RaveShelf AwarenessThought-provoking and blood-soaked ... There is a multifaceted dimension to these surreal and unsettling plots that manages to evade easy reading or overly simplistic messages ... Bora Chung\'s stories succeed at being deeply visceral experiences that do what the best fairy tales do: convey the unspeakable in a way that is nevertheless collectively understood.
Kim Hye-Jin tr. Jamie Chang
RaveShelf Awareness... a clear-eyed character study of the fraught relations among biological and found families alike ... Kim captures the raw details of cleaning the bodies of dementia patients as well as the immovable \'dark silence\' that \'flows\' between mothers and daughters when communication changes nothing. This unflinching perspective illuminates the extraordinary power of tenderness in such a context. Kim\'s keen attention to character reveals the nuances of her narrator\'s pragmatic brand of compassion. In this way, Concerning My Daughter manages to capture a societal need for both accepting collective complicity and practicing enduring empathy.
PositiveShelf Awareness... a razor-sharp portrait of everyday life in a volatile marriage ... Neve\'s pointed first-person narration is, at times, darkly funny and abrasively caustic. Often defined by a sparse, hard-edged prose style, her voice is startlingly unsentimental as it reassembles the pieces of her previous relationships. This fragmented structure is as fittingly jagged-edged as the novel\'s characters, who cannot seem to avoid hurting each other with their own vulnerabilities and desires. Some of these figures are primarily comedic--Neve\'s marriage-hungry mother and her self-indulgent ex--but others, such as her father and her husband, occupy a more threatening position that bring the tensions of relational power dynamics to the fore. Rather than producing a kind of callousness on Neve\'s part, however, these frequent acts of emotional devastation instead result in a raw nerve that pulses under the surface of her marriage, a sensitivity that keeps readers flinching at every new blow ... By turns discomforting and irreverently comic, Riley\'s novel is always insightful as it grapples with Neve\'s central dilemma.
RaveShelf Awareness... immersive and poignant ... captures a time and place in such textured and atmospheric detail that it is easy to get lost in its world. This novel, however, manages to juggle this cinematic portrayal of a period alongside a startlingly intimate portrait of a woman whose rebellious spirit must be confined to the wild images she hides in her landscape paintings ... Despite being, at its heart, a keenly insightful character study, O\'Farrell\'s novel also succeeds as literary suspense. The book\'s creeping escalation of tension and its labyrinthine castle hallways, which must be traversed slowly in layers of dense fabric, produce a sense of almost gothic horror. Rather than staying within the predictable arc of such a tale, however, O\'Farrell\'s careful plotting, intricate world-building and dedication to capturing what is both beautiful and horrifying about such a world ensures a perspective that, like her heroine, refuses to be confined by traditional narratives or societal expectations ... O\'Farrell continues to be invested in exploring the under-told and often paradoxical existences of those just out of the center frame in history.
PositiveShelf Awareness... a blood-soaked psychological thriller crafted to keep readers up at night ... Gailey\'s patient plotting carefully constructs a complex and twisted family dynamic, both in the past and the present, among Vera, Daphne and Francis. These relationships ultimately form the core of the novel, as Vera balances on a knife\'s edge between pragmatic emotionlessness and a descent into the terror and apprehension her parents wrought. While the shudder-inducing family dynamic--defined by scenes such as Francis giving Vera \'the talk\' while gutting a fish--undergirds the novel, Gailey\'s strong attention to atmospheric details gives it a true gothic horror flare. It\'s the details--from the sticky-sweet taste of lemonade to the slick, inescapable sensation of grease--that will viscerally disturb readers, and are guaranteed to take up residence in their minds and refuse to leave.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe Burning Season, the second novel from Alison Wisdom, is a mesmerizing and eerie portrait of faith, marriage and desire...For as long as Rosemary can remember, she\'s always wanted more, which is the only way she can explain what drives her to keep cheating on Paul, her beloved husband and well-established \'good guy\'...Desperate for his forgiveness, Rosemary agrees to follow him to an ultraconservative Christian sect in Texas where men like Paul and pastor Papa Jake always have the last word...But as fires begin to ravage the area and Rosemary doesn\'t become pregnant with the child Paul so desperately wants, tensions within her marriage, her community and herself escalate fast...While Paul\'s tendency to both charm and unnerve works as an apt metaphor for the appeal of religious fanaticism, it is an even better portrait of the subtle power relations and the pleasure of submission in a marriage.
PositiveShelf Awareness... an intricate look at creative passion, fanaticism and the precarity of living on the brink of change ... uses dreamlike lyricism alongside even-handed description, giving its gradual accumulation of tension a mesmerizing cadence ... With these various perspectives framing Elango\'s dreamlike tale, The Earthspinner is a kaleidoscopic glimpse into the fragile web of connections and ruptures, divine convergences and missed opportunities that make up life\'s unpredictable and breathtaking pattern.
