PositiveNew York Journal of BooksThe Falcon’s Eyes: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine is an expansive historical novel that follows the life of an upper-class woman named Isabelle at the finish of the 12th century in England and France...The events of the 811-page novel take place in three settings: Chateau Ravinour, Fontevraud Abbey (in France), and Queen Elizabeth’s exiled court in England...The story unfolds generously in five parts and 110 chapters. Although it is subtitled \'A NOVEL of Eleanor of Aquitaine,\' there are numerous memorable characters, not the least of which is the notorious queen of the era, as well as noblemen and women, their servants, courtiers, falconers, nuns and messengers...The story glitters with relevant detail at every opportunity, and it’s a reader’s delight to look and see the colors, the fabrics, the textures; to hear the sounds, to smell the fragrance and even the stench of life at the turn of the 12th century...Although the stories within The Falcon’s Eyes are centuries old, the conflicts Isabelle endures and resolves are parallel with any she would have today.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksO’Neill...knits well-observed statements into the colorful patchwork of her quirky, vibrant story. Her prose is riddled with simile; sometimes these delightful images capture the situation, the object, the person described, and sometimes they pull the reader into distraction ... At once off-putting and seductive, the temptation in this kind of narration is to become obsessed with the cleverness of an imagination seemingly influenced by hallucinogenic drugs ... O’Neill highlights the limits of women’s lives as sexual objects and disposable workers, the violent gender imbalances embedded in society, and the excesses of the rich against the despair and suffering of the poor ... When We Lost Our Heads shares the oddball descriptions so characteristic of O’Neill’s voice as a narrator and combines brilliant observations with a simple style that sometimes reads like a children’s book—or a writer trying to sound like she is 13 years old. This is both the novel’s attraction and its weakness ... The historical world of the late 1800s that O’Neill recreates is fascinating and highly entertaining due to this sassy point of view ... Men get sliced down to size by her piercing wit, and O’Neill writes a satisfying herstory interpretation of events. The plot satisfies with twists and turns to the end, but it’s the audaciousness of spirit emboldening most of her female characters that makes this novel shine.
PanNew York Journal of BooksAt first glance, the new novel by Anne Tyler, French Braid, breaks all the rules of exemplary fiction. The opening page is so mundane and forgettable, it would be buzzed offstage in a First Page competition at any writing festival. There’s little action, nothing at stake, and it is filled with recent backstory that includes a lot of names ... the result is a push-me pull-you narrative that never quite finds its forward drive ... Oh, if we could only have heard a specific thought, or even one, complicated, conflicting conundrum we might feel something for these characters ... At the end of the book, there is a sense of time, of decades, of generations having gone by—and this forgettable family simply shrinks back into their faded, predictable photos.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... quirky ... The story is written with simple, familiar description unadorned by literary pretenses or poetic language; it’s as if the well-researched historical details were so numerous and fascinating that the author had to corral them into standard, expository segments in order to get a grip on the entire picture ... yet much of the fascination of this story rests in its context—the many details that recreate a changing America in the mid-fifties ... What is so appealing about this nutball adventure is that the reader is taken on a trip across the United States, small town by small town, during a radical shift from rural America (where in some locales, horses and buggies are still in use) to the modern automobile-determined landscape ... Wilkins opens our hearts as she puts this determination into motion on the back of a horse.
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\'Why struggle to open a door between us when the whole wall is an illusion?\' A favorite poem by Rumi comforts Azar, separated from her husband as she is incarcerated by a cruel and murderous member of the militia in this gripping novel. It is a question of meditation for this character as well as for the reader of A Door Between Us, by Ehsaneh Sadr, and for anyone separated by hard-held political and/or religious beliefs ... Much of the forward movement in the novel takes place as characters explain their actions to other characters, as they try to unravel secrets and their own family history, but the final confrontation of the religious and political forces is riveting in its unpredictability, violence and redemption. It is a celebration of our connectedness, in spite of our best efforts to sort each other into Us and Them.
RaveNew York Journal of Books... a chilling psychological drama as disturbing as it is mysterious ... Megan Collins has created a suspenseful novel that is ultimately haunting—it lingers, asking questions about our experience as human beings in relationship with others, about our expectations of ourselves and each other, responsibilities we take on, and the legacy of our actions.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksBeautiful, emotional, and tearing at your moorings, this is a story for the ages, a meditation on what connects us throughout our evolutionary history. Without sentimentality, Charlotte McConaghy takes the reader on a searing emotional roller coaster right to the edge of the abyss, and then she pushes; we gasp and claw to right ourselves ... Charlote McConaghy yanks us into her novel’s orbit. The recognition is so instant, and rings so true, we begin to feel we may have been shaken from the dream that living on earth used to be ... In spite of the sadness of these losses, we want to read on; the writing is breathtaking and by now, our hearts are held captive by this writer. Fanny leaps into yet another body of freezing water and we jump in with the gorgeous prose that describes it ... Fanny asks important but elusive questions for the ages ... And then, McConaghy pulls us back from the frightening abyss with hope and love that even after the harshness, are powerful enough to salvage something of the beauty in this world we hardly know anymore.
