PositiveShelf Awareness... a frame story in which Coe gives Calista a present-day narrative arc, but readers will be itching to return to the Fedora set, where Wilder holds court and Diamond laments to Calista about his and Wilder\'s waning power ... he novel is a gauzy, glittery and wistful paean to two of Old Hollywood\'s brightest bulbs as well as a disarmingly frank look at the way status can unjustly diminish with age. Unfortunately, that\'s showbiz.
RaveShelf AwarenessStashower approaches this material with a pit bull\'s tenacity, and he writes with the steeliness of an old-school journalist, suiting the book\'s place and time ... American Demon is a thrillingly bedeviling true crime story interlaced with a nuanced character study--not of the criminal but of his flawed pursuer.
W David Marx
RaveShelf Awareness... cannily reasoned ... Marx consults the work of dozens of formidable thinkers--anthropologists, historians, philosophers, sociologists--and quotes them liberally. But to further bolster his points, Marx is at least as likely to furnish examples from pop culture as from so-called highbrow culture ... offers plenty of revelations.
PositiveShelf AwarenessOpenhearted, awe-arousing ... A Visible Man offers a keyhole glimpse at the anarchic international fashion scene of the 1980s and \'90s.
PositiveShelf Awareness... thematically wide-ranging and bottomlessly rewarding ... Deresiewicz\'s amiable skepticism and not-quite contrarianism aren\'t so all-consuming that he can\'t stomach writing the odd homage.
RaveShelf AwarenessThe book includes delicious cameos by real-life Hollywood players besides Cohn, among them the conniving gossip columnist Louella Parsons and, hauntingly, a coked-up Errol Flynn.
RaveShelf AwarenessIn the tradition of territory-marking novelists John Cheever and John Updike, Lauren Acampora expertly captures deep-pocketed suburban restlessness in The Hundred Waters. But while she\'s sketching the particular emotional bankruptcy that can dovetail with a distinctly American brand of prosperity, Acampora contemporizes the suburban milieu by suggesting that social media and the climate crisis should be among any community\'s concerns ... How easy it would have been for Acampora to shape her story into a takedown of moneyed people whose every home, Louisa wagers, contains \'family portraits on the beach.\' But The Hundred Waters is after something larger in scope and fundamentally humane. Through its delicate narrative circuitry and roving point of view, the novel gradually exposes a community that\'s in crisis without even knowing it.
PositiveShelf Awareness... unapologetic and unbridled ... The book will surely offer succor to anyone who has gone through a significant loss but especially to those who can admit that the death afforded a release.
Nona Willis Aronowitz
PositiveShelf AwarenessWillis\'s words and deeds are constant touchstones throughout this light-shedding investigation ... equally inward- and outward-looking effort to reconcile these two aspects of her life. To get there, she dives into the history of various rebukes to traditional sexual norms, including free love, homosexuality and celibacy. After exploring them personally, she shares--some readers will say overshares--her takeaways. By twining the threads of her sexual past (erotic awakening, open relationships and so on) with her mother\'s thoughts on the same experiences, Aronowitz creates a vivid, tapestry-like intergenerational feminist social history.
Mary Rodgers, Jesse Green
RaveShelf Awareness[Rodgers\'] whole life is on dazzling display ... her more dispiriting undertakings are just as enthusiastically recollected as her sporadic but stratospheric triumphs ... a treasure chest of goodies for fans of the New York performing arts world at mid-century and just beyond ... Readers besotted with Old Broadway would probably inhale Rodgers\'s memoir no matter its quality, but Shy has the added bonus of being note-perfect ... Confiding, blunt, cruel, ribald, dishy and blackly humorous, Shy has all the entertainment value of a first-rate Broadway production, the book\'s 70-odd photos and reproductions the set dressing.
Hilary A Hallett
PositiveShelf AwarenessExhaustively researched and decked out with 50-odd photos and reproductions, Inventing the It Girl is rich with history--inevitable, given all that Glyn observed and lived through, including the erosion of Victorian social mores, World War I and Hollywood in its infancy. Hallett is utterly persuasive regarding the beneficent influence of Glyn ... Glyn herself may not have had it, but she had something well worth reading about.
PositiveShelf Awareness... eye-opening, fair-minded and largely evenhanded ... Following a brief but fascinating history of smut in the United States, Burke shares highlights of her interviews with 90 people who have a dog in the pornography fight, among them sex workers, a male sex educator raised by a porn star dad, and a nonreligious former firefighter committed to helping men overcome their dependence on porn ... examines its subject from many angles--political, sociological, psychological, scientific, legal--and asks questions along the way: Is porn addiction a real thing? Is porn that is centered on women necessarily bad for women? Can porn ever empower women? (Here it\'s probably worth mentioning that Burke doesn\'t always achieve neutrality on her subject.) In her concluding chapter, one that takes an aerial view, Burke offers a clarifying insight that\'s applicable to many fiery clashes of opinion.
PositiveShelf Awareness... can be wickedly funny. But it\'s with a straight face that Antonia Angress has written her exceedingly good debut novel, a shrewd and expertly sustained rumination on what it takes to be a self-supporting artist and whether it\'s even worth it ... The novel\'s plot is gripping--it includes a hoax and a filched Egon Schiele drawing--but equally intriguing are the questions Angress\'s characters ask themselves: How important is it to resist the art market\'s capitalist trappings? When does political art become propaganda? How does one know if committing oneself to the creative life is the right choice? Angress, of course, need not wonder.
