RaveBookPageGivhan, who, like her protagonist, is a poet, paints a surrealist canvas with vivid colors, even invoking images from artists such as Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo. The richness of her language and her eye for nuance animate her depictions of both the bleak exterior landscape of California’s Imperial Valley and the bleak interior landscape of Bianca’s damaged soul. Through it all, Givhan has forged a compelling tension between psychological drama and romance that makes for a riveting read.
PositiveBookPage...cascades into a series of Waiting for Godot-esque moments in which anticipation is frequently met with frustration and further delay ... It’s a weirdly compelling mix of all the elements that make us human and all the situations that test our humanity.
RaveBookPagePochoda buttresses her narrative with a distinct and empowered group of women, and it is refreshing to see women in a murder mystery all acting with agency. Even the dancer is cognizant of her choices and acts only through the compulsion of her history, not controlled by some man. Not since Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source (or perhaps Pochoda’s own Wonder Valley) has a mystery author so successfully and unflinchingly delved beneath the surface of a Southern California subculture to render a portrait that readers will find arresting—no matter the season.
PositiveBookPageThe secret sauce that spices this book is that all the diarists are busybodies to some degree, so they wind up interacting in strange and unexpected ways. Much like a Twitter or Facebook feed, the book is composed of fairly short chapters (each from a different character’s point of view), and while it moves along at a bracing clip, the thread is always easy to follow ... The story’s confessional tone is in many ways a logical extension of Pooley’s popular pseudonymous blog, Mummy Was a Secret Drinker, but TMI is always balanced by TLC. And while Pooley’s characters’ lives, much like our own, often look better from the outside, they all ultimately reconcile what they pretend to be with what they actually are.
PositiveBookPageIt seems unlikely that the Goncourt Prize-winning author Marie NDiaye set out to be the Camus of cuisine, but her latest novel, The Cheffe, brings to mind a number of parallels with the much-revered 1942 French novel The Stranger. First of all, its narrative is laid out in the first person, entirely in flashback. Second, the loner narrator seems to have an ambivalent relationship with his memory. And third, the novel is populated with somewhat astringent characters who aren’t much on small talk ... The Cheffe herself is somewhat inscrutable in a quintessentially Gallic way; obviously passionate about her food, but outwardly indifferent to the response it gets ... And like a great meal, The Cheffe leaves us pleasantly sated but still wanting more.
PositiveBookPage... alls to mind the likes of Nora Ephron or Joan Didion. It’s not every verbal stunt pilot that can bring a mid-novel excursus about the differences between Webster’s Second and Third editions to a safe landing ... As for the sisters, Schine renders a note--perfect portrait of how shared DNA can foster a ferocious internal rivalry, while it renders the pair nearly impervious to attack from the outside world.
PositiveBookPageMost people in America—and for that matter, most people in Paris by this point—have never lived in an occupied city. Meacham’s impeccable pacing and razor-wire tension evoke the daily drama of life under a Reich whose French reign might have lasted little more than four years but felt like the thousand years that it threatened to endure.
J. Ryan Stradal
PositiveBookPageJ. Ryan Stradal ventures back into the kind of kitchen that made his debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, a success—and from there into the ever-evolving world of beer culture ... Stradal artfully keeps the suspense brewing for over 300 pages ... this book tastes great, is quite filling and never bitter.
PositiveBookpageIn many ways...the story is just a pretext for extended meditations on the meaning of love, the meaning of life and the coming \'singularity,\' in which consciousness can be uploaded like so many data points to be retransferred to a previously frozen human body or to a \'more human than human\' replicant à la Blade Runner ... Much like its spiritual predecessor, B.F. Skinner’s 1948 novel, Walden Two, Winterson’s book occasionally sets up straw men to knock down, but also like Skinner, she may turn out to be more prophetic than she, or we, imagined.
PositiveBookPageWhile some will likely draw comparisons with the work of Colm Tóibín, American readers might find Pat Conroy to be a more immediate touchstone. O’Callaghan has a keen sense of observation for emotional nuance, and his use of language is simply a delight to the mind’s ear; it’s impossible he could be anything other than Irish ... perfect for reading next to the fire on a gray day, snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea or something a little stronger, as the wood and your dreams give off their last bit of heat before turning into smoke.
