PositiveThe East Bay ReviewThe mystery does add a sense of urgency, but in the end, as the story jumps the tracks and everything gets suddenly bigger and brighter, the simple beauty of K.’s sluggish unwinding is lost in all the clamor ... Faw’s ability to use repetition as a tool is beautiful thing to withhold. Though Ultraluminous hums along with a speed-addled sort of energy, faster and faster as the reader becomes attuned to the rhythm of K.’s world, Faw uses the pace, and her blunt style of writing to create a false sense of, albeit bizarre, security ... Faw’s unyielding writing style, her tight rein over the book’s pace is breathtaking, and K. is a fascinating character, but Faw stumbles when she starts trying to answer the questions of why and what comes next. The end of the book, twenty pages of violent reckoning, blows up the pattern, but it feels unnecessary, a garish extroverted end to a book that reads best when it resides solely in the mind of its engrossing protagonist.
PositiveThe East Bay ReviewFridlund writes about transitions—emotional, physical, even geographical—but more so about the state of transition. Her characters seem stuck, mired in the midst of a life change but unwilling or unable to seal the deal, to move forward ... Fridlund is particularly interested in the grey areas between moments. Her stories take place in borderlands between suburbs and the wild, and feature characters held back by their pasts but stumbling inevitably towards the future ... Each of Fridlund’s stories reads like a novel compressed and though it does work—both 'Catapult' and 'Lock Jaw' are stellar pieces—occasionally the author reaches for too much. It may be backstory or character motivation or just plot points scattered along the way, but there is an abundance in many stories that reads as clutter rather than atmosphere. Too many narrative threads, too many one-off plot additions shoot out into the darkness, never to be seen again. Even when Fridlund’s stories overextend, her writing is always spot on ... Fridlund’s writing—deft and observant, pockmarked with little bursts of joyful description—will pull you forward, even if the outcome isn’t always as satisfying as it might be.
RaveThe East Bay Review...[an] outstanding debut novel ... Rowe is, and this can’t be said enough, a remarkable writer. Her prose is a mixture of Denis Johnson’s tough guy prattle and the deft, character painting of Stephen King. These are seriously fucked up people, and Rowe has no problem putting that on the page, of scraping away at their sorest spots to slowly expose them to her readers. What Rowe is able to pack into such a short book (162 pages) is incredible—she builds a broken down world filled with living, breathing humans in what some authors would call an opening act. Her writing is somehow both visceral and dreamlike, alive but floating in a state of sustained shock ... Rowe has managed to take one of the great tropes of literature—the shattered family—and inject it with a blast of edgy, searing emotional fire. If it was only her writing that was as good as it is—and it is phenomenal—this would be a book to devour in a sitting, every word slowly savored. But her skill at description and setting is merely the gift-wrapping for a book that quietly, yet savagely, paints a picture of what it’s like to survive, and what it takes to continue doing so.
RaveThe East Bay ReviewDinner At The Center of the Earth is a story that ricochets through a decade of the historic, ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, but zooms down to a basic, near microscopic level in the context of history: the simple relationships between two people ... Englander is able to show not only the shifting morals inherent to a conflict between two opposing forces through his small cast of characters, but to show, that under the umbrella of history, are the teeming masses of individuals, all of them seeking a way forward, whatever that may be ... But Englander’s great gift, and perhaps the great message of this book, is his ability to make you believe, against all better judgement, that these relationships are real. That the emotion simmering at the heart of each — love, loss, want, lust — isn’t the product of espionage, but the product of natural human need ...a book full of betrayals, and paranoia, all of it derived from our most essential, most necessary aspect of being human: the relationship.