PositiveBooklistWide-ranging, often chilling ... Written playfully but interpreted as serious, and suggests that we all might be subject to danger from the same sort of posts, preserved without our knowledge in government databases.
RaveColumbus DispatchReaders shouldn\'t come to On the Savage Side expecting a typical crime novel ... [McDaniel] isn\'t concerned with making the language naturalistic. Everyone in the novel... speaks a heightened, poetic language likely never heard in Chillicothe or anywhere else, full of mythological and literary references. Disconcerting at first, the language quickly comes to feel normal, a way of bringing the characters\' deeper feelings to the surface.
PositiveBooklistFast-moving ... Boyne moves nimbly through Gretel’s history and numerous subplots in which some coincidences strain credulity. Gretel is a compelling character, sardonic and damaged, and the novel raises intriguing questions about the psychological effects of guilt and shame. While it stands sturdily enough on its own, it will probably appeal particularly to fans of Boyne’s earlier bestseller.
Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden
PositiveBooklistDudley and Golden explore with verve and fascinating detail the assorted group of unpaid, self-taught experts in the U.S. and Europe who make it their duty to protect the innocent from ransomware ... Creating vivid portraits of several brilliant, occasionally socially awkward members of the loosely organized team ... Anyone with internet access should find this intriguing, and a little horrifying.
RaveBooklist... well researched and thoroughly unnerving ... Fisher’s lucid, clear explanations and convincing arguments are bound to leave readers questioning their own use of social media.
RaveBooklist... a passionate account ... While the courtroom coverage can be overheated and muddled, Macy excels at vivid, detailed depictions of the day-to-day struggles of dealing with addiction in several small towns in West Virginia, Indiana, and North Carolina during a period when those communities were also confronting the pandemic. She argues persuasively that substance abuse should be treated as a medical condition rather than a crime, and focuses on treatments with the potential to help, emphasizing the efforts of people who are necessarily skirting the law in order to provide aid to those who need it most. Thoroughly engaged in the lives of her subjects, never dispassionate, Macy immerses readers in horrific reality while illuminating faint hints of hope.
PositiveBooklistWalter’s second short-story collection features 12 sparkling, neatly varied pieces that range from Europe to the small towns of rural Washington State ... Walter also reveals a gift for darker, more surreal humor ... At times, Walter overreaches ... But Walters’ compassion, wit, and general charm redeem even this story, and the volume as a whole is a fizzy delight.
PositiveBooklist... insightful and fascinating ... Hartman interweaves their stories with those of other immigrants who establish themselves in this Rust Belt city, shaping its life for the better, and reviews the complicated history of post-industrial cities in the Northeast. In doing so, she will hone and reshape the reader’s understanding of the impact of refugees on American society.
PositiveBooklistThe touching, restrained third novel by Canadian author Basran traces the repercussions of the suicide of a teenager in British Columbia, over three months..As the novel develops, it widens out from its tightly contained domestic world, setting its characters free to explore the natural realm and its possibilities...Basran sensitively examines four characters with their own sets of psychological struggles, all of whom gradually and to a believable degree begin to move past them and open up, offering a hint of hope to the reader.
Tove Ditlevsen, trans. by Tiina Nunnally
RaveBooklistUnflinching and tightly compressed ... Ditlevsen depicts Lise’s startling, vivid inner world—full of what outsiders might label auditory and visual hallucinations—with such precise, poetic language that it is impossible not to empathize with her experience ... Laced with flashes of shocking beauty, this is a precise depiction of a state of mind few would want to endure.
Tove Ditlevsen, Tr. Michael Favala Goldman
PositiveBooklistThe stories...are compressed and potent ... While the repetition of themes can feel claustrophobic, Ditlevsen is a master at delineating subtle gradations of anguish and imbuing the most common of household objects, like the titular umbrella, with dread. Knitting these two volumes together reveals the author’s progression from a relatively naturalistic writer to a more impressionistic one.
Elena Medel, tr. Lizzie Davis
RaveBooklistMedel’s sensitive debut, charged with feminist insights but never losing sight of the particularities of its characters, weaves together the stories of two women whose deeper connection only becomes clear as the novel approaches its end ... Moving nimbly back and forth through time, from the sixties up until 2018, Spanish novelist Medel astutely examines the forces—political, economic, familial, and personal—that have shaped the two women’s richly detailed lives. Though penned in by class and gender, often in ways they do not recognize, Maria and Alicia come across not as simple victims but as struggling survivors, still open to change.
