PositiveNPR\"An American Summer isn\'t a classic research narrative. It doesn\'t have copious footnotes. It doesn\'t include a bibliography at the end. Instead, Kotlowitz presents the human side of tragedy, the stories of those left behind. He paints an honest picture of the constant tug-of-war between families, communities, and schools on one side and the streets on the other. He gives readers an unflinching look at the lives of grieving mothers — and of social workers with too much on their plates who work stuffed in windowless cinder-block rooms the size of walk-in closets ... This makes An American Summer an uncomfortable read that cuts to the marrow of one of country\'s most violent cities and exposes the inequities, economic factors, and psycho-geographic elements that make it what it is ... There are no answers in these pages, but sometimes getting a good look at something is the first step in finding a solution.\
RaveNPR\"Solitary is a candid, heartbreaking, and infuriating chronicle of these years — as well as a personal narrative that shows how institutionalized racism festered at the core of our judicial system and in the country\'s prisons ... While Solitary is a call to banish solitary confinement in the U.S., the first third of the book is also an important record of how underprivileged communities are almost forced into crime ... Solitary is a timely memoir of that experience that should be required reading in the age of the Black Lives Matter movement. It\'s also a story of conviction and humanity that shows some spirits are unbreakable.\
PositiveNPR\"Joseph Scapellato\'s The Made-Up Man reminds me of a bacon-topped doughnut — a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together. And like that sweet treat, Scapellato\'s blend of existential noir, absurdist humor, literary fiction, and surreal exploration of performance art merges into something special ... The Made-Up Man is a rare novel that is simultaneously smart and entertaining. It looks at the ways we perform ourselves, through the experiences of a man floating in a haze after the academic career and the relationship that grounded him and gave him a sense of self are no longer there ... This is a strange book, but just like with food, trying new things can lead to pleasant surprises.\
RaveNPROne of the most impressive debuts I\'ve read. A hybrid narrative that\'s part thriller, part surreal noir, and part tropical gothic, it reads like a collaboration between William Faulkner, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and Hunter S. Thompson, as directed by David Lynch ... The beauty of Horse Latitudes comes from its combination of elements. It\'s firmly rooted in literary fiction, but branches out into pulpy adventure and thrillers — and it hides a scathing political critique under the surface ... There is something special in this book that I wasn\'t expecting, and that doesn\'t jump out at you immediately: surrealism ... The writing is superb. Collins has a knack for witty dialogue and vivid descriptions of shantytowns, coastal towns, guerilla violence, and roadside poverty. Unfortunately, the beautiful prose that makes most of the novel so enjoyable gets in the way towards the end ... gripping and wildly entertaining ... Morris Collins is an author to watch.
PositiveNPR\"Nothing is taboo here. There are honest discussions about sex, drinking, and trauma ... Alyan exposes her life and her roots without shame, even when her words could lead to judgment. In poem after poem, there is raw emotion, straightforward storytelling, and unapologetic truth ... the reader, like the author, is never on solid ground, never entirely comfortable ... The Twenty-Ninth Year stuck with me because it contains stunning lines, while being entirely about going through things and learning to cope with them ... The poems here read like scars and sound like heartbreaking stories told by a friend in the darkest booth at a gloomy juke joint.\
RaveNPR\"... a gem of idiomatic dialogue. Every character has a unique voice and every conversation is a polyrhythmic marvel of New York accents. Part Martin Scorsese\'s Goodfellas and part Mario Puzzo\'s La Mamma, A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself is a funny, gritty, touching narrative about the strength of three New York women caught in a world of abusive men, broken families, and mob violence ... Boyle has a knack for violence and telegrammatic prose. He uses dialogue to tell the stories of his characters and push the action forward, and when no one\'s talking, his writing is fast and sharp, with a touch of literary flair ... A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself is a rarity; a fresh novel about New York\'s underbelly.\
RaveCriminal Element\"Gruley does many things well in this novel, and the first one is atmosphere. Readers can sense Bleak Harbor and know its history. They can see the water and festivalgoers, but most importantly, they can sense the tension ... The author maintains a perfect balance between passages of extreme emotional grit and violence and passages filled with bleak poetry that celebrate the space in which the story takes places. In that regard, this is one of those rare crime novels that, besides belonging to more than one genre, flirts with literary fiction without ever becoming pretentious ... Gruley is a talented storyteller at the top of his game, and this might just be his best effort so far. Taut, smart, entertaining, and packed with a variety of types of tension, Bleak Harbor is one of those books that make readers keep flipping pages until everything has been said and done.\
PositiveNPR\"Destroy All Monsters is a hybrid novel, both a celebration of music and a critique of aesthetics when they replace content. ... [Destroy All Monsters] is longer and far more nuanced [than Jackson\'s previous work], but also deals with young people looking for answers in an ugly world. And looking for answers is what Jackson wants readers to do. This novel is the bustle in your hedgerow. Go decipher it.\
Ian K Smith
PositiveCriminal ElementA hybrid narrative that brings together action, intrigue, history, longstanding secrets, and the fascinating world of secret societies...holds a plethora of secrets and keeps readers glued to the story because every new revelation brings with it an entirely new set of questions...there is a bit of overwriting. Smith has a tendency to go into tangential subjects and stay there for too long...a nuanced narrative about a secretive world, and entering it is a gripping, satisfying experience.
