PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewA cynical reader might find Julie’s selflessness too convenient; I found it inspiring and wanted to know more about her. Instead I learned a lot about Thomas Story Kirkbride, the Quaker psychiatrist who believed that airy, well-lit hospitals could have a curative effect on patients ... Simpson seems to have unlimited time and pages as she follows Walter, Lina and Donnie into adulthood ... Simpson has clearly done her research on the development of the Pacific Palisades and on the gallery scene in Manhattan in the 1980s, among many other topics, and the fruits of her labor add texture to an already hefty story ... Her language is subtle to the point of coyness, with an arm’s-length quality that’s equal parts impressive and maddening.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSparkling ... George paints [an] untenable situation in bold, bright strokes, arming Maddie with a quiet power that almost (but not quite) erases your sympathy for her ... What does it say about me that I enjoyed the sad parts more than the ones that were supposed to be triumphant? This is not to say that everything works out perfectly, thank goodness. But I do think some of George’s dialogue is slightly dopey ... George layers lists, articles, emails, drafts of letters and a Reddit thread alongside Maddie’s many texts and (often hilarious) Google searches. Somehow the patchwork elements cooperate with one another ... George shows the details and scope of life with such confidence and joie de vivre, it’s easy to forget she’s a first-time novelist.
PositiveNew York TimesThere are moments in Jackie & Me when I found myself wondering how Lem could have known what Jack and Jackie said to each other when they were alone in a guest room or the back seat of his car. But it was such a voyeuristic pleasure to be a fly on the wall (or windshield), and Bayard is such an exuberant storyteller, I was happy to set aside my disbelief ... Even if you’re not a Kennedy enthusiast — even if your grandmother didn’t have a framed picture of J.F.K. in her kitchen, as mine did, alongside one of Pope John Paul II — this stylish, sexy, nostalgic story will linger like Jackie’s signature scent of Pall Malls and Chateau Krigler 12. It’s a complicated bouquet of bitter and sweet.
RaveThe New York TimesI have no patience for dead people who hang around in fiction, but I made an exception for Vivian Howe, who gets killed in the opening pages of Hilderbrand’s latest, most philosophical and (I’m declaring it) best novel ... The story is a family saga, a mystery and a moving retrospective that manages to be clever without being coy.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIf you’re a person who harbors notions about the glamour of the writing life, The Plot will jettison them to the deepest, darkest trench of the ocean floor. If you’re a novelist who has endured the humiliation of a reading with no audience, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s latest novel will help you laugh about the empty room. And if you’re a reader who likes stories where a terrible decision snowballs out of control, this book is just what the librarian ordered. Welcome to a spectacular avalanche ... as a longtime fan of Korelitz’s novels, I will say that I think The Plot is her gutsiest, most consequential book yet. It keeps you guessing and wondering, and also keeps you thinking: about ambition, fame and the nature of intellectual property (the analog kind) ... Jake Bonner’s insecurity, vulnerability and fear are familiar to those of us who have faced a blank screen, wondering how or whether we’ll be able to scramble letters into a story. Korelitz takes these creative hindrances and turns them into entertainment. Not only does she make it look easy, she keeps us guessing until the very end.
Romy Hausmann, Trans. by Jamie Bulloch
PositiveThe New York Times... this is a fun story, despite underlying themes of misery and torture ... You may stumble on awkward language; the book is translated by Jamie Bullock from German and includes a few words — like \'twigged\' — that don’t quite fit ... But the overall experience is as enthralling as it is thought-provoking. Hausmann creates a dark solar system studded with twinkling stars ... At the core of Dear Child is the constant hope that characters will be drawn back to people who mean the most to them, no matter how far apart they’ve been pulled. That glint of optimism is the light guiding readers as they fly through this book.
RaveThe New York TimesAsha Lemmie’s sprawling, thought-provoking debut novel, Fifty Words for Rain will give you 50 reasons to cancel the rest of your day ... I inhaled Fifty Words for Rain ... If you are a Flowers in the Attic enthusiast, this story may give you a sense of déjà vu ... Scenes where the siblings are together are among the most moving in this emotionally draining (in a good way) novel, but they still bring with them a sense of foreboding ... [a] riveting, occasionally melodramatic, always entertaining novel.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn 2004, the chef David Chang put himself on the culinary map when he opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in Manhattan’s East Village ... Since then, Chang has expanded his empire to include multiple eateries, a podcast, two Netflix shows — and now a memoir, Eat a Peach ... His tale of finding his way in the restaurant world while struggling with bipolar disorder is the literary equivalent of slurping hot broth at a communal table. Full of humor and honesty, it provides nourishment and a sense of solidarity.
Peace Adzo Medie
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... mesmerizing ... lives up to both the power of its first sentence and the promise of its author’s first name. This is not a book to read with one eye on a beach volleyball tournament; it’s a story to soak up in silence, on a long, cloudy afternoon when you have time to think ... You, the reader, are just along for the ride. At a time when adventure is scarce, Medie gives you a lot to look forward to, think about and be grateful for.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewHow Allie navigates this impossible job, her financial woes and her relationships with her boyfriend and judgmental mother could make for a grim read. Impersonation is anything but. Pitlor’s voice is witty and brisk, bringing warmth and light to questions of identity, independence and, yes, intellectual property. Who owns your stories? How much are they worth? Allie Lang’s answers are complicated. Watching her reach them is like sitting down with a refreshingly honest friend who skips the part about how great her life is and dives right into the real stuff. We need more friends like this. Authors, too.
