'The Meursault Investigation' a provocative recasting of Camus' 'The Stranger'

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"The Meursault Investigation: A Novel" by Kamel Daoud, translated by John Cullen; Other Press (160 pages, $14.95)

Kamel Daoud's "The Meursault Investigation" turns Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger" inside out in a provocative, exciting and occasionally irritating way.

Like the late Nobel laureate Camus, Daoud is an important voice in the ...Read more

Review: Stephen King's 'Finders Keepers'

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"Finders Keepers" by Stephen King; Scribner (448 pages, $30)

Many people start reading Stephen King while still in their teens, then get hooked for life. The experience of your first King novel (especially the old ones, such as "Salem's Lot" or "The Shining" or "The Stand" or his short story collection "Night Shift") turns you into an instant ...Read more

Black or white? Choose both, 'Loving Day' suggests

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"Loving Day: A Novel" by Mat Johnson; Spiegel & Grau (305 pages, $26)

"What I've been taught," reflects Warren Duffy -- first-person narrator of Mat Johnson's "Loving Day" -- is that "if you have any black in you, you're black." Never mind that the light-complexioned Warren -- like Johnson, a Philadelphia native with a black mother and Irish-...Read more

'The Soul of an Octopus': Book charts seasons of a cephalopod

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"The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness" by Sy Montgomery; Simon & Schuster (272 pages, $26)

A few years ago, New Hampshire naturalist Sy Montgomery -- who has written about birds, dolphins and tigers -- sought an encounter with an octopus. "I wanted to touch an alternate reality," she writes in her ...Read more

Camus' 'The Stranger' is inverted by Kamel Daoud in 'The Meursault Investigation'

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"The Meursault Investigation: A Novel" by Kamel Daoud; Other Press (144 pages, $14.95 paper)

Give Kamel Daoud credit for audacity. In his debut novel, "The Meursault Investigation," the Algerian journalist goes head-to-head with a pillar of 20th century literature: Albert Camus' existential masterpiece "The Stranger."

First published in France...Read more

'Ruins of War' is a bold debut centered on postwar Germany

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"Ruins of War" by John A. Connell; Berkley (384 pages, $26.95)

Most crime fiction with WWII as a backdrop concentrates on the war itself. But John A. Connell delivers a bold debut by setting "Ruins of War" in Germany in the months immediately after the Nazi defeat.

Connell's evocative look at Munich seven months after the war's end shows the ...Read more

Review: Kent Haruf's 'Our Souls at Night'

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"Our Souls at Night" by Kent Haruf; Knopf (192 pages, $24)

Even by the standards of his own spare yet moving work, Kent Haruf's latest -- and last -- novel is not much more than a morsel, a pared-down story that reveals quiet, often heartbreaking truths about regret and growing old. It's a poignant taste of what we've come to know and love ...Read more

'Ghettoside' chronicles challenges of solving murders in gang-ridden neighborhoods

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"Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America" by Jill Leovy; Spiegel & Grau (384 pages, $28)

Jill Leovy's "Ghettoside" is about homicide in the inner city of Los Angeles, but it could just as easily be about any number of other American cities.

Leovy, a police reporter at the Los Angeles Times, embedded with homicide detectives in one of the...Read more

Andrew Roe's 'The Miracle Girl' wraps hope, tragedy in an optimistic novel

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"The Miracle Girl" by Andrew Roe; Algonquin Books (336 pages; $24.95)

From weeping statues of the Virgin Mary to apparitions of Jesus' face on burnt toast, hope can have strange origins.

