RaveBookreporterCombining the drama-filled world of telenovelas with the hilarity of a romantic comedy, Alexis Daria’s You Had Me At Hola is an unforgettable romance perfect for fans of Beach Read and shows like \'Jane the Virgin\' ... With both actors working through their own personal issues, Daria seamlessly weaves reality into fiction, with each element propelling the other forward ... But what truly sets You Had Me At Hola apart is Daria’s careful handling of consent and healthy, communicative sexual relationships. Even when the characters’ chemistry is practically leaping off the pages --- and believe me, it gets steamy --- she effortlessly incorporates issues like consent and enjoyment in ways that never once distract from the sensuality, reminding readers that, as the slogan says, \'Consent is sexy!\' ... I would be remiss if I did not mention the equally stellar handling and inclusion of diversity, which is as encouraging and joy-fueled as the romantic aspects of the narrative ... though Daria doesn’t dwell on over-defining foreign language terms or over-explaining cultural celebrations, she still manages to invite readers of all races and backgrounds to delight in and groan at the main characters’ families. Once again, she shows her audience how easy it is to champion others and create safe spaces without distracting from the fun, professionalism or comfort of the plot ... a fully realized romance novel where each of the characters easily could stand alone in their own books. Both Jasmine and Ashton have completely fleshed-out and satisfying character arcs, and though I loved the romance, I found myself even more moved by the development of their personal careers and ambitions. This pitch-perfect work is searingly timely, bravely hopeful and out-of-this-world sexy, and I can’t wait to see what Daria comes up with next.
RaveBookreporter... a poignant, instantly compelling novel about love, change and the power of timing ... far more perfectly paced than this review makes it seem. Leavitt layers every page with suspense and potential --- both for celebration and devastation --- and measures them out in equal parts, letting the narrative ebb and flow in ways that are both comfortably predictable and jump-out-of-your-chair shocking. This is a deeply moving novel, and the way that Leavitt plays with fate, the shifting of time and her own characters’ growth drives the emotion home to make it all the more intimate and personal ... Although Stella is technically the main character, it is Simon who experiences the most growth and has the most satisfying story arc. Leavitt allows him to surprise and upend readers’ and his own expectations at nearly every turn, while still keeping his character grounded and believable ... This is an unflinchingly raw and honest novel, but it is also propulsive and suspenseful. The characters are so wholly realized and developed that they seem to move on their own, with Leavitt simply pulling the strings above them. She is a brave and risk-taking author, and With or Without You is a perfect picture of what she can do when left with a spark of inspiration and a gripping premise.
RaveBookreporterEvoking the same heightened emotion she so masterfully cultivated in Drowning Ruth and drawing upon the real Bonnie’s \'ripped from the headlines\' lifestyle, Schwarz introduces readers to the lady behind the legend, a romantic young girl with the passion of a woman and the naivete of a child ... short, compulsively readable chapters ... As Clyde bounces back and forth from prison to half-assed crime spree to Bonnie’s arms, Schwarz sets the scene of America’s Depression-era Wild West beautifully. The sense of place and time is not only immersive but educational, and though we may not be reading the facts of what Bonnie and Clyde’s beginnings were like, Schwarz certainly provides a plausible, reasonable explanation for their passion and debauchery ... Though Schwarz easily highlights the thrill of the outlaw life and the draw of the notoriety, especially for Bonnie, she is careful to provide both sides of the story, stripping away the glamour and explaining that Bonnie and Clyde often felt trapped when they were on the run, a contradiction that made Bonnie feel hopeless. Schwarz explains how the reports of Clyde’s early crimes were exaggerated, but also how careless he was with details ... My one complaint about Bonnie is that it can get bogged down in detail, particularly near the end when the book reads more like a rap sheet than a work of fiction. Schwarz is careful to relay every detail of Bonnie and Clyde’s crimes. Although prolific, the duo was not very creative, so every repeated crime tends to drag the narrative down rather than propel it forward. Similarly, as Schwarz becomes more immersed in the actual history, she occasionally loses the threads of the characters’ interiors --- their motivations, fears and shared passions. Through about two thirds, Bonnie is a dreamy, believable exploration of the interior life of Bonnie Parker the woman. But the final act rests on the mythos of Bonnie the criminal, making the book feel almost incomplete, if only because Schwarz so masterfully rendered her Bonnie in the beginning ... Schwarz is, hands down, one of the most beautiful writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. She writes with the romantic overtones of V.C. Andrews and Anne Rice, but her prose is never overly flowery or heavy-handed. Instead, she is able to summarize major points, complex emotions and nuanced subjects with pointed, sharp turns of phrase that read almost like song lyrics ... the book is written with tremendous care and a mastery of language that feels singular in its talent ... well worth reading and recommending, particularly for fans of Marie Benedict and Megan Collins.
RaveBookreporter... an engrossing, heartfelt debut ... The book is divided into three parts, each taking place over the course of a month. Within each part, we are given the perspectives of six different characters. Although this ultimately proves to be a very interesting way to tell the story, I found it difficult to attach to any one character when I began reading. For those who struggle with multiple perspectives, I urge you to read on anyway --- the Adler family and their friends are close-knit enough to keep every character in the forefront, and the structure of the novel allows each storyline to live on its own while furthering the plot as a whole ... a perfect generational saga that explores the depths of the risks we are willing to take to protect those we love. The Adlers are complicated, and their decision to protect Fannie may seem unbelievable, but Beanland renders them so beautifully that she manages to pack the full breadth of human emotion into nearly every scene. Her prose is tender and frank, but it is her keen eye for emotional nuance that makes the book soar. It is not easy to begin a novel with such a gripping tragedy and convince your readers to sit with their heartache as they read on, but Beanland writes with such grace and compassion that the book is instantly engrossing, even for those who prefer \'happy\' stories ... announces the arrival of a tremendous new talent and is sure to top many \'Best Of\' lists in a year that needs more heartfelt, unforgettable fiction.
