When is the last time a book made you truly happy? For me, it's NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT. Nora is a screenwriter of formulaic TV romcoms. Her first Hollywood script brings a film crew to her house, along with Sexiest Man Alive Leo Vance to play the leading man. When Leo asks to stay with Nora and her kids after filming is over, the two fall for one another in a way that is believably delightful. Annabel Monaghan flips the script (yeah, I said it) on the typical romcom to create something surprising and heartwarming.
Zahra and Maryam are teenagers in 1980s Pakistan, best friends despite the differences in their family backgrounds and ambitions, when an incident at a party changes the trajectory of their lives forever. In modern day London, the two bury the pain of their childhoods, letting past hurts simmer until they boil over when someone from the past returns to disrupt the lifelong friendship. Kamila Shamsie is absolutely masterful at creating character and tensions, and I read this book in one long uninterrupted sitting.
Magician Violet Volk disappeared nearly ten years ago while performing a show, and now that the decade anniversary is coming up her sister Sasha isn't holding it together as well as she'd like. The book mixes in podcast transcripts, emails, newspaper articles, etc along with the narrative, and I love how you never know who you can trust: the pushy podcaster, the husband, other magicians, even Sasha herself. There's a lot of spark in this novel; whether Violet or Sasha have powers, the reading of the book is certainly something magical.
I love love love this book! It's just as funny and silly as Boyfriend Material, but it is even more romantic. Luc and Oliver have been together for two years and are starting to wonder, as everyone around them get married, if it's their turn soon. They clearly love each other and support each other and there's never a doubt of how close they are, but they now have to figure out if there's a "right" way to be queer and in love. Oliver is difficult; Luc is messy. But they're one another's difficult messes.
A little bookseller secret: we don't always read the entire book when we're introducing an event. But when I sat down to dip into this for our recent event with Tomi Obaro, I found myself reading the whole thing in one absorbing sitting. This story of three women whose friendship travels across time and continents swept me away.
This is an absolute delight. Clare Pooley disregards the unspoken rules of commuting to create a world in which a large cast of people who take the train together become a community. I love that she writes about how Iona, a 57-year-old woman who is being pushed into redundancy at her magazine, is almost an invisible woman in society. That Iona becomes the glue of this ragtag group of commuters is the thrust of the story, a tale that made me so very happy.
Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 1950s. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that she's undervalued, not taken seriously, and sexually harassed at every step. But Elizabeth Zott doesn't necessarily even notice this: she's singularly focused on her work, her abilities, and being a fully formed person. At every step along the way in this delightful (though at times heartbreaking) novel, she is no-nonsense in her ability to land on her feet without compromising.
This book is catalogued as Fiction: Feminist. Which is pretty funny, considering it's set in the '50s and early '60s and it's not like the word feminist ever actually appears. But this novel is decidedly feminist: from Elizabeth's refusal to marry the fellow scientist Calvin, who she loves deeply - but who she doesn't want to be professionally or legally tied to; to the way she functions outside of a traditional lab by necessity in an attempt to keep herself financially afloat; to the ways that she refuses to compromise on the cooking show that she almost inexplicably finds herself hosting.
This book is a lot of FUN, with characters spooling out around Elizabeth and building a world with connections both unseen and overt. I love the dog Six-Thirty; I love Elizabeth's neighbor Harriet; I love the doctors and the TV exec and all the humorous people Bonnie Garmus populates the book with.
Really great. Yeah, this is a time travel story, but it's the kind of time travel story where it's really just using this high concept to tell a very specific tale of a very specific set of characters. I enjoy Emma Straub's very precise writing about New York City, and Alice is a character who speaks to me on a molecular level. The book starts when she's turning 40, only to have her wake up and relive her 16th birthday. The rest of the novel is Alice reliving that day over and over again as she tries to figure out the right actions to change her present. It doesn't hurt that Alice's birthday is revealed to be October 12, 1980 - mine is October 10, 1980 so of course I was going to get every single reference every single time.
