PositiveBookPageIn powerfully immersive first-person, stream-of-consciousness prose, Gus Moreno’s debut novel provides an inside view of a grief-stricken husband’s worst nightmare that may or may not be his own fault ... This Thing Between Us feels like a fever dream ... The most surprising and challenging aspect of This Thing Between Us is that it’s as emotionally taxing as it is terrifying—a novel of domestic conflict and suspense as well as horror. The first-person conversational style forces the reader to adopt Thiago’s perspective, as hallucinatory as it may be, and it’s easy to feel as overwhelmed in grief and confusion as he does.
Rachel Howzell Hall
RaveNPRLoved, nurtured and protected — as well as intelligent, impetuous, and nosy as hell, Mickie Lambert is the kind of brave and carefree Black girl we don\'t often see on the page or screen. She\'s the Black girl we want to see living her best life in a romcom by Issa Rae ... There\'s a cognitive dissonance to the experience of reading These Toxic Things. I know it\'s a thriller, so bad things will happen, but I also wanted/felt that I needed Mickie to stay that boldly carefree girl. She doesn\'t. And I wanted her many gifts to shield her from harm. They can\'t. But she does get to be the cool girl, and the \'final girl\' and her own unique creation. It\'s an intriguing, riveting pleasure to watch the action unfold and see how the pieces fit together.
RaveNPRAt a certain point, dark social satire bleeds into horror. That can be powerful, but it can also very easily miss its target. Percival Everett\'s new novel The Trees hits just the right mark. It\'s a racial allegory grounded in history, shrouded in mystery, and dripping with blood. An incendiary device you don\'t want to put down ... No work of art will ever right justice denied, but The Trees does a spectacular job of resurrection ... It\'s a novel of compelling contrasts: frank, pitiless prose leavened by dark humor; a setting that is simultaneously familiar and strange; a genre-defying, masterful blend of the sacred and the profane. The language is self-consciously old-fashioned in a modern, stylized way ... But dark wordplay and local color are ultimately a sideshow to the bigger project. Despite the absurdist touches, the novel is deadly serious and reverential in its explication of the legacy of lynching in all forms and places and devotes time and space to honoring the dead. Whether by coincidence or intent, The Trees is set in 2018, the same year that The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama opened its doors. With a highwire combination of whodunnit, horror, humor and razor blade sharp insight The Trees is a fitting tribute of a novel: Hard to put down and impossible to forget.
PositiveBookPageChakrabarti’s novel is realistic and tentative and breathtakingly poignant, with a payoff that’s more than worth the trip if you have the heart to withstand it.
RaveBookPageO’Leary is a brilliant social observer and a fearless, diabolical plotter. She arranges nuances of character, class, personality and situation for maximum chaos ... It’s an intense romance with a wildly wicked sense of humor ... Providing an intimate view of all the emotional turmoil that entails, this brutal but addictive second-chance romance is the relational equivalent of a 365-degree tour of a five-car pileup ... O’Leary’s humor, insight and occasionally bonkers plot twists command attention all the way through, and the ending is miraculously, gloriously redeeming. The Road Trip is a romantic rollercoaster that you won’t be able to turn away from till it’s done.
RaveBookPageRémy Ngamije’s sharp-witted and incisive debut, The Eternal Audience of One, paints a revealing portrait of its peripatetic protagonist and the many places he’s called home ... Ngamije vividly captures the life of a man ... Despite the cultural specificity, many readers will recognize the intergenerational conflicts and warring emotions at the center of this bildungsroman ... Ngamije brilliantly explores the irony in Séraphin’s identities ... Séraphin is an incisive, funny and keen social observer, so inside his head is a fine place to be ... Ngamije’s writing is beautiful, his observations original and precise, his sense of place unsurpassed. The plot is less developed, but flaws don’t detract from this gorgeously imperfect first novel ... striking.
PositiveBookPageIn a society obsessed with genetic perfection, any difference is a cause for concern. In the midst of a gorgeous love story about childhood friends reunited, Nalini Singh’s \'Last Guard beautifully depicts both the perils of that obsession and its alternative: a world in which difference can be strength ... The eventual reunion of these two souls would be more than enough to sustain any novel. But Singh also seamlessly intertwines wonderfully precise discussions of disability into Canto and Payal’s evolution from childhood friend to adult lovers. Ableism is not just challenged; it’s trounced as Canto and Payal talk candidly about the tools and adaptations they use to survive and thrive. Last Guard also goes deep on efforts to save the crumbling PsyNet, the psychic network in which Canto and Payal play an essential role, so while strongly recommended for its life-affirming love story, Last Guard is best enjoyed if readers are already fully immersed in Singh’s Psy-Changeling lore. For readers with a firm grounding in the previous books, however, slipping back into the Psy-Changeling world in Last Guard will feel like coming home.
