PositiveThe Associated PressSmith and Franklin eschew the Bob Woodward approach, writing in the omniscient third-person, not trying to recreate dialogue. Each dispatch is dated and time-stamped as we read about the characters’ journey from \'everything’s going to be all right out here in our adult playground on the ocean\' to knocks on doors as trays of food are dropped outside cabins by crew members wearing hazmat suits. The result reads like the longest newspaper story ever written mixed with the requisite dramatic flourishes required to keep readers turning pages ... The Zaandam’s journey, of course, was well covered by the media. It was one of more than 100 cruise ships at sea when COVID broke out. Thanks to social media and wi-fi, passengers shared their misery in real time. But putting it all together in a format like this gives it the proper context. It’s easy in hindsight to think it wasn’t that bad. At least six Zaandam passengers ultimately died, but the death toll in the U.S. alone has now exceeded one million people. Smith and Franklin’s riveting recount of the cruise take readers back to a time I’m sure many of them would like to forget — when fear trumped everything and nobody knew what the future looked like. It’s an impressive example of narrative journalism. Perhaps too soon for some, but a worthy addition to the historical record.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
RaveThe Associated Press... the distinct narrative voice of the novel [is] pleasure to read. Her sharing of the family history and her role in its reconciliation drive the plot ... The beauty of the novel’s structure is that the aha moments are revealed slowly, during detailed recountings of each of the family members’ lives. We don’t even learn the name of the title character until about a quarter of the way through the book and connections are made between characters until the final page. It makes for a very satisfying read ... In addition to grief and guilt, the book tackles other weighty themes as seen through the eyes of the privileged family ... If it all sounds very heavy and serious, the reading experience is the opposite. The wry and incisive narrative voice and the hope it conveys for her family and by extension, those of us readers in the real world whose issues are closely mirrored in the novel, make the time and effort well worth it.
PositiveThe Associated PressThis is not an easy read. The words flow easily, with a visceral, in-your-face voice, but the subject matter is graphic and relentless ... Mottley’s writing style fits the story perfectly. Ki’s voice is so honest and vulnerable, even as she’s telling stories from the past when her family was at least partially intact and life didn’t seem so hopeless ... The novel would be completely bleak without a character named Alé, a friend of Ki’s who works at her parents’ restaurant and cooks for her at least once a week to keep her from starving to death. The evolution of that positive relationship serves as the counter to the depraved inhumanity Ki experiences on the streets ... heralds a bold new voice in fiction.
PositiveThe Associated Press... poignant ... Kenyatta Bernice, KB for short, is the unique narrator, and for readers like me (full disclosure, again: I’m a 50-year-old white male) her voice takes a little getting used to ... There’s no need to sketch the plot any further, just to say that Harris has indeed captured what I think is a believable adolescent girl’s voice ... It’s all that figuring that makes the book worth reading. It’s not an easy read, by any means — there’s racism, sexual assault, drug use — but it feels authentic, and does what good fiction does: take readers on a journey they otherwise wouldn’t travel.
PositiveThe Associated PressStories gleaned from those interviews are complemented by interviews with more than 100 other people in Kobe’s life at the time. The result is a compelling origin story of a time that really wasn’t so long ago, but through the lens of tragedy, feels like forever ... Kobe-ologists will devour this book, reveling in the anecdotes about his intensity and the engaging game recaps as he leads Lower Merion to a Pennsylvania state championship in 1996. But while Kobe is undoubtedly the star, the book also focuses on the impact Kobe’s rise had on everyone around him ... The book bogs down a bit when the focus turns away from Kobe’s exploits on the court. There’s too much about LaSalle’s employment of Joe in hopes that he’ll recruit his son to play for his alma mater. Readers will also gloss over the scenes with Sonny Vaccaro, the sports marketing executive who was consumed with landing Kobe as an Adidas client to get back at his former employer, Nike. In the end, they’re just moons in orbit around Kobe, proof that his gravitational pull was extraordinary, but not nearly as interesting as the phenom himself.