In a world of romcom tropes, there are very few books with people whose connection is believable from page one, but with a conflict that feels legitimately insurmountable and external to the relationship itself. Alexis is a doctor with a family legacy in the big city and an abusive ex who has ruined her sense of self. Daniel lives in a small town and acts as mayor and does everything for the community and very little for himself. Neither of them can ignore their commitments and the obstacles that they face as a couple are organic and real. This is Abby Jimenez's most mature work to date, with real people having a real love story with real stakes.
This is FUN. This might be the best story Christina Lauren has ever told, in terms of plot and pure entertainment value. It’s a Wild West treasure hunt with romance. It’s Indiana Jones and the Goonies with a love story. It’s a ripping, fast paced YARN of a story that made me laugh and swoon all at the same time.
This book is a hang out comedy with historical undertones. The opening hundred pages tell a sweeping story that turns into a quiet, intimate novel about a found family over the course of several decades. It would be easy to say this is the story of Ulysses Temper and the people around him. But that discounts all the really well-drawn characters who have deeply felt lives apart from Ulysses. It ignores Peg, the siren who is Ulysses's (ex)wife but is so much more beyond that. It doesn't allow for the life of Alys, Peg's daughter who becomes Ulysses's surrogate child when they move to Florence; it doesn't allow for Cress, or Col, or Pete, or even Claude the parrot.
I love the strong parental relationships in this novel - none of them biological. I love the many queer relationships, and that each is handled respectfully and realistically but that none are doomed to the societal expectations of the time. I love love love the ending, when we learn about where Ulysses goes every year, and we see how a friendship - that could have been more - from the war affects every relationship he has had since. I absolutely adored the time I spent with this ragtag, messy, loving group of friends who become a de facto family.
Josie Silver writes love stories, but they aren't often romances. Cleo and Mack both make their way to a remote island off the coast of Ireland to be alone, only to be thrown together in a cottage. When they decide to have an island romance, it's without blinders: they know there's an expiration date. But when the date comes the ways that they navigate a future both together and apart is so assured, and mature, and pure.
This book had me laughing out loud from nearly the first page. Thom and Clay are so mean to each other, and realistically ambitious. I couldn't wait to see how they would be redeemed, only to be delighted when they don't actually change. Not in ways that are cloying, or merely in service to the plot, or to smooth down their edges. The Thom at the end of the book is more human, yes, but he's still a cunning political operative. Clay is still messy and obnoxiously cocky. But Liz Bowery takes these two ridiculous people and shows how they can be ruthless and addicted to their phones and ambitious but still be... kind of sweet together. Perhaps even despite themselves.
This is EXCELLENT. I loved the Chuck Klosterman of my twenties, but I ADORE the version of him in my forties. As someone born in 1980, I'm of that weird period/microgeneration of people who don't identify as Gen Xers or Millennials, but this book that covers my adolescence and teenage years completely spoke to me on an almost molecular level. I sent a dozen screen shots of passages to my friends, and I devoured this book in one long lazy day. I've often said that Chuck Klosterman is one of the few people who I believe speak in coherent paragraphs, but when you give him an actual page to formulate connections and thesis statements about the intersections of pop culture, politics, race relations, and terrorism (both domestic and foreign), you're going to have your mind blown. It's like this book was written FOR me.
Ansel Packer is to be executed today. In this page-turning novel, Danya Kukafka explores the man himself but focuses on the women in his past - the detective, the sister-in-law, the mother - who are part of his orbit over the decades. This is an emotional and original story unlike anything I've read before.
Comparisons to THE HATING GAME are a dime a dozen, but Adam Carlsen in this book is the most Josh Templeman-esque character I've read in forever. I'm so smitten by Olive and Adam: their brains, their banter, their sweetness. You'll love this.
