Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged novel

This Is Where We Live

This Is Where We Live is the second novel of Janelle Brown. It is the tale of a struggling filmmaker, Claudia, and her marriage to Jeremy Munger, a struggling musician. A couple in their thirties who are also new homeowners, the Mungers deal with the financial burden of their home and the shortcomings of their luck in the ways of talent in different ways. While Brown has a funny and insightful writing style, the novel ultimately falls flat.

Cuba On My Mind

Cuba, in my mind: cigars, Fidel Castro’s beard, Elian Gonzalez, and a very murky high school level comprehension of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Let’s get more specific and, arguably, more self-incriminating. What comes to mind when I think of pre-Castro Cuba? The Godfather: Part II. That lavish New Year’s Eve party where Michael discovers Fredo’s betrayal. Oh yes, and the actual history: Fulgencio Batista stepping down (read: fleeing), leaving Cuba to Castro.

A Season of Seduction

When critiquing a work, being meh is the worst feeling. If a book or a movie is bad, there is plenty to say. The same thing applies when it is wonderful. But when it is neither, it gets hard. What do you say? It was adequately plotted? The characters were pleasant? A Season of Seduction by Jennifer Haymore falls into this category. Some parts of the novel were good, others bad, but overall, it just was. A romance novel set in 1827, the story follows Lady Rebecca Fisk, a young widow with a dark history, as she falls in and out of love with Jack Fulton, sailor rogue extraordinaire who also has a dark history. The novel opens with the two of them getting caught in bed together by her family, which is used to set up an entirely plausible plot. Events happen around Christmas, thus the name.


Touch is a slim volume wherein each carefully-chosen word comes together to create cinematic imagery. Written by Palestinian author Adania Shibli, Touch centers on the youngest of nine sisters, and it is divided into five sections: colors, silence, movement, language, and finally, only a page long, the wall.


Revenge sketches the transformation of Jhumur, an educated, ambitious Bengali lady who after marriage transforms into a meek, obedient wife. Taslima Nasrin has portrayes Jhumur as a strong yet submissive woman who married Haroon for love and is bewildered to see the change in her husband’s attitude after the wedding. The book keeps us pondering on the ideas of right and righteous acts.


“When you [lack] words to make others understand your truths, you [stand] apart from the jabbering masses. You alone [possess] proof of your unique and involuted humanness, and through that, contact with something divine.” Our ability to experience pain is what makes us human, but it is our inability to describe pain that brings us close to god. In moments of great crisis, religious rituals provide us with the right words to say.

With Friends Like These

Sally Koslow’s With Friends Like These is mostly predictable. The main characters—a group of four women who are each others’ best friends—are often caricatures, and there is nothing terribly new or innovative about the story. Still, I didn’t dislike the book (except for the ending, which was terribly trite) and may even read it again.

An Evening of Madame Bovary with Lydia Davis (10/4/2010)

Following a glowing introduction by translator and essayist Richard Sieburth, the acclaimed author Lydia Davis read several passages from her recent translation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel, as well as selections of her own work, at the 92nd Street Y’s An Evening of Madame Bovary. The poetic flow of the writing lends incredibly well to a live reading and the audience was spellbound. As a fan of the novel, I could have listened to Davis read from Madame Bovary for hours, and the event left me eager to purchase her translation so I could compare it to the one I had at home.

Law of Attraction

As far as my taste in reading material goes, I tend to avoid genre books, particularly cookie cutter thrillers and mysteries as many most often lack originality, societal observation, and genuine writing skill. Alison Leotta’s novel Law of Attraction, however, manages to be the exception to the rule, creating a mystery that adheres to the genre standards but also manages to transcend them through tackling the heavy hitting topics of domestic abuse and power struggles within heterosexual relationships.


Set in 1930s and ‘40s in France and Poland, Amandine is Marlena de Blasi’s first work of fiction. The title character is a girl without a history. Or, at least, a history she knows. When she was just five months old, a mysterious woman deposited her in a French convent with Solange, a lay sister. Mater Paul, the head nun there, was given directions never to tell anyone claiming to be from the child’s past anything about the child, or to tell the child anything about her past or heritage, even what little that she knew. When the mysterious woman left her at the convent, the child didn’t even have a name.

Love Like Hate

Having left the history of the Vietnam War in the classrooms of my London secondary school six years ago, I delighted in reading the new novel by Vietnamese American author Linh Dinh. Predominantly set in post-war Vietnam, Love Like Hate weaves fact with fiction, giving an historical background to character development.


“This night I was trying to describe what my orgasms were like, but I doubted if what I wanted to say would sound compelling to anyone but me...” explains Suzanne, before writing a letter to a convicted rapist who is serving his sentence in prison and whom she has established a relationship with. Maureen Gibbon’s Thief is the story of Suzanne, a complex woman trying to make sense of her own rape, while exploring her own sexuality.

Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship

My daughter has a t-shirt that reads “Friends are Forever, Boys are…Whatever”. It always gets a laugh, especially from her female teachers. And while most of us know that friends are not always forever, we do realize the importance of girlfriends. Every girl needs a girlfriend.

