RaveBook ReporterTold in effortlessly shifting perspectives, The Sun Walks Down features a large cast of memorable, finely drawn characters ... Compelling and unsentimental ... McFarlane offers a fresh take on the familiar tale of a missing child and adds new voices and depth to stories of a country’s pioneer past.
Kim Michele Richardson
RaveBookreporter... heartfelt ... Readers who enjoyed Richardson’s previous tale of a woman fighting stubborn prejudice will warm to this book, which features a robust, vividly drawn cast of strong female characters ... The characters might be inspirational, but this is not a shiny, sanitized version of history. This well-researched novel does not shy away from the harsh realities of life in a poor, rural community ... Richardson balances difficult moments with sweeter ones ... there are the rich, resonant rhythms of the local language --- Richardson has an ear for dialogue --- and Honey’s quietly evocative observations of her environment ... Honey’s life may be hard, but it’s also filled with joy, and her story will bring a smile to the face (and tears to the eyes) of readers.
PositiveBookreporterMacmillan has chosen the setting for the first half of her novel well. The rugged, remote landscape is atmospheric, unsettling and increasingly claustrophobic. As Emily observes, it’s like a place out of a terrifying fairy tale. So it’s somewhat disappointing that in the book’s second half, she leaves the spooky peaks of northern England behind for less memorable locales. But she makes up for the change of scenery with a sequence of unexpected and propulsive twists that prove none of these characters are exactly who they initially seem to be. Shifting perspectives --- including sections told from the point of view of a character whose identity is withheld until late in the book --- will keep readers guessing as to who’s really behind the letter and the crimes that follow ... The brisk pacing is a plus, as there’s little time to linger on the less well-developed elements of the plot and characters. Some readers might wish Macmillan had spent a little more time fleshing out her villain’s motivations or find themselves wondering how one person fails to see the truth about their marriage. A compelling subplot involving two characters ends up being dropped relatively early on. Ultimately, though, this is an eminently readable page-turner.
RaveBookreporter... compelling, philosophical ... As Rick’s story unfolds, what emerges is a darkly elegant homage to the hard-boiled crime novels of Chandler, Cain and Macdonald --- a smart, suspenseful tale that asks us to consider what we owe, and what we take from, those around us.
PositiveBook ReporterHealey skillfully weaves together the past and present in The Ophelia Girls ... There’s a feverish intensity to The Ophelia Girls that mirrors the drama of adolescence. It can be a bit much at times, especially a rush of revelations that come toward the end of the novel, which help explain away some characters’ choices in a way that’s not entirely satisfactory. But on the whole, Healey’s second book is a compelling meditation on what it means to be a girl, and a woman, in a world that often wants to define that in a narrow way.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
MixedBookreporterDe Mariaffi takes her time—perhaps too much—setting the stage and layering on the suspense in her deliberately paced and atmospheric book. The first death doesn’t occur until the novel’s halfway point ... De Mariaffi is content to leave it ambiguous. Deaths occur...but Maeve does not witness them herself, leaving the question of what exactly happened unclear ... the environment at the center ends up calling up past ghosts. After she left him, Iain pursued Maeve from city to city, and that predator-prey dynamic is replicated in the book’s tense final chapter, as she finds herself being hunted across High Water’s treacherous frozen grounds.
PositiveBookreporter... a sly examination of privilege both male and authorial ... Lippman excels at making Gerry’s sleek, soulless condo a place of creeping horror ... The extent of his self-delusion becomes obvious in a critical scene two-thirds through the novel, where we see a moment from Gerry’s past that has far-reaching consequences. Gerry, of course, never sees the twist coming—which sets up the book’s violent final confrontation—though many readers will guess at least part of it.
MixedBookreporterThe zeitgeisty details give Astrid Sees All a you-had-to-be-there authenticity, but at times they come at the expense of storytelling. Standiford crams a lot into her slim novel ... a shocking denouement reveals a very real horror stalking the streets of the East Village. Standiford doesn’t manage to pull off this abrupt twist, which arrives too late and is resolved too quickly to fit seamlessly with the rest of the story. Likewise, the eventual resolution to Carmen and Phoebe’s falling out feels forced and unearned. But as a portrait of a now-lost slice of slightly seedy bohemian New York, Astrid Sees All can’t help but enchant.
MixedBookreporterIn The Chanel Sisters, Judithe Little traces Gabrielle’s journey from convent orphanage to Parisian high society, telling her story through the eyes of her younger sister, Antoinette ... But it also holds the novel’s star at a distance ... Little also keeps her focus on Gabrielle’s early years, thus sidestepping some of the more complicated aspects of the influential designer’s story, most notably her association with the Nazi regime during World War II ... Little doesn’t exactly capture what made these simple clothes so revolutionary. More successful is the exploration of Antoinette’s romantic life ... While those looking for insight into the inner life of Coco Chanel may come away from The Chanel Sisters disappointed, Antoinette’s story of trying to find love and her place in the world resonates.
