Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#54: The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

In a broken, pandemic-ridden near-future New York, a hard-luck young woman volunteers for a cloning experiment, then ends up raising the results in Carola Dibbell's The Only Ones.

Dibbell's debut novel is a knockout chunk of sci-fi, what might happen if Brave New World had been narrated by an uneducated single mother.  And Dibbell's Inez is a vivid character with a unique voice, carrying the first-person narrative through an epic narrative that includes both world-breaking events as well as nuanced family relationships.

I found this to be a very rewarding read and was glad to finish my year of reading women with this novel.  Recommended for fans of both science fiction and literary fiction.

I purchased this at the Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago.  It is published by Ohio-based Two Dollar Radio, whose output I have enjoyed.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#53:The Unfinished Crime by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

An uptight young man, upon learning that a woman he is courting is separated and not divorced, reacts in a surprising fit of violence; then has an increasingly difficult time covering up his actions as well as controlling his new-found desires in Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's The Unfinished Crime.

A classic unreliable narrator in a noir that ratchets tighter and tighter, The Unfinished Crime is a tidy little thriller from an author whose work has been out of print for a long while.

This novel was part of an old-fashioned style mystery double, the other half of which I also read very quickly (and is reviewed below).  I consumed this in two days over Christmas break.

I have enjoyed what I have seen from Stark House Press and will recommend Holding's work to others.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

#52: The Girl Who Had To Die by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

A fatalistic young woman brings a troubled young man to a weekend away visiting an affluent, debauched family with plenty of secrets in Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's The Girl Who Had To Die.

Holding writes with an especially feverish intensity and ratchets the suspense up almost from the first page. Although cloaked in the trappings of a family drama, this is a pretty tough noir featuring an unreliable narrator and an enigmatic ending.

This is my second novel by Holding after Lady Killer earlier this year and I feel she most reminds me of the great Cornell Woolrich, although Holding has, sadly, largely been out of print for a long time.  Stark House Press is trying to change that by bringing a lot of her work back, including this one I bought from them (a double with The Unfinished Crime).

Recommended for fans of classic noir.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#51: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

An unconventional Jedi and a fallen Sith team up to try to end the Clone Wars in Christie Golden's Dark Disciple, a novel spun out of the Clone Wars animated series.

To me, as a person who saw the original Star Wars in theaters, there is something off-putting about the newer trilogy, which ends with evil triumphant at every turn, curiously downbeat storytelling that constantly leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

But Golden does a nice job whipping up a rollicking adventure that includes appearances by popular characters, including Yoda and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett.  Fans of the Clone Wars series will probably find this most rewarding, as I am only somewhat familiar with this storyline.

I listened to this on audiobook, on loan from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond Indiana, and consumed most of it on a long drive back and forth to Chicago.

I was pleasantly surprised that this was more than just a reading of the novel, but a fully-produced audio program that included sound effects and music.  Most importantly, an incredibly good narration by Marc Thompson, doing a lot of spot-on voice impressions, makes it recommended as an audiobook for Star Wars fans.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

#50: I Smile Back by Amy Koppelman

A young wife and mother struggles with her identity, masking her problems with drugs and risky sex, in Amy Koppelman's downbeat portrayal of suburban life I Smile Back.

Koppelman creates a fully-realized central character, and finely-tuned but bleak sketch of the American Dream, for an overall rewarding literary fiction outing.

I became interested in this novel when I learned that it would be made into a film with Sarah Silverman, who to me seems to be a good choice for the self-destructive Laney.  I Smile Back was published by Two Dollar Radio, a small publishing house in nearby Columbus, Ohio, whose output I have enjoyed.

I purchased this novel from Two Dollar Radio and read it quickly, passing it on to other like-minded readers afterwards.

This was a great novel to enjoy in reaching my goal of reading fifty books by women in 2015.  I wanted to seek out new voices and stories told from different perspectives, and Koppelman's work was a good example of that goal.