PositiveNPR\"Kate Quinn\'s The Huntress runs on a bit too long, but once you\'ve read her Author\'s Note and understand that many of her characters are based on real people, real people who include the craven and the heroic, you\'ll understand why Quinn has stuffed her book with plot. You\'ll also see, I hope, that The Huntress reads like the best World War II fiction, stories in which that war means many people had to inhabit gray areas even after it was over ... So a bit long [the novel] may be. It\'s still engrossing, suspenseful, and authentic, a book to give you a new perspective on women, war, and the wheels of justice.\
MixedThe Washington Post\"... [Lipman is] pulling off a clever trick, though it may not be evident until the last page ... The characters in Good Riddance don’t necessarily develop ... It would be easy, and not messy at all, to say this isn’t Lipman’s best novel ... However, when you come to the end of Good Riddance, you might disagree, and you’ll definitely be delighted. Can an entire book function as a shaggy-dog story? My answer is yes, although for me that twist ending wasn’t necessarily worth the trip. What was: Lipman’s portrait of Daphne ... Despite her complaining, Daphne is an intriguing heroine, and if you love Lipman’s work, you may love her, too.\
PositiveThe Washington Post\"It’s a vivid tale, though not always an easy one. Oseland is just old enough to have felt the sexual unshackling that presaged the AIDS decades, and has lived to tell us his truth, which is anything but neurotic.\
PositiveTIMESmyth finds a way to translate how fiction helps us understand that formlessness, and the way in which even the death of a close relative, especially in a sanitized hospital setting, can feel remote and inaccessible ... In writing her own book, Smyth has discovered a way to appreciate the changing leaves, one that works both as memoir and as an aid to those who mourn.
MixedNPR\"... Barton has pulled off the trick of writing a series whose individual volumes still deserve reviews ... But The Suspect, despite its interesting and intricate murder plot, falls short of its predecessors because Barton tries to do too much with too many characters ... The Suspect does not represent a sophomore slump; first, it\'s Barton\'s third book, and second, the slicing and dicing between perspectives (which include Waters, parents of the girls, and two young men) feels like less of a writing issue and more like an editing issue ... Another piece of cardboard: Friends who conform to \'good girl\' and \'bad girl\' stereotypes. The setup for the young women\'s falling out feels like a sitcom device, and while these pairs do exist in real life, their dynamic here feels as forced as the parents\' dialogue ... In The Suspect, the setup and setting are original, but the action is hampered by too much stage business. If you\'ve never read Barton\'s work, start with her first two novels. If you loved those books, join me in waiting for her fourth.\
Matias Faldbakken, trans. by Alice Menzies
PositiveLos Angeles Times\"The Waiter by Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken uses a group of zany eccentrics and their favorite shabby, old-world restaurant to zero in on a contemporary danger. Faldbakken’s novel contains so many oddities, strange characters and bizarre details that it’s easy to read it as a romp through a lost Europe where fine china and artistic graffiti both had their places in upper-class restaurants ... If you follow the author’s clues, you may feel a chill up your spine. You may see the waiter in a different light. Maybe. Just because the clues are there doesn’t mean they’ve been used to best effect. You can read this surprising book several different ways.
RaveThe Washington PostLove crime fiction? Love historical fiction? Have I got a book for you ... will keep you on the edge of your seat and maybe even wondering if you’ve lost your mind. Sexy, fun, serious and unputdownable.
PositiveThe Washington PostAnother writer might have focused simply on this mystery, perfectly sound material as it is. Harvey, however, wants to dig deeper in her version of Life in a Medieval Village: its monotony, in a bored priest’s recounting of confessions; its superstitions, including the Lenten draping of a Christ figure with a shawl to keep him warm; its amusements, such as the not-so-private lovemaking ... By the time we find out how Tom Newman died, we’re less interested in a mystery solved and more intrigued by the fate of a long-gone place, a place that Harvey brings to life from its historical tomb.