Lily King takes what you expect from literary fiction and gives you something gentler. I absolutely, truly adored a handful of these stories, and I was made angry by a few. They all made me FEEL and they’ll stick with me, unquestionably. Read this for the title story alone. King's writing is memorable in a genre that can feel disposable.
These stories of Cambodian refugees living in California are raw and messy, sexy and devastating. The writing is modern and confident, full of characters who are maddening and loveable. This will easy end up on my list of year end favorites.
This is - dare I say it - UTTERLY charming. Charlie is the newest prince on a Bachelor-esque reality show who is meant to fall in love with the Instagram-influencer female contestants, but instead finds himself drawn to his producer Dev. All of you McQuiston fans will love this one.
A sense of melancholy pervades these stories of Korean Americans, and each character sinks beneath your skin. I read these stories slowly, carefully. Choi creates entire universes in 40 page snippets.
This book is glorious. I love the sense memories that Zentner creates in his books - the one that stands out is the Country Crock container used for leftovers, a memory I have from my Southern childhood - and how respectful he is to the poor characters who inhabit his stories. He gives dignity to those that are often deemed insignificant. Cash’s fish-out-of-water story at Middleford Academy made me feel all the things: joy and sadness and anger and lots and lots of tears, both the painful and the cathartic kind.
A one-sitting read! On the day of Megan and Tom's rehearsal dinner, their relationship implodes... only for them to way up the next day to relive it. Is the universe trying to keep them together or break them apart? What formula do they need to crack to find their way out of the time loop? This Groundhog Day-esque vacation read is lovely.
I loved this small town story of community and family so much. When Jane moves to Boyne City, Michigan and starts dating the town playboy Duncan, she doesn't realize that she will find herself enmeshed in all the people who come along with him - from his ex wife, to his coworker, to the many women he's dated before her. I am so sad to leave these characters. A true gem of a book.
Let's start from the top: this book had a moment that was so shocking to me I literally yelled, "HOLY SHIT" in the middle of my kitchen. It takes a LOT to shock me in a book - I read so much that there's very rarely something that surprises me, much less floors me in the way that this book hit me. And yet the moment, which is the catalyst for this plot to really start cooking with gas, doesn't feel implausible: it's just so very surprising.
I love a good family drama, and I thought I knew what to expect when I started this story of a sprawling Texas family and a week that snaps their already fragile connections. After the aforementioned moment I watched as the story went in directions I didn't anticipate. This is a book about a family that doesn't have secrets but still manages to tell plenty of lies, to both one another and themselves.
Christina Lauren’s latest book has all the things: a love interest who is compared to Keanu Reeves repeatedly. A best friend you can believe in. Science nerdiness as foreplay. A cute kid who is recognizably seven and not moppet-like precocious. Good, solid chemistry between the protagonists that’s earned; it takes a while to get there. But I believed in every step.
Mary Jane Dillard is fourteen in mid-seventies Baltimore when she becomes a nanny to the adorable Izzy. The summer that follows feels like magic to both Mary Jane and the reader. This is a book with hauntingly real mother-daughter relationships, honest portrayals of marriage, with earned heartbreaks. I adored each of these characters, from the realistic 5 year old to the workaholic doctor to the rock star and the actress, but mostly I loved Mary Jane herself. I ate this book up.
Loved it loved it loved it. Sally Thorne is the absolute best at banter mixed with the most glorious descriptions and similes. “He smells like a sweet tea bag. How obnoxiously nice.” Or later, saying someone is a pink unicorn. Not like a pink unicorn. IS one. God I loved this so much. I adored swimming in the dialogue and the ways that Thorne’s characters verbalize the things that we all think but can’t quite express, at least not as wittily and adorably. So flipping cute.
This quiet, episodic book follows free-born Black woman Libertie as she moves through life: her childhood, her early apprenticeship with her doctor mother, her year in college, her time in Haiti. Libertie is an observer more than a doer for most of the book, and she acts as witness to the lives around her in Reconstruction America. At heart, this is a mother-daughter story, with gloriously poetic letters and with a powerful ending that haunts me.
