RaveBook ReporterMurphy does a superb job of blending details from Disney’s classic version of Cinderella with a more modern, independent heroine. It’s no surprise that Cindy is a complex, winning character, as Murphy bestows her with much of the same blend of pluck and vulnerability that has made her previous protagonists so beloved. Disney princess fans will love picking up on the subtle ways that Murphy pays homage to the original while also changing things up.
PositiveBookreporterA subplot about Ben’s newly discovered biological sister can feel like a bit of an afterthought, though it does lead him to revisit some of his childhood demons. But his story prompts more insights into these characters who are unafraid to be honest with each other about the benefits of therapy. Longtime fans will love settling back into this familiar world, especially when they get glimpses of beloved characters from previous titles. Just like opening one of Guillory’s novels feels like taking a trip to a more rose-colored version of the world, encountering these characters feels like reuniting with old friends.
RaveBookreporterWhen I reviewed Simon Rich’s previous book...I called it \'just the fictional antidote people need right now.\' Little did I know that this statement could be even more aptly applied to his latest collection ... There are laugh-out-loud moments...but there are also moments of quietly witty introspection or reflection. Rich plays with genre and with expectations, and he mixes short sketch-like pieces...with longer, more developed narratives. The only question for readers is if you swallow this collection whole, or bite off bits and pieces to savor every time you need a little levity.
PositiveBookreporterAt times, Hendrix’s intricately plotted narrative can feel a bit too dense, as if readers are being dropped into the 10th installment of a movie franchise that everyone else already knows inside and out. Lynette and her fellow final girls are memorable and distinct, but their various backstories...can be hard to keep track of. That said, if and when readers abandon the expectation that they’ll ever know as much about these characters as Lynette (and, by extension, Hendrix) does, they’re in for a thrill ride that’s equal parts terrifying and satisfying, as the final girls refuse to be victimized anymore.
PositiveBookreporterThis slim but memorable novel of teenage boredom and discontent is the ideal accompaniment to the hottest days of summer, whether you’re reading it while basking on a beach somewhere or comfortably relaxing in air conditioning ... Jestin (who himself is in his mid-20s) effectively captures that moment in a young person’s life when they might feel ready to separate from their family of origin but still have not found their identity or claimed their place in the adult world. Drifting from place to place, making missteps, expressing vulnerability, and finally achieving at least one of his goals (only to be supremely underwhelmed by the experience), Leo’s late-summer day --- dead body aside --- perfectly encapsulates what being a teenager feels like sometimes.
PositiveBookreporterHis essays demonstrate a curiosity and breadth of interests and knowledge that make them invigorating to read, tackling issues from R&B music to the writings of Toni Morrison, and demonstrating a rigorous commitment to expanding and experimenting with what’s possible in the essay form ... It is perhaps not surprising, then, that McCarthy’s latest book is equally ambitious in its scope and allusive in nature, offering references to everything from European cinema and architecture to the NBA, all couched in a rather unusual quest narrative that’s really a coming-of-age novel at its heart ... an unusual novel, and readers who come to it expecting a traditional quest narrative or a clear-cut denouement probably would be better served elsewhere. Reading it should be approached like an open-ended airline ticket. Readers can anticipate long and rich conversations, unexpected destinations, and perhaps a fair amount of wandering in the company of McCarthy’s protagonist. The journey is one in which both the past and the future become unstable and uncertain, making the book best enjoyed by sinking into the ruminative prose and savoring the ride.
RaveBookreporterI\'m so glad that many people are eager to read this vitally important work. For me, aside from the value of uncovering, acknowledging and narrating the stories of slavery and tracing its impacts, it is a powerful testament to the value of making history public, whether in plaques that identify long-buried (literally and figuratively) sites in the shameful history of our country, or in the invaluable work of skillful tour guides, bravely telling the truth even when it makes tourists uncomfortable. It will encourage any reader to contend more deeply with our country’s history --- and maybe even set out on their own journeys of discovery and reckoning.
RaveBookreporterAminatta Forna is one of those writers who I wish was more well known in the United States ... one can hope that readers will come away from these rich and rewarding pieces with a new understanding of an important literary voice—and a greater appreciation of the complexities of the world in which we live ... Perhaps those who already are familiar with Forna\'s longer work will enjoy this book most and will see in it evidence of research and family history that underpin her memoir and fiction efforts. But for many other readers, The Window Seat, with its promise of a glimpse into many different places and ways of life, will give them their first taste of this thoughtful, insightful author and will want to seek out more of her work.
PositiveBookreporterAct Your Age, Eve Brown might lack some of the tension and conflict involved in Hibbert’s two previous novels [...] but their love story is no less satisfying as a result. With her portrayal of a Black British woman and a neuroatypical man, Hibbert continues to demonstrate that love stories can happen anywhere, and that a wide range of characters deserve to star in their own love stories. Hibbert also introduces readers to the charming town of Skybriar, which (as rumor has it) will be the focus of her next series of romance books, loose retellings of Jane Austen novels. Readers are bound to fall in love with several unconventional Skybriar denizens, and they’ll look forward to their opportunity for a return trip.
RaveBookreporterFloat Plan is simultaneously an alluring travelogue (I challenge anyone to come away from this book without a list of a half-dozen dream vacation destinations) and a moving account of traveling through grief to something on the other side. Unlike many romance novels, Doller doesn’t need to inject artificial conflict into her plot to create drama. The inherent, movingly authentic conflict is between her character’s past and future selves, and if her new beginning has room for someone new by her side. Whether readers take Float Plan on vacation or read it at home, it will buoy their spirits and inspire them to take big chances as they chart their own course.
