RaveLambda Literary...dynamite. What she writes is often shocking (a teenage girl becoming a drug runner and sex object for the town prison in \'Cusp\'; a woman willingly burns her own face on a cast iron radiator in \'A Woman Signifying\'), but it is also, miraculously, tender. I don’t know of any other writer who can render the brutality of life with such honesty and dazzle ... Yuknavitch is adept at giving her misfit characters voices ... Yuknavitch is brilliantly inventive with her language, and in Verge, she continues to create her own mythos. There is so much that is alive in this book, so much life coursing through these pages ... That Lidia Yuknavitch can create such beauty out of the tragedy of contemporary life is testament to her skill as an artist.
RaveLamda Literary... captures a world in midst of crisis ... Anshaw’s sentences are beautiful, and her characters are complex; the plot builds towards a slow climax, which then falls into a slow spin and a somewhat abrupt finale. Anshaw’s meticulous attention to the quiet, inevitable impact of the assault on Cate’s life and her friendship with Neale’s gives Right after the Weather its main drive. But despite her best intentions, Cate cannot alter the course that fate has set her on ... a sensuous and layered book. Though its pacing is subtle, Anshaw is a deft writer and her details are insightful, intelligent, astute, and subtly humorous. Cate—who may seem hapless to some—perhaps merely lacks the insight to see that the artistic, if sometimes aimless, course of her life is actually a beautiful meander. She remains true to herself, even when it looks ridiculous to those around her. In the final scene, a ripple of an epiphany blows through her—not enough to change her, but perhaps enough to allow her to see she’s doing just fine.
PositiveLambda Literary...the book is non-linear and almost dream-like, flashing in and out of the main narrative to build an uncomfortable family history ... Watchful Lydia is arguably the star of the novel and her passages are gorgeously smart and sad, but Jackson’s chapters garner the most time, and his story is an intriguing one ... The novel is structured circularly, and this makes sense, given that over the course of its progression, the idea of return grows stronger and stronger ... Kruse can craft a fine sentence, and her maneuvers are subtle, almost too much so. There are times where the characters skate away from confrontation, leaving the reader wondering what more could be told ... Call Me Home has a few slow spots, but Kruse’s skillful language and unusual story construction make for an intriguing meditation on safety, survival, love, and the bonds of blood.
PositiveLambda LiteraryDennis-Benn strives for an authentic portrayal, giving Patsy a distinct voice and emotionality ... Patsy, despite her struggles, can be difficult to empathize with, perhaps in part because of her seemingly careless abandonment of Tru ... Patsy’s not the only character in the book whose behavior pushes the boundaries of sympathy. Most, if not all, of the women in Patsy are forced up against their limits ... Though Patsy gets off to slow start and loses momentum towards its finish, the bulk of the novel is compelling. As Patsy’s story unfolds, it gains poignancy, finding a steadiness of heart ... Dennis-Benn has an eye for detail and ear for dialogue, and she does not shy away from confronting the brutal reality that immigrants face in a place like New York City.
RaveBustle...powerful ... she brings her memoirist’s gift (or curse, as the narrator calls it) of disarmingly frank revelation to The Risk of Us ... Howard never allows her narrator to resort to self-pity as she paints a clear picture of the beauty and difficulty of creating a family ... The confessional tone of the novel allows for a complex emotionality to form around the ambiguity of the narrator’s desire to become a mother ... Howard’s portrayal of motherhood in The Risk of Us is the antidote to the Instagram hashtag filled with photos of glowing stay-at-home moms posed with their immaculate children and spotless kitchens ... And yet, for all her gut-punching honesty, the narrator remains essentially hopeful. This hope — in the profound power of unconditional love — helps her navigate the novel’s central conflict: will the couple finalize the adoption or not? The taut exploration of this inconceivable choice makes The Risk of Us utterly compelling.
PositiveLambda LiteraryWhile Chess’ language is adept, and her worldbuilding is meticulous (almost overwhelmingly so sometimes), the plot of Famous Men Who Never Lived is somewhat complex and at times feels like it is attempting to accomplish too much ... But, really, once you’re in Famous Men Who Never Lived’s world, following alongside the funny, interesting, and sympathetic characters, the occasional \'huh?\' moment recedes and the story races along to a surprising climax. Famous Men Who Never Lived, alongside an inventive and compelling narrative, offers an empathetic and fine-tuned commentary on displacement and otherness ... The novel is a wonderful example of how fiction can illuminate reality—and a stark reminder that we are all human, deserving of dignity and respect, no matter the country or dimension from which we come.
