PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... offers tantalizing clues into the unconscious of Clinton ... Written in the breathless present tense, with typical Pattersonian staccato exposition expressed in short paragraph bursts ... Let us stipulate that we are not reading this book to gain valuable insights into the inner workings of United States foreign policy. No, we are reading for as many references to military hardware as possible, a formidable alphanumeric arsenal ... The terrorists seem hired from central casting, as does Jiang Lijun, a Chinese spy whose job is to represent Bond-movie stereotypes about inscrutability and arrogance ... silly but highly entertaining.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review... the premise is enticing and the elements irresistible. Alas, The Maidens is not an English version of The Secret History, but an overstuffed melodrama marred by clunky dialogue, breathless one-sentence paragraphs, pseudo-suspenseful chapter endings and a plot that will try the patience even of readers with a high tolerance for improbability ... Astute readers will thrill to some neat cross-references to Michaelides’s earlier book. The Silent Patient had a fiendishly hard-to-guess twist; the one in The Maidens could have been flown down in a spaceship from another planet.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... features a fraught relationship between two women that can sometimes stress the reader out ... Mangan writes with lush, evocative, busy prose. This novel, too, heaves with allusions to other books and other authors — a little Patricia Highsmith here, a little Virginia Woolf there, glimpses of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House someplace else ... Gilly never becomes a fully formed character. It is unclear what exactly she is doing in Venice, other than acting as a plot device. But there is a bravery and a poignancy to Frankie that elevates the novel...I would have liked more about Frankie’s past, which Mangan sketches out almost as an aside, but which explains so much ... It takes some patience to remain inside the fevered mind of Frankie, with its daily questioning of its own sanity, but the wait is worth it. When you learn the truth at the end, you’ll want to go back and rethink everything you read before.
PositiveThe New York Times... [a] thorough and entertaining book, which poses a provocative thesis ... McCarthy-Jones is a funny, playful writer, especially for a psychologist ... McCarthy-Jones stretches his argument a bit when he makes the case for the virtues of spite ... He also makes short shrift of spite in social media, a topic that could be a chapter (or even a book) in itself. But this is a small quibble with a highly entertaining book that should be read more as an illuminating examination of an under-discussed topic than as a prescription for how to behave.
PositiveThe New York TimesThe soufflé Andrews has deftly constructed to this point deflates a bit when Florence moves to Helen’s house in the Catskills and starts the tedious business of doing this new work, mostly keeping her Machiavellian tendencies in check ... Morocco seems almost beside the point; there is talk of souks and the buying of hats, but Andrews never firmly anchors us there ... From there, Maud Dixon becomes less a Highsmith-esque character study—the tightly drawn portrait of a brilliantly charming sociopath—than a plot-heavy romp. There are feints, counterfeits, battles of wits, plot twists that appear from thin air. At a certain point, we realize—to our delight—that seeing things from Florence’s point of view has robbed us of the chance to consider that she is not the only one with a complicated agenda … assured.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMemory is incomplete; the book jumps back and forth between past and present. It’s hard at times to know which details are important ... all these strands are teased out, sometimes too subtly. By the time we realize we are dealing with a murder mystery, we are a long way into the book ... But Gosling is a stylish, sophisticated writer, and we realize that we are following Andy on what amounts to a grand scavenger hunt for the truth. Rain falls relentlessly, and the ensuing floods form an ominous backdrop to a story that becomes darker as it goes along. Some secrets are better left buried.