Tiger Hills

We used to argue as young literary critics that it wasn’t possible to have feminist romantic writing: the terms were contradictory by their very definition. Love stories were necessarily fissured by unequal relations of power, vulnerability, and injustice. This has always been troubling to me, as a diehard romantic, a firm believer in love stories, and a feminist. It was a niggling worry, too, as I read, and was instantly absorbed in, Tiger Hills.

The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica

Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s The Big Bang Symphony begins with one big bang and ends with another. A plane crashes on its way to McMurdo Station on Antarctica while carrying several of the continent’s summer residents, including Rosie Moore and Mikala Wilbo, two of the three female protagonists of the story. Everyone survives except for one unnamed woman; we find that her death and the crash subsequently inform the lives of the main characters, as we follow Rosie, Mikala, and Alice Neilson as they attempt to carry out their respective work on “the Ice.”

Tales of Tokyo

Full disclosure: Alan Rose and I are friends, and over the years I have enjoyed every bit of his writing. His first novel, the plot-driven ghost story The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, may differ in tone and content from Tales of Tokyo, but the underlying themes aren’t so different.

Band of Angels

It might be said that at heart, Band of Angels is a love story. But the course of love between Catherine Carreg and her childhood friend Deio is a convoluted, meandering one. Catherine and Deio grew up riding horses together in Wales in the 1850s. But when Catherine matures, her family puts a stop to her adventures with Deio, seeing it as improper for a young lady. After her mother dies in childbirth, Catherine feels lost and isolated.


Nuala Ní Chonchúir's début novel tells the tale of a young girl who interprets the life she and her siblings inhabit in their urban Gothic surroundings with simple yet insightful prose.

This One Is Mine

It took me a few days and about 100 pages to feel compelled to read This One Is Mine. Finally, I reached the point when the story could have gone in several directions and I was persuaded to turn each page with anticipation and wondering what would happen next. The story follows the lives of a handful of characters living in Los Angeles and enmeshed in its wealth and superficial façade.

Starting from Scratch: A Novel with Recipes

In Starting from Scratch, Olivia Tschetter successfully defended her doctoral dissertation and lost her mother all in one day. The youngest of four siblings, Olivia moves back home to be with her father, to run away from her responsibilities at school, and to grieve. Her connection to her mother, who was an incredible cook, is food.

Bijou Roy

Bijou Roy reminded me a bit of Sameer Parekh's Stealing the Ambassador. Both novels feature a young Indian American who visits India after his or her father's death in an attempt to understand the father better, especially his motivation for leaving his home country.

A Kind of Intimacy

In Jenn Ashworth’s debut novel, A Kind of Intimacy, the reader follows a few weeks of Annie's life. Annie is not exactly a well person. She doesn’t have much going for her either. Her father was abusive and she married early partly to leave home and partly because she doesn’t have anything better to do.

The Bradshaw Variations

In earlier times, a set of variations on a theme in classic art music was a chance for a composer to play around with a melody, try it on in various guises, and allow the audience to hear possibilities. Each variation was minute, an aural petit four to be savored briefly while one contemplated on the sweet yet temporal nature of life.

Bone Worship

After finishing Bone Worship, I wanted to let it sit for a while before I reacted. Full disclosure: Elizabeth Eslami is a friend, and has blessed a book of mine with a glowing review. Situations like this can be awkward, so over the years I’ve developed a de facto policy when I find myself faced with reviewing a work by a friend. Generally speaking, if I find a friend’s book lacking in more respects than is acceptable, I tend not to review it.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

My best friend often teasingly tells me that the books I recommend to her are all too depressing and sad. I always counter that I recommend books that make me laugh. Now, that either means that I have a sick sense of humor, or it simply illustrates that the stories I most enjoy reading combine painful topics and awkward characters with humor, sarcasm, and witty writing. Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers is exactly such a book.

The Love Ceiling

As I started to write the review for this book, I realized that this is one of two books I have recently read about artists, more specifically painters—The Danish Girl being the other book that centered on artists/painters.

Dreams in Prussian Blue

For a long time, it seemed to me as if all Indian writers in English wrote “serious” things—complicated stories, language that needed some getting through, “big” themes, weighty tomes. And then came Chetan Bhagat and the many followers in his footsteps, who unleashed upon us a spate of poorly-written novels, mostly to do with engineering institutes and adolescent angst.

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

This fascinating novel, which won France's Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme, offers readers a vivid re-imagining of the life of a historical figure mentioned only briefly in the transcripts of the seventeenth-century Salem witch trials: a slave woman of Caribbean origins, accused of practicing voodoo.

Elegies for the Brokenhearted

Elegies for the Brokenhearted is a book about nobodies. The narrator, Mary Murphy, is a silent observer to the destructive forces around her that ultimately shape the outcome of her life. As invisible as her ubiquitous name, Mary is a shy—and at times optionally mute—child and young adult who finds very little to care for. We first meet Mary as a young girl trying desperately to gain the (positive) attention of her mother and uncle.

Everything Matters!

Someone should count how many coming-of-age novels have ever been written that focus on white, male characters. To me, it seems like every time I browse around in a bookstore and skim through the back covers of books in the “New & Hot Fiction” section, the onslaught of these story set-ups just doesn’t end. I realize that some topics never get boring, like love, betrayal, or war.