Scott Von Doviak
RaveCriminal ElementA breathtakingly clever, twist-filled narrative [that] establishes Scott Von Doviak as a storyteller of the first order ... a funny, violent, baseball-infused novel that inhabits three different times and keeps readers guessing until the very end ... Charlesgate Confidential is what happens when storytelling skills meet a love for pulp and a knack for dialogue. Von Doviak knows what he’s doing, and the way this novel unfolds is proof of that ... Every classic element of pulp is here, but they feel fresh because Von Doviak puts his own spin on them. His ability to juggle many characters at once is outstanding ... this 383-page novel reads more like a fast-paced novella ... Entertaining, humorous, and packed with snappy dialogue, Charlesgate Confidential ... proves pulp is alive and as good as ever.
PositiveCriminal ElementJ.D. Rhoades’s Fortunate Son is a violent, fast-paced crime narrative that goes beyond guns, criminals, and high-speed chases to explore themes like loneliness, hope, loss, and redemption. Within the same story, Rhoades offers a variety of subplots: a man looking to make amends for a mistake he made 13 years ago, a mother desperately looking for her sons, a youngster coming to terms with the fact that he is happy to have left his past behind, and a cop learning to navigate the dangerous waters where informants, dishonest supervisors, and powerful criminals meet. The result of this mixture of interconnected stories is a novel that constantly moves forward while entertaining readers with its cinematic qualities and occasional humor.
RaveNPR\"There will be pain, drama, multiculturalism, unfulfilled desires, and the repercussions of love. Yes, reading this will be painful, but you will enjoy every page ... Bhuvaneswar is a talented storyteller who can take big topics like harassment and racism and illustrate their destructive power by pulling them into the lives of her characters and showing us the results. Although her dark themes can make reading an uncomfortable experience at times, our current political and cultural landscape means White Dancing Elephants is a necessary book — and one that introduces a gifted voice to contemporary literature.\
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"The mix of genres and the novel’s haunting atmosphere places readers on unstable ground. This causes a sense of uncertainty that amplifies every act, suspicion, and reaction ... The result is an engrossing, strange, addictive read ... Reid is a master storyteller with a knack for absorbing prose ... Reid wrote an ending that will surprise most readers. Every clue is there, but they are as elusive as the beetles that hide in the dark corners of the house. This is the type of novel that haunts you for days, hanging around in your head and whispering about things you missed and the secrets that became clear only after they’d been revealed. Endings like this are no accident, and the two punches Foe packs in its third act prove Reid is one of the most talented purveyors of weird, dark narratives in contemporary fiction.\
RaveCriminal Element\"There is something beautiful about a talented author working at the top of her game—an author who can deliver a multilayered narrative from different points of view and switch between past and present without a hitch ... The Last Thing I Told You cements Arsenault as a top voice in thrillers and proves that she gets better with each book ... The Last Thing I Told You is a great tale of psychological suspense that explores the interstitial spaces between sanity and insanity, thoughts and violence, and facts and memories. It’s also a novel by a very talented author flexing her muscles unapologetically while at the top of her game.\
RaveCriminal Element[Girl From Blind River] is a narrative in which place, upbringing, lack of education, the perennial pressure presented by the impossibility of upward social mobility, and the constant need for money push people to do things they see as their only option ... Massey puts her own voice on everything and channels it through a main character that is as likable as she is smart ... Massey’s understanding of psychogeography is what pushes this novel into must-read territory ... Contemporary crime fiction is shifting, and clichés about criminals are slowly fading away as new storytelling puts an emphasis on the motivations and socioeconomic realities that push people into crime. Massey is doing a lot in that regard with this book, and she doesn’t stop there ... Perhaps the more impressive feature of this novel is that it’s a debut. The author’s authoritative, powerful prose and knack for dialogue—especially when dealing with emotions and violence—are more indicative of a seasoned veteran rather than a debut author. This is great news because it means there is much more to come from Massey, and if The Girl from Blind River is any indication, it will be great.