PositiveShelf AwarenessPerceptive and witty ... For readers, Hauser\'s agony is, if not ecstasy, then enchanting
RaveShelf Awareness\"Though it\'s probably too soon to feel nostalgia for 2005, when Dwyer Murphy\'s An Honest Living begins, this territory-marking debut is seductively steeped in motifs reminiscent of the golden age of noir. Fans of the genre will likely be nodding appreciatively from the introduction of a mysterious woman out to get her husband, which launches this story, to the concluding shot of a vintage car ... Efficiency isn\'t what Murphy is going for: the novel has a languid pace, with stops for digressions. But readers\' patience will be reliably rewarded not just by the noirish touches but also by the impeccable sentences, which often capture ever-changing New York.\
PositiveShelf Awareness... amusing ... ike its predecessor, The Self-Made Widow entertains, amuses and outsmarts en route to its grade-A, capital-D dramatic moment, although this one doesn\'t require a cleanup crew. Nicieza digs deep into Andrea\'s and Kenny\'s respective pasts, shedding light on the \'borderline spectrum murder savant,\' as one of Andrea\'s friends describes her, and the \'dashing suburban muckraker,\' as Kenny defines himself.
PositiveShelf AwarenessVexed but deceptively tender and cleverly conceived ... With Also a Poet, Calhoun seems to have created a new nonfiction genre: the biographical profile within a biographical profile within a memoir. As for readers awaiting the definitive Frank O\'Hara treatment, they\'ll find Also a Poet to be an engrossing placeholder.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
PositiveShelf AwarenessJean Hanff Korelitz\'s decision to follow her wickedly clever novel The Plot with The Latecomer is a little like a band following a brilliant pop song with a beautiful sound collage. Whereas The Plot is about a fictional story so compelling that it has life-altering consequences for the protagonist, The Latecomer is lacking in anything resembling a traditional plot with measurable stakes, and yet it has multitudes to recommend it just the same. By dint of her mastery of crafting a scene, Korelitz manages to convince readers that whether characters find their peace matters as much as whether a character is, say, found guilty of plagiarism ... can read like a collection of funny stories ... These episodes are silo-like: they elucidate character, setting up dazzling dialogue-rich scenes that touch on politics, religion, race, privilege and sexuality, but they don\'t recalibrate the novel\'s path. That\'s okay: the occasional telegraphing from Phoebe can feel like a clarifying gut punch to happily unsuspecting readers.
RaveShelf Awareness... an inventive, fantastical comic novel with decidedly modern preoccupations, among them wellness, social media and hipster-cool. But Sloane Crosley simultaneously explores one of fiction\'s most traditional themes: the trials of romance, which narrator Lola suspects \'may be the world\'s oldest cult\' ... contains several items on a sci-fi thriller\'s ingredient list: mind control, ghosts, a feat of physical daring and a race against the clock. (Will Lola get everything sorted out before Boots returns from a trip to San Francisco?) And yet Cult Classic never strays from rom-com territory, with longtime serial dater Lola routinely lamenting her checkered history with dodgy men ... As ever, Crosley is reliably funny as well as winningly piquant with her characters\' observations.
B. A. Shapiro
RaveShelf AwarenessIngeniously plotted ... The novel\'s perspective wanders among the story\'s key players, whose lives intersect in fate-altering ways. The building\'s dodgy history is yet another of Metropolis\'s finely etched dramas ... [Shapiro] takes her time loading the bases, and in the last inning, she hits it out of the park.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe novel is intricate and involving, its latticework plot including an act of vandalism at a synagogue and encounters with people Warshawski grew up with in South Chicago...Although Paretsky employs a technological gizmo as a major plot point, Overboard offers the comforts of a throwback, enlisting classic PI-story motifs, such as disguises, heartless villains, escapes on foot and feats of physical daring...Would it even be a Warshawski novel without that last one?
PositiveShelf AwarenessTopping good ... May God Forgive is a fleet, dialogue-powered, satisfying story full of all the violence and depravity that readers have come to expect from Parks. But the novel\'s most devastating scenes involve McCoy\'s personal history, which his work won\'t do him the courtesy of letting him forget.
RaveShelf Awareness... farcically turbulent ... though there may be spy novels with sentences as impeccable as Herron\'s, it\'s unlikely there are spy novels that are also as funny ... Powered by exemplary prose, Bad Actors is a spy novel moonlighting as a comedy in which one of several scenes of derring-do finds a slow horse wielding a spork. Herron\'s wandering perspective allows readers to get to know each of the loose cannons under Lamb\'s unprofessional but not indifferent command.
RaveShelf Awareness... fearsome and eclectic ... There\'s strong work throughout the collection, but the most reverberant pieces tend to take the form of emotions-front girl-on-girl tributes ... richer for the fact that Gleeson and Gordon have sought out contributors who see the politics in making art.
RaveShelf AwarenessWhile Diaz\'s book is an ambitious formal experiment and an engrossing study in unreliable narration, it also manages to be an ideological tour de force.
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz
PositiveShelf Awareness... ebullient ... Horowitz does justice to all six of Julia\'s warriors and elucidates their connections by supplying excerpts from their written correspondence, made more endearing by Julia\'s hopeless misspellings. Warming Up Julia Child is, like its subject, a charmer; it\'s hard to imagine a reader who won\'t leave Horowitz\'s book on Team Julia.
