Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged fiction


How do I review Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning? Do I caution readers about the fact that it is book five in a five book series? That previous events are not described and characters come into play with little explanation? Or do I discuss how enthralled I was by the story?

The Latte Rebellion

Asha Jamison’s classmates are quick to categorize her. She is called both a “towelhead” and “barely Asian.” Asha and her best friend Carey have a harder time describing their own ethnicities. Asha is part Indian, part Mexican, and part Irish, while Carey is half Chinese and half Caucasian. When they begin describing themselves as lattes—a mix of coffee and milk—they start brainstorming ways to distribute their idea to other multiethnic teens and coffee lovers.

Chasing Alliecat

In this action-packed thriller written for a young adult audience, author Rebecca Fjelland Davis brings multiple themes to the forefront, places them on the table and gets dirty—dirty as in riding mountain bikes in the woods of a small town and scarily getting involved with some unsavory characters in the wilds of northern Minnesota. With a plot interwoven with themes of death, friendship, family, and abuse, this novel provokes your senses and makes it all worthwhile.

The Cosmopolitans

The Cosmopolitans by Nadia Kalman is the story of a family of Russian immigrants reconciling their illusions of America with the reality of life in Stamford, Connecticut. Osip and Stalina are the patriarchs of the Molochnik clan, holding sway over a house of three daughters—Milla, Yana, and Katya—and Pratik, an exchange student from Bangladesh.

The Incident at New Providence

The Incident at New Providence begins with the uncomfortable reunion of two sisters who can fairly accurately be called Country Mouse and City Mouse. At that point, however, any resemblance to a cute children’s story comes to a screeching halt. Olivia Free-Woman has written a story with racism, sexism, sexual abuse, abortion, small town politics, and a lesbian heroine that feels entirely plausible. As with most entertaining fiction, the back story evolves throughout, leaving the reader intrigued without feeling too much in the dark. The action moves the story forward as Terri (City Mouse) discovers things she wishes she hadn’t about some of the people she grew up with, and her big sister Grace struggles to keep her from getting into trouble.

One Hundred Bottles

An intensely vivid and riveting story of abuse, pain, honesty, erotica and discovery-this combination of words may not sound appealing, but the provocative and imaginative novel of these topics woven together creates a graphic fall from the literary world into our laps of reading desire.

The Last Pretence

In the South Indian town of Machilipatnam, Mallika gives birth to twins, Tara and Siva. Emotionally and psychologically damaged when her daughter dies during childbirth, Mallika finds herself unable to love Siva who is a constant reminder of Tara’s death. Pretending that Siva is Tara, both Mallika and Siva embark on a downward spiral of self-destruction that ends in tragedy.

Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry

Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry is a collection of short stories by Christine Sneed, the winner of the Grace Paley Prize in short fiction. The book is one of the most well-written, heartrending, and remarkably real collections I've ever read. Nothing is left to do after reading Sneed's collection except go back to read the same stories over again for their raw, hard, and gritty overwhelming of the senses.

The Vintage Book of American Women Writers

Anyone who has taken their share of English literature survey courses will tell you that the women considered great enough to be included within the literary canon are few to be found, as women writers have been marginalized throughout history. Even today, the title “great American novelist” is one that has yet to be bestowed upon a woman, and many women writers whose work has literary significance find their work disregarded as "chick lit." The Vintage Book of American Women Writers helps to give women their due. The 848-page book traces the history of women writers in America, beginning with Anne Bradford, the first woman to be published in Puritan America, and ending with such contemporary writers as Amy Tan and Jhumpa Lahiri.


Hangman, the nineteenth entry in Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, has a double mystery. Who killed young party-hearty nurse Adrianna Blanc, found hanging at a construction site? And what happened to Theresa McLaughlin, an old acquaintance of Decker, who has disappeared after a tense confrontation with her hit man husband?


