MixedBookreporterI think that A Calling for Charlie Barnes would be an incredibly funny book if it didn’t come out as the world around us crumbles and struggles to reform itself into something resembling anything. In fact, like Updike’s Rabbit quartet, it solidifies one type of white man’s experience in a world that is now immersed in showing its underbelly ... The supposed pot of gold doesn’t anchor the end of anything, let alone a rainbow, and the payback for a lifetime of behaving yourself is the biggest letdown one can experience. Charlie Barnes is yet another totem that takes up the compelling idea that bucking the system and finding your own way of perceiving those normal slights and punishments is the true success story ... Joshua Ferris is a no-nonsense writer with a sharp, witty style that pulls you through the novel quickly and efficiently. If A Calling for Charlie Barnes has anything to give us during this difficult time of uproar and dissent, it is his overwhelming optimism that a life lived is still being lived and recreated well past what society considers the proper expiration date.
MixedBook ReporterStrong brings us uneasily into her world of pain and her struggle to learn joy again ... Strong is guarded as she tells the story of her cousin, Owen. She shares texts and tales about her relationship with him but never quite cements us to his image the way she does to her own foibles from the past ... Strong doesn’t quite grasp the bigger picture to which we all can relate through her personal lens ... Strong uses her personal lens to give the reader her take on this insane period. It is strongest felt when she is talking about her own life and her memories of growing up in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. This Will All Be Over Soon is a good and sincere first take on these pandemic times.
RaveBookreporterDolly Alderton is funny, and she has the same kind of engaging conversational writing style that has made Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones characters who will live in infamy. Nina’s sly musings about her friends’ changing lives clearly and hilariously send up the hypocrisy of newly married couples ... Nina is a fresh, smart and funny protagonist who finds some truly graceful (and not-so-graceful) ways to grow up for real. As the world continues to unravel on the outside, a book like Ghosts is gold. It is not just a beach read, though. Put on your big person pants, and ride the waves of humor and relatability into a wonderful story about a young woman whose entire life is transforming. Like all of us, Nina must learn to sail these ever-changing seas—with a mixture of fun, anxiety and jubilation. Ghosts is magic. Read it now.
Joyce Carol Oates
RaveBookreporterThis is straight-ahead American fiction where the hard truths are voiced and the hard facts are faced. Michaela is a sympathetic character as we watch her find unbearable disbelief in how her world is being yanked out from under her. This novel is a perfect pandemic allegory, yet it is reality to so many families and partnerships in the last year and a half. It is hard to find a way to fictionalize the horror that so many people have been going through recently, but the dedication of a longtime prose master like Oates is the perfect scrim through which to witness one case up close, a case that everyone will experience at one time or another ... Even with heartache at the center of this story, Breathe is a beautiful read, a flowing, steadfast journey that will call upon your empathy and compassion in a way that is profoundly real and really profound.
Yan Ge tr. Jeremy Tiang
PositiveBookreporterGe’s style, as translated by Jeremy Tiang, feels very much like the verbiage and vivacious search for truth that Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett put to paper for their classic noirs. Our narrator is a plainspoken and honest voice that juxtaposes her subjects for maximum effect. The beasts are given multidimensional elements that engage the reader with both whimsy and high emotion in equal measure. Ge’s worldbuilding is sparse but effective, the language again giving us just enough information to form vivid pictures in our minds that we won’t soon forget ... a thoughtful and introspective look at the results of our earthly need to expand species and play God with all things living. As we look at the gigantic repercussions of climate change and the inventiveness of stem cell research and other such medical miracles, this is a book that reminds us that the most important part of our moving forward on this planet is love and tolerance, self-expression and caring. This engaging mystery masquerades as a sci-fi/thriller hybrid that is so much more.
PositiveBookreporter... the book’s vitality and high energy will keep you reading, maybe in just one sitting, to find out what’s going to happen next. The ideas [Frankel] puts forth about our responsibility to the environment are couched in a cat-and-mouse mystery with unique and intelligent characters ... Summer reads aren’t supposed to be about much of anything. They are typically the kind of books that can get sandy, and be exchanged among friends or left for renters. One Two Three is a summer read that is breezy and racks up surprising velocity, but it also leaves you with a sense of having discovered a way of looking at the natural world that you haven’t seen before. It’s fun, entertaining and educational…and it moves. What more can you ask for during this summer of insanity? Enjoy!