PositiveThe Washington Post\"Helen Schulman’s Come With Me delves into the interplay of technology and relationships with edgy, upsetting and tragic results. And yet, the story is also warm, wise and witty ... While Maryam is an interesting character, her portions tend to drag and dominate. More time could be spent on Jack and Lily, for example, whose relationship defines the book in an important way, but who become something of a sad joke, especially once Lily \'attends\' a funeral via Skype ... Come With Me respects the human right to feel more than one thing at one time: Sadness and amusement, love and hate, edginess and safety. It’s the kind of all-encompassing acceptance that makes the book feel both contemporary and classic.\
RaveNPR\"Of course all will be revealed—the difference in the doing, McDermid-style, involves developing location, character, and props in perfect proportion ... McDermid, known as \'The Queen of Crime,\' doesn\'t really need her work reviewed again. Her books consistently satisfy, after all. But the reason critics continue to cover her output is due to the fact that those books consistently challenge: The status quo, the patriarchy, complacency, Western ignorance, you name it ... Pirie understands that life is all about balance. Wonderfully, her creator Val McDermid knows that the best mystery novels are, too.\
RaveTime\"Once again few words go to waste in [Hall\'s] new book, Trinity, a brilliant imagining of how the details omitted from one notorious man’s story might define him more fully than the broad strokes we already know ... Trinity sounds a wake-up call to those who have failed to ease the threat of planetary destruction through a slowness to effect controls on fossil fuels, other environmental dangers and, indeed, nuclear weapons. If they took action, the world would change. Oppenheimer changed course in his own life–and through Hall’s imagined reading of his mind, she shows us that we still can too.\
RaveNPR\"Boyne\'s mastery of perspective, last seen in 2017\'s The Heart\'s Invisible Furies, works beautifully here ... it seems almost impossible to enjoy reading A Ladder to the Sky as much as you definitely will enjoy reading it ... John Boyne\'s ambition in writing a comic novel about a nasty writer — that\'s nothing new. But John Boyne\'s ambition in writing a comic novel about a nasty writer with no scruples who never repents that will make you chuckle morbidly until the last line? That\'s ambition fulfilled.\
PositiveNPRA book combining literary sensibility with genre readability ... when I cracked open Lea Carpenter\'s Red, White, Blue a few weeks ago, I was thrilled ... you\'ll have to slow down a little, at least at first, to take in Carpenter\'s modus operandi ... many of the book\'s brief, taut chapters are narrated by [Anna\'s father] as he attempts to glean information from Anna without alerting her to the fact that there\'s a serious exfiltration in place ... While that is a seriously good setup, I found myself much more captivated by the nameless narrator\'s descriptions of CIA life ... What doesn\'t work as well as the espionage talk is the character development ... However, that may be deliberate. Carpenter is concerned with truth — and not in a simple way ... Some novels are elegant in theory, but bloody in practice, too — Red, White, Blue tries something new in mashing together high concepts and low blows.
RaveTIMEReading Wayétu Moore’s debut novel, She Would Be King...feels a lot like watching a superb athlete’s performance ... Moore makes deft use of magical realism, and her plot and its details are compelling ... Like her remarkable protagonist Gbessa, the author has tapped into her own backstory–and emerged with literary superpowers.
PositiveThe Washington PostThought-provoking and relevant, Sofka Zinovieff’s new novel Putney will provide plenty of book groups with fodder for discussions about female sexuality ... The story is a nuanced portrayal of the relationship between a 30-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl, but it’s less Lolita than an homage to The Constant Nymph ... Putney may not ultimately offer justice, but it does offer closure, which for some victims may be just as cathartic.
MixedNPRWhile all Iraqis will readily agree that their life has always been noir, the majority of the stories in Baghdad Noir are set in the years following the American invasion of 2003,\' ... These stories deal with subjects from militia insurrection to a mental hospital to orders from mujahideen to honor killings; what struck me about them was how firmly each story is cemented in Iraqi culture, but how little a sense of geography they allow. I don\'t think that\'s accidental, although it may be subconscious. In a city torn apart by history, religion, armies, and insurrection, a sense of geography isn\'t easy to give — sometimes, as in The Apartment by Salih, a character has so much trouble just crossing from one side of town to the other that tragedy ensues ... Yes, some of these stories go on too long, or have uneven structures, or leave out details that might make them stronger, but I was captivated by seeing how different they all were.
RaveNPRThe Man Who Came Uptown is the first novel from the acclaimed master of Washington, D.C. noir George Pelecanos that might be deemed literary fiction instead of thriller. Don\'t worry, Pelecanos fans. This book still contains plenty of action ... To see Pelecanos make this turn is wonderful. He\'s always been an incisive and elegant writer. Now he has reached a different level ... These are minor quibbles, really, about a book that is a modern storytelling master\'s paean to the power of books, literature, librarians, and booksellers ... The Man Who Came Uptown will be welcomed by longtime George Pelecanos readers, but it shouldn\'t be missed by those who haven\'t enjoyed his work before, either.