PositiveBookreporter... puts a feminist spin on the traditional rom-com and doesn’t shy away from engaging in serious issues ... April is relatable, if not always endearing ... never fails to be candid, even about life’s bitter moments ... Despite its feminist message, Pretending doesn’t stray too far from the rom-com playbook. Finding the right guy is still the goal, and a happy ending is guaranteed. But Bourne adds depth by not shying away from the dark side of male-female relationships in this fresh, honest romance for the #MeToo era.
PositiveBookreporterLane knows the weird, wild world of celebrity-assisting firsthand, and it shows ... riotously funny at times. One memorable scene sees Kathi purchasing an expensive fur coat and then, much to the horror of a judgmental salesclerk, cutting it up to make a jacket for her dog. But there’s also a deep undercurrent of sadness.
PositiveBookreporter... deft, accomplished ... shifting between Claire and Clive’s points of view allows Saint X to cleverly subvert our expectations, as her assumptions about what happened the night her sister died are gradually challenged by his version of events. However, the truth remains elusive, with Claire finally realizing that the closure she thinks she’s after is impossible. In the end, all one can do after tragedy is to try to move on.
PositiveBookreporter... a sharp, timely satire that is by turns funny and terrifying ... Angelo cleverly skewers contemporary celebrity and social media culture ... is about more than just the dangers of chasing likes and giving up our most intimate details to companies like Facebook. This isn’t just an episode of Black Mirror in book form. It’s also about female friendship, motherhood and identity.
PositiveBookreporterGrey’s novel hits familiar beats --- a penniless but handsome hero; a rich but dull suitor who is the more socially acceptable choice of a husband; an upper-crust English family slipping into insolvency ... But while the tear-jerking story is a touch predictable, The Glittering Hour excels at bringing the world of 1920s London to life.
PositiveBookreporterHand’s vividly imagined mystery immerses readers in the gritty world of 1915 Chicago, where Victorian conventions are giving way to a more modern world ... [a] richly drawn cast of outsiders and misfits ... A few chapters are told from Charlie Chaplin’s point of view...But his presence is mostly an unnecessary distraction and seems like an opportunity for the author to demonstrate the extent of her meticulous research ... Hand’s characters are fascinating, and the mystery at the novel’s core is both compelling and creepy ... Hand fully exploits the narrative possibilities of her setting, immersing readers in the colorful, vibrant world of Riverview. As a result, Curious Toys never lacks for atmosphere, though the story sometimes sags under the author’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach.
RaveBookreporter... poetic ... The Biblical parallels are obvious ... Throughout, Crummey brings to life the rhythmic roughness --- and raw beauty --- of Ada and Evered’s day-to-day lives ... Crummey crafts a gripping, heartfelt story out of these dramas both large and small, relying on the unique language of the place and era to transport readers to the past, and into the minds of his characters. The result is a work of both insight and grace ... The magic of The Innocents never dissipates.
PositiveBookreporter... [a] thoughtful mystery ... has the kind of vivid settings (a spooky bayou, an old hotel heavy on red velvet) and morally complicated characters that will be familiar to viewers of prestige television. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the book can feel overstuffed at times. Midway through the story, a second, barely seen character disappears, and the ultimate fate of this person is treated with a shrug by both the other characters and the author. A subplot involving Darren’s wife, Lisa, and his friend, Greg, never seems to connect with the larger plot, though perhaps it’s setting the stage for a future installment in the Highway 59 series ... Those who dive into this timely mystery undoubtedly will want to find out what Locke has in store for readers next.
PositiveBookreporter... the ultimate goes-down-easy beach read ... There’s more than one little secret in Holahan’s capably crafted domestic thriller, which creates genuine suspense when it comes to the book’s central mystery ... The writing tends toward the pedestrian, but Holahan has a clear eye for the way marriage works (or, in the case of these characters, doesn’t).
MixedBookReporterAs Stephanie’s condition worsens, Rena’s voice becomes increasingly unhinged. At times, though, LaCorte’s portrait of Rena veers toward cruel caricature, especially when contrasted with Claire. While the reluctant psychic is conventionally beautiful --- a tall, slim blond with eyes like \'fake emeralds\' --- Rena is overweight with a bad dye job and a worse grasp of grammar ... an intoxicating cocktail that skillfully blends supernatural elements with ripped-from-the-headlines plot points and everyday human drama. The more lurid aspects of the story are tempered by LaCorte’s depiction of the complex relationship between mothers and daughters. But it’s also a troubling thriller with a villain whose crimes are particularly horrifying. As it becomes clear where things are heading, some readers might recoil. But the story is worth seeing through to the end, as LaCorte brings everything to a conclusion that satisfies, even as it draws attention to the fact that justice is not always served.
