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.
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.
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\"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.