In this novel, the reader explores a world where food meets tech and the inevitable collision. With some suspended disbelief you delve into the underground world of a futuristic farmer’s market in the Bay area. The characters are charming and in the end you’ll learn a few things about baking and technology. Furthermore, the cover glows in the dark. There is so much to love. - Cindy
If you're anything like me (which, God help you, you aren't), you spend your New Year's Eve holiday sitting quietly at home, sipping a white wine spritzer or Sazerac, fondly ruminating over the best books you've read in any given year. This year, Franzen's latest, Purity, eclipses by far and away any other candidate. It's love, lust, and lunacy packaged in writing so clean and sharp you'll be almost surprised when you reach the end and discover that you're still yourself, and not one of the novel's fascinating, flesh and blood characters. Nobody captures character depth and complexity like he does, and the plot is as rich and unpredictable as any of the bestselling mysteries you read this year but that you'll never remember. It's one of those Big Books that will snatch a month of your life away, but will leave in its wake the recollection of a literary experience only an author like Franzen can deliver.
This is probably one of the hardest books I’ve read to describe. It set in the past around the time of World War II with two different storylines both as intriguing and dark as the other. I loved the way the author intertwines old fairy tales so subtle and cleverly throughout the book and still makes them relevant to the overall plot . You follow the story in one part thought the voice of a young spoiled girl in Nazi Germany trying to make sense of the world around her as her world slowly falls apart , and then you are in the house of a Jewish doctor before the war trying to help a young helpless girl who has lost her identity and believe she is sent to kill someone. The ending will leave you shocked as she brings the stories together.
I loved everything about this book, from the evil cat the Captain to the somewhat murkier morals of the cat Roger. The book's unlikely librarian-hero shows just the right amount of courage and disbelief when faced with talking evil cats with powers, and I giggled uncontrollably all the way through the novel. Cat lovers and haters alike can unite behind this well-written tale. Of course, you may never look at a cat's behavior quite the same way again...— Em
The anxiety and paranoia present in Moya's work grants him many deserved comparisons to Franz Kafka. An El Salvadoran dissenter and eventual ex-patriot, Moya left the country from fear of his critics. They had painted him as unpatriotic for his writing and threatened his life. The character in this novel is much like the author, a journalist with a dream to return home, but perhaps the whole thing is a nightmare afterall. Since going under hypnosis, he's having a hard time trying to figure out things. Debaucherous and mind-bending, this novel is addictive and darkly funny. --Jeremy B.
In this dizzying and obsessive fiction, McCarthy’s narrator is an anthropologist left studying modern society in a world bereft of wild tribes to ingratiate oneself with. What follows is U.’s attempt at his employer’s Great Report, an all encompassing dossier that will sum up our modern era. Unsure of what shape this dossier will take, U. begins new files on just about anything in hopes one will lead him down the correct path. With the absurd spontaneity of such topics as skydiving death cults, Lévi-Strauss--the famous anthropologist, oil spills, and online video buffering, this book addresses how we experience our world and define what it means to be us in what we call modern times. --Jeremy
I loved Van den Berg's debut novel for many of the same reasons I have enjoyed her short stories. She writes about incomplete people searching for stability in their lives and often finding none. This story is ambiguous and haunting--a take on a science fiction trope with literary chops. For fans of The Road and Never Let Me Go--this is a great addition to the canon of literary dystopia. --Jeremy B.
