Category: Book Review (Page 1 of 6)

Book Review: Very Nice

By Leanne Phillips

 

Marcy Dermansky’s new novel, Very Nice, starts out with a simple enough premise. Nineteen-year-old Rachel has a crush on her creative writing professor, Zahid Azzam, a one-hit wonder of a novelist who has been skating on the success of his only book for years. When Zahid impulsively confides to Rachel that he’s had a bad day, she impulsively kisses him. But the plot gains in complexity from there. Anyone who’s seen The Wife knows that crushes on creative writing professors don’t end well, and there are red flags that Rachel chooses to ignore. Rachel’s passion for Zahid seems lukewarm at best, and Rachel is a bit taken aback when he calls their kiss “very nice”—during the semester, he had crossed out all of the verys in her short story.

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Book Review: Banshee

By Diana Love

Banshee opens with a moment of bodily violence and tragedy. Not the personal tragedy of Samantha Baxter, sitting in an oncologist’s waiting room, moments from the cancer diagnosis which will unravel her, but the tragedy of a stranger:

The flesh blew off her bones underground. That’s how the waxy anchorman put it; you could feel his lips loving to make the shape of the word blew. The reason they knew? They’d had to exhume her. He sighed, going for horror, but conveying pleasure, maybe not accidentally.

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Book Review: What A Body Remembers

By Laurie Rockenbeck

Karen Stefano’s What A Body Remembers is a timely and moving illustration of how our bodies instinctively tie our senses and memories together. It is a compelling book that reads as much like true crime as it does memoir, while delving into heady topics like trauma, PTSD, and victim blaming. Stefano manages to approach these subjects with a sensitivity that invites the reader to a deeper understanding of the after-effects of trauma while evoking empathy over pity.

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Book Review: Mostly Dead Things

by Leanne Phillips

“How we slice the skin: Carefully, that’s a given.” So opens Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett’s debut novel about Jessa-Lynn Morton, a grieving taxidermist living out a less-than-satisfying life with her dysfunctional extended family in Florida. I’m a sucker for a killer opening line, a killer opening scene, and I knew right away that I was in for something special.  As the novel opens, we watch as narrator Jessa-Lynn Morton recalls her father teaching her taxidermy in his workshop. The scene is vivid and engaging. Right away, we begin to see what Jessa has been willing to do, ignore, and give up, all in an attempt to preserve or create the life she imagines for herself.

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Book Review: Three Women

By Jackie Desforges

Three WomenSince the publication and instant success of her debut nonfiction book, Three Women, Lisa Taddeo has stated that she set out to tell a story about human desire. She spent eight years researching and writing the book, and as the years progressed, the story narrowed: she went from writing about human desire to writing about female desire. She went from writing about hundreds of women to writing about dozens, and then less than a handful, and then, finally, three. She went from denying any requests for anonymity to shielding the identities of most people featured in the final book. The resulting story feels, at first glance, too specific to be universal: three women, living in small American towns and entangled in various phases of heterosexual relationships.

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Book Review: Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

By Rachel Zarrow

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion is the debut essay collection from The New Yorker staff writer, Jia Tolentino. In each essay she examines the ever-growing quagmire of self-delusion that faces us, humans living in the age of the internet.

The book opens with the essay “The I in the Internet,” and the author’s assertion that, “In the beginning the internet seemed good” (3). Tolentino quotes her ten-year-old self who, on an Angelfire subpage wrote, “I was in love with the internet the first time I used it at my dad’s office and thought it was the ULTIMATE COOL” (3).  Tolentino understands the age of the internet more deeply than most. Her relationship with the internet has metamorphosed over two decades.

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Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

By Jhenna Wieman

Celeste Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, was a national and international bestseller, and her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, now available in paperback, does not disappoint. The novel is set in Shaker Heights, a community planned so specifically that there is a siren on Halloween announcing the start and end of trick-or-treating festivities. Trash is picked up from each resident’s backyard to avoid the unsightly appearance of trash cans on the curb, and the city’s motto is “Most communities just happen; the best are planned.”

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Book Review: Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

by Daniela Z. Montes

In a time filled with terms like “fake news,” when it can be hard to tell what’s true, Liliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams reminds us to be aware of the rhetoric that shapes our society and to be mindful of its effect on us.

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Book Review: The Flight Portfolio

by: Rachel Zarrow

How do you assign a price to a human life? Are some lives worth more than others? In a world that is on the verge of collapse, do the rules of the living apply? In her second novel, The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer explores these questions.

The Flight Portfolio is a riveting fictional story of a real person, Varian Fry. In the novel, Varian, an American journalist, works for the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) evacuating artists and intellectuals from Europe during the second World War.

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Book Review: Sing to It by Amy Hempel

By David Holloway

Sing to It: New Stories is the first new work from Amy Hempel in a decade.

The first thing to notice in this collection is the variety of story lengths and tempos. Of the fifteen stories in Sing to It, ten are less than two pages long. Modest of plot, names and setting, the title story is only one page long. But “Cloudland,” the last in the collection—more a novella than a story—runs for sixty-two pages. The reader might imagine the briefer stories to be a sign of the times, a nod to flash fiction. But it’s more likely to be a choice of substance, not form, from a genius of succinct narrative. Throughout this collection, and especially in these shortest pieces, the haiku-like prose is condensed and concentrated. Intense and sparse, there is a bleached and stripped quality to Hempel’s writing. Her narrators, reluctant to yield up their secrets, force us to read between the lines. The reader is left, generally, with a lot of work to do.

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