Kate Clayborn writes romances that follow the rules of the genre, and yet she does so much more. Will and Nora are so real and believable, and the supporting characters (the found families for both of our protagonists, who each grew up without proper parental love) became so dear to me, from the wacky residents of Nora's building to the strict, serious Dr. Abraham who becomes Will's closest friend. Will and Nora’s individual conflicts aren’t secondary to their love story - the love story is only possible because they help one another with their bigger picture problems.
This is so small and so quiet and yet it’s so incredibly powerful. It's a story about fathers and sons, about fractures in relationships - romantic, familial, otherwise - and how to overcome them (or how to decide they’re not worth overcoming). I swallowed this book whole.
After years of reading literary novels full of caustic characters, I needed JUST LIKE YOU as a palate cleanser. Joseph and Lucy's story felt like taking a deep breath. Their conversations about race, class, and generational differences are breathtakingly nuanced and smart, while never becoming precocious or arch. Ultimately this book isn't about the love story, but it's about a world that makes Lucy and Joseph wonder if they're allowed to have a love story.
Margarita Montimore uses formal inventiveness to write some singular characters. Oona is a woman whose life does not follow linear order; for example, she might find herself age 24 at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve when just moments before she was 35. I saw some of the connections coming, but I didn't expect to be as gutted as I was by them each step of the way. Some of the choices (two years that land back to back in reverse order made me actually gasp) are so smart that I wanted to hug myself in glee because this is such good stuff. I'm in awe of how difficult the plotting on this book must have been. And in the end, I would have spent another 200 pages with Oona, another twenty years, another lifetime out of order.
When I finished this, I felt book bereft, like I wouldn't find another book for a long time that would make me this emotionally and viscerally affected. Lily King's writing about art, friendship, family and romantic relationships, and youth is pitch perfect. I found myself taking screenshots of lines and entire paragraphs to send to a friend who was reading it simultaneously. I worried at the beginning that Casey's story would be dark and devastating, but I was surprised by how gently good and supportive most of the people around her turn out to be. I was left with a full heart, and yet simultaneously heartbroken to see it end.
God I loved this. I loved it I loved it I loved it. Not since Red, White & Royal Blue have I LAUGHED so hard at a romance novel. But once I stopped laughing, I was so very smitten with Luc and Oliver. Their sweetness, their banter, their mismatched perfection, and their realistic psychological hangups felt so earned. I just adored this. Full stop.
My copy of this book is underlined, with exclamation points in the margins. My dog-eared pages are dog-eared in both recognition and awe and what Jeannie Vanasco has created. In exposing the difficult parts of her past, she’s written a book that is an act of bravery while also being a reckoning. Her exploration of her own rape shows how omnipresent sexual assault is for women, but she is unflinching and honest in showing how women have been trained to forgive and blame ourselves, and how embarrassing it is to hear yourself make excuses for those who have caused us the most personal pain. This is a book of nuance, one that in clean, careful writing circles and loops in order to find the linear text. In giving her rapist his own voice, Vanasco makes Mark more human, but in many ways he becomes more monstrous because of how banal and almost unconsciously manipulative he’s revealed to be in trying to control the narrative. In his decency, he’s more of a villain. This book is important and timely, but it’s also deeply personal and affecting.
What a joy of a book! This is a British delight, about a group of strangers who come together as a community with the help of a journal they pass around. With a cast of characters who span all ages and walks of life, it's like a Richard Curtis movie (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, etc) made into book form.
This is absolutely delightful. Fans of EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER and Josie Silver will fall in love with Leena and her grandmother Eileen. When Leena is sent on a two month leave from work, she decides to switch places with Eileen: Leena heads to Yorkshire, and Eileen to Leena's loft in London. Adventures in town councils and May Day festivals (and cute boys from childhood who have grown up to be cute teachers with cute dogs) await Leena, while Eileen enters into the world of online dating and improving the lives of all of Leena's friends and neighbors. The women are both strong and smart, and while they're going through a time of change they don't fall into the messy, incompetent protagonist trope. This is a book about finding yourself at any age. An absolutely adorable and wonderful gem.
