RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"Guinn was uniquely suited to write this book, having previously written about Charles Manson and Jonestown. He is steeped in the apocalyptic lore that drives many cults ... Guinn does an excellent job laying out the circumstances that made Waco possible. If the reader is left wondering anything, it’s likely about the fate of the ATF and FBI decision-makers who caused the debacle in the first place. It would be fascinating to know how (or if) these figures reflected on the tragedy in the years that followed. In total, Waco is a compelling if disturbing read. Once you finish, you’re unlikely to fully trust organized religion—or the U.S. government—ever again.\
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksFamily drama is portrayed to magnetic effect in this outstanding debut ... It also manages to strike a difficult balance, bringing excitement to topics that otherwise might tend toward more sober introspection ... Branum paints a grimly realistic picture of a family in conflict ... What is most noteworthy about Defenestrate is how the author threads the theme of falling all through the narrative. Scenes unfold and then recur, looping back on themselves. It can be challenging to recall exactly where you — and the characters — are sometimes, but it’s worth the effort to follow along ... As a first novel, Defenestrate is impressively powerful. On page after page, Renée Branum manages to entwine the tall tales that shape all families with the real-world fallout those tales can cause. She also does a masterful job of rendering the sensation of falling, of spiraling in the air. The effect, like the novel itself, is spellbinding.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksMcConaghy’s strength lies in her ability to conjure an erotic bond between nature and humanity ... Once There Were Wolves is a thoughtful, enjoyable book ... Charlotte McConaghy has once again created a world where we must balance trust and fear, humanity and nature. That she can do so with such spellbinding skill makes me excited for where she might take us next.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksLike Frankie, Goldman is an author made up of many parts. Part Catholic and part Jewish, part American and part Guatemalan, he has invented in this novel a universe that allows his character and himself to explore what it means to be a whole person when so much of one’s \'self\' is divided ... The travails of Frankie’s family are the novel’s greatest strength ... These more powerful themes save Monkey Boy from becoming just another \'men without women\' tale. To be sure, the reader is treated to a rundown of Frankie’s many girlfriends...Yet this is no list of conquests. Instead, we see Frankie reflecting on the pivotal role women have played in his life, providing him safety and succor over the years. They have helped soften the isolation and loneliness he experienced first as an abused child, later as a wandering writer detached from close relations, and always as a racial outsider ... Indeed, it is that sense of persistent loneliness that drives the narrative and gives it its poignancy. Thanks to Francisco Goldman’s skill, we are compelled to recognize Frankie Goldberg’s melancholy and allow it to wash over us.
PanWashington Independent Review of Books... the characters fall into stereotypes ... Worse, the one-dimensional characters of color undercut author Laskin’s clear interest in racial justice ... For a book concerned with fighting racism, one would think the two main characters of color would be more complex. While there’s likely a meaningful novel in here somewhere — one that explores the politics of a volatile era and its impact on those involved — the one we’re presented with drowns its own message amid a mix of flat characters and high-school-level politics.
MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksTwo rather disconcerting realizations emerge as you read. First, one can’t help but notice how we seem to be backing away from the Enlightenment’s intellectually progressive principles in our \'modern\' times. Second, with nearly 800 pages of text, the book is exhaustive, which is a euphemism for \'exhausting.\' Though marketed to the general public, it seems written for scholars ... Robertson, a professor of German at Oxford University, does a decent job of establishing how Enlightenment principles helped move society beyond faith and toward science ... The Enlightenment is a heavily researched book. As mentioned, its main text runs 800 pages, with hundreds more of notes and citations. Which begs the question of a work aimed not at academics but a general audience: Why? ... In an attempt not to leave out anything, the author leaves in everything. The result was that it became nearly impossible for me to find evidence of the book’s central thesis.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books... not for the faint of heart. Not that it’s frightening or infused with the supernatural. Rather, it is a dense, exhaustive tome designed less for the uninitiated than for those with an already deep interest in the topic and experience with the subject at hand ... Gosden is clearly in the latter camp. An archaeologist and professor at the University of Oxford, he is well versed in the interconnectedness of the material and spiritual worlds, and Magic reveals the expertise of a long career. If you’re willing to settle in to read Magic, you’ll be greeted with the vast detail and information the author provides ... For serious students of the topic, Magic provides bountiful information in the form of charts, timelines, and other data that wouldn’t be out of place in a textbook. But such an encyclopedic scope may overwhelm casual readers. Indeed, at times, I imagined swaths of the text being recited by a droning docent in a darkened museum. Unfortunately, the weight of its endless minutiae crushes some of the book’s, well, magic.
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books... fresh insight into the injustices the United States visited upon its Native population ... Fans of Westerns and war tales will enjoy Cozzens’ detailed descriptions of the battles that resulted and Tecumseh’s and Tenskwatawa’s roles in them ... Cozzens does a fine job with a difficult task: stirring the American reader to root for the enemy by focusing a bright light on our country’s crimes against the Natives ... The strength of Cozzens’ book is his ability to bring to life the thrilling adventures of Tecumseh and his people. Many a war yarn gets bogged down in minutiae, but the author animates these battles by sharing the human stories behind the fighting. By ably piecing together a history that is equal parts engaging and amply sourced, Cozzens has crafted a satisfying work that leads us to sympathize with his subjects without putting his finger on the scale to prove his point.
