BY SEAN CLARK

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]

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The Twenty-Year Death, by Ariel S. WinterReviewed by David Ulin (Los Angeles Times).

I’ve had a review copy of this book sitting on my desk and staring at me for a week. At nearly 700 pages, this book–“both pastiche and homage and very much a testament to [the] style” of noir authors Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson–is ambitious in a number of ways. Ulin, a reviewer almost always worth reading, is positively impressed, so now I have no more reason to put it off any longer. Look for my own review in the next few weeks.

Find it on Goodreads

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How to Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees. Reviewed by Bruce McCall (New York Times).

The premise here is weird. It’s a tech manual about pencils. Satire like this can often run stale after the initial punch line, but I tend to enjoy most things McCall writes, and this book seems to have tickled his fancy, so I’m inclined to think it’s worth a shot. McCall’s is a short, astute review; see what you think.

Find it on Goodreads.

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Between the Lines, by Jodi Picoult. Reviewed by Susan Carpenter (Chicago Tribune).

I’ve never read Picoult, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like her books. This does, however, sound like an interesting enough book. It’s about the lives of fairly tale characters off-page and their attempts to escape to the real world. I think Carpenter, who I’ve noticed in the past gets a little too gushy to feel objective, overdoes it a bit by calling it an “exceedingly clever concept”–sounds a lot like Last Action Hero, or the comic book Fables, or the new movie Wreck-It Ralph. It’s not an original concept, in any case. Still, if executed right it could make for a decent YA book, so give it a peek if YA romance is your thing.

Find it on Goodreads.

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Quickly: I think it’s funny that right after Colson Whitehead’s essay “How to Write” in this week’s Sunday NYT, they ran the essay “How to Write Great” by Roger Rosenblatt. So I guess they expect most of us to go ahead and skip Whitehead’s mediocre advice (“Rule No. 5: Keep a dream diary.” Really?).

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Bonus Book Trailer: C4 Lit Mag author Margaret Finnegan has a novel out, check out the trailer below.

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