A literature book recommendation: Extraordinary Adventures: A Novel by Daniel Wallace

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2iAqlE7.
Daniel Wallace is one of those rare, wonderful writers who make it look easy. You find yourself chortling and sometimes laughing aloud as you breeze through his novels, which makes it possible to overlook the artistry and expertise that render his characters so vivid and his plots so engaging.
Book description from Google Books:
**One of PopSugar’s Best 2017 Spring Books for Women**A large-hearted and optimistic novel, Extraordinary Adventures is the latest from the New York Times bestselling Daniel Wallace.Edsel Bronfman works as a junior executive shipping clerk for an importer of Korean flatware. He lives in a seedy neighborhood and spends his free time with his spirited mother. Things happen to other people, and Bronfman knows it. Until, that is, he gets a call from operator 61217 telling him that he’s won a free weekend at a beachfront condo in Destin, Florida. But there’s a catch: the offer is intended for a couple, and Bronfman has only seventy-nine days to find someone to take with him.The phone call jolts Bronfman into motion, initiating a series of truly extraordinary adventures as he sets out to find a companion for his weekend getaway. Open at last to the possibilities of life, Bronfman now believes that anything can happen. And it does.
The book is rated 3.59/5 at goodreads.com, from 497 ratings. See 145 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iznQBR.
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A literature book recommendation: Cockfosters: Stories by Helen Simpson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h5j2nt.
What more does one want in a short story besides memorable characters, comic timing, originality, economy and poignancy? And heart. All there. Done. The reader thanks Simpson’s eye and ear for such generosity.
Book description from Google Books:
A wickedly wry, tender new collection from one of our finest internationally acclaimed short story writers. Nine virtuoso stories that take up the preoccupations and fixations of time’s passing and of middle age and that take us from today’s London and Berlin to the wild west of the USA and the wilder shores of Mother Russia; stories finely balanced between devastation and optimism. In the title story, long-ago school pals take the London Underground to the end of the Piccadilly line–Cockfosters Station–to retrieve a lost pair of newly prescribed bifocals (“The worst thing about needing glasses is the bumbling,” says Julie. “I’ve turned into a bumbler overnight. Me! I run marathons!”); each station stop prompting reflections on their shared past, present, and possible futures . . . In “Erewhon,” a gender-role flip: after having sex with his wife, who has turned over and instantly fallen asleep, a man lies awake fretting about his body shape, his dissatisfaction with sex, his children, his role in the marriage . . . In “Kythera,” lemon drizzle cake is a mother’s ritual preparation for her (now grown) daughter’s birthday as she conjures up memories of all the birthday cakes she has made for her, each one more poignant than the last; this new cake becoming a memento mori, an act of love, and a symbol of transformation … And in “Berlin,” a fiftysomething couple on a “Ring package” to Germany spend four evenings watching Wagner’s epic, recalling their life together, reckoning with the husband’s infidelity, the wife noting the similarity between their marriage and the Ring Cycle itself: “I’m glad I stuck it out but I’d never want to sit through it again.”
The book is rated 3.43/5 at goodreads.com, from 178 ratings. See 43 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iwrVGZ.
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A literature book recommendation: The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h9W7aB.
As this book slides forward, it shifts from first person to third. Lacey moves us in and out of the minds of several other characters, some of them vastly different from Mary, without for a moment breaking that spell.
Book description from Google Books:
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a finalist for the Chicago Review of Books Fiction Award”Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, [The Answers] is also a novel about a subjugated woman, in this case not to a totalitarian theocracy but to subtler forces its heroine is only beginning to understand and fears she is complicit with.” –Dwight Garner, New York TimesMary Parsons is broke. Dead broke, really: between an onslaught of medical bills and a mountain of credit card debt, she has been pushed to the brink. Hounded by bill collectors and still plagued by the painful and bizarre symptoms that doctors couldn’t diagnose, Mary seeks relief from a holistic treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia—PAKing, for short. Miraculously, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive. Like so many young adults trying to make ends meet in New York City, Mary scours Craigslist and bulletin boards for a second job, and eventually lands an interview for a high-paying gig that’s even stranger than her symptoms or the New Agey PAKing. Mary’s new job title is Emotional Girlfriend in the “Girlfriend Experiment”—the brainchild of a wealthy and infamous actor, Kurt Sky, who has hired a team of biotech researchers to solve the problem of how to build and maintain the perfect romantic relationship, cast – ing himself as the experiment’s only constant. Around Kurt, several women orbit as his girlfriends with spe – cific functions. There’s a Maternal Girlfriend who folds his laundry, an Anger Girlfriend who fights with him, a Mundanity Girlfriend who just hangs around his loft, and a whole team of girlfriends to take care of Intimacy. With so little to lose, Mary falls headfirst into Kurt’s messy, ego-driven simulacrum of human connection. Told in Catherine Lacey’s signature spiraling, hypnotic prose, The Answers is both a mesmerizing dive into the depths of one woman’s psyche and a critical look at the conventions and institutions that infiltrate our most personal, private moments. As Mary struggles to understand herself—her body, her city, the trials of her past, the uncertainty of her future—the reader must confront the impossible questions that fuel Catherine Lacey’s work: How do you measure love? Can you truly know someone else? Do we even know ourselves? And listen for Lacey’s uncanny answers.
The book is rated 3.35/5 at goodreads.com, from 1437 ratings. See 239 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iAfxWv.
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A literature book recommendation: There’s a Mystery There: The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak by Jonathan Cott