PositiveBookreporterThere is plenty of intrigue and danger to be found here, of course (it is a war story after all), but there is also more than a little humor, much of it bird-related ... Certainly many stories of World War I have already been told, but Dear Miss Kopp helps bring to light much more of the women’s experience of war, both as part of the military complex and on the home front ... a thoroughly engaging chronicle of a variety of women’s experiences during the First World War, and it also helps set the stage for what the Kopp sisters will get up to after the war. Readers will be eager to see how their wartime experiences inform the choices they make next.
MixedBookreporterMinus Me is an odd and at times infuriating book that I can envision sparking vigorous debate at a book club. Annie’s approach to her diagnosis might be read by some as hopelessly romantic and by others as simultaneously passive and patronizing. Similarly, the novel’s resolution --- which I won’t spoil here --- is likely to be fairly divisive.
RaveBookreporterSince reading [her] accomplished debut, I’ve been eager to discover what this talented young writer would do next. The answer? Something completely different but no less sensational ... Part of the delight of the novel is having the feeling of dropping in on these characters for a few intense hours, followed by gaps of a few months that yield great change, or none at all ... How these themes manifest themselves continually surprise the reader but give the novel a sense of unity and structure that extends beyond its geographic setting ... It also is worth noting that, despite the seriousness of its themes, Hot Stew is a very funny book. Mozley’s sly observations and clear affection for many of her characters combine to create a novel that is nothing less than a joy to read.
PositiveBookreporter... a lot like a Hitchcockian thriller ... a vivid and cinematic atmosphere that amplifies Abigail’s steadily mounting dread. Dedicated thriller fans likely will pick up on some of the clues before they’re revealed, but almost certainly will be surprised by one or more of the many twists and turns that Swanson employs. If you’re headed to a wooded cabin or a beach resort this spring or summer, Every Vow You Break would be a perfect companion. Just be prepared to check the locks and windows while you’re there!
PositiveBookreporterAn unnamed narrator is making his or her way to Starkfield, Massachusetts, and offering roadside assistance and a ride to a haggard, haunted Ethan Frome. At Ethan’s empty house, the narrator sees a seemingly younger Ethan with his wife and daughter, begging the question of what happened to this apparently happy family ... Beyond being a fascinating example of adaptation and an effective character study, The Smash-Up offers up so much material for potential discussion. Gender politics, the gig economy, personal and professional responsibility, and the intersections between class, politics and violence --- all are touched on in this thoughtful and suspenseful novel. Whether or not it will lead anyone to read or reread Wharton’s original, The Smash-Up is in vivid and vibrant conversation with both the source material and our own times.
PositiveBookreporterAstute mystery readers will surely anticipate one or two of the surprises, but hardly all of them. Who is Maud Dixon has as many hairpin turns as the dangerous Rue Badr that plays such a central role to the plot ... Set aside some time for this one, because once you crack it open, you won’t want to put it down until every last question is answered.
PositiveBookreporter... is sure to inspire vigorous discussion of the choices made by several characters, and Sophie and Jake’s love story will resonate with readers whether or not they grasp all of Sophie’s hypotheses. Madeleine Henry has embarked on an unusual project with her planned group of novels exploring a common question, and readers will be eager to see how she tackles the idea of \'self-compassion\' in her next book.
PositiveBookreporter... the tensions she describes in the lives of longtime Mainers on the verge of change certainly seemed to resonate with my novice observations ... Landslide offers no real solutions—either for these larger systemic issues or for the Archer family’s woes—but Conley does offer a fond and thoughtful exploration of the questions, and a loving portrait of a flawed family trying their best to muddle through, both individually and together.
PositiveBookreporter... a cozy novel, one that embodies the concept of \'hygge\' that Tallie strives to create in her own home. It’s full of soft couches and comfort food, easy conversations and growing friendships. But it’s also a challenging novel, especially once Emmett’s history is revealed. This tragic story is linked to bigger issues, such as racism and class privilege; those elements, along with the ethical concerns raised by both Emmett and Tallie’s actions, make the novel rich for discussion ... a timely, thoughtful bit of hope in tough times.
PositiveBookreporter[I] was struck by her thoughtful reflections on her own singular life and the life of her family, as well as by the confidence and skill of her voice ... In addition to colorism, Owusu addresses the ways in which contemporary Africans attempt to distance themselves from African Americans descended from enslaved peoples, and she contends with how her view of her own Blackness changed once she moved to the United States, where she has spent her entire adult life ... once readers grow familiar with Owusu’s voice and with the people and events she describes, the shape and pattern of her narrative become clear. She poignantly demonstrates that the stories we tell one another about our lives matter.
RaveBookreporterFilm and TV rights to Ashley Audrain’s debut, The Push, have already been snatched up, and after reading this tense, thought-provoking novel about motherhood, I am convinced it would make for an excellent movie or limited series ... Audrain doesn’t offer easy answers for why the women in Blythe’s family seem to suffer from and perpetuate a persistent empathy deficit. The book will encourage deep discussions about the legacy of neglect, as well as debate about whether maternal impulses are innate or learned ... The Push is the kind of novel you might read in one sitting, but then you’ll want to spend the next week talking about it. It’s safe to say that it lives up to all the hype.
PositiveBookreporter... hardly a knee-slapper, though there are certainly instances of genuine laugh-out-loud humor and cringeworthy moments of recognition. It is both funny and sad, which makes it all the more worthwhile to read ... not much overt plot ... extremely raunchy (which is where much of the humor arises) and includes, um, vivid descriptions of many bodily processes. Readers won’t always feel comfortable but will not forget this character any time soon.
RaveBookreporter... a narrative that skillfully walks the line between satire and reality (a line that is all too blurry in 2020!) ... Throughout, these considerations of our country’s history are intertwined with the more personal history of the characters Evans so sensitively draws ... Evans’ stories are emotionally authentic and perceptive, extraordinarily accomplished in their approach to characterization and theme, and refreshingly free of gimmicks. The pieces collected here feel both perfectly of the moment and classic, the kinds of stories that students will be studying and cherishing decades from now in order to understand not only the work of a skillful practitioner of the craft but also this particular moment in our nation’s history.