PositiveThe Associated PressA juicy beach read ... The pages were most definitely written to be turned quickly ... Lucy Foley keeps you guessing with multiple first person narrators and short chapters designed to leave you hanging ... [A] twisted tale ... Fans of whodunits may very well sleuth it out before the denouement, but that doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveThe Associated PressThe journey to the conclusion is a relatively easy read, despite the lofty themes. The chapters are short and while some are head-scratching, you keep going and trust that the puzzle pieces will click into place. As in her other novels, St. John Mandel paints quick scenes with her characters, then moves on to something else ... It’s a real trip, and one worth taking.
RaveAssociated PressThere’s no one more qualified to write [this] than Chuck Klosterman. Always an astute cultural observer and a fan of deep dives into any subject, Klosterman is focused here on a decade in American life that he says is often portrayed as \'a low-risk grunge cartoon\' ... There’s nostalgia on every page ... Klosterman’s gift is seizing on those moments that any Gen Xer can readily recall and pulling the strings a bit to put it in some kind of historical perspective ... Klosterman does a good job putting everything in its place.
RaveThe Associated PressThe chapters come fast and furious...It takes some getting used to at first, but you eventually settle into a rhythm and enjoy puzzling together what happens between each short snippet. It’s 382 pages of flash fiction to fill in those 53 years between Then and Now ... The novel truly puts the \'omni\' in its omniscient narrator, with plot driven mostly by internal dialogue and flashbacks. Like the flash fiction format, it’s sometimes confusing initially, but ultimately rewarding when the whole story coalesces by the end. There’s much more to recommend here, including weighty themes about race, identity and protecting the environment, as well as the power of family recipes to convey love without words, but the fun is in the reading ... a satisfying literary meal, heralding the arrival of a new novelist to watch.
RaveThe Associated Press... a gem ... Context in advance or at the end, it\'s still a deeply moving tale ... Keegan\'s economy of prose is a marvel ... The book takes just an hour or so to read, but you still feel like you know Bill Furlong by the end and understand why he does what he does. His tale of quiet heroism doesn\'t require any more words.
PositiveThe Associated Press... admirable in its ambition. Doerr’s ability to juggle all the stories and interlock them over the course of 600+ pages is quite a literary feat. It helps that the characters in the sub-stories are so likable ... piecing together the plot of the manuscript is not the point. The novel within the novel serves another purpose. It’s the story that gives all the characters the freedom to dream ... If it all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But it’s the kind of thing only a novel can do. And it’s a trip well worth taking with the inimitable Doerr.
RaveThe Associated PressIn many ways, this is peak Franzen, with richly created characters, conflicts and plot ... The introspection is head-spinning at times. Just when a character convinces themselves to do something, they reconsider and the plot spins off in a new direction. That’s not to say any of it feels arbitrary. Franzen has a story to tell, it’s just a story featuring characters who aren’t always sure what they want ... The writing is a marvel. Despite the super omniscient third-person narrator, Franzen also delivers economic lines...You feel throughout like you’re in the hands of a very confident storyteller and the joy of the novel is going along for the journey with each character as they make choices and live with the consequences ... You also feel when you finish that the story is just getting started.
RaveAssociated PressPowers’ sentences dazzle ... This is a must-read novel for anyone who loves novels, a nominee on the National Book Awards’ fiction longlist. It’s urgent and profound and takes readers on a unique journey that will leave them questioning what we’re doing to the only planet we have.
PositiveThe Associated PressThe passages where Billy writes his life story are some of the best in the book. King’s adept at shifting voices ... It’s when he finds an audience for his story that the book really starts to find its groove. Before that, it’s heavy on inner monologue as Billy thinks through all the possible consequences of his actions and the motivations of the people around him. The plot is straightforward and not really very compelling until about the midway point, when Alice Maxwell enters the story ... For readers who are new to the King canon, there are literally dozens of other books — most of them are also movies or TV shows at this point — with which you’re better off beginning your Stephen King journey.
RaveThe Associated PressShort stories in general require a little more concentration compared to the slow build and wider frame of a novel. Thankfully, McCracken is adept at packing a lot of meaning into a few lines ... McCracken gives us beautiful insights ... do yourself a favor and read the book. McCracken has delivered a lovely collection of stories loosely tied together by one theme—the bonds of family that fracture and heal as lives are led.
