Mostly Fiction BOOK REVIEWS


Contemporary Fiction

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In Hovering Flight

by Joyce Hinnefeld

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A Man of No Moon

by Jenny McPhee

In Paperback
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The Little Giant
of Aberdeen

by Tiffany Baker

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The Sorrows of
an American

by Siri Hustvedt

In Paperback
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by Gerard Woodward

In Paperback
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by Steve Amidon

Recently Published Books in Hardcover:

See what's new in paperbacks...

Dear Husband by Joyce Carol Oates - The family ties that bind (and choke) are the overarching theme of Oates's grim but incisive story collection. (March 2009) author page

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult - (March 2009) author page

The Convict and Other Stories by James Lee Burke -A superb collection of stories set in and around the American Deep South and its charismatic people. (March 2009) author page

Honolulu by Alan Brennert - Richly imagined story of Jin, a young "picture bride" who leaves her native Korea - where girls are so little valued that she is known as Regret - and journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life. (March 2009) author page

The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain -In 1975, twenty-five-year-old Rose MacGregor moves to St. Paul, Minnesota, with nothing but a few books, her cello, and a temporary professorship at a Midwestern college. The only woman in the music department, the other professors refer to her derisively as “the Girl Composer,” but she believes that a brilliant career writing music lies ahead. (February 2009)

Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue - (March 2009) author page

Early's Fall by Jerry Peterson - (February 2009)

The Spare Room by Helen Garner - A powerful, witty, and taut novel about a complex friendship between two women—one dying, the other called to care for her—from an internationally acclaimed and award-winning author. (February 2009)

Dream House by Valerie Laken - A classic money pit scenario offers insights into the fragility of home, family and neighborhood in Pushcart Prize–winner Laken's thoughtful debut. (February 2009)

Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert - In 2000, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Stern Men debuted to phenomenal critical attention. Now, Penguin is publishing a new edition of Gilbert’s wise and charming novel for the millions of readers who devoured Eat, Pray, Love and remain hungry for more. (February 2009) author page

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy - A story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and the new Ireland.(February 2009) author page

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker - A beautiful, startling and wholly original novel, LGOAC is infused with magic, lush language, and surprises on every page. (January 2009)

Security by Stephen Amidon - There isn’t much crime in Stoneleigh, Massachusetts. It’s a college town, a mountain getaway for the quietly rich, where the average burglar alarm is set off by wildlife. So when Edward Inman, owner of Stoneleigh Sentinel Security, gets a late-night alarm from the home of Doyle Cutler, one of his wealthiest clients, Edward thinks nothing of it—until a local student claims that she was sexually assaulted that same night at Cutler’s house. (February 2009) author page

Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips - set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us. (January 2009) author page

Last of the Old Guard by Louis Auchincloss - An intimate look behind the closed doors of a prominent New York law firm. (December 2008) author page

Dream City by Brendan Short - Six-year-old Michael Halligan longs to be a hero. Submerging himself in the world of Big Little Bßooks, he imagines himself as “Mike Steele,” righter of wrongs, friend to Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, and The Lone Ranger. But reality pops him on the jaw when his mother dies unexpectedly in the winter of 1934. Michael is left in the custody of his gangster father, Paddy, where he tragically loses his faith in the power of good over evil. He attempts to track down every Big Little trying to recapture the purity of his childhood. (November 2008) author page

A Mercy by Toni Morrison - Reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter—a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment. (November 2008) author page

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb - A profound and heart-rending work of fiction. Wally Lamb, the author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True proves himself a virtuoso storyteller, assembling a variety of voices and an ensemble of characters rich enough to evoke all of humanity. (November 2008) author page

The School on Heart's Content Road by Carolyn Chute - Chute's first novel in ten years returns to Egypt, Maine and is a rousing, politically charged portrait of a group of lives on the margins of our society. (November 2008)author page

Testimony by Anita Shreve - At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment. (October 2008) author page

Home by Marilynne Robinson - Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel that takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend. (September 2008) author page

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster - Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident in his daughter’s house in Vermont. When sleep refuses to come, he lies in bed and tells himself stories, struggling to push back thoughts about things he would prefer to forget—his wife’s recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus. (August 2008) author page

Stanley and Sophie by Kate Jennings (August 2008) author page

War by Todd Komarnicki - WAR is the story of one man's journey deep into the heart of violence, and even deeper into his own soul. It is an indelible story for our time.
(July 2008)

