RaveForeword Reviews... sprawling and colorful ... The novel ably bounces between these four narratives, while dozens of secondary characters weave into each, all moving, slow and steady, toward a climactic event. The novel’s rich details are both its allure and its occasional undoing. The motivations and inner struggles of the main quartet are palpable ... How each comes to terms with, or pushes against, these issues makes the book prescient and powerful. At the same time, the story is larded by extraneous information, as of the minutiae of poker play. That it still manages to pack a sizable punch is due to the strength and depth of its tart narrative. Sneaking sly wit and subtle profundities into its wide-ranging narrative, Paradise, Nevada is a wonderful saga that’s both reflective of, and critical of, our modern age.
PositivePortland MercuryBecause Coates knows this time period and territory so well, it allows him to pour all of himself into the prose. The Water Dancer is as illuminating and awe-inspiring as a falling star, soaring by at a similar clip. It’s rich with detail, but not overwhelmed with it. There’s just enough to urge you forward to the next page ... The book’s only hiccup is a holdover from Coates’ other work as a writer of comics...\'The Conduction\' is a kind of supernatural force that transports him to key moments in his life and back again. Even as it works as a perfect metaphor for the ways in which Black people are forever connected to and frequently exhausted by the weight of the past...it also distracts from the story. The Water Dancer might be built around frequent appearances of \'The Conduction,\' but the power trips up an otherwise brilliantly crafted novel.
PositivePortand MercuryEllroy has been writing like this for so long, and his prose is so great, that he’s been given a lifetime pass ... This Storm becomes downright dizzying. How Ellroy ties up seemingly loose plot threads and sticks the landing with a satisfying flourish is as electrifying as the hep vernacular he delights in ... Such is the strength of Ellroy’s status in the world of letters that this new book carries a provocative cover: four arrows, bent to form the shape of a swastika. Ellroy acolytes will shrug it off, but folks outside that circle might be less forgiving.
PositivePortland MercuryAs alluring as it is to read his takes on Tab Hunter’s dalliances and John Belushi’s fatal overdose, Levy’s greatest feat is how he makes dull facts about the design and history of the building as interesting as what went on inside it ... Levy’s research is extensive, but he doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae. The book gets particularly meaty when its gossipy and historical sides crash together ...
RaveThe Stranger\"There’s a shadow looming over If You Have to Go—the poignantly titled and brilliant collection of poetry from Katie Ford—and it’s the dissolution of Ford’s marriage. Each poem within the collection is either softly shaded by the event or completely subsumed in its darkness ... Even if you have never been through the trials of a divorce, or even a serious heartbreak, those lines still thrum a chord deep within.\
MixedThe Portland MercuryJason Heller makes it difficult to guess who the intended audience is for in his latest book ... The non-fiction tome, which focuses in on the ’70s...feels like it’s aimed at satisfying two schools of pop culture obsessives (sci-fi geeks and music junkies) but also a general reader who has only a rudimentary knowledge of the artistic veins Heller is mining. Heller winds up serving no one especially well, getting stuck in spots where he needn’t linger and skimming over others that could have used a deep dive ... He trips himself up by using Bowie as the book’s through line. Heller doesn’t offer much new insight, preferring to rehash the same well-known details ... For those folks already well versed in this lore and these sounds, though, Strange Stars offers frustratingly little fresh information or wisdom to stoke our own fandom.
PositivePaste Magazine\"Itzkoff can only scratch the surface of what made Williams so compelling in words; there’s a sense that he trusts readers to understand references or to at least search YouTube for themselves. Biographies like Robin, especially one written after a tragic death, unfortunately try to fill in the blanks and answer the questions that its subject left behind ... On that front, Itzkoff stumbles, even as he concludes the book talking about Lewy body disease, a Parkinson’s like disorder that causes hallucinations and paranoia that may have contributed to Williams’ terrible decision ... is as thoughtful as ever ... Itzkoff tells this story well.\
PositivePasteThe beauty of this method is that fans get the best of both worlds: a quick and dirty recap of the well-covered ground that is his life story, and anecdotes that only amplify what a rare and special creature Bowie was. It’s not a complete portrait by any means, more like highly detailed storyboards that could eventually transform into a Technicolor epic. This wide net approach does come with its downsides; Jones desperately needed a stronger editorial hand at the wheel of this book. There are many of repetitive comments, some of which use almost the exact same language, as if people were given talking points before each interview ... The book’s flow is also interrupted by Jones’ decision to pull from reviews and stories about Bowie as well as email interviews. Again, those can work within the framework of an oral history, but proper annotation is necessary ... What saves David Bowie: A Life is knowing that, even with its faults, it’s peppered with entertaining lines and anecdotes.
MixedThe Portland Mercury...the book, like few other rock chronicles of recent vintage, actually reads the way its subject thinks. It’s arranged chronologically, but wanders off on assorted tangents and silly anecdotes. And it’s all written in an unaffected patois peppered with cockney slang and coarse language. Lonely Boy is also marked by a deep-seated well of pain that Jones seems to have only recently come to terms with ... The real meat of the book, naturally, is his recounting of the short history of the Sex Pistols. It’s well-trodden ground, but there’s actually some fresh insight to be found through Jones’ lens ... From there, the book quickly and messily limps to the finish line...For such an exuberant beginning, the rest feels pretty vacant.
PositivePasteTony Fletcher almost nails the equation with In the Midnight Hour...Fletcher took multiple trips to Pickett’s old stomping grounds in Alabama and Detroit and conducted dozens of interviews with family members, his backing bandmates, and fellow musicians. Fletcher lays bare Pickett’s highs and most egregious lows without flinching, but there’s an almost scholarly detachment to moments like Pickett firing a gun at his own brother or meting out punishment on his son with a baseball bat ... Fletcher reserves his critical commentary for the music, and his descriptions of Pickett’s finest songs skirt the edge of purple prose. There’s no denying the importance of 'Midnight Hour' or 'Land of 1,000 Dances' in the history of music, but Fletcher’s microscopic attention to the recording sessions stall the book at times ... The author provides the most complete picture, warts and all, of this singular soul artist—and he doesn’t pull any punches. Fletcher also weaves in relevant ribbons of sociopolitical context, highlighting the cultural weight of what Pickett accomplished in his life. For whatever faults that lie within these pages, Fletcher springs back from them with clarity and a wealth of fascinating information.
Laura Jane Grace
MixedPasteThe section of the book that chronicles Grace coming out to herself and then breaking the news to the rest of the world is, naturally, the most engrossing part of this otherwise frothy bit of nonfiction ... Grace reserves the harshest criticisms for herself. She just drags a lot of people down in the muck with her ... Her more complete acknowledgment of the truth is a long time coming, and the solace that she feels as she moves towards it is palpable. The unintended effect, though, is that it casts the rest of Tranny in far more negative terms ... There are actual journal entries stitched in throughout the narrative, and as wearing as the dishy stuff can get, it also proves entertaining to eavesdrop on the gossip.
PanThe Portland MercuryUnfortunately for Robertson, his well-documented ego keeps getting the better of him. Although Testimony is decidedly well-structured and compelling, it’s also Robertson’s attempt to paint the self-portrait of a tortured genius ... this is exactly the kind of book that students of rock history should have expected from Robertson: a one-sided testimony from a star witness, representing himself, with no defense team on hand to cross-examine. Case dismissed.