PositiveBookPageCan a pair of 10-year-old boys actually build a raft by themselves with nothing but a knife and lumber from an abandoned shed? ... a reader may ask while reading Andrew J. Graff’s fine debut novel, Raft of Stars, which begins gently but builds to a thumping climax on a raging river, when all those questions get washed downstream ... The colorful adult characters take supporting roles as the boys, a likable duo, plot their escape by way of the nearby river ... There is rough humor in the interactions between Teddy and Cal, a bumbler with no experience riding a horse who fears the woods surrounding the river ... With bears, waterfalls and more, the novel may be hard to believe at times, but that won’t stop readers from enjoying the boys’ battle with the elements.
PositiveBookPage... an intriguing, compact tale, rife with both real-life implications and spiritual significance ... joins a growing category of fiction about the U.S. and its attitude toward Latinx immigrants, and Engel stands out as an especially gifted storyteller who elevates this saga through the use of Andean folk tales. She also heightens our interest by shifting the novel’s perspective to Talia’s sister in New Jersey more than midway through the book, and her voice adds a new dimension to the tale ... Engel does a marvelous job of rendering these characters as individuals, each with a unique story.
RaveBookPageWith hints of Jami Attenberg’s mishpucha and spiced with Jennifer Weiner’s chutzpah, it is graphic, tender and poetic. Melissa Broder’s approach is perfectly sautéed lesbianism, a rom-com that turns serious ... For those who enjoyed Broder’s The Pisces, much of Milk Fed will be welcome in its familiarity. But this is an even better book that’s enhanced by its Jewishness, its ripeness, its dreams.
MixedBookPageAs multiple characters search for the truth, the most compelling point of view is Kennedy’s retrospective account from prison. Kennedy’s voice comes across as detached, the omniscient perspective of someone who’s had a lot of time to think over the details. In order to understand what led to Haley’s death, Kennedy considers all the little threats that lived under the surface of her family\'s and friends’ daily lives that could have grown into something more sinister. This detached voice bleeds into the rest of the narrative, making the slow build toward truth feel impersonal. Haley’s memory haunts those who miss her most, but this metaphor takes on a more literal, paranormal form toward the end. The most effective revelation is more subtle—that everyone is more than who they are on the surface, and nothing is ever exactly as it seems ... Read this not for the whodunit but for a gripping character study of an accused girl making sense of her reality.
MixedBookPageIn The Cold Millions, Walter tries another mixed genre, the Western historical novel, and shows he is a master at investigating the \'hobo\' world of 1909 ... The book is uneven, however, and falls short of the romanticism of Beautiful Ruins ... Walter has devised some fantastic set pieces ... all enlivened by Walter’s vivid writing. A reader can feel the rails rattling under the trains that thunder through the mountains. A new life, the 20th century, is roaring into being ... Forget the book’s shortcomings; it’s good to have Jess Walter back.
L. Annette Binder
MixedBookPageL. Annette Binder’s sad, intimate first novel, The Vanishing Sky, conveys a sense of Germany at the tail end of World War II, as seen primarily through the experiences of one family from Heidenfeld, near the city of Würzburg ... Josef, a stick figure who never really comes alive in the book...is almost a caricature of the German sensibility: rigid and unfeeling ... Binder creates a believable, lost world with Etta and Georg. The ending is inevitable, and we are left with an overriding—and poignant—sense of loss.
PositiveBookPage... scrupulously captures both the minute and panoramic elements of the early Cold War ... In Rosalind, Fields has created an anxious yet gutsy heroine who carries her Shakespearian name with aplomb...Inspired by such female scientists as physicist Leona Woods and the author’s own mother, Atomic Love is as much about undercover work as it is about women’s passions.
Kelli Jo Ford
PositiveBookPageKelli Jo Ford’s first book, composed of interlocking stories set in Oklahoma and North Texas, is like a wildfire that slowly approaches a home and then whips through an entire region ... Several powerful pieces stand out in this novel-in-stories ... Crooked Hallelujah is an imperfect work. Some tales, such as that of a lesbian couple menaced in their trailer home, seem out of place, and readers may find the timeline difficult to follow. But Ford’s voice rises above the tumult.
