RaveThe Washington PostIt is a tonic, a gift for our anxious summer ... given to the surreal wit perfected by comedian Steven Wright. Becoming is salted throughout with her dry aperçus ... Becoming is many things, all of them splendid. It is a work of fiction, because Duchess is ... Becoming is also the best sort of self-help, demonstrating that creativity, generosity and even Twitter, when not harnessed for the dark arts, can offer salvation and lift all boats, including those stuck on the ocean floor ... The book is enriched by two distinct voices: one frank and vulnerable, the other all-knowing. You believe the details of the author’s life because, through Duchess, she’s committed to staying generous and true ... This sort of anonymity, in a time of too much oversharing on too many platforms, is a respite. We need magic. The book’s timing is inspired. It’s a summer cocktail of a book.
RaveThe Washington Post... [Freeman] is an incisive chronicler and historical sleuth ... An affecting and ambitious writer, as well as an exacting historian, Freeman tackles anti-Semitism, Jewish guilt and success...Without her ancestors’ \'extraordinary force of personality,\' their bold actions, even those resulting in lasting grief, we wouldn’t be fortunate enough to have Freeman or this exceptional book.
PositiveThe Washington PostNemens’s adoration of the game is infectious, and her novel is packed with winning details ... I would have gladly read an entire novel about dyspeptic agent Herb Allison, who seems more present than self-thwarting Jason. It’s as though, like his position in the ballpark, Goodyear remains at a distance, always out there in left field.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
PositiveThe Washington PostReid’s twist is constructing her sixth novel as an oral history, complete with lyrics, album photo shoots and atmospheric period details. The structure serves her well — except when it doesn’t ... Introducing six band members simultaneously might not have been the wisest move. The reader can’t keep them straight ... Is the book riddled with cliches? Check. Twists the reader can spot chapters in advance? You betcha ... Yet, here’s the thing: Daisy Jones & The Six works. It’s big dumb fun ... Given the music industry’s notorious sexism, she deserves credit for creating female characters who are more self-aware and determined than the foolish men around them.
RaveThe Washington PostCraig Brown’s delectable Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is not a novel, though its subject seems like a sublime work of fiction, too imperious to be true ... How people betrayed Margaret! Though she never did much of anything, the princess appears in so many memoirs, a Zelig with bouffant hair sucking on a cigarette holder ... Brown has done something astonishing: He makes the reader care, even sympathize, with perhaps the last subject worthy of such affection. A wit and gimlet-eyed observer, Brown engages in flights of fancy, chapters that imagine her life as it might have been if she had been free to marry Townsend or Picasso, had she been free at all ... His book is big fun, equal measures insightful and hysterical.
PositiveThe Washington Post[Moshfegh] has near perfect pitch ... Moshfegh is also wickedly funny. If My Year’s plot lags a bit — reading about trying to sleep is about as interesting as trying to — the coruscating aperçus and ancillary characters never do ... Understandably, 9/11 become a major touchstone in American fiction. Lesser writers tend to pervert the moment into a horror-movie gimmick, all shock, no resonance. I groaned upon realizing the year and office locations but, in the hands of a substantial talent like Moshfegh, they work. The ending, the failing of so many contemporary novels, is splendid.
PanThe Washington Post[Blum] stumbles in a thicket of useless info and proper names, the sinkhole of so much popular fiction. Every clothing designer is tediously identified. A character cannot eat a cookie; it has to be a Mint Milano.... MapQuest, it should be noted, does not make for compelling reading.
RaveThe Washington PostFunny Parts includes lots of stories and a tonnage of names dropped, but it still seems that Scovell’s on a quest. Larded with aperçus and advice, this is another one of those girlfriend memoirs — a femoir — the sort mastered by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling that sell brilliantly and are devoured in an afternoon. It’s a very jokey, often charming book, but Scovell also seems to be in search of that home run, a 30 Rock to call her own, which makes the reader root for her all the more.
RaveThe Washington Post\"Halliday’s coruscating work takes you down roads you hadn’t planned on taking. Alice’s name is no accident; Lewis Carroll’s heroine is invoked several times. Even the book’s structure is initially bewildering. Asymmetry delivers two seemingly disconnected novellas, followed by a brief third coda. And that is the magic of this exquisite, impressive book: the way it plays with influence and assumption … The moment Asymmetry reaches its perfect ending, it’s all the reader can do to return to the beginning in awe, to discover how Halliday upturned the story again and again.\
RaveChicago Tribune\"The moment \'Asymmetry\' reaches its perfect ending, it\'s all the reader can do to return to the beginning in awe, to discover how Halliday upturned the story again and again.\
PanThe Washington PostCook, activist and earth mother, Waters is many things. But, based on her pallid memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, a writer is not one of them ... When an author warns in the third paragraph 'I’m not a reflective person by nature,' grab your blankie — you’re in for a soporific ride ... Casual elegance, what she perfected at her restaurant, is missing in prose heavy on hollow bromides and wincing cliches. Berkeley was filled with coffee shops and 'people in heated conversation.' In the 1960s, students had 'a beatnik urban sophistication, carrying big book bags, very somber and intense.' She manages to make a hash-infused trip to Turkey with two Frenchmen seem tedious. Alternately insulting and twee, Senses dulls the reader ... Senses is sloppy, too. It lacks an alert editor or writer (or two) — it regurgitates information and reintroduces walk-on characters brought in only pages earlier. Waters appears to list everyone she has ever met. Is this interesting? No, it is not.
PositiveThe Portland OregonianThe year is 1938. New York is a place where people can go and reinvent themselves as someone fabulous and leave their old lesser selves behind in lesser places. The narrator is clever, Coney Island-born Katey Kontent, an orphan of a Russian immigrant father, her name pronounced con-tent – as in being happy – who rises from secretary to conquer book and magazine publishing (A quibble: I never bought the name. Too forced) … Clearly, Towles is having great fun diving into the habits of the period, the food, the dress, the rituals. I get the sense that he had as much fun writing the book, celebrating the glories of the time, as the reader does in devouring it.
RaveThe Washington Post...[a] charming debut novel ... Heiny crafts indelible scenes, such as the one of drunken parents at a Cub Scouts cocktail party — no appetizers, plenty of Jell-O shots — that Audra and Graham attend in the hopes of landing Matthew play dates. Or the exquisite horror of the school’s United Nations Day, which Audra approaches with dread equal to the Battle of the Somme ... Readers searching for a blissful summer novel, a polished delight, look no further.
RaveThe Washington Post...[an] exhilarating first novel ... Golden Hill is an homage to the action-packed works of 18th-century masters like Sterne, Smollett and Fielding but with Spufford’s nimble fingers on fast forward, speeding along character — such characters! — and plot at a delirious pace ... Spufford has immersed himself in the 18th-century quotidian world on either side of the ocean. Golden Hill possesses a fluency and immediacy, a feast of the senses, without ever being pedantic. It is a historical novel for people who might not like them. In a year already ripe with tremendous fiction, did I mention that I love this book? I love this book.
RaveThe Washington PostThe book is true to its title: a smart, delicious, coming-of-age tale about a young woman already drunk on the idea of New York before her true education begins. And, yes, I devoured it. Better yet, the novel doesn’t flail at the end, the sinkhole of many writers, novice and veteran ... Sweetbitter is not a story of love but of lust and abandonment and thrashing about to satisfy appetite in inappropriate places. The triangle formed by Simone and Tess and Jake is bound for ruin. Rather than a romance, Danler has created something far more interesting: a sexy, sweaty book of sensory overload.