Commercial Fiction

All posts in the Commercial Fiction category

Sins of the Father

Published October 5, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

sins of the father cover

Review of Sins of the Father by Angela Benson

Overview from www.bn.com:

God asked the biblical Abraham to sacrifice his son. But Abraham Martin’s only god is money.

Successful media mogul Abraham Martin has great wealth, an elegant wife, Saralyn, and a rebellious son, Isaac. He also has a secret: a second family that no one knows about. Now, after thirty years—driven by the urging of his long dormant conscience—Abraham is determined to do the right thing by finally bringing his illegitimate children into the light…and into the family fold.

But beautiful, manipulative Saralyn will never accept the proof of her husband’s indiscretions. Isaac, the heir, shaken by his father’s revelations, will fight mercilessly when his world is threatened, and may lose everything that matters as a result. And while Abraham’s forgotten daughter, Deborah, is open to the undreamed-of possibilities suddenly awaiting her, his son, Michael, cannot forgive the man who cruelly abandoned them to near poverty. And he’s driven by only one desire: revenge!

Angela Benson’s Sins of the Father is a powerful story of a house bitterly divided—a rich, multilayered family saga of betrayal and redemption, rage and compassion, faith, forgiveness, and ultimately, of love.

My Review:

Sins of the Father struck me at first as something that might be just a ho-hum read, something I could use to keep my brain occupied while I waited in line at the grocery store or waited outside in my car in the morning before going to work. It was much better than that.

Yes the setting was contemporary but the story it told was not all that conventional. The story starts with a man named Abraham trying to reassert himself into the lives of his illegitimate adult children. Growing up, they were supported by him financially but not in any other way. He never visited them, he never called them, he never even wrote to them. Why? Because they were children that he had with another woman.

He had pushed them both aside till his mother’s death changed everything for him. He decided to honor her wishes and do right by them and it started with a small production company that he bought and asked his illegitimate daughter to run for him.

So far so good but then he tried to bring both of the adult children from another woman into his family which was previously just him, his wife and his legitimate son, Isaac. This part was not going to happen. His wife would do everything she could stop it, while the other son, Micheal is just looking for a way to get revenge on his absent father. Granted some of the others involved have doubts about the idea as well but these two are just itching for a fight, in some cases literally.

The story was very obviously a Biblical parallel story. The characters’ names alone give that away. Isaac and Rebecca, Abraham and Saralyn, and Leah are all the names of characters in this book that mirror or are similar to the names of Biblical characters. The story of a father with children by two different women also mirrors the story of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible while the illusion to Esau as an example for Saralyn’s son Isaac to not follow is also a hint.

The drama underneath it all is modern even if we may not personally know too many people who find themselves in the same situation as this family, we can still relate to their feelings. Too many children today grow up without a father figure in their lives so Deborah and Michael’s story is relatable. There are also many children who grow up with high expectations from their parents like Isaac does. And many women have been abandoned when they are no longer deemed useful by their significant others. In that way, this story is timeless.

The best part for me was that not only were the plots and subplots in this book engaging, but the story itself did not have a lot of swear words or other offensive material. Of course sex was a part of the story. How could it not be? But it was not the focal point of the story, the human drama was. I can’t be sure but I think this could be classified as Christian fiction but the Christian message contained in here, despite the similarities with the Bible, was not heavy-handed. It seemed to occur naturally within the plot and I like that as well.

There was one thing that struck me as a little bit odd. The author twice mentioned two members of the family having photos of themselves with two different presidents displayed in their offices and both of them were democrats. I am not sure if that was significant or intentional nor do I know if it is supposed to mean anything to the reader but it did get me wondering for a while. Why two democrats? But like I said, it was odd, but not a problem. I am not sure how conservative readers might feel about it. I just chose to say “hmm” and continue reading.

I can’t really think of anything bad about to say about it. I liked it a lot though I can’t say I loved it. I think you might too.

A note to my readers: This blog is now also being published on http://myliteraryleanings.blogspot.com and might be moving over there permanently.

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Saving Hope

Published July 6, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

saving hope cover

Review of Saving Hope by Margaret Daley

Overview from www.bn.com:

When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt’s daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.

