The AI Seal of Excellence for Outstanding Independent Literature has been awarded to The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire by Sandra Hutchison. Read our brand new five-star review of the book below!
A coming-of-age novel set in America in the late 70s, Sandra Hutchison’s The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire centers on the relationship between David, a physics professor in his 30s, and Molly, the teenage girl who used to babysit his daughter. Molly doesn’t babysit for David anymore because his wife and daughter recently perished in a plane crash. He is too overwhelmed by grief to take care of himself, so his estranged sister hires Molly to keep house for him.
Molly has problems of her own. Her parents are divorced. Her father loves her but now has another wife and children, a family where she has a marginal place. She mostly lives with her mother, a notorious and uninhibited artist who commemorates Molly’s first period by constructing the figure of a girl with tampons and, of course, exhibiting it publicly. Molly’s schoolmates call her Tampon Girl.
The physics professor doesn’t seduce or become obsessed with the teenager, nor does she have a girlish crush on him. While David struggles with grief and survivor’s guilt and Molly negotiates the minefield of adolescence in the 70s, they develop a friendship that’s hard to categorize but easy for people in their small town to misinterpret and condemn.
Sandra Hutchison writes beautifully transparent and unpretentious prose. She creates complex characters and a vivid sense of place. Most of all, she tells a compelling story full of sorrow and humor with a benign detachment that leaves room for readers to draw their own conclusions. In other words, she’s a first-rate writer.
Some readers might be offended by Hutchison’s frank depiction of sexual situations and nonjudgmental treatment of behavior that is usually condemned. They may dislike the somewhat open ending. But if you don’t read fiction to find emotional security and have your beliefs validated, if you’re just looking for an excellent book, I strongly recommend The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire.
Recovering both physically and mentally from a plane crash that took the lives of his wife and daughter, college professor David Asken is a mess. His sister hires 16-year-old Molly from across the street to help out with cooking, cleaning and making sure David takes his meds, eats, pays bills, etc. Due to David’s depressed state of mind and Molly’s somewhat neglectful parents, the two form an unconventional and rather controversial relationship. But the development of their relationship is only one of many thought-provoking topics covered in this novel.
The attraction David and Molly feel for one another is made obvious through their actions and inner dialogue. While I knew it would be wrong for a man in his thirties to hook up with a teenager, the prospect became more acceptable to me as their relationship deepened. Aw hell, I’ll just admit it, by the end I was rooting for a romantic HEA for the two of them. But before you judge me or the author for crafting a story filled with such taboo, read the book to find out why the idea of them being together didn’t disgust me.
Kudos to Hutchison for tackling several delicate subjects with candor, realism and punches of humor. Also, her writing is smart and seamless
David survives a plane crash that killed his wife and daughter. Molly, his next door neighbor and his daughter’s babysitter, is hired by his sister to be his housekeeper. Like most survivors, David is struggling with guilt and is even contemplating suicide. Molly, aside from dealing with the grief over the death of David’s daughter Emily, is dealing with issues of her own – one of them being the daughter of a sexually uninhibited artist. The title of this book would probably make you think this is some sexy explicit romance of sorts – that was my first impression until I read the summary – but it’s really not.
The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire is an interesting book about a teenage girl dealing with issues that come when you’re just starting to cross over from being a child to a young woman, and a young man dealing with the tragic loss of his family. Life throws them into each other’s lives and they develop a strange relationship. The book is essentially about how they deal with their circumstances and how one significantly figures in the healing of the other.
The book is well-written and is actually not too difficult to read. It’s not a light read, by all means, and it may be hard to read for some because of the sensitive topics that it touches on, but it doesn’t go over the top or becomes too graphic. It doesn’t sugar-coat either and sometimes you have to read between the lines. The characters are interesting, are not one-sided, and work well together. The story also flows comfortably – it didn’t feel too slow or rushed. By the way, the title is a line taken from a work by Virginia Woolf and is mentioned in the book. The ending doesn’t exactly give straight-up answers and may even leave you with more questions, but I find that it’s just fitting to the story.
