PositiveBooklistThe second volume of Ellroy’s second L.A. Quartet picks up where Perfidia (2014) left off, on New Year’s Eve 1941, and begins a chaotic 1942 with a plot so convoluted readers will be grateful every time characters restate the facts ... If, at some point, most of the characters seem to speak like Ellroy, or maybe his grandiloquent Smith, it’s somehow appropriate, plunging us ever deeper into a fevered secret history that could have been dreamed by nobody else. Relentlessly compelling.
PositiveBooklistThe support group is brought to vivid life, and the relationships between the characters feel honest and true ... Taz’s need to work is a key part of the plot, and Fromm details the cabinetmaking with poetic care and a level of detail that will delight some readers and test others. His character’s self-absorption, which feels utterly right in the early stages, wears somewhat thin by the book’s end. But the best parts are simply magical as Fromm renders indelible images with heartbreaking precision in beautiful, lyrical prose.
RaveBooklistImmersed in this book, the reader is drawn along by tantalizing revelations while simultaneously exhausted, longing for escape from its cloistered world—mirroring the accounts of many former Scientologists on the record, here ... Readers will have to decide whether to believe the Pulitzer-winning author’s carefully sourced reporting, or the church’s rebuttals ... offers a fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways.
Bret Easton Ellis
PositiveBooklist...[an] intelligent and briskly observed offering ... As his Twitter followers and podcast listeners will know, Ellis isn’t afraid to be contrarian, and that’s what makes this book so interesting. You might disagree with much of what Ellis thinks—but that, it would seem, is just fine with him.
PositiveBooklistThis bare sketch doesn’t do justice to this slim novel, which offers a remarkable evocation of time and place, transcending what could, in lesser hands, have been a journal thinly disguised as memoir ... Kimberling is an exacting wordsmith capable of elegantly simple sentences, and his narrator’s observations are often dryly hilarious ... If several passages of dialogue are a touch arch and stagy, it’s forgivable. Possibly some readers will wish for deeper emotions, richer character development, or a story arc with a more pronounced curve, but others will delight in the digressions, historical asides, and trenchant observations in this tour of a Prague that no longer exists.
Joe R Lansdale
PositiveBooklistThe twelfth novel in the series is essentially an extended action sequence ... Lansdale’s narrative voice is as wonderful as ever, as is the banter between the mismatched best friends as they punctuate the violence with drolly mundane observations. While this lacks the deeper explorations of race in 2018’s stellar Jackrabbit Smile, and Nikki’s character isn’t exactly memorable, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Hap and Leonard, even in the worst of circumstances.
C J Box
PositiveBooklists always, Box takes familiar elements of his long-running series—the upstanding Joe, the renegade Nate, a daughter in danger (this time it’s Lucy), and a threat from outside—and seamlessly combines them into a read that makes your heart race, even though you won’t leave the couch until you’ve turned the last page. Half mystery, half thriller, totally worthwhile.
RaveBooklist\"... terrific ... Much of the novel’s power comes from the way Abbott captures the fierce urgency of the teenagers’ emotional lives. Living in an insular world where adults, boys, and other students are largely nonentities, they’re glib about the abuse done to their bodies and psyches, living only for halftime. This is cheerleading as blood sport, \'Bring It On\' meets \'Fight Club\'—just try putting it down.\
PositiveBooklistA picaresque novel, but then T. R. led a picaresque life, marked from beginning to end by restlessness and adventure ... momentum is both the novel’s strength and flaw. It’s a ripping, enjoyable yarn, yet one senses a struggle to add heft and significance; passages about dreadful visions and regrets don’t completely cohere into a fully realized character. Perhaps it’s impossible to reinvent Roosevelt as Charyn did with Emily Dickinson in his remarkable The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (2010)—but this is a bully read, regardless.
PositiveBooklistRaunchy, profane, violent, and frequently hilarious in its epic descriptions of drug and alcohol abuse, the continued saga is remarkable for the way it delivers the anarchic goods to Trainspotting fans while touching on the ultimate obsessions of middle age: death and the purpose of life ... Dead Men’s Trousers delivers a strangely life-affirming dose of dark absurdity, ensuring that, if this is the last we see of these characters, they won’t soon be forgotten.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Trans. by Lucia Graves
PositiveBooklistThe final entry in Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet is a weighty bookend indeed, a sprawling story that braids together threads from the three previous books... Gothic, operatic, and in many ways old-fashioned, this is a story about storytelling and survival, with the horrors of Francoist Spain present on every page. Compelling if unevenly paced, this is for readers who savor each word and scene, soaking in the ambience of Barcelona, Zafón’s greatest character (after, perhaps, the irrepressible Fermín Romero de Torres).