Now it’s personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as she fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

“Fan favorite Margaret Daley wows readers with Saving Hope, her new release in the Men of the Texas Rangers series. Intense, gritty, exciting, and with a compelling love story…this book has everything a romantic suspense reader could want!” Marta Perry, Vanish in Plain Sight, HQN Books

My Review:

My reading week was rough one this time around. Though I read three books this week, I only found one that I was willing to review. (The other two gave me nightmares and since I don’t wish to visit those horrible dreams again, I am going to skip the review.)

That left one book which was also a little scary too but as bad as the other two books. So Saving Hope is the winner and the first in series about Texas Rangers apparently.

It deals with the serious but relevant topic of human trafficking. I could throw out a bunch of statistics at this point but suffice it to say that this crime is on the rise and features in the news more and more these days. It is no longer isolated to third-world countries. It goes on right here in the good old USA as well.

The book features a Texas Ranger of course (named Wyatt) but it begins with a girl named Rose. Rose lives at a home of sorts for former runaway underage prostitutes. Rose gets a call from a friend who was caught up in the life she was in but says that she wants to get out. Without thinking, Rose “borrows” the facility’s van to pick-up her friend and ends up getting captured again by her former pimp.

Kate is the direction of the facility Beacon of Hope where Rose and other girls like her are hiding out in hopes of starting a new life. When Kate discovers Rose is missing she decides that she will not rest till she finds out what has happened to her since she doubts very much that Rose has chosen to go back to her former life. Along the way her faith the characters are tested. Do they have what it takes to help these girls and break-up this prostitution ring that has plagued the Dallas area? That is the question that drives the story.

I’ll start with the bad first. This is just me but I really didn’t like the romance element in the story. It seemed a bit unrealistic. Of course, I am not a big fan of romances generally anyway but it was a bit of a disappointment with how detailed the human trafficking angle seemed to be. The author clearly did her research on that part and it seemed like the romance was an afterthought. In fact, I think it would have been better if it had been minimized more.

The good parts were first, as mentioned above; the whole human trafficking part of the story was fascinating and appeared to ring true. Of course I am not an expert but I was really drawn into that aspect of the plot which is what most of the book focused on. It was a little depressing but that’s to be expected.

The other plus was that the Christian element of the story seemed realistic as well and not forced like I find in many other Christian books I read. I appreciated that. The characters have real struggles and doubts. Though they are mostly good people (except for the traffickers of course), they don’t seem overly saccharine or unrelatable.

So to sum up, I found the story to be good but I couldn’t say that I loved it for the reasons I previously mentioned. Still I would recommend it for any reader who might want to learn more about this type of crime without wanting to be totally depressed coming away from it.

Contains: some violence and sexual situations

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Published May 4, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

the art of racing in the rain cover

Review of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Overview from www.bn.com: A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope—a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

My Review:

This book tells the story of a dog named Enzo. And you may be thinking, as I was, how could a story told from the point of view of a dog be that interesting? But it is.

At the book’s opening, Enzo is an old dog who can no longer control his bladder. He has seen a documentary explaining how Mongolians believe that some dogs that die are reincarnated as human beings but only if they are ready. Enzo is ready and he hopes to convince his owner, a racecar driver/mechanic named Denny, that he should let Enzo go and get on with his own life.

Enzo explains that they have had a good run together and it is time. He wants to go before things get worse. Then he tells us his story from the moment Denny picks him out from among a litter of pups until the present.

It is a beautiful story too. I liked it a lot. I won’t go so far as to say that I loved it but I really liked it.

The positives are many. First off though, I liked the dog’s name, Enzo. It is a great Italian name and I think Denny named him after some great Italian racecar driver though I am not sure which one. I don’t know anything about racing.

Also there are some episodes concerning Italy and the Italian language. The Italian is error-free from what I can tell. I love the way the Italian people welcome Denny and his family to Italy as well.

I also liked the ending but don’t worry I won’t give it away. It is beautiful and fitting. Denny is a likeable character as well and you see the best parts of his character since you’ll see him mostly through Enzo’s eyes. What dog doesn’t love his master? Yes, Enzo knows he has a good friend and companion in Denny.

Enzo is smart too. I know that not all dogs are smart like this but I did have a dog once that I could almost swear had human intelligence combined with dog-like loyalty. He was my favorite and Enzo reminds me of him.

The only downsides to this story for me were the frequent uses of the f-bomb and some sexuality. I almost stopped reading once because of the bad language but the power of the story convinced me to hang in there and I am glad I did.

