RaveBookPageCelebrating Vietnamese culture and community, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is a delight that rises above mere frothy literary confection...The sprinkling of fantastical elements and abundance of sisterly squabbles and scandals keep things juicy and bring plenty of laughs, but the characters are the real stars of the show...Each woman is joyfully rendered and fully developed, offering a welcome contrast to cliched depictions of meek and docile Asian women, and a powerful subversion of monolithic depictions of a people who have for too long been solely defined by tragedy.
PositiveBookPageShirlene Obuobi’s bighearted debut novel is a genuine delight from start to finish. Her exploration of various types of love—platonic, familial and self—is particularly gratifying...A genuine delight from start to finish, On Rotation will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Talia Hibbert and Ali Hazelwood, and resonate with any reader who enjoys multicultural, multifaceted, inclusive love stories starring unapologetically strong and complex women.
RaveBookPageWith The Cherry Robbers, Walker has concocted another slyly subversive feminist fable, this time in the form of a grief-laced gothic thriller that takes on weighty topics such as marriage, women’s health and generational trauma ... Exquisitely tense and satisfyingly spooky, The Cherry Robbers masterfully blends psychological and supernatural horror. In sensual yet spritely prose, Walker conducts a darkly erotic exploration of female desire, duty and destiny via an ensemble of nuanced female characters, each with distinct personalities and rich inner lives. Readers know the grisly fate that awaits the Chapel girls, but Walker still manages to maintain a high degree of suspense and intrigue that will keep readers frantically flipping pages ... For fans of Diane Setterfield and Shirley Jackson, as well as readers who relish multilayered, thought-provoking family sagas, The Cherry Robbers is not to be missed.
RaveBookPage... particularly challenging in our current climate ... Early chapters feel self-contained, but as the novel progresses, it is satisfying to observe the ways the sections interconnect with and amplify one another. When the full scale of Nagamatsu’s vision comes into focus in the final chapter, the narrative resonance on display is thrilling in a manner reminiscent of David Mitchell’s mind-bending masterpiece, Cloud Atlas ... while Nagamatsu explores resilience, love and our primal need for connection, there’s no denying that the process is a sad one. Any glimpses of hope are generally fleeting and bittersweet ... It’s unfair to penalize a book for being too relevant and ringing too true, but for readers who turn to fiction as a means of escaping the stress and worries of real life, How High We Go in the Dark might be best saved for a later date. However, those courageous enough to sit with the novel’s exquisite sorrows will be rewarded with gorgeous prose, memorable characters and, ultimately, catharsis.
RaveBookPageBeirut-born author Yara Zgheib’s skills have become even more finely honed ... Her devastating second novel, No Land to Light On, is an illuminating, intimate look at the Syrian refugee crisis and the immigrant experience in America during the Trump administration ... Zgheib’s novel deftly documents Sama’s and Hadi’s lives in Syria and the circumstances that prompted them to leave, as well as their ensuing experiences as American immigrants. The narrative is purposefully fragmented, an artful reflection of the ways in which the lives of immigrants and refugees are uprooted and disrupted. Within the context of a tense and bittersweet love story—one with a healthy dose of nostalgia for days when hope and possibility seemed likely to prevail—Zgheib offers nuanced insights into the complex psychology of and challenges faced by displaced people, and effectively makes the consequences of anti-immigrant sentiments and policies feel personal to all readers. Written in soul-searing prose, No Land to Light On is an essential, compassionate story that reinstates a sense of humanity for the countless people affected by U.S. travel bans.
Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
PositiveBookPageNigerian American author Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkerström’s debut novel is as much a liberating battle cry as it is a searing, multifaceted examination of the hearts and minds of Black women navigating white-dominated spaces ... Åkerström, who moved to Sweden in 2009, has crafted an absorbing, if unsettling, narrative that dissects the realities of what it means to be a Black woman in the world today. She writes with genuine empathy for her characters and sheds light on their struggles with the understanding that there is no single Black experience. Rather than shying away from or oversimplifying difficult and complex topics, Åkerström has effectively packaged themes of racism, immigration, fetishism and otherness into an engrossing story that will enlighten its readers, regardless of their nationality or race.
Sara Nisha Adams
RaveBookPageIn Adams’ gentle novel, there is no sorrow or trouble so great that a good book—and a supportive friend—cannot help, and it is never too late to become a reader. As an uplifting and tenderhearted celebration of libraries and the transformative power of books, The Reading List is particularly perfect for book clubs and sure to brighten any reader’s day.
Linda Rui Feng
RaveBookPage... ambitious and impressive ... Sensitively exploring themes of grief, hope and resilience, Swimming Back to Trout River is a symphony of a novel that is operatic in scope and elevated by Feng’s artful writing. The author’s experience as a professor of Chinese cultural history is an additional asset, as she illustrates and celebrates Chinese sensibilities within the framework of a multilayered, deeply human story that transcends borders.