PositiveNew York Times Book Review... [a] lovely, melancholy memoir ... Her writing about the healing powers of the natural world is wonderful ... Wintering does us the great service of reminding us that we are not alone in feeling undone. And although May’s book doesn’t offer a neat, easy ending in which she miraculously feels better, she does offer hope, an antidote to her tendency to \'feel like a negative presence in the world.\' She finds that hope in the ebb and flow of the seasons.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe private detective Atticus Pünd appears to have stepped directly from the pages of a classic golden-age mystery and into Anthony Horowitz’s new novel, Moonflower Murders. Brilliant, arrogant, indisputably foreign, Pünd prides himself on understanding the inner workings of the human psyche, and is prone to dropping aphoristic bon mots ... there are two novels here — one an old-fashioned whodunit, the other a modern meta-story — meaning that what we are reading can literally be described as a mystery wrapped in an enigma. How these books speak to each other is one of many puzzles ripe for solving ... It’s a richly plotted, head-spinning novel about a present-day disappearance, a murder eight years earlier and a fictional murder that may be relevant to both. It is not an example of an author phoning something in ... Alert readers will admire the way Pünd, the detective hired to investigate, recalls the great Hercule Poirot, and how the story itself feels like a return to the cozy mysteries of our youth ... The book (the real, full book by Horowitz, that is) is too long and almost too labyrinthine. But getting lost in the weeds can be excellent fun, especially when the characters start trashing the very genre in which they’re appearing.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"You get the feeling that Grisham, who has written several dozen books by now, has returned to the place closest to his heart ... This is a leisurely story, told by a master of plotting and pacing, and there’s no use in him or us rushing our way through it. Grisham puts us inside the heads not just of Jake and Drew, but also of an extended cast of characters ... The trial is riveting, but don’t expect anyone to burst into the courtroom at the last minute waving a piece of paper that upends the proceedings. The jurors aren’t secretly sleeping with the lawyers; the judge is not being paid off by the local crime boss. But it’s striking how suspenseful the story is anyway, how much we’re gripped by the small details ... And at a time when our opinions are terrifyingly polarized, Grisham reminds us that people aren’t one thing or another, but composed instead in shades of gray.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe British writer Joanna Briscoe has a dreamy, elliptical style that reflects the dreamy, elliptical sensibilities of her characters ... if Dr. Bywater is an exaggeratedly devilish figure, Beth’s husband, Sol, is far too saintly, at least for most of the book. What really happened with her mother? What is happening with her daughter? And who will win the tug of war for her soul?
David Heska Wanbli Weiden
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWeiden is from a branch of the Lakota tribe himself, and his book relies on deep research into its history and traditions. Winter Counts is written with a light touch and a good deal of humor and sobering truths about Native American life.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... a cerebral box of delights ... The reader understands that the book is a meta-story about the nature of mystery writing itself, but it’s a sign of Pavesi’s skill that we fall headlong into each of his stories. If that means we’re pawns in his grand chess game, so be it. His revelations are completely unexpected, right up to the end.
Debra Jo Immergut
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... stunning ... feels eerily relevant, perfect for this time of deep uncertainty and rapidly shifting news. It is dreamlike and immersive, like falling into someone else’s alternative reality.
RaveThe New York Times... gorgeous ... Even when Margot is at her most misguided, the reader aches for her ... Lemoine writes in lush, lyrical prose that perfectly captures the heightened emotion and confusion of being a young woman with a bruised heart and limited experience.
PositiveThe New York Times BookThe book creeps on you slowly, like a fog, until you find yourself enveloped in this tangled skein of relationships, eager to see how all this is going to play out, who is going to betray whom and in what way. Sometimes you feel annoyed at the women for being so baroquely hard on themselves ... Imperfect Women is not a conventional detective story, but an investigation into character and motivation. The real mysteries concern love, friendship, obligation, the disappointments that come with the passage of time and the mysteries of other people’s hearts—as well as your own ... Nancy’s death, as shocking and unfortunate as it is, turns out to be a precursor to the real story here, a long tease for the twist Hall saves for the end of this surprising book. After all that has happened, it feels like poetic justice.
PositiveThe New York TimesPeople who love finding out the back stories in fictional universes—why Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker hat; where Indiana Jones got his scar—will relish the chance to learn these details ... This is violence porn. It is disturbing that we find it so compelling. It also means that the book inevitably loses some of its propulsive bite when the Games end and the action moves out of the Capitol. Parts of the last fourth of the novel feel flat and desultory after the excitement we have just been through.
