RaveShelf AwarenessThe chronology is disjointed, jumping back and forth, shifting timelines as well as locations, which can be disorienting for the reader, but that effect feels true to the narrator\'s experience: Kentucky exerts a strong pull even in Minnesota, and pains felt by generations past are ever present ... As narrator, Rodenberg is intelligent and insightful. As character, she is resourceful, scrappy, defiant, brave and exposed. Her memoir is heart-rending and hard-won ... a work of nuance that complicates received narratives in all the best ways.
Lina Meruane, tr. Megan McDowell
PositiveShelf AwarenessLina Meruane\'s Nervous System is a novel both fanciful and visceral, pairing the study of the cosmos with medical mysteries and wounds on earth ... Megan McDowell\'s translation from the Spanish establishes an eerie tone, both emotional and detached ... Nervous System is filled with anguish and unease, but also starlight.
PositiveShelf Awareness... cunningly plotted ... a wickedly fun study in deception, secrets, striving and longing. Andrews\'s stylish, intricate debut novel showcases deft prose and expert use of tone and atmosphere ... What means might one justify to grasp the life she really wants and (she\'s tempted to believe) deserves? These memorable pages hold one possible answer.
María José Ferrada, tr. Elizabeth Bryer
RaveShelf AwarenessElizabeth Bryer\'s whimsical translation from the Spanish feels appropriate to M\'s exceptional perspective. Ferrada\'s playful, poignant novel...is fanciful, sweet and moving ... This is a beautifully translated, thought-provoking novel of profound themes and childlike wonder.
PositiveShelf Awareness... a dreamy, tricky tale of girlhood, secrets and the shifting sands of truth ... captivating ... an enchanting, literary novel, realistic but a little unreal. Vida gives a tender, incisive portrayal of adolescence. The girls\' cruelties are visceral and impermanent, the stressors of Sea Cliff somehow both superficial and profound ... Vida\'s readers will be changed, too, by this cleverly woven story about honesty, betrayal, charm and illusion, about what matters in youth and what matters always.
RaveShelf AwarenessJones beautifully reprises his distinctive voice and poignant themes ... This novella-length meditation excels in its thoughtful considerations, quietly lyrical language and memorable lines and characters ... Many of these characters remain nameless, so that even in their specificity they stand in for a larger human experience, and the effect is that this thirsty world is a little blurred ... a sobering consideration of a possible near future, and a moving work of fiction. Jones is easy to appreciate also for his writing ... The marksman guarding the water train, where the novel both begins and ends, drives home questions about what to value and protect, and when to let go. This is a quiet masterpiece of language, imagination and grim possibility.
PositiveShelf Awareness... sparkles with the wit and personality of this bold, unconventional heroine ... In Will\'s delightful first-person telling, peppered with vernacular asides, the two women initially clash in a violent midnight action sequence worthy of the kind of pulp novel Will so loves ... This mystery plot has all the twists and surprises a fan of the genre could ask for, but it is Will\'s distinctive, captivating voice and background--from difficult childhood to the circus to lady detective--that is Spotswood\'s real triumph ... Ms. Pentecost\'s expertise and no-nonsense attitude are appealing and entertaining, but gutsy Will, with her snappy, slangy narrative style, ultimately wins readers\' hearts and carries the day.
RaveShelf Awareness\"Leave the World Behind is pitch-perfect in atmosphere, easy to read and deceptive in the high polish of its setting. Alam has crafted a deeply bewitching and disquieting masterpiece ... [a] captivating, thought-provoking novel.\
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Illustrated by Fumi Nakamura
RaveShelf AwarenessNezhukumatathil stuns with her nonfiction debut ... These essays explore the natural world and the human experience, finding parallels, meaning and beauty in the intersections ... The red-spotted newt and dragon fruit that title their respective essays receive Nezhukumatathil\'s attentive study and yes, wonder, but the author\'s own experience is always a second thread. She brings a poet\'s ear for language and an eye for commonality and metaphor, both reverent of the natural world and specific in her personal story ... offers a series of brief naturalist lessons, but is perhaps at its best in drawing connections ... Wisdom, wonder and beauty make this slim collection one to treasure.
Peace Adzo Medie
RaveShelf Awareness... arresting ... Medie gives Afi a voice that winningly combines insecurity, wisdom and dignity. Fashion and food contribute to a cultural backdrop ... The dramas of Afi\'s marriage and various family conflicts offer an entertaining plot rich with humor, but it is the story of the strong woman in a challenging and changing world that will capture readers\' hearts. His Only Wife is a memorable novel of personal growth and choosing one\'s own destiny.
