RaveNewsday...a crisp, absorbing but still slim book ... Losing Earth is essential reading ... This is no science book; there are no charts, let alone equations. This is a well-told tale that grapples with Aristotle’s fundamental insight that humans are political animals—and asks whether we can finally, collectively, rouse ourselves to act.
PositiveNewsday\"This deft, direct and absorbing story benefits from the craft Lalami brings to the English language; a reader senses the scholar who earned a doctorate in linguistics at the University of Southern California ... The Other Americans considers quotidian grievances and resentment, but it is blessedly free of the finger-wagging that creeps into too much contemporary immigrant fiction ... Lalami’s storytelling delivers quiet pleasure and glints of humor ... The novel isn’t perfect. A few sentences veer into melodrama and the ending lands a bit pat. But this haunting story also puts the reader in mind of Toni Morrison’s prescient observation: \'Much of the alarm hovering at the borders, the gates, is stoked, it seems to me, by … an uneasy relationship with our own foreignness, our own rapidly disintegrating sense of belonging.\'\
RaveThe Plain DealerI knew The Book of Night Women had me when I started waking at night to worry about its characters ... The conspirators distrust one another, and in this novel treachery abounds, where we expect it—between whites and slaves—and where we do not. James lets us see how suspicion and cruelty in one human arena bleed out into all the rest, among the colonials and among the slaves ... Enslave one people and all are trapped. That familiar concept wears flesh and bone in The Book of Night Women.
PositiveNewsday\"... highly readable ... The author is crisp and withering on Christopher Columbus’ \'tyranny and depravity\' ... The book is not perfect — too repetitious — but it is a welcome compendium of Indian voices and insights that will be fresh for many readers ... Some 150 Lakota died violently at Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890, but some 200 others lived. This is the urgent story of what happened next.\
MixedNewsdayJeremy Brown...turns indignant in his new book...at the quackery his field once perpetrated ... Brown tells this story with a welcome scientific crispness ... The Great Influenza ... [historian John M.] Barry’s 2004 book, is better written ... So is Flu by science journalist Gina Kolata ... Brown’s book is superior...[as a] meander through the archives. He depicts the shortfalls of big data in flu tracking, the pitfalls in our annual flu vaccinations and the scandalous medical politics bedeviling Tamiflu and similar treatments.
RaveNewsdayLepore’s brilliant book, These Truths, rings as clear as a church bell, the lucid, welcome yield of clear thinking and a capable, curious mind ... Lepore, a specialist in Early American history, is in her element in the first quarter of These Truths, zestfully documenting complexity and contradiction amid a welter of citizens. Her history brims, much more so than, say, the one David McCullough depicts in 1776 ... her chewy quotations mesmerize ... steadily, she weighs U.S. history through the fulcrum of racism—what is suppressed in many accounts animates These Truths ... But These Truths makes a beautiful case for abiding.
MixedNewsdayHow much you swallow from this new work depends on your receptivity to his honeyed writing, your tolerance for his self-preoccupation and your alignment with his skeptical but beckoning stance. Pollan, born 63 years ago on Long Island, has a robust ego. In this book he vacillates for long stretches about relinquishing that ego for even a few hours to the vagaries of mind-altering chemicals ... More solid is Pollan’s work here as a journalist, reporting the colorful history of psychedelic research and the scientists who animate it. The author brings news of a potential renaissance for their powerful organic compounds ... Sharp-eyed readers will note that the unwieldy subtitle about psychedelics shedding light on consciousness, dying, addiction, depression and transcendence is crashing the purview of religion. Pollan clearly knows this, but can exhibit a tin ear; he repeats a jab at Holy Communion as a \'placebo sacrament.\' Such things are not his bag.