PositiveThe New York TimesMoore has an eye for a telling detail and a nose for a good character ... Meticulously researched, written with élan and wit, Moore’s account comes at just the right time ... No Man’s Land reminds us that people can rise to an occasion, that the biggest advances — for medicine, for humanity — can come during the toughest times, as a result of the toughest times. It reminds us that great courage and great ingenuity are possible even when the world feels very dark.
RaveThe New York TimesWhat to withhold, what to reveal, when to dole out information and in what manner—these are among the hardest decisions for an author to make in any thriller, particularly one with this many moving parts. Bohjalian strikes a fine balance between disclosure and secrecy ... there are many intriguing questions that Bohjalian takes his time answering ... There’s an array of pleasantly unsettling characters here ... Bohjalian is a pleasure to read. He writes muscular, clear, propulsive sentences. Even his unlikely scenes ring true, as in a tour-de-force climactic episode set inside a rat-research lab ... As suspenseful as it is, The Red Lotus is also unexpectedly moving ... Bohjalian is a writer with a big heart and deep compassion for his characters.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMarissa is also prickly, hyperarticulate, suspicious, neurotic, surprisingly tough and very funny — the ideal narrator for a book that pays homage to Hollywood and classic detective fiction ... The book celebrates women who have each other’s backs and put their friends ahead of their men. It is also a valentine to the intoxications of filmmaking and film-viewing. Marissa speaks with real love about corralling disparate scenes into a graceful and coherent narrative.
Burhan Sönmez, trans. by Umit Hussein
MixedThe New York Times... provocative ... occasionally profound and sometimes maddening ... Some of the questions [the protagonist] asks lead to profound musings into what makes us human; others reminded me of the never-ending conversational black holes my brother and I used to fall into late at night when we were children ... The book, beautifully translated by Umit Hussein, reads like a fever dream, to one side of reality. Facts come and go, creating an impression but not adding up to anything you can wrap your arms around ... It’s silly to criticize the behavior of a fictional character, in the same way it’s silly to criticize an author for writing a book different from the one you yourself might have written. But as I read Labyrinth, I wanted to shake Boratin out of his stupor, to demand that he try to engage more with the effort to recover his life.
Litt Woon Long trans. by Barbara J. Haveland
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] moving and unexpectedly funny book ... Long tells the story of finding hope after despair lightly and artfully, with self-effacement and so much gentle good nature that we forgot how sad she (and we) are. Her daring decision to put mushrooms rather than herself at the center of her story speaks to the sort of person, and the sort of narrator, she is ... Seeing Long’s capacity for wonder and even contentment in the midst of her sadness feels like seeing tiny shoots of grass peeking from the ash in a landscape stripped bare by fire. Her memoir, beautifully translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J. Haveland, intersperses the story of her mushroom education with details of her emotional journey, each informing the other. She is a fine anthropologist of both ... At its center, this book poses a familiar, awful existential question. How do you go on living when the person you loved so much — perhaps the person you loved best in the world — is gone? Everyone must find her own answer. Long’s is as good as any.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...it would be a mistake to think of this novel as simply a contemporary version of Shakespeare...Haddon is playing a longer, more complicated game. It takes time to see what it is ... something exciting and even stranger is going on in this novel, which slips so easily through place and time and focus ... We begin reading the novel in a new way. It poses the same questions Pat Barker did in last year’s The Silence of the Girls, her feminist retelling of the Iliad: What about the women in the stories? What if you gave them voices? What if you gave them agency? ... Haddon’s writing is beautiful, almost hallucinatory at times, and his descriptions so rich and lush and specific that smells and sights and tastes and sounds...all but waft and dance off the page ... It’s not surprising that in such a complicated tapestry, the author has left a few threads loose. The last section feels almost too agonizing for comfort. But The Porpoise is a provocative and deeply interesting work.
