RaveBookPageThe real Lady Jane Franklin sponsored a number of expeditions to find her explorer husband, Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin, after he and his men went missing in the Arctic. Though there’s no record of an all-female expedition, that hasn’t stopped Greer Macallister from writing a cracking good story about one in her fourth novel, The Arctic Fury ... Macallister’s book, written in prose as crisp as an Arctic summer, reminds us that women had all kinds of adventures during this period, from heading out into the frontier to holding conventions for women’s rights and writing antislavery books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Arctic Fury is a tribute to one young woman’s leadership and genius for survival.
RaveBookPageAfter reading T. Kingfisher’s novel The Hollow Places, I have one thing to say to Stephen King: Steve-o, you’ve got some stiff competition ... one of the most terrifying books you’ll ever read ... Kingfisher’s superpower is her ability to describe things that cannot possibly be, things that can’t be there but are—things that the human mind can’t wrap itself around. In this, Kingfisher is much like H.P. Lovecraft. She differs from Lovecraft in that she has a rollicking sense of humor and believes in the power of love ... is one of those books that keeps you up at night, either because you can’t put it down or because you’re scared to turn off the lights and go to bed. You’ve been warned.
PositiveBookPageYou might grit your teeth with resentment if Joe weren’t so openhearted—and if Tobar weren’t such a wizard of a writer ... Third-person narration weaves with Joe’s stream of consciousness, so we’re privy to not only his thoughts and observations, which flit from topic to topic like the butterflies he used to catch as a child, but also the thoughts of his mother, his fellow compas and even people he meets briefly. Quirky endnotes conclude each chapter. This structure lends propulsion and unexpected cohesion to a tale that would have been haphazard without it. A work of fiction and sort of true, The Last Great Road Bum is brilliant in its contemplation of a particularly American restlessness, innocence and foolishness.
PositiveBookPageReading Amy Poeppel’s Musical Chairs is as fun as watching a Marx Brothers comedy, especially that scene in A Night at the Opera when everyone is squashed into the stateroom ... Poeppel’s people are a mess, but her writing is crisp and breezy. Where does everyone end up when the music stops? Read and find out.
PositiveBookPageMomplaisir shows how Lucien’s wickedness and perversity allow him to exploit other Haitian immigrants, especially women. In this way, Momplaisir illuminates the darker side of immigrant life, in particular Haitian immigrant life ... Still, Momplaisir makes you feel an ember of sympathy for Lucien, whose sole refrain since childhood has been \'I am nothing\' ... In Momplaisir’s novel, cracks of light are always there to penetrate the dark.
PositiveBookPageMasad’s writing style is easy and straightforward, even if her characters aren’t ... A story of good but difficult characters and the openhearted people who love them, All My Mother’s Lovers is a compassionate and insightful work.
RaveBookPageOnce in a while you come across a novel whose protagonist is so engaging that you find yourself thinking, Oh no! or Don’t do that! interspersed with sighs of relief and some heartfelt rejoicing when things go right for a change. Lily King’s Writers & Lovers is one of those novels ... King is one of those rare writers who can entwine sadness, hilarity and burning fury in the briefest of moments. There’s a lot of this in her restaurant scenes, which are so finely observed that you may wonder if King ever worked in a sad little eatery once upon a time ... Casey’s story, like so many stories in real life, is messy. She’s messy. But King’s book isn’t. It’s a pleasure.
RaveBookPageDundas patiently builds layer upon layer of clues, like pastry and butter in the best croissant ... Writing a thriller that’s engrossing from beginning to end is tough. Some readers might figure out the culprit early on, but figuring out the \'why\' will keep them hooked. Dundas knows how to keep things simmering, and his cracking good mystery kept this reviewer up at night. It just might keep you up at night, too.
PositiveBookPage... hilarious, poignant and bighearted ... McMillan has no trouble creating a crowd-pleaser—even her \'unlikable\' women redeem themselves in the end—but she also promotes radical self-love for her characters, whether it’s through taking care of their bodies, minds and spirits, deciding who to love or deciding, indeed, whether to live at all. This is another winner from McMillan.
PositiveBookPage... poignant ... a fascinating premise ... The inexplicable dreams, the tension between Mia and Harrison, the fortuneteller and Oakley’s breezy writing all encourage the reader to stick with the book, which tells a sad story to a bouncy beat. Full of misdirection and a few gentle red herrings, You Were There Too ends far more satisfyingly than you might expect ... the final meaning is huge, bittersweet and just the thing to happen in a place called Hope Springs.
RaveBookPageThe beauty and power of Irish author Niall Williams’ writing lies in his ability to invest the quotidian with wonder. A truly peerless wordsmith, he even makes descriptions of gleaming white appliances and telephone wire sing. Readers will never forget the scene in which Christy and Noe get drunk in a pub and try to ride home on their bikes, nor Noe’s first kiss in the balcony of a movie house, an experience he endures from the fast-living sister of the girl he has a crush on. The book is hilarious among its many other virtues ... Buy, rent, get your hands on this book somehow and savor every word of it. Its title says it all: Plunging into This Is Happiness is happiness indeed.