RaveShelf Awareness... a stunning novel of tenderness, interconnectedness, cause and effect ... a coming-of-age story, a mystery, a sharp-eyed examination of individual lives and relationships. Despite the violent crime related to its title and the insecurities that arise for various characters along the way, this brilliant novel offers a sense of beauty and safety in its quiet ruminations.
RaveShelf Awareness[A] singular and vital perspective on American society ... Wilkerson\'s understanding of caste proposes a nuanced take on the Trump election: many working-class white voters did not in fact vote against their interests, but rather prioritized one interest—upholding the caste system—over others ... Caste is a thorough, brilliant, incisive investigation of the often invisible workings of American society. Original, authoritative and exquisitely written, its significance cannot be overstated ... meticulously researched and beautifully crafted.
RaveShelf AwarenessNatasha Trethewey, two-term United States Poet Laureate, forges a serious, poignant work of remembrance ... While Trethewey does pursue forensic exploration (transcripts of recorded phone calls between Gwen and Joel, as well as a visit to a psychic), this memoir is more introspection than true-crime investigation. And it is gracefully and gorgeously rendered, as befits a poet of Trethewey\'s stature ... Trethewey declines to offer a neat conclusion, but she succeeds in making meaning from pain. Memorial Drive is loving and elegiac, disturbing and incisive.
Nancy Wayson Dinan
RaveShelf Awareness... fabulous and engrossing, both faithful to the real-world details of central Texas and wildly imaginative, peopled with treasure hunters, prehistoric beasts, distracted professors and one improbable young woman facing a momentous decision. Dinan\'s storytelling flows as forcefully as a flash flood in this spellbinding first novel in which a handsome young man, refreshingly, awaits rescue by a powerful woman.
Dola de Jong, Trans. by Kristen Gehrman
PositiveShelf AwarenessThis updated translation from the Dutch by Kristen Gehrman retains what is fresh, understated and moving in the original ... The tone of The Tree and the Vine is often backward-looking and elegiac, told at a distance of years. But the immediate events of the women\'s lives feel frantic: Erica rushes about, Bea panics. What is most important almost always goes unsaid ... The prose can occasionally feel a bit stilted, or involve a bit more telling than showing; but in fact what is shown, often, is not actions or expressions but Bea\'s own deep feeling and anguish. The result is a love story on the brink of war in which the love never quite steps out in the open and the war remains off-stage. A sense of looming, momentous events pervades this slim novel ... By turns emotional and restrained, this powerful story indeed offers valuable perspective on the human experience.
PositiveShelf AwarenessDoty, like Whitman, is gifted with words, a lover of beauty and of men, a New Yorker ... What Is the Grass is a close reading of Whitman\'s great work, but also of American poetry, same-sex love, the exuberance of the physical body, myriad cultural shifts and Doty\'s own life ... As is his habit, Doty\'s mind on the page wanders widely ... Readers should be prepared to dig out a copy of Leaves of Grass...upon reading this book, which makes an indispensable companion and guide.
RaveShelf Awareness... a fully fleshed work of speculative fiction, abundant with the fine details of Elizabethan life and, of course, food. May is a damaged and sympathetic heroine, at once intelligent and innocent. This is an opulently imagined debut, horrific and weirdly beautiful, filled with earnest feeling as well as cruelty. Set aside time to read this engrossing novel in one go.
RaveShelf Awareness\"These stories are shocking, stark, pulsing; their power lies in their realism, even when the tone turns dreamy and approaches magical realism. Yuknavitch\'s clear voice, with its unflinching demand that her readers recognize pain as well as beauty, is as precise and distinctive as ever ... she writes about the bright points in a dark world, and while the stories in Verge indeed lean decidedly toward the dark, those memorable points of light define them ... Disturbing and essential, these stories emphasize the forgotten, the pushed aside, the marginalized. Yuknavitch\'s storytelling is urgent, raw and inspired, and if Verge is a love letter to those on the edge, it is equally important for all of us.\
E. J. Koh
RaveShelf Awareness[Koh\'s] final lines are as heartbreakingly beautiful as the entire book deserves. The Magical Language of Others is a masterpiece, a love letter to mothers and daughters everywhere.
RaveShelf Awareness... a thoughtful, conflicted, harrowing examination of what Mark did--with his words alongside her own ... aware of itself, frequently commenting on process and prospective readership. This kind of self-regard is difficult to pull off, but it is clearly Vanasco\'s natural style, and she wields it expertly ... Vanasco is very alert to the times, feeling prompted by #MeToo, Trump\'s presidency and her creative writing students\' disclosures of sexual assaults. She is very alert, in general--it seems a personality trait--and one of the most intriguing artistic qualities of this book is its vigilant self-awareness ... Clearly this is an important and timely book. Even in a world that can seem brimming with stories similar to Vanasco\'s, hers stands out ... This narrator is tough, vulnerable and meticulous; the resulting memoir is heartfelt, painful and essential.