J M Miro
RaveShelf Awareness... wholly original, haunting ... This epic novel takes the Victorian gothic aesthetic of its 1880s London setting and re-invents its lore on a global scale ... The universe of Ordinary Monsters is both complex and atmospheric, fully engrossing in its world-building detail and cinematic execution. Miro\'s novel has no shortage of moody, steampunk-infused, nightmare-inducing locales: rain-drenched, lantern-lit back alleys in Japan; rat-infested, labyrinthine streets in London; ripped and sagging circus tents in foggy San Francisco; a sprawling Scottish estate on a craggy coast choked with islands. The novel\'s globe-trotting characters jump from trains to boats to carriages, giving Miro\'s story not only a great deal of specificity and texture, but also a sense of existing within a fully formed world ... Miro\'s perfect blending of period detail and unique fantasy lore give this spectacle an engrossing, hypnotic quality. Rather than treading well-worn ground, Miro\'s vision of the Talents is inventive and ambitious, covering everything from their abilities to their imaginative origins. In this first installment alone, Miro manages to convey a vast history of these powers and the world parallel to ours from which they came without ever slowing the plot\'s pace ... hile the novel\'s visually and intellectually stunning world and its fast pace will keep readers turning pages, it is the chemistry and tenderness between its characters that gives Ordinary Monsters its lasting appeal. Charlie and Marlowe are joined by a number of compelling orphan characters whose desire to belong and whose love for each other give even the darkest and more gruesome moments of Miro\'s book an unexpected hopefulness.
RaveShelf AwarenessOffers thrills and chills in equal measure ... Hide excels at balancing fast-paced plotting with precise character development, centering Mack while still delving into the lives and emotions of all 14 participants ... White\'s canny vision of a deadly game that pits millennials against each other and the self-indulgent families that oversee the game\'s completion has more on its mind than just delivering shiver-inducing horror spectacles (although it does that, too). White\'s atmospherically raw and psychologically complex portrayal of this sweat-inducing, muscle-clenching game engrosses readers without ever losing sight of the dark truth lurking beneath the surface: when it comes to facing the sins of the past, long-awaited reckonings make no exceptions.
María Gainza, tr. Thomas Bunstead
RaveShelf Awareness... a mesmerizing deep dive into the art world through a neo-noir female detective\'s quest to find a forger in Buenos Aires ... Dreamy and atmospheric, Portrait of an Unknown Lady is a short read, deliberate in its pacing. The unnamed narrator leads readers through a labyrinth of clues about Enriqueta, Lydis and Renée, culling information from paintings, fragmented interviews and auction catalogues. These dizzying but vivid details deliver more entanglement than solution, morphing Renée herself into the absent center that nonetheless knots the plot together. While the novel\'s point is never to \'solve\' any of its core mysteries--as one might expect of a neo-noir--it depicts the shadowy and engrossing, elusive yet captivating aura of the genre, as well as of a painting. Portrait of an Unknown Lady, eschewing structure and neat plot convention for vibrant language and a hypnotic voice, complicates rather than clarifies the stories that are told about enigmatic women
Elena Ferrante, tr. Ann Goldstein
RaveShelf Awareness... thought-provoking and sincere ... Ferrante digs into the politics of gendered writing to consider the particular challenges faced by women who write ... Ferrante also offers fresh and pragmatic analyses of literary greats ... Ferrante is keenly aware in these essays of the challenge of articulating the project of \'writing\' to others. Rather than offering a how-to guide, she describes her process with all the lyrical yet clarifying prose of her fiction ... While each essay in the collection engages its own topic, all four cohere along this thematic through-line, offering critical insight into the question of how one can \'learn to use with freedom the cage we\'re shut up in.\'
RaveShelf Awarness... a raw and irreverent portrait of one young woman\'s experience of the ways in which sexuality and sorrow overlap ... Baxter\'s crisp, clean prose offers a surprisingly tender look at mourning from an unusual angle. Baxter accomplishes the surprising feat of discussing often taboo topics like BDSM with sensitivity, respect and complexity. While Baxter never shies away from the darker and uncomfortable elements of both sex and grief, the novel\'s side characters soften the edges of her story\'s sharper elements. Both of Amelia\'s fathers, in particular, give the story its true heart, despite or because of their oddities and imperfections. And while Amelia\'s burgeoning self-awareness is far from complete by novel\'s end, readers will have a sense of witnessing quiet revelation. Darkly comedic in its first half and unexpectedly vulnerable in its second, New Animal, like its protagonist, presents a coolly casual exterior only to reveal the fragile truths at its core.