RaveBookPage... funny and sharp ... brilliantly incisive ... is framed as a satirical novel about startup culture, but because Americans revere that culture, its foibles and failings are our failures, too ... While The Startup Wife is full of beautifully messy and enviable characters, Asha’s fierce feminism and candor stand out. Of course, she’s far from innocent. She’s a creative genius who wants her due, just as any man would. But it’s a delight to experience Asha’s first-person perspective of the world and her metamorphosis into a powerful, flawed woman ... Because The Startup Wife is sexy and funny and puts relationships at the forefront, it might be easy to overlook its depth and sophistication. But its priorities are right where they should be. When people create a community with their friends and lovers, it is inevitable that boundaries will dissolve and that friendship, love, ego and identity will become intertwined. The Startup Wife’s insights about modern relationships, gender politics, race, technology and culture are as excellent and vital as its storytelling.
RaveThe New York TimesRiley’s commitment to restoring these unsung women to their rightful place in the popular imagination was a driving force behind her riveting and transformative new novel. Yet her chosen subject bears little resemblance to a pampered heiress like Miss Lambe; the contours of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas’s life have a much harsher bent ... It’s a powerful story, and Riley tells it well. The author’s most important creative decision is to put this remarkable yet very human woman not just at the center of the story, but in full control of it ... There’s a beautiful intimacy in Dorothy’s first-person narration, both in substance and expression: the candid ebb and flow of her complex long-term relationships with men, mutually beneficial yet unsatisfying arrangements; how she fought to find love in the wreckage of slavery; the children she births and nurtures; the business she builds; the relentless search for stability and security in a world that offers neither to women like her. By turns vibrant and bold, defiant and wise, Riley’s tone and words are well suited to her subject.
PositiveNPRReading Razorblade Tears is a visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses. S. A. Cosby\'s moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke ... Cosby\'s characters are specific and vividly rendered, and he paints a determinedly bleak yet thoroughly compelling picture of their plight ... Cosby\'s sharp characterization and evocative prose make the tension between them as palpable as their grief ... With volatile tempers, guts full of guilt, and hearts full of regret, they rack up bodies as a matter of course. It\'s bloody. It\'s graphic. And it fits. Even though action is vital to this story, it doesn\'t take precedence. With writing that\'s as precise and emotionally engaging as it is cinematic, character and relationships reign supreme ... Still, some of Cosby\'s other choices render this novel something short of a triumph. Queer people are central to the investigation and the story, but not a one has a particularly strong, fully realized voice of their own. Two are dead, and another is deeply disappointing. Cosby also has straight people talking about LGBTQ marginalization in conversations that sometimes sound preachy rather than organic. It\'s an jarring juxtaposition — having straight characters gain this growing awareness of and sensitivity to discrimination when the queer characters are marginalized in the narrative ... These aspects of the story are discordant notes in an otherwise elegant composition. And yet even with those issues, Razorblade Tears is still addictive, arresting entertainment. S.A. Cosby might be a miracle worker. As uneasy as I was, he made me root for the redemption of two men with homophobia and bloody revenge in their hearts. Throughout, I was never anything less than absorbed and on their side. Cosby\'s high-octane drama cements his ascension as a prince of the literary action thriller.