MixedNPR\"Very few of the characters completely gel, either through description or in the reader\'s head. Sometimes being thrown into the middle of things ratchets up the tension — but here, in a novel where the body isn\'t discovered for hundreds of pages, it feels off-kilter ... Even if French skimps on character development and overdoes the lead up, her atmosphere and dialogue will keep you reading, reading, reading ... The last 100 pages of The Witch Elm feel like the heart of the novel, and although that\'s a bit unexpected, well, it might be what French intended.\
PositiveThe Washington PostBarker’s novel... raises the stakes for all historical writing in that it reminds us to do as Abigail Adams urged her husband: \'Remember the ladies\' ... The Silence of the Girls is a novel that allows those who were dismissed as girls—the women trapped in a celebrated historical war—to speak, to be heard, to bear witness. In doing so, Barker has once again written something surprising and eloquent that speaks to our times while describing those long gone.
PositiveLos Angeles Times\"The most delicious moments in Crudo are not necessarily the direct quotes from Acker, which are attributed in the endnotes, but those that reflect a wry wickedness back on them both ... Laing’s novel does not shock. Laing/Acker bemoans her forays into conventionality and also cherishes them ... While critics have noted the current events in the novel, it spends as much time grappling with intimacy ... instead of knocking a writer off the stage, Olivia Laing has employed a subtler move and used Kathy Acker’s powerful voice to amplify her own.\
Laura Van Den Berg
RaveTIMEThe Third Hotel contains all of the ingredients for a classic work of horror. But van den Berg is up to so much more than that ... Things go bump in the night, and so do ideas, with the overall effect that readers will be as unsettled as the protagonist at every turn. Clare tells us on the first page, \'I am experiencing a dislocation of reality,\' an excellent description of grief, but also of modern Havana ... Van den Berg throws Clare again and again into uneasy situations with inexplicable outcomes; this author has no fear of magical realism—and while she’s already been compared to giants of the genre, The Third Hotel owes its eerie power to no one else ... Not every author can make a character both fly through supernatural events and remain grounded in a place the way van den Berg does with Clare.
MixedThe Washington Post\"There will be domestic violence, death on horseback, repressed homosexuality, expressed homosexuality, dreadful poverty, adultery, theft, envy and, above all, enough details about interior decoration to make an Architectural Digest editor scream in ecstasy ... Everyone loves a good soap opera. But watching Goolrick’s real talent and compassion peep through the floorlength drapes of overwriting feels like seeing Dr. Oz behind his curtain ... The theatricality of the truth is more than enough without the added melodrama.\
MixedThe Washington PostThe title, which means \'shore\' in Italian, is what Europeans call open-air swimming pools, and it’s where Rosemary, a Brixton octogenarian, swims nearly every day, in all kinds of weather. She’s committed, both because she’s built a community there and because it reminds her of her late husband, George ... Buried in the author’s sometimes plodding style lies an unusually poignant tale of married love as the novel looks back at Rosemary and George’s union. The couple, childless and working class, are the type of people whose stories are rarely told on this side of the Atlantic; perhaps that’s why some of us watch terrible British movies like \'Finding Your Feet.\' Those stories pay attention to older, wrinkled, quirky people whose wardrobes are as limited as their incomes. How refreshing, especially since there shouldn’t be an age limit on uplift.
PositiveNPR\"Abbott has once again gifted her audience with a remarkably unreliable narrator, in this case a woman whose single-minded focus on professional success blinds her to real danger, and vital truths ... Give Me Your Hand sees heads aflame, more than once. The best part of this slow-burning novel is that just when you think you\'ve seen the explosion, another one happens — and you definitely won\'t guess the last, no matter what foreshadowing exists.\
PositiveThe Chicago Tribune[Giffin] is reaching deeper into the zeitgeist with All We Ever Wanted. [Giffin wirtes] truly excellent dialogue ... There are losses in All We Ever Wanted, but there are also gains, and not the ones you might expect. Giffin\'s novel has style and substance – a worthy addition to your summer reading stack.
PositiveThe Washington PostIf Alexander McCall Smith’s and Maeve Binchy’s novels had a love child, the result would be the work of Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. His new book, Us Against You continues the saga of a small place that readers fell in love with in Beartown (2017) ... If you have no interest in hockey, you might assume you’ll have no interest in this novel. You would be wrong.
