RaveThe Denver PostAs the novel unfolds, the characters become as familiar as a favorite pair of shoes, though hardly as comfortable. Coplin has a fine hand with detail; her narrative lacks detour or waste. Her characters are one with their finely rendered surroundings, be they orchard, town or the world beyond Peshastin. Her pacing is flawless, with just enough exposition at the novel’s start to allow that which follows to hang as a whole cloth ... This is a novel to burrow into, to be submerged in a world that is both lovely and hard. It’s a world that becomes so real that one only leaves by being forced out by the closing of the covers that enfold it.
PositiveThe Denver Post...a novel of gaining ground and losing the best you know. It is a work about ineffable loss in the wake of questionable policy, and one in which the politics at headquarters is paid for in infantrymen’s lives … Death is always close, coming in many forms. Combat fatalities are understandable; less so are those that occur because of the jungle and weather — and the inability to get men out in time. Mellas is the nexus where all narratives intersect. Insecure and ambitious, he brings the reader into a world that alternates between hard tedium and stark violence … an unflinching story of the brutality of combat and of young men sent out as pawns in a fight that is inevitably fruitless.
RaveThe Denver PostFast-paced action, unexpected twists and a strong, tortured hero: It’s the perfect recipe for a great thriller. Reed Arvin mixes these ingredients to perfection and delivers a legal roller-coaster ride in Blood of Angels … Arvin weaves the strands together with fine skill. The story moves swiftly, and issues are explained succinctly. What if Bol isn’t the perpetrator? And even if the wrong man was executed for the convenience store crime, backing off this case won’t keep the peace. The right answer must be found, or The Nations will explode … Blood of Angels isn’t high literature, nor is it meant to be. It’s simply a good thriller, well-told, one that keeps the attention tuned and the pages turning until the end. And that’s all it needs to be.
PositiveThe Denver PostThe siblings in The Burgess Boys aren’t dysfunctional as much as they are family members who don’t much like each other. There are no heroes or villains in Elizabeth Strout’s families, her work is more subtle than that. Instead, her characters are simply human and subject to the ingrained dynamics that define their relationships … Strout writes in a close third person, following each of her central characters except for Jim. It is an approach that makes him unknowable, and his fate the most surprising. She tackles intolerance, at the societal level but also at the level she sees most keenly, within a family.
PositiveThe Denver PostThough the chronology of the present covers five days in 2004, the novel ranges over a decade. It traces the lives and loves of its characters, capturing the family relationships and coincidental crossings of lives that will pivotally come together in the rescue of Havaa … The characters are given shape in life’s small moments — a cup of tea, a game of chess. Natasha, the golden one, may be ‘the only person in Volchansk who understood and envied Sonja for the wonder she was.’ These snippets of reality exist in a surround that side-steps fear, emphasizing the experience of humanity that transcends the boundaries of culture and politics.
RaveThe Denver PostParrot & Olivier unfolds in alternating first-person narratives, first from Olivier and then Parrot. Much of the narrative focuses on the men’s lives before they met, the experiences that formed the personalities that are struggling to find a suitable ground. Parrot often refers to Olivier as Lord Migraine; Olivier cannot seem to get his brain around why Parrot thinks he can act more like an equal than like a servant … The observations and experiences of the two men are as rewarding as they are thought- provoking. Olivier worries that the taste of the masses — without the guiding hand of a wise, educated upper class — will result in a form of government doomed to be run by idiots. Parrot is more optimistic, seeing that democracy’s flaws, however serious they might be, as far preferable to a society in which the restrictions of class define a man from birth.
RaveThe Denver PostMitchell immerses Jacob, and by proxy the reader, into a tantalizingly foreign world. Nothing is familiar about the Dejima and the intersection of cultures. There is no shorthand that can be used to telegraph the realities of life in this 19th-century setting. Yet Jacob’s world is understandable, and the challenges he faces matter … The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is not as obviously complex in structure [as Cloud Atlas], but that makes it all the more impressive. Mitchell has succeeded in telling a multicultural story from decidedly disparate points of view — from within Jacob’s Dutch world, from within the Japanese culture and from within the larger view of trading history — and he does it in a way that makes perfect sense, with a simplicity that hides the underlying craft.
RaveThe Denver PostSteeped in place and memory, Great House is a worthy successor to Krauss’ earlier works, more complex and more challenging. It is a fine distillation of much of what has come before, but one that calls for time and patience … Great House is more ephemeral than its predecessors, an impressively structured and intricate puzzle. A description of plot is elusive; this is an exploration of lives and characters that enfolds more than propels the reader. Each section stands on its own while revealing itself as another piece in a painful, searching jigsaw.
RaveThe Denver Post[The Sisters brothers] travel from one confrontation to the next. They make it to Sacramento, but nothing about their journey is expected. The chapters are tightly written, each moving the narrative forward without detour. DeWitt writes with clarity, both with respect to his characters and the time and place through which they travel … It doesn’t take long for the reader to become invested in Eli — in his hopes, worries, questions and doubts. Charlie comes across as the more dangerous of the two, but this is Eli’s story; given the chance, Charlie would certainly offer a different rendering of events. And though Charlie would argue with Eli’s version of events, it is impossible for any to argue with the effect of Eli’s quirky voice. He is a warm narrator telling a story that is original, entrancing and entertaining.
RaveThe Denver PostSet in the world of claiming races, this is a work about both the man and beast that inhabit it. It’s a place of luck, the threat of violence and nickel dreams … The novel comprises four novellas, a racing season that serially focuses on a horse and race. Each story is propelled to its finish by the outcome of the race, but the beauty lies in the journey. Dreamers, both winners and losers, populate Gordon’s world and the trick to survival seems to be avoiding fate’s eye … But the machinations behind a claiming race emerge, and the reader discovers that the people Hansel is trying to scam are far smarter than he’d assumed … Gordon has many gifts, not the least of which is her ability to bring a relatively arcane world to life.
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
RaveThe Denver PostThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a stunning finale, a satisfying combination of character and action that ties up the threads left hanging in The Girl Who Played With Fire ... The novel moves in a chronology similar to its predecessors’. At several points, it is interrupted by short interludes discussing the history of women as warriors ... The novel is filled with enough twists to keep even the most astute reader guessing ... The unlikely pairing of equals is complex and rich ... The puzzle is at the fore in a way that begs the reader to solve along with the sleuths. But fiction, ultimately, is about folks, and the folks in this novel are indelible ...it isn’t necessary for closure. Larsson leaves his characters, and the reader, in a place where enough is tied up to be satisfying, and enough is left dangling to allow his characters continuing lives.
RaveThe Denver PostThese are tales of turning points, the road taken or not, in which the possibility of betrayal lies close to the surface. Finely drawn lines examine the struggle between temptation and honor, between gratification and longing, and between acceptance and forgiveness … The coastal town of Crosby, Maine, is an appropriately intimate setting for the large emotions Strout explores … If there is a single thread running through these stories, it involves the bittersweet search for connection … These stories are wise and touching, and taken as a whole it is a collection that begs for further savoring after the final page is turned.