PositiveBookreporterAlthough this is a series continuation of sorts, No Offemse more than adequately stands on its own ... As in No Judgement the real attraction of this cozy yet steamy romance are the quirky secondary characters. From the soon-to-retire children’s librarian of John’s youth to the benefactress of the new library to the lonely teenager who is both Molly’s favorite patron and her most frustrating, these characters continue to enrich and expand Cabot’s well-developed milieu ... Although No Offense might seem to be a sweet and sunny romance, it doesn’t shy away from hard topics, which include financial insecurity, irresponsible parenting and racial profiling. At the end of the day, though, it offers readers a feel-good story with a heartwarming romance at its center --- and a most unusual dance number to cap it all off. Before this summer is over, you will want to pay a visit to the Florida Keys with Meg Cabot as your guide.
RaveBookreporter... has so many rich layers for readers to fold back and appreciate. Writers will find themselves chuckling at many of Pitlor’s observations about the realities of their craft; parents will recognize themselves in Allie’s blend of fierce love and outright exhaustion; and many readers with an eye for politics and social movements will appreciate Allie’s growing confusion and disorientation about finding her place --- and a place for her son --- in this increasingly alienating country. Allie’s bittersweet story offers a nuanced portrait of a woman coming to terms with all different sorts of imperfections --- and learning to relish moments of grace whenever she can find them.
RaveBookreporterMina has written both compelling series and well-constructed stand-alone mysteries. The Less Dead is a terrific example of the latter. Although some readers may come away surprised by its lack of tidy conclusions and resolutions, the ambiguity --- as well as the complexity of the characters and the setting --- results in a novel that feels more authentic as a result.
RaveBookreporterFor me, this book is more than a passing walk down memory lane—especially the entertaining chapter during which Rogak describes what a typical day of Jeopardy! taping looks like ... Who is Alex Trebek? offers an entertaining overview of both Trebek’s remarkably successful career and his singular personality ...Unlike your average celebrity tell-all biography, this lack of juicy gossip doesn’t seem to detract from fans’ hopes and expectations for Trebek. They might be amused by details of his unhealthy breakfast habits or an anecdote about his accidental ingestion of more than one hash brownie in an unfortunate episode. But Rogak depicts Trebek as exactly the man most viewers imagine, or hope, he would be—generous, curious about the world, genuinely enjoying the work he does and taking it seriously ... readers will come away from Who is Alex Trebek? with a fierce desire for Trebek to be able to leave the show the way he has always done things: on his own terms.
PositiveBookreporterThe Butterfly Lampshade appears to pick up some of the themes of her earlier work, while losing none of the wonderful weirdness of all of her fiction ... Woven through with unexpected images and unexplained phenomena, Bender’s novel is a moving meditation on choosing a positive future while acknowledging the circumstances of one’s past.
PositiveBookreporterIn a narrative that travels backward and forward in time, readers have assurances that most things will turn out well for Lottie ... Heyman...includes not only graphic descriptions of...assault but also bold and sometimes humorous accounts of more mundane or joyful sexual encounters. Additionally, it’s worth noting here that Heyman’s detailed and frank descriptions extend to what might be for many readers upsetting depictions of Lottie’s lab research, which involves euthanizing rats ... Her respect and affection for her protagonist is clear ... Readers will delight in this portrait of a woman who was both a product of and a challenge to her times.
PositiveBookreporterTold in short passages that alternate perspectives between Jessica and Emily, I Was Told It Would Get Easier offers a healthy dose of dramatic irony, as readers recognize—even if the mother-daughter pair don’t—the places where they have things in common, the things they could tell one another but don’t. At times, their story veers perilously close to farce, but it always comes back to a place of tenderness and emotional authenticity, as Jessica and Emily learn to speak up about what each of them wants for—and to honor what the other wants as well.
RaveBookreporter... every bit as thoughtfully and skillfully written as its predecessor ... Bennett thoughtfully addresses questions of identity and performance --- of race, gender and identity itself --- and wrenchingly interrogates how the impulsive choices Desiree and Stella make in their youth not only divide them but also shape their entire futures ... The sisters’ journey is by turns triumphant, painful, joyful and strange --- and readers will come away deeply affected by what their parallel stories reveal about human identity and race in America.
PositiveBookreporterBuford\'s impetuousness comes off as charmingly enthusiastic ... Some of the history starts to read a little like inside baseball, but his premise will prompt at least some readers (and diners) to consider potential connections ... Buford paints Lyon as a city that is undoubtedly rich in culinary history but also far from perfect, with areas that are crime-ridden, noisy and dirty --- hardly the picture-perfect vision of a French landscape. Likewise, he illustrates just how difficult rising through the ranks of restaurant kitchens can be, even for classically trained young chefs --- especially when those chefs are women or non-white ... Much of the humor here comes from anecdotes about Buford’s surprisingly resilient young family.
RaveBookreporter... the supremely talented Lydia Millet once again shows her ability to turn on a dime, to create a situation that is laugh-out-loud funny and --- in a split second --- shift it into something that is dark and deadly serious ... That turn happens countless times throughout the book. As a result, thanks to Millet’s whip-smart writing, you may never look at your summer vacation house the same way again ... punctuated by scenes of dark violence and apocalyptic horror, but also by moments of great clarity and wonder.
PositiveBookreporter... thoughtful, carefully wrought ... In the course of the novel, Pochoda offers glimpses into the lives of nearly a half dozen of \'these women,\' shedding light on the common threads that unite the experiences of women as seemingly diverse as a performance artist, a stripper and a cop investigating a series of homicides ... The mystery unfolds gradually and satisfyingly, rewarding careful readers with clues and relying on coincidences that feel convincing, never forced. The novel’s haunting conclusion --- linked to a real-life disaster that struck the neighborhood in 2014 --- will remain with readers for a long time. But even more than the suspense plot, what will stick with them are the fully realized characters Pochoda crafts, giving dignity and voice to those too often discounted.