PositiveNPROn the morning I read Jim Crace\'s new novel The Melody, I was in our living room when I heard them: bells. Chiming over and over again, from I knew not where. It felt as if the book itself had created an atmosphere around me, as if I\'d entered its world involuntarily — and I wasn\'t surprised ... Crace as author owns wiles far ahead of any reader\'s ... We might be rich or poor, young or old, fast or slow—but we each have a voice. To what end do we use it? The possibilities are haunting, and so is Crace\'s message, around which he has invented an entire world: We are only as meaningful as the help we give to others.
PositiveTime Magazinedeparting from an era in which so-called chick lit so often reinforced gender stereotypes, [When Life Gives You Lululemons] prove more adept at framing individual women as whole and human than [previously] ... There’s just one glaring problem... [Greenwich, Connecticut is] inhabited only by the white and well-to-do... I could spend all day imagining titles for more inclusive sequels, like Is That Too Much to Ask?
PositiveThe Washington PostCohen details big tech precisely, from deskside snacks and drugs (almonds, Ativan) to upstairs vs. downstairs (C-suite, shipping). But the best part of her novel is its global view on gadgetry. When Shelley decides to follow her nose — okay, her ear — from home to halfway around the world, she discovers something that not even her Conch can figure out.
Fuminori Nakamura, Trans. by Kalau Almony
PositiveNPR\"Caveat lector: Some of the explicit sex scenes in Fuminori Nakamura\'s new novel Cult X will disturb you. Whether that\'s because they embarrass you or turn you on or both is very much beside the point ... A doomsday cult called Aum Shinrikyo, led by a man named Shoko Asahara, planned and carried out the fatal attacks — in large part to prevent police investigations into their inner workings. No spoilers here as to what happened afterwards, especially as Nakamura imagines it differently — and that\'s what makes Cult X worth reading ... you\'ll think about Nakamura\'s questions long after you\'ve closed his book\'s covers. He uses the conventions of a genre to prop up a tent for big ideas about groupthink and individual responsibility. If you feel a few frissons along the way? Consider how easily you might be seduced into a cult, and then take a long, cold shower.\
PositiveThe Washington Post[A]nyone will enjoy this comically fast-paced tale about Will Dando, who wakes up one day with 108 wacky and world-shattering predictions.
Jo Nesbø, Trans. by Don Bartlett
PositiveNPRAs the action ratchets up, readers may notice that this Macbeth entertains best when it veers off from Shakespeare's plot. Nesbo does what he does very well: The crazy drug bust that goes sideways proves this (it also makes Macbeth a hero, which later will prove equally crazy). What Nesbo doesn't do very well is discern the point of Shakespeare's tragedy. There's so much action that readers will be hard put to decide what matters most, the corruption of a community, or the rotting of a relationship ... While Nesbo's adaptation sings when he departs from the original script, it also takes him farther from the original's core, a tragedy in which hubris takes down the protagonist ... Which isn't to say there isn't a lot to like. Nesbo fans won't care one bit about the un-Shakespearean aspects of his Macbeth. They'll be rapt watching Macbeth grow more and more venal, like Walter White in Breaking Bad ... In other words, Nesbo has adhered to his contract, delivering a book that plays off of Shakespeare's work but succeeds as his own. Will readers love it or hate it? That depends on why they read it.
MixedNPR\"Unfortunately, the author\'s attempts to fix Lucy as potentially criminal are less successful than her depiction of Lucy immersed in Moroccan culture ... I wondered how the book might read if Lucy were the sole narrator. That wondering is less a sign that it should have been written in that fashion than one I was not wholly engaged in the story. Alice\'s dithering annoyed me ... Classic writers of thick, Gothic suspense like Highsmith and Du Maurier knew how to match psychology and setting. Towards the end of Tangerine I hoped, for a moment, that Mangan would integrate Lucy\'s motives with her surroundings, that character and reader would both become lost in a chaotic bazaar filled with both possibility and purgatory. While that didn\'t happen, who knows what Christine Mangan will write next? Something, I hope, with a strong female protagonist and another fascinating location.\
PositiveThe Washington PostIs Jacobs about to lead readers on a choose-your-own-adventure chase? In a way, yes. This debut mystery is fun but not necessarily light ... Nova Jacobs has penned a novel that is anything but clueless, filled with consideration and compassion for the different levels of human damage and comprehension.
