Some of the recipes included in this debut do sound pretty tasty (especially the Better Than Ben Affleck Dessert), but you’d...



Four girls just out of college share a Manhattan apartment; in their spare time, they hit happy hour, hunt for guys and start a cooking club.

Narrator Charlotte “Charlie” Brown, who just got out of college, has moved into an Upper West Side apartment with three roommates. Their combined adventures are related in breathless, ADD-afflicted, yapping-puppy prose. “I am a single goddess, a working girl, a creature like no other,” gushes Charlie, whose healthy sense of self-esteem quickly becomes cloying. In short order, she has become a bona-fide city girl: hanging at the neighborhood bar nightly, cruising for her hot and wealthy Mr. Right and using family connections to finagle a job at a daytime syndicated TV show whose domineering host has many unsubtle similarities to Martha Stewart. (Stephens was a producer at Stewart’s company.) To provide this shambling collection of brain-dead aphorisms and muffled relationship comedy with some semblance of shape, the authors have Charlie and her friends form a supportive cooking club; recipes pop up every now and then to relieve the tedium of the story. Stephens and DeSales prove so inept at making even the narrator of this worshipful ode to pre-yuppie airheads into a coherent character that her friends and the occasional romantic prospect stand little chance of proving interesting.

Some of the recipes included in this debut do sound pretty tasty (especially the Better Than Ben Affleck Dessert), but you’d have to stretch to find anything else nice to say about it.

Pub Date: May 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-7679-2139-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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