Overall, this book is a good read and I think anybody who likes unique stories and likes to keep an open mind would appreciate this book.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to provide a positive review. All views are my own.
Painfully real, very well crafted, beautifully written. I really liked the hero, which was great. Many times the hero is just a jerk.
Yes, I too rooted for an HEA for the unlikely couple. To be honest I didn’t find see much of a taboo in the relationship.
According to conventional wisdom novels and short stories are completely different species, and never the twain shall meet. In To Do the Deal: A Novel in Stories, Cathy Baker shows us that, in the hands of a master craftsman, conventional wisdom is wrong.
To Do the Deal is the story – actually ten stories – of Kenneth Bodine, a man in search of himself. It starts in 1991, when Ken breaks up with his girlfriend, known only as Watermelon, and meets Jodine, who is about to break up with her boyfriend. After the two successfully break off their unfortunate hookups and end up with each other, what follows is a series of ten stand-alone short stories that take us to the year 2000 – as Ken moves from job to job, eventually ending up in sales, where he shines, despite his absolute lack of people skills.
Each story is a self-contained episode in Ken’s increasingly chaotic life, but each also segues seamlessly into the next. Baker has created the perfect born loser in Ken, the model put upon housewife/mother in Jodi, and a cast of supporting characters that, if you’ve ever experienced the suburbs of Washington, DC, you’ll swear you’ve lived next door to them. The humor in To Do the Deal is understated, tongue-in-cheek, that sneaks up on you, gently grabs your funny bone, and before you know it, has you clutching your sides and blinking back tears. At times you feel sorry for Ken, and at others, you want to give him a solid kick in the rear – all the while, you’re chuckling at the predicaments he manages to get himself into.
There are no surprises in this book, but it is not predictable. It ends in the best possible way, given the state of mind of the main character and the effect he has on everyone with whom he comes into contact. Despite the lack of surprise, it is satisfying because you find yourself saying, ‘but for the grace of God, that’s where I’d be.’ Baker’s use of domestic banter between Ken and Jodi (which, given the last name she acquired at marriage, is what Jodine prefers to be called) is so realistic, you feel like a voyeur reading it. She does a particularly good job in describing the relationship Ken and Jodi have with their children – just ask anyone who has had to raise kids in today’s economy. Between episodes of humor, the author also describes human relationships in a way that is so spot on, you wonder if she wasn’t a psychologist in another life.
If you want a good weekend read, this is a definite ‘must-read.’ One of the best books I’ve read this year.
Jim and Candy are the unlikely criminal masterminds in this bizarre comedic literature novel hybrid thingamabob by MB Pardy. After running over a dog on his way to get fired, Jim discovers that Candy has, somehow, managed to photocopy an Aussie $20 bill, and it’s taken by the change machine at his new job, the car wash. Not one to resist the temptation (after all, he’s in debt $3000 to the dog’s owner, and he owes on the bills at his cheating girlfriend’s apartment), Jim agrees to step it up. They team up with Choco, the government field agent, in an attempt to loot tens of thousands of dollars in coins from the city.
This book rolls cheerfully on through some of the dreariest of literature pit traps: the I’m-pregnant-and-let’s-break-up, the sleeping-in-the-car, the slowly-losing-lust-for-life-and-having-my-ambition-crushed, and the hating-the-everyday-drudgery-that-is-life. Through a strange narrative style, the author paints an oddly jovial picture of being broke, in debt, jobless, and heading towards hopeless in modern day Australia.
Characters are interesting and fully fleshed out. Jim, Choco, Renee, Renee’s mom, Candy, Emma, and even the bit characters like Jock and Sauvage are compelling, real, and quirky.
The book’s charm is mostly in the bizarre, idiosyncratic quirks and ticks every single character, every single scene, and every single object in the book seems to be packed with. Choco’s car has a faulty window. On character logs into his government job as a field agent by reciting a bank account number backwards. Other characters are contestants into a strange reality show. Jim is forced into a pub to have an awkward discussion with someone he thinks may be the cops, because he forgot to put on flip-flops and the concrete’s too hot. There are so many odd little idiosyncrasies, and so many strange happenstance scenes that the book reminded me of Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, without the violence.