RaveThe New York Times[A] delicate, melancholy debut novel ... Her loneliness radiates like heat from the pages of this book ... Savas’s novel unfolds in a series of 72 short, non-chronological chapters, pieces of a mosaic that demand careful attention as you attempt to fit them together ... spare, disarmingly simple prose ... She writes with both sensuality and coolness, as if determined to find a rational explanation for the irrationality of existence, and for the narrator’s opaque understanding of herself ... Savas doesn’t write much about modern-day Istanbul, but menace lurks around the corner of her prose ... By the end, it feels as if she is coming close to matching the words to the reality, if that’s even possible.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Snakes is a creepy, scary novel ... Jones writes with cool, crisp prose about cruelty of many kinds; about class and race and power; and about regular people caught up in complicated situations that veer far out of control. She has an Ian McEwan-esque ability to provoke tension and anxiety ... On its own, this seems an ambitious enough plan for a novel. But along the way Jones shifts gears, and then shifts them again, and then turbocharges the engine, so it can feel almost as if you are reading two (or three) different books ...The tension diffuses and reconstitutes, and we’re not sure how to reorient our thinking. Is The Snakes a portrait of a messed-up family? A cautionary tale about the evil that money does? A murder mystery involving a malign and racist foreign police force? A Simple Plan-style thriller about greed and wads of cash?
I would walk a long distance to procure one of Jones’s daring, interesting, beautifully written, atmospheric books. Readers will find this novel provocative and propulsive even when they suspect the author of over-egging the pudding. But it is at its best when it homes in close rather than venturing far afield.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewHannah’s plots are like intricate jigsaw puzzles whose pieces you cannot believe will fit together, until you see the completed picture. Her denouements tend to make more sense in retrospect than at the time. The fun in reading The Next to Die — even when the scaffolding fails to fully support the structure — isn’t in learning whodunit, but in following the labyrinthine byways of its author’s peculiar worldview and the twisted motives of her characters.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"... a remarkable book on language and landscape by the British academic, nature writer and word lover ... For a book so self-effacing and respectful of the words of others, Landmarks is wildly ambitious, part outdoor adventure story, part literary criticism, part philosophical disquisition, part linguistic excavation project, part mash note — a celebration of nature, of reading, of writing, of language and of people who love those things as much as the author does ... This book feels like an antidote to [ugly language], as startling and interesting and fizzy as the word \'zugs,\' which in Exmoor refers to \'little bog islands, about the size of a bucket,\' and is one of dozens of unexpected terms compiled in the glossaries that punctuate this book. They read like poetry ... [Macfarlane\'s] book had such a strong effect on me, and it was more visceral than cerebral.\
PositiveThe New York Times\"... [a] smart, timely and highly entertaining novel ... Schulman deftly moves around, telling her story from various points of view. Sometimes she strays a little far afield — I wasn’t sure I cared about the dating travails of Jack’s girlfriend’s mother, as amusing as they were — but her observations, particularly about the ridiculousness of the Northern Californian start-up mentality, are always apt and sharp.\
MixedThe New York TimesLethal White, the fourth Cormoran Strike mystery, is a big, stuffed-to-the-brim, complicated bouillabaisse of a book, not least because of the busy inner lives of its protagonists ... Because Rowling is so straightforwardly liberal, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that Galbraith is an equal-opportunity satirist. He is just as happy to send up the self-righteous anti-capitalists of the left as the clueless twits of the right ... With a mystery this big and baggy, it can be hard to keep track of who has done what and why ... Lethal White is an old-fashioned novel, by which I mean that it is 650 pages long and that few of its protagonists’ activities, emotions and motivations are left to the reader’s imagination ... all of this is exhaustively described and occasionally exhausting to hear ... At times you might feel as you did when reading the Harry Potter books, particularly later in the series, when they got longer and looser. You love the plot, and you love being in the company of the characters ... At the same time, you long for the existence of a sharp garden implement ... a pair of pruning shears.