PositiveNPREvocative and accessible, Nathan Harris\'s debut novel is a historical page-turner ... Harris asks a question Americans have yet to figure out: How does a community make peace in the wake of civil war? I\'m not sure the novel comes close to finding an answer. But posing the question and following through the work undertaken felt incredibly worthwhile nonetheless ... its question feels urgent and familiar, because politics now feels like war ... joins the national conversation on race and reckoning with history already in progress. In struggles over flags, monuments, textbooks, and university tenure, we\'re still fighting over how to frame this event in public memory, so those old wounds feel particularly fresh. Nathan Harris makes those extraordinary, still contested times comprehensible through an immersive, incredibly humane storytelling about the lives of ordinary people ... In small moments, Harris convincingly captures the thoughts and actions of ordinary people trying to push through extraordinary times. And even though the story focuses on hope and unexpected kinship, it doesn\'t diminish the horrors of slavery or the struggle in its wake...None of it is minimized. Like the brothers, Harris tries to train the focus elsewhere for a time ... As an act of pure storytelling, it soars. On a deeper level, however, some aspects of the novel feel unsettled and incomplete. /The Sweetness of Water taps into America\'s longstanding and profound thirst for fantasies of racial reconciliation — stories in which Black people and white people find salvation together, bonding in the face of the egregious extreme racism of others. As appealing as they are, these narratives tend to reproduce certain problematic patterns. First, while seeming to focus on crucial issues, these narratives actually highlight individual exceptions to systemic problems that need real examination. Second, even in stories where Black people should naturally be the focus they tend to marginalize Black characters in order to center and affirm the virtue of good whites. And third, they can provide easy absolution without deeper reflection ... I felt those tensions keenly reading this novel, but while it flirts with the edge, it doesn\'t quite fall into the abyss. The difference is that The Sweetness of Water isn\'t a story about what happened to the enslaved after slavery\'s end, coopted to focus on a white family. It\'s a soapy and riveting drama-filled exploration of a fracture and a healing. The focus on an interracial cast is an necessity, feature rather than a flaw ... I only wish the ensemble was a little more interested in the fullness of its Black characters ... left a lasting and multifaceted impression: It\'s warm and absorbing, thought provoking and humane. But ultimately uneven in its ideas — a book whose resonance ever so slightly exceeds its art.
Zakiya Dalila Harris
RaveBookPageBrilliantly positioned at the intersection of satire and social horror, The Other Black Girl incorporates subversively sharp and sly cultural commentary into an addictive and surprisingly dark tale of suspense ... Harris displays a distinctive style all her own. With a flair for metaphor and a carefully calibrated surrealist perspective, she stops just short of over-the-top ... Thoughtful, provocative and viscerally entertaining, The Other Black Girl is a genre-bending creative triumph.
RaveBookPage... inspired and achingly romantic ... gorgeously written, delightfully original ... a wonderful tribute that puts Henry firmly on the path to becoming the millennial Nora Ephron.
PositiveThe Grio... Abrams knows this terrain—legal, social, and political—inside and out. With that expertise, the issues at the center of the story are drawn with precision and insight, but her characters are the book’s greatest strength ... The story is anchored by two indelible outsiders who have little in common save the institution for which both work and their prickly personas. Stacey Abrams’s thriller is an intricate one with a diverse supporting cast of allies and adversaries and a Russian nesting doll of legal maneuvering, politics and technological intrigue. Much of it is riveting. There are also subplots and clever details strewn like Easter eggs throughout. Somewhere in the middle, the plot starts to feel overstuffed, and the myriad of moving parts slow forward momentum. But...there’s something deliciously rewarding about a thriller that realistically and unflinchingly reckons with how a young Black woman like Avery Keene gets treated when she answers the call to serve.
PositiveBookPageIn this era of domestic thrillers, a novel about a functional, loving family can feel refreshing and downright unexpected ... The drama gets a little thin in spots ... Downplaying the conflict might be a trade-off for the novel’s greater focus on character development and relationships. Hannah’s insights and epiphanies about how to parent an untrusting teenager aren’t all that revelatory, but they certainly are reminders of what’s most important ... As a result, Dave pulls off something that feels both new and familiar: a novel of domestic suspense that unnerves, then reassures ... Dave has given readers what many people crave right now—a thoroughly engrossing yet comforting distraction.
RaveBookPageTalia Hibbert has quickly become the go-to writer for those who like their romances to be heartwarming, thought-provoking and fun in equal measure. Building on the success of the first two novels in her Brown Sisters trilogy, Hibbert’s formula is burnished to perfection in Act Your Age, Eve Brown, a delightful comedic confection ... Though their romance is delightful, Jacob and Eve also face significant personal challenges and Hibbert handles these serious topics with finesse. They are both on the autism spectrum, and Hibbert sensitively portrays their perspectives while also exploring how their autism intersects with other facets of their lives ... Throughout Eve and Jacob’s story, Hibbert exhibits masterful control of plot and character. Act Your Age, Eve Brown is a wonderful blend of tropes and reality. It’s the kind of book that inspires myriad feelings: It will make you laugh, cry, sigh and swoon. But more than anything else, the experience of reading Act Your Age, Eve Brown is pure pleasure.
