PositiveNew York Journal of BooksAdvertised as a thriller, but readers expecting high suspense and a predictable storyline will be disappointed. The novel is slow, thoughtful, and does not tie its loose ends into neat bows. The various storylines come together only thematically, and some of the point of view characters never meet. However, as a literary exploration of consciousness and the peculiar traits of humanity as a species, it succeeds wonderfully ... Nayler wisely reaches no neat conclusions at the end of his tale; instead, the reader is given multiple avenues to contemplate how invention inevitably serves both creation and destruction, how the values of a civilization do not necessarily reflect the values of its individuals, and how vast the communication gulf can be between thinking, conscious minds.
RaveNew York Journal of Books... a rollercoaster ride of monster attacks, betrayals, unexpected friendships, surprise revelations, and madcap schemes. El is a delightful combination of irascibility and self-sacrifice, insolence and bravery, someone who says all the wrong things and irritates everyone around her but is ultimately willing to die to save them all. She’s her own worst enemy, sabotaging all her friendships, but to the reader, who sees her true nature and can relate to her flaws, she’s intensely likable. A series about a wizarding school can hardly escape mention of Harry Potter, but Novik’s Scholomance series holds up to the comparison. The world is as creative, the characters as likable, the plot as compulsively readable. The Scholomance series may be darker, and at a fraction of the size, it covers less territory, but fans of Rowling’s books will find much to like here. The plot barrels along at an intense pace, straight into graduation and a shocking cliffhanger of an ending. The last line of the novel will leave readers gasping, desperate for the third book of the trilogy to find out what happens next.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksProject Hail Mary is every bit as entertaining, inspiring, and satisfying as The Martian ... The book tells two stories: Ryland’s present, as he solves the many scientific puzzles required for him to survive and fulfill his mission, and his past, as he slowly remembers the events that led to his presence there in the first place. Both stories are equally entertaining, and the backstory revelations nicely intertwine with the present action ... Weir’s infectious love of science sizzles on every page, saving the day time and time again Apollo-13-style, full of stand-up-and-cheer moments. The concept of the alien life known as Astrophage is brilliantly unique and drives most of the problems and most of the creative solutions of the story ... If Project Hail Mary has any weaknesses, it is the handful of plot elements that stretch belief, but these are so entertaining that it’s hard to consider them false steps ... Nobody writes optimistic science adventure as well as Andy Weir.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksOr What You Will feels like a book that was written more for the author’s benefit than for the reader’s ... The book is interesting the way a travelogue or an essay collection is interesting—the anecdotes about Bruneschelli are particularly compelling—but what it lacks is much in the way of a story ... The resulting story isn’t ultimately about anything, not in the traditional sense of having a plot with characters. It rambles through scenes from Sylvia’s life, descriptions of Shakespearean characters inhabiting Sylvia’s fantasy world, reviews of Italian food, and sketches of life in Florence from various points in history. It’s not that all these diversions aren’t engaging. Walton has a knack for presenting unexpected and very human glimpses of both historical and fictional figures, and her delight with the city of Florence may inspire many to visit. But readers expecting to find characters to root for against an imminent threat may be disappointed.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... delivers everything a sequel should: the same characters, emotion, and appeal as the original, but with enough novelty to extend the world of the story into new places ... Like the first book, although aliens threaten the world, the core of the story is a human one about fame and social media and having a voice on the Internet. Ultimately, the reader is left with intriguing questions about whether humans are able to use power for good.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... confirms Collins as a master of dystopian YA, able to spin engaging tales around deeply flawed characters and societies ... Collins writes with the expectation that readers have read the original trilogy, and thus already know who Coriolanus Snow is and what he will become. The suspense is not so much in what the ending of the story will be, but in how it will play out, pervading the sweet romance with a sense of dread for the inevitable catastrophe ... Collins knows what kind of story she is telling, and tells it well, showing us how a charming young boy in love becomes the villain of the original trilogy
Robert Jackson Bennett
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksThis grisly plot concept gives Shorefall a different feel than Foundryside. The first book, despite Sancia’s horrible past and some powerful villains, maintained a lighter tone, with fun capers and the delightful relationship between Sancia and Clef. Unfortunately, Clef appears hardly at all in this book, and charming wit is in shorter supply than corpses ... This bleak assessment of humanity rings true in our own human history as well as in the history of the novel ... If the first two books are any measure, the third promises to raise thought-provoking issues with likable characters, a creative magic system, and clever action sequences. It will be interesting to see if Bennett continues to emphasize the darkness of human nature or if he will find a path to justice and hope.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksThe most subtle and interesting part of the novel is an occasional third point-of-view character: Gibson Wells, the immensely rich founder and owner of Cloud ... reads as a treatise against the evils of big corporations and rampant capitalism. It raises important questions about our future but offers few solutions. The best alternative to Cloud suggested in the book is, in the words of one character, \'to pull this system down and smash it to pieces.\' Perhaps the best lesson learned from this novel’s dire predictions is to consider how to prevent them from coming true in the first place.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... speaks to the nature of memory and how people change when they don’t remember their past. It explores the poignancy of sacrifices made in a relationship to address past mistakes ... The core draw of the novel is the complicated love of two people through multiple possible lives and across the gulf of missing memories.