I loved this I loved this I loved this.
It is funny and silly and romantic and action packed, and I am HERE for a sequel.
I am so smitten with Seth and Nick’s perfectly rendered teenaged internal monologues.
I was expecting one outcome and instead we get something completely different. It’s rare that I can be surprised by an ending.
I loved this.
Brit Bennett’s second novel broke my heart. She doesn’t shy away from the sadness inherent in each character’s life, yet she left me feeling better for having met all of them. I read The Vanishing Half with a sense of hope, despite my dread that terrible things might befall the characters. Desiree and Stella’s story unfolds with a deft delicateness in a book that is astonishingly accomplished and sweeping, and yet so very intimate.
At about the 1/3 mark of this book, I had to skip ahead to the end to make sure everything would be okay. Because that was the only way I could bring myself to continue reading such a beautifully sad story. It IS sad - melancholy and infuriating and you will never hate a character as much as you’ll hate one of the characters here - but god it’s gorgeous. There’s so much pain in this family story, and yet there’s this poignant beauty. Secrets and lasting grievances and what it means to be a family are not new ideas. It’s not like Christina Clancy has cornered a new market. And yet I haven’t been this swept up by a novel in a long long time.
I adored this book! The way that Nicholas and Naomi are so creatively mean to one another is both hysterical and believable and had me cackling, but what really got me was reading these two falling in love with one another again. It's easy to write people falling for the best version of a partner - it's infinitely harder to show how they fall in love with the ugly and messy pieces. What a gem of a novel.
Absolutely flipping adorable. I totally believe in Simon and Emily, and flirting over Shakespeare and Station Eleven is always going to be a straight dart to my heart (even if I don't love Shakespeare). This was pure candy. With a pretty hot sex scene to boot! Adorable.
So heartbreaking and romantic. Lydia Bird loses her fiance Freddie in a car accident, and over the next two years we watch as she deals with her grief and moves on with her life. One twist? She's prescribed a sleeping pill that, when she takes it, sends her into an alternate reality where Freddie didn't die. Silver uses the alternate reality to show how Lydia is growing in the real world and changing - by necessity, but into a person that Freddie wouldn't necessarily recognize, and that's okay.
This is a book about grief, and about loss, and about growth. It devastated me. Josie Silver is incredible at showing how painful love can be, but how worthwhile it is. She's not interested in happily ever after; she's interested in showing the work at the root of all relationships, romantic or otherwise.
I read this book in one sitting - yes, the entire thing. This is confident, propulsive fiction at its finest. The Sorenson family will break your heart, infuriate you, and make you fall in love with them one by one. I'm still mad at Claire Lombardo for Miles (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler) and I'm in awe of her.
Well this is propulsive. This book gets in and out with a snappiness that is delightful. Kiley Reid deftly explores issues of race and youth. She drops bombs and pays them off - instead of dragging you along for the entirety of the book, she keeps the story moving. Things don't stay secret in service of unearned tension. I loved and hated all of these characters in equal measure. Nothing is completely black or white - no one is completely wrong or right. An extraordinarily smart and confident debut.
I live for oral histories, and so when you give me a fictional oral history? Yes, please. This is fun and frothy and spectacularly entertaining. It's the kind of book that almost everyone will enjoy.
This gave me a straight up book hangover. I loved loved loved it. The play on letters versus numbers. The way that the characters talked to one another, and really got to know one another. The build up and the way that the conflict was external and yet believable. So so lovely.
