PositiveThe Washington Post... will satisfy [Murakami\'s] fans and serve as a fine introduction to neophytes, echoing many of the uncanny scenarios of his earlier work ... The specter of mortality looms larger in First Person Singular than in Murakami’s other work. In the stories that relive defining incidents from a narrator’s youth, Murakami’s characters no longer wonder what might have been ... These eight stories, all told in first person, are unapologetically Murakami. Whether its talking monkeys or reverential passages on Charlie Parker or Beatles albums, First Person Singular doesn’t break much new ground, but it will remind readers why Murakami’s work is singular.
PositiveNPRWhen Liang is wrongly accused of a crime by his neighbors, a misunderstanding that he doesn\'t have the English proficiency to refute, it\'s the closest thing to something happening in the book ... Like many books about Chinese American immigrants, the most compelling moments come from the characters\' pasts. Particularly poignant is the story of Liang\'s mother, who dies in an accidental fall shortly after giving birth to her son ... Though Han\'s intent was clearly to keep this novel quiet, I did wish that so much of the drama wasn\'t left to the imagination. The story glosses over Liang\'s interactions with law enforcement after he\'s accused, as well as Patty and Liang\'s painful decision to separate. After the pivotal accusation, I expected the plot to come to a boil, but instead it returned to a simmer – and stayed there ... Nights When Nothing Happened is a brief novel best read slowly, so one can savor the resonance and originality Han wrings from the quotidian. Readers should expect an experience more like watching a Wong Kar-wai film than a Kathryn Bigelow one; Han\'s gift at zeroing in on matters of the conflicted heart is its own reward.
PositiveThe Washington Post... Ivy’s fall feels lurid, like watching a reality-show train wreck spiral from one bad decision to the next ... The publisher bills White Ivy as a debut that \'turns the immigrant novel on its head,\' but it’s unclear how the Lins’s immigration status seeds Ivy’s obsession with the Speyers ... While the title seems to allude to Ivy coveting Whiteness, neither she nor any of the characters seem to register the racial or gendered implications of their actions ... Even in the absence of more incisive social commentary, White Ivy is still a highly entertaining, well-plotted character study about a young woman whose obsession with the shallow signifiers of success gets her in too deep.
RaveThe Rumpus... one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time ... Droll, scatological, and delightfully subversive in its gender portrayals ... Butler is a ninja at conjuring Jillian’s peculiar mental state in her internal monologues, which are mundane, absurd, and foreboding all at once ... a hilarious portrayal of those urban twenty-something years—that age before you’ve made any choices to define yourself, and everything is a placeholder for an uncertain future that scares you ... a darkly comic allegory about America, a nation pathologically unwilling to make tough choices for a better tomorrow, but quite willing to trade substantive change for ephemeral satisfaction (i.e. spiritual junk food). Read that way, Butler’s novel is not just the funniest book I’ve read in a long time, but also one of the most important ones.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle... funny and poignant...couldn’t come at a better time ... Tenorio skillfully wrings high comedy from his characters’ boxed-in lives in a country that doesn’t know what to do with them ... Like the main characters of many coming-of-age novels, Excel’s retiring nature makes him less compelling than his supporting players. For instance, Maxima, a martial arts expert and internet-savvy firebrand, steals every scene she’s in...Tenorio nevertheless finds moments to highlight the son of good fortune’s pathos ... The novel’s back half centers on a big con, with Maxima and Excel teaming up to scam a white guy looking for love (that he can pay for). The line between the exploited and the exploiter blurs in fascinating and uncomfortable ways. The Son of Good Fortune is a timely novel that leaves its central question unanswered: Can’t we, as a nation, do better?
RaveThe RumpusDroll, scatological, and delightfully subversive in its gender portrayals, Jillian is what the TV show Girls would be if 1) it were a novel and 2) it were at its best every week ... Butler is a ninja at conjuring Jillian’s peculiar mental state in her internal monologues, which are mundane, absurd, and foreboding all at once ... Jillian is a hilarious portrayal of those urban twenty-something years—that age before you’ve made any choices to define yourself, and everything is a placeholder for an uncertain future that scares you ... Jillian is a darkly comic allegory about America, a nation pathologically unwilling to make tough choices for a better tomorrow, but quite willing to trade substantive change for ephemeral satisfaction (i.e. spiritual junk food). Read that way, Butler’s novel is not just the funniest book I’ve read in a long time, but also one of the most important ones.
PositiveThe RumpusLes Innocents is bursting at the seams and degrading the sanitation of the first arrondissement. The smells of the dead seep into air, food, and water, requiring residents to breathe through perfumed handkerchiefs. The pits of the mass graves are so overcrowded that excess bones are stored in charnel houses along the cemetery walls … The difficult and symbolic task of emptying Les Innocents and moving its bones to the Catacombs of Montparnasse will change Baratte and the cemetery’s surrounding community forever. Those on sanity’s edge go mad. Many are lured in by the shadows, lost to tragic fates. Love surprises the engineer, like a lurking ghost. In the muddy delirium, among the bones, Baratte finds moments of hope in his grim work as the future’s shepherd.
MixedElectric LiteratureBock captures how you can feel dropped into an ocean of new clinical vocabulary, each word carrying life-and-death stakes ... Bock also painstakingly renders our American healthcare system in all its logic-free anti-glory ... The novel is weaker, however, in its depiction of Alice and Oliver as individuals...Both come close to being Manhatttanite clichés: well-educated, creative, and most notably, privileged...No one in the book calls Alice and Oliver out on their difficult behavior, and neither character seems particularly bothered by the fact that every annoying person on their grim journey happens to be a person of color, while everyone helpful is white ... As a novel about marriage, Alice and Oliver is at its most successful. Bock paints how marriage can help these two flawed individuals transcend their own limitations in a time of crisis.