Mary Laura Philpott
PositiveShelf AwarenessAmusingly fretful ... Philpott has a leg up in the Handwringers\' Olympics even beyond her snappy sentences, disarming self-awareness and winning self-deprecation ... Mary Laura Philpott\'s funny, filigreed essays about her myriad anxieties amount to a proud defense of the worrywart.
PositiveShelf AwarenessShort but engulfing ... Galassi crafts supple sentences with atavistic touches ... [A] big-impact little novel.
PositiveShelf AwarenessBrown is a red-blooded storyteller; his recollections of memorable interactions with Christopher Hitchens and a pre-politics Donald Trump are among Dilettante\'s sublime set pieces. Brown is also a loyalist, and readers expecting trash talk about the worker bees of 350 Madison Avenue will instead find an exposé of the overwhelmingly good behavior of Vanity Fair\'s staff and contributors. Dilettante is a salute to an industry and its practitioners, those who were making a meaningful cultural contribution even while they were trying their damnedest to drain Condé Nast\'s fathomless expense account.
PositiveShelf AwarenessChuck Klosterman dissects the decade\'s most iconic people, events and artifacts, using his customary high-energy prose, sidelong point of view and delight in the preposterous ... A wily and pitiless social critic operating from a position of rapt astonishment, Klosterman takes every opportunity to show how one-time cultural high-water marks have been reappraised ... Since it\'s no longer the \'90s, Klosterman will presumably find a way to live with himself should his boffo essay collection become deservedly popular.
RaveShelf Awareness... first-rate ... Higashino nimbly employs a wandering point of view to let readers access the minds of key characters, from the Tokyo detectives who lean on the bemused Detective Galileo to the individuals who loved the two young murder victims, and whose opportunities to seek revenge are of particular interest to the police. Readers may note that Higashino\'s characters dwell on concepts like honor and shame to an extent that isn\'t typical in thrillers set in the West; this only heightens the stakes in Silent Parade, a twist-and-turn mystery in which, for some characters, Detective Galileo is an enigma unto himself.
RaveShelf AwarenessIsaac Butler has packed The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act, his essential history of America\'s hallmark acting style, with tales of political intrigue, stories of stratospheric triumphs and epic failures, and scenes of backstabbing and petulance played out by—and this should go without saying-—a first-rate cast ... [Butler] doesn\'t skimp on the backstage dramas of the technique\'s best-known practitioners ... [Butler\'s] book amounts to a print-form master class in the Method ... This comprehensive history of the great American acting style is the present and likely future standard-bearer for books on the subject.
PositiveShelf AwarenessManguso\'s book hosts impressions so scorchingly immediate that readers may half wonder if the childhood depicted on the page is theirs ... Manguso...is a sensational writer ... But with 100-odd pages behind them, readers may well wonder: Is Very Cold People truly a novel, as advertised? Manguso certainly massages her themes...but as vignette-like paragraphs skip by, each bluntly delineated from the next by a page break, there seems to be no forward momentum beyond the ticking of time ... Readers should hang in there. Manguso\'s accreting vignettes retroactively assume a shape toward the end of Very Cold People, when something happens that fulfills every novel\'s basic requirement: life for at least one character in it irrevocably changes ... Sarah Manguso\'s breathtakingly well-written first novel seems like a grab bag of the narrator\'s impressions of her childhood, until its ending casts everything that precedes it in fresh light.
RaveShelf Awareness... [a] measured but emphatic case for art for art\'s sake and a dissection of the long battle between the two abstract nouns that give his book its title ... Perl is generous with examples showing how this conflict has played out--with critics, with art lovers--across the generations ... Perl isn\'t remotely a dry or humorless writer, but Authority and Freedom will likely speak most clearly to those who have some grounding in art history or appreciation ... is itself beautifully made, its ideas both authoritative and, intellectually speaking, freeing.
RaveShelf AwarenessJennifer Mathieu has rather ingeniously taken the social dynamics of The Outsiders and refocused them on a pack of teenage girls whose low status in 1964 Houston is both a mark against their future prospects and a unifying force ... Bad Girls Never Say Die offers a guided tour through outdated thinking about gender, especially the idea that it\'s the girl\'s fault when she\'s pursued by an aggressively libidinous male. The book has some stock characters, but Mathieu (Moxie) is supremely good at getting at the intuitive feminism of the disadvantaged teenage girls anchoring her story. Bad Girls Never Say Die isn\'t a corrective to Hinton\'s timeless work; it\'s a worthy expansion.
RaveShelf Awareness... spot-on ... Like the best noir, Just Thieves places the same value on plot and characterization, and as Rick\'s narration teeters between the present and the past, readers will come to understand the true nature of his and Frank\'s relationship, how Rick got involved in thieving, and what he stands to gain or lose from sticking with this particular line of work ... could pass as a golden-era noir if one overlooks the occasional references to wi-fi and texting.
Ai Weiwei, Trans. by Allan H. Barr
RaveShelf AwarenessAn extravagantly rewarding hybrid: a combination history of modern China, biography of a dissident poet and memoir by his provocateur son ... A rousing but even-tempered call to action, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows also succeeds as something uncharacteristically modest for a work by Ai ... Charged but graceful.