PositiveThe InquirerThis debut mystery is fun but not necessarily light ... If, occasionally, going down the rabbit hole with Hazel seems digressive, that is all right. It staves off some heart-rending sad realities on the surface. Hazel and Alex get closer and closer to understanding Grandfather Isaac’s 'last equation,' and it is a doozy — one that might explain Isaac’s death and many others as well. Nova Jacobs has penned a novel that is anything but clueless, filled with consideration and compassion for the different levels of human damage and comprehension.
RaveLos Angeles Times\"Shobha Rao writes cleanly and eloquently about women who, without their brightness, might have been left to die in their beds. She writes them into life, into existence, into the light of day.\
Hallgrímur Helgason, Trans. by Brian FitzGibbon
RaveThe Washington PostHallgrimur Helgason’s novel Woman at 1,000 Degrees centers on Herra, an 80-year-old Icelandic woman waiting to die in a garage with an old hand grenade and a laptop ... This is, in part, a comic novel in the vein of Helgason’s global bestseller 101 Reykjavik. But Woman at 1,000 Degrees contains a variety of tones as Herra moves back and forth through the decades of her life, with an emphasis on World War II ... The life she leads is tragic, and in the end, readers will understand why Herra clutches her grenade so close ... She is the most unreliable of unreliable narrators, but her perspective might be just what we need in these uncertain times: She survives and shares her story on her terms. And what a story it is, one worth reading to further understand the complexity of World War II — and to enjoy the quick wit of a woman you won’t forget.
PositiveThe Barnes and Noble Review...a deeply funny and deeply affecting look at the twenty-first-century personnel machinations of a Manhattan market research firm’s HR department ... The stories intertwine and then untangle and then merge again with emotion and meaning. The five protagonists each have different information to provide about the others, and while This Could Hurt is not The Alexandria Quartet, Medoff uses their braided revelations to heighten the drama behind each storyline ... A less generous novel might have been willing to sacrifice its characters in pursuit of the bottom line of social satire, but Medoff seems committed to treating her creations as more than human resources.
Edward St. Aubyn
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesIf it all sounds a bit melodramatic, that’s because it is — Shakespeare (whoever he/they might have been) had the advantage of a facility with language the likes of which has not been seen in English literature for centuries. While St. Aubyn is an elegant and at times even superlative prose stylist, his 21st century verbiage cannot live up to his predecessor’s ... Similarly, unlike the finale of Lear, the race to Dunbar’s finish line would make an excellent episode of Dynasty even though St. Aubyn has cut out a great deal of the political conspiring from King Lear; he can’t cut out the chase without sacrificing meaning. Fortunately, St. Aubyn shines at skewering the rich and profligate ... that is where the current author shines his light most beautifully — and also most usefully: on the aftermath of tragedy.
Gerbrand Bakker, Trans. by David Colmer
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneNovelist Gerbrand Bakker's considerable achievement is to take a character and location that might work in a Breughel painting and make them thoroughly relevant and contemporary. But while this prize-winning novel's setting is bucolic, Helmer's actions speak more to universal flaws than to pastoral. He closets his aging, infirm father in an upstairs bedroom; he snubs his flirtatious and generous neighbor; he agonizes over the slightest change of status quo yet dreams of release. Why? All is revealed, slowly, and with a wonderfully quirky, misanthropic deliberation.
PositiveNewsdayAll this is the stuff of many, many novels about young women, and readers will need to be somewhat patient as the author constructs Julia’s narrative voice — one with authority, yet almost no understanding. Julia knows how this story will end but remains a callow adolescent ... The Burning Girl asks us to look hard at what we imagine about others and their lives before we take action or profess friendship. It’s an unflinching examination of how little we can do to save anyone else.
PositiveNPRBetween the eerie landscape — concrete high-rises, smudgy horizons, unknown flora hanging above cobblestoned streets — and the curious people dogging their every move, the suspenseful parts work. What doesn't work, and it pains me to say this as so much of the book is good, is the backstory of Alexandra's brother, Jack...That's not because the writing is awkward in the backstory scenes, but because the book's beating heart is in Bulgaria, and each time we stray back to Alexandra's family in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we lose that focus. Fortunately, there are compensations. In the second part of the novel, several chapters go back to Stoyan Lazarov and his enigmatic sister-in-law Irina Georgievna's life during World War II, and in these, Kostova captures not just the rhythms of Bulgaria's everyday past, but its proud and uneven political history, too ... When Kostova focuses on that beauty, through characters' reminiscences, folktales, poetry, and news, her book transcends its covers and offers readers a glimpse of her own heart.