PositiveBookreporterIn recent years, Olivia Laing has become well-regarded for her books that combine criticism with her own life experiences. Her new collection is less cohesive than those book-length explorations, but it nevertheless touches on many of these same themes ... Throughout this book, issues of sexuality, gender, addiction and the specter of AIDS arise repeatedly. Certainly names and even anecdotes about specific figures come up more than once, which is perhaps an inevitable characteristic of a collection like this, in which pieces were never really meant to be read side-by-side or even in quick succession. However, Funny Weather is eminently well-suited to dipping into, perhaps guided by the topics and figures outlined in its thorough index, since readers are likely to discover something interesting regardless of where in the collection they land. I know that as I read, Laing prompted me to look up the work of visual artists about whom she writes and with whose work I was less familiar. Her writing effectively piques curiosity and encourages further engagement with her subjects.
PositiveBookreporter... [Gaige] continues to build on some of the themes she has explored in her prior work, all while giving readers a timely narrative about the personal repercussions of the Trump era ... full of genuinely nail-biting descriptions of storms at sea ... also infused with tender descriptions of the narrators’ children and their evocative surroundings ... what will stick with me are Gaige’s astute observations on balancing personal identity with one’s role in a family, of negotiating marriage and parenthood, of contending with the demons of one’s past or setting them aside in order to simply get through the day ... At a time when many readers might be ready to jettison their own circumstances and set sail (at least in their imaginations), Sea Wife comes along at just the right moment.
Sue Monk Kidd
PositivePublishers Weeklya richly imagined first-person narrative ... Historic and biblical details are balanced by lively dialogue and debates between characters about matters of faith and action. Ana’s ambition and strong sense of justice make her a sympathetic character for modern readers, even if her rebellion against her parents may seem somewhat anachronistic for a woman of her time ... In addition to providing a woman-centered version of New Testament events, Kidd’s novel is also a vibrant portrait of a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women’s stories—her own and countless others.
PositiveBookreporter... could contain a commentary about the temptations and dangers of substance abuse. Or it might be something more magical or mystical than that; readers will have to decide for themselves about the nature of Lydia’s sleeping and waking lives. Above all, though, Josie Silver’s novel is a powerful exploration of the crippling weight of grief, and a portrait of an imperfect young woman who’s trying to find her way back to herself the best way she can ... Readers who first encountered Silver’s work in her debut novel, One Day In December, which was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, will enjoy delving into this equally romantic and significantly more somber novel. And those who are experiencing Silver’s writing for the first time are in for a treat as well, as they follow Lydia on a journey through devastation into something resembling a new beginning.
MixedBookreporterSligar’s first thriller is cleverly constructed, as she intersperses Kate’s present-day investigation with snippets of archival materials, including letters, receipts and passages from Miranda’s journals. Readers will begin to feel something like archivists or detectives themselves as they help to piece together the fragments of the deceased artist’s life ... This narrative structure is an effective way to convey the story, which unfolds suspensefully. Unfortunately, neither Kate’s mysterious backstory nor the true circumstances of Miranda’s death quite live up to the buildup that the author creates. Sligar capably illustrates the challenges that creative women contend with, but also seems intent on tying both plotlines into the current #MeToo discourse. Although the stories she tells do resonate in some ways with these very real concerns, ultimately the narrative falls short of any sort of overarching thematic clarity ... Overall, however, Take Me Apart is a promising debut that will leave readers eager to see how Sligar continues to grow as a writer.
PositiveBookreporter... blows the airbrushed façade off feminist capitalism in a particularly stark way. As secrets come to light and betrayals start to pile up (along with the bodies), Bartz’s novel questions if powerful women like Eleanor can rise to the top without stomping on quite a few stilettoed toes along the way. At times, the pace gets a bit bogged down with minutiae, contributing to questions of means, motive and opportunity. But even if the mystery plot gets a tad draggy, the interpersonal dynamics among friends, sisters and lovers remain explosive and endlessly fascinating.
PositiveBookreporter... infused with period details, many of which are incorporated in funny and inventive ways ... although it is often laugh-out-loud funny, it also touches on pretty significant questions. What’s surprising and somewhat ironic given the plural narration is that We Ride Upon Sticks is largely about personal identity in terms of race, gender, sexuality and class privilege. Many of these issues might have gone largely unexamined or unacknowledged in the late 1980s vs. the early 2000s, which provides added richness both to Barry’s 1980s setting and its implicit commentary on all of these matters ... The final chapter brings the characters into adulthood and resolves many unanswered questions in a particularly satisfying closing scene.
Mi-ae Seo, Trans. by Yewon Jung
PositiveBookreporterIt’s easy to imagine this suspenseful, multilayered novel being adapted into a pretty sinister film ... this book is written in a matter-of-fact style, its restraint somehow making the events it describes even more chilling. Mi-ae Seo’s bio reveals that she’s currently penning a sequel; readers will be very curious to imagine into what dark places this story might go next.
PositiveBookreporter...a great follow-up to The Dime ... the network of drug dealers and informants can be difficult to follow ... a suspenseful mystery right up until the end—and an effective exploration of trauma and its ongoing repercussions, not only for survivors but also for those who care about, and for, them ... Kent leaves one significant mystery open at the end, which will make readers eager to spend more time with Betty on her hard-fought journey.