Brian Allen Carr
RaveBookPage... hilarious, heartbreaking ... Readers are privileged to be inside Riggle’s head, as this bright, fractious, hurting, lovable boy muses on everything from race and class to drugs and sex ... Carr’s style is delightfully straightforward, and he takes special pleasure in absurdity. The climax of the story is so strange, horrifying and darkly hilarious that you may have to put the book down because you’re laughing so hard ... The story offers no clear answers as to what’s going to happen to Riggle, Peggy and all the other characters. But the reader will wonder for quite some time—and there’s really no higher compliment to give a book.
PositiveBookPageWe see nothing of the dark side of Italy, with right-wing politics or trash rotting in the streets because everyone’s on strike. In other words, the characters are as overprivileged as ever, and Aciman populates his novel with a sensual, almost overripe type of a man who swears he can’t live without Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Scotch. Better yet, Aciman’s people are as foolish as ever, and their foolishness is their point of connection with the reader. It’s tempting to describe Find Me as a pleasant, post-summer diversion, but it’s deeper than that. It will remind you of that one person you loved and lost and maybe found again. True, the book is lush, but it’s also bittersweet and nostalgic and a bit heartachey. Autumnal is probably the best word to describe it.
RaveBookPageSteph Cha’s nerve-scraping novel—with its biblical, plangent title and painfully relevant plot—could be described as triggering, depending on the reader ... What Cha wants the reader to understand through her straightforward prose is that none of what happened between these two families had to happen, and everybody’s house pays.
PositiveBookPageHalfway through Natalie Daniels’ novel of grief, middle-age regret, betrayal and acid—specifically, acidic British wit—something happens that the reader can scarcely believe ... Connie isn’t the only troubled female in this novel ... Indeed, just about all the women and girls in Daniels’ tale have something at least a little wrong with them ... All the while, fathers, sons and husbands are either absent or just sort of stand around and go about their manly business. Is it the patriarchy that’s making these women sick and crazy and leaving their men so disconnected? ... Is this how it must be? Must women’s relationships with each other always end up toxic, tormented, even deadly? Maybe there is healing at the end, but clever, heart-shattering Too Close reminds you of the minefields you have to crawl through to get to it.
RaveBookpage... seems a work born from Willa Cather by way of Upton Sinclair. But this new book is its own animal, and it’s something of a masterpiece ... Marlantes immerses the reader in the life of the Koski siblings, whose worldview is dominated by \'sisu\', a Finnish concept of honor, dignity and inner strength ... Page after page is dedicated to the dangerous and grueling job of harvesting gigantic trees from old-growth forests...The reader will be in awe of such hard labor done in the service of exploitive bosses who pay little. At the same time, Deep River bemoans the ruin of virgin forests, the pollution of pristine rivers, the fact that 100-pound wild salmon are now scarce. The book extols the love of family and friends and the beauty of the landscape even as that landscape is ravaged ... Best of all, Marlantes’ new novel has more than a few moments of fun and laughter. Even combative Aino can laugh at herself. In Deep River, she takes her place beside Ántonia Shimerda as one of the great heroines of literature.
PositiveBookPageKwok is unafraid to fully translate her characters’ flowery Chinese and contractionless Dutch, which gives the book an unexpected Pearl S. Buck-style flavor. There’s even a cache of valuable jewels passed from mother to daughter that everyone thinks everyone else wants to get their hands on ... a book that is busy, compelling and not a little wild. When you think of it, it is very much like Sylvie herself.
RaveBookPage... powerful ... The book’s many characters are introduced in the preface, which calls to mind all those classic Russian novels with sprawling casts...at the same time, Disappearing Earth is utterly contemporary ... Besides the deep humanity of her characters, Phillips’ portrayal of Kamchatka itself is superb. Has there ever been a novel, even by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, set in such a strange, ancient, beautiful place, with its glaciers and volcanoes and endless cold? It’s a place where miracles might happen—where what is lost can once again be found—if you jump over a traditional New Year’s fire in just the right way. Phillips’ stunning novel dares to imagine the possibilities.
PositiveBookPage\"It’s easy for an author to get sucked into familiar tropes when writing about families; like venturing into a blind canyon, writers can stumble into cliches and have difficulty finding their way out. But with her latest novel, There’s a Word for That, Sloane Tanen is evidently undaunted by these common pitfalls, as she presents us with not one but two families with serious issues ... There’s a Word for That is often uproariously funny. Tanen’s skill is that you don’t laugh at the characters. Janine and Marty and Hailey and Henry and even Bunny know how messed up they are. All you, and they, can do is laugh at the straits they find themselves in and soldier on.\
Taylor Jenkins Reid
PositiveBookPageHis integrity and lack of cynicism keep the reader from resenting him the way his bandmates sometimes do. At the same time, Reid is adroit enough to make us understand why his white-knuckled virtue gets on people’s nerves ... [a] humane, delectable, rollicking novel.
