PositiveForeward ReviewsComprised of short vignettes that move in swift, restless succession, the novel addresses the past and the present alongside one another, so that time becomes a spiral that closes in on itself. Memories of Valeria’s departed sister haunt the narrative, and Valeria’s stories are included throughout. The characters are developed as mirrors and refractions of one other, especially as Valeria and Isla study one another during the portraiture ... As the characters tangle, their story becomes desperate, even claustrophobic. In conversation, they are afraid to reveal themselves, answering questions with questions and changing subjects ... a meditative, illuminating novel that pushes the boundaries of love and art.
PositiveBookPageLike a wise and imaginative teacher, Kristin Hannah imbues past events with relevance and significance ... The story builds to epic proportions over its four distinct parts. The spare writing in the 1921-set first section imparts the starkness of Elsa’s childhood and the barrenness of the landscape, like a Dorothea Lange photograph come alive ... With biting dialogue that holds nothing back, The Four Winds is classic in its artistry. Overtones of America’s present political struggles echo throughout the novel’s events. These indomitable female characters foreshadow the nation’s sweeping change through their fierce commitment to each other and to a common, timeless goal.
PositiveBookPage... a lively narrative ... sensations dominate the narrative, from the smells and tastes of Dee’s exotic meals to sights from around New York, Michigan and Montana, as well as memories of physical closeness and warmth. The text is idiosyncratic, composed of lists and phrases, a mosaic of impressions from past and present ... Reading The Center of Everything is like traveling further and further into a dream, spiraling around fragments toward a point of love and wonder. It’s a redemptive and hopeful novel guided by earthy, reliable men, women and children who inspire and encourage.
RaveBookPageMany novels aim for the soul or search for the meaning of life, but Ellen Cooney’s poetic 10th novel gets to the heart of the matter with more informal candor and wit than most ... a stroll and a meander, following the errant trail of the chaplain’s questions: What is a soul? What is holy? The chaplain’s meetings with people who are injured or dying reveal a host of varied answers, and the narrative slips between characters’ stories as easily as a shadow glides along a wall ... The novel reads like a diary confession, its casual writing style studded with pop culture references and exclamatory asides. As patients open up to the chaplain, she in turn opens up about her family, love life and dreams, engendering in readers the same open, gentle manner with which she ministers ... Cooney’s novel expands the concept of what’s possible, imagining hope where there is none and pointing always toward the light.
RaveBookPageThe liminal space between art, artist and audience takes an unexpected, beautiful and haunting form in Scott O’Connor’s masterful Zero Zone, which brings to light the intangible thoughts and feelings swirling around an interactive art installation in the desert ... An intimate experience of art from the inside out, Zero Zone raises questions about to whom art belongs: its creator or its recipients. Untangling the web of answers makes for a tantalizing inquiry.
M. O. Walsh
PositiveBookPage... celebrates unlikely heroes ... Over the course of the novel, these characters become genuine role models who contrast with the personalities celebrated by social media ... More than solving societal ills, The Big Door Prize calls attention to the ordinary, hard-won joys of real people. M.O. Walsh’s second novel is a feel-good read in a down-home setting, with serious undertones.
PositiveBookPageIn the vein of Virginia Woolf, the narrator’s incisive commentary pierces through descriptions of quotidian affairs ... The freedom to experience the narrator’s inner world makes room for objective reality. Melbourne’s neighborhoods come alive. Mud and stars, butterflies and books inhabit the narrator’s consciousness like companions. There’s a sacredness surrounding the individuals she meets and with whom she speaks, shown by the treatment of dialogue on the page. Short exchanges are set apart from the rest of the text with double spaces, while long speeches are crammed into single-space blocks, a visual expression of how people can crowd and overwhelm the narrator. But with the man she meets in the bathroom line, the anxiousness and intensity of the party give way to the pleasure of shared company ... culminates in unexpected intimacy, not only between the narrator and her new friend but also between the reader and an extraordinary mind.
