Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford
PositiveThe Houston Chronicle... muscular prose that’s heavy on deadpan understatement ... The greatest surprise of Forget the Alamo is its clear-eyed explication of the ways politicians, educators, writers, filmmakers and TV executives used the Alamo to serve whatever message they were promoting ... Readers may well conclude that reclaiming the Alamo in all its complexity is a long-game proposition. Old stories die hard. What you cannot forget while reading this lively, entertaining and well-researched book is that there will always be another Alamo book, and another, and another after that. Myths take centuries to build and even longer to tear down. Let’s hope readers remember Forget the Alamo.
MixedThe Houston Chronicle... spare, distilled, stripped of the textural details of [Lahiri\'s] earlier work but still concerned with identity and belonging, her constant themes ... Lahiri builds the story in discrete pieces, like a mosaic. In brief chapters with locating titles...Although they ultimately assemble themselves into a plot, construction is slow ... Even grounded by Lahiri’s gorgeous sentences, the experience of reading Whereabouts falls short. Despite the first-person narration, a chilly distance persists between the narrator and the reader, perhaps because the latter is so present to the book’s strict bit-by-bit construction. The individual chapters never quite converge into a satisfying whole. Readers who recall the warmth radiating from Gogol Ganguli as he comes of age in “The Namesake,” or the ache of the fractured multigenerational family in The Lowland, may find this book wanting ... Some readers may not warm to the story, though, even if they appreciate the incredible skill and effort involved in creating it. There’s a cool wind blowing through these pages, and nowhere to get lost or linger ... A brave and inquisitive writer, she followed her instincts and stepped into new territory.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleIf you were raised in the religion that is musical theater, enjoy a healthy obsession with sex and never for one moment have forgotten what middle school feels like, have I got a treat for you ... This frank, freewheeling book is worth it, even if you’re a reviewer a full quarter-century older than Bloom who had to Google the lyrics of Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid to find the line that inspired the book’s title. I didn’t mind. The truths here about love, sex and anxiety, about the silence around the female body (who knew how hard it was to get the word clitoris on network TV!) have no particular time stamp ... reminds us just how much the world needs thoughtful, playful art, especially during a pandemic.
MixedHouston ChronicleContradictory as it sounds, it is Enzo\'s humanity that carries The Art of Racing in the Rain. His musings on the limits of canine expression are so compelling that the early chapters whiz by ... Enzo isn\'t the problem in Stein\'s novel. People are the problem. And as the plot thickens around Denny Swift, Enzo\'s owner, the narrative arc starts to sag ... The mechanical failure of the book is caused by one of two things: a predictable plot that erodes character, or a poorly conceived character ill-equipped to drive a plot.
Denny\'s passivity in the first half of the novel sets up a chain of events from which Denny spends the second half of the novel extricating himself, all the while affirming his love for his family. But the reader isn\'t fooled. When things with the in-laws get ugly, Denny is surprised but the reader isn\'t ... To be sure, Stein is an able driver; he keeps his characters on track and steers the plot to a satisfying conclusion. But in this novel, anyway, he lacks that magic fusion of intuition, skill and grace needed to drive a truly great story home.
PositiveHouston ChronicleWhile Home is compelling, it is not Beloved, which remains, for me, the pinnacle of Morrison’s genius. Nor is it A Mercy, which dug even further into America’s past to invent something loamier, richer than Home. But it’s still Toni Morrison, whose wisdom and gorgeous prose seep into every dip and turn in the story ... There’s a nugget...on nearly every page.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleZone One lifts all the gore and gunfire and oozy bits one might expect from the genre. But this is Whitehead, so there’s also popular culture to critique and parallels to draw between zombies and contemporary society ... Cinematic in scope and nimble in its use of hard-core gore, it’s an absorbing read, crammed with thoughtful snapshots of the world the survivors have left behind ... As readers, we should be at liberty to mourn a civilization that appears to be gone for good — one with safer homes, loving families and, yes, flat screen TVs. But the book sometimes makes us feel naive, even foolish for courting these feelings...a sharp commentary on the rat race of contemporary life. Interestingly, Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic world is devoid of the racial, social and religious stereotypes that have plagued civilizations forever.
PanThe Houston ChronicleUnfortunately, The Miniaturist fails to live up to its enticing architecture … the author never fully fleshes out the wonderful cast she has conjured. She gives them plenty to do: sex, violence, prison and a public trial become vital pieces of the plot. But there’s a lifelessness to the characters, as if they were puppets or dolls positioned to serve Burton’s impassioned commentary on race, family, sexual orientation and women’s rights … The clashes between staunch Calvinists and progressive-minded merchants, between the letter of the law and the truths of humanity, are finely drawn. But without living, breathing characters, The Miniaturist is most memorable for its consciousness-raising. Was that the author’s intent?
MixedThe Houston ChronicleWhat looks like a safe, predictable life suddenly turns into disaster. It’s a plot that has powered countless novels, and Richard Ford makes it work in Canada, but not suddenly. His tale moves ever so slowly and deliberately. That’s the strength and the weakness of Ford’s story about a 15-year-old boy, Dell Parsons … Dell narrates the story from the perspective of a man in his 60s who rose above the troubles that swamped his youth. How he did so is something Ford barely mentions, a rare instance of the author being less than forthcoming about all possible details.