PositiveBookPage... a dazzling and delightful work of fiction by an exciting new literary talent ... Sathian has produced a beguiling elixir with Gold Diggers, skillfully stirring myth into a playful yet powerful modern-day examination of the American dream and the second-generation citizens who pursue it. A fabulist amalgam of The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye, it’s an engrossing cautionary tale as well as a shrewd appraisal of what we consider success—and the moral sacrifices we make to achieve it ... Imaginative and intoxicating, Gold Diggers richly rewards its readers.
PositiveBookPage... devilish ... Though the main narrative is propelled by the mysteries of Peter and the diamonds, the true soul of Before the Ruins is found in its contemplation of existential themes such as grief, guilt, desire, friendship and loss. There are plenty of bombshells to titillate and thrill over the course of the story, but many of the most rewarding discoveries come not from the grand reveals in the final act but from moments when Andy gains depth and dimension through revelations of her most closely guarded secrets and memories ... Richly atmospheric and exquisitely written, Before the Ruins is wistful and haunting, hopeful and beautiful. Confidently contributing to the tradition of British mysteries, Gosling has delivered a tale that will satisfy fans of Tana French and Paula Hawkins.
PositiveBookPageFew novelists make an impression as quickly and effectively as Micah Nemerever does in his stirring debut, an explosively erotic and erudite thriller. Kicking off with an electrifying prologue, These Violent Delights is infused with a thick sense of dread and urgency that does not let up until the final page ... Channeling masters of suspense like Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock, Nemerever ratchets up the narrative tension at a deliberately agonizing pace as he unspools the story of Paul and Julian’s ill-fated relationship, all leading up to the night teased in the novel’s opening pages. The two young men frequently engage in deeply cerebral conversations ranging from philosophy and psychology to entomology, and the narrative lends itself well to close reading, as often the most critical developments between the two men stem from the subtext of these weighty talks ... Though the escalating relationship between Paul and Julian is mesmerizing in its own right, Nemerever’s novel so effectively evokes a state of unease that many readers will keep turning pages in desperate pursuit of the tension-breaking relief that can only come from seeing the story to its conclusion. Aptly titled, These Violent Delights is exhilarating, but not without pain and peril.
RaveBookPageTsukiyama revisits themes that have been constant over the course of her 20-year career, tenderly exploring the complicated web of family and the resilient nature of the human spirit, while also shedding light on an important period of Asian history, this time the indentured servitude of Asian people on the sugar plantations that were once Hawaii’s lifeblood. As always, Tsukiyama’s storytelling is deeply compassionate, undoubtedly buoyed by her personal ties to the material (her father was Japanese American by way of Hawaii), which lends a quiet and sincere intimacy to the proceedings ... There is plenty of interpersonal drama in this twisting tale of love and loss, but the novel’s true joy and beauty come from the intensely atmospheric writing. Tsukiyama’s prose is lush and sensual, fully immersing the reader in this pocket of paradise and bringing the island’s spirits to life. She elevates Hawaii from a simple setting to a character as dynamic and vital as its human inhabitants ... An intoxicating blend of historical events and fiction ... a richly rewarding reading experience perfect for fans of Lisa See or Isabel Allende, or anyone looking for a magical love story that transcends time.
RaveBookPageThorpe comes back swinging with her best novel yet ... From the very start, the story is infused with an unsettling sense of menace, which Thorpe skillfully wields to pierce through the veneer of her shiny California setting to honestly examine weighty topics such as friendship, sexuality, identity and belonging. Michael tends to see things in black and white, but the canvas of Thorpe’s novel is textured with shades of gray, its world morally ambiguous ... With charismatic characters and a surprising and devastating storyline, The Knockout Queen is a moody and mordantly funny contemplation of the rigors of growing up that will leave readers reeling.
RaveBookPage... a devastating wallop of a debut novel. Impressive in its economy ... heavy, uncomfortable topics make for a heavy, uncomfortable reading experience, one that shares more than a few similarities with Hanya Yanagihara’s juggernaut, A Little Life, both in terms of subject matter and tone. But while A Little Life could be unnecessarily grim and upsetting, the discomfort of Real Life has a point: to unsettle, to provoke and, hopefully, to cause white readers to reassess their own privilege and biases ... Real Life will undoubtedly unsettle some readers, but it will do the opposite for others, offering relief and validation at finally having their own experiences and truths recognized and reflected in a novel, and artfully so. Taylor’s language is breathtaking in its precision and poetry, and he has a real talent for writing beautifully about ugly, brutal things. The result is a book that can only be described as the perfect union of the two—brutiful—and should be considered essential reading for all.