Niklas Natt Och Dag
PositiveBookPageThe sense of a ticking clock pervades Niklas Natt och Dag’s swift-paced, cinematic first novel, which was named Best Debut by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers last year. Though they seem to be the oddest of couples—one a man of action, the other a man of deliberation—Cardell and Winge prove to be an effective team as they crisscross political, cultural and economic strata to establish the dead man’s identity, and ultimately try to effect some rough form of justice ... In some ways, The Wolf and the Watchman calls to mind another auspicious debut murder mystery set in an unfamiliar place and time: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It’s been nearly 40 years since that foreign-language historical thriller captured the world’s imagination, thoroughly engrossing readers and propelling its author into international stardom. So we’re about due, and Natt och Dag is certainly a worthy candidate.
RaveBookPageIn some ways reminiscent of Jerry Stahl’s excellent I, Fatty, Letts’ Finding Dorothy combines exhaustive research with expansive imagination, blending history and speculation into a seamless tapestry ... It’s a testament to Letts’ skill that she can capture on the page, without benefit of audio, that same emotion we have all felt sometime over the last 80 years while listening to \'Over the Rainbow\'[.]
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Trans. by Julia Meitov Hersey
RaveBookpageThe novel belongs to an expanding Ukrainian genre known as fantastyka, encompassing science fiction, fantasy, horror and folkloric traditions. Much of this genre has not yet been translated into English...Kudos are due to translator Julia Meitov Hersey, whose task cannot have been a simple one, given Vita Rostra’s complexity and sophistication. I realize that this is a bit of a tease, but if you are at all intrigued by the phrase, \'Time is a grammatical concept,\' you will find yourself swept into this book’s estimable vortex from page one.
PositiveBookpageAt the beginning of Ann Mah’s second novel, The Lost Vintage, protagonist Kate Elliott has committed to an extended visit with extended family in Meursault, France, in the hopes of shoring up her knowledge of French wines in advance of her third—and final—sitting for the test ... Meanwhile, her erstwhile French paramour Jean-Luc has drops back into her life, and it’s unclear whether his presence will turn out to be boon or bane. ... Mah’s scholarship and knowledge of French history and viticulture figure significantly in the novel’s storyline, but The Lost Vintage never feels forced or heavy-handed, and her vivid prose unlocks the musty aromatics of a long-abandoned cellar full of secrets for even the least sophisticated of palates. Drink deep.
PositiveBookPage\"Take Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, King Lear, The Jewel in the Crown, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and V.S. Naipaul’s India: A Wounded Civilization; pass them along to DJ Danger Mouse for a bit of a mashup; and you’d have a sense of the shape and scope of Preti Taneja’s debut novel, We That Are Young ... Much like some of the most thrilling novels of the past decade, We That Are Young relies on individual narratives that are self-serving and suspect ... Factor in the casual and untranslated bits of Hindi, and this epic novel announces itself from the outset as no beach read or airplane book; it demands (and rewards) one’s full attention.\
RaveBookPage...[an] extraordinary debut novel ... While Lale’s story is told at one remove—he held his recollections inside for more than half a century, fearing he might be branded as a collaborator—it is no less moving, no less horrifying, no less true ... it is a story that desperately needs to be read.
RaveBookPage\"Like Chandler, Hummel is capable of limning out a ripping yarn replete with high fashion, high finance and high society ... It would be damning with faint praise to call Still Lives a contender for best beach read of the year—like calling Pablo Picasso a really good painter—but Still Lives is both that and so much more.\
RaveBookPageAfter Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, is there any other book written by any other Brit about the intersection of love and vinyl records that’s worth reading? Why, yes, there is. And Rachel Joyce’s magnificent The Music Shop is it ... it’s worth noting that Joyce’s novel is intellectually and emotionally satisfying on every possible level. If you love words, if you love music, if you love love, this is 2018’s first must-read, and it will be without question one of the year’s best.
RaveBookPagePochoda is a master at homing in on the details of both exterior and interior landscapes and crafting characters so palpable that you can feel blood throbbing in their temples and rivulets of sweat evaporating off their necks. It’s not a far stretch to consider Pochoda to be in the company of James Ellroy, Michael Connelly and T. Jefferson Parker, but the two novelists that most often leap to mind as peers are Walter Mosley and National Book Award finalist Kem Nunn. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to find Wonder Valley on the short list for several awards itself.
PositiveBookPageAt the outset, the connections between the three are opaque, but Lunde’s compelling narrative draws the reader in—more like a spider than a bee, actually. Much as in Ray Bradbury’s famed story 'A Sound of Thunder,' the 'butterfly effect' is in full effect, as decisions made long ago and far away influence outcomes in unpredictable but realistic ways. And while it might be putting too fine a point on it, Lunde demonstrates how our social order mirrors that of the bees: Some of us are workers, some drones and a lucky few queens, but each contributes to the upkeep of the hive in ways we may never understand.