PositiveThe New York TimesSteadman brings... qualities of wit, timing and intelligence to this novel... Something in the Water is a proper page-turner, not just a novel produced by a celebrity to whom some wine-weakened publisher said at a cocktail party, \'You should write a book!\'
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Prodigal Tongue addresses not just etymology and usage—who says what and why—but also how history, geography, sociology and psychology have conspired to create, essentially, two different approaches to pronunciation, grammar, diction and spelling ... Murphy’s great love for language radiates from these pages. Adjectives have a \'mad beauty,\' she writes ... Her examples are often funny and always apt. At one point, she discusses American and British approaches to the pesky issue of pronouncing words derived from French. Britons, it emerges, love to abuse Americans for using \'entree\' to mean main course. Googling \'American entree stupid,\' to make this point, she gets seven million hits ... an open-minded argument for tolerance and understanding.
Christopher J. Yates
PositiveThe New York TimesA whydunnit that delves deep into the secrets linking the main characters in this macabre vignette … Twisting backward and forward in time, entering the minds of each character in turn, Yates examines both how they reached this point and what happens years later, when the past wreaks havoc with the present … [Grist Mill Road] is more sophisticated, starting from the fully realized stories the characters are awarded in the service of an elegant narrative … Not all of the motivations ring entirely true, and I’m not sure I fully believe the explanation for the central crime. But it doesn’t really matter. You have to work hard to follow the winding road Yates sends us down, and the drive is full of pleasantly unpleasant surprises.
PositiveThe New York TimesLa Belle Sauvage sometimes lags. Curiously for such a gifted storyteller, Pullman includes long stretches of flat dialogue in which Malcolm essentially repeats information he has already heard to new people who have not yet heard it. There’s a bit more detail than is necessary about how hard it is to change and feed a baby while escaping a flood in a boat ... I recognize that my expectations are impossibly high and that, in literature as well as in romance, you cannot return to the exact feeling you had before. I’d like to think that Pullman is biding his time, laying down the groundwork for what is yet to come. And even with its longueurs, the book is full of wonder. By the end, when Malcolm and a young woman named Alice embark with Lyra on a perilous watery odyssey replete with strange undersea creatures and various other things not dreamed of in our philosophy, it becomes truly thrilling. It’s a stunning achievement, the universe Pullman has created and continues to build on. All that remains is to sit tight and wait for the next installment.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review[Godwin] remains a forensically skillful examiner of her characters’ motives, thoughts and behavior. Grief Cottage revisits some of her favorite themes — fractured families, parentless children, the initial shock and long-term repercussions of death and disappearance, how the future can run off course in a flash — to make the very good point that it doesn’t require a ghost to haunt a life ... It’s much to Godwin’s credit that she finds a way to weave all these strands together ... Grief Cottage is in some ways about the search for meaning in the narratives of our lives — the stories we tell others, and especially the stories we tell ourselves.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...to his surprise (and ours) he pulls himself together and delivers a thorough and sophisticated effort to answer an interesting question: How did an indifferently raised, self-flagellating kid from a just-making-ends-meet, desultorily functioning Long Island family, in Massapequa, turn into Alec Baldwin, gifted actor, familiar public figure, impressively thoughtful person, notorious pugilist? ... The passages about his childhood are beautifully written and unexpectedly moving ... He says that he had no ghostwriter or collaborator for this book. That is impressive, because he’s a highly literate and fluent writer, but it also means that his authorial discipline can abandon him. He has a bit of trouble with transitions.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] beautiful, subtle work ... Smith teases out big ideas so slyly and lightly that you can miss how artfully she goes about it ... Smith’s writing is fearless and nonlinear, exploring the connectivity of things: between the living and the dead, the past and the present, art and life. She conveys time almost as if it is happening all at once, like Picasso trying to record an image from every angle simultaneously. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp all the nuance, to corral all the unruly strands into a coherence, especially in Smith’s most Woolfian stream-of-consciousness moments ... The best parts of Autumn, the most moving parts, the transcendent parts, come during Elisabeth and Daniel’s conversations about words, art, life, books, the imagination, how to observe, how to be. Theirs is a conversation that begins mid-paragraph and never ends.