RaveShelf Awareness... delightful ... aimed at younger readers but absolutely for adults as well ... Doughty\'s answers are as delightful and distinctive as the questions. She blends humor with respect for the dead ... Her investigations of ritual, custom, law and science are thorough, and she doesn\'t shy from naming the parts of Grandma\'s body that might leak after she is gone ... Dianné Ruz\'s accompanying images keep the same tone of playful but plainspoken discussion ... This informative, forthright, comical guide to bodies after death is just the antidote--and surprisingly great fun as well.
RaveShelf Awareness... a startling memoir, stylistically as well as in its content and in the unusual mind it reveals ... Disjointed, sometimes heavy with foreshadowing, lush with a love for words and language, the dual narrative of Amy and Zoe\'s intertwined lives and shared pain seems the right artistic choice for this twisting dual story ... astonishing in its emotional reach, its evocation of a child\'s discovery and a young adult\'s suffering and all the wonder of words. What is translatable is perfectly communicated here.
RaveShelf Awareness... a novel of innocence and hardship and what is intrinsically human ... A gifted writer, Crummey shows imagination and compassion for his young protagonists, and a care for the oddities of language specific to time and place ... deeply pained and enchanting, full of small joys and victories as well as the pressing multitude of aches and challenges that mere living offers to two babes alone in this fierce environment. This searing novel will keep readers engrossed in its harsh world long after its hopeful conclusion.
RaveShelf AwarenessHeaven, My Home is a rich, complex puzzle, with layers of characters ... Locke\'s absorbing prose, in a third person very close to Darren, keeps the reader well abreast of all the crisscrossing loyalties and betrayals intrinsic to these East Texas woods ... There is a warmth and intimacy to the portrayal of Darren\'s many internal struggles. This is a protagonist to love and sympathize with, although he is far from perfect ... Both a fascinating, smartly plotted mystery and a pertinent picture of the contemporary United States, Heaven, My Home is refreshing, dour and thrilling all at once. Readers will be anxious for more of Ranger Darren Mathews.
Ji-min Lee, Trans. by Chi-Young Kim
PositiveShelf Awareness... bleak but whimsical and, yes, hopeful ... Chi-Young Kim\'s translation is both spare and emotionally evocative, suiting a narrator who is simultaneously desolate and childishly yearning ... Born of a curiosity about human relationships in unusual times, The Starlet and the Spy asks the questions: What if we met across a divide? What if a despairing young Korean woman reached into Marilyn Monroe\'s makeup bag for a lipstick, or a way out? In a decidedly optimistic turn, Lee leaves her ending open, and her reader free to wonder what might be next for Alice.
RaveShelf AwarenessEach story receives intelligent context ... Savage Appetites is a chilling, compelling examination of the darkness in us all. This is obviously a book for true-crime fans, as well as anyone interested in human nature ... A powerful, well-researched inquiry into why we find violent crime so fascinating, viewed though the stories of detective, victim, defender and killer.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThis intelligent collection is often deeply engaged in realms of philosophy and literary theory; it approaches an academic writing style. Its subject matter may be discomfiting for white readers and writers, and readers less familiar with Wittgenstein, Derrida or Edward T. Hall\'s theory of proxemics will likely find this book challenging. There is something for every reader, however, in the message that fiction not only reflects but acts upon real life, and that each of us is obliged to act for justice, in reading and writing as in life
PositiveShelf AwarenessFans of murder mysteries packed with action and plot twists will be satisfied by this edge-of-the-seat adventure ... is a little weak on certain details--the way a deadbolt works, the difference between prostitution and pandering charges, how a field agent might tell a suspect was dead. But its plot drives with such momentum that these details may be overlooked. With violent action and split-second turns, this is not a book to put down easily: plan accordingly. Alger\'s thriller is emphatically plot-driven, but her characters hold their own ... Nell is a quintessential damaged cop, even if she is FBI...Her personality serves as backbone to the electric plot of Girls Like Us, and the reader trusts that she will follow through to the truth, no matter how much it hurts.
RaveShelf Awareness...a quiet but stunning collection of essays merging the natural landscapes of Alabama and Tennessee ... Renkl\'s voice sounds very close to the reader\'s ear: intimate, confiding, candid and alert ... the essays are brief—often just two or three pages—and can stand alone, but accrue to form a truly lovely larger picture ... A book of subtlety and sadness, yes, but also a tough, persistent joy in the present and the future ... Late Migrations is itself that gorgeous, thought-provoking gift.
