California Literary Review

Fiction Reviews

The Sad Passions by Veronica Gonzalez-Peña

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June 28th, 2013

The Sad Passions is Veronica Gonzalez- Peña’s second novel after Twin Time: or, How Death Befell Me (2007) both published by Semiotext(e).  Its episodic narrative spans three generations and is told by five very different women from the same family who are separated and united by emotional convulsions that span half a century.  The narration […]

Oh, Those Crazy Modern Victorians: Or What the Heck Is Steampunk?

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May 29th, 2013

While there is a sense of pride in having created something so wonderful, there is also a fear that it all might be tarnished or even taken away by the corporate entities that run the film industry, television networks, and fashion.

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

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May 1st, 2013

An enterprising Japanese capitalist, presumably in conjunction with the state, recruits women from all over the country to work at an innovative new silk factory, appealing both to their own financial need and to their patriotism. Once they sign the Agent’s contract, the women find themselves mutating into human silkworms.

Book Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

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April 29th, 2013

Like its monsters, Red Moon is an impressive hybrid—a speculative novel about fairy tale horrors, a love story about star-crossed teenagers from different worlds, and a gritty political thriller.

Book Review: See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid

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February 18th, 2013

Through the invocation of epic prose forms and literary allusion, Kincaid elevates the nuclear family drama to a grand level as she draws un-remarked and seemingly sincere parallels between the passions and animosities of familial relationships and the grand scope of literary and mythic history. In doing so, she taps into the reader’s intuitive sense of the way all personal tragedies and triumphs feel epic to those who go through them.

Book Review: Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa

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February 11th, 2013

Ogawa begins by showing her readers the apparently boring, normal face of human society, and then slowly lets this face of normality slide back to reveal decomposition, death, and emptiness.

Book Review: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

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January 22nd, 2013

Like Bolaño, Zambra was born in Santiago, Chile. However, he was born later, in 1975, part of a generation that spent its childhood under Pinochet’s rule. In Ways of Going Home, Zambra depicts childhood experiences of trying to understand the cryptic comments and peculiar actions of adults, in an atmosphere where children’s simple pleasures – such as going to watch a soccer match at a municipal stadium — bring back memories of terror, incarcerations, and disappeared loved ones for their parents and neighbors.

Book Review: Raised from the Ground: A Novel by José Saramago

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January 9th, 2013

While he has an ear for both the humdrum and the eccentric dissembling pronouncements of the landowners, Saramago primarily concerns himself with capturing the diametrically opposite and logical sentiments of the workers. To dub him the John Steinbeck of his people and generation would at once amount to a compliment and faint praise of the singularity of his writing…

Book Review: A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts by Sebastian Faulks

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January 7th, 2013

If we could follow the mortal remains or spiritual resonance of a sport-loving soldier from the Second World War, an impoverished London lad from the time of Charles Dickens, a French servant woman of the Napoleonic era or a scientific researcher from a decade or two in the future, where might these trails lead?

Book Review: Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm

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December 30th, 2012

The value of Pullman’s new translation, I believe, lies in his willingness to encompass the darkness as well as the light in the tales, and his determination to retell them in language that does not belong to any particular historical moment or sensibility.

Book Review: Astray by Emma Donoghue

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December 26th, 2012

Though some stories in Astray are more poignant than others, Donoghue once again shows herself to be a writer who excels at evoking characters with startling precision. The result is an exceptional collection that meditates widely on the way in which even the most stable-seeming lives can quickly unravel, revealing the contingent nature of the idea of stability itself.

Book Review: The Other by Thomas Tryon

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November 15th, 2012

The summer of 1935 is a hot and languorous one in Pequot Landing, Connecticut. Elms yet untouched by the Dutch Blight shade the old houses, The Good Earth and Anthony Adverse are in heavy demand at the public library, and the headlines feature Bruno Hauptmann’s trial for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby.

Book Review: Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt

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November 5th, 2012

A mile wide and an inch deep? Not Christine Schutt’s Prosperous Friends. Quite the opposite. It’s a compact 205-page spare-prose novel with a wickedly deceptive rose-colored antimacassar of a book jacket. With those rudimentary tools, it rips the façade off of marriage, much the way a smiling nurse s l o w l y eases a bandage from your wound, and then when you’re good and trusting, rips off the entrenched last bit.

Book Review: You & Me by Padgett Powell

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October 21st, 2012

You might enjoy your own shot of bourbon to compliment the liquor these two “weirdly agreeable dudes” are drinking while “on a porch…talking a lot.” The book is a page turner, primarily because once you meet the never named southern characters you are hooked on the hilarious observations they share.

Book Review: Office Girl by Jay Meno

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October 9th, 2012

Chicago is the city, 1999 is the year. This book is a love story but one with a different twist on your typical boy-meets-girl, then boy-loses-girl story. Somehow, the book covers that ground but remains refreshingly breezy and simple. Perhaps, because it’s a love story on bicycles.

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