RaveBookreporter... a laugh-out-loud, emotionally resonant exploration of love, writing and, yes, death cults ... Emily Henry is absolutely masterful in her dialogue. She never wastes a word, and though the banter is every bit as sarcastic and punchy as you’d expect in a rom-com, it never feels forced or unnatural ... January is a perfectly riveting protagonist, and I loved her for her sweetness, her loyalty and her limitless (if momentarily suspended) belief in love and happily-ever-afters. True to its title, Beach Read is the perfect beach read, and I suspect that Henry will have many readers itching for her next foray into romance.
RaveBookreporterThis meticulously plotted thriller manages to be just as chilling during the quiet moments as it does the more action-filled ones. Barry is a careful plotter, and although the book feels very current, I do not believe that the conflicts in it will become dated. She unpacks decades of misogyny and discrimination, and the women’s grief, fear and rage are universal in their portrayals ... Those who enjoyed Freefall may find Don\'t Turn Around just a bit too twisty. Though Barry metes out the dread and darkness easily and powerfully, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief when the action scenes kick in. That said, it is the real-world issues that make the book strong and powerful; Barry elevates the genre by writing about such universal themes and highlighting the ways that they can become deeply personal. The twists do not stop with the thrills, either. Both Cait and Rebecca have some rocky pasts that will shock readers and upend their expectations just as quickly as the plot twists will surprise ... a splendid addition to the new list of #MeToo titles and a fantastic thriller as well.
RaveBookreporter... a pitch-perfect summer novel with a scintillating combination of drama, heart and lovely prose that will stay with you long into autumn ... With each of the Gordon siblings leading the way, The Second Home unfolds quickly, with some details a bit more glossed over than I would have liked. Some early plot elements require more explanation, or at least a suspension of disbelief, but if you can accept them, the story moves along smoothly and clearly from there. Ann, Poppy and Michael are distinct in their motivations and backgrounds, and Clancy balances their chapters well. Although I feel that many readers will find Ann unlikable and Poppy a little too flighty, they both serve the story well and make for plenty of interesting drama. Despite her ignorance and occasional lies, I actually loved Ann ... Masterfully plotted with fascinating, original characters, The Second Home is a riveting and dark family saga with plenty of vivid descriptions of the Cape Cod beaches and historic homes to keep you dreaming of sunny days.
RaveBookreporter... tautly plotted ... the greatest strength of the book is how perfectly imperfect each of them is; all three are wholly realized, believably complicated and layered, and self-conscious without being self-absorbed. Though Eleanor, Nancy and Mary are all obsessed with the opinions of one another, Hall uses their microcosm to unpack the multiple pressures, impossible expectations and horrible judgments that women face every day in society, at work and in their relationships ... Hall does not disparage men or dispute the existence of good men in her book, but she certainly does remind us that even as women are harmed emotionally and physically every day, men almost always have a way out of their guilt for it ... Readers who enjoyed Our Kind of Cruelty will be delighted to see that Hall has maintained her talent for dark characterizations and vivid descriptions of violent, obsessive love, but this is not quite the same psychological thriller. IMPERFECT WOMEN is much more nuanced and intellectual; while a murder has been committed, this is not a jump-scare-filled or particularly shocking suspense novel (though there is a satisfying murder mystery simmering in the background at all times). The thrills here are much more thought-provoking and insightful ...You’ll buy this one for the comparisons to Paula Hawkins, but you’ll remember it for the sharply observed and brilliantly explored observations on women and their various --- but always criticized --- roles in society.
PositiveBookreporter...a propulsive, psychologically driven novel ... In Lizzie and Alice, we get different variations of the same journey, but neither woman is exactly relatable or endearing. Wasserman keeps them at arm’s length to let them define themselves, a choice that is equal parts successful and frustrating, as it is difficult to get through a novel with no one to really root for ... This is an incredibly stimulating and brainy novel, but it is also compassionate and compelling, even when the plot gets a little ahead of itself ... This is a carefully plotted and well-constructed novel—written in a tone that feels provocative and wicked.
RaveBookreporter...a generous and sharply observed chronicle of grief, sexuality and identity. With the pacing of a thriller and the heart of a romance, it more than lives up to its hype ... Capturing the full breadth and journey of each relationship in powerful, vivid snapshots, Masad lays bare the fullness of human sexuality and love ... an astute and sharply millennial unpacking of anxiety and intimacy ... Witty, sharp and unexpectedly warm, All My Mother\'s Lovers is a wonderfully modern chronicle of grief and identity. Masad braids together the strands of Iris’ life with care and compassion, painting a fabulous portrait of a complicated woman. This is a tautly plotted and incisive book that will upend your expectations and challenge your beliefs, but it is also a compelling and fast-paced thrill ride.