RaveShelf AwarenessThis wide-ranging and thorough study requires a careful and patient reader. Even one familiar with both Orwell\'s work and early communist and socialist histories will need to read closely. Lynskey offers his own appendix: a chapter-by-chapter précis of 1984, which is recommended for everyone. The requisite attention will be well rewarded, as The Ministry of Truth is not only enthralling and research-rich, but often laugh-out-loud funny ... Lynskey\'s voice is impassioned and self-aware, and he has an eye for the absurd (as any student of Orwell should) ... The Ministry of Truth is a necessary guide.
RaveShelf AwarenessThis book harnesses the electric power of Walt Whitman\'s Leaves of Grass, the righteous energy of first-wave feminism and the terror of criminalized identities, in a style accessible to general readers. As the fight for LGBTQ rights continues, this book is as relevant as it is compelling ... Wolf\'s style is easy to read, and her research is authoritative: this book is in part adapted from more academic work on the subject, and some of the most captivating scenes involve primary sources in the archives. Outrages is not only an important history with lessons for the present, but also an engagingly told story. The instructive life of Symonds is for any reader who cares about history, civil rights or the power of poetry.
RaveShelf AwarenessGornall\'s tone is drily funny and always self-deprecating when it comes to the project at hand. His research, however, is as serious as his journalistic background would suggest. The writer\'s love for style is evident ... The result is a deeply moving intersection of the personal—Gornall\'s absolute devotion to his daughter—with the practical. This is not quite a how-to manual, but readers with aspirations to fashion their own clinker-built boat would have a headstart upon reading. By the end, this self-described \'soft-handed, deskbound modern man with few tools, limited practical abilities, and an ignominious record of DIY disaster\' has achieved something truly remarkable, and possibly moved his reader to tears. If the boat is a gift to Phoebe, this book is another ... a charming, heartfelt love letter to both boat and child.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe Way Home is a thoughtful study, often wise but always questioning and seeking. With frequent references to Edward Abbey, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Robert Macfarlane, Wendell Berry, Henry David Thoreau and others, Boyle places himself in a grand tradition of intellectual naturalists and thinkers ... Boyle has a sense of humor as well as a deep sensitivity to the needs of people as well as the planet and its ecosystems ... His writing style is pensive and unhurried ... The result is a deeply appealing examination of nearly all aspects of modern human life, by a thorough, careful, concerned narrator.
Rachel Louise Snyder
RaveShelf Awareness...the product of copious, immersive research, an investigation into a universal and insidious violence and what can be done about it ... No Visible Bruises sounds like an appallingly dark read, and it\'s true that the content is deeply disturbing. But by focusing on case studies--individuals\' stories--Snyder returns humanity to the horrifying larger issue ... told with such compassion and curiosity, they turn out remarkably accessible ... an impressive body of knowledge about domestic violence in the United States.
Ed. by Michele Filgate
RaveShelf Awareness...[an] astonishing anthology ... These collected essays are variously rich, tender, angry, despairing and clinical. The result, greater than the sum of parts, is part paean and part denunciation, intelligent, heartfelt and wise. What My Mother and I Don\'t Talk About is a shrewd, glinting collection of beauty and pain: a gift for mothers and their children.
PositiveShelf AwarenessLessard is at her best when handling the ways place and people interact (Disney\'s attempt to build a history theme park just south of Washington, D.C.), and on shakier ground when handling larger issues (market forces versus governmental powers). One of her finest chapters considers a mall in King of Prussia, Pa., and the tensions and challenges facing shopping malls across the country ... Lessard can speak from a place of economic comfort that may grate some readers, but the value of her decades of research is undeniable. The Absent Hand is often dense, as Lessard draws upon centuries of human history to make her arguments. In this ambitious work, place is examined, deconstructed and incrementally illuminated, even as our landscape changes anew ... This broad social-historical consideration of American landscapes will satisfy and challenge the most serious reader.
RaveShelf AwarenessEach [character] is perfectly developed and flawed just enough to be lovable, if hapless. The book hums along with fitting momentum, so that when the storm hits, the reader is entirely invested in this well-meaning but ill-fated crew. Redemption is a risky ambition, especially with inspirational writing, but Boggs pulls it off with The Gulf\'s denouement. This is a novel of keen comedy, insight and empathy.
RaveShelf AwarenessWhen Brooklyn Was Queer achieves everything one could want in a history: meticulous research, easy-reading narrative, fascinating small events within significant larger ones, and personal interest ... Painstaking research and attention to detail highlight the richness and mystery of stories that have been largely hidden until now. Ryan is careful to point out the challenges of this kind of research ... Ryan is sensitive to the intersecting limitations faced by women and people of color ... a compelling, essential read.