RaveBookreporterEach of the 10 stories in this collection is a gem ... Jumping genres and creating characters who explode off the page, this impressive debut is a bold splash of language that will outshine anything else you read this summer. From the beautiful textured cover to her regally gorgeous author photo on the back, Nkweti’s first book is sure to win her a massive audience ... Nkweti, who studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches English at the University of Alabama, is truly worthy of the term \'creative writer.\' Her concoction of languages, vibrant descriptions, utterly honest and hilarious population of yearning humanity, surreal storylines and innocent humor all come together in a wholly original way. The book reminds me of both Zora Neale Hurston and Nora Ephron, her sense of place and purpose so refined yet so sharp and funny. Walking on Cowrie Shells is perfect at 10 stories, but I sure would like more.
Ashley C. Ford
RaveBookreporterThe stigma of incarceration is illuminated in Somebody\'s Daughter in a very poignant way, as we see how few members of her extended family are able to tell her the truth ... it is a fascinating reveal to see how, although occasionally divided, family still wins out and is both punishment and prize. Her prose feels like a conversation, and readers are drawn into the private tale easily. I read this book in one sitting --- and then read it again --- because it carries a message of love, hope and self-care that will be a salve for everyone during this difficult time ... a bountiful and beautiful tale.
RaveBookreporter...one of Cusk’s most readable, enjoyable and thought-provoking novels. She manages this trifecta with clean prose that immediately feels like you’ve been swung into an ages-old conversation with your best friend ... The first-person narrative is exceptional. Somehow, our protagonist is telling the story of this summer to Jeffers, a person about whom little to nothing is known. She pours out her guts to him in a most funny and conversational tone that allows us to feel as if we are inside her very tumultuous soul and brain ... Second Place is more than a great summer read, although it easily could be consumed during a beach vacation on a lounge chair between swims. It is a romance, a thriller, a memoir, a piece of fiction that is unlike anything else you’ve ever read, and very much a showcase for the magnificent work of the bright and bold Rachel Cusk.
RaveBookreporter... [a] simple beauty and heartfelt emotional journey ... Scottoline’s scholarship has inflected every vowel and consonant in this gripping, thrilling tale of lives on the brink of countless changes. The characters are so beautifully fleshed out that you feel as if you are reading someone’s family memoir ... The love affair and the biased world views are both multidimensional and balanced together in a magnificent achievement of literary construction. Perhaps Scottoline’s hard-earned research helped her see a more complete picture of the two worlds, one exterior and one interior, but both are damaging and challenging. Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro share a stage that is swift and ever-changing, which makes Eternal a truly outstanding work of historical fiction ... May the scholarship and literary invention of this extraordinary novel find a home in the hearts of readers everywhere.
RaveBookreporter...love of all kinds is given to us in beautifully plated small bites ... McCracken has a breezy, conversational tone here, and even when she is relating difficult emotional truths between characters, we feel as if we are privy to casual conversations that speak loudly and plainly on the relationships at hand. It is as if we are sitting at a kitchen table, tea cup in hand, listening to a friend tell a story from the past. Her style invites readers in ... McCracken takes the sharp knife and palette with which she builds her beautiful novels and cuts the canvas of her stories into small exacting pieces that readers can enjoy one at a time.
RaveBookreporter... a collection of short stories that, in one way or another, continues the unique and harnessed imaginative wanderings of one of the greatest minds of world literature ... The bizarre headspace that Murakami puts you in will feel right at home for those of us who have been hanging on every word he has ever written (yes, I’m a longtime fan). For those of you who have not yet discovered the magic and furor of his wild mind, First Person Singular will present the perfect opportunity for the two of you to get acquainted. In short, brilliantly sharpened strokes, you, too, will fall under the spell of his literary madness. This is the Area 51 of modern world literature --- there are secrets that you have heard of, but do you really believe them? Try it and find out. You won’t be sorry ... yet another exciting adventure with one of literature’s greatest adventurers. Enjoy in small doses, and celebrate that Murakami continues to grace us all with such singularly thoughtful work.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
RaveBookreporterThe Committed is a shiny pearl of a novel that carries on this story ... With humor and pathos intact, Nguyen puts the pedal to the metal. If you have spent a distinct chunk of time learning how to breathe to slow down your anxious, racing heart during the pandemic, you will have to utilize your new skills to get through this rapid-fire, violent, funny and terrifying bumper car collision of colonialism, communism and capitalism ... This sounds like a dark, moody book with a lot of posturing about political identity, oppression, the evils of colonialism, and the corruption of the freewheeling renegade consumer culture. However, it reads like a thriller ... Once again, Nguyen entertains, teaches, queries and thrills his readers with a story that touches so many of the hot coals of the firepit that is the persistence of identification and memory ... Nguyen is an awesome storyteller, and this is a book for the ages. Enjoy this rollercoaster ride of a story.
