RaveLos Angeles TimesWritten from the sometimes acerbic, sometimes sweet and always laser-sharp perspective of Bell ... In between are Kalb’s loving recollections of their relationship, including snippets of conversations and voicemails and a steady supply of life advice ... In Kalb’s hands, the resulting stew is reliably funny and occasionally poignant on the aftermath of loss.
PositiveLos Angeles Times... offers a heightened but still empathetic portrait of those who live and work in [May\'s] fictional Central Valley town, Peaches ... despite being distressing at times, the book leaves room for light and a twisted sort of humor — even as Peaches spirals into darkness ... There’s a little of The Grapes of Wrath in Godshot, but much more too.
MixedThe Chicago TribuneAt a time when the world feels intractably polarized, a book examining the varying ways we misinterpret or fail to communicate with one another could not feel more necessary ... With a mix of reporting, research and a deft narrative hand, Gladwell illuminates these examples with page-turning urgency of a paperback thriller, building a case on the ways these misconceptions lead to disaster. Some of Gladwell’s diversions into pop culture pay off more than others ... in examining the Brock Turner rape case at Stanford, Gladwell’s examination of alcohol abuse among university students drifts uncomfortably close to victim-blaming...But for a book implicitly structured around race and law enforcement, the omission of Turner’s controversial six-month sentence feels puzzling and an example of how Gladwell’s sharp eye can overlook a bigger picture ... for all the ironclad rhetorical evidence outlined in Gladwell’s dramatic build-up, there’s a nagging sense he’s left another, very human phenomenon underexplored. Strangers misunderstand one another by nature on multiple behavioral fronts, including when it comes to race, which receives only a glancing treatment here ... Gladwell has again delivered a compelling, conversation-starting read, but there’s no question more of the hard stuff remains ahead.
MixedLos Angeles TimesWith a mix of reporting, research and a deft narrative hand, Gladwell illuminates...examples with the page-turning urgency of a paperback thriller, building a case on the ways these misconceptions lead to disaster. Some of Gladwell’s diversions into pop culture pay off more than others. Hiring a psychologist to map the facial expressions throughout a scene from Friends is a long way around to introduce the idea that people don’t always look like their feelings ... And in examining the Brock Turner rape case at Stanford, Gladwell’s examination of alcohol abuse among university students drifts uncomfortably close to victim-blaming ... Gladwell’s sharp eye can overlook a bigger picture ... for all the ironclad rhetorical evidence outlined in Gladwell’s dramatic buildup, there’s a nagging sense he’s left another, very human phenomenon underexplored. Strangers misunderstand one another by nature on multiple behavioral fronts, including when it comes to race, which receives only a glancing treatment here. Maybe Gladwell felt the topic has been sufficiently explored elsewhere, or was perhaps too obvious a contributing factor to break down further ... Gladwell has again delivered a compelling, conversation-starting read, but there’s no question more of the hard stuff remains ahead.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times... a spellbinding look at the impact of slavery that uses meticulously researched history and hard-won magic to further illuminate this country’s original sin ... In capturing Hiram’s voice, Coates uses an elaborate, richly drawn impression of the language of the time ... shine[s] a light from the past through the present. The book, however, offers much more than a relatively easy indictment of history. Exploring the loaded issues of race and slavery have became yet more fuel for today’s culture wars, but an underlying message of liberation through the embrace of history forms the true subject of The Water Dancer ... richly drawn details that showcase Coates’ meticulous, journalism-forged hand with research ... at times feels like a spiritual companion to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. But instead of imagining a literal railroad in place of a treacherous, multi-stop effort to pull innocent people from the depths of slavery, Coates envisions the transcendent potential in acknowledging and retelling stories of trauma from the past as a means out of darkness. With recent family separations at the U.S. border, this message feels all the more timely.
