"The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady" by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
"The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady" is populated exclusively by what used to be called oddballs, and therein lies its strength. The narrative is predictable enough -- the novel's end will not surprise -- but what happens along the way isn't predictable at all. Marylou has separate plans for each family member, all clever, many quite cruel. But for all her ingenuity, she's like a cue ball smashed into a rack, setting off a complex, unpredictable series of rolls and caroms.
"The Gospel of Anarchy" by Justin Taylor
Taylor's noble goal in "The Gospel of Anarchy" is to remind those of us long past our own difficult youths of the grace and beauty to be found even in a "bunch of drunkpunks in the armpit of Florida." That this deeply felt but undercooked novel doesn't entirely succeed will be a disappointment to anyone who's ever been a drunkpunk in the armpit of anywhere.
"Mr. Chartwell" by Rebecca Hunt
Hunt creates an imaginary world so compelling that the reader can be forgiven for peering out her own window to search for the "lax salute" of a black dog's perked ears on the horizon.
"Love Is...All Around" by Kim Casali
The cartoons, of two usually naked figures (sometimes they wear overalls) were omnipresent in the '70s. "Love is... when he only wants to dance with you," "Love is... wearing something that turns his head," and "Love is... when you call a truce" are some of those that have made it into the new anthology "Love is... all around" from Abrams, all of which feature the cute cartoon couple. Depending on your point of view, they're adorable or sickly sweet, too much or entirely true.
"I Think I Love You" by Allison Pearson
"I Think I Love You" is meant to be a Cinderella story, right down to the shoe Bill found all those years ago. But it's so weakly organized and paced, I lost interest in the romantic payoff. Not only that, but on the most rudimentary terms of juicy women's fiction, the book doesn't deliver.
"The Science of Kissing" by Sheril Kirshenbaum
When Kirshenbaum embraces the titillating subject matter with an earthy Henry Miller sense of sexual joie de vivre, "The Science of Kissing" shows flashes of greatness, but all too often she veers back into family friendly territory. And sadly, for such wet subject matter, the book reads a bit dry.
"A Widow's Story" by Joyce Carol Oates
Is it perverse to suggest that Joyce Carol Oates's memoir of widowhood is as enthralling as it is painful? Oates has always focused her writing so intensely that virtually all her prose is compelling, but this brave account of her recent grief seems composed with something close to abandon.
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