RaveThe New York TimesThe novel is called Class, but it’s just as preoccupied with race, and Ms. Rosenfeld deserves a great deal of credit for taking on this minefield of a subject ... In a series of skillfully executed set pieces, Rosenfeld skewers the pretensions and preoccupations of women for whom 'parent' is both verb and competitive sport ... It’s easy to make fun of the artisanal-loving hipster bohos of Brooklyn, and many have done it before. Luckily, Ms. Rosenfeld is an astute anthropologist whose satire reaches fresh levels of absurdity ... Ms. Rosenfeld does not mean for us to like Karen all the time, and indeed, the character describes herself as a 'neurotic elitist.' But as we ponder the bigger questions the book poses about race and class in America, subjects bravely tackled by the author through this flawed character, it can be exhausting to be always inside Karen’s brain, with its ricocheting emotions and kamikaze self-analysis.
Lindsey Lee Johnson
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[an] alarming, compelling and coolly funny debut ... Ms. Johnson’s characters are unpredictable, contradictory and many things at once, which make them particularly satisfying ... For its compassion, its ability to see the humanity inside even the most apparently hopeless person and the shimmering intelligence of its prose, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth reminded me a bit of Rick Moody’s great 1994 novel, The Ice Storm. You end up sympathizing with and aching for even characters who appear to be irredeemable.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review[Donoghue] has taken the bare bones of an idea and turned into a full-fledged story about, among other things, the thawing of a woman’s frozen heart. She’s done it in clear, precise cool prose, so we can follow the shifts in Lib’s logic and feeling ... Like Ms. Donoghue’s best-selling Room, the novel ultimately concerns itself with courage, love and the lengths someone will go to protect a child...The feeling is heartbreaking and transcendent and almost religious in itself.
RaveThe New York TimesWhat makes the book so good is Ms. Levy’s great imagination, the poetry of her language, her way of finding the wonder in the everyday, of saying a lot with a little, of moving gracefully among pathos, danger and humor and of providing a character as interesting and surprising as Sofia. It’s a pleasure to be inside Sofia’s insightful, questioning mind.
Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
PositiveThe New York Times[Modern Romance] a sprightly, easygoing hybrid of fact, observation, advice and comedy, with Mr. Klinenberg, presumably, supplying the medicine — graphs, charts, statistics and the like — and Mr. Ansari dispensing the spoonfuls of sugar that help it go down ... I could have done without some of the statistics and studies, frankly, but they were broken into digestible chunks and so slid by easily. The best part of Modern Romance comes when Mr. Ansari and his team get people to share the most embarrassing aspects of their romantic quests.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
RaveThe New York TimesThe great achievement of The Sympathizer is that it gives the Vietnamese a voice and demands that we pay attention ... There are so many passages to admire. Mr. Nguyen is a master of the telling ironic phrase and the biting detail, and the book pulses with Catch-22-style absurdities.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewNo one writes with Austen’s particular sensibility, and no one would really want to; she was perfectly of her time. But Sittenfeld is the ideal modern-day reinterpreter. Her special skill lies not just in her clear, clean writing, but in her general amusement about the world, her arch, pithy, dropped-mike observations about behavior, character and motivation. She can spot hypocrisy, cant, self-contradiction and absurdity 10 miles away. She’s the one you want to leave the party with, so she can explain what really happened.
PositiveThe New York TimesIn lesser hands, this story could be tedious and self-absorbed: Who wants to read a writer’s writings about writer’s block? But Mr. McCann uses it to show how in fiction, as in life, the possibilities are endless, questions leading to more questions, one thought bleeding into another.
Eka Kurniawan, Trans. by Annie Tucker
MixedThe New York TimesIt’s all very skillfully done, but it can be a bit overwhelming, as when you take both the cake and the pie at the buffet, or when you go somewhere — the rain forest, the Louvre — where too much is going on at once.