RaveBookreporterWhen I read Watch Me Disappear I was struck by Brown’s gorgeous prose, but found myself wondering what might happen if she pushed herself just a little further and tightened up her characters a bit more. I am thrilled to report that she does just that in Pretty Things, combining razor-sharp character arcs with poignant, thought-provoking questions to give readers one of the most unputdownable novels I have read in several months. She unites themes of poverty, privilege, mental illness and the influence of social media in tight, clever ways that elevate the mystery at the heart of her book, rather than weighing it down ... Brown excels at immersing readers in both women’s heads, allowing us to relate to them equally to the point that every situation, tense encounter and furthering of the plot becomes elevated by moral grayness, ambiguous motives and brilliant combinations of privilege and power. This is a smart novel, clearly influenced by the social media age, but it is also an emotionally resonant one that will leave you thinking not only about what you choose to post online, but why you have chosen to post it ...
While that alone might be enough to call this book a must-read, it is Nina and Vanessa who make it unforgettable. It is rare for an author to present hero and victim so equally, but here Brown reminds us that we are all complicated, layered and flawed, and the pace at which she reveals her characters’ motives is breakneck and endlessly compelling ... I am absolutely on the edge of my seat anticipating her next book. She gets better and better every time, and it is thrilling to be able to watch her talent grow.
Lyssa Kay Adams
PositiveBookreporterLyssa Kay Adams once again employs men reading romance as clever and thought-provoking advice to explore what women want and how society fights against them getting it ... I have to say I did not love this sequel as much as I did the original. Whereas the first book included extracts from regency romance novels and had a more even balance between love and emotion, this one was much more suspense-driven than I was anticipating. As this is only book two in the series, I will be interested to see if future volumes also mimic the books that the Club is reading. I am really hoping for more of those romance extracts, rather than seeing the characters only act out the books they are reading ... Although The Bromance Book Club is the stronger of the two titles, Undercover Bromance is still a must-read for anyone who enjoyed the opening installment.
Mary Pauline Lowry
PositiveBookreporter... humorous, deliciously messy ... Because the book is composed entirely in letters, there is a lot of “telling, not showing,” which normally would render a novel a complete fail. Yet Lowry exceeds at giving her readers just enough nuance and depth to create a fully realized portrait of Roxy, even when she is not entirely honest in her correspondences. Roxy is equal parts funny and irritating, and you will laugh just as frequently at you will roll your eyes at her. But she is definitely unique, and The Roxy Letters is an intriguing addition to the realm of 20-something literature that will appeal to millennials and older readers alike ... Roxy is her own worst enemy, and Lowry excels at highlighting not only the best parts of her, but how she often stands in the way of her own success, all without judgment or rebuke ... That said, I can see how Roxy could be grating on many readers, and I, too, found her unbearably vapid at times...Still, I found it impossible to break away from her and her letters ... Roxy is not the lovable Bridget Jones or the controversial Bernadette of Where\'d You Go, Bernadette. She is entirely original and completely in ownership of her own flaws and shortcomings, which may deter some readers for being just a little too real. In exposing her protagonist so clearly on the page, Lowry has given us someone to love and to hate, a plethora of witty new phrases to use, and, above all, a laugh-out-loud trek into the mind of a millennial everywoman.
RaveBookreporterWritten with empathy, a keen love of Austen and her family, and a hearty dose of Austen-like wit, this is a captivating tale for lovers of both Jane Austen and historical fiction ... takes on the suspenseful air of a mystery as Cassandra races to find every letter she needs to save Jane’s legacy. With skillful pacing and a flair for suspense, Hornby also reveals the contents of those letters and how they could damage the Austens’ reputation ... Interwoven with historical research about the roles of women at the time (and the judgment of spinsters like the misses Austen), the story of Cassandra’s life draws a heartfelt and emotionally tense picture of a woman at odds with her time ... Those who are not as invested in the life of Jane Austen will still find something to enjoy in Miss Austen, as Cassandra’s story takes the forefront, and her narrative is fleshed out by strong, detail-filled historical fiction. But it is lovers of Austen’s work who will find themselves enthralled by Hornby’s masterful portrait of Cassandra and, through her loving eyes, of Jane herself. Even more impressive is the way that Hornby’s writing mirrors that of Jane’s; she manages to effect the same keen observations and wit, making the book a lovely homage to the writer ... an emotionally resonant, deeply complex imagining of the real contents of these letters --- and a humbling respect for their disappearance and the woman who orchestrated it.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda
RaveBookreporter... a poignant, painful and unforgettable novel about how one family falls apart --- and comes back together --- following a life-changing tragedy ... Gowda invites readers into the full depths of the Olander family’s pain and dissolution ... As she settles into college life, once again feeling like an outsider, Karina becomes the star of the novel. Gowda writes her pain and guilt so beautifully that it reads like poetry ... Gowda’s descriptions of their grief, coping mechanisms and bad decisions are as compassionate as they are profound. This is clearly a writer who has studied the full spectrum of human emotion, but even more impressive is her ability to render it so beautifully on the page. She never once dulls the intensity of her characters’ emotions, but still manages to make them palatable, digestible and, through it all, universal. This is by no means a novel for the faint of heart --- the emotions held within are too strongly felt, too expertly rendered --- but it is one that will resonate deeply with anyone who has felt the crushing weight of guilt, grief or isolation ... This is my first time reading one of Gowda’s works, but I have already purchased her entire backlist and plan to continue following her. If The Shape of Family is any indication of her talent, I know that I have found a new favorite author.