PositiveBookreporterAny potential hiccups in the time-travel plot are addressed adeptly --- and satisfyingly --- in later sections. At times, the question of Oona’s professional and financial success does seem like a bit of an easy way out. She keeps a folder in which she records stock splits and selloffs so that her past self can benefit from future knowledge (hint: invest in Apple in the 1980s), and has become fabulously wealthy as a result. I suppose this is one realistic outcome of the kind of time-hopping existence that Montimore has created, but one imagines it could have been interesting in its own right to see how Oona would cope with shifting workplace demands of different eras if she had to work rather than just mind her stock portfolio ... a bold debut novel by a writer who’s not afraid to try something risky right out of the gate. I, for one, can’t wait to see what her future will look like.
PositiveBookreporter[King\'s] attention to detail in matters of setting is indicative of the care with which she treats the book as a whole ... full of moments of keen observation, of wry remarks about the challenges of writing and the awkwardness of early love. It’s also, at times, remarkably funny, filled with subtle and sometimes surprising one-liners that balance out what could have been a fairly bleak plot and instead sets the stage for something resembling a happy ending. This is the kind of novel that will be adored not only by Bostonians or \'creative types\'; it offers insights and reassurances for anyone who has found themselves on the cusp of impending change, terrified of how a new beginning might also portend the loss of an old and beloved self.
Crissy Van Meter
PositiveBookreporter... flash-forward chapters are some of the most emotionally affecting, as Evie is compelled to wrestle with the question of whether or not being raised where she was, by the kind of parents she had, has made it impossible for her to truly open herself up to another person. ... Throughout, Van Meter’s beautifully written descriptions of Winter Island help ground Evie’s story in a specific place and will inspire thoughtful considerations of the intersections of setting and character.
PositiveBookreporterIt\'s not always easy or comfortable to tell one’s true story, as Pooley believably relates in her novel...In so doing, Pooley adds a bit of a realistic edge and bite to what easily could have become a too-simple treacly tale ... a feel-good novel that still prompts thought and self-reflection --- and might even inspire some readers to embark on a truth-telling odyssey of their own.
PositiveBookreporterWeinberg manages to take these real-world components and combine them into a rich narrative that’s thoroughly her own...a novel that is simultaneously a striking character study and a refreshingly modern-day homage to the work of Agatha Christie ... accelerates as it goes, with the revelations barreling at a steady pace, especially toward the novel’s final third. It’s fortunate that they do, too, because otherwise the somewhat heavy-handed foreshadowing in the opening chapters would quickly grow frustrating. But Weinberg does eventually come through with the payoff she’s been promising, rewarding readers not only with a satisfying mystery but also with a portrait of a young woman forced to reevaluate her assumptions --- about friendship, literary brilliance and love.
PositiveBookreporter... readers can rejoice, because Constance (and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette) are back, and in her typically thorough style, Stewart has managed to give them a new plot line that is not only consistent with their characters but also a well-researched glimpse into a lesser-known aspect of First World War history ... Beulah’s story offers a dark mirror to the Kopp sisters’ own, as her history reveals how the intersections of gender and class drastically reduced a young woman’s ability to overcome the accident of her birth, not to mention her own missteps. At the same time, Stewart continues to round out her portrayal of Constance, Norma and Fleurette, crafting them into bold and remarkable characters with whom readers will be delighted to spend even more time.
RaveBookreporterThriller writer Michael Robotham...launches a new series that promises both suspenseful narratives and astute psychological insights ... Although the murder case at the center of Good Girl, Bad Girl is solved in a thrilling and satisfying conclusion, Robotham certainly doesn’t tie up all the complicated and tangled threads of Cyrus and Evie’s psyches in this series opener. Readers will be eager to see where this intriguing pair will go next. Their dynamic is, to some extent, reminiscent of the relationship between Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, with each potentially needing something from the other in order to fix their own broken places.
PositiveBookreporter... packs in all those elements I’ve loved in her fiction for children, layered with emotional and narrative complexity befitting a novel for adults ... a heartbreaking, hopeful, very funny and, yes, possibly magical novel about what to do with the surprises --- both good and bad --- that the world hands us.
PositiveBookreporterBrockman effectively illustrates those heady, nerve-wracking first days of collegiate freedom ... might be a darker, more sinister version of college than most of us (hopefully) experienced. Nevertheless, Brockman uses her suspenseful novel to shed light on the insularity of the college experience, especially at a small, rural school like Hawthorne. She also vividly illustrates the lengths to which many (if not all) college students go in order to reinvent themselves as they make a fresh start in a new environment.
PositiveBookreporterIt\'s clear that the biggest fans of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill will be Nina’s fellow book lovers, who will greatly enjoy seeing the variety of literary references with which Abbi Waxman sprinkles its pages. But her thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy will also appeal to anyone who appreciates a quirky love story. Sure, the novel might have a fairy-tale ending, but Nina herself (not to mention a fairly well-developed cast of supporting characters) has a bit of an edge ... It’s easy to imagine The Bookish Life of Nina Hill being tucked inside beach bags and overnight bags this summer, as bibliophiles follow Nina’s example and find adventures both within the pages of a book and outside in the big wide world.
RaveBookreporterWhat Jo Baker does in The Body Lies is truly masterful. For at least the first two-thirds of the novel, she manages to cast doubt on the narrator’s credibility, thereby encouraging the reader to participate in exactly the kind of dynamic that the narrator herself encounters, in which she, simply by virtue of being a women, is doubted, discounted and second-guessed at every turn. The book’s form...is also well-thought-out and helps enrich what already would have been an exciting psychological thriller.
PositiveBookreporterAyesha At Last is one of a recent string of contemporary reimaginings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This one, set in Toronto’s Muslim community and cleverly straddling the worlds of religious faith and contemporary romance, is particularly well crafted and can easily stand up on its own ... [a] talented modern-day writer.
