Tag Archives: firstreads

Review of Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove

Talking to the DeadI’m making an effort this year to read books that have been on my TBR for more than two years. I downloaded Talking to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove from the Amazon free list on November 15, 2012. So, it qualified for my TBR challenge.

Description from Goodreads:
Twenty-something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep-because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.

Is she losing her mind?

Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past . and Kevin begins to shout.

Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky story about second chances.

Before I get into the review of this book I should fess up to some discomfort. I downloaded this thinking it was Women’s Fiction and it passes as it until about 90% into the book, when the main character had a clear Transcendental experience with the “One True God” and the rest of the book was heavily Christian. Looking at the rest of the book through that religious lens also changed my interpretation of a lot of the previous events.

I say all of this because I’m ok with Women’s Fiction, not so much with Christian fiction. I literally stuck my finger in my throat and made gagging sounds at my Kindle. I would not have read the book if I’d known where it was going. This is not a condemnation of the book, just an informative statement of genre classification. So, the rest of what I have to say should probably be taken with the above in mind.

My primary response to this book was, “I’m apparently not a nice enough person to read this.” Now, acknowledging the religious bent of the book, I can understand that forgiveness is obviously supposed to be important and the book focuses solely on Kate’s experience. BUT, and this is a big BUT for me, none of the characters who do her seriously wrong ever get their comeuppance. Hell, Kate never even says a cutting word toward them let alone does anything that leaves the reader feeling satisfied that the bad guys got what was coming to them. NONE!

Yeah, yeah, ‘all things before god. It’s not her place to pass judgement. She’s a better person for not.’ Bla, bla, bla. They got off too easy and I wanted to at least see them being told what shits they were…preferably in public, with significant and measurable consequences. Didn’t happen.

The book is well written and I didn’t really see any serious editing issues. And I did really like Jack and Maggie reminded me of someone I know and love in real life. I appreciated the representation of how easy it is to get trapped in the mental health system. I’m not even blind to the small kindnesses of the people who did Kate so wrong, giving their characters a bit of grey. (Too bad all those kindnesses were in response to situations they created and threw her unsuspectingly into.) So there is something worth praising here.

I just get stuck because the very things that are supposed to provide emotional satisfaction and closure for the reader (they are there for the right reader), mean nothing to me. Therefore, I’m left in the cold still waiting for a happy ending I’ll never get because what I want to happen wouldn’t be ‘Christian.’

So, if you’re the type of reader who likes to see a woman totally and unfairly destroyed by her corporeal life in order to accept God into her life, this is a must read. I’m not that reader. In fact, I tend to actively avoid such books. It’s a shame I got sideswiped by this one.

Review of Sandra Brown’s Rainwater


I won a signed copy of Sandra Brown‘s novel Rainwater from a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. Between chores of cooking and cleaning for her residents, she cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion. When David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging, he comes recommended by a trusted friend as “a man of impeccable character.” But Ella senses that admitting Mr. Rainwater will bring about unsettling changes.

However, times are hard, and in order to make ends meet, Ella’s house must remain one hundred percent occupied. So Mr. Rainwater moves into her house…and impacts her life in ways Ella could never have foreseen….

Anyone who reads many of my reviews knows that I read a lot more fantasy/Sci-fi than I do literary fiction, but even I need a little variety every now and then. I won this last year and felt guilt about it still sitting on my shelf, so I decided to finally give it a read. I’m glad to have read it now that I have, even if it is one of those Depression era novels where even the happy endings are heart rending and sad. Having said that I did generally like it. Mostly because Mr. Rainwater was every bit the honourable gentleman of my dreams. He was wonderful. It would be awful hard not to like him. I liked Mrs. Barron, Margaret and the Doctor too, but it was Rainwater who stole the show. Guess that’s why the book’s named after him, huh?

This is the first Sandra Brown novel I’ve read and according to the acknowledges is a departure from her normal stories. She can sure write though. The prose of this book is beautiful and evocative. She manages to relate a lot of emotion in relatively few words. Small movements on the part of the characters relay a lot of meaning. Even though I had a fairly good idea of where the plot was going to end up (one way or another) I still hung on every word until I got there. Would be more than happy to read another of Mrs. Brown’s books.

On a totally unrelated point, I read the hardback edition and it is a beautifully put together book. I love the cover image and the addition of the little bit of fancy gold edging around the title and the deckle edging of the pages.