PositiveLos Angeles TimesWhat makes Sellout so engrossing is that it profiles both the artists and the suits—the label heads and their A&R reps. Ozzi not only provides a rigorously researched look at how labels targeted bands and fought to sign them; he also amasses an impressive number of firsthand accounts of major-label talent scouts acting like major league sleazeballs ... Part of the book’s appeal lies in rooting for bands to beat the odds—even when you know they won’t. As a result, the bulk of the stories in Sellout are cautionary tales ... As the stories progress, patterns emerge. There’s a fascinating parallel between the labels’ struggles to convince bands of their street cred and the bands’ struggles to convince fans they hadn’t lost it. Who was kidding whom? That’s not a question Ozzi examines ... At the intersection of punk and commerce is a great deal of denial, useful self-deception on both sides. The artists maintain they’ll stay true to their roots, meaning they’ll never change ... The labels, meanwhile, convince themselves they can bend the bands to their will and make hits ... These incompatible positions drive much of the conflict in Sellout.
Nina Renata Aron
RaveLos Angeles TimesMany of Aron’s truths are so pulverizing in their honesty that they ought to come with a warning, especially for readers new to the gritty realities of recovery ... But there’s more to this memoir than doomed romance ... Despite her blunt, brutal tone, Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls is not a confessional ... Aron’s hatchet is the sharp prose she uses to slash through broken promises and empty apologies. Whether she’s describing her mental state...or the landscape of addiction...each page of Aron’s memoir glints with hard-won truths ... Aron lights a path through the darkness of her past toward a better future.
RaveLos Angeles Times... shorter, darker and every bit as enthralling as [Burns\'s] breakout success ... Humor and death amble side by side ... This novel’s tone is slightly more high-pitched than the Booker winner, calling to mind a weird mixture of the gothic grotesqueries of Patrick McCabe’s novel The Butcher Boy and the saga of a bloodthirsty Celtic king of yore ... The narrator’s quintessentially Irish deadpan humor elevates the seriousness of Burns’ endeavor, making it more than just another bleak story about The Troubles. It’s a dizzying ride, by turns horrifying and hilarious, but exquisitely managed by Burns’ baroque but precise prose ... a prayer not just for the people of Tiptoe Floorboard, but for towns just like it all over the world, scarred by violence and transformed into a place where the dead walk alongside the living, the living enfold themselves in little constructions, and the currency in which the community traffics is shame that stems from a trauma that refuses to be named.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...a book that is shorter, darker and every bit as enthralling as [Burn\'s] breakout success. ... the focus is on the family and how trauma is passed from one generation to the next. And what a wild family it is ...The violence in Little Constructions is normalized to the same degree that gossip is weaponized in Milkman. This novel’s tone is slightly more high-pitched than the Booker winner, calling to mind a weird mixture of the gothic grotesqueries of Patrick McCabe’s novel The Butcher Boy and the saga of a bloodthirsty Celtic king of yore. Little Constructions is a prayer not just for the people of Tiptoe Floorboard, but for towns just like it all over the world, scarred by violence and transformed into a place where the dead walk alongside the living, the living enfold themselves in little constructions, and the currency in which the community traffics is shame that stems from a trauma that refuses to be named.
Chris L. Terry
PositiveThe San Diego CityBeatBlack Card poses the question: What does one do when we’re caught between two cultures? ... Terry’s wry sense of humor and caustic wit is reminiscent of Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned and Todd Taylor’s Shirley Wins. Black Card is a powerful reflection on race and identity that packs a punk rock punch.
PositiveThe San Diego CityBeatDespite Mark’s evangelical past, The Churchgoer is every bit as hardboiled as the crime novels of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson ... Coleman dispatches his detective all over San Diego and takes pleasure in puncturing the myth of San Diego as America’s Finest City ... a tightly plotted noir with all the classic tropes of a detective novel; but it’s also an existential rumination on what it means to come to the end of things. The detective’s search for clues to solve the mystery stands in for man’s search for meaning in a world ruled by uncertainty.