PositiveBookreporterSomeone with a far greater knowledge of Surrealist and Dadaist art and literature than I have would likely have great fun with Courtney Maum’s new novel, Costalegre, since they’d more easily be able to connect the dots between the fictional characters she has created and their historical antecedents. The good news, however, is that whether or not you’re already familiar with the basis of the book, there’s plenty of historical background, lush and evocative setting, and emotional resonance to satisfy any reader ... the Mexican setting is strictly Maum’s imagination at work, creating a verdant yet somehow threatening setting that helps isolate her characters and raise their emotional stakes ... a fascinating novel, not only because of its exploration of a particular artistic and historic moment, but also as a portrait of a young woman desperately trying to find herself in relation to others but encountering disillusion at every turn. Lara’s observations, musings, dreams and sketches give readers a glimpse of her inner life that, one realizes, offers far more insight into this character than Lara’s mother ever even cared to have.
RaveBookReporter[Philips\'s] empathic, expansive storytelling has given me a glimpse into the world of more than a dozen fascinating characters, many of whom have spent their entire lives in this remote part of the world ... The chapters read in many ways like linked short stories; each one is beautifully realized in its own right, and many have been previously published as stand-alone pieces of short fiction. But the stories are also unified, not only by virtue of geography and recurring characters, but through thematic unities as well ... Julia Phillips is a deservedly confident writer and a beautifully skillful storyteller. It can’t be overlooked that even in this very literary and accomplished novel, she is still building an effective mystery plot --- and readers will be sure to look ahead eagerly to what this talented young author will do next.
RaveBook Reporter... beautiful, horrifying ... full of tenderly written, emotionally wrenching passages --- moments that will stop readers in their tracks to remember, or cry, or simply marvel --- and is an exquisite example of science fiction’s capacity not only to make readers think but also to feel.
Jennifer Cody Epstein
PositiveBookReporterThe portions of the novel set during the 1930s can be difficult to read, in large part because they trace Ilse’s growing affinity for the Nazi party ... Epstein does a wonderful job of tracing the route ordinary Germans took on their way to committing or condoning atrocities. She also shows, chillingly, how the road to the Holocaust started in small acts of seemingly insignificant aggression or intimidation toward Jews and half-Jews like Renate ... Epstein effectively and heartbreakingly explores questions of loyalty, betrayal, and the limits of forgiveness and friendship in her third novel, poignantly illustrating how the mistakes and tragedies of the past continue to reverberate --- within families and throughout societies --- for years and decades to come.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RaveBookreporter[An] unconventional murder mystery—which many readers will find a more accessible work than Flights ... full of concrete, at times delightful and at other times disturbing, details and images, that ground the book in reality, even though it occasionally verges on the language of myth or fable. It’s also surprisingly funny in spots ... Lloyd-Jones’ translation is skillful and fluid ... energetic talent.
PositiveBook ReporterJacqueline Winspear’s latest novel is romantic and emotionally intense in several different ways, as Maisie grapples with her unexpected role as mother, as well as a sudden shift in her friendship with Priscilla. It also offers an intense portrayal of how ordinary British residents attempted to manage their ordinary lives amid extraordinary and traumatic circumstances. Maisie solves the crime (naturally), but just as compelling is her own personal journey, which leaves her poised to begin yet another new chapter of her eventful life.
PositiveBookReporterConsidering the scope of Jennifer duBois’ third novel, The Spectators it’s especially impressive that she manages to elicit as much emotional and empathetic connection as she does ... Semi’s portions of the novel --- which trace the evolution of the gay community from that post-Stonewall heyday into the bleak horrors of the AIDS crisis --- are the more visceral and emotional ones in the book ... Cel’s portions have emotional heft, too --- not just the school shootings and their aftermath but also her interrogation of who she is and why she ended up in this place. However, her attempts to uncover the man behind the \'Mattie M.\' mystique are less compelling than her own journey ... In addition to thoughtful portraits of her central characters, duBois peoples The Spectators with numerous well-drawn secondary characters, all of whom help ground the narrative and provide personal insights to round out her broad history.
RaveBookreporter\"In the hands of a lesser author (who likely wouldn’t even attempt such a feat, but that may be beside the point), Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise would come off as a writerly exercise, a puzzle to be presented and then solved. But the novel—while undoubtedly a stunning exploration of the capacities of narrative form and point of view in fiction—also manages to be a well-written, propulsive story, one that is timely, provocative and at times painful to read in this era of #metoo ... Throughout, the book unpacks the problematic dynamic of older, powerful, charismatic men who use their positions of influence (and the imprimatur of their so-called art) to demean the young people who rely on, trust and even idolize them. It also brilliantly embodies the conundrum of the fiction writer who draws from life and questions whether we can ever really trust what we see, let alone what we remember. Trust Exercise is a novel that can be equally appreciated by book groups, which undoubtedly will respond to its characters and themes, and by students of writing, who will return to it again and again as a stunning example of a writer stretching and perfecting her craft.\
PositiveBookreporter\"Stay Up with Hugo Best is a novel perfectly timed to the #MeToo movement, and one that sadly will remain relevant for years to come.\
PositiveBookreporter... one of those books that impels readers to constantly revise their expectations, as they are repeatedly pressed to redefine what’s going on in the story and why. Jones has previously shown herself to be a master of subverting readers’ assumptions, and she does so again here, with a novel that is simultaneously a family tragedy, a portrait of a marriage that’s suddenly in crisis, and a biting commentary on the evil that lurks inside attics and behind the veneers of mansions.