I recommend this story to anyone who has ever loved a dog and can overlook the above mentioned flaws. It is a beautiful story, just lift up your ears and listen.

Contains: language, some sexual situations

Executive Privilege

Published March 30, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

executive privilege cover

Review of Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin

Overview from www.bn.com: To private detective Dana Cutler, her latest assignment almost seems like child’s play. She has been hired by an attorney to tail college student Charlotte Walsh on her daily rounds. Everything moves along predictably, until one night the pretty young miss scurries off to a very private meeting with the president of the United States. And to make matters worse, Charlotte is found dead the next morning, transforming Cutler almost overnight from hunter into hunted. Fast-breaking, nonstop action; memorable protagonists.

My Review:

Executive Privilege follows most of the conventions that make up political thrillers. Of course someone rich and/or powerful features in the plot while getting away with a big crime. The everyman character who is just trying to survive or do the right thing must stop this person from getting away as well as keep him or herself alive. Then of course there is the danger that our main characters will be disgraced or even killed before having the chance to have the truth come out with proof to back it up.

This book has all that and more. Here we have two people who must prove their theories that the President of the United States is a serial murder as well as a seducer of underage girls. One is a lawyer recently hired by a prestigious law firm whose boss foists a strange pro bono case on behalf of a convicted serial killer. The second is a private detective who ends up tailing one of the murder victims to a meeting with the President.

The rich and powerful include the President and his wife of course as well as a staff that is fiercely loyal to him. This President is running for reelection when his picture is snapped by our investigator Dana Cutler whilst he is engaged in a compromising situation with Charlotte Walsh. With a small, private, and untraceable mini army at his disposal, this President will do whatever it takes to silence Dana permanently.

Meanwhile, Brad, the lawyer is in Oregon at the behest of his boss Susan Tuchman, aka the Dragon Lady, is investigating a possible loop-hole in the conviction of a serial killer. The killer is miffed that one of the murders he is charged with is not one of his and he wants his name cleared. Though Brad thinks it is a waste of time, he must follow through or face the wrath of his boss.

As Brad’s investigation proceeds, he comes to the startling conclusion that his client is right and he later gets the evidence together to prove it. Unfortunately the evidence soon implicates the President of the United States and he is forced into hiding too.

I will start with the negatives of the story as I see them. The sex in the story is a bit graphic at times and the f bomb appears too many times for my taste. Also, it is another story about Washington D.C. I realized it is a legal thriller but when am I going to see one in London or Copenhagen or even St. Louis? I am tired of D. C. I guess I lived there just a little too long. I know I got tired of hearing about the President even then. I am just not political person, I guess.

The positives are many but the best one is the description. I love the way this guy writes his description. My favorite passage of description involves the introduction of Brad’s boss. The tiny bit of back story I get here tells me exactly what kind of woman Brad is dealing with. Here is how it reads.

“The senior partner was wearing a black Armani pants suit with a white silk blouse and a necklace of black pearls. She was forty-nine but she’d been a partner for ten years as a result of a series of victories for a pharmaceutical client and a tobacco company. Tuchman’s first husband had been an associate at another firm but she had divorced him rather than set up a situation where an opponent from her husband’s firm could move to have her taken off a case on grounds of conflict of interest. A second, tempestuous marriage to a federal judge had lasted only as long as it took Tuchman to process the difference in the income contributions to their join bank account.” P. 61

Other pluses include the great story line which seems both exciting and more plausible than that of many other thrillers that I have read in the past. And although the swear words are still there, they are not as numerous as they are in other thrillers as well.

I think readers will find it worth a look, particularly if you don’t mind reading about D.C. and politicians as much as I do.

Contains: some graphic violence, sex, and language.

The Tiger’s Wife

Published March 2, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

Review of The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

Overview from www.bn.com: In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.

My Review:

The Tiger’s Wife is a novel that defies categorization. It is difficult for me to say what genre it falls into, for example since the reader will encounter elements of more than one.

My first impression was that this book belonged in the Literary Fiction section though how it managed to be “literary” and make the New York Times Bestseller list was beyond me. After reading the entire novel, though there were times I was ready to call it quits, I can say that it is literary enough to be worthy of that designation.

