Reviews

This is for an in-depth review of a book, this is not to be confused with the staff recommendations page.

The Appetites of Girls (Pamela Moses)

This debut novel tells stories about four college suitemates--Ruth, Fran, Opal, and Setsu--through the subtle lens of their relationships with food. This is not a light romp about girlhood and finding yourself. Instead, I found myself feeling hurt and bruised alongside these women. I was frustrated by their choices, helpless watching their trauma, and sometimes desperate to give them a much-needed hug. Ruth, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, cannot escape her controlling mother, illustrated most regularly in evening meals. I wanted to slap this mother so many times. Francesca is weighed down by Upper East Side expectations, and finds freedom in binging. Opal--oh, Opal--tries to emulate her resort-hopping mom's glamour and easy charm with men, with disastrous consequences. And then there's Setsu, whose adopted brother manipulates and controls the entire household, including Setsu's food portions. I wanted to slap him a few times, too.

 

Moses manages to cover a wide breadth of experiences in the lives of these four women--by turns relatable, heartbreaking, confused, and thwarted. A few times while reading, I had to put the book down and focus on something lighter, something easier, but I always felt compelled to return to these women and their stories. Maybe that's the best testament to the power of Moses' insight into some of the truly devastating and often subtle pressures placed on women at all stages of life.

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The Appetites of Girls Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780399158421
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Amy Einhorn Books - June 26th, 2014

Inside Madeleine (Paula Bomer)

Normally I don't recommend books based on their ability to induce vomiting, but in this case I feel it is apt. Paula Bomer’s new short story collection is not for the faint of heart. These gut-wrenching stories about girls at work, in school or at loose ends will make you laugh out loud and possibly throw up as her characters share the gritty, strange and poignant details of their lives. Bomer writes with equal power about the tough girl, the quiet girl and the wild child. The title novella is a heart-breaker about the eating disordered and lonely Madeleine whose story loops right around to the opening short story. A stunning collection that you won't be able to forget any time soon.

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Inside Madeleine Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781616953096
Availability: Backordered
Published: Soho Press - May 13th, 2014

Landline (Rainbow Rowell)

There are few things better than cuddling up with the newest from Rainbow Rowell, and LANDLINE does not disappoint! Georgie's job as a sitcom writer is a huge part of her life, and until now, her husband Neal has been willing to sacrifice a lot to support these dreams. But when the opportunity of a lifetime comes along, at the expense of Christmas with Neal and her children, Georgie takes the job...and Neal takes the kids home to Nebraska anyway. Faced with a monster deadline and the consequences of her choice, Georgie camps out at her (bedazzled velvet track suit-wearing) mom's house and tries to call Neal from her old yellow landline phone. However, the Neal who answers the phone isn't the one she expects: it's Neal in 1998, home for Christmas after he and Georgie--then his girlfriend--had a big fight.

 

What follows, in conversations and flashbacks, is a story of rediscovered love and the power of being reminded why you fell in love in the first place. It's about family and priorities and nostalgia, but it also has plenty of wit. I especially loved the vintage sitcom references and snappy dialogue. LANDLINE isn't high literary fiction, but it isn't trying to be. What makes Rowell's writing so special is the authenticity of her characters' interactions and, of course, her (pop) cultural savvy. A perfect summer, beach, porch, rocking chair, easy chair, airplane, road trip read!

Dark Aemilia (Sally O'Reilly)

This (literally!) spellbinding tale of passion, poetry, and a mother’s love will entrap you from the start. Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, a historical contender for the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s later sonnets, comes vividly to life in this bewitching novel. Her powerful voice refuses to be silenced through the betrayal of lovers, the despair of plague, and more. Famed for her intelligence and “dark” looks, Aemilia lives comfortably at court as the mistress of Lord Henry Hunsdon--until a young William Shakespeare ensnares her, heart and soul. Their passionate, violent affair, short-lived though it may seem at first, binds them together for the rest of their lives, as Aemilia strives for recognition as a poet and playwright in a world where women can be no such things.

Sally O’Reilly beautifully paints Aemilia in enchanting, lyrical prose: a Lady Macbeth swinging between lucid, sharp fury and a dreamlike daze of pain. There’s plenty here for Shakespeare fans to love: though the man himself (probably rightfully) doesn’t come off as a prince, exactly, a reverence for the work above all else shines through. Poetry, in DARK AEMILIA, is sacrosanct. There are dozens of tidbits and treasures for Shakespeare buffs to adore--including a brilliant origin story for The Scottish Play (and its curse). Historical figures high and low, from Queen Elizabeth and Sir Thomas Wriothesley to Richard Burbage and Moll Cutpurse, fill the scenes of DARK AEMILIA, but O’Reilly never lets her meticulous research bog down the lyricism and magic (did I mention there’s witchcraft?) of Aemilia’s life. With wonderful detail and agonizing sensuality, DARK AEMILIA spins a compelling tale of a secret, forgotten literary affair that might have been.