PositiveBookreporter... a sharp, smartly written novel about the intersections of class, gender and race ... Though Privelidge is, at its core, the story of a rape trial gone terribly wrong, Adkins covers so many other types of privilege and their trappings in this smart, poignant book ... This is a novel full of \'gray areas,\' and though I would argue that the rape is not one of them, Adkins is thorough and careful in her rendering of the reactions on campus ... Weaving a story all too common to readers familiar with the #MeToo movement with thought-provoking commentaries on race and class, Adkins forces readers to consider not only their own privileges, but how they have perpetuated dangerous and toxic cycles of racism, sexism and classism themselves ... This is an ambitious book, and though Adkins has a strong handle on each of her themes, her prose failed to dig as deep as I would have liked. Bea in particular felt ignored at times, and it would have been nice to see far more of her experience as one of the few POC students at Carter and in the Justice program. Her actions vacillated between hopelessly naive, needlessly reckless and downright absurd, and I wanted her to be more fully developed, especially as her role in the story was one of the most interesting, as a woman defending a rapist. Adkins accomplished so much with Annie and especially Stayja that Bea’s chapters felt rushed and devoid of the same intellectual prodding that she has proven herself adept at ... All in all, Privelidge is a thought-provoking and timely novel about the ways in which each of us hold and fight against both our own privileges and those of others. Though sexual assault is the book’s main theme, I was impressed by Adkins’ bravery and willingness to confront other types of privilege. I just wish she had pushed even further when it came to race.
PositiveBookreporter... a sultry gothic mystery set in the Italian Alps that plunges readers into the depths of one family’s legacy --- and how far they are willing to go to preserve it ... I feel as though readers will fall on one of two sides with Bert: they will either read along for the mystery and tense air and think very little of her, or find her far too easygoing and submissive. She’s not the most compelling or memorable protagonist, but The Anscestor is about so much more than its characters. The castle, the village and the mountains themselves are all characters in their own right, and though it’s possible that Trussoni could have pushed Bert just a bit further, I found the novel to be perfectly enjoyable and unputdownable all the same ... I was expecting a luscious, wine-fueled gothic mystery with plenty of Renaissance-inspired imagery. I got precisely that and far more. Trussoni is a gifted and cadenced writer. Even when the premise is somewhat unbelievable, Trussoni keeps you glued to the page with her vivid descriptions, lyrical prose and inviting mysteries ... perfectly gothic in its atmosphere, and the mystery, though tantalizing, is the kind that sinks into your bones rather than turn you away with cheap gimmicks. There are no jump scares here, but the Montebianco family will still chill you to your core.
RaveBookreporter... a literary thriller written in the vein of greats such as Laura Lippman and Chloe Benjamin ... Confronting us with the darkest part of the city, Mullen beckons readers not only to see the women she writes about, but to really look at them and their stories ... Focusing not on their mistakes or flaws, Mullen highlights the unfairness of the myriad expectations placed on women and how the tension can often lead them to fall ... Combined with the viewpoints of Clara and Lily, Luis’ side gives us a complete 360-degree view of Atlantic City, and the juxtaposition of glamour and degradation is enough to horrify and depress any reader. And yet, somehow, Mullen uses her exquisite prose and thought-provoking insights to push readers forward. This was a book I wanted to put down so many times --- not because it was bad, but because it was too vivid, too painful, too real --- but I could not do it once. Alluding to her book’s title, Mullen begs her readers to see these girls. As impossible as it seems, she is able to explore every Jane Doe’s background, every fatal flaw and every slide into danger, never once losing her audience in the horrors of it all ... not like anything I have read before. Mullen’s prose is so beautifully rendered and her pace so careful that you almost forget there is a mystery at the book’s core. The girls’ lives are too gripping to focus on the killer, and Mullen proposes too many painful questions to care about the \'whodunit.\' But this is the glory of her work --- there is no spotlight on violent or rage-fueled men, but rather on the women who suffer at their hands. I will say that the ending shocked me in the most stunning way ... Mullen is a bright new talent, and I was constantly in awe of the fact that this is her debut; she is so skilled and so cadenced, with every word chosen with the care of a poet. I foresee a long career for her, and I cannot wait to find out where she turns her literary eye next.
RaveBookreporter... a slow burn suspense story, made sharper and more immediate by its characters. They are all writers themselves, so the ways that they share stories, swap dialogue and describe events with one another are full of nuance and hidden meanings. Add to that the collegiate setting, and you get the perfect recipe for drama, yet the book is so much more than that. Zancan possesses a keen mind and a writing style that, while reminiscent of authors like Sally Rooney and Lauren Groff, is entirely her own. Every word is carefully selected, and even the most clichéd phrases are brandished expertly, revealing more about her characters than simple descriptions could alone ... a sharp critique of academia and the notion that one can \'teach\' good writing. It is about not only stories, but storytellers, and what binds the two together while angling them apart.
RaveBookreporter... fresh, original ... Blending humorous and witty takes on life’s idiosyncrasies with a raw and deeply human main character, Dicks pens the perfect between-the-holidays book ... Using sparse but vivid and immediate prose, Dicks unpacks the anxiety- and love-filled life of Dan Mayrock, and how he discovers the truth(s) about love ... Dan constantly strays from the realm of believability by choosing the least certain and most foolhardy ways to improve his situation, but through it all, he maintains a real sense of heart and earnestness ... a truly wonderful protagonist ... what makes him extraordinary is the reader’s raw, limitless access to the inner workings of his mind. Dicks writes with complete humility and grace, elevating ordinary Dan to someone you want to root for, even when you are grimacing at his choices. He is also deeply anxious --- and not just about his failing bookstore, but about his wife, his career path and so much more --- and the unique list format mirrors his anxieties in a way that makes the book feel totally immersive ... As you speed through these lists and bounce from subject to subject, your own heartbeat increases, and before you know it, you’re ready to make some anxiety-fueled lists, too. I truly do not know how he’s done it, but Dicks has crafted a book that feels a bit like a rollercoaster, with a pacing that is perfectly in tune with its main character’s emotions ... Because of the limits that lists present, Dicks has taken great care and effort to select every word carefully so that each and every one is packed with meaning. Even when Dan’s lists veer from the immediate plotline, they provide tons of depth into his character ... a lightning fast read. Poignant though they may be, Dan’s lists read very quickly, but I recommend you savor this one.