Sarah Rose Etter
PositiveThe San Diego CityBeatDespite these strange activities and Cassie’s deformity, the novel unfolds in a fairly conventional manner ... Etter has crafted a strange and surreal novel that serves as a reminder that while we might carry our afflictions with us wherever we go, it’s up to us whether we let our burdens define us. The Book of X looks like an experimental novel, but feels like a classic.
RaveThe San Diego City BeatThis is rich territory for a thriller and McKinty makes the most of it. His language is sparse but direct, and the action is non-stop. Rachel’s terror is palpable when she comes to terms with what is happening to her, but the novel is at its most harrowing when Rachel turns to targeting a child and plotting the abduction ... The Chain is the name of the shadowy criminal network, but it’s also a metaphor for how we’re tethered to our devices ... While The Chain will leave many readers anxious about how their social media use puts them at risk, the book represents something of a happy ending—and a new beginning—for its author.
PanSan Diego City BeatAlthough I steeled myself for a science-fiction story written by someone who apparently has never read Asimov or seen Blade Runner, I wasn’t prepared for the mostly predictable and surprisingly provincial story that McEwan cooked up ... McEwan...has constructed a counterfactual tale that hinges on an interesting question: What if Alan Turing had lived into his 70s and was able to turn his genius for code-breaking toward artificial intelligence? The result is a world that looks a lot like the one we live in today, complete with the internet, smart phones and self-driving cars. And what new inventions does McEwan imagine for this alternate universe of his? Nothing. That I came to like Adam more than the other characters feels less like a triumph of machine over man than the failing of a much-loved novelist. McEwan’s robots may be like us, but his humans are not.
PositiveThe San Diego CityBeatEscoria is especially adept at portraying the fraught and, at times, volatile friendships of troubled teenage girls dealing with a multitude of disorders and diagnoses ... Every so often, Escoria punctures the narrative with \'A Letter from the Future.\' These chapters clue the reader into ways the story differs from how Escoria lived it ... a howl of despair, but one that needs to be heard in order to understand afflictions such as depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as destigmatize those who suffer from them.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books... Nico’s journey feels every bit as harrowing as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road ... Nico’s journey might seem like an odd interlude for a hyper-violent saga about Mexican drug cartels. This isn’t a dystopian flourish, but a cold dose of reality ... Nico’s journey illustrates in heart-breaking detail why so many people are fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras ... Winslow doesn’t introduce a character to make a point. Rather, he masterfully weaves them into his web of intrigue. It’s an audacious and unusual undertaking ... Winslow writes about the bloodshed in Mexico with a passion and purpose that calls to mind The Part About the Crimes section of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 ... At the sentence level, Winslow’s writing in The Border is comparable to James Ellroy’s — not the dark dream of the L.A. Quartet, but the hard-bitten prose of the Underworld USA trilogy that followed ... Few fiction writers know more about the futility of the War on Drugs and its impact on the United States and Mexico than Don Winslow. This research comes in handy when writing sadistic scenes of narco torture and retaliation, and The Border has an abundance of them. But there’s a grander purpose at work here. At a time when nationalism is on the rise, The Border is nothing less than Winslow’s endeavor to pull down the barriers in his readers’ imaginations.
Roberto Bolano, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
PositiveThe San Diego City Beat... isn’t an early work of science fiction, but its fantastic prose and unusual conceits contain the kernels of a much larger and more beguiling book, The Savage Detectives ... belongs in that category of novel that documents first contact between a great writer and a great city ... Although these various situations and scenarios seldom cohere, they light the way for Bolaño’s chief project: to make high art out of the low-brow material of Mexico City’s bars, bookstores and bathhouses ... isn’t for everyone, nor is it the best place to start in Bolaño’s oeuvre. It is, however, a beguiling introduction to the Mexico City he’d dreamed of for so long, both on and off the page.