PositiveBooklistThough the two only spent a few days together, retracing Wiebe’s usual route in her pickup truck, and though Wiebe remains a somewhat idealized figure, the encounter clearly proved significant to Butcher, who brings the details to vivid life as she describes both the brutally beautiful landscape and the many people she and Joy met on their brief journey together. A moving account of the impact of connection
PositiveBooklistPoignant, understated ... Those who have lost a child will find a kindred spirit here.
RaveBooklistMassive but light on its feet ... [A] playfully thought-provoking novel ... Towles, paying more than a passing nod to Huckleberry Finn, juggles the pieces of his plot deftly, shifting from voice to voice, skirting sentimentality and quirkiness with a touch of wistful regret, and leading up to an ending that is bound to provoke discussion.
PositiveBooklist[A] gossipy, unsparing memoir ... While hardly unbiased, Shum provides a harrowing, often fascinating look inside a system where politics and business are inextricably intertwined.
PositiveBooklist[A] poignant, quietly romantic debut novel ... Even as a science-fiction hook, Memoroxin requires considerable suspension of disbelief, but Westgate’s portrayals of young, artistic L.A. strivers, the parties they attend, and the unstable landscape in which they attempt to find their footing ring true.
PositiveBooklist... [a] moving, complex combination of history both social and personal ... Along the way, he makes good use of the many revealing letters Aurilice’s adoptive father sent home to his upper-class family. While Aurilice’s parents’ deaths turn out to be more sad than mysterious, Kapur clearly and passionately articulates both his love for Auroville and his deep awareness of its flaws.
Travis M. Andrews
PositiveBooklistAndrews’ first book examines the life and work of the irresistible Goldblum with a light touch and a sardonic sense of humor. While not an authorized biography, since the actor didn’t consent to be interviewed, the book makes good use of interviews with Goldblum’s friends and associates, along with the many articles that have been published about him. The result is hardly a tell-all...but it does follow him faithfully ... Side trips into an imaginary interview, a selection of Goldblum haikus to which the reader is invited to contribute, and a short play that imagines a 17-year-old Goldblum interacting with a 67-year-old one add to the fun.
RaveThe Columbus Dispatch... sly, darkly funny ... Lippman moves neatly back and forth between the present and Gerry\'s memories, which touch on his experiences growing up in Baltimore ... He\'s an engaging anti-hero, with enough positive qualities that it\'s possible to sympathize with him, and enough flaws that it\'s hard not to yearn for his comeuppance. Lippman is clearly having fun playing with the conventions of mystery and horror novels, and the reader is likely to have an equally good time.
Shawna Kay Rodenberg
RaveBooklistRodenberg has plenty of material for a fascinating memoir. What makes this one special is the way the debut author widens her view to tell the stories of her parents, grandparents, and other relatives, including times before she was born, with as much compassion and realistic detail as she gives her own story ... Rodenberg avoids the \'Mountain-Dew-mouth and dirt-floor stereotypes\' through which Appalachia is often seen to create a nuanced portrait of a complicated place and people.
PositiveBooklist... lushly detailed ... Lee is frustratingly discreet, sticking to the historical record and imagining Green’s inner thoughts and feelings but refraining from describing any outer actions other than his documented public ones; this leaves Green as something of a cipher. Fortunately, the city in which he lives, that \'cathedral of possibilities,\' is so vividly realized that it makes up for the lack of a compelling central character.
Linda Rui Feng
RaveBooklistFeng’s lithe debut moves with grace from Communist China to San Francisco and the Great Plains, and from the 1960s to the 1980s, as it follows four interlocked lives ... With the lightest of touches, Feng vividly portrays the experience of living in China during Mao’s rule as well as the pressures of being a new immigrant. Looking deeply into the \'invisible mesh\' that links her characters’ lives, Feng weaves a plot both surprising and inevitable, with not a word to spare.
Alice Zeniter, Tr. by Frank Wynne
RaveBooklistWhile the level of detail can sometimes leave readers struggling to keep track of the many twigs on Naïma’s family tree, the novel vividly portrays the fates of a group of victims and survivors of a morally complex war. This is both a classic tale of the immigrant experience and a meditation on how that experience reverberates through generations of a family.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
RaveThe Columbus Dispatch...thoughtful, comprehensive ... His nuanced study, backed but not overwhelmed by mountains of research, examines the political as well as the spiritual role of the Black Church, and the way it has both shaped and been shaped by the world outside the walls of individual churches ... Gates doesn\'t ignore problems within the church, including a certain amount of \'homophobia and misogyny\' ... Gates\' book is amply illustrated and contains enough references and book recommendations to fuel a rewarding independent study of the subject ... Gates makes an apt guide.