RaveBookreporterPairing her keen eye for characterization with a taut pace and a finely tuned ear for suspense, Singh has produced a thrill ride that will keep readers turning pages long past sundown ... an atmospheric novel above all things. Singh crafts the setting so meticulously and expertly that you can feel the daytime sun bearing down on you as easily as you can hear the crashing waves and feel the lush greenery around you. It would be easy and true to say that the setting is a major character in the book, but that is not all Singh brings to the metaphorical table. Her characters feel fully fleshed out and familiar, yet compelling. I think what I loved most about them was the way they formed a separate character entirely as the town of Golden Cove. As desperate as I was to learn their secrets and histories, I was equally conscious of wanting to respect their community. This dissonance not only kept me reading, but immersed me in the story more fully than if I simply wanted answers. This is no small feat for an author, especially in a stand-alone novel ... While the book is certainly suspenseful, I would draw the line at calling it a thriller. While there is a missing girl and threats of violence at its center, I felt that it was more slow burn than I would expect from a thriller. Many of the mysteries at the heart of the novel were playing out internally between characters rather than with bloody knives and fingerprints, making it more of a mystery than a thriller, but it was every bit as riveting. Singh clearly has an ear for personal dynamics, and it was these relationships that really moved the story along for me ... stellar; it has everything it needs to succeed and plays upon its author’s previous talents beautifully. I look forward to seeing where Singh turns next.
Lyssa Kay Adams
RaveBookreporter... equal parts hilarious and intelligent, feminist and romantic. Combining deservedly popular tropes with a fresh premise and some purely delightful characters, [Adams] invites a whole new world of readers to swoon with one of the most beautiful romances of 2019 ... not just a hilarious comedy; Adams digs deep into the problems that many couples face and puts her characters to work to use books to examine their own lives and relationships ... This is one of those rare books that is just as funny as it is heartwarming, and just as romantic as it is intelligent. Adams does an outstanding job of unpacking toxic masculinity --- and not just the myriad ways it affects women. She also explores the dangers for men, and how they can stand against it for themselves and the women around them. At the same time, she champions the romance genre and reminds us that, as a branch of literature written by and for women, it\'s a place where female desires, experiences and emotions are given center stage. And it’s a heck of a good time ... one of the most heartwarming romances I’ve read in some time. Additionally, the members of Gavin’s book club add tons of terrific commentary and sarcastic jabs ... Written with brilliance, humor and a true love of the romance genre, The Bromance Book Club is perfect for readers of all ages, backgrounds and genders.
Daniel Jose Older
RaveBookreporterPacked tight with lively dialogue, historical sensitivity and a hearty dose of magical realism, Older\'s departure from stories for young readers is an epic saga from an author at the absolute top of his game ... Older captures the attention of his readers instantly ... not an easy read --- violence lurks on every page, and Older crafts a sense of unease that permeates even the lightest moments. But what makes The Book of Lost Saints even more interesting is its third person narrator, a spirit who can see and know all, except for her own history. This perspective can be difficult to adjust to at first, especially during Marisol’s more vulgar moments. Older never holds back from any detail, no matter how uncomfortable, and this can be jarring, but he is sharp and perceptive with his gaze. Never once does he give us an unwieldy or uninteresting detail --- and, perhaps even more impressively, never once does he stray from the expansive and explosive timeline of Cuba’s past, present and future ... [Older] effortlessly switches between Spanish and English, peppering in numerous colorful Cubanismos that are so full of meaning that anyone can understand them, regardless of how many languages you speak. In including this dose of culture, he also points out the differences in dialects and native tongues, creating a vivid and passionate tone that makes his dialogue an absolute joy to read ... Equal parts violent, pensive and magic, The Book of Lost Saints is a masterwork of culture, history and trauma.