RaveShelf AwarenessThe stories that Wil Haygood tells—of pioneers, mavericks, rebels—are as gripping as anything that one might hope to see on the big screen ... Haygood, a biographer of Sammy Davis Jr. and others, is a scrupulous researcher who is ever mindful of how what\'s happening on-screen mirrors what\'s going on off of it ... Haygood is also an animated writer...and a wry social critic ... Colorization is a major undertaking and a major achievement.
Arnaldur Indridason, Tr. Victoria Cribb
RaveShelf Awareness... [an] invigoratingly atmospheric thriller ... The theme of atonement in The Darkness Knows isn\'t restricted to the professional realm: as Konrád follows what seem like long-shot leads, he delves deeply into his own personal shortcomings and demons. Indridason...also manages to imbue his keen and nimble thriller with a cautionary note about global warming\'s effects—on Iceland in general and on the glacier that hosted the murdered man in particular.
Sofi Oksanen, Tr. Owen Frederick Witesman
PositiveShelf Awareness... [a] superb but pitiless thriller ... Oksanen...is an unflinching storyteller with a commitment to discouraging easy and obvious sympathies; as Olenka\'s narration jumps back and forth in time, readers\' loyalty to some characters will be tested, as will an initial revulsion to others. Dog Park charts the particular degradations that women suffer due to war, poverty and imperialism, although one source of cruelty is purely psychological[.]
RaveShelf Awareness... ceaselessly funny-wistful ... As Charlie sets out to try to realize one last great idea, Ferris, a faultless crafter of sentences, imbues him with archetypically American never-say-uncle ambition in the face of grim odds ... a riotous bildungsroman for the squinty-eyed, its delivery system a hilariously unreliable narrator who has a vested interest in Charlie\'s fights, for success and for life.
RaveShelf Awareness[A] ceaselessly funny debut ... Suburban Dicks is a well-oiled mystery, throughout which stereotypes fly from the mouths and pollute the minds of even well-meaning characters trying to get to the bottom of Sasmal\'s murder and the decades-old crime it points to. Nicieza, co-creator of Marvel\'s Deadpool, has set out to expose prejudice in all its hairy, shattering guises, and in so doing, he never fails to find a laugh where it hurts.
Robert J. Harris
PositiveShelf AwarenessA Study in Crimson does right by its venerated source material while putting a new spin on Conan Doyle\'s characters by rejiggering their historical context ... Harris\'s mystery is up to snuff, and as impressions go, he does yeoman\'s work with Watson\'s narration, capturing the good doctor\'s starry-eyed bemusement with the fustily fastidious detective. Harris...elaborates on Holmes\'s background in a way that jibes with Conan Doyle\'s careful characterization, and Watson\'s personal life gets some fresh ink as well. A Study in Crimson\'s suspenseful subplot: Will widower Watson make romantic headway with an American journalist wrapped up in the case?
RaveShelf AwarenessIn his memoir, The History of Bones, the musician, actor and painter John Lurie demonstrates that he can be, among other things, petty, defensive, self-aggrandizing, self-pitying, gratuitously provocative and regularly obscene. Not at all unrelatedly, The History of Bones is a fantastic read ... Lurie\'s habit of pulling pranks and making flip comments for laughs had a way of coming back to bite him--a reliable source of his book\'s abundant humor ... Readers will leave Lurie\'s book, which carries them through the 1980s, with the impression that they have been keeping company with a kvetchy but wildly entertaining uncle who\'s bent on proving that things were better in the old days. Going by The History of Bones, they probably were.
PositiveShelf Awareness... unpolished, repetitive, digressive and occasionally braggadocious. This is arguably a felicitous approach to stand-up legend David Steinberg\'s splendid subject ... Inside Comedy\'s calling card is Steinberg\'s historically attuned firsthand accounts, as of the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers, Richard Pryor\'s notorious onstage freak-out at a Human Rights Campaign event in 1977, and the marvel that was Carson\'s Tonight Show.
PositiveShelf Awareness... enthralling and devastating ... can be rough going, and not just because of Aaron\'s fairly unremitting agony. Also tough on some readers will be his and Henderson\'s choices outside the medical setting: Could they really not have foreseen that their financial extravagances would eventually compound their suffering? Might they have sheltered their two young children a bit more from their father\'s self-destructive impulses? Meanwhile, readers who register pangs of conscience for occasionally doubting Aaron\'s accounts will find themselves in good company: Henderson, too, has been there ... Perhaps particularly unsettling, and certainly humbling, Everything I Have Is Yours may prompt readers to consider whether they would have Henderson\'s fortitude to stick with her unceasingly difficult marriage. Her memoir has aspects of medical mystery and horror story, but most readers will leave it with the impression of having taken in a love story as blisteringly beautiful as it is truthful.
PositiveShelf Awareness[An] aggressively entertaining memoir ... [Pazcoguin] is generous with endearingly disarming accounts of her on- and offstage belly flops, each of which gets its own Swan Dive section, fueled by her plucky peevishness. That spirited petulance is also out in force when Pazcoguin encounters injustice ... This diverting and cackle-worthy memoir by a New York City Ballet soloist is equal parts autobiography, insider intel and righteous indignation.
RaveShelf AwarenessBuckets of blood are spilled in Razorblade Tears, but in a volume that\'s proportional to the amount of soul-searching going on and the number of jokes being cracked. That Ike is no sufferer of fools and Buddy Lee is an unfiltered wild card sets up an odd-couple dynamic that Cosby works like a master comic, and his specialization in insults...is on display throughout the novel. The humor abets the surprise-strewn story ... S.A. Cosby\'s terrific follow-up to Blacktop Wasteland is another rustic noir centered on a Black man with a checkered past who feels forced to jeopardize his straight-arrow status.