PositiveBookreporter\"Written by a trained research scientist whose own work mirrors the research conducted by her characters, it is the rare work of fiction that doesn’t dumb down scientific topics for readers and examines the drama inherent in scientific research and discovery ... As a postdoc, Rothman herself studied the neurobiology of olfactory processes, and the scientific details she includes here are numerous, plausible and grounded in actual research. She trusts her readers to stick with her through her admirably clear explanations of genetic processes, and the reward is a fully realized portrayal of a working research lab. Above all, she effectively conveys the drama and loneliness that are inherent in the process of scientific discovery...\
PositiveBookreporter\"... the opening of Irina Reyn’s new novel, Mother Country, offers a vivid reminder that Brooklyn is still a huge and complicated borough ... For American readers, Mother Country will provide an education into the complex relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and even between Ukrainians of different origins and loyalties. But it’s not solely a political novel. Reyn also interrogates what it means to be a mother, and how that definition and identity change—sometimes painfully so—over time.\
T. Kira Madden
PositiveBookreporter\"Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls reads in large part like a series of well-crafted autobiographical essays ... But Madden does skillfully weave together her chapters, returning to themes and details at different points in the narrative to provide a strong sense of cohesion to her book. It is not always easy to read; Madden’s utter frankness about her own and her family’s struggles must have required epic strength not only to confront and process but also to write about and publish.\
PositiveBookreporter\"Tim Johnston’s prose style helps reinforce the melding of the past with the present that takes place throughout The Current ... This fluidity of time and character helps reinforce the notion that this small town has never really moved past the tragedy that shook it a decade previously, that in some ways it’s always still unfolding. Beautifully written and full of both long-held grief and urgent suspense, The Current is a perfect novel to keep by your bedside on these long winter nights.\
PositiveBookreporter\"Choo sympathetically outlines the prospects (or lack thereof) for young Chinese women like Ji Lin living in Malaysia at that time. In addition to these well-researched details, she infuses her novel with folklore and superstition, as well as more than a little bit of magic ... [Several of the book\'s] elements combine with the Sherlockian murder mystery structure to create an unusual and surprising blend of mystery and magic, one that takes readers into historical realms both real and imagined.\
PositiveBook ReporterBarry’s novel effectively utilizes emotional investment, along with well-paced action, shifting perspectives and rising tension, to pique readers’ curiosity about what happened to Allison before --- and what will happen next. Few readers will anticipate the book’s surprise twist (though more than a few may quibble with how it plays out), and the big conspiracy that underpins the plot is all too plausible. Despite the emotional potential of the narrative, Maggie and Allison at times seem detached from the reader’s emotional response, too driven by their own purpose and drive to give the reader something more visceral to latch on to ... certainly satisfied my hankering for a survival novel --- and it also will keep many a thriller fan up late at night, too.
PositiveBookreporter\"... The Wall offers a distinctly bureaucratic, but no less terrifying, vision of a future Britain after environmental catastrophe ... It would be easy to dismiss The Wall as a sort of post-apocalyptic thought experiment, a “what-if” that is unlikely ever to happen. But some of its elements sidle awfully close to arguments and apprehensions that already characterize our present-day discourse ... Chilling reminders... about all that’s at stake in the face of climate change are, in the end, just as horrifying as the scenes of bloody conflict that punctuate the book—and they are what make The Wall essential reading for anyone who cares about the planet’s future.\
PositiveBookreporter\"... this trilogy has been among my favorite books of recent years. So it was with a mixture of anticipation and sadness that I opened the concluding volume, The Winter of the Witch ... Arden clearly has real knowledge of and affection for Russian history, culture and folklore ... Arden’s magical elements... help raise the stakes of this battle even higher, making for a truly exciting and satisfying ending to this epic trilogy.\
PositiveBookreporter\"Chaney’s novel is a propulsive read, but it also takes its time and lets readers get to know its characters ... Astute thriller fans may figure out the book’s central secret long before the detectives solve the case, but there are so many twists and turns here that nearly every reader will find himself or herself taken aback at some point. Suspenseful and surprising, As Long as We Both Shall Live has more switchbacks than a steep mountainside trail.\
PositiveBookreporter\"The Museum of Modern Love interrogates what it is that drives artists to create—and the power of their creations on those who allow themselves to truly look at them. For, in the end, that’s also one of the subjects here: the fact that one of the most remarkable things about Abramović’s work in \'The Artist Is Present\' is the shared gaze, the idea that if we truly look around—at art, at one another—we may begin to see things anew.\
Sarah St Vincent
PositiveBookreporter\"Sarah St.Vincent, who comes from a background in human rights law enforcement and advocacy, skillfully interweaves [several humanitarian] issues into her novel. She successfully shines a light on the horrific violence that is often perpetuated in the most secret places ... Although the book exposes the absolute worst of human nature, it also offers glimpses of redemption and forgiveness ... Ways to Hide in Winter is one of those novels that should be discussed among readers, as its stark juxtaposition of political and domestic violence offers so much space for catharsis and debate alike.\
PositiveBookreporter\"Caroline Hulse’s The Adults... [is] a wry and often hilarious novel about a thoroughly imperfect blended family ... The Adults is a perfect Christmas novel to pack for holiday family travels as a reminder that, no matter how imperfect our family situations might be, it definitely could be worse.\
PositiveBookPagePride is not a connect-the-dots retelling, and that’s what makes it so compelling. Zoboi utilizes Pride and Prejudice’s dramatic potential to set the stage, but Zuri and Darius’ story stands on its own. Likewise, Zoboi’s treatment of race, class and gentrification will effectively open some readers’ eyes while also resonating deeply with those who see these issues playing out in their own lives.
