A romance 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 3.36/5 at goodreads.com, from 1418 ratings. See 239 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iAfxWv.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iA7zN9.

A romance book recommendation: The Golden Legend: A novel by Nadeem Aslam

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iHchJ1.
At the end of it all, The Golden Legend is not a despairing book, despite the dark subject matter. The characters themselves have dredges of hope and they look forward despite their trials to the promise of a better future.
Book description from Google Books:
A brave, timely, searingly beautiful novel from the acclaimed author of The Blind Man’s Garden: set in contemporary Pakistan, the story of a Muslim widow and her Christian neighbors whose community is consumed by violent religious intolerance When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis’s life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud–a fellow architect–is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband’s American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people’s secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric’s daughter and Nargis’s Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart. In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam has given us a lionhearted novel that reflects Pakistan’s past and present in a single mirror, a story of corruption, resilience, and the disguises that are sometimes necessary for survival–a revelatory portrait of the human spirit.From the Hardcover edition.
The book is rated 4.04/5 at goodreads.com, from 428 ratings. See 89 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ztAmv5.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ztQNHA.

A romance 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 23846 ratings. See 2716 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7txXI.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iyk7EI.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A romance book recommendation: My Italian Bulldozer: A Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h7aOLW.
And this is one important reason his readers love McCall Smith: He presents us with gentle stories that ask profound questions and leave us not with all the answers, but with a smile on our face and a lot more to think about than when we began.
Book description from Google Books:
The best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series returns with an irresistible new novel about one man’s adventures in the Italian countryside. Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer. With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected. A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start.
The book is rated 3.59/5 at goodreads.com, from 2782 ratings. See 615 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ixG1bh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2izd7HF.

A romance book recommendation: The Golden Legend: A novel by Nadeem Aslam

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iHchJ1.
At the end of it all, The Golden Legend is not a despairing book, despite the dark subject matter. The characters themselves have dredges of hope and they look forward despite their trials to the promise of a better future.
Book description from Google Books:
A brave, timely, searingly beautiful novel from the acclaimed author of The Blind Man’s Garden: set in contemporary Pakistan, the story of a Muslim widow and her Christian neighbors whose community is consumed by violent religious intolerance When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis’s life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud–a fellow architect–is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband’s American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people’s secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric’s daughter and Nargis’s Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart. In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam has given us a lionhearted novel that reflects Pakistan’s past and present in a single mirror, a story of corruption, resilience, and the disguises that are sometimes necessary for survival–a revelatory portrait of the human spirit.From the Hardcover edition.
The book is rated 4.04/5 at goodreads.com, from 425 ratings. See 89 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ztAmv5.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ztQNHA.

A romance book recommendation: Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2hbZJsG.
The result is a sharp critique of medieval social strictures, with stunning battle scenes, monsters and blood. My nephew devoured all 134 pages of it.
Book description from Google Books:
In his first graphic novel, National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson turns to Arthurian lore, with captivating art by Andrea Offermann bringing the classic legend to life. Eager for glory and heedless of others, Sir Yvain sets out from King Arthur’s court and defeats a local lord in battle, unknowingly intertwining his future with the lives of two compelling women: Lady Laudine, the beautiful widow of the fallen lord, and her sly maid Lunette. In a stunning visual interpretation of a 12th century epic poem by Chr�tien de Troyes, readers are — at first glance — transported into a classic Arthurian romance complete with errant knights, plundering giants, and fire-breathing dragons. A closer look, however, reveals a world rich with unspoken emotion. Striking, evocative art by Andrea Offermann sheds light upon the inner lives of medieval women and the consequences Yvain’s oblivious actions have upon Laudine and Lunette. Renowned author M. T. Anderson embraces a new form with a sophisticated graphic novel that challenges Yvain’s role as hero, delves into the honesty and anguish of love, and asks just how fundamentally the true self can really change.
The book is rated 3.36/5 at goodreads.com, from 500 ratings. See 148 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2harj9Z.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2hc052u.

A romance book recommendation: Thick as Thieves (Queen’s Thief) by Megan Whalen Turner

A critic review (source Dear Author) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2had30O.
I think the only downside (if it is a downside) to Turner’s style is that I’ve come to expect that things aren’t as they seem in the course of the story, so the surprises have become less surprising. Still, Thick as Thieves was entertaining and enjoyable, and even surprisingly poignant in its depiction of an enslaved man’s mindset.
Book description from Google Books:
Discover the world of the Queen’s ThiefThick as Thieves is the eagerly anticipated new stand-alone novel set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. New York Times-bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner’s entrancing and award-winning Queen’s Thief novels bring to life the world of the epics and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin.Kamet, a secretary and slave to his Mede master, has the ambition and the means to become one of the most powerful people in the Empire. But with a whispered warning the future he envisioned is wrenched away, and he is forced onto a very different path. Set in the world of the Queen’s Thief, this epic adventure sees an ordinary hero take on an extraordinary mission. The Queen’s Thief novels have been praised by writers, critics, reviewers, and fans, and have been honored with glowing reviews, “best of” citations, and numerous awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Newbery Honor, the Andre Norton Award shortlist, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Discover and rediscover the stand-alone companion stories The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings, all epic novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. Thick as Thieves includes two maps, a map of the world of the Queen’s Thief, and a map of Kamet’s journey. “The Queen’s Thief books awe and inspire me. They have the feel of a secret, discovered history of real but forgotten lands. The plot-craft is peerless, the revelations stunning, and the characters flawed, cunning, heartbreaking, exceptional. Megan Whalen Turner’s books have a permanent spot on my favorites shelf, with space waiting for more books to come.”—Laini Taylor, New York Times-bestselling author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone novels and Strange the Dreamer “Unforgettable characters, plot twists that will make your head spin, a world rendered in elegant detail—you will fall in love with every page of these stories. Megan Whalen Turner writes vivid, immersive, heartbreaking fantasy that will leave you desperate to return to Attolia again and again.”—Leigh Bardugo, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom”Megan Whalen Turner has constructed a clever world filled with suspense and intrigue and characters that will never be forgotten. Once you dive into the world of the Queen’s Thief, prepare to have your life stolen from you until you finish them all.” —Joelle Charbonneau, New York Times-bestselling author of the Testing trilogy
The book is rated 4.20/5 at goodreads.com, from 3323 ratings. See 802 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iBSeMi.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iBSpqW.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A romance book recommendation: My Absolute Darling: A Novel by Gabriel Tallent

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2h7WAKw.
My Absolute Darling is, very obviously, difficult to read, particularly the scenes that detail Martin’s abuse. But it’s also nearly impossible to put down.
Book description from Google Books:
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER  “Impossible to put down.” –NPR “A novel that readers will gulp down, gasping.” –The Washington Post   “The word ‘masterpiece’ has been cheapened by too many blurbs, but My Absolute Darling absolutely is one.” –Stephen King A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul. Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father. Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero–and in the process, becomes ours as well. Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
The book is rated 3.85/5 at goodreads.com, from 6271 ratings. See 1451 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iy5d1i.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h8z1S5.

A romance 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 45051 ratings. See 1699 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7KsZT.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h5h9r1.

A romance 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 3.36/5 at goodreads.com, from 1389 ratings. See 233 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iAfxWv.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iA7zN9.