Maria Dahvana Headley
RaveThe RumpusMore than a modernized retelling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife is the result of a deconstruction of the text that was followed by a reconstruction in which Headley keeps the basic elements and adds many new ones to instill new life into the old narrative ... The modernization allows the novel to resonate with readers without moving away from its source ... Alongside adding new elements, Headley takes the story to a difference place and that allows her to make sharp critiques of things like the lingering obsession with keeping people from diverging socioeconomic backgrounds separate ... Perhaps the most interesting element in The Mere Wife is the positioning of women because it is diametrically opposed to the patriarchal society so evident in Beowulf ... The Mere Wife is multilayered and nuanced. It can be read as an entertaining reimagining of a classic text, but it can also offer interested readers hours of deep thought while analyzing all its subtexts ... Ultimately, The Mere Wife goes beyond Beowulf to become a narrative that offers a bold look at American suburbia while exploring the power of women in society.
Debra Jo Immergut
RaveCriminal ElementPropulsive and psychologically astute, The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut is an intimate and gripping meditation... a cerebral novel about the way we’re forced to deal with the aftermath of our decisions. The characters are complex, and their personalities make them unique. However, the narrative goes above and beyond that ... this narrative behaves more like a noir than anything else, but it’s one with the heavy elements of thrillers and the type of outstanding writing that is usually found in literary fiction ... Ingenious and riveting, this is a book that should not be missed by anyone interested in the way love affects us, the way the past haunts us, and the way we trick ourselves into believing in impossible futures.
RaveLitReactorThis latest addition to Pink\'s catalog is as great, if not better, than his previous work. That is what makes this the perfect time to celebrate what this writer has accomplished: a tone that is his own, a voice that is as recognizable as Apple\'s logo, and a career based on sad weirdness and ultra-personal moments turned into fiction that is too real not to be read as nonfiction ... The Garbage Times/White Ibis will hold you. You should let it. You can go read some formulaic crap and feel clean and untouched by the beautiful words of this individual, but why would you? The best way to celebrate Sam Pink is by letting him hold you. Do it.
RaveVol. 1 BrooklynThe Garbage Times/White Ibis is not only Pink’s latest; it might just be Pink’s best so far ... The result of these two narratives is a book that reads like a single tale of two very different cities and the people who make each unique as well as the couple, and the cat, that brings them together in a single storyline ... Pink opens up as much as he has done in the past, but he seems more worried about things\' narrative arc and exploring briefly the meaning behind everyday things. He has always been a strange hybrid, part philosopher and part comedian with a thing for mental health, but he is now also emerging as an outstanding chronicler of not only himself as those around him but also of the connective tissue between all things and behaviors. If none of that appeals to you, this is still a recommended read simply because it’s a lot of fun to read ... More than author, Pink is a one-person movement with a distinctive style, and this book adds yet another outstanding entry to a catalog that is already a must for anyone trying to get a real sense of what contemporary literature is all about.
RaveVol. 1 BrooklynThat, in short, is a talented author at the peak of his game delivering a fast-paced, gritty, ultraviolent narrative that, more than put him on the crime map, should rocket him into the upper echelons of contemporary noir ... Polly and Nate are engaging characters on their own, but work best as a duo. Harper’s deceptively simple plot allows him to use his characters as vehicles to explore trust, loyalty, fatherhood, coping mechanisms in the face of a major loss, and even the need for violence ...Harper seems to possess a deep understanding of how violence works and the way it affects people ...She Rides Shotgun is a debut novel, but that doesn’t mean Harper can’t be called a master. Calling him a 'new' author isn’t exactly accurate, so master does the job pretty well.
MixedLitReactorCanty is a great storyteller with a keen eye for detail and a superb talent for juggling a plethora of characters and storylines. What he pulls off here in writing about an entire town is something most other contemporary literary fiction writers would fail at. There is a lot of pain and anger in the narrative, but it never becomes overly dramatic or repetitive, and that speaks volumes about the author's talent. That being said, this novel could have used a few editorial trimmings. For starters, the first fourth of it is just the author setting the place up for the disaster. Having an eye for detail is great, but when those details are allowed to run free, the risk of bogging down the narrative increases exponentially, and a bit of that happens here ... The novel could have started with the fire and it would have been much shorter and still contained all the best (and by best I mean emotionally devastating) parts.