I was just SMITTEN with the characters in this book. As an unabashed beer nerd, I knew it would be my thing, but I didn't realize I would be reading entire sections out loud to my husband. From the beer education Diana is given, to the review of the grandma beers late in the book, I kept nodding and laughing. But beyond that, I just LOVED reading about the no-nonsense women at the heart of the story. I loved Edith SO MUCH, and I can't imagine I will soon chuckle as hard as I did when she asks if she can bring some friends to help out and conscripts a whole bunch of literal grandmas. DAMN this was fun.
I really loved this - the banter, the playfulness, the shade towards the HGTV reality show complex, the romance, the HOT AF love scenes. (Having read the Beautiful books and the Wild Nights series MULTIPLE times, I can attest that Christina Lauren can write some damn fine borderline erotica; it's nice now that they've gone more mainstream to see that they can still write a sex scene without it being fade to black.)
At the beginning of this, the authors say they expect you to read it with one hand always googling the folks they write about to get a deeper knowledge than they can give. Let me tell you: they are right. Much like a great oral history, Tom and Lorenzo’s book is catnip for people wanting an entry into a world they think they know, but have barely scratched the surface on. LEGENDARY CHILDREN is sneaky af in getting you to pick it up for the Drag Race component - yes, don’t worry, that’s in there, but this is really an entry point for people to learn the (I’m gonna say it) herstory of queer, trans, and non-binary artists and performers of the past century and a half. It’s pretty remarkable and so very very well done.
This book is so nuanced in its exploration of the four women at its center, and how their relationships stretch and bend and curve around each other, and sometimes snap. I was infuriated, but not so much by the actions that give each section its title. These nominally worst acts that each of the four commits pales in comparison to some of the small cuts they each make at each other.
And I hated each character in turn while I felt this deep deep pressure behind my eyes. It wasn’t tears, but it was emotion. Such brutal, devastating emotion. At the same time, I loved them each, and I empathized so deeply with them, even when I found them so so very annoying. In other words, it's real and honest (even when the characters lie or choose to forever withhold truths) and so so incredibly nuanced.
In a rose colored alternate world where a woman with two half-Mexican kids from her first marriage is elected president of the United States, one of those kids - the boy no less - falls in love with the prince of England. And it’s just as addictive and delightful and so very gay as you might imagine. This scratched so many itches for me: made me laugh, made me swoon a little, made my political wonkiness sing. This is smart and it’s romantic as all hell and Alex and Henry have stolen my heart so hard.
What Sally Rooney does in NORMAL PEOPLE is deceptively small, even though her sentences are filled with crackling intelligence. She writes about young people who are somber, who are ironic, who work at the art of being disaffected to hide the turmoil under the surface that's threatening to boil over. But with Connell and Marianne, she has written two characters who understand one another completely, who can't be performative because they are so perfectly aligned, even when they almost purposefully misunderstand one another. This is not a happy book, but it is so true and honest and understanding of what it means to connect.
There is nothing quite as magical as the story of a found family, and this debut novel absolutely sparkles with the story of the four musicians in a string quartet who bump against one another across the decades of their career together. I have never read such beautiful writing about music and musicians, and about the ambition and pride required and the sacrifices made in the name of art. Prickly Jana, prodigy Henry, quiet Brit, and moody Daniel are characters who push against one another in dissonance even when they come together in absolute harmony as they fight and love in equal measure.. While the book is about an ensemble, the story is symphonic in its beauty.
This book made me happy in a way that no book has made me happy since perhaps ALLY HUGHES HAS SEX SOMETIMES. I read it with a smile on my face. A giant grin. And then the next day I reread it because I wanted to see what I missed about Josh's long term game with Lucy. And then I went on vacation and left it behind and when I got back home I read the whole damn thing again because it is just SO DELIGHTFUL.