RaveBookPage... has something for everyone: history, adventure, romance and spiritual awakening ... Both Greta and Odd experience longing and loneliness, stark emotions depicted as clearly as the breathtaking wintry settings. And then, out of the darkness come peace and love as warm as the tropics ... Strong characters steer the narrative with conviction. Stoic Greta is an independent woman, navigating divorce with both relatable mistakes and self-aware intention. Although not a believer in God, Odd is faithful, living each day for his family. His pithy and personal manner of describing what happens to him, and his feelings about these events, dignify the text. As Greta learns about Odd’s admirable bearing and spirit, she gains resolve, as well as a newfound buoyancy ... Geye rounds out his Eide family trilogy with a beautiful ode to the enduring human spirit.
PositiveBookPageToggling back and forth in time and from place to place, the plot floats through gut-wrenching vignettes of Franny’s escapades, strung together like clues on a life-or-death scavenger hunt ... Whether she’s in Australia, Trondheim, Greenland, Galway, Scotland, Yellowstone or Antarctica, Franny’s unsettled heart sets the scene ... Prepare to mourn a bleak image of the future and to embrace an everlasting hope in Franny’s heroic example.
Samanta Schweblin, trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveBookPageDrawn in quotidian elegance, the novel is a string of nonstop, colorful vignettes ... If Schweblin’s sci-fi thriller Fever Dream made sleep difficult, Little Eyes raises the unease quotient. The book seems to watch viewers creepily as it unfolds.
PositiveBookpageWomen are the story’s primary actors, finding clever ways—including the occult—to skirt discrimination and advance their cause during a turbulent time. The action swirls in a maelstrom of spiritualism, revived after Victoria’s passing, and the subsequent rational backlash ... Steeped in a slew of influences, The Golden Key bends genres. It’s part Shirley Jackson’s stories of inner demons, part Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland...part Astrid Lindgren’s faith in children’s resilience and part ghost story. A lush, unsettled atmosphere echoes in lugubrious descriptions of the Fens ... Enter a mysterious world in the hands of capable women. Getting drawn into this story is easy; getting out again is trickier.
PositiveBookpageChris McCormick’s tightly knit second novel begins and ends in anonymity ... bookends that are a testament to the novel’s timeless, universal message about the fine line between performance and authenticity ... For all the literal and figurative backstabbing throughout the book, there’s plenty of caring, too. The characters’ eccentricities....set them apart as much as they draw them to each other. The story plays with the tension between our differences and similarities while also questioning what’s genuine and what’s an act. McCormick’s facility for metaphor encourages us to keep asking questions and pushing boundaries. Through these creative associations, The Gimmicks stretches the reader’s imagination and capacity for empathy.
PositiveBookPageStuart’s anxious novel is both a tragedy and a survival story. Shuggie is as neglected as Glasgow, but through his mother’s demise, he discovers his strength. Shuggie Bain celebrates taking charge of one’s own destiny.
RaveBook PageDebut author Hernan Diaz depicts a bonafide Western character, an original born in the spirit of expansion and innovation and formed by \'the business of being that took up all his time.\' Jorge Luis Borges’ influence on Diaz is palpable in his pithy prose; lists convey the sparsity of Håkan’s surroundings and the emptiness that feeds him again and again on his circular path. Diaz is bound to join ranks with Borges on the literary scene with this mythical personality, still at large in our consciousness long after we’ve put down the book.
PositiveBookPage... brings the past to life with authenticity and unexpected relevance ... antiquated language enhances the characters’ genuine believability. Their sentiments aren’t relegated to a bygone era; rather, they address contemporary audiences directly about present-day issues, namely, how a hoax (aka \'fake news\') turns into fact ... A zesty blend of bawdy entertainment and thoughtful coming-of-age story, Mary Toft tantalizes the contemporary conscious as its truth-seeking characters wade through truth-defying circumstances.
PositiveBookPage... a clever novel encompassing love and death, couched in an instruction manual ... Graphs, illustrations, pictures and notes in the text add levity. Katya is very funny as well. She gets in trouble for laughing in sensitive situations. Her behavior is extreme and childlike. She’s easy to love, and her first-person voice is accessible and engaging. The men to whom she’s attached are bright and witty, sharing her love of literature and film. She mentions Alice Munro as a favorite author, and Vapnyar’s own admiration of Munro shows in the earthy, elegant prose ... Toward the end, the math associations fall away, and the anecdotes become shorter and more serious. The dark side of comedy shows through in a culminating glimpse of a life on the verge of sweeping change ... yields humorous and profound life lessons.
