PositiveThe Kansas City StarThe novel is structured a bit like a play script sans stage directions, and it takes time to settle into an easy rhythm. Saunders collages several ghosts’ speeches with inner monologues from Lincoln and clipped passages from secondary sources, real and imagined. The ping-pong material, particularly from the secondary sources, can be distracting. But the pantheon of confessional voices allows Saunders to play around with different levels of intensity, poetry or abstraction, tuning erratically into new frequencies as if spinning a radio dial ... the novel’s sharpest delight is Saunders’ spasmodic splicing of pop-culture casual and old-world prim ... Magically — and this is in many respects a magical book — Saunders never shortchanges sentiment. Music lovers all know the hair-raising pleasure of a suspended, dissonant chord finally resolving into a major key. Saunders achieves something similar here. Readers patient enough to stick with the fractured chorus are rewarded with a fireworks display of spontaneous feeling all the more acute for the obstacles overcome.
PositiveThe Kansas City Star\"...an oddly compelling, at times dizzying spin through the ways memory can imprison or inspire us ... Ruskovich turns that quasi-explanation into a kind of refrain. Scenes of senseless, almost spectral violence haunt the pages, choking even nostalgic scenes with a queasy, anxious air ... The anxiety is amplified by Ruskovich’s vivid, unsettling images. Throughout the book, Ruskovich paints the Idaho landscape as both idyllic and wild ... The rhythm of the writing expertly mirrors the progression of Wade’s disease — music and its abrupt halt, a piano chord unresolved as he fumbles at the keys. Still, at times Ruskovich falls into the trap of too many contemporary novelists and sacrifices concrete details for abstract lyricism ... The resulting novel is a tense, artful meditation on memory with sustained suspense and a splash of gothic horror.\
MixedThe Kansas City StarAs a spy thriller, the book fails spectacularly. But as a portrait of a woman’s lifelong search for intimacy, it glimmers gently, with a humility to match its subject...But the novel at times moves at the pace of a Galapagos tortoise, burdened by too much biography and too little action. The Conways don’t alight on their island home until over halfway through the book; Frances’ espionage is confined to one harrowing encounter. This seems to be more a failure of marketing than talent. Amend excels on other, quieter fronts: in her sensitivity to both the virtue and emptiness of solitude, in her portrayal of romance without attraction, in her attention to how deprivation more often stunts than ennobles.
PositiveThe Kansas City StarCline, 27, is already a master stylist. Each page of The Girls is laced with startling images, each sentence dressed with meticulous verbs ... That vivid language draws us into Evie’s world, allowing us to see the ranch through her bewildered, drug-heightened perspective. But Cline bucks restraint: at times, the language overshadows Evie’s emotions and her voice rings false. A few too many paragraphs contain clumps of overworked prose, abstract similes clinging to each another like dryer sheets ... Throughout the novel, Cline expertly plumbs gender politics to reveal the scrabbling need of girlhood, the learned ache to be noticed and named. Evie finds fulfillment not in Russell, but Suzanne. We find it in the pages of Cline’s arresting, propulsive debut.
PositiveThe Kansas City StarAlthough Austen devotees may balk at the novel’s modernization — ditto its Americanization — Sittenfeld seems ideally suited to the task. Her breezy wit and sly social critiques capture the spirit, if not the tone, of Austen’s work ... Romantic readers may feel robbed by a stagnant finale filtered through the (literal) lens of an Eligible camera crew. The show’s restrictions hamstring both Liz’s romantic overtures and Sittenfeld’s imagination, leading to a more subdued climax than the book’s rabbit-pulsed heartbeat demands. Still, Eligible succeeds as a wry but wistful ode to modern courtship. The result is charming, diverting and compulsively readable — even for self-proclaimed cynics.