PositiveBook Reporter... this isn’t a simple ripped-from-the-headlines story. Gudenkauf complicates the narrative, tossing in red herrings and pointing readers to several possible killers before finally revealing the surprising truth in the book’s final pages. The true identity of Cora’s attacker comes as a gut punch, but it’s a twist that makes perfect sense given all that’s come before ... The story speeds along at a brisk pace --- many readers will want to finish the book in one sitting --- though at times Gudenkauf seems to be merely skimming the surface with some of her many characters ... Gudenkauf, who works in education, has a keen sense of the trials and tribulations of adolescence. The picture she draws of life in the crucible of junior high is a dark one, but it doesn’t fail to fascinate.
PositiveBook ReporterDana Reinhardt’s adult debut (she’s also the author of several young adult novels) is breezy and entertaining, the kind of book designed to be enjoyed while lounging poolside on your own dream vacation. But it’s a beach read with a flinty core. Look past the endless margaritas and swaying palm trees, and you have the story of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with the life she’s built for herself. It’s a testament to Reinhardt’s skill as a writer that she turns her cast of potentially unlikable characters into people we care about ... That the very real problem of drug-related crime in Mexico is positioned mostly as an inconvenience that disrupts the vacation of these privileged Americans is one of the less appealing aspects of the book.
PositiveBookreporter\"Collins packs plenty of twists into this briskly paced mystery, as Sylvie doggedly investigates the unsolved crime. Though some revelations are predictable (and verging on pulpy), the portrait of a family wracked by grief and consumed by secrets elevates the story above a by-the-numbers thriller. Vivid language packs an emotional punch ... Fans of Gillian Flynn or Kate Hamer will appreciate The Winter Sister and its exploration of the aftershocks of violence, and the intimate yet often thorny connections between sisters, mothers and daughters.\
PositiveBookreporter...gripping ... Author Wendy Heard makes a bold choice in asking readers to identify with Sean, a confessed killer of women who hasn’t quite tamed his violent urges ... Heard excels at setting a tense creepy mood, but as the novel hurtles toward its conclusion, a few too-hard-to-swallow plot twists take things in an implausible direction that doesn’t gibe with what’s come before. But despite a flawed third act, Hunting Annabelle entertains with a story that raises questions about guilt, justice, and if violent, mentally ill criminals can ever be truly cured.
Keigo Higashino, Trans. by Giles Murray
PositiveBookreporter\"Newcomer will appeal most to fans of classic detective stories by the likes of Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. Higashino’s intricate plotting and a vivid setting come together in an absorbing mystery that will leave readers guessing until the very end.\
MixedBookreporterGran writes for TV...and the book shares certain qualities with prestige television—snappy dialogue, an interlocking, episodic structure, and a complex antihero. Claire is far from likable. In fact, she’s so edgy that it’s a bit exhausting at times. Those who prefer their detectives logical and their mysteries wrapped up in a neat bow will be frustrated by her antics, which occasionally veer into self-consciously quirky territory. But readers who are willing to follow along for the ride will find much to entertain them in this ongoing series ... Gran excels at keeping those dice in the air.
Frances De Pontes Peebles
PositiveBookreporterFrances de Pontes Peebles offers a fresh spin on an old story in The Air You Breathe ... [it] offers a look at a moment in time with which many readers may be unfamiliar ... [a] sprawling, lyrical novel ... Like a memorable song, her story is infused with regret, sadness and longing, in this novel that’s a testament to how our earliest experiences can determine the course of our lives.
Positive20SomethingReadsLaPlante’s book is an engrossing character study disguised as a mystery. The details of the abductions and murders are sketchy, with just enough information provided to make them appropriately unsettling ... Far more time is spent exploring Jane’s internal world, and LaPlante deftly deploys small details that reveal her protagonist’s state of mind ... The novel is also a close look at the terrors of motherhood ... It’s the promise of a juicy murder mystery that will draw readers into this world ... But it’s LaPlante’s emotionally resonant portrait of a broken woman struggling to find meaning in her radically altered life that will keep them turning the pages.
PositiveBookreporterMichele Campbell’s debut is a skillfully executed whodunit where virtually everyone is a viable suspect ... The first half of the novel --- which flips back and forth from the past to the present day --- is all character study, not crime ... The action picks up in the book’s second half, once a second body turns up and a murder investigation is underway. At this point, we’re in standard thriller territory...The two halves don’t quite jell as Campbell tries, not always successfully, to yank her characters into middle age ... Still, the twists and red herrings keep the pages turning.