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh - The year is 1976, and the family, Frank McKotch, an eminent scientist; his pedigreed wife, Paulette; and their three beautiful children has embarked on its annual vacation on Cape Cod. One day on the beach, Frank is struck by an image he cannot forget: his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, strangely infantile in her child-sized bikini, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin Charlotte. At that moment he knows a truth that something is terribly wrong with his only daughter. (July 2008) author page

The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton - Set in Troy, New York, this linked collection follows a quirky and resilient family of women throughout the twentieth century. (July 2008)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - Spellbinding, literary thriller debut that's got everyone excited. (June 2008) author page

The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III - a relentless, raw, searing, passionate, page-turning narrative, a big-hearted and painful novel about sex and parenthood and honor and masculinity. Set in the seamy underside of American life at the moment before the world changed, it juxtaposes lust for domination with hunger for connection, sexual violence with family love. (June 2008) author page

The Other by David Guterson - From the author of the best-selling Snow Falling on Cedars, a dazzling new novel about youth and idealism, adulthood and its compromises, and two powerfully different visions of what it means to live a good life. (June 2008) author page

The Beach House by Jane Green - Known in Nantucket as the crazy woman who lives in the rambling house atop the bluff, Nan doesn’t care what people think. At sixty-five-years old, her husband died twenty years ago, her beauty has faded, and her family has flown. If her neighbors are away, why shouldn’t she skinny dip in their swimming pools and help herself to their flowers? But when she discovers the money she thought would last forever is dwindling and she could lose her beloved house, Nan knows she has to make drastic changes. (June 2008) author page

Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst (June 2008)

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen - The tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever. (May 2008)


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About this Bookshelf:

"As I keep saying, fiction is truth. I think fiction is the truest thing there ever was."
Arundhati Roy

A good novel draws me in...I believe good fiction is defined by the depth of truth that each novel speaks. A good novel draws me in, mesmerizes me, washes over me and through me. I learn something new. Sometimes it is a gentle disclosure. Sometimes a violent reality.  Either way there is certainty in each line, each character's insight becomes my own however briefly. I see the landscape and feel the heartbeats. Each novel becomes part of my own past personal experience.

Out of the all the sections in this web site, this section took the longest to put together initially because it was the hardest for me to define. Nervous about how others (i.e. those more knowledgable than me) define "contemporary" fiction, I initially included only those books that I had already read twice or knew that if I had the time, I would read again. I'm not talking about reading to dissect such as is required in English Literature class. I hate that. I mean read for the pleasure of the experience, to treasure the words, because I want to spend time with the characters and the landscape again.

What I struggle with most, even now, is writing the reviews. You take these pieces of fiction that need every single word to be the book that they are and then try to describe it in a few paragraphs. I feel that I risk omitting the most essential part that interested those of you who have also read the book or worse, accidentally turning a new reader away from a good book. However, if I were simply to say "Read it. Trust me, it's a great book," seemed not only repetitive, but a little unconvincing. And somehow not sharing my terrific reading discoveries doesn't appeal to me either. Sharing seems to be part of something that we avid readers like to do.

As time has gone on and has grown in size, I find myself getting more confident at writing reviews, though I still find it a time consuming process. Fortunately, the website has attracted some very insightful readers who can write well and thus the quality of the reviews seem to improve year after year. And of course, with their help and experience, it has become much easier to find the kind of quality books that we like to recommend.

In a physical bookstore, these books would be found on alphabetically arranged shelves by author. Here at, books are placed by association with each other; it appears random but it's not. Really. I borrowed this style of organization from a video store, which did not alphabetize. This meant that if I saw a video that I had already seen and enjoyed, if I then chose another video near it, I had a good chance that I'd like it too -- or at least find it interesting how a similar subject matter was handled. This system works for readers who are randomly looking for another book. If you need to find a specific author or book title, I suggest you use our index.

Contemporary Fiction is not limited to this bookshelf, nor is a method of determing a quality read. When you are through with this section, go on and look at the books in the Latin American, The Wild West, Beyond Reality, Facing History, Humorous Fiction, Around the World, and even many on the Murder Mystery / Suspense and Detectives & Sleuths bookshelves.

That said, here are our meager words to tell you about some wonderful reading experiences.

Judi Clark, Editor
updated 5-7-06

"The answer is always in the entire story, not a piece of it."
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