Tove Ditlevsen, trans. by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman
RaveBooklistReaders will find her ruthless self-scrutiny both admirable and shocking.
RaveBooklistGenerations of conflicted mother-daughter relationships culminate with one unhappy woman and her possibly dangerous daughter in Canadian writer Audrain’s unnerving, cannily structured debut ... Both an absorbing thriller and an intense, profound look at the heartbreaking ways motherhood can go wrong, this is sure to provoke discussion.
PositiveBooklistThe novel, inspired in part by literary critic Roland Barthes’ meditation with the same title, is composed of brief, emotionally resonant chapters ... Enticingly spare, often wry, and just as often touching, the novel addresses the narrator’s sense of dislocation ... An ordinary sequence of life events is illuminated by the perspective of an outsider trying to craft a new home.
PositiveBooklist... witty, closely observed ... While Caroline and the other tenants, alternately cruel and clueless, sometimes border on caricature, the book transcends its limited setting to make broader points about class, and the alternating viewpoints of daughter and father add family dynamics to the mix.
PositiveBooklist... pleasantly quirky ... While Alicia and Emma’s stories are integrated rather awkwardly into the novel, and are tonally much darker than the main story, they do broaden the narrative. Bennett is a comfortable character to get to know, as is the London through which he ambles.
PositiveBooklist... comfortably sprawling ... Though Schultz’s sympathies clearly lie with the women of the family, who are held back from achieving their goals and fulfilling their promise by societal expectations, her warmth and compassion also extend to the men, whose bad behavior is usually explained by a cycle of abuse. She anchors the domestic story in the wider one of a fully realized community in which religion plays a significant role. At its best, the novel has an old-fashioned charm and a keen eye for the details of Midwestern life in the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
RaveBooklist...a powerful, horrifying history of a family and a nation ... a compelling, nuanced story, amply illustrated with family photographs. The book is sober, dominated by a deep sense of shame and outrage, and intentionally disquieting. It won’t be a comfortable reading experience, and it’s not meant to be, but it’s a necessary one.
PositiveBooklist... moody, leisurely paced ... Alternating primarily between Rina and Sumiko’s points of view, Scott poignantly evokes both a mother trapped by the choices made for her and a daughter learning to deal with her own precarious freedom. She clearly defines the unfortunate effects of the traditional Japanese legal system on women, and with carefully accumulated details describes a Japan both physically and psychologically teetering on the edge of change.
Betsey Johnson and Mark Vitulano
PositiveBooklist... gossipy, spirited, and amply illustrated ... in addition to providing provocative insight into the ups and downs of life in the fashion industry, Johnson cheerfully details a complicated private life, including three unfortunate marriages and a beloved daughter. On a more serious note, she also details her experience with breast cancer. Anyone fascinated by New York in the sixties and seventies or by fashion in general will relish this one.
MixedBooklist... [a] grim, lyrical novel ... While some may find the constant talk about \'will\' and the existential philosophizing tiresome, the day-to-day struggles of Bolivar and his companion are vividly realized, and the conflict between a human being and his harsh environment is distilled to its essence.
RaveThe Columbus Dispatch... a sly, wryly comic novel ... Even if this were simply a novel about waitressing, that would be enough ... But this is also a novel about writing while doing whatever else it takes to make a living, and about doing so as a woman. King has some sharp points to make about the difficulties of the latter, many of which revolve around people’s thoughtless reactions to women’s writing ... King plays some neat tricks with the conventions of the romantic comedy here ... has one of the most completely satisfying endings around, both surprising and solidly in character ... Seemingly light and breezy, the novel has an impressively steely core.
PositiveBooklistBeyda’s moody debut plays on the conventions of film noir, with a special nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo ... While the story at times strains credulity, and the narrator often seems willfully naive, the novel has the potency and sense of inevitability of a particularly vivid dream, and as the balance of power between the narrator and Max gradually shifts, the cat and mouse game becomes ever more absorbing.
PositiveBooklistThe novel sometimes slides tentatively into fantasy ... the tale’s thriller elements and twisty ending might strike some readers as tacked onto a more conventional story rather than organically part of it. Still, Tsao deftly juggles a large cast of characters, and her thorough examination of the life of a wealthy Chinese-Indonesian family, as well as her insights into the false assumptions those in the Chinese, Indonesian, and Western communities make about its members, are intelligent and lively.