PositiveThe Associated Press... what is sure to be one of the more unique \'novels\' of the year ... there’s not much action in the story, which focuses instead on observations of every day life, both in the various spaces the narrator inhabits and her inner monologue. She has a writer’s eye for detail ... Each chapter floats by quickly, and this reader had trouble making it coalesce into a satisfying whole. Still, the prose is sparse and lyrical and the journey is enjoyable, wandering through an anonymous life, seeing things through one person’s eyes ... Some literary critics will love this novel novel even as some readers scratch their heads. Kudos to Lahiri for stretching the form and creating something that feels fresh.
RaveAssociated Press...an endearing love story that defies convention ... the novel is a breezy read, grounded in just enough realism to make it all feel, well, real ... Hornby’s knack for dialogue and the crackling wit he gives his characters makes the chapters fly ... It’s touching and lovely and all the things that honest relationships should be in this day and age ... The novel is full of exchanges like that about race and Brexit, as these seemingly incompatible lovers figure out that maybe, just maybe, there’s a place for their relationship in this modern world.
RaveThe Associated PressMiller’s gift as a writer has always been finely drawn portraits of families and that talent is on full display here. We get chapters inside each character’s head, rich with details and inner monologues ... There are tenderly realized moments like that throughout the novel, as Annie learns to live without Graham, eventually picking up her camera again in an attempt to preserve memories. She never truly wants to let Graham go, as if, in the end, that’s what monogamy really means ... It’s a beautiful book for a fall afternoon during this time when family means more than ever.
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
PositiveThe Associated PressFans of Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro — the co-writer with Chuck Hogan — will appreciate the focus on the monsters at the center of the tale ... The book is a quick read, with propulsive action and just enough explication to keep readers interested ... del Toro and Hogan ground the story in just enough reality to keep you turning the pages. The relationship between Hardwicke and the dying Solomon feels real, as their twin investigations drive them deeper into a world of grave robbings, iron cauldrons and a reliance on the centuries-old wisdom of the mysterious Mr. Blackwood.
Nancy Wayson Dinan
PositiveThe Associated PressYou’ll find Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here in the fiction section, but this debut novel from a doctoral candidate in fiction writing at Texas Tech is something more than that. An imagined story, sure, but it all takes place during a real-world event—the Memorial Day floods of 2015 in west-central Texas. There’s more than a little of Salman Rushdie’s magical realism at play ... You’ll have to decide for yourself what purpose they serve and whether the novel’s conclusion feels earned. But it’s a journey worth taking as Dinan offers readers a reminder that what happened in Texas nearly five years ago is just one small piece of the climate disasters to come.
PositiveThe Associated Press... they’re all breezy reads with a hint of the supernatural ... If the stories have anything in common, it may be their appreciation for the little things in life ... King fans probably won’t consider this collection among his greatest works, but we’ll do anything for diversion these days and a few more hours with this master storyteller are welcome.
PositiveThe Associated PressIf you know your Bosphorus from phosphorus and Gezi Park means something to you, you’ll probably love Elliot Ackerman’s new novel. If the strait that separates the European and Asian parts of Turkey and the 2013 demonstrations against urban development in Istanbul drive you to Google, you might not appreciate the novel as much at first, but don’t be afraid to give it a try ... The time hopping can be jarring at times, but a close reader is rewarded for his attention ... Turkey is the real star of the book. Ackerman, a former Marine who served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, loves the setting and his descriptions are some of the best-written lines of the book ... The whole book is taut, balanced between order and chaos, just like Istanbul in that summer of 2013 ... The back half reads much faster than the first, as earlier scenes start to make more sense and Ackerman uncovers the webs that keep his characters together. It’s a book that demands focus, best enjoyed in just a few sittings.
RaveThe Associated PressJiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read ... There are plots and schemes and scrapes, and above it all, music. It’s right there in the title, and it’s definitely there in the denouement as Jiles’ novel comes to a hopeful conclusion ... a beautifully written book and a worthy follow-up to News of the World.That novel is due in theaters, starring Tom Hanks, later this year (and just in time for the Oscars). Until then, lose yourself in this entertaining tale.
Emily St. John Mandel
PositiveHouston ChronicleAn ephemeral quality permeates the novel ... There are no heroes here and only a couple characters who inspire much sympathy, but the unique structure keeps you turning the pages. At times, you’ll find yourself flipping back to a chapter heading to find out if what you’re reading happened in 1999 or 2004, but it’s a thrill when the puzzle pieces start to fit together ... The final chapter is haunting, taking readers full circle ... It’s a sense readers will enjoy as well when they lose themselves in Mandel’s novel.