PositiveBookPageLady Elysande de Valance finds love in the arms of a Highlander in Lynsay Sands’ suspenseful 14th-century romance, Highland Treasure ... Highland Treasure is a page-turning, propulsive and, at times, bloody historical romance.
RaveBookPageThe ebb and flow of Shay’s marriage is just part of the story, as Red Island House contains vignettes about a fascinating array of characters and entanglements in the Naratrany society that surrounds though never quite embraces the couple. From the feuding female entrepreneurs whom Shay calls \'Sirens\' to the local éminence grise who may or may not have spiritual powers, it’s a complex and seductive tapestry ... Lee’s striking writing is layered and thick with evocative descriptions of people, landscapes, feelings and foreboding. Sociological and psychological, it’s prose with the abstract feel of poetry. The stories of Red Island House are vibrant and enchanting despite the current of dread that runs through the novel from the start.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewFor those who hesitate to delve into African-American historical romances for want of that visceral fantasy element, Beverly Jenkins’s novels — richly grounded in history and yet bristling with joy — are a revelation ... The signature elements of Jenkins’s work come together in spectacular form in Wild Rain, a boldly feminist narrative ... Garrett is the rarest of Black romantic heroes: the cinnamon roll. In historical romances, Black men are rarely afforded the space to be soft, sweet and supportive heroes who dote on their women and don’t mind when they take the reins (literally, in this case). But Garrett is all of those things and it never diminishes him. The way he cares for, loves and stands up for Spring while also knowing when to stand down only makes him more appealing ... Watching her lean into loving him and vice versa is pure pleasure, a powerful, indulgent treat ... showcases Jenkins’s talent for writing intriguing individual stories that illuminate bigger historical themes ... With so much going on, and a pace that propels the reader relentlessly forward, some things get short shrift. Love arrives rather quickly and abruptly for one of the characters. And, outside of a few long-running grudges, some of the conflicts resolve too easily. Still, if Wild Rain doesn’t quite rise to the heights of Beverly Jenkins masterworks like Indigo and Forbidden, it is incredibly satisfying in its own right.
RaveBookpageIn her engrossing and darkly lyrical debut novel, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House , Bajan author Cherie Jones unspools a discomfiting allegory of race, class and intergenerational trauma in a far from idyllic fictional Caribbean community ... Even as tragedies and indignities pile up, the murkiness surrounding the novel’s events will compel readers to continue reading. Questions arise about how a simple robbery went so wrong and how Baby died—but most importantly, why? What are the roots of these characters’ discontent and recklessness? A bleak and complex picture emerges through this ensemble story, with chapters that alternate between generations and time periods as well as individual points of view. Like the fearsome Wilma, author Cherie Jones is a powerful storyteller. Like the policeman, many readers will feel compelled to follow her into the dark even though there’s precious little joy or light to be found there.
Charles M Blow
PositiveThe GrioThe Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto renders an unflinching diagnosis of the ravages of white supremacy and a rousing prescription for Black Americans to eliminate its harms ... Building on the vivid, clear prose and bold arguments that are his stock in trade, The Devil You Know is a fast and persuasive piece of political rhetoric and rough American history ... [Blow\'s] narrative is compelling. His prescriptions are big and worthy of consideration. Some of the connective tissue — Blow’s presentation of history and some analysis of the political moment — don’t always have the necessary nuance. That is in part by design.This is daring work, accessible and easily digested by a wide audience. It is therefore relatively brief at 240 pages including footnotes. It’s argumentation.
Robert Jones Jr
RaveBookPage... remarkable ... accomplishes the exceptional literary feat of being at once an intimate, poetic love story and a sweeping, detailed and excruciating portrait of life on a Mississippi plantation ... One of the most outstanding things about this novel is its artistry, both in its language and its use of multiple perspectives. Jones excels at ensemble storytelling, treating each character with compassion while also being brutally unsparing ... Jones grounds his story in history while making it remarkably relevant to life today ... observations about the intersection of race and gender within this brutal system will sound familiar to contemporary readers ... These disparate elements of history, myth making, social observation, criticism and storytelling don’t always fit together as well as the author may have intended. However, what is most notable about The Prophets is that, like James Baldwin or Toni Morrison, Jones gets to the root of some of our culture’s thorniest problems through specific, accurate storytelling, drawn with insight and great skill. Though this is his first book, Jones is already a master stylist, writing gorgeous, lyrical and readable prose about some of the ugliest things that human beings feel and do to one another. Sometimes the prose reads like scripture. At other times, it’s poetry ... This is a beautifully wrought, exceptionally accomplished queer love story about two men finding extraordinary connection in the most hostile and difficult of circumstances. This debut will be savored and remembered.
