PositiveNewsweek... keenly observed and illuminating ... Lane’s analyses of performances and images in Harrison’s films...sharply delineate the films’ styles and themes ... Lane’s rich portrait of Harrison virtually contradicts this book’s title. Harrison was not \'the woman behind Hitchcock;\' she was beside him and sometimes ahead of him. On her own, she made her own distinctive contributions to American film. Now, we have that story.
MixedNewsday... adulatory ... Fisher had many devoted friends and Weller quotes their encomiums to the point that the biography reads like an extended tribute ... Weller’s account of Fisher’s life is gossipy, leaning on unidentified sources; and her style is breezy. At her death, Fisher’s friends on social media, Weller writes, had \'virtual tears in their tweets.\' Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge mostly reads like a fan magazine biography.
PositiveThe Washington PostMarrs laces his fast-paced tale with delectably mordant satire ... In this dark world, though, Marrs finds light ... We see that technology amasses facts but cannot plumb souls.
William J. Mann
PositiveNewsdayReading [Mann\'s] annotated source notes is like following a relentless gumshoe nailing down every major and minor clue in a case. The consideration of the iconic actor’s life and career that results is solid, perceptive and enlightening, however overlong ... Mann’s approach puts Brando in sharp relief ... Mann’s profile of Brando as social activist is by far the biography’s singular achievement. We see that Brando was as powerful in life as on film ... Mann’s ardor for his subject, alas, sends him into literary overtime. He often repeats and defends key points after he’s firmly made them. You might say that this valuable biography is overly successful.
MixedThe Washington PostIt’s hard to tell who are the victims and who are the perpetrators ... the second half of Those People morphs into a standard issue procedural. It brings surprising twists, but it’s overlong, slowly paced and overshadowed by the author’s sharply etched group portrait of \'those people\' ... Candlish exposes the smug, hypocritical, selfish attitudes of...[t]he folks along Lowland Way...about as nasty, as hypocritical and, eventually, as violent as the predatory villagers in Shirley Jackson’s short story \'The Lottery.\' An ironic and poignant coda suggests at least one person on the street possesses a few grams of humanity. Otherwise, Lowland Way—as its name suggests—is a dispiriting place.
PositiveNewsdayIn Cristina Alger\'s brisk thriller...Nell’s work on the case is smart and efficient, which gives the book a crisp tone and pace. Her final discoveries startle her and the reader ... Readers will hope to savor more of her gimlet-eyed takes in any season.
PositiveSan Francisco Chronicle...[an] eerie, tense and finely written novel ... LaPlante fuses two themes in Half Moon Bay, the mystery of the missing children and the misery of Jane’s attempt to survive her losses. The latter strand works far more effectively than the former ... And though LaPlante knows how to ramp up suspense (particularly at the end, where it counts), some scenes (Jane’s encounters with a hunky surfer co-worker, for example) are pretty obviously red herrings ... Jane’s story is by far the more meaningful, resonant and humane aspect of Half Moon Bay.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle...satisfying twists and reveals and sharply drawn characters ... suffused with nostalgia for San Francisco in 1947, when the action takes place — and when language and attitudes, Moore forewarns us, were not politically correct ... There’s fun in following Moore’s shaggy-dog plot, though some readers may find its ending loopy.