PositiveBooklistThis slyly edgy second novel...explores the thin line between lying and storytelling, and considers whether lying may ever have positive consequences. [Gundar-Goshen] writes with detached affection for her misguided but essentially well-meaning characters, skipping nimbly among their points of view, and introducing new ones along the way. Both sardonic and touching, the novel raises questions of morality for which there are no easy answers. Its timely subject matter and intriguing, unpredictable plot are sure to prompt discussion among readers.
RaveBooklistSensitive, tender, elegiac, quietly mysterious, and as much the work of a thoughtful, informed imagination as of historical fact, the book profits from Cumming’s keen ability to extract meaning from the most seemingly casual of photographs. This is also a model of how to write a compelling biography of the childhood of an \'ordinary\' person. Memoir and biography lovers will be riveted.
PositiveBooklist[A] charming, comically observant debut ... Vatner jumps from one point of view to another, not necessarily integrating all the separate stories into a flowing narrative. Rather, it’s his consistently wry wit and obvious affection for his deluded, struggling characters that are this novel’s propelling forces, and which will win readers over with delight.
PositiveBooklistTilney’s sensitive and perceptive debut follows insecure, ambitious Ben Weeks through his first few months at an isolated New England prep school ... Writing primarily from Ben’s point of view, Tilney also alights for a sentence or two at a time in the minds of those who surround him, which adds depth to the narrative ... YAs will recognize the psychological and social challenges Ben faces and appreciate Tilney\'s recognition of the moral complexities of life as a teenager.
PositiveBooklist... clear, richly detailed prose ... This gripping memoir follows the couple into and out of the depths of grief, through ordinary and less ordinary days, as \'suicidal despair\' alternates with howling anger at the universe, and as they make the fraught decision to try to have another child. Greene, remarkably, pays as much attention to the particulars of the people and places around him as he does to his own unsugarcoated experience of the tentative but real return of hope and pleasure in life.
PositiveBooklistWith detached wit and restrained horror at her characters’ behavior, Butler explores the volatile nature of identity in this provocative novel.
Lena Andersson Trans. by Saskia Vogel
PositiveBooklist... piercing, chilly ... As dryly comic as it is horrifying on an emotional level, the novel will ring true to anyone who has ever loved unwisely. While readers recovering from a breakup may find it hitting too close to home, those ready to swap a propulsive plot for a razor-sharp examination of a deluded mind should find this irresistible.
PositiveBooklist... melancholic, lushly poetic ... The skeptical might wonder just how the two have managed to deceive their shadowy spouses for so many years, as well as how they have maintained such a white-hot passion through the decades, but few will be able to resist O’Callaghan’s romantic spirit. Driven by language rather than plot, the novel strikes a mood as elegaic as it is sensual.
Mary Laura Philpott
PositiveBooklistA mosaic of a life changing in subtle rather than radical ways ... In a book that jumps blithely from subject to subject, self-described type A personality Philpott, who’s subject to clinical depression when overwhelmed by life and specifically by the demands of parenthood, hits some of the high and low points of her autobiography and muses about their meanings ... Readers with their own sets of anxieties should be charmed by the author’s friendly tone, warm sense of humor, and relatable experiences.
PositiveBooklistJittery, intelligent ... tern shows wry insight into the peculiar problems of academia, and the many discussions of communication, animal and human alike, add depth to her depictions of relationships in which the parties involved experience a distressing inability to communicate.
RaveBooklistAstute...affecting ... Schulman’s intriguing premise gives depth to this domestic drama. Adding to that, every sentence sparkles, even minor characters have full and surprising lives, and she pulls it all together in an elegant ending.
William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce
RaveThe Columbus DispatchPart suspenseful true-crime tale and part quirky family history ... fascinating ... It’s filled with colorful characters ... It neatly balances the old family stories with a solid historical perspective on the time and place. The combination makes for an intriguing look at a forgotten piece of Ohio’s history.
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally
PositiveBooklist\"Widely admired celebrity couple Mullally and Offerman chat their way comfortably through a book about their lives and marriage. It’s framed as a series of dialogues on subjects such as their first meeting, their families, their early lives, and, of course, sex ... Both partners come across as likable, grounded, unpretentious, and flawed enough to be believable. An extra treat is a series of photos of the two posing, often with one or more of their dogs, with the jigsaw puzzles they complete on a regular basis. Those hoping that Hollywood couples are just like the rest of us, only maybe a little bit nicer and richer, should be pleased.