Robert Jackson Bennett
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksIn this, Bennett perhaps undermines his own purposes. One clear message of the book is that the \'other\' should not be feared and reduced to a faceless threat. In writing it, however, Bennett does the same to gun owners, depicting them as unthinking warmongers who will destroy our way of life. Few gun aficionados would see themselves in this description ... well written, with strong characterization and a compelling plot, making it as difficult for the reader to turn away from the book’s horror as it is for viewers of the show ... likely to be praised by those who agree with Bennett’s political perspective and reviled by those who don’t.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksCharming and satisfying ... As science fiction, this book brings little that’s new to the time travel genre...What makes this novel a delight is the very relatable tale of a father struggling to know and love his daughter, to protect her from harm while allowing her to make her own choices and fulfill her potential ... The people in the story are all well-drawn and believable, with no real villains. Even when the Temporal Corruption Bureau determines that Kin’s daughter must be killed to protect the future, the decision is represented by his fiancée’s brother, a likable friend compelled to do something horrible because it must be done. The ending is clever and surprising, a twist that neatly ties up all loose ends and provides a happy ending for all involved.
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\"The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders is superbly written social science fiction as well as an intimate portrayal of individuals who are damaged by their societies ... The main disappointment of this brilliant book is the ending, which cuts off abruptly, in mid-action, with little resolution of any of the book\'s major problems or themes. This certainly suggest a sequel is on its way, but the reader is left with an incomplete tale. Despite that, this novel is likely to garner major awards attention for its many-layered and nuanced characterization and themes.\
RaveNew York Journal of Books\"In Astounding... biographer Alec Nevala-Lee draws an exquisite portrait of a flawed and misguided man who seemed not to understand the true power of what he had created ... This account, though carefully researched and impartially presented, is unlikely to inspire hero worship. Yet miraculously, out these broken lives and troubled minds emerged the glory and beauty that is the science fiction genre ... Nevala-Lee does a marvelous job of presenting these authors as they truly were, with all of their genius and all of their flaws. This biography should catch the fascination of any serious science fiction reader, since the balance of human achievement and failure is itself a major focus of the genre.\
RaveDallas News\"Author of two dozen books, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes is a writer of exceptional breadth and skill. His subtitle A Human Story highlights the role of individual invention, but also the broader humanity whose needs and demands those inventors served — often with unintended results ... Energy is a textbook model of factual reporting and the use of telling detail. For example in his description of the Cornish Giant, notice how Rhodes re-creates the scene not only in three physical dimensions, but in a fourth dimension of historical time, where men\'s height and strength are relative.\
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsThis is a book you won't want to put down. Korda is a graceful and personable writer, well-informed, perceptive, always to the point. Step by step, he traces the long chain of blunders, misunderstandings, and entrenched prejudices that led to defeat on the battlefield ... Alone is the compelling story, told in illuminating detail and without the Imax din, of how they got there, and how they got away.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsThe Kelloggs is a serious and in every way commendable book — in its painstaking research, its superb prose and storytelling, and most importantly, its energy and spirit ... Markel, himself an M.D. and a University of Michigan authority on the history of medicine, tells this story in synopsis in his introduction, so well and so completely you might wonder what more the book has to offer. The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek is, by itself, droll comedy, and more than a little sad.