RaveNPRBarton moves the story along with the same alacrity she used for The Widow, a method that works particularly well for this slightly quieter book ... The Child isn't a book about journalism — any more than The Girl on the Train is a book about alcoholism, or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a book about being an orphan. Like her fellow novelists, Fiona Barton knows showing is better than telling because it allows for the reader's perspective. When the stories from Angela and Emma converge, whether the conclusion occasions a shock or an 'aha!' doesn't matter; it's satisfying due to all the work that's gone into its discovery.
RaveThe Washington PostEnvy the reader of Before the War who has never read anything by Fay Weldon. That reader is about to be changed by Weldon’s trademark voice ... One of Weldon’s great themes returns, too: The difference between plain women (such as Vivvie) and pretty ones (such as Adela), a subject that proceeds into a new generation with just as much vigor as it has through the author’s previous books ... Old and new readers of Fay Weldon should heed her call because this is a feminist continuing to engage with her culture’s shortcomings and having an awful lot of fun along the way.
RaveNPR...disturbing, amazing, masterful ... While Dustin trolls his past for truth and, a more sinister storyline emerges. Chaon fans who have read his previous novels will be pleased to know that, as is his wont, the author waits until the uncanniest moment to loop characters and plots together, providing a frightening finish. Nothing is resolved and not everything is explained, but that matters very little.
RaveThe Washington PostElinor Lipman applies her singular brand of warm zaniness to Faith’s dilemma in On Turpentine Lane. While our heroine struggles to find love, independence and the 411 on those babies, the novel’s fast, funny dialogue keeps things light ... What is a surprise is how much drama attends this simple plan, how much goes on in even the tiniest community, how many twists and turns a seemingly ordinary life can involve. Lipman has taken lessons from our great chroniclers of the quotidian, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Jane Austen. The result, in On Turpentine Lane, provides a light but serious antidote to what ails us all these days.
PositiveThe Washington Post...unfortunately Flagg doesn’t include a genealogy of the whole town. There’s a lot to keep track of when your characters include the living and the dead ... The patriarch is awake but firmly ensconced in his coffin. He isn’t alone there for long, as Katrina joins him in 1916 — and soon the conversation at Still Meadows cemetery starts percolating. Most of it is as cheerful and smooth-edged as the old-fashioned citizens ... Pull your afghan a little closer, and let’s hope this author’s energy doesn’t flag anytime soon.
MixedNPR...a suspense novel with a female protagonist that gets more right about women than so many others I've read in the past few years ... One of my problems with this unusual and affecting novel is that it takes far too long for us to learn about the more serious bullying Chizuru endures ... Luce pulls the story back and makes it about a flip side of death. While that scenario is moving, it never properly connects back to the original death in the book, that of Rio's mother ... However, the novel's ending, in Japan, and with a family that gives new meaning to 'the kindness of strangers,' does connect to Rio's running and to her body in a satisfying way.
Martin Cruz Smith
PositiveNPRThe trick of this book is that everything is predictable, and yet nothing is stale...The Girl from Venice sails on its characters' vitality: Cenzo's decency, Giulia's canny verve, Giorgio's brash ignorance ... The Girl from Venice should appeal broadly to fans of World War II fiction, but it will also serve as a tonic to those who are weary of terribly complex plots requiring flow charts and genealogies. Writers are often exhorted to write the book they want to read, and it seems Martin Cruz Smith has done just that, to everyone's benefit.
RaveThe Washington Post...[a] fantastic debut novel ... The genius of The Mothers is how Bennett uses those feelings in service to a story that could take place in any part of American society ... Bennett takes the common experience of unwanted pregnancy and makes it newly significant through the lens of a tight-knit community still blinking from its emergence into safety and prosperity ... Bennett has written that rare combination: a book that feels alive on the page and rich for later consideration.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...[a] quietly affecting new novel ... The paths to their stories are winding, but Vapnyar’s humor and perspective keep the reader rooting for these strangers in a strange land who, despite their travails, are 'still here,' still Americans, still kicking, screaming and struggling their ways to individuation.