PositiveForeword Reviews... reads like a parable or a Greek tragedy ... Pithy, earthy language conveys complex truths. Amid grunting pigs, slimy refuse, and few belongings, the kids develop into thoughtful characters, eliciting compassion and respect. In contrast, the adults act like kids, abandoning responsibility. Undeveloped, they serve as warnings ... The focus toward the end of the book narrows, and the tone becomes more self-reflective as the action gains gruesome intensity. The end is an effective rupture of the way things were. Devastating and hopeful, the book champions reform from the inside out ... Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, Pigs is a modern fable, though less a tirade about climate disaster than a coming-of-age story for adults.
R. H. Herron
PositiveBookPageStolen Things is two parts adrenaline to one part boredom. It combines scenes of everyday family life with riveting encounters between those involved in the crime. The storytelling is as smooth as a veteran ER nurse guiding a victim through trauma. Herron inconspicuously toggles between Laurie’s and Jojo’s perspectives for a seamless account of moment-by-moment action ... The book confronts a slew of today’s issues...with pathos and conviction. Chapters are short, emotional bursts of energy that fuel the quest for answers. Each side is given credence and receives critique. Faint-hearted readers beware; rooted in real events, the tale is graphic at times. The anger is palpable, and so is the love between a mother and daughter willing to fight for each other’s lives.
RaveBookPageChapters interweave like the finest lace ... London’s splendor as well as its squalor come alive in visceral detail, and Macneal’s attention to artists’ processes spans the extremes from ecstatic joy to macabre revenge and everything in between. The Doll Factory isn’t just inspired by the Victorian era; it takes Thackeray’s social satire and Rodin’s natural forms and molds them into a stunning portrait of a modern heroine.
RaveBookPageFake Like Me roars with creative impulse. Bourland captures the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of the narrator’s artistic life... Questions lead to an urge to act in the only way an artist knows. The writing becomes fierce and urgent, the fine line between creation and destruction blurred ... Part thriller, part performance art and wholly revolutionary, Fake Like Me confronts American art culture with female bravado.
De'Shawn Charles Winslow
RaveBookPageCharacters deal with inflamed emotions, gender and race roles, sexual preferences, addiction and children born out of wedlock—the stuff of the soap operas Knot and friends watch every day on their new televisions. What distinguishes West Mills’ melodrama from episodic TV, however, is the real-life, unglamorous attitudes of ordinary people. Amid their squabbles, they work hard as farmers, cleaners, midwives, teachers and musicians. They eschew happy endings but stick with each other despite their differences. In West Mills exemplifies the timeless adage that it takes a village to raise one another. This is a historical fiction triumph.
PositiveBookPageThe pages of Into the Jungle teem with fascinating flora and fauna ... Densely packed, sensational scenes are offset by thoughtful engagement ... A chilling journey into jungle life, Into the Jungle is also a deep probe into environmental ethics and love.
PositiveBookPageIn following Ana’s epicurean aspirations, the book serves up a savory blend of stories, spiced with Spanish language and aromatic descriptions. The plot is thick and hearty ... The host of female characters pack a powerful punch of sacrificial love mixed with sensuality. Struggles of the heart are conveyed with candor and visceral detail ... conjuring empathy and admiration for all immigrants facing similar circumstances.
RaveBookPage\"In a polarized world, Nickolas Butler’s third novel, Little Faith, offers a touching portrait of people working to heal divisions ... Natural rhythms bind [the book\'s juxtaposing elements], as the novel is organized by the year’s seasons, and their abiding serenity accompanies the many tensions. The book’s conclusion is as enigmatic as its title. Little Faith might be diminutive, but it’s far from fragile.\
PositiveBookPageThe effervescent opening scene of Snowden Wright’s second novel never goes flat—and the same goes for the rest of the novel ... In the vein of To Kill A Mockingbird and more recent classics like The Twelve-Mile Straight and Miss Jane, American Pop explores the South’s dark side. A probing cultural history, the book is also a literary innovation: The time and place shift from paragraph to paragraph, and its main characters are all antiheros, cathartic and prophetic more than admirable, while the outliers, the family’s dark-skinned \'help,\' become heroes ... In its fluid sense of setting and unorthodox cast, the novel rebuffs nostalgia with a fresh perspective. A bubbling satire, American Pop explodes into more than a family portrait; it is our continuing American saga.
