The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom (audio)

Christopher Ransom’s The Birthing House was our latest book club selection, which was supposed to branch myself and Anna of Diary of an Eccentric out into the world of horror, etc.  I started off with an audio book I purchased from the bookstore, but finished up with a borrowed copy of the hardcover from the library.  OK, let’s get to the review.

Conrad Harrison and his wife Jo are having severe marital problems in The Birthing House, and as a way to rebuild his marriage away from the pressures of Los Angeles, Calif., Conrad buys a home in Black Earth, Wisconsin, following the death of his father.  Jo isn’t exactly thrilled with the birthing house or the fact that it was in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but she has little choice after Conrad gives her an ultimatum.

Readers will find moments of suspense and confusion in this novel, which could be traced back to the ability of the writer to properly sequence certain events.  Ransom has a knack for writing internal dialogue that adequately reveals characters’ true emotions and faults.  But in terms of creating a sense of fear in the reader, Ransom’s writing is hit or miss.

“He was starting to doubt that he had actually seen it move when the doll took another step — click — and then another after that one, moving with renewed purpose, as if it had just found what it was looking for.

But that’s crazy, because it has no eyes.

Conrad was splayed crooked on the bed, immobilized as the absurd stick figure doll, no wider than a scarecrow Barbie, came at him in rapid steps — click, click, click, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK! — and raised its pipe cleaner arms to attack.”  (Page 76)

It is clear that as the book moves on that Conrad is losing his mind, but how far has he lost it and how much of the haunting is real, and what is the history of this birthing house?  Ransom waits too long to reveal anything of substance about the birthing house, and readers will grow frustrated as Conrad wanders about, bumbling over the teen next door and her voluptuous, pregnant curves, while his wife is out of town for sales training.  In fact, the absence of Jo and her odd behavior on the phone leaves her character underdeveloped and almost pointless to the story until the final chapters.

“He wanted to touch the ghost, if that’s what it was, maybe even help it.  Her.  He was terrified, repulsed, and drawn to it as he was drawn to the girl and the destruction she would bring down.”  (Page 189)

There are many instances where The Birthing House reads like a bad horror movie in which the characters willingly put themselves in harm’s way and refuse to contact the police or outsiders fail to intervene.  Ransom is a good writer, but this novel falls flat.  The narrator of the audio book was good at differentiating characters’ voices, but the material in the novel made some of the scenes very comical when read out loud.  As a book club selection there is a great deal to talk about, but is it really worth the time spent?

To enter to win a copy of The Birthing House and/or Ravens (click for my review) on audiobook (GLOBAL):

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what horror book you’ve enjoyed.
2.  Facebook, Tweet, blog, or otherwise spread the word and leave a link on this post.

Deadline is March 30, 2010, 11:59 PM EST

This is my 4th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge, and I’m counting this as a horror thriller.

This is my 18th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Almost Home by Pam Jenoff

Almost Home by Pam Jenoff is a novel of international intrigue, significant struggle, and humiliating heartbreak.  Jordan Weiss is a Foreign Service Officer working in Washington, D.C., who receives a letter from her college friend Sarah asking her to return to London as Sarah struggles with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).  Once in London, a place Jordan never expected to see again after her tragic last semester, she takes a job as a investigative diplomat working to uncover financial connections between companies and the Albanian mob.

“Chris pulls out my chair and I sit down awkwardly, conscious of his presence, the way he hovers a second too long behind me as though afraid I will flee.”  (Page 64)

Jenoff really knows how to set the mood.  Almost Home is full of dark imagery, fast-paced chases, and tension as thick as butter.  Readers will be kept guessing as to who is on the wrong side of the equation.  Jordan is likable and draws readers into the story, sweeping readers into her grief over the decades ago loss of her college sweetheart, Jared, and the mystery surrounding his death.  There is tension between Jared and Jordan when they first meet as part of a rowing team, but eventually their mutual love of the river and the team gives way to their own passions.

