October 17, 2011 12:00 PM

The Dovekeepers

by Alice Hoffman |

REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

Alice Hoffman fans will find much that’s familiar in this new novel, including strong female protagonists and the practice of magic. But they may also be surprised. With her 29th and most ambitious book, Hoffman has ventured beyond magical realism to create first-rate historical fiction, an epic saga of war, passion and the ferocious instinct for survival. Set in Israel at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, the narrative takes its inspiration from events at Masada, a hilltop fortress where some 900 Jews held out against the Roman army. Unfolding in first-person accounts by four women who bring their first-century world remarkably alive, the plot builds with quiet power as it explores desire, betrayal and forgiveness. Hoffman uses formal language that’s fitting for the era, and her impassioned but unsentimental style beautifully echoes the austere sensuality of the Judaean Desert setting. While torrents of blood are shed in these pages, mostly at the hands of men, the beating heart of the story is one that pulses through the author’s body of work: a celebration of women and their wondrous ways.

It’s Hard Not to Hate You

by Valerie Frankel |

REVIEWED BY RENNIE DYBALL

MEMOIR

When a doctor orders her to reduce her stress, Frankel (author of the empowering Thin Is the New Happy) decides to exorcise the spiteful feelings she keeps buried deep inside. On a touching, hilarious journey, Frankel learns that overt positivity isn’t the answer. Instead, owning her “toxic” emotions-her jealousy toward more successful writers, anger at old boyfriends and rude neighbors, and all-consuming irritability-actually makes life better. In a breezy 242 pages, she turns The Secret on its head.

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