Further in though, we also see many elements of the Fantasy genre. The animals engage in human behavior while the humans are seen becoming more like wild animals. Of course the tiger is the main character and we see how he connects our main character, a doctor named Natalia, and her grandfather.

By this point, I have usually gotten into the intricacies of the characters minds’ as well my own comments on the plot but this novel does not lend itself easily to that. This could be considered positive or negative. As for myself, I found this confusing.

Much of the story is actually the back story of various characters that Natalia’s grandfather has encountered throughout his life. The deathless man was my favorite. I found myself more interested in his story than in any of the other characters. I kept wishing that Natalia would spend more time talking about him. I wanted to know more about how he got the way that he was and yet when Natalia finally has a chance to question him she doesn’t seem even remotely curious.

The best parts of the novel for me, besides some of the interesting characters, were the descriptions. It is in this that the author shines. I can see the details she describes almost as though I were there because I actually understand them. This is not typical for me in most novels that rely heavily on description. I usually skip past the description in others for the sake of finding out what happens next but had I done that here I would have missed a good part of the story. Here is one of my favorites:

“When we reached the monastery, we forced our crooked-wheeled dolies over the stairs at the gate, through an arbor of vines that clung like spiders to the lattice above.” P. 99

The biggest negative for me was that it got confusing jumping back and forth in time as well as going from one character to another while failing to see the connection. It also was hard to see the connection of the tiger’s wife in the past to a present-day Natalia. I got lost.

The second negative was the use of the f bomb. Though it was not as bad as it has been in some of the other books I have reviewed on here, I wish I did not have to read it.

All in all, I found the book to be okay but not great. I think I was expecting it to be a little more realistic and a little bit more about the war. I just didn’t make the connection, if it was there to begin with. I would recommend this book only to readers who like literary fantasies and don’t mind a lot of back story.

Contains: some sexuality, domestic violence, animal violence, and repeated uses of profanity

P. S. Please forgive the appearance of this entry but it seems that Word Press has removed even more of its features from my disposal.

Boo

Published January 26, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

boo coverReview of Boo by Rene Gutteridge

Overview from www.bn.com: Talk about Working out Your Faith with Fear and Trembling.

The biggest thing to happen to Skary, Indiana, is renowned horror novelist Wolfe Boone–or, “Boo,” as the locals fondly call him. For the past sixteen years, the reclusive writer has been the town’s greatest attraction, having unintentionally turned the once-struggling Skary into a thriving tourist-trap for the dark side: from the Haunted Mansion restaurant, famous for its “bloody fingers” (fries splattered with ketchup) to Spooky’s Bookstore (where employees dress like the walking dead).

But when a newly reformed Wolfe suddenly quits the genre and subsequently starts to pursue Skary’s favorite girl-next-door, Ainsley Parker, the little town made famous by his writings becomes truly horrified. Soon, a scheme is plotted to put the fright back into Skary–and get their most famous resident out of love and back into the thrill business.

My Review:

If you have been reading this blog for recently you might have noticed that I have been trying to find more books by Rene Gutteridge simply because I liked her writing style and story in Listen. A couple of weeks ago I read Scoop which was part of the Occupational Hazards Series. Boo is another novel and series by Rene Gutteridge.

The verdict is: I liked this one but not as much as the other novels. I don’t know if I like it enough to continue with the series. The first half in particular was hard to follow. One of the main characters, Ainsley, seemed judgmental to me. I had a hard time caring about her at all.

As the novel continues though, I was a little more understanding towards her once more of her back story was revealed. I know you’re not supposed to reveal too much back story at once but in this case it might have helped.

Wolfe “Boo” Boone, in contrast, was very likeable for me. Yes he writes scary stories which I don’t care for. As a person however, he is a kind though reclusive soul who just wanted to make a living as a writer and bury the pain of his past. I can relate to that as I too hope to make a living as a writer someday though I don’t think I could write horror novels.

Of course the whole time I read the segments with Boo in them I couldn’t help thinking about Steven King. I knew some people in college who were from New England and had told me stories about seeing him in the local bookstore. If the stories they told me are true, Boo is better than Steven King. The only thing they have in common is that they both write great horror novels.

I am not saying that Steven King is bad, only that he doesn’t sound like the kind reclusive novelist that Boo is. Of course Boo is also unmarried and doesn’t have children, unlike King. The description that Gutteridge writes of him made me think of a cross between Steven King and Doc Brown from Back to the Future for any of you who are old enough to remember that movie.