But chapter by chapter, in one finely crafted paragraph after another, Markel holds your interest ... The Kelloggs is a highly satisfying book, a cultural history in the best tradition of William R. Leach's 1994 Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News...[a] lively and very readable reconstruction of one of American history's most consequential debates ... As a veteran newsman, Kinzer is particularly attuned to how national events play out in the public forum. His book is an assembly of contending voices —congressmen, editorial writers, the comic newspaper character Mr. Dooley. Sometimes, a dozen or more voices sound on a single page. The effect is sometimes choral rather than dramatic, but Kinzer maintains his narrative thread with a professional knack for compression and capsule summary ... Kinzer's subtitle, 'Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire' is a bit misleading. Twain passed the early years of the debate in Europe and doesn't enter the story until Chapter 9 of Kinzer's 11 chapters ... Does the Constitution follow the flag? True Flag doesn't answer that question, but it vividly illustrates its endurance in American politics.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsVictoria: The Queen is that rare bird of serious historical biography, a page-turner. Writing with grace and authority, Baird reaches well beyond the conventional image of a reclusive and compliant queen to reveal 'a robust and interventionist ruler,' iron-willed, uncompromising and sexually charged -- a most unvictorian woman ... Such glimpses are humanizing, even endearing. Far from salacious, they create a foundation for understanding the powerful forces that shaped Victoria, both and simultaneously as woman and ruler -- a complex interaction that during her lifetime often defied understanding ... As a writer and historian, Baird has a wonderful gift for compressing complicated personalities and historical events.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsParts of this book make painful reading, such as the descriptions of 1920s cataracts surgery and of Monet smashing and burning his paintings. But King's approach, as in all his books, is good-humored, flavored by what used be called 'the human comedy.' Dealers, statesmen, admirers, resentful villagers and a much-abused family fill out King's portrait of the aging Monet ...King's marvelous storytelling draws us back to these sublime, timeless paintings, so remote from -- and yet, paradoxically, so necessary a part of -- our own unquiet times.
RaveThe Dallas Morning News...[a] smart, richly satisfying novel ... [a] very fine novel for those who don't know the period well -- and for those who do.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsSummerscale has performed a remarkable job of historical reconstruction in this book. She holds her story strictly to the evidence and is particularly crisp in her portrayals of the many subsidiary characters who figure in her book ... The Wicked Boy is a compelling mixture of the gruesome and the perfectly ordinary, a brew uniquely British. But unexpectedly her story goes on, beyond the trial and the verdict, and in a feat of genuine detective work.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsWhat Nagorski gives here is a full history of the postwar hunt and prosecution of Nazi criminals, now completing its seventh decade. Nagorski writes in the best Newsweek style: literate, factual, highly readable. His account is highly objective and balanced, qualities especially important in a story where you would think the lines would be clearly drawn but very often prove not to be. It’s a narrative that will hold you, even if you’ve followed this story over the decades.
Simon Sebag Montefiore
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsSimon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918 poses some initial challenges for the general reader, for whom it’s written. At 784 pages (including appendices, maps and illustrations), and covering 20 monarchs, it’s wonderfully written and fascinating down to the last footnote — but daunting...His style is polished, lively, informed. His gift for the defining detail is indispensable in a book like this one, which brings into play dozens of key figures and their unique story lines.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsCrowley is a master at re-creating battles at sea, and Conquerors is a riveting tale — but maybe not one for the faint of heart.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsMoving easily from ancient histories to modern interpretations, from what can be constructed out of the archaeological record to what can only be guessed and surmised, Beard weaves together a highly informative, highly readable history that spans more than a thousand years.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News“Written for the record, compiled with the novelist’s full cooperation but scrupulously corroborated on every detail, every parallel in David Cornwell’s role as son, husband, lover, author and celebrity tracked to its counterpart in the novels of the pseudonymous John le Carré, it makes any future biography unnecessary.”
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsShapiro brings us closer to the words, the plays, to Shakespeare himself, not distancing us as so many critics and scholars do.
RaveDallas Morning NewsSchiff reminds us why history gets rewritten each new generation. In the same way that the witch trials were a powerful metaphor for the era of the blacklist and the loyalty oath, Schiff’s broader portrait of an entire social structure torn apart from within is uncomfortably contemporary and closer to home. The Witches is compelling reading, a native American horror story that lives just over the horizon of our worst fears.