In Andrew Roe's debut novel, "The Miracle Girl," a semicomatose 7-year-old girl named Annabelle becomes one such source of otherworldly comfort when sick ...Read more

Magnus Mills' 'Maintenance of Headway' a satire of bureaucracy

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"The Maintenance of Headway: A Novel" by Magnus Mills; Bloomsbury (152 pages, $15 paper)

Partway through Magnus Mills' "The Maintenance of Headway," the narrator, a bus driver in a city that must be London, is stuck on a crowded road behind a truck with a warning reading, "If you can't see my mirrors I can't see you." Bored and frustrated, the ...Read more

'A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me': David Gates' signature riffs

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"A Hand Reached down to Guide Me: Stories and a Novella" by David Gates; Alfred A. Knopf (314 pages, $25.95)

I'll be honest: I wasn't sure we'd see another book of fiction by David Gates. It's been 16 years since his last, the collection "The Wonders of the Invisible World," and even longer since his two novels, "Jernigan," a Pulitzer Prize ...Read more

'Target Tokyo' brings a well-known WWII story back to life

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"Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor" by James M. Scott; W.W. Norton (648 pages, $35)

After Pearl Harbor and before D-Day and the Bomb, there was the Doolittle raid on Tokyo.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, hoping to rally the American public for what he knew would be a long war, had ordered a swift ...Read more

'Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland': Two women held captive for a decade have the last word

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"Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland" by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan; Viking Penguin/Random House (336 pages, $28.95)

Two teen girls vanished from their Cleveland neighborhood over a period of a year. A decade passed. Hope for their survival waned. Then on May 6, 2013, a woman escaped from a house in ...Read more

Tom Brokaw shares the facts of his cancer in 'Lucky Life'

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"A Lucky Life Interrupted" by Tom Brokaw; Random House (230 pages, $27)

Tom Brokaw is an icon of American television. A pillar of the NBC news division for decades, he is among the last of his kind -- the paterfamilias news anchor whose name, face and voice instantly lends credibility to any circumstance.

It's a role Brokaw earned by decades ...Read more

Review: Christopher Bollen's 'Orient'

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"Orient" by Christopher Bollen; Harper (609 pages, $26.99)

In Orient, real estate can be murder. Or at least that's the way things seem in Christopher Bollen's dark, atmospheric new novel, which pits summer residents against year-rounders, old-timers against anti-development forces, the familiar face against the stranger. Enemies can be ...Read more

Aleksandar Hemon's 'Zombie Wars' springs to humorous life unexpectedly

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"The Making of Zombie Wars: A Novel" by Aleksandar Hemon; Farrar, Straus & Giroux (320 pages, $26)

At first, Joshua Levin may seem familiar: He's twentysomething, working but careerless, not able to commit to his pretty, mature girlfriend. His type -- the aimless, amiable manchild -- can be found throughout American culture, including in the ...Read more

'Re Jane' a delightful exploration of modern concepts through 'Jane Eyre'

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"Re Jane" by Patricia Park; Pamela Dorman/Viking (342 pages, $27.95)

In her delightful debut novel, Patricia Park uses the classic novel "Jane Eyre" as a template to examine very modern concepts: questions of identity and love, culture and conscience, even the hardships of immigration. But you don't really need familiarity with Charlotte Bronte...Read more

'Innocent Blood' delves deeply into a flawed man's psyche

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"Innocent Blood" by Michael Lister; Pulpwood Press (255 pages, $26.99)

Prequels give an author a chance to delve even deeper into a character's psyche, showing how the past affects the future. Michael Lister delivers a compelling history for his character, John Jordan. It shows how a chance encounter as a child influenced him to become a cop ...Read more

'The League of Outsider Baseball' looks at sport's weird history

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"The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's Forgotten Heroes" by Gary Cierdkowski; Touchstone (234 pages, $25)

What I love most about baseball is its weird history, the oddities and misfits who give flavor to the sport. When I was a kid, I used to pore through "The Baseball Encyclopedia" looking for the one-line ...Read more

Ghosts emerge in Vivian Gornick's memoir 'The Odd Woman and the City'

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"The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir" by Vivian Gornick; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (176 pages, $22)

Vivian Gornick's "The Odd Woman and the City" is a book of ghosts. Ghosts of the past; ghosts of New York, which is for her both home and character; ghosts of a lifetime of reading, intentional and covert. These ghosts emerge when Gornick least ...Read more

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