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2iX5vPA.
Cott seamlessly interweaves readings of Sendak’s working process and final products, allowing them to reciprocally illuminate each other: The “companion guides” are used deftly to open possibilities without dogmatism.
Book description from Google Books:
An extraordinary, path-breaking, and penetrating book on the life and work and creative inspirations of the great children’s book genius Maurice Sendak, who since his death in 2012 has only grown in his stature and recognition as a major American artist, period.  Polymath and master interviewer Jonathan Cott first interviewed Maurice Sendak in 1976 for Rolling Stone, just at the time when Outside Over There, the concluding and by far the strangest volume of a trilogy that began with Where The Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, was gestating. Over the course of their wide-ranging and revelatory conversation about his life, work, and the fantasies and obsessions that drove his creative process, they focused on many of the themes and images that would appear in the new book five years later. Drawing on that interview,There’s a Mystery There is a profound examination of the inner workings of a complicated genius’s torments and inspirations that ranges over the entirety of his work and his formative life experiences, and uses Outside Over There, brilliantly and originally, as the key to understanding just what made this extravagantly talented man tick. To gain multiple perspectives on that intricate and multifaceted book, Cott also turns to four “companion guides”: a Freudian analyst, a Jungian analyst, an art historian, and Sendak’s great friend and admirer, the playwright Tony Kushner. The book is richly illustrated with examples from Sendak’s work and other related images.From the Hardcover edition.
The book is rated 3.58/5 at goodreads.com, from 80 ratings. See 27 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iV5Imi.
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A literature book recommendation: The Mayor of Casterbridge (Penguin Classics) by Thomas Hardy

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2ivRvMi.
Hardy’s reworking of Oedipus Rex, set in the author’s native Wessex in the 1840s. Michael Henchard, a drunken journeyman labourer…The novel is Hardy’s most powerful study of will and character and the irresistibility of fate.
Book description from Google Books:
A haunting study of guilt and lost love in Penguin Classics, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge is edited with an introduction and notes by Keith Wilson. In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town. This edition includes an introduction, chronology of Hardy’s life and works, the illustrations for the original serial issue, place names, maps, glossary, full explanatory notes as well as Hardy’s prefaces to the 1895 and 1912 editions. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), born Higher Brockhampton, near Dorchester, originally trained as an architect before earning his living as a writer. Though he saw himself primarily as a poet, Hardy was the author of some of the late eighteenth century’s major novels: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), and Jude the Obscure (1895). Amidst the controversy caused by Jude the Obscure, he turned to the poetry he had been writing all his life. In the next thirty years he published over nine hundred poems and his epic drama in verse, The Dynasts. If you enjoyed The Mayor of Casterbridge, you might like George Eliot’s Silas Marner, also available in Penguin Classics. ‘The greatest tragic writer among the English novelists’ Virginia Woolf ‘Visceral, passionate, anti-hypocrisy, anti-repression … Hardy reaches into our wildest recesses’ Evening Standard
The book is rated 3.80/5 at goodreads.com, from 45160 ratings. See 1702 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7KsZT.
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A literature book recommendation: A Legacy of Spies: A Novel by John le Carré