“Trafalgar Square on a Monday morning is a swarming mass of activity.  Cars and buses move along the roadway in fits and starts, jamming up at the traffic lights, filling the air with thick exhaust.  Swarms of commuters, invisible beneath a sea of black umbrellas, jostle as they make their way from the buses to the city, from Charing Cross Tube station to Whitehall.”  (Page 131)

Tension and suspense are dominant atmospheres in Almost Home, but the novel is more than just a political thriller, it deals with deep grief and healing.  There also are lighter moments between Jordan and Sarah that illustrate a part of Jordan that has been dormant since the tragic loss of Jared.  The dynamic between the two is strong and full of sisterly love, which can transcend any situation.

Jenoff’s experience as a diplomat is clearly present in the novel as Jordan deals with bureaucracy and cloak-and-dagger tactics.  There are some points in the novel where Jordan appears to be out of her element and a novice diplomat, but given the recent debacle in Liberia and the death of a colleague; her flight to London to be with her sick friend; and all that is uncovered about the death of Jared, her mistakes and bad judgment should be expected.  The pressures she feels and the memories that haunt her are too much for any one person to deal with a high-stress position with government.  Jordan is a complex character dealing with new grief, renewed old grief, and a demanding job in a city she once abandoned.  Overall, Almost Home is a fast-paced, highly emotional, well-written novel.

This is my 13th new-to-me author for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 3rd book, a mix of the political and mob thriller , for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Almost Home by Pam Jenoff from the author.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

Tainted by Brooke Morgan

Brooke Morgan’s debut novel, Tainted, is a thrill ride in a small, shoreline town in Massachusetts — Shoreham — as Holly Barrett meets the man of her dreams on a bus.  Jack Dane is dashing, charming, and British — an accent to die for — but there is something below the surface that is not so inviting.

“Tell your heart lies enough times and it will fashion them into the truth.”  (Page 34)

Holly’s had a tough youth from getting pregnant at a young age to losing her parents and struggling as a single parent.  Jack swoops in and casts a spell that she is unwilling to break, despite the objections of her family and friends and only knowing him for about three weeks.  Morgan’s writing is upfront and engaging, though at times chapters shift from the point of view of Holly, her five-year old daughter, her grandfather, and others.

“‘Jesus, Holl.  You’re traveling faster than the speed of love.'”  (Page 106)

Readers will eat up these pages, trying to uncover Jack’s dark secrets, while at the same time wishing they could shake Holly into her right mind.  At times, Holly is very naive about Jack and moves too quickly into a relationship, which can be attributed to her inexperience with men and her self-imposed isolation.  However, there are a number of occasions where Holly sees clear red flags in Jack’s behavior and chooses to ignore them, reminiscent of abused women.  Morgan’s debut novel is a solid thriller with many twists and turns that will have some readers guessing until the very end.

To enter this INTERNATIONAL giveaway for 1 copy of Tainted by Brooke Morgan:

1.  Leave a comment on this review.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway.
3.  Comment on the guest post.

Deadline is Jan. 29, 2010, at 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

Brooke Morgan is a Bostonian who now lives in London with her two children. Tainted is her first novel.

If you are interested in Tainted, you should check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour.

This is my 5th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 2nd book, a romantic thriller, for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.


FTC Disclosure:  Thanks to TLC Book Tours, HarperCollins, and Brooke Morgan for sending me a free copy of Tainted for review.  Clicking on image or title links will lead to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated. 

Ravens by George Dawes Green (audio)

Ravens by George Dawes Green on audio, which I received from a giveaway on Peeking Between the Pages, is action-packed, engaging, and unique.  Readers are first introduced to Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two young gentlemen fed up with the “system” and anxious to leave Ohio for the great unknown and make their mark.  Unfortunately, Shaw has a dark side and Romeo can lose control of his emotions.

The young men are traveling south and end up in Brunswick, Georgia, where they learn the identity of the state lottery winners — the Boatwrights.  Shaw concocts a plan to garner the men at least half if not more of the $318 million prize.

The narrators shift between the Boatwrights, the local police officer, Romeo, and Shaw, with Maggi-Meg Reed’s Southern accent pretty close to the real thing and Robert Petkoff slightly dramatic in his portrayal.  However, each character’s voice was easily discernible, making it easy to follow the shifting narration.  Listeners will be drawn into the plight of the Boatwrights and may even sympathize with Romeo, but Shaw is another story.  The tension is palatable, and readers will be kept guessing as to how the extortion situation will be resolved.