PositiveShelf Awareness... an inspired inversion of the premise: it\'s a reentry saga revolving around an American abroad who has decided that it\'s finally time to return Stateside ... a sober look at a peculiarly American restlessness only exacerbated by a tanking economy. It\'s also a dishy drama the likes of which Johnson\'s readers have come to expect, with crystalline sentences and a roving point of view that can\'t help but give the delicious impression that characters are talking about one another behind their backs. Readers may not like the choices that Johnson\'s characters make--and that includes Lorna--but this is precisely what gives the book its brutal verisimilitude.
PositiveShelf AwarenessProse nimbly employs the Rosenbergs\' fate to launch The Vixen, an often funny escapade revolving around a fictional New York publishing house at Red Scare-mad midcentury ... Prose has crafted an inspired work of fiction that, while staying within a realistic framework, does for an invented New York publishing house what Ira Levin did for a certain Manhattan apartment building in Rosemary\'s Baby.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
RaveShelf AwarenessThe premise is a gold mine: it generates a dazzling twist, invites deliberation on an artist\'s moral obligations, and sets up some droll razzing of the publishing industry\'s wheeler-dealings. Korelitz demonstrates masterful control with her incremental release of the big reveals...As they did in the fictional universe of The Plot, Oprah and Spielberg would do well to rally around Korelitz\'s lollapalooza.
RavePortland Press Herald... the family at the center of Peaks Islander Eleanor Morse’s rather exquisite fourth novel finds that, even in the far reaches of Maine, it can be hard to hear grace notes above the roar of social turmoil ... With her roving point of view, Morse gives roughly equal time to each member of the household as everyone navigates the years, during which their interests evolve and their characters ossify ... It’s both a hallmark of Margreete’s Harbor and a feat of Morse’s daring that for all that’s going on in the larger world, not that much happens in and around Burnt Harbor. The odd catastrophe is averted. Events on the precipice of occurring—attendance at the March on Washington; a sexual assignation—lose their forward momentum for one reason or another. This gives Margreete’s Harbor its marvelous verisimilitude, although some readers may find it disappointing that the novel’s steady accretion of vignettes don’t add up to a traditional story line. For other readers, it will be enough that Margreete’s Harbor is shaped by the incendiary era that it’s submerged in, its quiet plot points sometimes turning on news items that lead to internal developments as earthshaking as the day’s headlines.
RaveShelf AwarenessIn Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes, Korn comes across as more than just a good guy: she\'s a hero ... Korn writes about her life, both in and out of the office, in a series of smart, nervy essays ... it\'s hard to read Everybody (Else) Is Perfect without seeing Korn as a soldier fighting in the culture war on the side of women\'s empowerment. The nation is better off for her service.
RaveShelf Awarenessa collection of 33 of her incisive and pugnacious essays for the London Review of Books , is a bromide-free zone ... Diski wrote withering social criticism and had an outsize talent for distilling discomforting truths. Readers who are new to Diski\'s work will be awed not just by her die-cut sentences but also by the range of her apparent authority ... She could be a pitiless takedown artist, especially when reviewing books about formidable women who were eclipsed by the men in their lives ... How she managed regularly to self-disclose without toggling over into self-absorption is a secret that she has taken to her lamentably early grave.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
RaveShelf AwarenessThe pioneering-women-rescued-from-obscurity literary subgenre is beautifully served by the authoritative and absorbing When Women Invented Television. Like all of Armstrong\'s books, it goes down like good TV: although it can be consumed without too much effort, its insights are likely to live on in the reader\'s memory in something not unlike syndication.
PositiveShelf Awareness... whip-smart ... delivers not only the dead body at the weekend gathering but also the howlingly bad weather, the haunting account of long-ago villainy and--what\'s this? Shield your eyes, Miss Marple: there\'s an act of copulation over by the mantelpiece! ... Public sex, drug taking and a sexual abuse subplot are just some of the ways that Before the Ruins departs from the classic country-house mystery, and Gosling doesn\'t signal so much as semaphore her awareness that she\'s playing around with a familiar fictional genre ... This isn\'t to suggest that the book\'s multiple mysteries go unsolved. The one concerning Peter\'s disappearance is so engaging that readers may occasionally wish that Andrea didn\'t tarry so long in the past. If only she had a choice.
PositiveShelf Awareness... not a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but Paraic O\'Donnell\'s sophomore effort is the next best thing ... O\'Donnell brings his story\'s humor and darker themes into richly rewarding alignment ... very good.
RaveShelf Awareness... part music history, part social history and no part minced words ... Robinson is attuned to the different expectations placed on women ... Robinson supplements her interview snippets and blunt opinions with choice autobiographical asides ... She\'s measured about whether, back in the day, she was remiss in not writing about the exploitation of groupies by rock stars, but she\'s unequivocal when the music business disappoints her, as it did when it produced what she clearly sees as the twin evils of Madonna and MTV ... there are many more female rock journalists out there now, although it\'s hard to imagine one as winningly blunt, unpretentious and on-target as Robinson.
