RaveUSA Today[King] actually is as good at the hard-boiled prose – in this case, the tale of an extremely effective assassin trying to get out after one last job – as he is the scary stuff ... King’s known for his literary villains, yet in creating his killer title protagonist, he exquisitely gets into the mind of a hitman and roots around in there to figure out what kind of person would do wetwork, the loneliness involved for those who choose that as a career path and the effect it would have on friends and loved ones ... Those worried he’s gone full Raymond Chandler, never fear: King makes it clear that Billy Summers very much exists in his creepily familiar world. It’s also very much a part of ours as well, with a few Donald Trump references and a foreshadowing of the COVID-19 crisis as Billy hunkers down and has to watch life go by outside, less because of a pandemic and more because of his morally questionable chosen profession ... The biggest crime here, however, would be missing out on Billy Summers and King’s new reign as a pulp genius
RaveUSA Today... the modern sci-fi master sends a lone astronaut on an intergalactic mission with existential stakes and a winning sense of humor ... a complex, science-filled story that’s also about empathy and friendship found in the most unlikely of places ... Weir’s parallel story line structure mostly works ... The beginning backstory and later revelations about the days leading up to launch are essential and clever bits of character development, though in the middle of the book, the past sometimes disrupts the momentum of Ryland and Rocky’s team-building exercises and bonding as ride-or-die science bros ... if you dug Weir’s original self-published hit or the Oscar-nominated Matt Damon film, get ready to enjoy this, too. Weir’s well-crafted book is an epic story of redemption, discovery and cool speculative sci-fi made all the better with a couple of perfect strangers turned BFFs.
RaveUSA Today... showcases King’s gift for crafting personas – in one case, fleshing out someone fans already know well – and exploring themes such as mortality and friendship ... Sure, King still owns the fright business like none other, but the iconic author will keep you up late at night engrossed in four tales about our dreams and our frailties.
PositiveUSA Today... as soon as you start really getting to know him, Tim disappears for a few hundred pages while Luke and his cohorts are introduced, and the results are a bit disjointed. Like two distinct TV shows that end up with a prime-time crossover, you figure Luke and Tim’s paths will streamline together, but it does lead to quite a propulsive and satisfying finale ... King mines his own familiar territory ... even though King’s writing still has the gumption, folksiness and, sure, full-on creepiness his Constant Readers have always loved, The Institute is missing the appealing vim and vigor displayed in the author’s recent foray into detective work with the outstanding Mr. Mercedes trilogy and spinoff-of-sorts The Outsider. Those works – and last year’s surprisingly uplifting Elevation – felt like an icon stretching himself, and you don’t have to be a psychic to figure out there’s a lot of \'been there, read that\' with The Institute ... That said, King does well inserting a certain modern relevancy ... There are certain aspects of Luke’s situation that eerily resemble what’s happening in real life with kids at the Mexican border, though in other instances it’s like the X-Men if Professor X was a sadistic stooge always trying to save his own keister ... a frequent lesson he extols that never gets old.
PositiveUSA Today\"... engaging ... Winters uses a lot of familiar tropes and turns.. that undoes a lot of the interesting world-building and timely themes that dazzle in the book’s first two-thirds. But the real nuance of Golden State lie in the author\'s imaginative details ... Where the book really shines, though, is in tackling the idea of truth, and if there is such a thing as \'absolute\' truth, underneath the overarching mystery ... Golden State is, no lie, a fascinating examination that takes fidelity and correctness down a freaky Orwellian path.\
PositiveUSA Today\"[Elevation is] a quick, satisfying read, as opposed to his more epic (though still satisfying) recent tomes like Sleeping Beauties and The Outsider. And there’s still a weird, unnatural situation (it is Stephen King, after all) but with an undercurrent of humanity and tolerance in the face of modern social strife at the core of resident Scott Carey’s odd tale ... [Elevation is] a feel-good tale with a definite whiff of the bittersweet, so no one should worry he’s turning into Nicholas Sparks or Richard Paul Evans. (Again: Stephen King, remember?) This is just the sign of a master simply elevating his own legendary game yet again.\
PositiveUSA TodayAuerbach keeps the reader on unsettling ground with this nihilistic tale ... three stars out of four ... Auerbach cleverly weaves in the horror trope of creepy kids amid a vibe that’s best described as Stephen King meets Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in a Harris Teeter ... Despite some gallows humor and the occasional male bonding, the novel is wickedly effective in creating a feeling of doom ... Auerbach paints a chilling portrait ... Despite late plot twists that make the story unnecessarily convoluted, Bad Man delivers an unexpected gut punch.