Sue Monk Kidd
RaveNew York Journal of Books...novelist Sue Monk Kidd takes on this high concept challenge and gives it her best. She does her homework many times over in all directions, digging for and finding many details that paint a vivid picture not only of Jesus the man, but the interwoven intricacies of the natural, political and religious world surrounding Jesus prior to his ministry ... he sense of longing that she creates between these two souls as they endure many forced separations bears testament to the novel’s title and makes for an emotional journey ... Anyone who reads this novel will feel the impending doom inherent in this historic tale. So artfully does Kidd involve the reader with the vibrance and passion of Ana, of the hazard she experiences in a man’s world, of her determined persona and her love for Jesus - that by the time she reunites with her beloved after a long absence...there is little to buffer feelings of loss and tragedy and sorrow ... The Book of Longings is well named, well inspired, and well imagined—a superlative effort from a writer at the top of her game.
The Book of Longings is well named, well inspired, and well imagined—a superlative effort from a writer at the top of her game.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksIt’s a fantastic hook for a novel that is described as a \'thriller\' (for want of a precise description), a book that is more a psychological study of people raised with a golden spoon in their mouths ... Together the sisters track down a long-lost favorite yet rebellious aunt who appears in a photo well after she supposedly \'drowned\' on a boating excursion; alongside the sisters, the reader feels the excitement and suspense of finding this aunt years later ... The book is written in an easy style of prose that is both taut and descriptive, the characters sympathetic, the elevated lifestyle so easy for the reader to soak up from this side of the page ... The Majesties, although it rolls out easily, troubles deeply, haunting and even chilling its reader well beyond the final page.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksEmma...wants to stop something awful from happening. What does she want to stop? This and other questions are posed in the first chapter of this novel—questions that provoke curiosity in the reader and lay the groundwork for the unfolding drama in this complex story ... A clever story with a well-written and worked out plot, a window into the world of neuroscience and a meditation on consciousness and identity, Mr. Nobody is well-researched and meticulously plotted. A suspenseful read.
Kate Elizabeth Russell
RaveNew York Journal of Books... gripping from the first page ... That Vanessa is so intelligent and that her teacher is equally so, makes the read thoroughly interesting and entertaining ... Kate Elizabeth Russell writes so deftly that the reader is on the fence way too long, trying to give Strane a chance to be a human being with feet of clay ... The book presents a timely psychological journey that is difficult to reduce; Vanessa’s intimate thoughts and perceptions extend the complexity of this discussion. Through it all, the stain of a confused obsession emerges as the deep and lasting harm like a badly drawn tattoo you can never scrub off, no matter how hard you try.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... a thriller with a social conscience ... With street kids continuing to be discovered in the river, and as Celia seems increasingly vulnerable, the reader wonders why Naomi doesn’t just take the waif into her world and save her from the many dangers and difficult life on the street ... Sympathy for Celia and a curiosity about children trapped in bunkers with psychopaths keeps the heart of this novel beating as does the promise of hope for Celia in her connection with Naomi. A snapshot of the reality of street life and the causes of homelessness are well etched ... a suspenseful climax ... [Denfeld] writes about this subject close to her heart with confidence and detail.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksThe style of this novel is told in an uneven line, so the reader has to pay attention in order to unravel the colorful situations, complex characters, and rich descriptions; its opacity is sometimes reminiscent of poetry ... anything but cliché. These prostitutes are strong, smart, and multi-faceted; their online personas defy the victim role that media repeats whenever referring to the world’s oldest profession ... Adding to the denseness of the novel is the author’s ability to recreate the tone of a conversation through local Brit dialect. It’s so spot-on that this technique adds layers of authenticity and vibrancy to the colorful and believable characters ... ambitious: Innes wanted to create a story that evolves alongside the growing understanding and awareness of its protagonist—even as it brings the reader forward, inviting us to consider our own prejudices, deeply held beliefs, women’s vulnerability, power and choice.
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\"This tell-all format from \'a slightly drunk old guy cornering the listener\' can be predictable, but Griffin has twists up her sleeve in the plot to keep the reader going ... Told with tenderness and empathy for all of us as humans who must face our own demise, or the loss of a loved one to age, When All Is Said is the voice of an old man, looking back a at a life shaped in equal parts by love and revenge.\
RaveNew York Journal of BooksConstance Kopp fearlessly plows through her day as the first female deputy sheriff in New Jersey, following her instincts toward justice and confident that she’s on the right path. The story opens on her dangerous rescue of a prisoner who has tried to escape and ends up in a fast-flowing stormy river and, in handcuffs, practically drowns. When Constance heroically rescues him in a feat of strength, stamina and \'just won’t give up\' swimming, it’s still not enough to win her the accolades she deserves...Instead of awarding her a medal for her bravery, the men in power call her \'demon deputy\' and \'troublesome lady policeman\' in an effort to sway public opinion by scapegoating an uppity woman as a disgrace to the office of the sheriff. Historically, it’s interesting to observe dirty election strategy at the turn-of-the-century, using the general misogyny that was alive and well at the time ... The...author has made a well-researched, rollicking story out of the three of them and Sheriff Heath, so that the reader can experience a flavor of life for women in the early 1900s in New Jersey just before the war.