RaveShelf Awareness... a marvelously oddball coming-of-age memoir with laughs and a talking hippo ... Markoe the child couldn\'t have known that her diary entries would put in stark relief the way that the unladylike behavior of girls of her generation was all too often discouraged. Readers of We Saw Scenery will probably be nearly as overjoyed as Markoe when, in 1966, her parents drop her off at UC Berkeley, where she finally finds a crowd that wants to hear her jokes.
RaveShelf AwarenessSnow represents the first time that Banville has wrested credit for a mystery novel from his crime-writing alter ego, Benjamin Black, and with good reason: Snow is a beautifully executed, nostalgia-churning throwback that directs the occasional wink at the reader.\
RaveShelf AwarenessFifty-plus books into his career, Mosley hasn\'t run out of inspired plots, and his interest in social issues remains acute, although he editorializes with the lightest of touches; The Awkward Black Man teems with sharp, quippy dialogue and not a sentence suffers the indignity of a frill ... Leave it to a master of the crime novel like Mosley to give several stories a shocking final twist: a happy ending.
RaveShelf Awarenss... blindsidingly beautiful ... Wizenberg is also bracingly candid about the ways that her marriage had been unfulfilling, although sex seems to have had nothing to do with it. For all the wonderful particularity of Wizenberg\'s story—from the Seattle-restaurant-scene backdrop to her calibrated foray into open marriage—The Fixed Stars is essentially a timeless tale: someone finds herself drifting from her spouse and decides to stray ... The Fixed Stars is a guide (of sorts) for a more improvised life, in which recipes are jettisoned and which, Wizenberg is finding, better suits her tastes.
PositiveShelf AwarenessJohn Giorno (1936-2019) writes the following about being at a Ronettes and Shirelles concert with Andy Warhol at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre in 1963: \'By chance, I was smack in the middle of something extraordinary.\' \'Well, when weren\'t you?\' readers may find themselves wondering while devouring Giorno\'s edifyingly dishy book ... Giorno\'s enlightenment winningly suffuses some of his book\'s observations ... This memoir by the late poet and activist is an invaluable time capsule of the New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century.
PositiveShelf Awareness...richly imagined ... the narrative, inflected with aspects of Strauss\'s own family history, is canny, and the writing, while at times overcooked, is neverendingly fresh. The Queen of Tuesday is a capsule of postwar American optimism.
Screen reader support enabled.
...richly imagined ... the narrative, inflected with aspects of Strauss\'s own family history, is canny, and the writing, while at times overcooked, is neverendingly fresh. The Queen of Tuesday is a capsule of postwar American optimism.
RaveShelf AwarenessLooking for Miss America is, in the language of pageantry, lavish in its research, and its prose is sparkling. It is a riveting, multivalent history. About this, if nothing else, most feminists and pageant enthusiasts will agree ... This history of the Miss America pageant is probing, scintillating and tremendously entertaining—a pleaser for feminists and pageant devotees alike.
PositiveShelf AwarenessMitchell remains devoted to examining the U.S.\'s moral defense for its deadly actions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but he never misses a chance to expose the comedy provided by his book\'s many theatrically outsize characters. Surely Mitchell\'s offering would make a much better movie than MGM\'s big-budget dud.
PositiveShelf AwarenessReaders may consider Merkin\'s novel a fascinating look at human psychology, especially if they are intrigued by the notion of sadomasochism and admire Dr. Freud. As for those who find 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love\'s masochistic protagonist tough to take, they will nevertheless likely appreciate the book\'s vigorous prose and structural intricacy ... A character like Judith probably wouldn\'t have worked if 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love was set in the present day; for some readers (especially those whose tolerance level for certain controlling male behaviors was reset by the #MeToo movement), a character like Judith could never work. But Merkin...knows what she\'s doing and does it well ... [Judith\'s] abject self-deception renders her unexpectedly sympathetic.
J. Courtney Sullivan
PositiveShelf Awareness... readers should jettison any expectation they have for the book--fish-out-of-water story, manipulative-nanny chiller, send-up of campus culture. J. Courtney Sullivan\'s fifth novel offers something more interesting ... Sullivan massages her themes in scenes as barbed as they are funny, by way of characters as infuriating as they are heartbreaking.
Ed. by Annie Finch
PositiveShelf Awareness... a hefty collection of generally high quality ... The anthology\'s contents are confessional, funny, graphic, stolid, absurdist, cagey, heartbreaking, vitriolic and on it goes, the approaches to the subject at hand as varied as human experience.
PositiveShelf AwarenessFor readers of a certain generation, Sunny Days will have a thrilling flashback effect, like a fizzy nostalgia drink, and the book\'s archival photos only enhance the time-tripping experience. For millennial readers, Sunny Days will be both a captivating glimpse at a revolutionary time and a blueprint for what\'s possible with a little seed money, civic-mindedness, feathers and glue.
PositiveShelf Awareness... [a] funny heartbreaker ... The march of time rather than a head-of-steam-developing narrative gives Tran\'s coming-of-age story its forward momentum; Sigh, Gone concludes with his high school graduation ... Phuc Tran, you\'re so amusing.
PositiveShelf AwarenessBeam goes after his subject like an archeologist, digging deep for the names of the companies that supplied the Farnsworth House\'s building materials and exhuming interview subjects who knew the story\'s principals. He sees the comedy within the high drama, the cleverness behind the jabs ... spotlights a timeless concern: whether the artist owes anything beyond the work itself. But it\'s also about something entirely mundane: how even a creative genius and an esteemed doctor are no better than the rest of us at mastering basic communications skills.