Raymond A. Villareal
PositiveUSA TodayThe subject matter is somewhat familiar, albeit clever in exploring vampiric tendencies, and the story derivative at times. But Villareal smartly fleshes out an intriguing what-if scenario with civilization-altering turns and political gamesmanship ... Vampire Uprising is well worth a bite: The creature-feature crew will discover that recognizable tropes can feel fresh, and readers who aren’t horror fiends will find a beguiling entry into the thoughts of Dracula and his ilk living among us.
PositiveUSA Today\"The climax is solid and intriguing but, in a way, anticlimactic to the gut-wrenching drama of The Outsider’s meatier chapters ... The author plumbs to the gloomy depths with his cast before letting off the gas and giving them — and the reader — some needed hope. There are shades of It in the unspeakable evil that presents itself over the course of The Outsider. As one character says, \'The world is full of strange nooks and crannies.\' In King’s hands, real darkness is just as pervasive as the supernatural.\
PositiveUSA Today\"It\'s enlightening stuff, especially for casual fans of the movie, about how Kubrick got struggling actors to learn their lines and the near-mutiny of the special-effects department when the filmmaker considered having his main characters travel to Saturn instead of Jupiter ... Hardcore 2001 nerds will dig the nuts and bolts of the designs of the \'Dawn of Man\' opening and the memorable \'Star Gate\' sequence. There\'s loads of trivia (the movie\'s costumer plotted the assassination of Nazis!) and Benson weaves in supporting personalities who put readers on ground zero of the filming chaos. But, like a good Beatles tune when those two songwriters are clicking, Space Odyssey is fueled by the dynamic between Kubrick and Clarke.\
MixedUSA TodayPenn adds novelist to his résumé with polarizing results that are entertaining and maddening in equal measure ... There's also a strong satirical streak here, in which Penn is rather unsubtle with his commentary on American politics, culture and society ... Just as Bob's an enigma, so is Penn. His literary debut is a mixed bag of nuts that are hard to crack. But once you dig in, you'll find some good stuff.
RaveUSA TodayMamet had plenty of gangster bona fides following his fantastic screenplay for 1987's The Untouchables. What he does really well in Chicago is root a riveting crime drama in a throwback journalistic world, a time when you could yell for a copy boy to bring you Dixie cups for your illegal liquor. But this novel has a romantic heart, and the emotional stakes complement the whiskey-drenched whodunit.
PositiveUSA Today\"...[a] touching, thought-provoking debut novel ... Part love story and part speculative sci-fi, it’s a meandering, albeit meaningful, look at marriage, technology and ghosts — those of the otherworldly type that may exist but also specters of our past that influence our present ... Fans of The Leftovers, A Ghost Story and others of their metaphysical ilk will find loads of heady stuff in The Afterlives that’ll put them in good spirits.\
PositiveUSA TodayThere’s romance, friendship, melancholy and no shortage of quirky charm in Turtles All the Way Down, so John Green’s latest young-adult effort falls squarely in his ultra-popular wheelhouse. Where the anticipated new novel differentiates itself, though, is as a thoughtful look at mental illness and a debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder that doesn’t ask but makes you feel the constant struggles of its main character ... While Turtles doesn’t have the sharp tonal focus of previous Green books like the outstanding An Abundance of Katherines, it does boast clever one-liners, insightful witty dialogue and well-developed characters that are all hallmarks of the writer's enjoyable teen-dream prose.
MixedUSA TodayHere’s a disappointing revelation: Dan Brown’s latest novel Origin is only a fitfully entertaining religious rehash of his greatest hits. Loyal fans of his globetrotting symbologist Robert Langdon will no doubt be thrilled with the fifth book in the series. But despite exploring some seriously big concepts about creation and destiny in its Spanish-set central mystery, Origin spawns a dizzying parade of scientific jargon, nonstop travelogues and familiar tropes that all lead to a fumbled ending.