Ravens on audio made the commute fly by, and those that love mysteries and thrillers will find this a satisfactory listen.  My husband and I often became absorbed in the story and had to wait for a chapter to end outside my office building in the mornings before I got out of the car.  He loved the ending the best, though it is graphic, because it resolves the situation in a satisfactory way.

This is my 2nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 1st book in the psychological thriller category for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: I received my free copy of the Ravens audiobook from a fellow blogger.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

2009 and 2010 Challenges

I’m participating all weekend Nov. 27-29, 2009, in the Thankfully Reading Weekend as well.  Check out the details at the Book Blog Social Club.

It’s that time again to start thinking about some reading challenges. Anna and I at War Through the Generations are working on the announcement post for the 2010 Viet Nam Reading Challenge.  I hope that you will all consider our challenge in the new year, since we had such a great time with the WWII Reading Challenge this year.

Ok, here are some of the challenges I’m planning on for 2010:

For the All About the Brontes Challenge, sponsored by Laura’s Reviews, you just need to commit to reading, watching, or listening to between 3 and 6 Bronte items (books, movies, audiobooks, etc.) between January 2010 and June 30, 2010.

I’m going to strive to read/watch 3-5 items, and these are the three I’ve picked, though I could change my mind:

1.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Book/Movie)
2.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Book/Movie)
3.  The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James (Book)
4.  Emily’s Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters by Denise Giardina (Book)

Won’t you join me?!

S. Krishna’s Books is hosting the South Asian Author Challenge, which given the swath of South Asian Books I’ve seen and those I’ve read, I’m going to commit to reading 3 books that qualify between January 2010 and December 2010.

These are the 3 books I’m currently considering for this challenge: (Links are to S. Krishna’s reviews)

1.  The Sari Shop Widow – Shobhan Bantwal
2.  Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
3.  The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

Please check out her list of South Asian Authors’ Books that qualify for the challenge and the breakdown of those authors by genre.  Won’t you join the fun?!

Next up is a challenge that is likely to be tough to finish for me, but I’m going to sign up anyway because I love the genre.  Book Chick City is hosting the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010.  The goal is to read 12 thriller/suspense books between January 2010 and December 2010.

I haven’t preselected any books for this challenge.  I think I’m going to pick these twelve books as I go along.

I hope you’ll consider this great challenge too.

Last, but not least.  I’m jumping on this bandwagon late, but Regular Rumination is hosting the Valparaiso Poetry Review of contemporary Poets and Poetics.  I’m going to dive into the deep end on this one, since I adore poetry.   This means I have to read between 11 and 15 books between May 16, 2009 and May 16, 2010.

I’m hoping that some of the poetry books I’ve read this year count for the challenge, which would be the following:  (Click on the links for my reviews).

1.  How to Read a Poem by Molly Peacock
2.  Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey
3.  Green Bodies by Rosemary Winslow
4.  Apologies to an Apple by Maya Ganesan
5.  Carta Marina by Ann Fisher-Wirth
6.  More of Me Disappears by John Amen
7.  Fair Creatures of an Hour by Lynn Levin

If they don’t, I have my work cut out for me.  I hope you’ll consider adding some poetry to your reading!

Here are the guidelines from Literary Escapism:

1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010.

2. Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels. Anthologies are a great way to try someone new, but only a third of your new authors can be from anthologies.

3. I want this to be an easy challenge, so you can pick to do either 15, 25 or 50 new authors. It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be. If you reach your goal halfway through the year, don’t stop. Any new author you try can be added to Mr. Linky. We all want to know about your new experience.

4. After reading your new author, write your review and then add your link to Mr. Linky. Make sure you include your name and the author.

5. Bloggers or Non-Bloggers alike are welcome

I don’t have a list ready for this challenge yet, but I think it will fill out throughout 2010 with all the challenges I’ve joined. I’m going to start with a small goal of 15 50 new-to-me authors.

What challenges are you joining?

FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on certain book titles will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate Page; No purchase necessary.