PositiveShelf Awareness... eight characters...are all endearing in their disarmingly muddleheaded or abjectly truth-seeking ways ... moments are gasp-worthy ... Straub....belongs in the company of Cathleen Schine, Tom Perrotta and other fiction writers who understand that the degree of humor that can be teased from family drama is often directly proportional to the extent of the family\'s misery.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThree cheers--heck, make that four--for the writer who pulls off a fairly plotless novel. When there\'s not a lot going on, readers need gripping emotional stakes, which means extraordinarily deft characterizations. Naturally, it helps when a protagonist is unusually engaging, smart or sympathetic. In a neat hat trick, Lily King plants all three qualities in Casey Peabody, the narrator of her plot-light but payoff-heavy fifth novel ... Despite Casey\'s habitual teariness, her wit and chirpy optimism carry Writers & Lovers. It\'s not clear why the novel, with its timeless themes--choosing between the practical and the creative life, choosing between (as Casey\'s colleague puts it) \'fireworks and coffee in bed\'--had to be set in 1997, but the book\'s title, with its fulcrum-like ampersand, makes perfect sense.
RaveShelf AwarenessThat the world can be unkind, particularly to women, isn\'t lost on Lily Tuck ... Tuck often writes about women whose prospects are limited by their historical era and choice of mate ... the women of the stellar Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories are vulnerable in ways that the men around them are not ... The women of Heathcliff Redux aren\'t without agency: like their male counterparts, they take drugs, have affairs. But Tuck\'s stories\' power imbalances, especially men\'s surpassing physical strength, keep the writer ever watchful, her sentences stark with circumspection and glistening with clarity ... superb.
RaveShelf AwarenessWhile she always denied rumors of an affair with her friend the screen legend Greta Garbo, Viertel did have a long extramarital liaison--just one aspect of a multifaceted, heroic and outrageously neglected life to which Rifkind does munificent justice ... Rifkind proves with The Sun and Her Stars--her first book and the first English-language biography of Viertel--that she\'s a superlative chronicler of Old Hollywood. Rifkind also demonstrates, through her accounts of various émigré artists\' harrowing escapes from the Nazis, that she\'s a formidable storyteller. The exhaustively researched The Sun and Her Stars, which relies in part on Viertel\'s memoir, among other plum sources, includes nearly 30 black-and-white photos, some of Viertel\'s esteemed émigré friends. \'Without immigrants, there would be no Golden Age of Hollywood,\' writes Rifkind. And without Salka Viertel, Old Hollywood\'s lights would have shone less brightly.
Andrew Grant Jackson
PositiveShelf Awareness... thorough ... Jackson admits that he leaned on unscholarly online sources like Wikipedia for his research, but chapter notes make clear that he also turned to print, and lots of it, especially the featured artists\' memoirs. (Most seem to have written one.) His detective work yields insights into the Bowie-Jagger rivalry-friendship as well as the Bowie-Elton John rivalry (just rivalry, no friendship). Jackson taps into the political and social climates that made way for flag-planting hits like Helen Reddy\'s feminist anthem I Am Woman and Lou Reed\'s tribute to androgyny, Walk on the Wild Side, but he also loops in the present day to make a point ... While 1973 is an invaluable reference work, complete with black-and-white photo insert, reading it like a novel provides one of that literary form\'s great payoffs: empathy with a story\'s characters. What\'s more, skipping around in 1973 could mean missing one of Jackson\'s debatable declarations. For rock purists, these may be fightin\' words, and Jackson should watch his back: upon finishing 1973, some readers may reach for their turntables, needles blazing.
PositiveShelf AwarenessReid, who is black, has an acute understanding of well-meaning white people\'s sometimes squirmy racial sensitivity ... A lesser writer would have taken the book\'s powder-keg material—which does, of course, ultimately explode—and set it off with too-easy satire. The strength of Such a Fun Age lies in Reid\'s even hand with both Emira and Alix, whose points of view switch off fairly regularly throughout the novel. Neither character is archetypal: Emira is levelheaded but frustratingly aimless, and Alix is entitled without being risible—well, until the book\'s end.
Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Kate McCabe
RaveShelf AwarenessIn this apparent golden age of memoir, some stories shine brighter than others. Mighty Justice is one lucent example of the brighter variety ... the product of McCabe\'s decade-long collaboration with Roundtree, who died in 2018 at age 104, no doubt convinced that her work wasn\'t done. The awe-eliciting Mighty Justice makes an airtight case that Roundtree accomplished more than enough.
PositiveShelf AwarenessOwen dutifully metes out the basics about the auditory system, but it\'s Volume Control\'s human-interest angle that enthralls ... Owen offers a heartbreaking riff on how military men and women, whose ears have always taken a beating, are even today given the message from higher-ups that wearing ear protection and complaining of hearing loss are signs of weakness ... Although Volume Control is inevitably cautionary, the book is not a scold. That\'s because Owen\'s curiosity rather than an agenda powers Volume Control.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIt is readers\' good fortune that things didn\'t go smoothly for Bair while writing these first two books; otherwise there would be no Parisian Lives, a fabulous hybrid (Bair dubs it a \'bio-memoir\') containing elements of journalism, autobiography and dish ... When Samuel Beckett was published, some barbed reviews reflected what Bair came to realize was many male critics\' discomfort with the notion of a female writer taking on a serious literary subject. (Fossilized thinking of this sort was a revelation to Bair, giving Parisian Lives yet another aspect: it chronicles her feminist awakening.)