PositiveBookPageThe Anthill is riskier and more ambitious than [Pachico\'s previous novel], but every bit as absorbing ... From the opening page, a sense of foreboding troubles Lina ... The answers unfold in due time, the tension steadily rising like the cable cars that whoosh uphill to connect downtown Medellín with poorer, higher neighborhoods. Medellín is itself a vivid character in the book, a metropolitan tourist destination of swinging nightclubs and placid poverty ... Vivid and at times surreal, this assured novel cements Pachico’s reputation as a gifted writer to watch.
MixedBookPageLee Matalone’s promising, poetic first novel traces the story of Cybil—a Japanese orphan of World War II, adopted by an American family ... Home Making is short on action, long on furniture and color schemes, and Matalone misses the opportunity to delve into Chloe’s mixed ancestry. When the house is complete, it is time for Chloe to move on. It will be interesting to see where Matalone herself moves from here.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksWhile designed as a thriller, it works better as an insider’s take on the effect of big money on polarized elections ... begins with a barely believable premise ... The leading candidates are flawed. Upton, on the other hand, has a resumé so impressive a reader wonders why she is not running for president herself ... Rosenstiel gives us a marvelous tutorial on how campaigns work in the age of Trump and social media ... During one debate—again nearly unbelievably—candidates from both parties battle with one another ... Rosenstiel’s depiction of this new era is more dramatic and real than his weird plot about the threats to Upton. Despite the cloak and dagger stuff, the involvement of billionaire donors and candidates, shadow corporate entities, and foreign blackmailers, Oppo works best as a guide to the new reality infiltrating presidential politics. In a better thriller, Rena and Brooks would be more than cardboard operatives. Here, they simply propel the action.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksThis useful, brief guide to Western opera by a longtime critic is a welcome curtain raiser for newcomers who have never experienced opera. It is also a handy refresher course for those who have attended operas, seen or heard them on radio or television, but who still want to dig a bit deeper ... Schweitzer may have slighted some works—there is no discussion of Puccini’s Turandot, no mention of the two Manons and only a passing reference to Fidelio.. Nevertheless, this is a valuable and blessedly concise addition to the literature.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksQuarterback makes it into the red zone, but falls short of the goal line. Feinstein’s main character choices are flawed. The idea of keying on a few major quarterbacks is good. However, followers of the NFL may well wish he had chosen more colorful ones who were active in 2017, the year the book covers ... To give Feinstein his due, his narrative is as smooth as a Tom Brady pass ... Insights...make Feinstein’s book worthwhile ... For the diehard pro football fan interested in peeking behind the helmet, Quarterback makes absorbing reading.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksAn immersive and keenly observed debut ... It is as thrilling to read about her ascents with a friend into the 16,000 foot peaks in Central Asia on a bicycle as it is scary to imagine trying such a feat oneself ... The book is packed with insights on why we travel ... Her excursion across the \'Stans\' wilderness is much more than that. It is filled with kind people who invited the two women to camp in their yards or sleep in their homes ... Two disappointments: there are no photos in the book. More consequentially, the single map on the title page is inadequate. It is hard to follow their journey. Nevertheless, we are so lucky that this \'freelance explorer\' has left us an uncompromising, breathless record of her Eastern excursion.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books\"This beautiful and horrifying memoir should be required reading by anyone who feels that immigration is the nation’s number one issue right now ... Cantú’s actions, dreams and thoughts about the two sides of the borderlands issue—with apt quotations from everyone from Carl Jung to the diplomats who spent an inordinate amount of time drawing the borderline in the 19th century— form an indelible, intellectual but also intimate, emotional picture of the disruption, and deaths caused by badly formed immigration laws.\
PositiveThe MillionsPlayers might be the best book about the business of sports since Moneyball. Instead of investigating one sport through the lens of one team, Futterman looks at several major sports, focusing on key participants ... Agree or not, it is a complex tale, compellingly told. Players is more fun than watching a major golf tournament and certainly easier than playing in one.