RaveThe Chicago Tribune... a spellbinding look at the impact of slavery that uses meticulously researched history and hard-won magic to further illuminate this nation’s original sin ... In capturing Hiram\'s voice, Coates uses an elaborate, richly drawn impression of the language of the time ... offers much more than a relatively easy indictment of history ... richly drawn details that showcase Coates\' meticulous, journalism-forged hand with research.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times... [an] often contrarian, pop culture-obsessed and often awe-inspiringly granular writing style ... Even to Klosterman, his curiosities aren’t for everyone. But this is the kind of strange, sharply detailed and often slyly funny examination of cultural behavior and norms he does unlike anyone else ... there is no subject too ephemeral or superficial to pull at from all angles ... With most stories rising out of an unexpected situation or the consideration of a single question or idea over the span of just a few pages, the book’s scattershot style earns its front cover label as \'fictional nonfiction\' ... With that kind of playful self-awareness, it’s hard to begrudge the bite-size ideas explored here, especially peppered with Klosterman’s sharp wit and deep-cut descriptions that will be exceptionally vivid to some but useless to those not already in his tribe ... Klosterman’s interrogative nature sometimes means these stories yield little more than premises for wry jokes while others unfortunately feel as if they’re cut off too soon ... Consider these stories the products of the kind of specific, unexpectedly divergent conversations that can come up between old friends as the hours grow late. Some are rich enough to reward further exploration, while others trail off to nowhere, but all are pleasant enough to have around. This friend just enjoys the push and pull of arguments, whether they’re based in reality or not.
Rion Amilcar Scott
PositiveLos Angeles TimesThe fiction collection is a rich, genre-splicing mix of alternate history, magical realism and satire that interrogates issues of race, sexism and where both meet here in the real world ... Cross River stands in tragic contrast to the neighboring white-dominated town of Port Yooga. But Scott’s imagination runs deeper than simply placing his characters in opposition to a single force and instead examines the ways oppression is passed down and continues to thrive ... Scott has as vivid ear for description and pace, rendering one nightmarish story that feels like an unaired episode of Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot. Beginning with someone hitching a ride from a stranger into Cross River, the story wryly named after the chorus of Dr. Dre’s 1993 single Let Me Ride culminates in a drug-addled fever dream ... While Scott needs only a few pages to make an impact, he devotes the bulk of The World Doesn’t Require You to the novella-length closer...Special Topics at first feels elusive, with a kitchen sink construction of emails, PowerPoint slides, essays and imagined folklore amid an unreliable narration, but it coalesces into an indictment of a patriarchal academic system that diminishes female voices ... The story connects to the upheaval of 2019 in a way that few recent works of fiction have.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesSome stories are tragi-comic briefs threaded with biting details that leave a mark, like a flicked jab in a boxing match ... Longer stories onjure struggles for connection in grimly surreal alternative realities that recall the probing comic imaginings of George Saunders ... it’s easy to draw a dotted line from Saunders’ dystopian visions to the at times fantastic worlds Bob-Waksberg sets in motion ... an extension of the comic rule of following the absurd to its most extreme, and Bob-Waksberg follows it beautifully ... The book proves Bob-Waksberg can conjure many modern miseries beyond those of a talking horse, but not all his ventures pay off so well ... for all its darkness, Someone Who Will Love You should be considered a lighter, amusing confection, one whose sweeter sides shine that much brighter with its balance of bitterness.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesEven looking past its Halloween-adjacent release date, Zone One comes at a time when such horrors are enjoying a pop culture renaissance that arguably began with Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later in 2002 ...Whitehead's zombie universe is a much more tragic and undeniably more human place ... Whether charged with bleak sadness or bone-dry humor, sentences worth savoring pile up faster than the body count... Linguistically cryptic military diagnoses, the PR churn of the war machine and a merciless city that fed on its own long before its citizens started feeding on one another still endure in Whitehead's apocalypse, all the way to the bitter end.
Karen Joy Fowler
MixedThe Los Angeles TimesAt the center of Fowler's story is Rosemary Cooke, who narrates with a bit of a barbed edge while looking at her past, first as a precocious toddler and most prominently as a troubled, introverted twentysomething at UC Davis in 1996 … The loss of both children has left the Cooke family shattered, particularly with regard to Fern — who happens to be a chimpanzee. Fowler takes her time revealing that rather key detail in a way even Rosemary describes as ‘irritatingly coy,’ but the choice points toward her hazy feelings about her family that slowly come to a boil as the novel continues … Rosemary has her failings as a narrator: Lowell's voice hardly distinguishes itself from hers — a fact later explained when Rosemary admits she retold her brother's story so he sounded more lucid. The admission sheds light on her own damaged character even as it robs us from truly knowing his.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesInstead of focusing on runs and hits, Harbach is most concerned with errors, that cruel statistic line unique to baseball that no one, not even an athlete touched by natural greatness, can ever eliminate. The issue for Henry, and the characters around him, is how recovery from these errors on and off the field gives shape to people's lives … Before too many sports clichés can take root, the novel brushes aside Henry's rise from lanky prodigy to big league prospect and instead shares focus on those surrounding his development … Harbach deftly ratchets up the drama as Henry spends much of the book battling a wrenching string of errors.