Carol Rifka Brunt
RaveBook PageCarol Rifka Brunt’s astonishing first novel is so good, there’s no need to grade on a curve: Tell the Wolves I’m Home is not only one of the best debuts of 2012, it’s one of the best books of the year, plain and simple ... In a literary landscape overflowing with coming-of-age stories, Tell the Wolves I’m Home rises above the rest. The narrative is as tender and raw as an exposed nerve, pulsing with the sharpest agonies and ecstasies of the human condition. Exploring the very bones of life—love, loss and family—this compassionate and vital novel will rivet readers until the very end, when all but the stoniest will be moved to tears. If Brunt has managed to produce this stunning novel on her first attempt, there is no telling just how far her star will rise.
RaveBook PageWhat sounds like the setup to a joke of questionable humor transforms into a charming debut novel in Rebecca Makkai’s hands ... It may seem inappropriate to call a novel involving a kidnapping heartwarming, but that’s exactly what The Borrower manages to be. Even as Lucy and Ian make ostensibly poor choices, you can’t help but root for this unlikely duo. Makkai tackles difficult subject matter like sexuality and identity with warmth and humor, and deftly avoids veering into overly saccharine territory ... a wonderful celebration of books and friendship, brimming with literary references and plenty of laughs.
RaveBookpageTender yet provocative, it’s a captivating and compassionate exploration of the lives and situations of three very different women separated by social class, work, culture and geography ... One of the greatest challenges for novels with multiple narratives is that it’s rare for all storylines and characters to be equally compelling. The Braid suffers no such issue; each heroine shines when she is the focus, each plight feels urgent, vital and interesting. Colombani’s cinematic background serves her well as the plot moves swiftly through succinct and surprising vignettes. Readers will race to see how (or if) each woman will overcome the considerable obstacles she faces and how their lives will ultimately intertwine. Colombani’s writing is earnest and unobtrusive, and her words are largely in service of keeping the story humming along, with the occasional poetic flourish. There is none of the awkwardness that can sometimes stymie literature in translation. A soul-expanding novel of hope and resiliency, The Braid is a celebration of womanhood, connection and the power of perseverance.
RaveBook PageIn The Orchardist, first-time novelist Amanda Coplin accomplishes an even trickier feat, blending past and present by weaving modern concerns into an old-fashioned narrative. The result is a drama of truly epic proportions ... This is one of those rare novels in which the individual parts are so brilliantly rendered that together they form a near-perfect reading experience. The characters are written with such compassion and the writing rings with a conviction and emotional honesty that belies Coplin’s youth.
RaveBook PageWinterson’s newest book is a searing and candid revelation of her life to date. More than an autobiography, it is a thoughtful rumination on all the things that make life worth living. From her hardscrabble upbringing to her fraught relationships with religion, sexuality and her rancorous adoptive mother; to the way the knowledge of her adoption has always haunted her, teaching her so little about love yet so much about loss; to the fundamental ways in which literature, poetry and words have saved and forged her, Winterson holds nothing back, no matter how painful.
RaveBookPage...ambitious ...as politically provocative and challenging as its predecessor ... A Door in the Earth is a deeply chilling, multifaceted examination of not just the situation in Afghanistan but also the more pernicious and complex consequences of awakening the sleeping giant that is America ... Waldman plays out Newton’s third law of motion on the human scale.
RaveBookPage...an emotionally resonant and deeply satisfying love story that features a resilient and courageous heroine ... Center is a pro at creating characters that readers will root for every step of the way ... well-earned and richly rewarding ... Hopeful and heartwarming, Things You Save in a Fire is a moving testament to the power of forgiveness and love’s ability to heal, even in the face of life’s worst tragedies.
Jokha Alharthi, trans. by Marilyn Booth
PositiveBookPageComplex and challenging, Alharthi’s novel is less interested in chasing happily ever afters than in exploring Oman’s history of slavery, its cultural and class dynamics and the power of its women within a shifting but resolute patriarchy ... Readers will have to work to assemble a cohesive portrait from the beautifully rendered puzzle pieces that Alharthi has scattered before them, but their efforts will be rewarded with a deeply immersive and enlightening reading experience ... The fragmented narrative and lack of obvious plot will not be for everyone, but the novel’s structure emphasizes the immutable passage of time and the changes that have transformed Oman over the last century. These changes are as unsettling for some of the characters as they are for the reader ... We read some books in order to peek into cultures and lives other than our own; others we read to better understand ourselves. Fascinating in its depiction of Oman and its intricacies, yet generous and sweeping in its humanity, Celestial Bodies offers its readers the rare opportunity to do both.