Brittany: I’m one of those lit geeks who has long loved Jonathan Franzen. I read How To Be Alone on a solo trip to Japan when I was twenty, and it particularly spoke to me as an introverted writer. The better part of a decade later, I’m still so infatuated with that particular collection—though I’ve also read Franzen’s three previous novels, memoir, numerous pieces in The New Yorker, and his longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich’s Granta essay “Envy” before it was so publicly associated with Franzen—that it was no stretch to know I’d like Freedom. I’ve also read a lot about Franzen’s process as a writer, and frankly, it seems few people have the commitment to churn out the type of work he produces. That doesn’t mean I think it’s above critique; it’s just that I admire his work ethic and generally, the end result.

The Mikvah Queen

In The Mikvah Queen, the mind of Jane Schwartz bursts with a surprising mixture of Talmudic stories, ‘70s popular culture, and the stream of consciousness impulses of a preteen girl. Author Jennifer Natalya Fink gives us the story of a young woman who turns to her cultural and religious heritage for tools to aid her in approaching adolescence and beginning to understand herself in new ways.

Literary Readings: Jonathan Franzen and Lorrie Moore (11/13/2010)

In the deeply downtrodden, recession smashed state that the publishing industry is in, and in a culture in which few people seem to have the attention span to read an entire novel (much less one nearly 600 pages long), it seemed unlikely that America would ever crown yet another Great American Novelist. However, Jonathan Franzen has been given such a title by many media outlets, some of which showed a photo of President Obama carrying Franzen's latest work, Freedom. Franzen’s readings across the country have lead to lines around the block, giving life to a dying industry. But all of the fawning and attention directed at Franzen has lead some writers, like Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, to wonder if writing by men is automatically taken more seriously than writing by women, who are often written off as "chick lit" or left to play second fiddle.

The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti

Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell's collection of short stories, The Company of Heaven, is an unkind narrative of Haiti and Haitians. It is unkind in the way one can be unkind when recalling a sibling’s awkward puberty or seeing for the first time, the humiliation of a parent by a stranger in a public place. She is unkind to her Haitians and yet she remains a family member, intimately invested and loyal. It is difficult to like even one of her characters, however, it is even more difficult to look away from them.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modern Bestiary

I met bestselling author David Sedaris in 2008 at a Barnes and Noble book-signing event for When You Are Engulfed In Flames. While he seemed more than a little uncomfortable with the kind of feigned intimacy such an event requires, he was still charming, professional, and idiosyncratic throughout our brief encounter. He asked me if I liked turtles, as he set about doodling a smiling cartoon turtle on the title page.

With Friends Like These

Sally Koslow’s With Friends Like These is mostly predictable. The main characters—a group of four women who are each others’ best friends—are often caricatures, and there is nothing terribly new or innovative about the story. Still, I didn’t dislike the book (except for the ending, which was terribly trite) and may even read it again.

Running Dark

Running Dark is the second book in Jamie Freveletti’s action-mystery-thriller series featuring chemist and long-distance runner Emma Caldridge. The first book, Running from the Devil, establishes the character of Caldridge as a strong scientist with a flair for quick thinking and physical endurance in the worst of situations.

O Fallen Angel

Mommy, Maggie and Malachi may be the first to give Mrs. Dalloway a real run for her money. In O Fallen Angel Kate Zambreno deconstructs stream of consciousness and successfully reworks it for the twenty-first century. The inner most thoughts of Mommy, a homemaker in Juicy pants with more than a feminine mystique; her adult daughter Maggie, the product of nature and nurture with a penchant for penis and depression; and Malachi, a mysterious prophet of sorts, are interwoven into a story less about the inner workings of a family and more about commenting on everything from therapy to grandparenting.

Sins of the Mother

Will we eventually be accountable for the decisions we made in the past? This is essentially the idea that Murray explores throughout her book Sins of the Mother. Through the use of multiple first-person narratives, Murray follows the actions and reactions of her characters after the young daughter of her protagonist and converted sinner, Jasmine Bush, is kidnapped.