A critic review (source Blog Critics) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hbb24p.
A Legacy Of Spies is the final proof, if any other was needed, that Le Carre was one of the few writers able to elevate the spy novel, a genre previously considered close to pulp fiction, and turn it into an art form.
Book description from Google Books:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book–his first Smiley novel in more than twenty-five years  Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.   Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carr� has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carr� and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.
The book is rated 4.07/5 at goodreads.com, from 4539 ratings. See 572 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2haO6ST.
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A literature book recommendation: The End of Eddy: A Novel by Édouard Louis

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2ztc4kz.
Just released in a highly readable translation by Michael Lucey, this painfully insightful tale of entrapment and escape could’ve easily been set in Michigan or West Virginia.
Book description from Google Books:
An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy.“Every morning in the bathroom I would repeat the same phrase to myself over and over again . . . Today I’m really gonna be a tough guy.” Growing up in a poor village in northern France, all Eddy Bellegueule wanted was to be a man in the eyes of his family and neighbors. But from childhood, he was different—“girlish,” intellectually precocious, and attracted to other men.Already translated into twenty languages, The End of Eddy captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town. It is also a sensitive, universal portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own. The result—a critical and popular triumph—has made him the most celebrated French writer of his generation.
The book is rated 3.81/5 at goodreads.com, from 3849 ratings. See 492 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iIG6J9.
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A literature book recommendation: Music of the Ghosts: A Novel by Vaddey Ratner

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h6uoHX.
Once again a writer, a female one, finds no other way to end a woman’s story without giving her a prince charming and a child to help her find her way to renewed hope, identify and resilience. Given Ratner’s personal experience of escape from the Cambodian genocide, such a critique may seem unkind.
Book description from Google Books:
An astonishing and powerful new novel from PEN/Hemingway finalist Vaddey Ratner.Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate. Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end. A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 422 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h6uz65.
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A literature book recommendation: On Fire: A Personal Account of Life and Death and Choices by Larry Brown

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2hd4kuF.
Among Southern writers, Brown was one of those who didn’t have too much syrup in him. His prose in “On Fire” is fresh, light on its feet, ready for anything. If this book were a restaurant, I’d eat there all the time.
Book description from amazon.com:
On January 6, 1990, after seventeen years on the job, award-winning novelist Larry Brown quit the Oxford, Mississippi, Fire Department. With three published books to his credit and a fourth nearly finished, he made the risky decision to try life as a full-time writer. On Fire, his first work of nonfiction, looks back on his life as a full-time firefighter. Unflinching accounts of daily trauma–from the blistering heat of burning trailer homes to the crunch of broken glass at crash scenes–catapult readers into the hard reality that has driven Larry Brown.As firefighter and fireman-turned-author, as husband and hunter, and as father and son, Brown offers insights into the choices men face pursuing their life’s work. And, in the forthright style we expect from Larry Brown, his diary builds incrementally and forcefully to the explanation of how one man who regularly confronted death began to burn with the desire to write about life.On Fire is a book in which an extraordinarily gifted writer looks back and reflects on the violence of his life as a fireman. Thoreau said it one way: “However mean your life is, meet it and live it.” Larry Brown says it another:You have to meet the thing, is what it is . . . and for the firefighter it is fire. It has to be faced and defeated so that you prove to yourself that you meet the measure of the job. You cannot turn your back on it, as much as you would like to be in cooler air.“Larry Brown has an ear for the way people talk, an eye for their habits and manners, a heart for the frailties and foibles, and a love for their struggles and triumphs. His fireman’s diary is a wonderful book.” ―John Grisham, author of The Firm and The Client”Larry Brown is never romantic about danger and . . . in this book he goes through his life with the same meticulous attention with which Thoreau circled the woods around Walden Pond.” ―The New York Times Book Review.
The book is rated 4.03/5 at goodreads.com, from 523 ratings. See 41 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iB7GZ0.
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A literature book recommendation: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iyjRpe.
If Mrs. Richardson lacks the humanity and complexity that Ng granted to Marilyn Lee (the demanding, stern mother in Everything I Never Told You), this second novel is nevertheless an equally compelling read, starting with an equally breathtaking first sentence…
Book description from Google Books:
The instant New York Times bestseller!Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Must-Read Book for Fall * Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Selection * #1 Library Reads Pick * September IndieNext Pick   “I am loving Little Fires Everywhere. Maybe my favorite novel I’ve read this year.”—John Green   “I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting.” –Jodi Picoult “Witty, wise, and tender. It’s a marvel.” – Paula HawkinsFrom the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
The book is rated 4.13/5 at goodreads.com, from 23898 ratings. See 2720 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7txXI.
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Google Books preview available in full post.