As for humor, like all of Gutteridge’s books, the humor is great. I am sure that I missed some of the jokes but I still picked up on a few. Miss Peeple is hilarious even while being quite the villain. Still even she seems to have a good reason to keep Boo writing horror novels. She is the only character who doesn’t seem to change. At the end of the novel though we get a hint to what other schemes she will be cooking up next. I don’t know if I will be following them however.

Scoop

Published January 5, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

scoop coverReview of Scoop by Rene Gutteridge

Overview from www.bn.com:And now back to our regularly scheduled insanity.

Channel 7 news producer Hugo Talley dreams of working with first-class professionals. Instead he’s saddled with a weatherman who can’t admit when he’s wrong, an aging anchorwoman who refuses to release her claw-like grip on the news desk, a conscience-stricken reporter who’s reluctant to focus on sensationalism, and a new assistant–former homeschool student Hayden Hazard–who can’t just seem to leave her faith outside the newsroom.

When the Channel News 7 team inadvertently stumbles on a hot news story, Hugo is frantic to exploit this rare opportunity. But a series of crises–including a Botox disaster and the disappearance of a colleague–threatens to destroy his chance for ratings success and send him completely over the edge.

Meanwhile Hayden’s presence is distracting at least two coworkers. soft-spoken reporter Ray Duffey isn’t sure whether he’s attracted or frightened by her outspoken faith, while ego-driven Sam Leege is certain her naïve spiritual convictions will fall victim to his persuasive attentions.

My Review:

I read a book by this same author last year and loved it. In fact, I remember that I even listed in the top five list of books I had reviewed last year. It was called Listen and it was a great modern-day fable about the power of words in people’s lives.

This book however was nothing like that. I am not saying that it wasn’t good, don’t get me wrong. I liked this one a lot, though maybe not quite as much as Listen. It just had a totally different tone—one that I was not expecting.

Listen, as you might expect, was a much more serious story. Scoop, by comparison, is a comedy. The only thing that both of these stories had in common was that they both had protagonists who worked in the news business.

Scoop is the first novel in a series called The Occupational Hazards and features the Hazard family. This one focuses on Hayden Hazard primarily but begins with the death of the parents of the Hazard clan. Mr. and Mrs. Hazards’ deaths spell the begin of the end for the family business which Hayden’s entire life has revolved around. However Hayden and the rest of her siblings will each inherit enough money to try to reinvent themselves in another field.

After a few years, Hayden ends up at the Channel 7 news station as one of Hugo Talley’s new assistant. Hugo is the executive producer who is at first pleased with her cheerfulness but annoyed by her constant references about the God and the faith that she was raised to believe in.

Hayden doesn’t give up. People at first think that she might be a little judgemental if not annoying but it soon becomes clear that she really cares about people. Her help keeping the station afloat, particularly during “Sweeps Week” proves to be indispensable as well as her kind nature and surprising sense of humor.

As the investigations begin to go deeper, involving even the station’s own anchorwoman, Hayden’s sister Mack (who is also a police officer in Las Vegas now) gets involved too. Together they prove that the Hazards are unstoppable as well as resilient.

The best part about this whole story is the humor. There are several passages that made me laugh out loud and that also helped me to see the real person behind some of the antagonists as well as Hayden and her friends. And really, Hayden does want to be everyone’s friend.

Below is part of a funny example of Mack trying to get some information out of one of the local police officers handling the disappearance of the station’s anchorwoman.

“’At one point, she abjured her written statement, which then cause us to have to retract our avouchment. And you know how embarrassing that can be.’ Wynn nodded a little. ‘So as you can see, the situation is precipitating, but if our theory hold together, you and I are going to have one stupefying story for the media.’

“Media. Now that word he understood.” P.298

I also liked the characters of Roark, Gilda, Hugo, Mack, and Ray as well. They didn’t always show it but they really were trying their best to do the right thing.

I am amazed how well this author does comedy now as well as drama. I am not normally a big fan of contemporary fiction but I really like both of the books I have read by her so far. I hope that I will be able to read the other books in this series before the next year is out.

I hope you agree that it is a good read and a fun way to spend your time.

Contains: no objectionable material that I noted—not even a swear word yet it seemed more realistic to me than last week’s book.