PositiveThe Los Angeles Times...shivering reactions are exactly what Gray wants for her spooky novel, which starts at the high pitch of disturbed atmosphere and mucks around there for all of its nearly 300 pages of clipped, sometimes robotic prose ... Emotions are present in Threats, but it’s like they’ve been through a sterilizing wash first ... The biggest plot point of the book is delivered with enigmatic precision, a narrative oxymoron that Gray nevertheless manages to pull off ... The entirety of Threats seems to exist in that unmooring, in which sanity can be ripped up like so many rotten floorboards, exposing how the flooring was probably never very secure in the first place ... Atmosphere is so consistently relied upon in Threats that it sometimes feels as if it might be just a skillful shrouding of the book lacking plot and developed characters. Indeed, there are times — especially when it comes to minor characters — when Gray’s usage of certain horror tropes, such as the omnipresence of wasps, can feel like contrivances unleashed to buzz around an otherwise idle scene ... In a novel that’s invigorating, though not always inviting, the book’s own wicked sense of self-awareness carries it through.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...The Topeka School is one white male’s attempt to consider how white men, as the dominant power in this country, brought us to this current moment of \'toxic masculinity,\' the catchall explanation for male violence and misogyny. This hot-button topic is examined with authentic intellectual interrogation. The Topeka School delves into the male aspect much more than race, which some may read as a failure to acknowledge an intersectional identity. But it hones the novel’s focus. Lerner, with his poet’s eye for the strengths and fallibility of language, is precise and prismatic in his investigations ... The chapters narrated by Gordon’s mother, Jane, a famous feminist author, much like Lerner’s real mother, are a revelation ... The diffuse quality of the book’s events can be frustrating at the start, when Lerner is laying out his touchstones that haven’t yet paid off. But once they accrue their power, the specificity of setting and character all coalesce to make an uncanny and gripping read.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times[Tobola] doesn’t romanticize the system, or her position, which grows to include staging several original plays; instead, she’s frank and even wry about its myriad challenges ... Tobola’s dedication to keeping these inmates attuned to their creative spark is what gives this humble memoir its powerful shine. There are people like Tobola who never give up on the forgotten.
RaveLos Angeles TimesThree Women burns a flare-bright path through the dark woods of women’s sexuality. In sentences that are as sharp — and bludgeoning, at times — as an ax, she retains the accuracy and integrity of nonfiction but risks the lyrical depths of prose and poetry ... The balance...throughout Three Women — between what is researched, remembered and dreamed into being by collaboration of author and subject — is a dazzling achievement ... For the duration, the reader becomes these women. Taddeo’s presence as narrator only occupies an author’s note, plus a short prologue and epilogue. Otherwise, she disappears into the characters, describing their experiences in such intimate third-person that her collapsing is our collapsing too. Sometimes the identification that can occur with the story can be almost nauseating ... Desire, because it can be a messy and desperate animal need, can be excruciating to witness ... Taddeo’s poetics of desire are gorgeous, but they occasionally obscure the trail she so brilliantly blazed through the trees.
PositiveBookforumDedicating the book to ‘women, the world over,’ Gay unflinchingly explores the hostility directed at her privileged character … Stubborn, fiery, and prone to swallowing her emotions before her kidnapping, Mireille is a difficult character for the reader to embrace. Her tough, at times dogmatic, viewpoint is even built into the direct and unequivocal prose, which can feel stifling for its lack of nuance. But it's the braver choice for the book to pick a thorny character to handle this ordeal … An Untamed State is a gem, blasted into beauty by the world's harshest conditions. This gripping debut has set the table for many great works to come.