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe Queens of Animation covers the women\'s particular, personal challenges...and their shared trials, especially their male co-workers\' resentment and predatory ways. Among the sketches reproduced in Holt\'s exhaustively researched book is a shattering one by scriptwriting and storyboarding ace Grace Huntington: it shows an outsize Mickey Mouse-like figure preying on a female worker ... The Queens of Animation does double duty as the story of Disney\'s animation studio, which was in debt for years and continually seeking financial relief through new technologies. Holt, foremost a science writer, is awfully good at describing how innovations like Technicolor, the optical printer and xerography work ... Of course, the irony is that in the studio\'s financially unstable golden era, when its male employees thought it beneath them to draw fairies, it was movies about women--a princess here, a Poppins there--that reliably saved Piglet\'s bacon
PositiveShelf Awareness... a robust, many-faceted portrait of a woman whose longstanding feminism (Fisher marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980s) elevated everything she touched ... The question while reading Carrie Fisher isn\'t \'How did her life veer off course?\' but \'How did she keep it together for so long?\' The answer would seem to lie in Fisher\'s mutual emotional support system. Going by the company described in Weller\'s book, it would probably be quicker to list the people who weren\'t Fisher\'s friends than the people who were.
PositiveShelf Awareness... thoroughgoing and invigorating ... Thomas approaches Fashionopolis as both an intrepid investigative reporter and an aesthete ... This trenchant look at how clothes are produced today is both an environmentalist cri de coeur and an homage to good design.
PositiveShelf AwarenessSchine lays all this out with the deliberateness of someone setting a table with the good china. Her 11th novel, which follows note-perfect outings that include The Three Weissmanns of Westport and Fin & Lady, burbles with her customary witty and exacting observations ... Because The Grammarians, which has the tempo of a character study, hasn\'t much by way of plot, it may take several chapters before the reader shares the author\'s conspicuous enchantment with her two protagonists, but it will happen. Neither Wolfe sister may feel that she will ever achieve her dream of landing on exactly the right words, but Schine pretty much finds them all.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIt must be said that, as in Leave It to Beaver, the kids\' dialogue in Summerlings can have a scripted quality ... the book entertainingly eviscerates the rose-colored notion of postwar tranquility. Despite its Howdy Doody, Brillo pad and Hostess cupcake references slathered on sunscreen-thick, Summerlings is really about a regrettably timely subject: the nation\'s enduringly mixed track record when it comes to loving thy neighbor.
PositiveShelf AwarenessAustralian novelist Goldin spent nearly two decades working as a foreign-affairs journalist but seems to know the corporate world cold, from its Ferragamo suits to the number of figures in a Wall Streeter\'s sign-on bonus. Her American debut is a shrewd, brilliantly structured thriller doubling as a takedown of corporate culture. While the four elevator captives initially appear to be types, especially philanderer Sam with his shopaholic wife, Goldin lavishes time on their stories, ultimately making them, if not entirely sympathetic, more than a quartet of Gordon Gekkos.
PositivePortland Press HeraldRowley...gets Jackie exactly right: She has all the expected savoir faire (she keeps supplies for making daiquiris in her office) but doesn’t present as a caricature. This introduces a wee problem: Jackie is so charismatic in The Editor that we miss her when she’s not in a scene, and the rueful Aileen just can’t pick up the slack. Fortunately, it’s a pleasure to be in narrator James’s constant company; his ready self-deprecation and congenial persnicketiness...are winning ... James’s crisis with his boyfriend feels manufactured, and there’s a bit too much talk of \'healing\' ... \'SHOW, DON’T TELL!\' Jackie might have written in the margins. Still, there’s something marvelously authentic-seeming about James’s and Jackie’s conversations, especially when they touch on commonalities among mothers of a certain generation—even mothers as different as Jackie and Aileen.
PositiveThe Portland Press HeraldRusso admirers can rest assured that Chances Are provides the satisfactions of the novels for which he’s best known. There’s the classic Russo tussle between small-town serenity and his characters’ disequilibrium, dialogue so effortless-seeming that it’s easy to overlook the skill that went into chiseling it, and the long-suppressed disclosures and hard-won revelations of getting-on-in-years male protagonists.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIn the thoroughgoing Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren, Colin Asher sculpts the writer\'s checkered life story into something that would have pleased him: a ripping good tale ... [a] consummate biography.
PositivePortland Press HeraldWith Freefall, Barry, a pseudonym for a former publishing industry insider who now lives in Maine, delivers an assured thriller with a crafty structure. Although the novel leaves a couple of matters unresolved, and Allison’s behavior occasionally seems to reflect not a plausible course of action but narrative necessity, readers will gladly surrender to the crusty, unflagging Maggie and see her through her ordeal. Personality-wise, she has less in common with Jessica Fletcher than with fellow fictional Maine widow of a certain age Dolores Claiborne, who would have at least pretended to appreciate the promenade of condolence casseroles that Maggie Carpenter receives from neighbors and later dumps in the trash.
MixedShelf Awareness\"While Chalk suffers somewhat from the \'personal\'—Rivkin\'s self-references can feel intrusive—the book\'s \'stranger\' aspect (sentence fragments, patchy chronology, poetry excerpts) creates a singular reading experience.\