PositiveBookPageGripping ... At the moment of truth surrounding the crime at the heart of the novel, the details add up to a tense jumble of passions and uncertainty. This Western-inspired historical war novel deserves recognition alongside the works of Patrick O’Brian and Hilary Mantel for its dynamic exploration of the depths of human depravity and compassion.
RaveBookPageWayétu Moore’s debut novel is more than an imagining of Liberia’s mid-1800s beginnings; it is a magical account of ongoing, individual and collective independence from oppressive forces ... Moore’s insightful, emotional descriptions graft these stories right onto readers’ hearts. A celebration of freedom and justice that compassionately tells the stories of exceptional people, Moore’s debut is about every fight against death and bondage.
RaveBookPage\"With cunning psychological prowess, Tana French’s first standalone crime novel after six Dublin Murder Squad mysteries plumbs the recesses of our darkest thoughts ... With this thorough search into the criminal mind, French reaffirms her place as one of our finest crime novelists. Her characters become as familiar as family yet as unpredictable as strangers, creating a chilling sense that everything could shift at any time.\
PositiveBookPageAnwar constructs his novel like a cyclone, beginning at the onset of the 1970 storm, leaping forward to Shar in 2004 and then catapulting back to 1946 Calcutta. Laced with symbols and mysterious mementos...chapters swell to suspenseful endings that dovetail with each other. Anwar describes his settings in poetic detail, and readers will wish the dialogue were as well wrought ... From visa troubles and Hindu-Muslim relations to child custody and starvation, Anwar tackles the gamut of modern challenges with style and care.
James A McLaughlin
RaveBookPage\"Part thriller, part crime novel, part dreamscape, James A. McLaughlin’s Bearskin refuses to be contained ... Smart and sophisticated, with animals both wild and domestic acting as metaphors, Bearskin is a gritty, down-home tale told with brute force. Rice is a memorable, reluctant hero for both his community and the animals in his charge.\
PositiveBookPage...[a] darkly hilarious debut novel ... The novel is tense from start to finish, taking place mostly in close quarters, indoors and internally ... The pacing is as quick as an industrial kitchen over dinner service, jumping from one emergency to the next. There is a wild fierceness to Li’s writing ... The flavor of Number One Chinese Restaurant is anything but typical, as Li combines broiling anger and slow-simmering love in delicious proportions.
RaveBookPage\"Inspired by true events, Sharon Bala’s multifaceted debut novel is not only about a group of 500 Sri Lankan refugees, the titular “boat people,” but also about the people they left behind and those who will decide their fates upon arriving in 2009 Vancouver ... Bala moves fluidly from past to present, mixing memories with current crises ... The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth.\
RaveBookPageWhiskey reads as cool as a Western and as fundamental as the Bible ... Whiskey punches you in the gut, a blow that lands right at your core.
RaveBookPageWe all share [Daphne\'s] condition to a degree. How often do we retreat behind our headphones and devices to cut out the world—and what are we missing? How are we rewiring ourselves? Not only is it a sensationally captivating narrative, Daphne makes us look at our habits and calibrate.
S. A. Chakraborty
RaveBookPageWith this rich and layered novel, S.A. Chakraborty builds a fantasy world as intricate and intriguing as its Middle Eastern setting. Following the various subplots is like pondering vibrant Arabic design; readers will lose themselves in the wonder and complexity. A helpful glossary in the back of the book defines djinn terms and helps readers keep track of six djinn kingdoms that were divided and set at odds by a long-ago ruler. Chakraborty ends the novel without a simple resolution, which will no doubt lead deftly into the next book in this planned trilogy about a marvelous civilization built on strategy and tenuous allegiances, at the helm of which stand courageous and cunning heroines such as Nahri and brilliant, fierce heroes like Dara and Ali.
PositiveBookPageHenderson explores how opposites—innocence and guilt, sound and silence, cowardice and bravery, malice and goodwill—inform each other. She hands us her story, inspired by her father’s childhood home, as a mother entrusting us to witness its growth, so that it might teach us to love. The tone is brutally honest, voiced by strong characters, particularly heroines who are models for all women.