RaveBookreporterHibbert writes the couple’s various meet-cutes with such biting humor and raw irony that you cannot help but laugh ... [Hibbert] does not merely drop weighty subjects onto the table; she unpacks them, weighs them against one another, and asks her readers to approach them with empathy and compassion --- the same way she treats her characters ... what sets Get A Life, Chloe Brown apart is the depth that Hibbert gives her characters. For many authors, it would be enough to give us a chronically ill woman of color, check off the \'diversity\' box and call it a day --- but Hibbert really shows readers of all backgrounds what it is like to live in Chloe’s body. We feel her pain and celebrate her milestones, and through it all, we see how deeply human she is and how thoroughly her illness affects her life --- without defining it. Chloe’s emotional pain takes longer to show itself, but when it does, you will want to have the tissues ready and, ideally, a fluffy pet to snuggle ... Despite the heaviness of emotion that Hibbert infuses into this book, it is still a delightfully fun and sexy rom-com ... Hibbert has long strived to celebrate and uphold marginalized voices in her work, and I think Get A Life, Chloe Brown is truly the book that will propel her --- and her wonderful, beloved characters --- into the mainstream. Her compassion, curiosity and endless patience for her characters and readers speaks wonders, and I am so happy that this is just the first in a series
PositiveBookreporter... a keen-eyed and sharp novel with more than a few surprises up its sleeve ... Cate is a wonderful protagonist: stuck in life and full of potential, but with a bevy of frustrating flaws that make her feel as real as your own best friend, lover or coworker. Her passion for set design is a terrific lifeline in the book: I learned a ton about historical accuracy, the importance of size and placement, and, of course, the theater. But what is more interesting about Cate is her apparent cognitive dissonance with her life ... This is my first time reading a book by Carol Anshaw, and I was absolutely blown away by her careful and economic writing. Though the novel does not feel forced in any way, it is obvious that she chooses each word with careful precision --- there is no single wasted sentence or clichéd phrase ... Anshaw observes her characters and their emotions and actions sharply and vividly, so that each portrait is so fully fleshed out that there is no need to prattle on. However, her portrayals of some characters --- like Cate, Maureen and Neale --- are so perfectly sharp that others fall flat. You may care for Cate, but it is difficult to apply that feeling to Anshaw’s supporting characters, who can lessen the weight of her powerful statements about life and its hardships ... As much as Cate feels stuck in her life, Anshaw’s writing sometimes feels stuck in a lack of action. Few major plot points occur here, and the biggest does not unfold until midway through. Despite Anshaw’s snapshot-like writing propelling the reader forward, I can see why some may put this book down too early, hoping for more \'oomph.\' The pacing is, unfortunately, painfully realistic, which can feel daunting in fiction ... That said, if you can handle a slow burn, you will definitely be rewarded by Anshaw’s clever, keenly observed writing, her astute and remarkably familiar characterizations, and, of course, the story of how one woman becomes stuck --- and how she can ever move past her own complacencies.
Alix E. Harrow
RaveBookreporter... spellbinding, lush and captivatingly imaginative ... not just a book, but a true experience, an ode to storytelling and every book lover’s dream ... instantly gripping, with January’s wit, lyrical turns of phrase and sharply written observations about doorways and life immediately drawing you in ... a breathless and compelling pace. While the story moves quickly, it is not action-packed with danger or fighting, but Harrow keeps the plot believably dark by focusing instead on real-world issues of race and privilege ... The premise is, of course, intriguing, but Harrow’s characters are so wholly realized that they barely need the setting or plot to feel real ... even if fantasy isn’t your thing, Harrow’s gift for prose makes this a can’t-miss read. She infuses every word with magic and possibility, as well as a resounding love for storytelling, but what truly stands out is the overwhelming sense of longing --- for adventure, for hope and for acceptance. This is a gorgeous, richly imagined work that reads like one book lover talking to another, and Harrow’s observations about the power of stories is not only poignant, but also heartfelt and empowering. This jewel of a novel reads, at times, like a call to action, and paired with clever musings on doorways and new beginnings, this theme of encouragement leaps off the page ... Enchanting, colorful and powerful, The Ten Thousand Doors of January transcends genre and is sure to make a new fan out of anyone who encounters it.
RaveBookreportera staggering portrait of the immigrant experience, not only in 1965, but also today. Combined with Ana’s coming-of-age storyline, this makes for a book perfect for anyone who has ever felt lonely, stagnant or trapped. But most of all, it is for the families who have waited far too long to have their stories told --- families who gave up homes, lives and loved ones for something greater, only to be faced with hatred, discrimination and a different kind of political turmoil. America comes alive through Ana’s eyes, with all of its benefits and flaws, and her story of resilience is one that will stick with anyone who reads it.
RaveBookreporterWhere McLean shines, and where the real strength of the book lies, is in her pitch-perfect character development and creation of a sense of place. The setting of Australia is a character in and of itself, and McLean immerses her readers in it seamlessly and beautifully; you can practically feel the sun beating down on you and smell the stench wafting up from the river through the gully as you read. At the same time, the dialogue between the young girls is delightful ... This is every bit a coming-of-age story, and the sense of menace and melancholy that hangs over it are enough to draw in any sort of reader. Equal parts The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock, with a ton of Australian personality thrown in, McLean’s debut novel is sharp, endearing and unforgettable.
RaveBookreporter... remind[s] us of our capacity for love, empathy and hope ... From the very first page, Christy Lefteri’s book is gripping and poignant ... Lefteri presents readers with a powerful and unflinching look at the refugee crisis and reminds us that we cannot look away any longer ... Lefteri never shies away from an honest description, from dead bodies to snipers and even rape, but she makes it clear that this is only one story, and the world is full of others that are possibly even more horrifying. Regardless of how closely you have followed the refugee crisis, I am sure that all readers will take something new away from this book ... Their love story is the heart of the book, and Lefteri writes it as deftly and gorgeously as she pens even the most devastating war scene ... [Lefteri] writes with the compassion and horror of a person who is seeing the crisis for the first time, and it adds a whole new level of urgency and terror to her beautifully written book. Even when she is describing the absolute worst sides of humanity, Lefteri writes lyrically and poetically, using every word to its fullest extent without wasting a moment of her readers\' time ... Haunting, illuminating and exploding with awareness, The Beekeeper of Aleppo represents the greatest gift of fiction: to inspire empathy in all readers.