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books... an insightful and somewhat terrifying look into the corporate engines behind several of the most significant atrocities of the 20th century ... You would think Gretton’s interlacing of his own story with those of these killers would detract from the intensity of the larger tale, but it does not. Rather, it enhances the commonplaceness of it all. You are carried along by the author in his wanderings and relations, as well as in his litany of terrors. The simplicity of his journey makes starker the choices the desk killers made. If there is one question nagging this daunting work, it is this: Who will take the time to read this impressive book of nightmares? This is only volume one, after all. Gretton has another massive opus ready to go.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books... straightforward style ... He shares his history in a simple manner, laying out the facts and the reactions of himself and others, never letting himself get too worked up ... This has the benefit of not distracting the reader with unnecessary emotion. However, such journalistic distance is a bit jarring when Downie details his private life. He appears to share as much emotion about his divorces as he does when detailing his lunch ... when discussing the Post’s Watergate coverage...Downie’s value is to provide the point of view inside the Post at the time. Such discussion may strike readers as too \'inside baseball,\' but it’s important to see how a powerful editor who goes to bat for his team can create an atmosphere wherein reporters feel free to explore and probe, knowing their boss has their back. While Downie is not prone to self-congratulation, this is one time when his bravery is duly recognized ... Len Downie’s ability to tell the story—incorporating needed details without coming across as too flowery—is this book’s greatest strength. The reader is won over more by what he is saying than how he is saying it. In a book about journalism, this feels just right.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... powerful ... a novel of the crimes we inflict on nature, but such killings are not the point. Rather, McConaghy uses them to set the stage for the crimes we visit on ourselves and other humans ... McConaghy is a beautiful storyteller, evoking a sense of loss and longing for a natural world long depleted. Even in that emptiness, she portrays a sense of lushness, leaving us heartbroken with recognition that we are the ones to have caused such destruction ... does require some patience, as the story jumps back and forth both in time and location. But these twists are central to the plot; the author uses them to uncover facts, as if she were dusting off a coat of snow that shields a vital truth ... Taken as a whole, Migrations is a wonderful novel and worthwhile journey. The reader will enjoy it not just for its depictions of nature, but for the range of emotions McConaghy evokes. She forces us to look upon our sins large and small and see what consequences we all must bear.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books... insightful ... Kamp does not disappoint the reader seeking joyful childhood memories ... It is almost impossible not to feel a warm blanket of nostalgia draped over you as you read; Kamp delivers a sense of comfort and familiarity on every page ... a love letter to the increasing influence of television ... The book doesn’t highlight only the rosy aspects of this budding new phenomenon, however; it presents the inevitable push-pull of progressive advancement in a fair light ... Kamp effectively reminds us that the 1970s were a time of hope, albeit a reality-based one.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksHighfire, the latest effort by Eoin Colfer, is a (literally) high-flying adventure wrapped in a fantasy, with a hint of police noir thrown in for good measure ... Highfire is infused with witty touches throughout. Vern may be a dragon, but he is truly Everyman — he loves his vodka, Netflix, and the movie Flashdance, ... Fantastical stories often fall prey to an enervating earnestness, demanding that we follow along with the protagonists on their oh-so-serious, heroic quests. Colfer, however, balances his work with just enough cynicism. And the Louisiana-bayou vernacular peppered throughout brings levity to the narrative’s more terrifying situations ... It is Colfer’s realistic portrayal of his characters that brings Highfire to life ... Above all, to enjoy Highfire, you should have a love of fantasy and an open-minded approach to the genre. It’s a fun, rip-roaring read that draws you in and leaves you short of breath from both action and laughter. It’s hard not to be captivated.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"The strength of Race Against Time is Mitchell’s ability to weave a compelling narrative, much like a police procedural, outlining how reluctant prosecutors are convinced to fight for justice. If the book has a weakness, it is its overwhelming detail. With so many crimes being explored, it’s easy to become confused as to who’s who ... Mostly, readers will come away from this book feeling angry and frustrated. Angry that it takes so long to exact justice on behalf of these victims’ families. Frustrated that the Klan and its affiliates are still allowed to operate with seeming impunity.\
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... delightful and picturesque ... It’s hard to recreate the visual splendor of a nature documentary on the page, but McCrae does an admirable job of it ... vivid depictions exist throughout the book ... as engaging as McCrae’s text is, it’s hard not to be enchanted by pictures of baby penguins poking beneath their parents’ feathers, or moved by heartbreaking shots of chicks who perish in blizzard conditions ... McCrae ably outlines the sacrifices one must make for science ... wonderful, eye-opening.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... much more than just a simple romance. Taken as a whole, the couple’s story reads as a reflection of America in the years after the Civil War, defined by reinvention, race, and the ideal of honor ... If there’s a criticism to be found in this book, it’s in the rambling nature of the first half. Perhaps the changing time periods are necessary to set the stage for the action to follow, but they make the novel hard to follow at points. It grows much stronger toward the end, when the focus is on the central timeline ... a thoroughly enjoyable read, and Robinson does a wonderful job of telling the story of two enterprising and courageous people who are nevertheless not in total control of their circumstances. Her real victory is in engaging us with historical people and in drawing parallels between their lives and the life of America at the time. This may not be beach reading, but it is worth the purchase to add balance to the lighter fare in which we sometimes indulge.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"Matti Friedman does us, his readers, a great service not just in bringing their exploits to light, but in sharing with us insights into how they impacted history and the region.\
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"The Elephant in the Room is at its strongest and elicits the most empathy when Tomlinson outlines the embarrassments he faces every day ... Tomlinson’s words ring true for those of us (perhaps even the majority of his readers) who have hidden their eating habits ... If there’s a fault to this book, it’s that Tomlinson spends too much time on extraneous asides and exposition that really don’t advance his story. Perhaps he intends to demonstrate the underlying emotional conflicts that drive him to eat, but it often feels bloated.\