This is the story of someone who is alone in every sense of the word - until she isn't. Cheryl Glickman is a woman who exists almost entirely up in her own head; the context of the outside world disappearing as soon as her attention shifts elsewhere. She is an unreliable narrator even to herself, constantly questioning the truths and the stories of her own life. Cheryl is reminiscent of Ignatius J. Reilly (without the superiority complex), in that I "get" her and understand her mindset, but also oftentimes hate her. I've not felt this connected to a novel in a long while; July has crafted an experience that is mostly hilarious, sometimes grotesque, and always achingly familiar. This debut novel will be on many Best-Of lists this year, and not without merit - it is funny and insightful and fantastical and desperately lonely and overwhelming and sexual and unique and beautiful and absolutely must be read. --Amanda
This novel had me at hello. Orhan a successful young businessman from Istanbul, returns to his family estate in rural Anatolia to hear the reading of his late grandfather’s will. When the house in which his father and aunt live is left to a mysterious 87–year-old woman living in California, the stage is set for a totally engrossing, deeply moving tale of a quest to find the truth. As in the best of such quests, Orhan confronts demons along the path and finds, not only what he was seeking, but so much more. Brilliant writing and an unforgettable cast of characters put this book solidly in the running for the next Booker Prize or National Book Award. --Bob
This novel is the story of a marriage. Almost from the first moment the author captures the fragility of the marital relationship: the quiet juxtaposition of hope and fear, love and duty, the little things that become big things. Her dialogue is stunning in the way she can express the humanity of the relationship, without blame or pity, but so startling in it's accuracy it can almost make you gasp at times. The story, shrouded at times in hurt and anger, shimmers in the end with nature: sun, and cracking leaves, and snow, and the age-old promise of rebirth. --Kathy M.
I get Raymond Gunt. He is armpits-deep in the struggle of trying to make his way through the world and being constantly misunderstood by people who just refuse to recognize all of the sacrifices that he makes in suffering so many fools. He reaches out to help people all the time--or, you know, at least when it's convenient, and then gets nothing but unfairness from the world. Then, when he receives a grand opportunity to film a reality show on some remote Pacific island (with his newly enlisted assistant/personal slave, Neal the Don Juan of transients) and things seem to be looking up, again comes karmic smack-down after smack-down. After an increasingly more dramatic series of event, Raymond finally finds his happy ending. Perhaps not so surprisingly at the expense of countless others. --Chris
John Le Carre begot a son named Nick who also wanted to write books. He started off with The Gone Away World--featuring surrealism and mimes, and then on to Angelmaker--about clockwork and world destruction. Tigerman takes on the vigilante-superhero in a small secluded island scheduled for imminent doom. Why try and save a place where your only mission is to help transition towards its destruction? Because our faithful sergeant just happens to admire one of the locals like a son. Harkaway is the real deal and you should be reading his books! --JEREMY
Every family has its secrets, and the Catalain family is no different. Their secrets are, however, far more interesting, and sinister than your average family. From magic and curses to lies and romance, this has something for everyone. Not only is the story of this family interesting from the first page, the writing is also gorgeous and unique. Lourey's use of language, specifically her unforgettable metaphors, takes this book from simply being a great story to a true work of art. --Jessie
This book masterfully skewers the contemporary art scene...the agents, the galleries, the academics, and the critics that inhabit it. It is the story of two gifted sisters: one a writer, the other a painter. Both women are inspired, flawed, quirky, and struggle throughout their tragicomic lives with their genius. They garner fame, but personal connections and intimacy allude them. Meanwhile, the art world defines and exploits them. Sounds somber, but there is a whole lot of dark humor sprinkled throughout (Think Tim Burton). Although a work of fiction, this book feels like a biography, complete with footnotes and quotes from other sources. Be forewarned...it is so convincing that it will have you wanting to browse the internet for samples of Francesca deSilva's art work. Winner of the Stonewall Literature Prize 2014. --Walt
Do you love to read? Wait, who am I kidding--you're either reading this review while you're standing in Changing Hands, or you're on our website, perusing our staff recommendations for your next book. Make it this one. The casual book lover to the avid reader will appreciate this exploration of the phenomenon of what we picture in our heads while we read, even when we are only given the sparsest of details by the author. Peter Mendelsund is a graphic artist, and the images he uses throughout this book are nothing short of brilliant. If you're not in the market for a book for yourself, give this book as a gift for the person who's read everything else you could think of giving them. Coming from a person who always has a book on her person, I adored Mendelsund's clear appreciation for what can only be described as the art of reading. --HEATHER H.