PositiveBooklistWhile Longmire remains the goodhearted stalwart we’ve come to know and love, this novel has a different feel, due in equal parts to the unfamiliar territory, the siege-of-the-fortress plot, and the absence of his Absaroka County supporting cast. Series fans will likely welcome the changes, at least temporarily, as Longmire masters repeated capture and gunpoint negotiations with his usual gruff élan ... it all has the feel of an action serial; no matter how many bodies drop, the good guy’s going to come out OK—and that’s OK with us.
RaveBooklistNearly two decades after his last mystery, Motherless Brooklyn (1999), Lethem gives us another, a funny but rage-fueled stunner ... Set in the days surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration, this echoes with Phoebe’s explicitly voiced outrage and sadness about the country’s political right turn, yet it also feels allegorical ... Both Phoebe and Charles are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers, who, seeing their own country grow alien, have left the center for the margins. Politics aside, it’s an unrelentingly paced tale where the protagonists’ developing relationship is just as interesting as the puzzle they’re trying to solve. Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.
RaveBooklistYes, this features the trappings of a thriller—shoot-outs, international locales, a looming sense of threat, sudden reversals—but the biggest thrills are the subtlest ones ... Though his earliest fictions were set behind the Iron Curtain, Steinhauer proves himself an equally adept chronicler of a world in which walls have come down and the most potent powers aren’t necessarily political. Another must-read from a modern master.
RaveBooklistOnce again, Abbott...plunges us deep into a vividly realized world of intense competition and creates life-or-death stakes where we wouldn’t have known to look for them ... Procedural fans may have a few nitpicks, but this is a brilliant riff on hard science, human nature, and the ultimate unknowability of the human brain.
Bill Clinton & James Patterson
PositiveBooklist\"Patterson ensures the plot purrs like a finely tuned machine ... Some readers may be disappointed that the premise inherent in the title is a bit of a head fake, and the battle-hardened Duncan doesn’t really go off the grid to tangle with the bad guys mano a mano. But what does happen is ultimately more plausible ... Clinton doesn’t help us steer clear of comparisons, for it’s his voice we hear as the narrator whopops up time and again to justify his actions in the face of ignorant opposition, to opine on the state of the republic, to offer geopolitical lessons, and to remind us just how much he feels everyone’s pain ... Is this book intended to be a real caution about a serious threat? If so, it’s a curious vehicle, but perhaps appropriate to the time in which we live. Half thriller, half policy primer, this is a strangely compelling addition to Clinton’s presidential papers.\
RaveBooklistGifted at inhabiting his outsiders and resisters, Loskutoff is also capable of portraying the vulnerability of new parenthood with grace (\'Stay Here\'). A unique and thoughtful evocation of a past, present, and future West, by a writer whose powerful new voice deserves our attention.
RaveBooklistThose who’ve missed these 30 pieces where previously published will be impressed by the breadth of his interests, the depth of his research, and the scrupulousness of his prose ... personal pieces...add emotional heft and shape to this wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and eminently browsable collection.
Joe R. Lansdale
RaveBooklist OnlineBigotry may be part of the plot, and the smiling white supremacist may be a metaphor for a recently emboldened brand of intolerance, but part of what makes this book exceptional is the way Lansdale portrays the long legacy of race and class discrimination as the characters’ lived experience ... Lansdale is one of a kind, with a deceptively folksy and funny voice that hides real darkness; fans of the eponymous SundanceTVseries will be delighted to find the books are even better.
PositiveBooklistEarly stories energetically skewer American social mores; by the middle of this more than half-century retrospective, the work can be somewhat less accessible ... but Coover’s playful sense of humor is ever-present ... Coover can still work at the top of his game.
RaveBooklist\"McGuane has a way of revealing mundane experience through extraordinary circumstance and can provoke powerful emotion in readers despite the frequent flatness of his prose ... As his frequent appearances in Best American Short Stories attest, McGuane is a master, choosing his words with a lapidary’s precision and setting them in sentences that burn brightly, finishing his stories with epiphanies to treasure.\
RaveBooklistPowers has complete command of storytelling skills, building questions of both plot and philosophy so deftly that, in their denouemont, there is no surprise, only recognition. A remarkable novel, from one of our greatest novelists, and a book that will change all who read it.
RaveBooklistSet in September 2008, during the subprime-mortgage crisis, Safe keys in on the people for whom the big-time wheeling and dealing was no mere abstraction; as Ghost makes the biggest score of his life, he reflects that it pales in comparison to Lehman Brothers’ daily take. Though the grand gesture by a bad guy who wants to be good could play as hokey, here it’s anything but. The criminal life is carefully rendered, the stakes are clear, and the characters’ humanity is rich and refreshing ... this is an emotionally rich page-turner whose devastating ending still offers a glimmer of hope.
Lawrence P. Jackson
RaveBooklistHimes’ life, eventful enough for several writers, is both blessing and curse to a biographer: Is it possible to have too much material? Fortunately, Jackson is more than up to the task, producing a cradle-to-grave account as meticulously detailed as it is psychologically insightful ... While two other Himes biographies exist, Jackson succeeds in his bid to offer a definitive life treatment.