PositiveNewsdaySchulman sets her witty tale in a near future where many characters enjoy enhanced genetics and technological implants. Those who can’t afford such augmentations 'had begun to resemble groundhogs — a certain meaty compression, a tendency to breathe through the mouth' ... Theory of Bastards is lifted by its science, flecked like mica throughout the story ... The writer skillfully weaves fact with fiction. Her chapters are short, her sentences clipped and efficient, if not beautiful ... Despite a bit of limp philosophizing near the end, she brings insight, amusement and — in contrast to the bonobos — much delayed human gratification. Her protagonists don’t even hold hands until page 390. Still, she makes it worth the wait.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerHailed as a comic novel, it attains an almost magical balance with the tragic, too. Set at the fictional, 140-year-old Seabrook School, its darkness goes very deep, with bits of nasty self-injury and racist cruelty … The story unfurls in a tight six weeks between Skippy's untimely November demise and the acting principal's Christmas message. It alone is a fey comic masterpiece of fake sincerity, puerile ambition and gimcrack jive.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerTóibín’s temerity is a shock, of course, but it pairs with an avidness to imagine a Mary who speaks, and to hear what she might have kept locked away in her heart. Just as the historical record indicates a physical Jesus existed, so must he have had a mother, a woman who ate figs and oranges, pulled water from a well and sweated in the Mediterranean sun … Tóibín hints at the fanaticism that roiled around Jesus. The writer is brilliant at suggesting the ratcheting political dangers that squeezed Mary's son -- from the Romans, from the rabbinate … He succeeds in dissolving some of the oil on canvas that encases a historical figure.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerIn this way, her novel exhales the lush Cambodian forest and rice paddies, lotus blossoms and dung beetles, water hyacinths and grasshoppers. It is also a well-paced depiction of the slow slide into starvation ...few fathers in literature, including Atticus Finch, are as idealized as the one here. Ayuravann knows his time with Raami is evaporating, and he uses it to instruct her in morality, Cambodian legend and poetry ... One strength of Banyan is the way Ratner reinterprets the Cambodian legends as Raami's circumstances worsen and her awareness grows ... Some of Ratner's prose is deft, but some is awkward, dipped in didacticism. Banyan works as an old-fashioned novel, bleached of all irony ... While Banyan offers some of the exotic-to-Westerners vividness of The Kite Runner, it isn't on par with the diary.
PositiveNewsday...an exuberant, lushly illustrated new biography ... Isaacson wisely turns Leonardo’s notebooks into the spine of his biography, tracing a restless, protean mind ... Isaacson is not shy about inserting himself; weighing in on authentication disputes and littering his pages with the first-person singular. Isaacson — neither an art historian nor a Leonardo scholar — has both done his homework and seems fondly comfortable with his own powers of discernment. Readers who submit to this combo will luxuriate in a richly illustrated ride through the artist’s life.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerIn one way, it hardly matters –– editors at The New York Times already dubbed Open City one of the 10 best books of any kind published last year. Cultural arbiter James Wood announced in The New Yorker that Cole's work was 'beautiful, subtle' and 'original' ...unfurls in the voice of Julius, a resident in psychiatry at a Columbia University-affiliated hospital ... The observational intelligence that suffuses Open City is the type that inspires a reader to look sharp. The book begins slowly, its voice unforced and associative, but its power gathers ... Cole's approach is frequently compared to W.G. Sebald's, but the fluidity and contingency put me in mind of Virginia Woolf's ... This fullness is a fullness of the interior life. Plenty of readers looking for plot might complain that nothing happens. They would be wrong –– both technically, and metaphysically.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerIn Great House, a character reveals that her favorite shape is a square – perfect in a book that opens with four narrators occupying four chapters. For the book's second half, Krauss repeats three of her chapter titles, each told by the same damaged speaker, only to finish with a twist – seven pages in the voice of the antiques dealer who casts his form and shadow across the entire book … The desk acts as a repository for the yoke of inheritance. That's a lot of freight for a piece of furniture. At times, Great House creaks under the weight...But when Krauss' organic scenes soar, she is stunning.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerThe book seduces us to its characters, and draws us on the strength of deWitt's subtle, nothing-wasted prose. He writes with gorgeous precision about the grotesque: an amputation, a gouged eye, a con in a dive bar, a nauseating body count … DeWitt, like Tarantino, seems to relish the mash-up between our sordid, murderous selves and our better angels. One point is clear: Once the slaughter begins, once the wars are started, the hounds of hell are truly difficult to corral. The Sisters brothers want – of all things – to get home to their mother.
RaveNewsdaySee What I Have Done is a barn-burning, fever-ridden first novel. It makes blistering reading out of first-rate historical fiction, which must walk the tightrope of established facts while fashioning a story anew. Hilary Mantel, in her brilliant re-creation of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies, may be the best practitioner alive, but this book announces Schmidt as a new sister in the craft ... The macabre surges, and Schmidt salts her book with repetition, casting an incantatory spell. The writing is vivid to the point of hallucination.
PositiveNewsday...a lush, brimming novel of exile ... grafted onto an intriguing father-daughter story is a more didactic and unsubtle one. Nayeri’s politics are leftist — she wrote an essay for the Guardian in April titled 'The Ungrateful Refugee: "We Have No Debt to Repay," ' which has been shared more than 80,000 times. She makes this case more powerfully in the newspaper than in the novel ... The writer dedicates Refuge to her 'insatiable Persian family, a scattered village of poets and pleasure-seekers.' The company of their fictional versions is rewarding indeed.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain Dealer...a wondrous imagining of a society astir with democratic yearnings. Pulling apart the cemetery becomes a metaphor for casting off the reeking past; Baratte is more observant of the cats in his path than the Catholic Church … One needn't be a scholar of democratic revolution or its disenchantment to fret over what awaits these men. Reading Pure calls to mind the Arab Spring and the voting this past week in Egypt. Miller's touch is also marvelously light; one might read for plot, or merely the enjoyment of an observant detail.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerLord of Misrule is an exuberant, jazzy novel about rough characters – both equine and two-footed – caught up in a shabby, half-mile racetrack downriver from Wheeling, W.Va … The happy kick of her novel comes largely from the argot – she throws the unbaptized reader into the deep idiom of the racetrack, circa the early 1970s. She bends the language to it – with words like ‘hurryment’ and phrases like ‘shoes screeked’ … Gordon frames her novel nominally around four races, and lets us take each of them seriously. But she is more interested in slicing out a feel for long-shots and liars, for creatures and people on their way down.
PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerSalvage the Bones scrapes at us in the voice of Esch Batiste, 14. She lives on Top Ramen and the occasional wild squirrel, shared in a backwoods home called the Pit. The novel begins with a raw birth of pit bull puppies, then, in the second paragraph, Esch mentions that her mother died laboring ‘under her own bare burning bulb,’ seven years ago … Ward's pacing around the hurricane is exquisite – we nearly forget its impending savagery. The Batistes' shared sacrifice is moving, made more so by their occasional shirking of sacrifice. Ward allows the letdowns integral to family life to play their part.
PositiveNewsday...searing, smart, readable and sometimes unbearable memoir ... Hunger, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, interrogates the fortunes of black bodies in public spaces ... Memoir — a view through the narrow aperture of self — can be as forgettable as the flotsam of Instagram, but Hunger has the power to disturb and linger.
RaveNewsday\"...a riveting story, albeit one sounding a lament — a kind of anti-lullaby ... Margot is a vivid, cunning and relentless character — emblem of her creator’s keen interest in the unholy alignment of poverty and tourism in Jamaica ... In her first book, Dennis-Benn can’t be expected to match the molecular-level beauty of [Marlon] James’ sentences, and she doesn’t. But Here Comes the Sun rises on its own merits.\
MixedThe Seattle Times[Banks] characterizes his life as 'a classic, or at least an old-fashioned, American male quest story.' He wanted to be Hemingway, and insists that he and Twichell are travelers, not tourists — distinct from the heedless Americans disgorged into the Caribbean from cheapo cruise ships ... In 2003, Banks had a chance to ask Fidel Castro if he had regrets. The dictator named two: 'I thought the revolution would eliminate racism, which it hasn’t.' And, 'I should have never trusted the Russians.' That is unexpected good stuff. Through such revelations, Voyager becomes a trip worth taking.
Terry Tempest Williams
MixedNewsdayWilliams is an easy writer to follow. Her style is creative and fluid. Often she includes pages of conversations, as well as poetry and other forms of expression ... Yet sometimes Williams gets too swept along in her own prose. Grand-seeming pronouncements can look surprisingly simplistic on closer examination ... The Hour of Land will inspire fans of Williams who enjoy her gentle, questioning prose. But perhaps the best way to honor the National Park Service, and to take up Williams’ cause, lies not in the bookshop but in the very places the book holds dear.
MixedNewsday...readers who can stomach bombast will be rewarded with a comparative look at the systems that have locked away 10.3 million human beings, including 2.3 million in the United States. The range of arrangements is dizzying ... This book jumps off with a hauntingly apt quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky and a nifty lyric from Bob Dylan. But these samplings underscore Dreisinger’s own overheated, grandiose prose, and her flattening we’re-all-the-same-despite-our-actions argument. How she would have benefited from an editor who didn’t sit in the Amen corner ... The work Dreisinger does is vital, occasionally lifesaving. Her bibliography is excellent. But for almost the entirety of Incarceration Nations, the only victims are the ones already behind bars. The grieving families of terrible acts? Undetectable.
PositiveNewsdayMuch of the writing is fine -- vivid and concise -- but the structure of the book is strange, starting with chapter-length first-person narrators, then shifting into the forest interlude, during which Bride thinks, 'Without distraction or physical activity, the mind shuffled pointless, scattered recollections around and around.' The novel wobbles in its third part, a long expository telling of Booker's backstory ... The novel recovers when it returns to Sweetness, now parked in a New York old folks home, relying on checks from the daughter she long avoided touching. Morrison has a Shakespearean sense of tragedy, and that gift imbues God Help the Child. The ending is exquisite.
RaveThe Seattle TimesGeochemist Hope Jahren writes with such flair that a reviewer is tempted to just move out of the way and quote her...Deft and flecked with humor, Lab Girl is also a hybrid — a scientist’s memoir of a quirky, gritty, fascinating life punctuated by mesmerizing dispatches on botany.
MixedNewsdayThis is an immersive, emphatic, bloody and very assured book...[but] missing are the voices of Native Americans. This is a surprise, given Stiles’ careful bead on Southern sensibilities in the Civil War chapters.