Whether you are currently the parent of a young adult child, or are a young adult "child" yourself, (Young or old, are we ever not a "child" in our parents' eyes?)....you will find someone to relate to in these stories. Barbash captures both sides of the parent/child dynamic in revelatory fashion. Whether it is the mother who finds her son has gone off to college and returned a piece of eye candy, or it is a son dealing with the attentions being lavished on his recently widowed father, Barbash nails the emotional landscape perfectly. The author covers other territory, as well, but I found the stories dealing with the parent/child dynamic to be my favorites....genuine, sometimes painfully on target, and consistently well written. --WALT
There is a lot of testosterone in this novel. You've got boxing, the Mafia, World War II, vengeance, daggers, beautiful women, fist fights, bombs, blood, sweat, tears,.......and did I mention boxing? But underneath all that bravado, you also have some very fine story telling here. Enia weaves a tale of three generations of boxers on the island of Sicily. Those lives span the time from World War II to the 1970's. If it was just about all that machismo, this book would belong on the pages of one of those old True Men magazines of the 1950's. But there is an undercurrent of love, friendship, empathy, and valor that runs through the narrative of all these tough guys. There is a lot of the Paladin and the Poet in all these characters. (And I am speaking of the women in this tale, as well.) You don't have to be a big boxing fan or even knowledgeable of the sport to enjoy this book.
Bennington Girls Are Easy is Catcher in the Rye by way of Lena Dunham and I enjoyed every catty page! Not only is Silver's newest an engrossing coming-of-age story about the complicated friendships between women, it catalogs the joys and difficulties of trying to make it in New York. It's not a city I've ever wanted to live in, but I can understand the appeal: it's gritty and glamorous and real and if eking out a living is hard, thriving is a true accomplishment. I lived vicariously through Cassandra and Sylvie: their obsession with delicate French lingerie, their fights and breakups, and drama, their eventual schism - I enjoyed it all! Charlotte Silver is an author to watch! --Lauren P.
In order to get his novel published, all Billy Ridgeway has to do is save the world by stealing a magical cat figurine from the most powerful warlock on the Eastern Seaboard and hand it over to Lucifer for safekeeping. With a premise like that, do I really even need to say anything else? The Weirdness pretty much sells itself. Bushnell’s zany tale is quirky, unpredictable, hysterical, ridiculous, and downright fun. I read it with manic glee, delighted by its every twist and turn. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. --JASON
Right off the bat, editor Chuck Palahniuk describes the term burnt tongue as "a way of saying something, but saying it wrong, twisting it to slow the reader. Forcing the reader to read close, maybe read twice..." This anthology is the perfect embodiment of that statement. By the second story, my stomach had knotted up so bad, it almost made me sick, yet there were passages I simply couldn't not read twice just because they had so much power. Throughout the rest of the collection, I constantly found myself both exclaiming some version of "holy sh*t!" and texting a friend (a fellow Palahniuk lover) to ask her why I put up with such misery. The answer is simple. The writing in these stories, however graphic, is still brilliant. The language and style reek with Palahniuk's style of blending the horrific with the humorous in that dark way that leaves you wondering why you're laughing while simultaneously feeling like you're about to be ill, and yet, every piece is distinctly each author's own. This anthology is one where the writing will stick with you, and have you mulling over what you read for days to come. --HEATHER H.
