that flagship newspaper became a part of Hearst corporation about ten years before the novel would have started–and a very young William Randolph was given it by his father five years before.

The novel is partly epistolary, with a large chunk of the second half of the book being letters that the heroine’s grandmother wrote back to her family when she stayed in an artist colony just north of the city as a young woman. These letters were fascinating, as they revealed a very different sort of existence for young women in the 1850s, but I wish they had been integrated into the greater story better. The letters were each just given their own chapter, with no commentary from the granddaughter, Vivian, who is the protagonist of the story. This made it feel like they were just stuck in there, as they weren’t really anchored to the rest of the story as much as they could have been. That said, I still did find this book to be an interesting look back into two very different and fascinating times of early California history.

Not from the Stars by Christina Britton Conroy

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Not From the Stars*

An Immersive Read into Two Worlds, Edwardian England and the Theatre

I read a lot of historical fiction, but I haven’t read a lot from the Edwardian era. So I enjoyed that this author was not only able to make the Edwardian world feel real but was also able to bring theater to life in an unexpected way. I loved all the references to Shakespeare! This book involves quite a cast of characters, and at times, it is a little tricky to follow the movement of the greater story. There are some surprisingly sexual and violent scenes. If you’re used to reading historical romances, not historical fiction, parts of this book will seem shocking to you. But all in all, it was an immersive read that I found fascinating.

Four Green Fields by Greg McVicker, J. P. Sexton, and Mark Rickerby

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Four Green Fields*

Take a Literary Trip to Ireland

As an American of Irish descent who has visited Ireland twice, in the 1980s and 1990s, I felt like this book’s stories, insights, and modern poetry very much reflected the Ireland that I knew back then. These three writers have let us into their worlds, both the ones in which they grow up and the ones they are living in now. I did spend some time in Northern Ireland when The Troubles were making an impact on daily lives in numerous ways; this certainly brings back those struggles and gives them a face and voice (so to speak). This book is not wholly focused on Northern Ireland, but a lot of it is about that small patch of the island. We learn a bit about republic sections of Ireland; we also hear stories from a person who is now a part of modern Irish diaspora. The authors have a way of writing that draws you in, whether narrative or poetic, and I can actually hear the words spoken in an Irish brogue; I think the words make more sense if your brain hears them that way! And it is more engaging. While the contents of this book are not always easy ones, I enjoyed this little literary trip back to Ireland.


The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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