Sandra Gail Lambert
RaveLambda LiteraryDespite the slimness of A Certain Loneliness, the book offers an uncluttered vision of Lambert’s life—chronicling hardship and beauty, struggle and wonder, solitude and community ... Lambert is, among other things, a polio survivor, a former bookstore owner, a lesbian, a Floridian, a kayaker, a nature lover, and all of these aspects of herself inform the short essays that comprise A Certain Loneliness ... Lambert writes with a studied aloofness and matter-of-fact tone about a body that constantly generates conflict with itself and the world around it. There is a rich practicality to her wisdom, and a pure, knowing access to physicality despite that physicality’s limitations: I’ve only rarely seen these things so well captured on the page. But A Certain Loneliness isn’t written to inspire or mollify its reader; it is enlightening, yes, but it is a book written for itself, without the need to please, and because of this bravery, it succeeds mightily.
RaveThe RumpusWith crystalline language and a novelist’s measured eye for story, Rowbottom explores Jell-O’s hold over her family, weaving together a history of the sugary treat: a family history full of alcoholism, mental illness, sexual abuse, and ill-fated choices, as well as a cultural history of the domestic-science movement ... In a lesser writer’s hands, this endeavor might have ended in a sloppy mess, but Rowbottom’s skill keeps all of her ingredients remarkably well-contained ... The idea of molding—as in how to shape the ideal salad and how to shape the ideal woman—is a strong theme throughout the book. Even before Mary’s late-night revelation while reading Adrienne Rich that the curse is actually the patriarchy, the reader can see the feminist lens informing the book ... Rowbottom gives patriarchy due diligence as a matter of course, but this is no strident, second-wave manifesto as it might have been if left in her mother’s hands. Jell-O Girls is too subtle for that ... Through careful research, Rowbottom reveals the company’s long history of exerting influence on the female body and role in society ... Jell-O Girls is hard to put down, effortlessly weaving together personal history, family history, cultural history, and more. Rowbottom presents her narrative with the clarity of an outsider, acting as a journalist would ... That Rowbottom could create a work of such beauty and meaning from her uneasy inheritance is truly an act of redemption.
RaveLambda Literary...get ready to laugh, cry, and rediscover your faith in romance ... When Katie Met Cassidy follows standard rom-com tropes and standard gay-girl-meets-straight-girl tropes, but Perri’s clean writing style and superb wit carry the book beyond the usual and into something laugh-out-loud funny, sincere, and fresh ... Beyond its likeable protagonists, When Katie Met Cassidy draws a rich portrait of the lesbian community.
RaveLambda LiteraryThe Paying Guests is full of ruins, and ruins are important here—as always, Waters nails her metaphors, weaving them into the story effortlessly—the class system of post-WWI Britain is crumbling, the house on Champion Hill is crumbling, Lilian and Leonard’s marriage is crumbling, everything, it seems, is crumbling … The Paying Guests has a different feel than Waters’ earlier novels. The shift is subtle, but this newest is rather sober; the romance between Frances and Lilian, while all consuming and vividly emotional, never veers into that breathy, first-kiss-butterflies territory. The story is imbued with emptiness and absence; even in its most hopeful moments—and there are a few here—a kind of bleakness lurks frighteningly nearby.
Anne Garréta, Trans. by Emma Ramadan
RaveLambda Literary\"Sphinx, on the surface, is a standard story of love and loss. But that’s about all that’s standard here. You won’t get past the first page without asking questions, and by the time you turn the last one, you’ll be no closer to an answer. The narrator and A*** meet, they become friends, they fall in love, they frequent nightclubs, they dance, they travel, they move in together, they fight—but all the while you’re wondering (as Garréta intends you to): is this a story of boy meets girl? Boy meets boy? Girl meets girl? You never find out … But Sphinx isn’t singular in its genderless focus. It’s also a highly dramatic tale filled with a number of fascinating characters, set in Pigalle (Paris’ red light district); a fleshy, bawdy romp; an exploration of obsession, infatuation, objectification, passion, and jealousy.\
RaveLambda Literary\"It’s easy to fall in love with Melissa Febos’ gorgeous new memoir of short essays, Abandon Me. Over the course of the eight pieces contained within, Febos brings a relentless curiosity and startling intimacy to the page ... Abandon Me is brutal both in its honest portrayal of human need and of the things we do for love, for recognition, for safety ... Abandon Me is a fierce exploration of love and obsession, but it is something else as well—the story of woman who is unafraid to explore the harsh truths and choices that shape our lives.\