RaveBookreporter...poignant and resonant ... Populated with strong, believable characters, fresh and original side stories, and lots of heart, Things You Save in a Fire is a gorgeous and inspiring book that will make readers eager for more from Center ... The book is full of emotional highs and lows, but I believe my favorite parts were about the brotherhood among the firefighters. Center clearly did her research, and the way she opens up the semi-private society and invites readers right into the firehouse is incredible. When I first picked up this book, I was definitely expecting to feel things and cry, but I never thought I would learn so much about firefighting, firefighters and firehouses. I loved that Center fleshed out these scenes so well and found myself giggling at the pranks more than a few times ... a rare book. It is nearly flawless in its writing, and Center balances the emotional depth with just the right amount of lighthearted firefighter pranks and jokes that add some much-needed levity without distracting from the main themes. Cassie is the kind of character readers dream about: strong, brave, a little flawed and full of potential. She is truly someone you root for in every way ... Katherine Center is gifted beyond words, and her plots, characters and exquisite attention to detail make her a must-read author --- and a new auto-buy for me.
MixedBookReporterWhat initially seems like a quick beach read quickly turns into something much darker ... This is a steamy novel, no doubt about it, and the unlikable characters make the sensuality seem that much more depraved and reckless in a \'can’t look away\' kind of way. I cannot say for sure whether I liked any of the characters or supported their actions, but I could not stop reading ... Cheek is a solid writer, that much is certain. His portrayal of Cape May feels like a character in and of itself, and I am sure I will not be alone in saying that I craved the crisp coolness of a gin and tonic while reading this book ... Cheek’s writing is atmospheric, and his setting is positively tangible, but I wanted a bit more in terms of character development. It is one thing to write unlikable characters --- a trope that I love in books --- but the denizens of Cape May felt flat and unmotivated ... a quick, fun read, and the erotica is nicely metered out --- but ultimately it feels a bit inconsequential ... As much as I love a quick read, this is one book that I would have liked to see a bit more fleshed out.
RaveBook ReporterIf you’ve eagerly devoured [Dugoni\'s] previous works for their cinematic pacing, tautly written thrills and wonderfully developed characters, you’re in for all of that and so much more ... Whenever I pick up one of Dugoni’s books, I know that I will be greeted with a hard-hitting issue that truly feels \'ripped from the headlines\'...Dugoni does a fabulous job of filling in just enough fiction to offer his readers a reprieve from the news ... As always, I am blown away by Dugoni’s ability to tackle any genre, any setting and any type of character with any background...From the start, he pulls his readers in with an instantly likable yet complex character ... if you are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit, you will be treated to a truly action-packed, fast-paced and absolutely exhilarating thrill ride --- and, perhaps in Charles Jenkins, your new favorite character.
Kate Hope Day
RaveBookreporter\"If, Then is a masterpiece of a character-driven book. I read it eagerly and unflinchingly, and it epitomized for me all the best parts of strong, well-developed characters. I loved each of Day’s characters equally... and yet I never felt as though I had to race through one chapter to get to the next to see where a previous character was in his or her journey. They are each so fully realized and wonderfully fleshed out that it felt a bit like playing with a dollhouse, with each doll firmly in your line of sight ... I can assure you that every bit of the journey to the truth will be worth your while. Day is a remarkable and careful writer, and I cannot wait for scores of readers to find this book in whichever reality they inhabit.\
RaveBookreporter\"Decadent and captivating ... Mesmerizing, wickedly sexy and full of girl power, The Age of Light is historical fiction for the modern reader. This unflinching portrait of one of the most iconic and yet often underlooked female artists will fill in many of the blanks in your knowledge of art history, while simultaneously reminding you to celebrate women’s contributions to the industry. Whether you have a Lee Miller print hanging in your home right now or have only ever heard of Man Ray, The Age of Light will immediately pull you in.\
RaveBook ReporterBenedict illuminates both sides of this complex woman’s life in a way that only a gifted writer can, resulting in a glittering, spell-binding tale of glamour, intrigue and fierceness ... Despite her later fame, Hedy truly feels like \'one of us\' in Benedict’s deft hands ... Benedict develops a perfect portrait of this memorable woman, and reveals a forgotten, covered-up and necessary portion of history ... As always, Benedict’s research is thorough yet not overwhelming. She is a true master of the historical fiction genre, and her portrayals of strong women never fail to amaze ... the perfect work of historical fiction for our time. Benedict has done Lamarr true justice, and I feel certain that she would love this book.