MixedThe Associated PressIt’s an odd thing to write in a book review, but My Penguin Year is better seen than read. The good news is you can do just that...[in] the BBC series Dynasties ... The best parts of the book are the passages when McCrae is out on the ice and just can’t believe his luck ... The segments of the book that don’t quite work are the more personal parts ... He often attempts to juxtapose his thoughts about what he’s witnessing among the penguins against what he’s missing at home, and it feels unnecessary ... Writing about it bogs down the book a bit. The overall effect is perhaps a good one though—you just want McCrae to fire up his Skidoo and get back out on the ice to tell you what’s happening at the penguin colony.
PositiveThe Associated Press... classic King. The best scenes in the first half of the book are when the kids are talking with each other, trying to figure out where they are, why they\'re there, and eventually what to do about it. King has always had a great ear for childish conversation ... King fleshes out the supporting characters nicely and there\'s a Rocky vs. Drago feel to it as you really begin to root for the kids and their sympathetic grown-ups ... Anyone who avoids King because they don\'t like \'horror\' novels will be safe reading this one. It\'s more mystery than horror, with the evil concentrated on inhumanity. There\'s no bloody gore or supernatural forces, just adults treating children horribly. As the book climaxes and then reaches its resolution, you\'ll have to decide for yourself if the good or the bad guys win.
RaveThe Associated PressIf the power of fiction is to transport readers to a world they otherwise couldn’t imagine, The Water Dancer is a smashing success ... Coates’ first novel dazzles with a story firmly grounded in the harsh realities of slavery, yet elevated by a modicum of mysticism ... this is a book that needs to be experienced. Readers need to find a quiet place and lose themselves in it, letting Coates’ words work their magic as he tells a tale about \'the awesome power of memory ... how it can open a blue door from one world to another\' ... t’s a remarkable debut novel that reminds us in a fresh way why it’s so important we remember all of humanity’s stories — from the depraved to the glorious.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a sharp example of its genre. The pages turn, the violence is brutal, and the characters are well-drawn and mysterious ... Nesbø has a great sense of pacing. Each reveal — did he do it? did she? — is meticulously laid out as he takes readers along for the ride. I never felt like I was ahead of Harry in my deduction. The final whodunit is powerful and leaves Harry — and readers — wondering what\'s next ... If you\'re already high on Harry, I suspect Knife will scratch all your itches until the very end, when Nesbø does the only sensible thing an author can do after writing 12 books featuring one character — set you up for book 13.
PositiveThe Associated PressIn the tradition of her best New York Times and Newsweek columns over the years, Quindlen mixes wit and wisdom as she shares her thoughts on this new stage in life ... In addition to those laugh-out-loud moments, the book contains enough facts and historical insights to ground it as more than just a proud nana sharing family stories ... worth a visit for anyone whose baby either now has a baby or is getting ready to welcome one.
PositiveAssociated Press\"The historical references may intrigue some readers and thankfully there’s Google for that. But the heart of the story is the Loney family ... The novel poses some interesting questions about the nature of belief and the very existence of God, but like the hallucinations they sprout from, the questions dissolve as the drug’s effects dissipate. What Boyle leaves us with, instead, is a cautionary tale. No matter how hard humans try, we can’t escape the messy realities of life in a world where there are rules of behavior and consequences for those who don’t follow them.\
RavePortland Press HeraldThe first half of the 450-page novel is a little slow, but once the nine guests complete their five-day \'noble silence,\' the pace accelerates and the story moves from a series of character perspectives (each chapter title is a character’s name) to a light-hearted thriller. As soon as the strangers can talk, they find themselves with a lot to talk about ... Readers learn much more about each of the nine as the novel speeds toward its climax. You root for them all and get the impression that Moriarty does too, so much so that she has a hard time saying goodbye, writing a series of final chapters updating readers weeks, months and even years later about what happened to them after the events at Tranquillum House. It’s an ending fit for a book destined to be a TV series.