PositiveNPRYou might come to Missing, Presumed for the police procedural; you'll stay for the layered, authentic characters that Steiner brings to life ... the thoughtful, well-paced conclusion that Steiner gives to Missing, Presumed [is] weirdly audacious. The voices of women take center stage, and all of them achieve some kind of peace ... That's what matters to Steiner — character. It's more than enough to make this book matter to readers, even if it occasionally gets bogged down in ticking off boxes.
MixedThe Washington PostUnfortunately, all of the present-day distress overshadows the final reveal. By the time readers discover what really happened on that 'ordinary day,' we’re preoccupied with things going on in the present. What will happen to Erika’s mum? Is Clementine going to win an orchestra seat? Can Tiffany steer her little family in the right direction? Even faster alternating chapters don’t help. Still, Moriarty is a deft storyteller who creates believable, relatable characters.
Ben H. Winters
PositiveNPRWinters reels readers in with details like Victor's tiny tracking implant and letting another character reference a 'Mockingbird mentality' referring to 'that novel' — quiet ways of letting us in on the changed future ... Most readers will happily overlook the cookie-cutter details as they'll be caught up in the alternate nation the author has created, one in which Texas went to war against the Union to fight for abolition, in which Montreal has become a Francophile haven for escaped slaves, in which some states have old-fashioned towns that keep Jim Crow statutes.
PositiveNPRThe end of the book is nostalgic and perhaps a soupçon pat, unless you pay attention to how Furst refers back to the links of his story's chain. There are villains. There are people who use each other. There are obligatory sex scenes and yet, and yet — in the midst of one that's naughtier-than-usual, Mathieu remarks to his lover Joëlle that 'Women are just as wicked as men, even worse, once they feel free.' So much of Furst's strengths, past and future, rest in this statement: The knowledge of human nature, the belief in liberty, and the understanding that women can be men's equals in courage as well as pleasure. Instead of a book where characters mourn bygone pleasures, in A Hero of France they savor the fleeting ones of the present.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneAmend’s novel manages to encompass a woman’s life, the story of a marriage, a tense standoff between Allied and Axis operatives, and a sensitive examination of women’s friendship. Not all of these succeed equally, but Enchanted Islands is still a thought-provoking read ... Her unusual story should get top billing in your seasonal TBR pile.
PositiveThe Washington PostHowever messy this sophomore effort may get in its middle, by the end, when Joan’s secret is revealed, the novel regains its power by suggesting how a mid-20th-century woman’s desires and needs could trap her. Joan, much loved and much criticized by Cece, emerges as a spectacularly tragic figure. The After Party reads like a postmortem of more than just two women’s lives and promises very good things to come from DiSclafani.
MixedNPRIf Hilton is after money, no one can blame her. However, it would be so interesting if the very smart and clearly savvy writer had something else up her designer sleeve. The last line of Maestra is 'To Be Continued.' (That's not a spoiler; everyone knows it's a trilogy!) Might we see more of and a different side to Judith's rage? What if she has an amazing endgame? Hilton has put just enough on the intriguing side of her scales that many readers will keep following Judith's adventures. The real maestra of this novel isn't its main character, but its author.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe way the story jumps around and collapses time can be disconcerting. Mimi is narrating from old age, and just as the eventual flooding of the farmland jumbles everything in its wake, Mimi’s mind floods with scenes and moments in a way that makes sense to her but not always to us. For example, she spends a great deal of time talking about her high school love, Steven, but little time describing another man who will be very important to her. Fortunately, this doesn’t distract from the matriarchal theme at the heart of Miller’s Valley.
RaveNPRFaye hasn't embarked on a retelling of Brontë's masterwork, or anyone else's, for that matter. Her novel pays homage to the greats, yet offers a heroine whose murky past and murderous present remind us that some female behavior in other eras never made it into print.
RaveThe Washington Post[A]s the foolhardy little group in The Relic Master marches toward Chambery and a nearly impossible mission, Buckley hikes up his satiric skirt a tad to show a bit of his tender side. Yes, he demonstrates — hilariously — how abusive religious institutions can be, how bad things can get when church and state are intertwined and how cruelly humans can act at their worst. But he also longs for justice and peace. He especially wants rest for the weary, and readers will cheer when that occurs, but they won’t be weary of reading this lively, entertaining and occasionally educational novel.
PositiveNPRA few critics have noted that Barton tips her hand too soon. While that might be a first-time novelist's mistake, it might also be the deliberate work of a professional observer who knows that the lies we tell ourselves can be more devastating than those we tell others.