RaveLitReactorAll Back Full walks the line between a play and a novel, and it does so brilliantly. In fact, the book is explained as a 'novel in three acts,' and that's exactly what it is. This is a novel about the day-to-day grind, about the way marriage slowly corrodes, and about the strangeness of friendships that come and go. However, and this is what pushes this novel into must-read territory, Lopez is a master of both language and delivery ... Lopez is an entertaining author with a knack for dialogue and a superb eye for detail who is not afraid to play and experiment with storytelling. This book proves that he pulls it off while making it look easy.
PanLitReactorI started reading and lost interest almost immediately. For starters, this is one of those crime books that feature a tough guy talking about muscle and jobs and meetings and tough guy stuff and the organization and blah blah blah ... Don't get me wrong, there is a decent crime story here, but it's buried in unnecessary garbage ... Ultimately, my biggest problem with this novel was its merciless repetitiveness ... I have no idea how this ended up being published by Mulholland, who always delivers the goods, but I hope it's the last time they do this to us.
RaveLitReactorWilkes has a knack for rhythm, humor, accents, and biblical language. More than a single story, this is the kind of narrative in which the main plot is merely a structure used to house a collection of narratives, all of them as strange and entertaining as the main plot ... what ultimately makes this a must-read is Wilkes' talent for spinning tales that collide but never overpower one another. Wilkes has a unique voice that sounds like the best dirty songs of a gun-toting madman obsessed with keeping listeners glued to his every word. This is a hell of a book, and it will undoubtedly become part of the list of best, and weirdest, Southern literary gems.
RaveElectric Literature...an unusual hybrid that pushes against the edges of literary fiction with the unfiltered violence, frustration, and angst typically found in noir novels but does so with an elegance and lyricism that echo giants like Cormac McCarthy and Walt Whitman. Equal parts devastating coming-of-age (and beyond) narrative and philosophical examination of fatherhood, Patricide is, more than a novel about a man who survives a devastating, abusive childhood, a text that explores both identity construction/deconstruction/reconstruction cycles and the generational recurrence of aberrant behavioral patterns and falsehoods ... The result is a novel that digs deep into Americana and pulls out its most embarrassing, chaotic, tender, and scatological scenes and brings them to center stage so that they may, for one brief moment, shine so bright that they transform into mirrors ... Patricide delivers on that tough promise and cements its author as one of the most talented and polyrhythmic voices in literary fiction.
RaveLitReactorAs far as addiction memoirs go, this one is unique. Instead of just focusing on himself and his relationship to his vice, Hens discusses the cigarette industry, his family, and even cigarettes as cultural/personal/physical objects ... while there is a lot of explaining, remembering, and deconstructing, the writing never becomes preachy. Instead, Hens offers a brutally honest look at his life and addiction that is at once illuminating and very entertaining ... One things that sets Nicotine apart from other books of its kind is that, while firmly planted in the realm of memoirs, it deviates from time to time and becomes a narrative about exploring the self, a story about an entire family and their relationship to smoking, and even turns into something akin to investigative journalism when the author looks at the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes. Throughout all those, the pace is enjoyable, the chapters go by fast, and the writing is always engaging regardless of what the author is discussing at the time ... Perhaps Nicotine's only fault is its introduction, written by author Will Self. Fourteen pages long and only somewhat related to the text that follows it, the introduction, especially once the fast, crisp writing of the memoir itself gets going, is a slightly pompous, self-centered affair that should have been clipped by an editor ... Gritty, funny, multilayered, and rich in diversity of themes explored, this is a memoir that transcends its genre and demands to be read as much more than just a man's look at his lifetime inhaling smoke.
RaveElectric LiteratureJoshua Mohr’s Sirens immediately earns a place on the list of great addiction memoirs, and then it gets better. Substance abuse, rationalizing, and guilt are the cohesive elements that bring Mohr’s personal narrative together, but failure, lost love, parenthood, the possibility of redemption, health issues, and a constant struggle against the monster of relapse are what ultimately turn this memoir a special reading experience and make it one of the most unapologetically searing and brutally honest nonfiction books indie publishing will see in 2017.
Donald Ray Pollack
RaveElectric LiteratureThe Heavenly Table belongs to the darkest strain of ghostless American Gothic literature but has been filtered through the nonchalant callousness and deadpan humor of the best Westerns in a way that makes the narrative share DNA with authors as diverse as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Joe Lansdale. Ambitious and sprawling, this novel proves that Pollock is among the best novelists working today.
RaveElectric LiteratureA Collapse of Horses is a master class in unnerving storytelling; seventeen short narratives that range from horror to science fiction and from surrealism to noir. The variety is outstanding, the writing is superb, but what makes this collection deserving of attention is how Evenson manages to achieve a perfect balance between what is on the page and what is left out.