Welcome to your new favorite mystery/adventure/haunted house/all-around weird novel. Told through letters, camera footage, and journal entries, The Supernatural Enhancements has something fantastic to offer in every chapter. The main character, A., though perhaps a bit overly verbose in his opening letters, is a delight to keep up with in his attempts to discover the secrets of Axton House. His sidekick, Niamh, a mute girl who communicates through her journal, is perhaps even more interesting a character than A. Despite being told through so many different mediums, I never found the story-line jarring or difficult to follow. If you're looking for something just a little bit different, pick up The Supernatural Enhancements. You won't be disappointed. --EM
Brockmeier's memoir opens two days before the start of his seventh grade year, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1985. You'll be instantly transported back to the growing pains of junior high through his truly radiant descriptions. Brockmeier captures it all: from magnanimous teachers to friends suddenly turned adversaries, from the heavy sounds of the corridors to slang overheard on the carpool ride home, right down to the taste of Kevin's favorite snack foods after the final bell. Not one thing about his recollections feels artificial--each detail is treated with the care of getting it exactly right. I couldn't help but admire Kevin's unflagging, sometimes cringe-worthy commitment to his own sense of self--although more from recognition than sympathy. We witness first-hand his budding self-awareness; he's always just a tiny step behind in deciphering that line between current socially-acceptable behavior, and what'll invariably lead to savage ridicule. My favorite part of the book comes approximately halfway through, during a particularly dark hour in Kevin's school year. For a single chapter Brockmeier takes a fantastic dip into fantasy, giving both readers and our protagonist a glimpse into his future. Is the author providing his past self reassurance, or us? Either way, it reminds you to take hope. You survived the seventh grade, and Kevin will too. The honest, uplifting ending will leave you reflective, and maybe even a little relieved to be an adult. --EMMY
Get ready for a brash compelling read. This little volume packs a wallop! The author is going to take you along for a gritty ride through the "gayborhoods" of his native Puerto Rico. And, oh, the people that you are going to meet! What really impressed me here was Negron's ability to submerse me in his culture and place. I felt like I was there among the streets and dwellings of Puerto Rico. I cringed, I laughed, and I commiserated with the characters I met. This collection of nine short stories ranges from the violent to tender--from sexually frank to touchingly poignant. Like after any wild and crazy weekend out of town--you are going to return home exhausted--happy once again to be in the comfort of your own sweet bed. But trust me on this, memories of this trip are going to stick with you. It is a journey well worth taking. --Walt C.
Whimsical, magical, and above all else musical, 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas is composed like a love song about life itself, with a blissfully infectious melody and a beat you can’t help but dance to. Debut novelist Marie-Helene Bertino writes with tender warmth, playful wit, and profound wisdom. In a world that is becoming increasingly fixated on cynicism and darkness, she dares to be open, sincere, and optimistic. Her voice is a breath of fresh air, soulful and emotional, singing sparkling notes of hope and passion. Her writing style is colorful and lively. Her characters are charming and lovable. The story is disarmingly beautiful and deeply moving. In every way, this book is a rare and wonderful treasure, an absolute delight to read. It left me feeling renewed, refreshed, and utterly alive. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. --JASON
I managed to snag a Canadian copy of this because I couldn't wait any longer to read it! Schultz has an impeccable sense of timing, drawing out the story of a world consumed by madness in a series of flashbacks. In her version of the very near future, women with blonde hair suddenly fall prey to a strange illness that makes them psychotically violent. As a result, stores are sold out of hair dye, wig shops are raided, and blond women get rounded up to internment camps. Both horrifying and wickedly funny, Schultz's debut is smart and engrossing! Sometimes blondes don't have more fun.. --LAUREN
First of all, a warning: this book is not for everyone. If you have any religious sensibilities (or any sensibilities at all, really,) there’s a good chance this book will rub you the wrong way at some point or another. Filled with sin and debauchery, this is one of the most irreverent and offensive books I have ever read. Sometimes it is extremely crude. Sometimes it is downright disgusting. Almost constantly it is blasphemous. But it is also brilliant, insightful, thought-provoking, and utterly hilarious. In this edgy masterpiece of modern satire, the devil walks the Earth in human form, telling his side of the story and enjoying the carnal pleasures of being human along the way. His antics had me alternately ruminating, cringing, and rolling with laughter. The wit and wisdom of Glen Duncan never fails to amaze me, and in my humble opinion, this novel is his crowning achievement. Fans of Chuck Palahniuk will love it. Approach with caution, but read it if you dare. --JASON