Jessica Francis Kane
PositiveBookPageA 21st-century novel for those with old-fashioned sensibilities, Rules for Visiting is an empathetic yet enigmatic read. May’s story is not for the impatient, as the narrative perambulates through a series of discursive musings on friendship, flora, family, grief and how connections can fail or flourish in this modern age. For much of the novel, May keeps the reader at arm’s length, charming with her wry wit but using these rhetoric sleights of hand as substitutes for real understanding and intimacy. But as May becomes more comfortable with the art of connecting with the people in her life, she reveals more of her true heart to the reader as well, gradually shedding light on the trauma that led to such a closed-off life ... takes its time to fully take root, but the end result is a sturdy novel that blossoms rather beautifully.
PositiveBookPage... an accomplished debut novel ... a sensual, twisting gothic tale that embraces Victorian superstition much in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; the mystery is slyly developed, while the love story is tastefully titillating ... In a novel that blurs the line between life and death, nothing can be taken for granted, and just when you think you have everything figured out, Waldherr turns the tables once again. This means that at times the narrative becomes convoluted and certain plot points don’t come to fruition, but it’s still an absorbing read.
RaveBookPage\"... an engrossing new epic. In An Orchestra of Minorities, Obioma blends the folklore of his country’s Igbo people with the narrative framework of Homer’s Greek classic The Odyssey to produce a multicultural fable that heralds a new master of magical realism ... It’s a special writer who can take the familiar tropes found within An Orchestra of Minorities and infuse them with new life, transforming them into something exciting and unexpected. Happily, Obioma is exactly such an author ... Written in lambent prose and ambitious in scope, An Orchestra of Minorities is no fairy tale, but rather a tragic masterpiece.\
PositiveBookpage...Set in the same world as Harkness’ previous novels, Time’s Convert is not simply a continuation of The Book of Life...it is Matthew’s son, Marcus, and his fiancée, Phoebe, who take center stage. With this couple, Harkness is allowed to do what she does best, weaving a rich and mesmerizing love story that jumps between past, present and future, as she delves into Marcus’ origin story and juxtaposes it with Phoebe’s own struggles as a fledgling vampire. Harkness’ depictions of Revolution-era America and France are vivid and detailed, while her examination of the various ways one can form a family and all its inherent complications are thoughtful and moving ... For those who have already read Harkness’ previous books, Time’s Convert is a welcome reunion with old friends.
RaveBookPageA cleverly plotted romantic thriller filled with scandalous twists and turns and a juicy central mystery, Ghosted proves impossible to put down as readers race to seek the closure and resolution (and perhaps the happy ending) that Walsh’s heroine so desperately desires. Deliciously addictive, surprising and sentimental, Ghosted is a must-read for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes, or any reader who knows that the course of true love never did run smooth.
RaveBookPageUnique and unconventional, Mr. Flood’s Last Resort is an unforgettable mystery that will appeal to fans of Tana French and Sophie Hannah, as it charms and unsettles in equal measure. Kidd (Himself) deftly balances whimsy and humor with a genuine sense of malice and danger. Savvy readers will question who can be trusted, as nothing—not even Maud—is as it initially seems.
Mira T. Lee
RaveBookPage...an astonishing and imaginative chronicle of mental illness and the unbreakable bonds of family ... In shimmering prose, Lee nimbly unfurls a story that slithers like a serpent back and forth through time and across the threshold between what is perceived and what is real, producing a nuanced view of a complex woman and what it means to love her ... There are no easy answers to these questions, and Lee does not pretend otherwise. Instead, she presents us with a sensitive and elusive story of sisterhood and schizophrenia that is brimming with another one of Lucia’s favorite words: saudade, a deep, melancholic longing for a person or state that is absent. This electrifying first novel is wistful, wise and utterly unforgettable.
RaveBookPageThere is nothing little about this novel—not the lives depicted within it or the size of its author’s ambitions and talents. And not the page count, either. It is a hulking doorstop of a book, perfect for the reader who likes to burrow into a book for weeks at a time ... a novel that delves deep into all the moments that make up a life, from the quiet to the loud, the glorious and the shameful, exploring the things that make a person who he is while simultaneously breaking him as well. Monumentally epic in its detail and scope, it is a book about friendship, courage, redemption, aging, desperation, family, love ... Written in luminous prose that is becoming Yanagihara’s hallmark, A Little Life is a gorgeous book that is, at times, shockingly horrific in its subject matter ...[Yanagihara\'s] first novel seems rather tame when compared to the torments explored here. There are moments of lightness and beauty, yes, but do not go into this book expecting it to do anything other than break your heart—albeit in the most exquisite fashion. This book is not for every reader, but if you can withstand the maelstrom that is A Little Life, you will be rewarded with a thrillingly good read.