7 Most Favorable Reviews in July 2021

  • August 4, 2021

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

7 Most Favorable Reviews in July 2021

Plunder: Napoleon’s Theft of Veronese’s Feast by Cynthia Saltzman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Margaret Rodenberg. “Like Veronese’s Feast itself, Saltzman’s story is peopled with dozens of colorful characters. Vivant Denon, an art expert who advised Napoleon, stands out because a wing of the present-day Louvre bears his name. Denon was voracious as he scooped up Italian masterpieces on Napoleon’s behalf. In later years, he was equally ferocious as he protected what he’d ‘harvested’ for France’s glory. Hypocrisy, too, is on display, as the British decry Napoleon’s thefts even as they legitimize their possession of Greece’s Elgin Marbles.”

Falling: A Novel by T.J. Newman (Avid Reader Press). Reviewed by Randy Cepuch. “Brief flashbacks illustrate how characters became who they are, making them three-dimensional and sympathetic (and ultimately suggesting the book’s surprising conclusion). We see Bill in flight school, then as a husband and father. We meet the bad guys bonding as children watching an American movie in a faraway country. We learn the reasons for fierce loyalty between a flight attendant and an FBI agent’s nephew (who’s having a remarkably bad day, too). Yet not everyone is who he or she appears to be — and the bad guys’ end game may not be what it seems, either.”

Razorblade Tears: A Novel by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books). Reviewed by José H. Bográn. “This is the first book I’ve read by Cosby, and I enjoyed his knack for including small, seemingly throwaway lines that add flavor to each scene and bring the narrative to life. Although it touches on sensitive topics, Razorblade Tears is primarily crime fiction with a mystery at its core and a big reveal at the end. The action sequences come fast and close together and pulse with a visceral streak that will leave readers holding their breath until the final gunshot rings out. It’s no wonder the novel has already been optioned by Paramount Players.”

Dream Girl: A Novel by Laura Lippman (William Morrow). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Laura Lippman’s new novel is an irresistibly satisfying read, her best yet in an increasingly ambitious oeuvre spanning 24 years. Shot through with sly ironies, Dream Girl returns a double dividend: It’s a precisely paced whodunit dropped with a splat onto today’s hype-driven literary culture. Dream Girl’s protagonist is 60ish writer Gerry Andersen. Once lionized as a hotshot for his debut novel, Andersen today is a rich, thrice-married celebrity litterateur. Sadly, he has never quite lived up to the acclaim heaped upon his first book. You may recognize the type.”

Baby & Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma (Candlewick). Reviewed by Emma Carbone. “As the title suggests, Joel and Baby are the central point of this story, but they are far from the only worthwhile characters. The mostly white cast is fully developed and well-realized. The 1990s pop-culture references, thanks to the video-store setting and an in-theater viewing of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet,’ and the day-to-day retail struggles — including quirky customers and a mandatory Secret Santa exchange — highlight Joel's new reality as he begins to find closure with What Was Wrong. Even readers too young to have experienced the pre-streaming world of video rental will enjoy Lisabeth Posthuma’s Baby & Solo. It’s a universal and timeless story of friendship, growth, retail employment, and the ups and downs of all three.”

Hell of a Book: A Novel by Jason Mott (Dutton). Reviewed by Adam Schwartz. “Just over a third of the way into Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, the narrator describes the wood-burning heater in his childhood home as having ‘more tricks than a carful of monkeys.’ One could say the same about Mott’s wonderful new novel itself. Hell of a Book is many things: part send-up of the publishing industry, part road-trip comedy, part metafictional sleight of hand. But at its core, the novel is a harrowing and powerful meditation on racial injustice and its effects on the human psyche.”

My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black: A Novel by Terry Roberts (Turner). Reviewed by Sarahlyn Bruck. “As much as this novel reads like detective fiction, it’s also a love story. From their first meeting, Stephen and Lucy’s chemistry crackles with playful flirtation and develops into a bond that brings them together as both investigative partners and lovers. The author skillfully captures the passion of a new affair while pacing the narrative like a thriller. The short chapters move quickly, and I predict they’ll tempt many readers to stay up past their bedtimes, just as I did. In My Mistress’ Eyes Are Raven Black, Terry Roberts expertly blends the thriller and romance genres to tell a timely story about the terrifying extent to which some people will go to assuage their fear of ‘the Other.’ I couldn’t put this book down.”

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