A good memoir takes you into a place that you don't know and shows you around; an exceptional one grabs you and doesn't let go until you feel like the author's singular story is universal. Tara Westover's childhood growing up on a mountain in Idaho with dangerously devout Mormon parents and brothers is not one I recognize. That she never stepped foot in a classroom until she incredibly enrolled in college and ultimately found herself earning a PhD from Harvard is confounding. The abuse leveled at her from her family - from neglect, from physically dangerous workplaces when she wasn't yet a teenager, from misguided religious fervor, from emotional torment - is terrifying. This book grapples with the equal parts love and fear she has for her siblings and parents, and with the questions of what one has to be willing to sacrifice to become a fully realized person. It's a memoir that you would never believe if it were fiction.
You know that thing where a book comes out of nowhere and grabs you and says, "Hey, I'm your book. I'm going to WRECK you and make you laugh and giggle and cry and you won't know what hit you"? That's this book for me. And if you haven't had that happen, I wish it for you because I want everyone to be made as happy by a book as this one made me.
A slim, unsparing book about obsession in all its forms, THE INCENDIARIES might be the book I will spend all of 2018 trying to get my mind around. R. O. Kwon puts you into the head of Will, who attempts to come to terms with the truths of his heady relationship with Phoebe, a fellow student whose guilt over her mother's death puts her in the path of a religious cult. I was enthralled by this book; I was infuriated by this book; I will not soon forget this book.
This is an unforgettable book, full of exquisite characters who you will fall in love with as you watch the ravages of AIDS overtake many of them. There is so much humanity to be found in the small moments of devastation and connection between truly unforgettable characters Yale and Fiona. Rebecca Makkai has written a gorgeous book about family: the family you create, the family you lose, and the family ties that bind across generations.
In late 1960s Greenwich Village, the four Gold siblings visit a fortune teller who tells each of them the day they will die. Chloe Benjamin follows the quartet over the next forty years as they live, love, fight and, yes, die. From reckless Simon to serious Daniel, wild Klara to precise Varya, these are characters that will haunt and astonish. The book carries you across decades with an ambitious sweep but a precise specificity while asking questions of faith and fate, chance and determination. In the end, though only one of the siblings is a magician, all four of their stories are magical.
An absolutely beautiful exploration of family, grief, memory, and madness, this book is outstanding. Jeannie Vanasco promised her father before his death that she would write a book for him, never knowing the psychological and mental toll the process would ultimately take on her. Vanasco explores her family’s history: the entirely separate family her father had before she was born; the late-in-life marriage that led to Jeannie’s birth; her own destructive behavior as she falls in and out of a mental illness that informs the truly fascinating structure of the book. The layers found in this memoir are as plentiful as the layers found in the human eye; ultimately, it is as deeply layered as the human experience itself.
Celeste Ng is a master at creating a mood, and she does not disappoint in her sophomore effort. Her exploration of suburban ennui and the microagressions found in questions of class, race, and status are effortless. Each of her characters has both grace and volatility within them and the only complaint a reader can have is that we have to leave them.
The mothers of this book ostensibly refers to the gaggle of elderly churchgoing women who comment on the congregation around them, especially the trio of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey. But of course it's about more than that - it refers to motherhood itself, whether it's real, lost, aborted, adoptive, or conflicted. The three young people at the heart of the story are all flawed but realistic and easy to root for. It's a book about salvation - not the spiritual salvation the gossiping but well-intentioned mothers seek, but the kind that comes with self-acceptance and growth. "The Mothers" is an honest, modern, and triumphant book.
Watch Tess navigate the world of high end dining. Watch her play as hard as she works - if not harder. Watch as she gets pulled in by the bad boy bartender, knowing as well as she does that he's a disaster. Watch as Stephanie Danler creates something purer & more interesting than you were expecting. This book has me in its thrall. This familiar tale is anything but ordinary.
THIS BOOK. Oh, man. I could not love it more if I tried. Dill, Lydia, and Travis are outsiders in their small Tennessee town but at least they have one another. A debut novel that explores place, friendship, faith, family, poverty, and belonging, "The Serpent King" had me sobbing and laughing and laugh-sobbing. I wish I could read it again for the first time. This is a young adult book that belongs in the hands of every human, young or old.