PositiveUSA TodayClocking in at just under 300 pages, it seems short for a guy responsible for epics like The Stand and It. Instead, the novel is a tight and engrossing slice of life starring a college kid trying to get over the pain of first love gone wrong ...King doesn't go the milquetoasty Nicholas Sparks route. His relationships are always grounded and, while maybe not meeting readers' romantic expectations, are satisfying in how they play out ... Yet it's the coming-of-age storytelling and a young man's roller-coaster of a summer that make Joyland a prize worth all your tokens and skeeball tickets.
RaveUSA TodayTallent writes about Turtle’s surroundings with lyrical prose, contrasting her unfortunate living conditions with the oceanic beauty just a short walk away. He also pulls no punches in describing in detail the instances of physical, mental and sexual abuse Martin inflicts on his daughter, who remains brave amid them all yet struggles internally. In that way, My Absolute Darling is an affecting read but also an important one.
RaveUSA Today...[a] bewitching masterpiece ... Like a woke Brothers Grimm, his clever new spin on the ages-old changeling myth is a modern fairy tale for the Trump era, taking on fatherhood, parenting, marriage, immigration, race and terrifying loss ... LaValle impressively maintains his storytelling momentum throughout The Changeling as Apollo navigates a wondrous and often disturbing world he never knew existed. He creates a meta level for the reader as well ... As easy as it might be to label things fantastical, LaValle always grounds the most disturbing material in reality, so we feel every moment of Apollo’s rage and sadness. His small victories against the darkness he faces mean more when they come.
PositiveUSA Today...offers shades of George Lucas sprawl and influence, Game of Thrones clan intrigue, and a little Romeo & Juliet-style romance. There is an overwhelming amount of exposition to unpack at first, but Carve excels when settling into the core relationship between its two embattled leads ... Religious and political messages deepen the narrative, which is filled with both stock supporting players (like the umpteenth over-the-top, bullying head henchman) as well as more nuanced personalities ... There are cliffhangers aplenty and dangling plot lines to lure us to the next book. Roth carves her mark as she continues her ascent in a universe of young-adult stars.
Brian Jay Jones
PositiveUSA TodayWhile it may just be a refresher for hardcore Lucas fanboys, for more casual moviegoers the book offers a lot of interesting trivia and insight ... Jones goes deep 'inside baseball' when it comes to filmmaking techniques and industry minutiae — though movie nerds will eat those parts up ... A Life is a solid read about a fiercely independent, unforgettable American filmmaking icon.
PositiveUSA Today...[a] funny and frequently touching memoir ... Those looking for a tell-all won’t find one here — Fisher, now 60, keeps it pretty PG-13 ... Fisher doesn't mention her feelings filming Han and Leia's signature kiss in The Empire Strikes Back or how she felt working with Ford on Jedi, perhaps saving those nuggets for a future tome. The best stuff here, though, is the chapters in which Fisher talks about her and Ford’s friendship now, four decades after their 'very long one-night stand,' as well as their and Hamill’s perspectives on fame, fans and this massive franchise.
MixedUSA TodayDark Matter mines the shadier corners of science and humanity to move its story along, though it’s probably a little technobabbly for anybody who isn’t a hardcore Michael Crichton fan. Some of the science seems a bit too convenient in certain parts, as Jason navigates a corridor of infinite Earths to find his family again, yet the tome does tap into and utilize theories such as Schrödinger's cat to make it a thought-provoking read ... Crouch does his best work in the middle chapters, as Jason and Amanda experiment opening different doors to various worlds.
RaveUSA TodayKing smoothly moves between points of view with his main characters to maintain the book’s gripping page-turning pace, while also revealing the whodunit as well as the how-they-did-it in a gratifying way. A packed tale in itself, End of Watch is treated as a true third act, as readers catch up with characters from previous books and lingering questions are answered ... End of Watch brings finality to their story — and to the trilogy, as strong a King series as The Dark Tower in terms of characterization and pure storytelling. When it comes to the gumshoe genre, fingers crossed King’s not yet closed for business.
PositiveUSA TodayA sprawling and intimate sci-fi/horror tale, it surpasses mere genre mash-up by digging into love and passion while also boiling down the best and worst parts of ourselves when everything becomes literal hell ... At 750-plus pages, The Fireman is massive enough that you feel like you could put out an actual fire with it. Some wandering plot tangents aside, Hill keeps you invested in the characters’ survival up to the very last page and never lets up with the potential for doom at every turn.