Lily's Odyssey

This book is such an incredibly intimate look inside one woman’s life that I was almost ashamed of myself for reading it. The author’s voice is so true in its halting, neurotic narration that it was difficult to remember that this is a work of fiction. We first meet Lily when one of her abusers dies and the reader is gently led through her mind’s wanderings as she tries to make sense of her role as a victim of incest. From the outside, Lily could be seen as any other woman raised in the Catholic Midwest during the baby boom generation.

Tales of Tokyo

Full disclosure: Alan Rose and I are friends, and over the years I have enjoyed every bit of his writing. His first novel, the plot-driven ghost story The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, may differ in tone and content from Tales of Tokyo, but the underlying themes aren’t so different.


Mockingjay has finally arrived to conclude the breathtaking trilogy that began in 2006 with the conclusively-titled The Hunger Games. And this time, things have changed. In global effect, for better or worse, the main characters are bringing the furious fight to the enemy’s doorstep, in an act of rousing rebellion.

Small Displacements

This tiny, obscure (I am the only person as of this writing to add and review it on Goodreads) volume of short stories by England native and Ohio resident writer Vanessa Furse Jackson ties together eleven tales into a loose theme: sudden changes in someone's life, whether major or minor, and the resulting shift felt afterward. Most of the stories are overtly sad, with others having just undercurrents of a sort of foreshadowed melancholy with abrupt endings.

Her America: “A Jury of Her Peers” and Other Stories

Popular in her own time, Susan Glaspell has somewhat fallen out of favor in contemporary academic circles while other American writers of realist fiction such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Willa Cather have enjoyed more attention.

Buddha's Orphans

I’ve been behind the ball in the sense that I haven’t had a chance to read any works by Samrat Upadhyay. Upadhyay is a Nepalese-American writer, who has already published three full-length works of fiction, including Arresting God in Kathmandu, The Royal Ghosts, and The Guru of Love. His latest novel is called Buddha's Orphans, and since it was just published, I felt it would be the perfect place to address my reading oversight.


Fall is the second novel of Colin McAdam. Set in an exclusive Canadian boarding high school, it is the tale of Noel, who becomes obsessed with Julius and Fall, the most beautiful and most popular couple at school. He sees himself as becoming less of an outcast when he finds out that Julius is his new roommate.


Michelle Huneven’s Blame spans twenty years in fewer than 300 pages but avoids any frantic pacing or strange leaps. Patsy MacLemoore, the main character, is an alcoholic. A young academic, her scholarly accomplishments initially help to balance negative effects of her alcoholism. Huneven’s protagonist has a professorship at a at a small liberal arts college.

'Til Death

In 'Til Death, the third and final installment for bestselling series Secret Society, Miasha takes us on a whirlwind adventure of sex, drugs, fame, and money. 'Til Death picks up where its predecessor Never Enough left off, and now fans can follow Celess and Sienna (better know as Si-Si) as they travel the world trying to avoid police who have accused them of murder and the psychopathic murderer who wants Si-Si dead. This fast-paced story takes you to places such as Rome, Italy; Cape Town, South Africa; and Dubai as our two leading ladies live off of rich men while building up an extremely successful escort agency.

The Second Trial

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a scourge that affects families in every country and at every social class. Between twenty-five and fifty percent of women worldwide will be a victim of IPV at some point in thier lives, and forty to seventy percent of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner. These statistics are shocking, but what is too often left out of the discussion about IPV is the way violence can affect so many lives.

Sacred Hearts

Sarah Dunant's first historical novel, The Birth of Venus, captured my attention right away with one of the best openings I've ever read. I picked up Sacred Hearts hoping for something equally brilliant. While I enjoyed the book, it is not one that will make your heart race; instead, you should immerse yourself in it, let it surround you so you are living with the nuns, at their pace. Enjoy the opportunity to sink into another life and time.