PositiveThe Associated Press\"McPhee’s curiosity is legendary and evident throughout this volume ... Fans will recognize many of the subjects from the books McPhee has published — Bill Bradley, geology, Alaska, to name a few — but they don’t read as outtakes and are as fresh as when he first encountered them. Some context before each patch of the [metaphorical] quilt [of the book] would have been welcome, just a line or two detailing when and why he wrote it. But McPhee, famous for the unique ways he structures his creative process, has decided to present it as a quilt that can be enjoyed as individual squares or an entire blanket, and really, who are we to quibble with such a Master Seamstress?\
PositiveThe Associated PressIf curiosity is a writer’s greatest innate gift, Joshua Cohen may be America’s greatest living writer. Or maybe just the most focused. His first collection of non-fiction...is dazzling in its scope, but, oh the irony, it’s also very hard to get through ... what you have is a hodgepodge of writing that makes your head spin ... Digested in very small doses—an essay per night before bed, say, or a short one on the john—it will still take you weeks to reach the end of this book. And when you get there, you’ll probably have forgotten how Hrabal redeemed Socialist Realism. Still, writing like this does deserve some praise. Cohen truly commits to his subjects, dropping knowledge and literary criticism all over the place ... The whole book is like that, filled with topics that will be foreign to most readers, forcing them to really engage if they want to comprehend any of it ... you’ll find essays here to love ... You’ll just have to work at it.
RaveAssociated PressBarbara Kingsolver does something amazing in her new novel ... The novel alternates eras from chapter to chapter and Kingsolver has a little writerly fun ending each chapter with the word(s) that name the next one ... Uncovering and appreciating the connections is the best reason to read the book ... Both stories are compelling ... It is a novel well worth your time.
Andre Dubus III
PositiveThe Associated Press\"Gone So Long isn’t a thriller, but it’s taut with tension. Dubus manages to keep readers on edge despite telling a tale in which very little happens in the present ... The characters are complex, but Dubus’ writing is simple as he fleshes them out ... Gone So Long is a multilayered character study, told in flashbacks and memoir excerpts and present-day prose, slowly revealing the strength and resilience of its two main female characters and ending with a hint of hope.\
PositiveThe Associated Press...firmly grounded in the present, but with the same sense of twisted nostalgia that has always marked his best work ... The best stories here are the work of a man seeking catharsis by coming to terms with tragedy the only way he knows how — storytelling. For the reader, they’re even more than that — a chance for us to know once and for all that our families aren’t nearly as messed up as we think they are.
MixedThe Associated PressAnna Quindlen has written a book that only a New Yorker — or at least someone who has lived there for a stint — could love. The rest of the world may have a hard time relating to the characters ... At 284 pages, the novel is taut and well-paced. You turn the pages wanting to know where things are headed. But in the end, the story seems all too unfamiliar to anyone who didn’t go to private school or attend catered community barbecues. You realize the events of the novel are Very Important to the characters, but to those of us looking in from the outside, it’s a story filled with first-world problems ... All told, if you’ve read Quindlen before and liked it, you’ll probably like this book. If this is your first time, it may be an acquired taste, but don’t let this review prevent you from giving it a shot.
PositiveThe Associated Press\"Each character gets chapters that go deep inside their heads. There\'s a lot of inner monologue, sometimes to a fault. The issues are complex, certainly, but some readers may wish the characters would simply act rather than reading paragraphs about what might happen if they do ... Wolitzer\'s talent as a writer shines in lines that say more in a sentence than most writers do in paragraphs ... There\'s much more to admire here as the novel ponders friendship, love and parent-child relationships. But in the end, Wolitzer\'s real gift to her readers is a story that feels both timeless and very much of the zeitgeist.\
Stephen King & Owen King
MixedThe Chicago TribuneKing fans who crack open Sleeping Beauties may be disappointed. The book lacks the page-turning intensity found in so many of his classics. Father and son started with an intriguing premise: What if men and women were separated into two different worlds? Would the men freak out? Would the women create a kinder, gentler society? They're existential questions that would seem to lend themselves to a 700-page book, but the novel's answers to both don't seem nuanced enough ... [Evie] is certainly the most intriguing character, but her existence is explained away as supernatural. She's been sent to Earth, we're told, but by whom? And why? The Kings let those questions linger and instead focus on the men who want to kill Evie versus the men who want to save her ... King fans who enjoy his blunt language and vivid gore will find lots to like...In the end, though, the novel feels like it wanted to say something really meaningful about gender relations and settles instead for, 'Can't we all just get along?'