PositiveBooklist\"While Wang tosses out more plot threads than she finally reels in, and the connections among the stories of the five characters aren’t always as apparent as they might be, she explores Silicon Valley subculture with wit and ultimately reveals a deep understanding of her feckless strivers.\
PositiveBooklist...Kya is abandoned by her troubled mother when she is only six ... As Kya matures and teaches herself to be a naturalist, she is torn between two slightly older boys: kind, observant Tate and rascally, attractive Chase. Chase dies falling from a fire tower in his twenties, and the investigation of his possible murder, which alternates with the story of Kya’s coming-of-age, provides much of the novel’s suspense. Because the characters are painted in broad, unambiguous strokes, this is not so much a naturalistic novel as a mythic one, with its appeal rising from Kya’s deep connection to the place where she makes her home, and to all of its creatures.
PositiveBooklist\"Lale comes across as a sharp-witted businessman with a touch of the con artist, smuggling out jewels and currency in sausages and chocolate. Although one might suspect that there’s far more to his past than is revealed here, much of Lale’s story’s complexity makes it onto the page. And even though it’s clear that Lale will survive, Morris imbues the novel with remarkable suspense.\
PositiveBooklistIn this compassionate, feminist-flavored memoir, Rowbottom both distances and broadens the family story by setting it in the context of the changes in the lives of American women over the past century, as reflected in the marketing and sales of Jell-O. First viewed as a sweet treat and later as a dietary aid, the dessert serves as an oddly apt reflection of women’s concurrent, ambivalent relationships to their appetites and bodies.
MixedBooklist Online\"Davis doesn’t stint on gory details. Her ambivalence about killing comes through clearly, as does her appreciation for good meat and the small-scale farmers who humanely, or at least relatively so, raise the animals that provide it. The concentrated first half of the book, detailing the struggles of learning butchery and the people Davis meets in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, is more rewarding than the more diffuse second half, much of which is devoted to two simultaneous, messy love affairs.\
PositiveBooklist...[a] touching and sharply observed memoir ... [a] concise, precise account ... Line drawings of Joy that Santlofer made during the grieving process add to a sense of their loving relationship.
RaveBooklist Online\"Advice-columnist and novelist Goldstein’s (The Singles, 2012) first nonfiction book cheerfully combines memoir and generous excerpts from her \'Love Letters\' column in the Boston Globe ... The book neatly balances heartbreak and humor, as Goldstein’s story intertwines with those of her many correspondents.\
RaveBooklist Online\"While all the chapters gush with details of the time period, the author loosely dedicates his chapters to various topics: small restaurants owned by wealthy couples in New York, the declining influence of French cuisine on its American counterpart, the role of women in restaurants around San Francisco, and so on. Although the book may be overwhelming for the casual restaurant goer, committed foodies will eat it up.\
RaveBooklistHe makes a convincing case that milk, both that produced by human mothers and that supplied by a surprising array of other mammals, is one of the most controversial foodstuffs around ... Kurlansky’s wide-ranging curiosity makes a familiar topic seem exotic.
RaveThe Columbus Dispatch[Nye] has a clear sense of the tensions bound up in his males, and of the contained violence always ready to be released through sports or fighting. Precisely detailed descriptions of Owen’s role in several basketball games provide insight into minute changes in his mental and emotional states ... Anger and fear dominate the lives of the characters. The novel plays subtle variations on the theme of dread, which subtly amps up as the story reaches its climax ... a quietly brutal story, anchored in the everyday while hinting at dark paths there for the taking.
PositiveBooklistIn his entertaining first book, journalist Stone follows the unsung botanical hero ... While Stone may be a bit too dismissive of the various insect pests possibly introduced along with these foreign plants, he captures the flavor of an adventurous age, using Fairchild’s voluminous writings to launch vivid descriptions of his travels.
Gregory Blake Smith
PositiveBooklistThough references to James’ work, particularly The Portrait of a Lady, abound, readers don’t have to be familiar with his novels to relish the well-differentiated voices and worlds or to enjoy the way the novel’s five story lines subtly shift and begin to merge. Each character’s story offers distorted but revealing reflections of the others’, allowing readers to witness the peeling back of layers of history as well as the ways character is shaped by the intersection of place and time.