Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a heist tale, a bildungsroman, a love story, and above all, a compelling psychological study of a likeable young woman with strong anti-social tendencies. As the novel progresses, Grace, the protagonist, not only behaves in “unbecoming” ways, but “unbecomes” the promising girl she once was. She grows in independence, strength and daring, but it is impossible to approve of her.
For those who study fiction, form, or genre, Like Family should be required reading. It begins as a tribute but morphs into a eulogy for love itself, a stark realization that passionate and all-consuming love is far beyond the narrator, maybe beyond modernity. The story invites such an epic statement, but it also keeps us in check.
It’s an absorbing novel, and we’re quickly caught up in Henry’s concerns and anxieties. Zeltserman convincingly captures the grumpy, grouchy voice of an adolescent boy – spoilt yet with a core integrity.
I very much enjoyed Toby Ball’s novel, the way his snappy prose propelled the story forward, making everything both more convoluted and clearer at once. He conjured up a vital, bustling sense of place.
Stull creates a character memorable and believable enough to draw the reader in as the complex web surrounding Matterosi’s backstory, narrated as a confessional tape, mingles with the unfolding events through the trial. The plot is super fast paced, with enough cliffhangers, a touch of romance, and plenty of excellent and very well informed science (think Atwood in Oryx and Crake) to keep the pages turning faster than you can say “overpopulation.”
Though a strong plot is what drives the book forward, it is characterisation that makes White Lady an engaging read. Mia is particularly well drawn, and the most pervasive voice through the book – her bravado and insecurity as she tries to deal with her mother’s betrayal providing a psychological anchor to the more chaotic story of drug deals and blood lust.
For all its BDSM and thriller elements, at heart this novel is really just an old fashioned romance (two or three of them, actually) – and that’s no bad thing.
Hidden Impact is a well-crafted narrative chockablock with turns and twists. I enjoyed meeting each of the numerous characters through the eyes of Norberg as he gauges those he had known before along with those who are new to his experience on this expedition. Populated with CIA operatives, dedicated American colleagues, Nicaraguan and activists, devious millionaires, and their insensitive associates; the cast of players is believable, plausible and acceptable.
Sam North also achieves the virtually impossible by treating the subject of auras, ghosts and fortune-telling seriously and intelligently. It could all too easily become a shallow ghost story or cliched horror novel. His colloquial, matter-of-fact style is something to do with the reason it isn’t, but it is more than that.
It is a satisfying thriller with a diverse range of well-drawn characters, not least the Kid, Stafford’s autistic son. There are surprises right up to the end, the prose crisp and effective throughout. You learn something about finance along the way. And altogether it feels fresh and cliche-free.