PositiveShelf AwarenessA dreamy, wandering tale of teenage ennui and searching, and the pull of the sea ... Aridjis\'s prose is well suited to this kind of story: her sentences are luminescent and imagistic, expressing Luisa\'s tendency to fancy...The plot of Sea Monsters is somewhat quiet, Luisa spending much of her time inside her own head, but Aridjis\'s style makes this an absolute pleasure even when nothing is happening.
Pamela D Toler
PositiveShelf AwarenessToler reveals a history many readers will meet with surprise as well as fascination ... With such copious content, Toler has been careful to keep her book a manageable length: at just over 200 pages, Women Warriors is an easy entry to an expansive topic ... entertaining and informative history.
RaveShelf AwarenessAdrian\'s story is often horrifying. Both of her parents were violent; her mother\'s emotional and verbal abuse is ongoing and perhaps more shocking still. The older woman\'s circumstances, bouts of homelessness and hospitalization, and the younger woman\'s inability to extricate herself from the cycle of abuse, can be difficult to read ... The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet is a feat on many levels. Adrian tells a harrowing story, surprisingly redeemed by her own sweet family, but in many ways also continuing. She gives it meaning without having answers to all the questions she still asks herself. Her work as glossator is astonishing and inventive. Her glossary is strangely gripping, with a momentum pulling the reader in and through. The result is whimsical, even darkly funny at times, brimming with compassion, terribly sad and deeply loving. Memoir readers should not miss this singular offering.
Scholastique Mukasonga, Trans. by Jordan Stump
RaveShelf Awareness\"The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga... is a loving tribute to a strong mother and a striking work of memoir ... Extraordinarily, this story is at times horrifying in its content and at other times playful; lyric in its style and tender in its handling of the central character. While the reader\'s knowledge of the genocide to come hangs over the narrative, the everyday events often retain a quotidian feeling ... As a literary work, this establishes a rare balance. Jordan Stump\'s translation from the French beautifully conveys this sense of both tragedy and day-to-day joy ... This is an adoring, gorgeously rendered memorial to a mother and testimony to a people.\
Sarah St Vincent
RaveShelf Awareness\"This novel of suspense has many strengths. Kathleen offers depths of emotional truth and texture. Other characters are portrayed at a certain remove, according to the narrator\'s personality, but they open up by turns as she experiences them ... The setting in rural Pennsylvania mountains is harshly beautiful and handsomely evoked. And, warning: this is a book to keep one up late into the night, its considerable momentum pulling the reader toward its finale. Ways to Hide in Winter is an impressive, compelling first novel, with characters that will be missed after its conclusion.\
PositiveShelf AwarenessAs the world becomes increasingly global, this material proves ever-relevant. Chai\'s prose is often unadorned, but occasionally startlingly lovely ... Even unnamed characters prove memorable long after their brief appearances ... These evocative stories are variously funny, surprising, gloomy and heartening, ultimately about a universal human experience, of immigration and beyond.
Sayaka Murata, Trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
PositiveShelf Awareness...a compelling novel about conformity in society, and the baffling rules applied in work and life. Murata\'s protagonist is likable, if a bit baffling herself. Ginny Tapley Takemori\'s translation feels just right for the slightly off-kilter reality of this thought-provoking story ... This brief, brisk novel is an engrossing adventure into an unusual mind. Is it a subversive, satiric criticism of societal norms? Is it a surrealist take on extreme workplace culture? Or simply the perspective of a woman wired a little bit differently? Murata holds the reader rapt, wondering what Keiko will do next.
PositiveShelf Awareness...science, poetry and personal witness, concerned with human and more-than-human communities ... Appealingly, Rush puts her research and writing to work alongside the perspectives of coastal residents: interwoven chapters are told in other voices ... Rising is in some ways a difficult read. Its subjects are sobering and saddening ... Rising has more to offer: pulsing, gleaming prose and a stubborn search for, if not hope, then peace in the face of disaster.
PositiveShelf AwarenessWood's debut, is a memoir of post-college ennui; an investigation into a likely murder; an exploration of the light and dark sides of human connection; and an imaginative account of what might have happened to Sabine. Wood blurs genre boundaries, eventually offering a hybrid form that best suits his mind's wanderings ... Wood deserves credit for a narrative voice that prizes honesty over flattery, or self-flattery. His book is essentially an examination, not only of Sabine and of her murderer's emotions and motivations, but of the narrator himself, of universal human flaws ... a memorable, thought-provoking work of true crime and imagination.