Throughout most of this, the book breaks from convention in an interesting way: by showing character emotion extremely minimally. The audience is left to often wonder just what the heck was meant when Jim or Candy said this or that, or how Renee felt when that one scene concluded. This leaves the book full of short, to-the-point sentences, and the reader gets to do some of the work in deducing how to react.
This, combined with the quirky style of events and characters, meant that I was constantly left guessing.
Lastly, this book has quite a lot to say, between the lines, about the situation of the lives, hopes, dreams, and ambitions of young people in Australia, about the operation of bureaucracy in Australian society.
I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, though I’m left to wonder what the book cover has to do with the actual novel itself. Regardless, 5 deserving stars.
This is a good read and a great mix of murder, police investigation and science fiction. It’s the second book about the characters of the space ship Endurance, and in this one it is First Officer Viktor Ivanokoff as the point of view character. I enjoyed the change of narrator as we get to find out more about Viktor and how he came to be on Endurance.
Viktor previously worked in the organised crime division, and when his ex-boss is murdered, Viktor is asked to help with the investigation. There was no love lost between Viktor and his ex-boss, who was one of the people responsible for Viktor serving on the Endurance, but as Viktor’s name is on a list of targets found on the dead man’s body, he has good reason for helping to find the killer. Not to mention the satisfaction of finding the murderer before his ex-colleagues do.
To the reader’s delight, Viktor and his (written-off) Endurance colleagues work out what connects the people on the list before the Organised Crime group. The story is well-paced, mixing action and investigation, fight scenes and a hover car chase. After discovering a message sent to Saturn, there is an ironic turn of fate as Endurance is the only ship ready for the trip.
Towards the end, Viktor discovers a secret that may have far reaching consequences. This links back neatly to elements in the first book and gives the reader a satisfying ending, while looking forward to more.
I received this book free from the author in return for an honest review.
This book sits as easily in humour or adventure with space as the backdrop as it does science fiction. The quirky characters take centre-stage and drive the story, rather than technology and plot.
Thomas Withers has just been promoted to Captain of the space ship Endurance, but he’s not happy. He had ‘…dreamed about this day from childhood. Now he was here, he wished he’d stayed in bed.’ One of the things I enjoyed most is the quietly ironic tone of the writing which remains true throughout the book.
We discover the captain’s promising career has come to a resounding halt after putting the life of a hostage ahead of an operation. This act endears him to the reader and ensures we are on his side as he is assigned to lead a ship of misfits. What he finds is a group of quirky individuals with their own reasons for being on the Endurance
Thomas has plans to improve the discipline of the crew and therefore his own future options, but he doesn’t have time to implement them before one of the chief engineer’s experiments finally works. The result is that Thomas and his crew are the first humans to leave the universe. While trying to reproduce the experiment so they can return home, they discover not one but two alien species.
The writing is crisp, and the character interactions humorous and honest as Thomas discovers that even a group of individuals who have been written off can pull together and create some surprising results.
This book is called Episode 1, and ‘episode’ describes the novella length and shape of the book perfectly. I’m looking forward to reading Episode 2.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
This was a brave choice of title, as I guess we’ve all had to endure tedious books in our time. Thankfully Enduring Endurance is lightyears from tedium. It is a fast, exciting adventure, wrapped up in around 80 pages. It begins with a fairly Star Trekie vision of future Earth with our hero, a discredited lieutenant being promoted to Captain of a space ship full of similarly disgraced crew, for allowing his moral fibre to take precedence over orders, effectively side-lining him for the rest of his career. He begins his new role by taking a strict authoritarian tack (determined to make good of a bad situation) with limited success, as the Endurance begins its tour of the most desolate reaches of the solar system. It isn’t long however, before the ship is sent massively off course and the crew are forced to forget their differences and work together to find a way to return home. As events spiral out of the group’s control, there are alien encounters, not all of them friendly or resolved without a battle.