PositiveSan Diego City Beat\"Hark not only hits the mark, but it just might be Lipsyte’s most accessible and fulfilling work to date.\
RaveLos Angeles Times\"... mesmerizing ... Those Who Knew operates as a kind of puzzle that pulls the characters toward one another. Each scene skillfully leapfrogs over the last as the mystery of Maria’s death deepens and more secrets are revealed ... Those Who Knew is an uncannily prescient novel that animates the #MeToo movement and speaks to the depth of the moral quagmire we currently find ourselves in. The novel’s exploration of how silence is weaponized by institutions, which permit those who commit horrible abuses to get away with them, feels tailor-made for our times ... Those Who Knew is the rare novel that challenges its readers to consider what their silence is costing us.\
PositiveSan Diego City Beat\"Milkman is a dense, claustrophobic and paranoid novel that traffics in rumor, innuendo and hearsay—all of which can be as oppressive as any totalitarian regime ... Milkman is a strange, stirring and, at times, overwhelming novel about the extremes of sectarianism. It’s also a cautionary tale of what can happen to a society when its inhabitants see themselves in terms of \'us\' and \'them.\'\
PositiveLos Angeles Times\"... mind-bending ... As the novel accelerates toward its heart-wrenching conclusion, its composition becomes increasingly meta and feels a bit like being stuck inside a high-concept time travel movie ... Like a television rerun, Samuel’s situation repeats, but the story of his eternal return does end, as all books must, in a manner that is absolutely dazzling. Given the limitations Riker has imposed on poor ghostly Samuel, it’s remarkable that he was able to get any kind of novel out of his circumstances, much less one so moving and profound.\
Glen David Gold
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times[I Will Be Complete] is an extraordinary book about growing up in California ... Gold’s childhood is much more than merely interesting; it is riveting in the way of stories of children raised in the wild ... There are passages that dazzle, passages that fall flat in intricately designed ways ... While life may be ruled by chance, memoirs are not, and Gold delivers a conclusion for the ages that involves a dramatic confrontation with a shadowy figure from his childhood. I Will Be Complete is an audacious, boundary-shattering work that will be talked about for a very long time.
RaveThe San Diego City Beat... a heat-wrenching novel filled with a large cast of characters astounded by their circumstances. It’s sprawling narrative includes Paris between the wars, modern art, contemporary cults, and an HIV virus that isn’t going away ... Makkai, who did an enormous amount of research for the novel, puts her characters through the ringer. When things seem like they can’t get any worse, they do; yet they carry on. It’s a novel about hope and it’s flipside resilience.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times\"This first section is fairly slow as Winslow burnishes the plot with backstory to explain how police work is dangerous business that takes an emotional toll that many cops deal with by self-medicating. If you’ve owned a television since the Carter administration this is not exactly a newsflash. We’ve been down these mean streets before ... Winslow is using his considerable gifts for taking readers into unfamiliar territory and making them feel at home. It’s remarkable to cozy up to a cop this dirty; we’re talking Whitey Bulger level of sleaze and intimidation. For all the lip service Winslow pays to the boys in blue, make no mistake The Force paints the police in a very unflattering light ... His mastery over his material makes the novel compulsively readable in spite of its epic scope. But what makes The Force unique among police procedurals is that it’s not the story of a rogue cop with a code or a bad apple who spoils the barrel, but a sneakily subversive post-Ferguson thriller.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...[Maazel is] a dazzling prose stylist with a gift for creating characters caught in extraordinary situations that defy credulity. Imagine a situation comedy written by Phillip K. Dick or a telenovela penned by Thomas Pynchon ... At times this kitchen sink approach threatens to smother the story, but Maazel propels the narrative forward with her knack for evoking empathy out of the improbable and transforming coincidence into conspiracy. A Little More Human is a character-driven work of literary fiction that also happens to be a thriller guided by a web of intrigue with an ending that not even a mind reader could see coming.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksWays to Disappear defies convention and categorization, effortlessly careening from magical realism to noir, reckless romance to metafictional dictionary definitions. The result is a story as propulsive as it is compelling.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesThe Fugitives is neither an experimental high-wire act nor a plodding whodunit but something in between, an entirely new kind of novel with exceptional interior monologues animated by deception, double-dealing and a doomed affair that lends an air of existential dread to the story.