PositiveBookpage\"Adam was born in Trinidad and has a razor-sharp understanding of its society ... Adam allows us to share in Joy’s resignation when the water pressure in the tiny house goes out, to know what it feels like to slosh through a monsoon and to imagine food that ranges from traditional rotis, curries and melongene choka to packets of Chee Zees ... Golden Child is one of those uncommon debut novels that makes you eager to see what its author does next.\
PositiveBookPage\"With its focus on the grim-dark aspects of the female experience, The Winter Sister calls to mind works like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects or the film The Tale. This twisty-turny story reminds the reader of the fickle nature of the truth, and that impossible things happen more often than you think.\
PositiveBookPageRobson, bestselling author of Somewhere in France, makes the reader eager to find out Ann’s secret. Ultimately, it’s one of those things you see coming, and yet you hope you’re mistaken ... an inspiring story about strength, resilience and creativity.
PositiveBookPageAnother interesting take on the Wild West ... A rollicking, engrossing book that’ll keep you reading well past your bedtime.
Therese Anne Fowler
PositiveBookPage\"Fowler skillfully depicts both the doomed, cruel, ridiculous society that Alva married into and how she tries, in her plodding yet ruthless way, to navigate it ... absorbing...\
C W Gortner
PositiveBookPageMaria is fairly good-hearted, but forget about her checking her privilege. According to her, the czar and imperial family were ordained to rule by God. There is no scene in the book more heartbreaking or queasily funny than when Cossacks break into Maria’s bedroom in the middle of the night, and she reminds them that she’s the dowager empress—though by then, it hardly matters. The imperial downfall has already begun ... Gortner is wonderfully subtle, but given the times we live in, the problems are obvious: When a tiny percentage of people hold most of the wealth, it leads to demagoguery. The Romanov Empress relates an important piece of history. It’s also a warning about what comes when a nation is marred by rampant inequality.
RaveBookPageTo start a Walter Mosley novel is like sitting down to a feast ... Lucia Napoli-Jones is such a vivid, vibrant presence in John Woman ... she is easily Mosley’s best secondary character since Mouse Alexander ... As usual, Mosley’s superpower lies in his slantwise take on the world and his characters, of whom there are dozens, and every one is memorable, even if they speak only a line or two ... this fantastic, surprising, humane and somewhat perverse book is one of Mosley’s best.
Raymond A. Villareal
RaveBookPageHis tale is a little disturbing, and that’s a good thing. It functions somewhat as an allegory: The vampires are the 1 percent and everyone else is, well, everyone else ... Villareal brilliantly and stealthily examines how Gloamings have abandoned being human. Amoral in ways that normals can’t comprehend, the Gloamings only act to advance their situation.
RaveBookPage...a magnificent, musical debut ... brilliant, groundbreaking ... No other novel is quite like The Ensemble.
RaveBookPageTamirat has created fascinating and tragic characters ... It’s often funny, with barbed, machine-gun dialogue worthy of Aaron Sorkin, but there’s a twist at the end. It happens so suddenly that you’ll miss it if you skip a few lines, but it plunges the tale into darkness. Everything has failed for the narrator: the love of her parents, their hopes for life in America, her friendship with Ayale, Ayale’s own screwy dreams and the island’s utopian vision. Everything has failed, that is, but the narrator. Because she’s the one who’s lived to tell the tale.
PositiveBookPage\"A novel should stir the emotions, and Tangerine, the debut novel from Christine Mangan, does just that. It made this reviewer boiling mad. And that’s a good thing ... Readers will hope that Mangan, like Highsmith, writes a series of books about this villain, if for no other reason than to see whether the lowlife gets his or her comeuppance or slips away one more time.\
PositiveBookPage\"Though Zach’s character could have benefited from being a little older, Navin succeeds in the tricky job of narrating her tale through the eyes of a young child. She views her characters with compassion, even as they are not on their best behavior. How could they be? Only Child shows the painful aftermath of a calamity that’s becoming all too common.\
RaveBookPageHas anyone written the Great Novel of New Orleans? If not, Nathaniel Rich’s sprawling, funny, tragic, generous new work, King Zeno, comes close. It reminded this reviewer of John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy, with its clever melding of real and fictional events, its snippets of newspaper articles and astonishingly memorable characters ... Like the U.S.A. novels, the action in King Zeno takes place around the time of World War I ... Rich not only knows these folks and their loved ones, but he also knows New Orleans. He loves the honky-tonks, cathouses and bayous, the names of its streets and even the fetid mud and miasmic summer heat. He is cognizant of the city’s racial hierarchies... Readers will genuinely worry for Isadore and his friends, ever threatened by this sledgehammer of racism. Because of this, the ending is a nail-biter — with a twist.
RaveBookPageCritics claim that stories about adultery are going out of style. Contemporary adultery is so commonplace and banal that no one’s interested. Does any 21st-century woman stand to lose what poor, dumb Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina did back in the day? With Jamie Quatro’s stunning Fire Sermon, the answer may not be as simple as we suppose ... These questions aren’t the usual ones you see in a contemporary novel, and they make The Fire Sermon gripping.