PositiveBookreporter\"As she did in The Wedding Date, Guillory does a great job of populating her novel with an interesting, diverse cast of supporting characters, from Nik’s best friends to Carlos’ sister and cousin. She also writes with wry but genuine fondness about Los Angeles. Here the stakes might not seem as high as they did in her prior book, nor the conflicts as insurmountable. But readers shouldn’t fear—there’s still plenty of tension, of both the dramatic and sexual kinds, to be had here.\
RaveBookreporter\"[Little is] full of wonderfully imagined fictional characters, from the vindictive widow to the feral boy who lands on their doorstep to the widow’s son who breaks Little’s heart only to heal it again. The novel is almost Dickensian in its scope and its ability to portray the grotesqueness of human lives. Furthermore, it’s whimsically illustrated by Carey’s own pencil sketches ... Readers will find themselves captivated by this new perspective on the Revolutionary period in France and the remarkable story of one of its most fascinating characters.\
PositiveBookreporter\"My Sister, the Serial Killer is a darkly comic novel, one with a narrator whose complicated emotions simmer just below the surface of her completely deadpan delivery. Oyinkan Braithwaite lays out her debut in short chapters and exquisitely drawn scenes, offering just enough of a glimpse into the young women’s present states and past histories to piece together at least some of their motivations ... At the end of the day, My Sister, the Serial Killer is at its heart an entertaining novel, by turns funny and suspenseful, while also demonstrating its author’s skillful hand at character development, in the way Korede narrates both her own story and that of her sister.\
PositiveThe Book ReporterAs the title suggests, many of the pieces in this collection are directly or indirectly concerned with the surprising moments of culture shock one finds when moving to another country, even one as ostensibly similar as the United States is to Ireland. In one essay, Higgins admits her discomfort with the American style of small talk, which she finds too intense and high-stakes relative to the comfortable, often funny exchanges between two Irish strangers on a train ... They are funny, to be sure, but like the best comedy, nearly everything Higgins writes is tinged with just the slightest hint of melancholy, anger or self-doubt, which will endear her to readers and make them eager to seek out her variety of work in other mediums --- and maybe even her Instagram Stories.
RaveBookreporterThe portions of the book dealing with Santlofer’s tentative relationship with his adult daughter, Doria, are particularly poignant ... The Widower\'s Notebook is vital reading, a beautiful testament to Joy’s life, and a much-needed window into how one man grapples with the most acute kind of loss.
Positive20 Something ReadsIn the opening pages, readers see Judge Andrew Fitzsimmons and his wife, Lydia, killing a young woman, Annie Doyle, burying the body behind their manor home...the motivations of which, soon become clear ... Lying in wait is one of those novels that keeps readers in a permanent state of imbalance. Just when you think you have things figured out, Nugent throws everything off-kilter again.
RaveBookreporter.com...in Stone Mattress, Atwood brings together nine stories that illustrate her exploring new themes even as she revisits familiar ones ... Like the tales of old, the stories collected here remove readers from the everyday, often introducing elements of surprise and wonder into their narratives ... Atwood's collection opens, for example, with a set of three loosely linked stories, all illustrating the advance of age and the lingering regrets of youth ...would serve as an excellent introduction to Atwood's work for readers new to her fiction, or at least to her short fiction.
RaveBookreporter.com...The Red Garden, which is a collection of linked short stories that tell the history of fictional Blackwell, Massachusetts, from its founding in 1750 to the late 20th century ...will see how these myths grow out of history, and how people's stories shape place as much as geography or historical events do ... Alice Hoffman is often known as a magical realist, and her work in The Red Garden is no exception ... The emotional heft of The Red Garden can sneak up on you, as Hoffman conveys awful incidents, intense passions and haunting images in the simplest, most matter-of-fact prose.
RaveBookreporter.comNow, in a post-plague world, where the new capital of the reconstruction is in Buffalo, New York, and the landscape is dotted with refugee camps bearing names like Happy Acres and Bubbling Brooks, Mark Spitz is unique in the magnitude of his cynicism ... The narrative of Whitehead's novel similarly moves back and forth freely between Mark Spitz's past (including harrowing scenes from the first terrifying days and the so-called Last Night of the plague apocalypse) and his present, which, as it turns out, is as tenuous as he always imagined it to be ... In Zone One, Whitehead uses his subject matter to comment –– subtly or overtly –– not only on the thematic import of zombies, but even, perhaps, on the meaning of our contemporary culture's fascination with them ... prompts a renewed thoughtfulness toward our own actions, the many mindless daily acts that, for better or for worse, form the pattern of our days.
RaveBookreporter.com...when a novel as good as Celeste Ng's debut, Everything I Never Told You, comes along and explores the intricacies and history of a family in crisis, you just might find yourself thinking about the complexities of family in a new way ... Ng writes perceptively and honestly about the love James and Marilyn share, as well as Marilyn's very real trepidations about being involved with an 'Oriental' man... Each member of the family struggles with a secret he or she is unable to share with the others... As Lydia's fate becomes painfully clear to all of them, Ng's narrative travels back to the early days of her parents' courtship, as well as to a period when Marilyn herself disappeared for a time ...Ng shows us how a family so desperately wanting to avoid hurting each other actually end up suffering terribly as a result.
PositiveBookreporter.comIn The Nightingale, Hannah once again explores the domestic side of war. This time, though, she turns her attention farther back in the past — to World War II — and to the courage and strength of French women trying to keep their lives together in the face of Nazi occupation ... Hannah has written poignantly about sisters in novels like True Colors, and she again explores the complicated bond between them... Readers unfamiliar with the role France played in World War II may be surprised to read of the atrocities great and small perpetuated by the Nazi occupiers on the French people ... The novel is suspenseful and romantic at the same time, and offers readers a very personal portrait of life in wartime and of the kind of bravery harbored by even seemingly ordinary people.
PositiveBookreporter.com...it shows in her [Khong's] fiction, which is compassionate, thoughtful and observant –– pretty much the opposite of self-centered ... Throughout, Goodbye, Vitamin explores the contrast between the acute heartache of a romantic relationship’s end and the chronic heartache of losing a loved one to dementia ...interspersed with these small moments of joy, often when Ruth recognizes some moment of shared humanity with acquaintances or strangers, or as she allows herself to view her father and her family as simultaneously imperfect and indescribably precious.