RaveShelf Awareness... keen and meditative reflections ... Most compelling is McLarin\'s elaboration on the fundamental importance of Black sisterhood ... McLarin seamlessly traverses the boundaries of literary criticism, personal essay and cultural critique. The book\'s six-part structure--divided into thematic clusters such as \'Men\' and \'Women,\' but which overlap--provides some loose organization but allows McLarin to slip between modes in her analysis and make meaningful connections between the book, her lived experience and the contemporary state of the world. Meanwhile, her narrative voice maintains a conversational intimacy with her readers while never letting them completely off the hook. McLarin challenges her readers to look closer, consider for longer and speak more candidly as she herself does in both lauding Baldwin and elaborating on his blind spots.
RaveShelf Awareness... emotionally nuanced ... From page one, Everything Here Is Under Control is not afraid of talking straight. Looking at the trauma of birth, it enters into a frank conversation with its readers that is thoughtful and heartfelt, humorous and raw. The novel consistently engages with themes of motherhood, yet never forgets about the many forms of love that its characters have. Adrian depicts Amanda, Carrie and Gabe with compassion and precision, making them unfailingly lovable even with their personal imperfections. And while the novel is most interested in exploring the intricate relationships between its characters, it also pays careful attention to the sometimes suffocating, always complex inner workings of rural, small-town America. Warm, generous and outspoken, Adrian\'s fiction is a thought-provoking delight.
RaveShelf Awareness... a darkly fascinating tale of female coming-of-age ... Temple proves herself to be virtuoso of dark, playful prose. Olivia\'s first-person narration teases and unwinds her tale, twisting it through claustrophobic sequences at the camp, memories of her abusive childhood and snippets gleaned from spiritual, scientific and literary sources alike. While Olivia\'s voice controls the novel\'s sense of gravity, the slick but brittle, hard-shelled but tender-bellied girls around her are just as compelling ... Dressed in heavy robes and tinged with blood, Temple\'s novel is ultimately a portrait of young women, vulnerable and powerful, who believe the world has more to offer them.
RaveShelf Awareness... sharp ... A mix of surrealism, science fiction, realism and magical realism, these stories remain grounded in human experience regardless of their genre-blurring tendencies. You Will Never Be Forgotten holds firmly together as an exploration of a modern moment defined by cutting-edge science and technology but nevertheless essentially comprised of human emotion. The writing, like the worlds in which South\'s characters live, is cool, hard-edged and sterile, but full of feeling ... South delivers these poignant, darkly funny tales with a clinical precision that reveals, rather than obscures, her constant reminder that we are all still, despite everything, alive.
RaveShelf Awareness... a terrifically paced page-turner with convincing red herrings and a surprise ending. These feats are not to be understated. But Vidich also succeeds in crafting incisive portraits of characters, who face their own internal and domestic conflicts ... Without ever slowing the pace or detracting from the novel\'s central mystery or action, Vidich still manages to carve out time in his taut narrative to provide snapshots of men trapped in personal cold wars of their own making. This focus on character gives the novel a cinematic quality, updating the spy genre while still tipping its hat to the beloved tropes that fans know and crave.
Linda Boström Knausgård, Trans. by Martin Aitken
PositiveShelf AwarenessSparse, sleek and exacting, Boström Knausgård\'s prose mimics the childlike view at the center of the novel, just as it allows Ellen a mature voice. There is an uncanniness to this perspective. It is both young and old, all-knowing and continuously limited, yearning and terrified ... Ellen provides a haunting and evocative portrait of the process of trauma and the awareness of personal isolationism, even within the structures of faith and family.
RaveShelf Awareness\"Atmospheric and intoxicating, Bitter Orange is a slow-burn mystery/horror novel that cannot soon be forgotten. Hot, sticky and sexy, Frances\'s first-person narration eroticizes even the most mundane interactions with Peter and Cara. Fuller\'s prose shines as she hovers over the palpable small pleasures, detailing the taste of a cigarette, a flash of bare skin. Nevertheless, she keeps sight of the novel\'s larger plot, which occasionally and abruptly erupts from a languid summer haze. While the premise feels familiar, it is this very familiarity that gives the book its sense of the uncanny ... Exquisitely written and carefully paced, Bitter Orange imbues the dis-ease and sickening sweetness of old-fashioned literary horror with a new, modern flare.\
Christine Angot, Trans. by Tess Lewis
RaveShelf AwarenessWritten in emotional, stream-of-consciousness prose, Incest can often feel agitated and erratic, perfectly capturing the shattered inner world of its narrator, who is suggested throughout to be the author herself. As she blurs the lines between reality and fiction, Angot insists upon unsettling her reader, in terms of her meta approach, her taboo material and her polemic style. Together, these elements deliver a devastating exploration into the self-loathing and the disturbing paradoxes of human desire. While her work may trouble readers with its brutal physicality and trembling honesty, the power of these reactions speak most directly to its successes. In refusing to shy away from controversial content, Incest challenges, disgusts and confounds, making it a moving and memorable contribution to contemporary literature.