This was a very enjoyable page-turner and a great start to what I’m sure will be a thrilling series of books. If I were to offer some constructive criticism… it is a short story with a lot going on, so there is a lack of suspense, building tension and peril. It seemed like each situation was resolved a little too quickly and then on to the next. I also feel that this type of book: short, exciting, action packed, and part of a sequence of stories (I believe four have been released so far) would lend itself very well to a cliff-hanger ending, to get the reader scurrying to find the next instalment to find out what happens. A bit cheeky perhaps, but I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. This is not to suggest that the actual ending is unsatisfying.
I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
This is a highly enjoyable, expertly written and thought-provoking work of contemporary fiction that looks at the reality of the post women’s liberation world. Women wanted the freedom to have a career, but the bottom line is that men can’t have the babies, so what women actually got was the burden of juggling two jobs–one to earn money and the other to bring up the children—often without the satisfaction of doing either job well. Karen Bell raises these kinds of issues in a delightfully entertaining read about a very real and easy to relate to woman.
Suze Hall is in danger of loosing her job, thanks to a reshuffle at work. A work mate who hates Suze as much as Suze hates her has been promoted and is now Suze’s boss. The company has been taken over and the stakes and workload raised. Wanda, the boss, gives Suze a task that is so out of her area of expertise that she is clearly meant to fail in order to give a good reason for Wanda to fire her.
At the same time, Suze’s husband, Bob, is leaving her and the three kids for a six-month sabbatical down under, and her best friend, Marcia, is involved with a new boyfriend, so Suze is alone with the kids. As well as this, David, the gorgeous artist who broke her heart at college has coincidentally popped back into her life and has what she desperately needs to keep her job. Suze is forced to confront old demons—her feelings for David—and new ones—negotiating office politics to avoid being sidelined by her career woman boss who is keen to make Suze feel inadequate and unnecessary.
The issues are serious but the writing is light-hearted. The characters are delightful and very real. Suze goes through a kind of midlife crisis where she questions everything about herself and her relationships. The story raises all her insecurities, ones shared by woman of all ages throughout the western world, and her imagination throws up some romance novel options in her renewed relationship with David. They could lead her on a dangerous path but she’s smart enough to keep her cool.
One of my favourite bits is where Suze bemoans the fact that a woman no longer has the luxury of growing old, fat and respected—a kind of reward for her years of childrearing and the maturity and wisdom that comes from it. This would be a mature mother’s status in a matriarchal society and that’s how the story relates to elephants—not size, matriarchal society.
I recommend Walking with Elephants to every woman and I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.
“Lost in Thought” is a psychological thriller, the bastard child of Inception, The Cell, and a little bit of The Matrix.
Luke Trescerrick is in a bad place. His mother is dead, his father, Richard, is emotionally unreachable and his young son, Daniel, is possibly autistic and definitely in need of professional help. When it can’t possibly get worse, he’s evicted from his crappy little Cornish cottage by his father, who then is a victim of a home invasion, left in a coma.
It’s the coma that is the centrepiece of the novel. The coma, and Brainscape – a device invented by his father to enter the (sub)consciousness of others.
Richard kept a key part of the device secret. His business partner is keen to use Brainscape to go in and try and find the key. Medical professionals are interested in seeing if Brainscape can help lift Richard out of the coma and the police, specifically one eager, ambitious Detective Inspector Yvonne Warren, is very interested in the potential investigative powers of the tool.
They enter Richard’s subconscious and embark on a journey of ego, super-ego, id, metaphors and archetypes, all running around in the fantastic world of Richard’s imagination and memories.
After a bit of a slow start (not so slow that I was tempted to stop reading), the pace quickly picks up once the band of not so merry men and women start traversing the brain. Townley does a good job of creating the main characters – Luke, his father, Cate the psychologist and Dubois, the business partner, are real. The worlds are real. At least as real as imaginary worlds can be, and the premise of summoning metaphors and archetypes move around and solve problems while inside the subconscious is genius. And the ticket out, a brilliant idea.
Townley does a great job with this book. Structurally there is nothing wrong and Luke’s evolution is a very well-defined arc. A strong four stars. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.