RaveThe New York Times... stunning ... Like an expert concierge, Gaige maps two journeys for readers—one into the distant past, leading us to difficult answers to Juliet’s questions, and the other following the family’s ambitious sailing expedition aboard a 44-foot boat ... The dysfunction makes for entertaining fiction. In fact, it made me feel smugly perky about the state of my own marriage ... Gaige has been towing you to tragedy with the graceful crawl of a poet and the motorboat intensity of a suspense author. And yet, when you find yourself at the deep end of this book, gasping for breath, you will still be shocked by what you find at the bottom ... I had one cantankerous quibble with Sea Wife: I wished Gaige had used quotation marks around her characters’ dialogue. Without them, it’s easy to lose your bearings—but maybe that’s the point of this book. Gaige tells the story of a family adrift, spun so thoroughly and vigorously out of their comfort zone that they eventually lose sight of the horizon. Finding out how—and whether—they find their way is worth some personal discombobulation, and it makes you appreciate the firm, familiar ground under your feet.
RaveThe New York Times... a small but mighty tale of aspiration and marriage gone wrong ... it reminded me of A Room of One’s Own with a few wicked twists ... eyebrow raising, tantalizing and unforgettable ... a fable infused with an old-fashioned moral: Be careful what you wish for. But don’t get the wrong idea; it’s not all doom and gloom. Cain’s story has its funny moments ... I felt compelled to mull over the questions at the heart of this small but mighty book ... Cain’s tale made me want to grab a highlighter ... not escapist reading, but it is fuel, pushing you to do the thing you love ... Like a patient gym teacher coaching a lazy student, Cain whispered beautiful words into her megaphone, and I listened.
RaveSan Francisco Chronicle... poetic yet prosaic ... Savage follows the opposite arcs of these women with such kindness (that’s the only word for it), even the most difficult moments of the story feel buffered by grace. Savage was a professional caregiver for 10 years before she became a writer. Reading this slim, elegant book, one has the sense that she has carried the most important skills from that job into her new line of work.
J. Ryan Stradal
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... encompasses an astonishing swath of time while feeling like an intimate account of the journey of a single family ... Serendipity may not bubble up in real life as often as it does in Stradal’s world, but who cares? Other readers can nitpick all they want about what’s realistic and what’s not. I willingly suspended disbelief, shotgunning the whole optimistic, meticulously researched story in one satisfying gulp.
Mary Laura Philpott
PositiveThe Washington Post\"These aren’t earth-shattering revelations, but Philpott shares them in a refreshingly straightforward way, like a new friend getting you up to speed on the major tent poles of her life. You have a sense that she’s building up to something big. That’s because she is ... Like her literary forebears, Philpott has an eye for detail ... But her real gift lies in making the connection between the small moments and the big ones, so you feel you’ve walked into a complicated, glittering web by the time you finish I Miss You When I Blink ... delicious ...\
PanThe New York Times Book Review\"... a perplexing novel ... We’re chugging along, enjoying Choi’s tart commentary, until the halfway mark, when she fast-forwards a dozen years and the story goes off the rails ... Unfortunately, Choi’s bait and switch doesn’t feel playful or experimental. It’s not Gone Girl cleverness or the amusing frustration of an unreliable narrator. It’s total confusion. I had this sense of having followed someone blindly through a warren of circuitous sentences, minus the usual mile markers of chapter breaks, and suddenly being abandoned ... In the end, the experience of reading Trust Exercise is reminiscent of the most famous trust exercise of all: the one where you fall backward into your partner’s outstretched arms. You believe your partner will catch you. In this case, she doesn’t.\
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewEliza Kennedy’s second novel, Do This for Me, moves like a skier tearing down the mountain. I appreciated the thrill of the run but would have appreciated a pause here and there to take in the view, especially as Kennedy tackles sexism and infidelity and other black-diamond topics deserving of more contemplation than she allows. Don’t get me wrong—this is a fun book, a lighthearted romp. But it skates around the edges of important issues in a way that made me wish for more emotional honesty and less ba-dum-tss humor ... this book has plenty of funny, surprising, \'You go, girl\' moments, but it’s missing the introspection that would have given it more heft. In the end, I’m sorry to say, Do This for Me just didn’t do it for me.
RaveGlamourTrouble comes when renters arrive for the season, bringing with them art-world intrigue and memories Ruthie would rather push out to sea. If you loved The Affair, you’ll love this book.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewRebeck is an accomplished playwright and veteran television writer, and you have a sense that she’s more at home in Alison’s world than she is in Kyle’s exam room at Pediatrics West. But the imbalance isn’t significant enough to derail I’m Glad About You, and neither is the occasional description that goes a few beats longer than necessary.