RaveBookreporter\"Because this novel is intensely character-driven, it would be a disservice not to discuss Zgheib’s careful, tender rendering of Anna ... Zgheib writes with a compassion and an intensity that may scare away some readers, but I believe that her brilliance and authenticity make this book a must-read ... This is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one, and perhaps the perfect book for anyone feeling alone, depressed or like they have truly lost control.\
PositiveBookreporter\"The Au Pair is, without a doubt, a very well-written novel. Rous toys with her readers’ minds expertly, and her ability to juggle two perspectives over two timelines demonstrates a talent for pacing and big reveals. That said, I believe that whether or not you will love or hate this book depends very much on your willingness to suspend your disbelief at some of the most important twists ... In terms of sheer pleasure and thrill, The Au Pair is a very good read, and one that I would easily recommend to thriller lovers, but I would love to see Rous pare down her plot points in future works and focus more on one big reveal. Her wonderful characters and distinctive settings deserve it.\
MixedBookreporter\"... vivid, keenly observational and often highly uncomfortable tales ... Roupenian is skilled at forcing her readers to confront some painful truths, but her questions about life and society form a foundation for the wild situations in which her characters find themselves ... I’ll be the first to admit that not every story connected with me ... That said, I applaud her willingness to explore various genres, and cannot wait to see how she grows as a writer, as she is clearly off to a tremendous start.\
Lynda Cohen Loigman
PositiveBookreporter\"With tension that is palpable on every page, The Wartime Sisters is a compelling and heartfelt look at sisterhood and the pains of comparisons between two wildly different women ... The Wartime Sisters is not your typical World War II novel. The war is felt on every page, but this is not a book full of battles and collateral damage ... Loigman brilliantly captures the dynamics that take hold of sisters, especially when they are very different. Her portrayals of resentment and jealousy are poignant and captivating, and I love that she shows readers how every small hurt and indiscretion can add up in a complex but believable way.\
MixedBookreporterIn When the Lights Go Out, Mary Kubica’s fifth book in as many years, Jessie Sloane is living a walking nightmare ... As with each of Kubica’s books, the final twist completely takes everything you thought and turns it on its head. She is a master at redirecting, and I am always amazed by her ability to take me by surprise. That said, the twist in When the Lights Go Out borders on unbelievable and finds itself a bit beneath the standard that she has set with her first four books. I could have done without the last few pages, though I loved the journey getting there more than enough to make up for it. Fans of Kubica will find it to be a quick, engrossing read.
PositiveBookreporter\"The Clockmaker\'s Daughter is not a book you can settle into easily, and I will be the first to admit that Morton makes her readers work for answers, but I can assure you that the satisfaction of tying up all the loose ends is worth every ounce of confusion ... Morton’s characters tugged at my heartstrings and made the story unputdownable. Even her supporting and minor characters felt intensely personal, and it is not difficult to find a reason to connect with each and every one of them ... For those looking for a leisurely and thoughtful read full of lush settings and vivid characters, The Clockmaker\'s Daughter is the perfect blend of mystery, nostalgia and love. Morton’s passion for intertwining plotlines is at its height here, and longtime fans will appreciate the lengths to which she has pushed herself, though newcomers might be better off starting with an earlier, shorter title from this gem of an author.\
RaveBookreporterIn Small Animals, Brooks seeks not to defend herself or walk readers through the grueling years of court dates, panic and punishment that followed that sunny March day. Instead, she explores the \'why\' of it all ... Brooks explores both the legal and cultural forces shaping American parenting, fearlessly and brilliantly illuminating the influences of the media, socioeconomic class and the watchful gaze of other parents ... Reading Small Animals feels like enjoying a particularly stimulating conversation with a friend over coffee. Brooks does not whine, cajole or beg; she simply asks the questions ... Refreshingly, Brooks is not afraid to confront her own privilege ... Brooks does speak to women of different races and classes, but does not claim to be able to tell their stories ... What she can do, and has done beautifully in Small Animals, is ask her readers to give mothers the right to be rational.
PositiveBookreporter...a domestic thriller perfect for fans of B.A. Paris, Megan Miranda and Liane Moriarty ... Reading about the trial through his young eyes is painful but illuminating. Harding really dives into the depths of evil here, and her stark, vivid writing never once holds back ... Harding is an adept and skillful writer who writes suspense remarkably well, with seemingly little effort. That said, in Her Pretty Face she gives away just a bit too much too early on ... Still, there is enough depth in Harding’s writing to make this a solidly enjoyable novel, with just the right amount of suspense to make it a real page-turner.
PositiveBookreporterA Steep Price is both compelling and politically relevant, a perfect addition to this beloved series ... One of the strongest elements of Dugoni’s books has always been his ability to balance numerous plotlines, characters and twists without ever confusing or distracting the reader. In A Steep Price, he is at his absolute best, juggling several timely, personal and riveting storylines without a single misstep ... Dugoni is compassionate and thoughtful in his exploration of motherhood, and it adds a whole new depth to the series as a whole ... A Steep Price is without a doubt one of the best books in the series.
RaveBookreporterThat said, When Katie Met Cassidy is not only a pitch-perfect nod to Nora Ephron’s classic. Perri also achieves two distinct and impressive feats in this book. First, she offers readers a romance that has both feminine and masculine traits, but without any of the toxic masculinity we have come to tolerate and begrudgingly accept ... Second, Perri graciously allows readers who perhaps have never encountered people like Cassidy a glimpse inside her head ... I feel as though I cannot rave about this book enough ... Both a lighthearted romance and a deeply nuanced exploration of identity, When Katie Met Cassidy truly has it all.
Rave20 Something ReadsWhereas some authors might craft a perfect, sympathetic character to hurl into the storm of ALS, Genova takes a far more interesting path. Richard is not someone the reader might like to date, marry or even be friends with, but there is something deeply sad about watching this concert performer lose his only talent, his only means of supporting himself and his only love ... Genova crafts a much more elegant storyline, giving her readers a nuanced yet crushingly realistic look at illness, marriage and the process of dying ... That said, I did find the pacing to be a bit jumbled. Perhaps Genova was attempting to mimic the pacing of the disease itself, with its incremental losses and punctuations of relief. I would have liked to see more of Richard’s and Karina’s stories, and particularly to have been given greater insight into their failed marriage. Of course, I raise this criticism only because Genova has written such memorable characters that I wanted to continue to love, rage and grow with them for longer than the mere 300 pages I was given ... That is the power of a Lisa Genova novel: to raise awareness and hope through compassionate storytelling, raw science and a tremendous amount of love.