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'Conjure Women' Brings Forth Racism and Reproductive Rights

It is Afia Atakora's reiteration of the current calls for racial justice that positions Conjure Women as an unadulterated masterpiece.

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Monique Truong's 'The Sweetest Fruits' Puts Lafcadio Hearn in His Place

Lafcadio Hearn is highly regarded as an early writer and researcher on Japan. Monique Truong's The Sweetest Fruits irresistibly reconsiders his legacy from the perspective of the women whose lives were affected by him.

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Alvarez's 'In The Time of the Butterflies' Returns with Undiminished Intensity

The lure of beautiful beaches might make the Dominican Republic among the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, but the ghosts of its troubled history, as captured in Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, stalk the living.

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'Heaven and Hell' Offers a Powerful Child's-eye View of Japanese Colonialism

Japanese poet Toriko Takarabe grew up in Japanese-occupied Manchuria and lived to tell the harrowing tale.

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'She Would Be King', an Afrofuturist Novel of Nation-Making in Liberia

Wayétu Moore's She Would Be King is an important exploration of power, identity, and belonging at a major historical junction in African diasporic and Liberian history.

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'The World to Come' Proves Jim Shepard Is a Literary Magician

Disasters, loss, unrequited love, and survival instincts are all found in this remarkable short story collection spanning many eras and locations.

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Identity, Geography, and an Overload of Nostalgia in My Mother's Son

My Mother's Son could have been an unforgettable and evocative portrait of a lost era.

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'Impossible Saints' Is an Empathetic Portrayal of a Starry-eyed Suffragette

This telling of fictional suffragette Lilia Brooke could use more politics, less romance.

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The Cursed Frontier: Ismail Kadare's Theory of the State

Kadare's The Traitor's Niche suggests that to belong to the state is to either be a part of the machineries of power or in rebellion against them—and occasionally both.

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'The Seventh Cross' Is a Vital Tale for Anyone Concerned About the Resurgence of Totalitarianism

The beautiful storytelling of Anna Seghers' World War II classic belies its important insights into life under fascism.

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'The Storm' Brings Heart, Urgency, and Ambition

Spanning 60-some years, Arif Anwar's debut novel explores aspects of Bangladesh's history and how matters of race, religion, and nationality have shaped personal lives.

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The Paradox We All Must Live with: del Árbol's 'A Million Drops'

Víctor del Árbol's A Million Drops is a mystery-thriller in the best tradition of the genre, one which offers an intricately-researched historical tale while also trying to say something appreciably profound about human nature.

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Amy Bloom Carefully Imagines Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok's Sexual Romps in 'White Houses'

At times mawkish and problematic, White Houses is a romance that presents an interesting queer historical fiction.

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'The Maze at Windermere's Five Interweaving Stories of Love Fighting Social Boundaries

The overarching theme is of a tactical approach to love and romance; the protagonists must all negotiate social restrictions, in varying degrees of good faith, to achieve their goals.

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David Mamet in the Age of Prohibition

With his first novel in nearly 20 years, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright tackles Chicago gangsters in the roaring '20s, with mostly successful results.

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Craig Larsen's 'The Second Winter' Is not an Easy Read

The Second Winter is an engaging but difficult read featuring characters you'll love to hate.

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Simple Gifts: Tracy Chevalier's 'The Last Runaway'

Tracy Chevalier's lastest novel takes us to 19th century Ohio, to the town of her alma mater, Oberlin, where a young Quaker woman experiences a moral awakening during the tumultuous ten years before the Civil War.

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'Mozart's Sister' Explores the Whys and What-ifs

We’ll never know the extent of what Nannerl Mozart had to offer the world of music, but for the 120 minutes of Mozart’s Sister, René Féret dares to wonder.

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Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

Material like this should make for a riveting story, but Sheila Kohler settles for a merely engaging one.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln took an axe and gave some vampires 40 whacks.

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Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution by James Tipton

This debut novel by English professor Tipton is a well-researched view of life in the Loire Valley during the Revolution.

Helen Mitsios
Books

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

There's history, adventure, wit, and suspense. It's no surprise that the book won Britain's Costa Book of the Year in 2006.

Susan Balee
Books

Peony in Love: A Novel by Lisa See

Lisa See's Peony in Love about a lovelorn maiden disappoints as a novel but is a fascinating window on historical China.

Catherine Mallette
Books

Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal

Harsh Charity Girl explores horrific treatment of women during WWI.

Claudia Smith Brinson
Books

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

A perspective on art from the inside out; Susan Vreeland's Luncheon of the Boating Party explores a Renoir work.

Kelly Jane Torrance
Books

Peony in Love: A Novel by Lisa See

Peony brings to life the heartache of women in 17th century China.

Allen Pierleoni
Books

The Gentle Axe by R.N. Morris

Morris' novel is a book not about the metaphysics of murder, but rather the metaphysics of the investigation of murders.

Edward Pettit
Books

The Religion by Tim Willocks

This sweeping epic romance set against the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565 might be a candidate for best novel of the year -- were it not so very badly written.

Chauncey Mabe
Books

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

C.J. Sansom's richly textured historical thriller Sovereign is set in the 1540s and in the darkening twilight of Henry VIII's grip on power.

Desmond Ryan
Books

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

The quest for the true cause of Sir Edward's death takes the reader into some truly dark territory. We have a come a long way since "the butler did it".

David Pullar
Books

Up in Honeys Room by Elmore Leonard

Leonard's novels give you a better feel for America than any of the brooding fictional meditations on the emptiness of suburbia come close to doing.

Frank Wilson
Books

Angelica by Arthur Phillips

Who's haunting whom in Arthur Phillips' Angelica, a tale of psychological terror in a Victorian family?

Connie Ogle
Books

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

William Blake stuffed, mounted, museum-ready.

Chauncey Mabe
Books

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

When the big firefight finally comes, it's delivered with such killer and off-kilter panache that Elmore Leonard would be envious.

Chris Barsanti
Books

The Mosaic Crimes by Giulio Leoni

A medieval poet an is unlikely sleuth in The Mosaic Crimes, as odd a thriller as you are likely to come upon.

Frank Wilson
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