MixedThe Washington PostThe film’s stars, locations and production shenanigans reflect the ducktail, fender-fin decade, which means opening the pages of this book is like breaking into a time capsule ... Graham provides a solid historical context for Giant ... But is Giant legendary as art? Or is it now simply a 1950s artifact? Graham answers this question less satisfactorily. Although he provides expert analyses of some sequences in the film, he struggles to evoke the overall sense of how Giant looks, sounds and affects a viewer. For instance, he devotes one general paragraph to Dimitri Tiomkin’s score, overlooking the alternately silken and blaring themes that drive the film for three hours and 21 minutes. Graham also stints on description of the look of the film ... Had Graham considered in more detail what Stevens captured , he could have made even stronger his strong case for Giant as a \'legendary\' work.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe book is not the sort of 'alternate history' that Harris created in Fatherland, which envisioned a world under a victorious Hitler. Rather, Munich is an interpretive history whose author imagines what drove the minds of those who came to the table. Call it fictional history ... Harris creates a Chamberlain stronger, more nuanced and more sympathetic than he appears in most other accounts ... To his interpretive chronicle of Chamberlain’s exploits, Harris affixes, not too tightly, a fictional subplot about two characters ... The characters are not richly drawn, but they do bring color and a human dimension to the plot. Through the mens’ eyes, Harris evokes sobering images of life in Britain and Germany as war looms ... However diffuse, Munich will unsettle the reader with a chilling contemporaneity.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleGraceful, effortless work resulting from meticulous, detailed and painstaking preparation is what a reader sees in John McPhee’s fascinating Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process … McPhee details in a series of eight essays, which originally appeared in the New Yorker, how he progresses from blank stares into the sky to pages filled with words. To start, he illustrates how he plans the structure of his pieces with complex, sometimes abstruse diagrams … The detailed accounting of his methods, the witty sense of the writer’s life and the sincere encouragement McPhee offers in Draft No. 4 will surely encourage able writers to believe that they, too, might follow his precepts and craft a description like this one — something so good it makes them want to dance up the side of a wall.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle\"The ‘perks’ of the job, like the uppers Malone pops, soothe deeper wounds … Winslow puts Malone through a plot that’s a cats cradle made of barbed wire. Money-stuffed envelopes pass hands, foul-smelling street snitches offer tips on a dealer’s whereabouts, and city officials look the other way until their heads spin. Then, as Malone sits in jail, the feds make Malone an offer he may not refuse: inform on your fellow officers and you and your family get new lives … Winslow seems just to spin a tale. Careful reading, though, reveals the author’s razor-sharp ear for the ways cops and New Yorkers talk and images and details that evoke a dark, gritty, violent New York.\
MixedThe Washington PostHunter renders these gun battles with great skill. The glimpses into Charles’s lightning fast mind are sharp, and the rendering of the gunman’s whiplash moves are impressive. Hunter’s descriptions of the shootouts evoke the war correspondence of Stephen Crane and Ernest Hemingway ... unfortunately, Hunter stalls the momentum of his story with an inordinate amount of detail about guns. We see how they look. We learn of their histories. We study how they’re maintained, and, again and again, we’re told how they work. This level of detail will, admittedly, fascinate some readers, just as surely as it will turn away others. Equally off-putting to some readers will be the meager roles that Hunter gives women to play in his story ... Hunter’s double-barreled finish, though, should satisfy everyone.
PositiveThe Washington PostCumming’s novels depart significantly in one respect from le Carré’s and Deighton’s, as his latest, A Divided Spy, makes clear. Purpose and caring temper protagonist Thomas Kell’s cynicism, lending him more warmth and sensitivity than le Carré’s and Deighton’s often embittered agents ... Kell’s trust and regard for Minasian’s devotion to his lover becomes an affecting and significant aspect of A Divided Spy. Here, refreshingly, being gay is not shorthand for being perverted, repellent and villainous ... a quiet thriller in which a character’s moment of awareness or a soft-spoken exit line can be breathtaking.
PositiveThe Washington PostYes, much of what’s here has been published before, but along with the familiar and the trivial, he offers a lot that’s fresh and perceptive ... Beyond good dish, Isenberg makes some insightful contributions to Casablanca lore, too ... Isenberg’s discussions of the film, its stars, its production and its ongoing impact, often have the air of a panel session, with Isenberg moving things along as moderator...It’s frustrating, then, when this observant and astute author quotes others to cap a point...Had Isenberg let his own views prevail, the book would have a stronger authorial voice and a sharper focus.
MixedThe San Francisco ChronicleSchwalbe’s essays, alas, are uneven. He is forthcoming with telling details that he draws from his personal life and he writes smooth prose. Yet the reader only occasionally stops to savor a phrase ... Also, with some of the books he considers, Schwalbe doesn’t find a lot to say ... Other essays are lopsided, centered more on the effect of a book rather than on the book itself, with mixed results ... There are, on balance, some essays in the collection in which Schwalbe gets everything — the sense of a literary work and how it affects his life — exactly right ... Schwalbe’s enthusiasm for what he covers is contagious. He suggests enough fascinating books to keep you reading well through 2017.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThis is not to say that reading Conclave evokes a been-there-done-that ennui. The suspense inherent in finding out who will become pope is a surefire way to keep the reader turning pages, the author’s strong writing freshens the familiar with color, and his keen sense of character humanizes the baroque proceedings ... Harris’ wise choice to tell his story from Lomeli’s point of view adds suspense and warmth to the proceedings ... Conclave is not the best thriller Harris has ever written. But the machinations surrounding the papal election will surely fascinate and hold many readers.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle...informative, inspiring and often surprising ... The accidental is what McDonell’s best pieces capture when they take unexpected turns that lend his writing insight and humanity ... Editing success is all in the mix, McDonell writes, and the mix he achieves in The Accidental Life is just so.