RaveBookreporter... as dense as it is light and is a poetic magic trick that will delight [Atwood\'s] legion of fans, old and new alike ... Love poems about zombies? Yes, she went there. Enchanting lilting tributes of women who have been raped and murdered? Yes, she went there. In fact, I found myself reading Dearly to discover who she was writing about --- someone she really knows or someone she has invented to be almost real to us ... These poems are forthright and brave, yet beautiful in their hard-told truths. But they also give you the creeps because she is talking about both things that actually exist in the world that we see every day and things that we don’t necessarily notice but are there, just under the surface. The latter hide from us, waiting for us to fall down some rabbit hole where we will be face to face with them, and no mask or goggles can keep us safe from their difficult wisdom ... I recommend Dearly especially to those who only recently have become fans of Atwood’s work. The Grand Dame has so many surprises up her sleeves and on the bookstore shelves for you. You will be amazed at the hurricanes that live underneath the seemingly clear waves of words that will wash over you on an afternoon’s read ... As another lockdown feels near, hold this volume dear for the trips it will take you on while you hunker down on the home front.
RaveBookreporter... gives you an around-the-world view of masculinity, both gentle and toxic ... Krauss is first and foremost a novelist who writes short stories as if they are scenes from a novel that she didn’t have the energy to finish. Like a series of one-act plays, we get the expurgated histories and concerns of a myriad of characters who are trying their hardest to define their experiences as men or with men in various times of life. Her keen eye for detail keeps us interested in the many different protagonists and the switch-ups between first-person and third-person narratives throughout the collection. Sexuality, religion and elaborate cultures give us the framework for these failing or ailing relationships. It is a compendium of insights that would feel at home in a poetry journal or a psychology newsletter ... Each of the stories feels like a civil war between rationality and emotionality ... Krauss’ poetic craft operates at such a high level that it keeps readers thinking about the last group of humans while moving gratefully into a new tale with hope that these people will fare better than the last ... Like a wonderful omnibus, the wide range of experiences and dramatic repartee in these stories offers a scintillating and emotionally intense read that won’t soon be forgotten.
Bobbie Ann Mason
PositiveBookreportera series of letters in the midst of Ann’s fantastical ideas about where her life could have gone. This format gives Bobbie Ann Mason a chance to concoct a sweet love story but also wrestle with the possibilities of the road not taken, as well as the chance to find a gold ticket in what is real ... The ’60s, the music, the drugs, the clothing, the ideas are all so enticing, and even the inclusion of the hard facts about the Vietnam War gives the era a sheen of glowing perfection that seems wrong for Ann’s Kentucky upbringing (her mother’s letters to her about life back on the farm are interspersed with the other letters she uses to create a timeline). It feels as if there is a depth missing here in place of gentle reflection and surface-area fantasy. However, Mason does a good job of accessing the actual past and editing it to make the most impact on her characters ... a perfect book for quarantine as we think about what has been, what will now not be, and what we now most hope for in all of our lives.
PositiveBookreporterVolckmer walks a precipice in razor-sharp shoes, digging in on the difficult stuff and infusing the most dangerous and, frankly, disgusting thoughts (sex with Hitler, anyone?) with a humor that keeps you reading even as you are not sure you want to do so ... The frank discussion of sex (particularly about penises and their uses), especially as it relates to the German world before, during and after Hitler’s regime, is off-putting at times. The fantasies our heroine has in reference to the despot are unnerving, and there is little actual sensuality related when it comes to the fantasies or her real-life encounters ... The fact that Volckmer cannot find a German publisher to publish this novel speaks volumes. The intersectionality of cultural identity, gender and self-identity is not for the squeamish. It is interesting, given that Germany is so very good at contextualizing its history in order to move forward and not fall prey to such despicable politics and social order, that the narrator can only think about the example of Nazi propaganda, the death camps and the unspeakable horrors of that time in a sexual fantasy. This makes it feel like a very millennial story to me, as personal and sexual freedom and identity is the revolution for the twentysomething generation. But regardless of the age of the narrator, her disturbing rants make for some very compelling reading ... Not for the lighthearted reader, The Appointment is a treatise on how the culture in which we grow up affects every aspect of our life as an adult, as much as our parents or teachers or loved ones do. This is a very short book, but is long on ideas to ponder well beyond the last word.
PositiveBookreporter.comIn the Midst of Winter is another example of the beautiful prose of this remarkable strong woman, activist and writer whose every tome seems to only deepen our respect for her talent and wisdom ...a time travel novel that slips back and forth between very specific places and periods, and weaves together a compelling story of present-day Brooklyn, Guatemala in the near past, and Chile and Brazil in the tumultuous 1970s ...an integrative storyline that pulls the reader in deeper and deeper as more and more details are divulged. The story is complicated and messy –– there are no easy answers or endings to any of their struggles ...a timeless tale of coming together... Allende is poetic, filling her book with a light and savory prose that belies its intense political undertones and thus makes it a very readable story.