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781250048134
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador USA - May 27th, 2014

Clever Girl (Tessa Hadley)

CLEVER GIRL is a quiet novel with a sly sense of humor. The power of Hadley’s plot comes from the surprising intersections of her characters’ lives over a long span of time. Covering her protagonist Stella’s life from feisty girlhood to young motherhood to middle age, CLEVER GIRL is an engrossing and beautifully written story you’ll get lost in. For more on this quiet, powerful book, check out Meg Wolitzer’s rave review in the New York Times Book Review here.

Clever Girl: A Novel Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062270399
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Harper - March 4th, 2014

The Crack-Up (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone in America has read at least one book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, yet most people still don’t know what a wonderful essayist he was. This book, which is something of a miscellany, was compiled by Fitzgerald’s friend Edmund Wilson shortly after the author’s untimely death, and chronicles the formerly untouchable Fitzgerald’s descent into alcoholism and despair, as well as his determined bid for recovery. It also contains flashes of insight into Fitzgerald’s infamous, troubled relationship with his wife Zelda, a talented writer in her own right. Although the title essay is certainly the most satisfying and accomplished of the short works collected here, I’m personally most fond of F. Scott and Zelda’s collaborative essay ‘Show Mr. and Mrs. F to Number ---’, which chronicles more than ten years of their marriage--as well as the Roaring Twenties themselves--via a brilliant list of the many hotels they called home during those years. A fascinating insight into a fascinating life that feels incredibly fresh, even nearly 75 years after Fitzgerald’s death.

The Crack-Up Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780811218207
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - February 27th, 2009

Blood Will Out (Walter Kirn)

Simultaneously a page-turning true crime narrative and a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, truth and belief, Blood Will Out recounts Kirn’s longtime friendship with eccentric billionaire Clark Rockefeller. The only problem is...there is no such person! Years later, the man is unmasked as a serial imposter, conman and murderer who has been at this game for decades. You will be astounded by the audacity of the sociopath known as Clark, but also by the willingness of dozens of smart people to wholeheartedly believe his ruse. In the tradition of In Cold Blood, it’s part memoir, part thriller, part courtroom drama. A riveting and unsettling read that will leave you questioning just how much you can trust anyone.

 

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Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780871404510
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - March 10th, 2014

Antwerp (Roberto Bolano)

Polyvocal, self-reflexive, graphic, and brooding, Bolano's first novella is an experimental headtrip of a crime story and his only work of fiction he said didn't "embarrass" him. Short enough to read in a couple of hours, complex enough to keep you thinking about it for much longer. A great read!

 

Antwerp (New Directions Pearls) Cover Image
By Roberto Bolano, Natasha Wimmer (Translator)
$10.95
ISBN: 9780811219914
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - May 23rd, 2012

Moby Dick In Pictures (Matt Kish)

That's right--one picture for every page of MOBY DICK. This is a must have for any Melville aficionado and a great gift for someone reading the book for the first time. See also: Matt Kish's illustrated HEART OF DARKNESS.

Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page Cover Image
$39.95
ISBN: 9781935639138
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Tin House Books - October 11th, 2011

The Weirdness (Jeremy Bushnell)

Melville House, publisher of both fantastic contemporary fiction and the resurrected works of literary masters, publishes this hilarious and heartfelt novel that speaks to the underachiever in all of us. Billy Ridgeway, Bushnell’s lovable protagonist, is bad at relationships, bad at finishing things and bad at refusing the Devil when he shows up one morning asking for help. Satan asks Billy--via Powerpoint presentation--for his assistance in getting back a cat statue upon which the survival of the universe depends. What sets THE WEIRDNESS apart is its inventiveness, which never feels forced, as well as the sheer joy it takes in pop culture. Given its heady mixture of lowbrow and highbrow cleverness Bushnell’s novel has plenty of heart. Will the universe survive? Is there a difference between a banana and a phone? Are warlocks good? These questions and more are brilliantly answered in this unforgettable--and deeply weird--novel.

Join us for a Flash Book Group for THE WEIRDNESS on Sunday, May 19 at 2PM

 

The Weirdness Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781612193151
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Melville House Publishing - March 4th, 2014

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