MixedBookPage... Hernandez’s sharp-eyed, queer dystopian fantasy is no gentle wake-up call. It is a blaring fire alarm and a call to arms against authoritarianism, white supremacy and transphobia ... At times, Hernandez’s prose style is gorgeously poetic. At other points, as when critiquing the authoritarian regime or the privilege of allies, the writing is openly didactic toward secondary characters who are little more than symbols and vehicles for argument. In these scenes, dialogue unfurls like political discourse rather than as urgent conversation about events happening around them. The subject absolutely merits impassioned appeal, but this aspect of the execution undermines its aim somewhat. Rhetorical appeals in fiction rely on two key things for effect: the reader’s absorption into the narrative and their identification with the protagonist. These phenomena encourage readers to let go of their defenses, effectively shutting down counterarguments, even when the story’s message conflicts with the reader’s prior beliefs. Kay is a brilliantly nuanced, fully formed character, both tender and brave, so identifying with him is easy. Where Crosshairs sometimes falls short, however, is in letting the reader fully engage and feel absorbed into the story. It’s hard not to see the forceful political appeal at work.
PositiveBookPageRather than a traditional thriller, White Ivy is a slow-burning, intricate psychological character study and coming-of-age story full of family secrets and foreboding ... Despite the book’s inevitable ending, Yang allows her main character ambiguity. Ivy is strangely, uncomfortably relatable and ultimately unknowable. Her transgressions are mostly minor, yet her sometimes vicious inner monologue shows that she has the capacity for far harsher misdeeds. Perhaps that is the point—that the dividing line between ordinary wrongs and acts of true evil is razor thin. So when signs start to suggest that something very bad is about to happen, the violent act is all the more jarring ... Ivy brings to mind other desperate, liminal characters, such as Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. Readers will find a lot to appreciate in this sharply observed psychological thriller.
RaveBookPage[A] thoroughly modern Cinderella story about an aspiring screenwriter hesitantly falling for a sexy, celebrity, cinnamon-roll-sweet hero with swagger ... Weatherspoon deftly translates the classic rags to riches fairy tale’s core elements into a 21st-century context ... Weatherspoon creates vivid, specific characters and gives them wonderful interior lives and excellent banter ... their love story never feels didactic and the romance never gets weighed down. There’s warmth and lightness throughout this very contemporary, yet ultimately classically romantic retelling.
RaveBookPage... a funny and poignant triumph that defies expectation ... That Spoiler Alert so effectively forces the reader to see the significance of the common ground between the scientist and the star is a testament to Dade’s skill as a storyteller. This romance also masterfully conveys both the fun and misery of fandom and social media, as only a text authored by someone who knows these worlds intimately can. It’s clear that Dade isn’t faking those geeky credentials ... On top of all that, Dade also gives weight to the challenges that many people must deal with closer to home ... The family scenes are powerful and unflinching; they might even make some readers cry, but they never overwhelm Marcus and April’s love story ... Despite the high level of difficulty involved in taking on these topics in combination, Spoiler Alert surpasses every mark. Even when the waters April and Marcus are navigating become choppy, it never feels like you’re drowning ... Dade has gifted readers with a thoughtful, swoonworthy and emotionally satisfying contemporary romance that has the added benefit of a realistic, multilayered and relatable portrayal of the digital world. If you’re into fan culture and practices, it will be an even greater pleasure. Loyal Olivia Dade fans and new readers alike will love it.
emily m. danforth
RaveBookPageThere’s a fascinating interplay of past and present, and fiction and reality, in Plain Bad Heroines, Emily M. Danforth’s debut novel for adults ... smart, feminist and funny ... Danforth propels her story not with scary moments but with beautiful writing, indelible characters and complex relationships.
RaveBookPageBy now, many will have seen When No One Is Watching described as Rear Window meets Get Out. Those comparisons are shockingly apt. Alyssa Cole’s latest triumph incorporates elements of both psychological thriller and social horror. Its finale is a bit macabre, much like Get Out, and there is a romantic subplot as well, just as there was in Hitchcock’s masterpiece ... highly original ... Perhaps the best evidence of Cole’s skill in this regard is the remarkable correspondence between a fictional event in the book and a real-life incident that occurred just miles away from where the book is set ... Another element that distinguishes When No One Is Watching is its grounding in not just present-day politics but history.