RaveUSA TodayIn Eli Cranor’s brilliant debut, Don’t Know Tough we simply cannot look away from a brutal high school football star, Billy Lowe, and the disintegration of the world around him ... Don’t Know Tough takes the adage of “Faith, Family, and Football” and reveals it to be a vicious canard, or at least a decent cover for the common failings of god and men, the violence on the field an acceptable proxy for the violence that exists behind closed doors ... A major work from a bright, young talent.
RaveUSA Today... poetic and mesmerizing ... It’s an impossible weight for a mother to imagine, but Kukafka handles it with grace and empathy and terrible, enduring beauty ... a victim-forward narrative that is a relief to read after years of serial killer hagiography. It’s also no less thrilling ... a career-defining novel – powerful, important, intensely human, and filled with a unique examination of tragedy, one where the reader is left with a curious emotion: hope.
PositiveUSA Today... a smart airline thriller that is equal parts homage to the 1970s Airport film franchise and a 21st-century examination of failed American foreign policy ... The plot’s construction is elevator-pitch gold ... in a way, everyone is suspect, or at least complicit, when we learn that the terrorists here are Kurdish, and that they’re seeking revenge for being left to die when the Trump administration abandoned them in northern Syria. It’s a long haul to make terrorists empathetic, and to Newman’s credit, she doesn’t try. Instead, she merely tries to make them understandable. Revenge is a dish Americans love to consume, which makes Falling emotionally complex in surprising and refreshing ways ... That’s not to say Falling doesn’t have its missteps—dialogue is not Newman’s specialty, so she ends up leaning into cliche ... Still, Falling is expertly paced ... a rich and assured debut.
MixedUSA TodayLeitch does a terrific job embodying Daniel – his humor, his wisdom, his pettiness, his physical space – so that when he witnesses a young woman named Ai-Chin being abducted, we are immediately invested. How will Daniel ever solve this crime? And that’s where How Lucky crumbles under its own ambition. Because while Daniel’s life isn’t thrilling, unfortunately neither is Leitch’s book ... Leitch obfuscates drama with chapters of backstory on everything from the history of Athens to Daniel’s childhood friendship with Travis, and at absolutely the wrong time, a long discourse on Daniel’s mother’s fight with cancer, before returning to the laborious messages, which hit on every known cliche in the psychopath handbook ... becomes almost epistolary in its form the longer it progresses, which makes it claustrophobic and passive, and is further hampered by Leitch using direct address throughout, giving the narrative a chummy feel that waters down nearly every dramatic moment. If the narrator feels free to chat with us, the odds are fair he’s going to make it through the most drastic near-death event, including the remarkably absurd climax, which strains both believability and plausibility – imagine Encyclopedia Brown tying up a case up with the help of some flash-bang grenades and America’s most inept police force – but readers will be long past caring at that point. More troubling, we know no more about the missing woman, Ai-Chin, on page 300 than we did on page one. She is a conceit, not a character ... It’s a shame, really, because Leitch has created an indelible character in Daniel, a hero we want desperately to root for, a would-be amateur detective who could teach us about the value of human life along the way, if only he got a decent case to solve.
RaveUSA Today... outstanding ... Denny’s inherent decency in a world of corruption and mendacity forces the reader into difficult emotional territory. You’d cross the street to get away from Denny Rattler… if you didn’t know him. And if you did know him? You’d feed him a Swanson chicken dinner and do his laundry ... a crime novel, surely – and a damn good one – but it’s also a snapshot of small-town America at a fracture point, when the least of the concerns is the fire that could consume everyone, all at once.
PositiveUSA Today... a political thriller – in the sense that it’s thrilling to observe – which boils national politics down to the local level, in all of its banality, and all of its profound human consequence ... Wright is also an exceedingly adept satirist, and his ability to lift the curtain on the manipulation of data, criminal justice, and the sociological behavior of voters is nothing short of fascinating ... a political novel in all the best ways, which is to say it’s about public affairs: messy and complex and never easily settled.
RaveUSA Today... glorious, dizzying, disconcerting and often laugh-out-loud hysterical, in all the meanings of that last word ... while the weather may be unpredictable, history has a way of bending toward repetition before it arcs back to justice ... Which is the brilliance of Weather: We see Lizzie moving repeatedly through the same precise landscapes, interacting with the same exact people, her world and her supporting characters fixed like a sitcom’s standing sets and background regulars. The only thing that changes is the collective consciousness, so that safe spaces turn dangerous, dangerous spaces turn hum-drum and thus old relationships get upended, as if an asteroid is hurtling toward the planet and nothing really matters anymore ... both satire and a precise critique of what means to live in this time, when every day we’re besieged by worst-case scenarios.
PositiveUSA Today...the book (and movie) that is most analogous to Koepp’s engaging debut novel, Cold Storage...is Peter Benchley’s iconic Jaws. In both cases, humans are put in peril by the evolutionary imperatives of a wild creature, which is particularly frightening since you can’t argue or reason with natural selection ... the humans in peril aren’t just the folks dumb enough to go in the water… it’s all of us. Which raises the stakes—and the fun—immeasurably. If you find profound anxiety fun.
RaveUSA Today... the emotional and logical core of this thriller lives inside the conceit itself ... that rare thriller that ends up being highly personal. Yes, there’s a shadowy force dictating the action, but when it all comes down to its (necessarily) explosive conclusion, the actions of characters are boiled down to familial ethics, understandable motivations, and good old-fashioned revenge, which makes for a satisfying and deeply rewarding read, no matter the season.
PanUSA TodayEmotional profundity is sadly lacking in Jenoff’s latest ... a gauzier, more florid and awkwardly romantic account ... Jenoff has at her disposal a great, mostly untold story of heroism and espionage, both about the woman who trained an elite force of operatives and then spent years looking for them after their death, and also about what it was like to be one of those women, but the result has all of the tension of a Hallmark card. This is a slight re-telling of a remarkable story and an unusual slip-up from the dependable Jenoff.
PositiveUSA Today\"... poetic and unnerving ... The River is a slim book – just over 250 pages – but it is full of rushing life and profound consequences ... the result is a novel that sweeps you away, each page filled with wonder and awe for a natural world we can quantify with science but can rarely predict with emotion. And if Heller’s characters sometimes lack subtlety, they make up for it in their ability to convey tenderness, a fundamental lack in far too many of us.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...captivating and challenging … McCarthy is vague about what constituted his character's past life: He shows us one friend and one love interest, both of whom disappear soon after the money arrives. There are no parents. No siblings. Not even a memory of a beloved pet. Instead, McCarthy delivers a man without allegiances or binds: an existential Everyman. It is this that propels the second and more enervating trauma of Remainder — the narrator's quest for identity. Having seen the end and survived, he has returned feeling like an impostor in his own skin … Remainder isn't a mystery novel -- there's no villain here apart from time and space -- so if its core ripples with ambiguity, all the better for the reader, as this is a book to be read and then reread, rich as it is with its insights, daring as it is with its contradictions.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe previous books and films have all postulated on the why of it all but Mehr digs deeper, thanks to a decade’s worth of exclusive interviews with the musicians, their families, their friends, their lovers, and seemingly every person who ever worked with them — or sat down to drink a case or 10 of beer with them — and the end result isn’t just a historical document about a band that should have been called the What Could Have Beens, but also an essential look into the machinery of artistry, and the foibles of trying to make music into business ... Trouble Boys is the true story of a great American failure; of a band that should have been huge — they probably could be huge right now, really — except for that small problem that real people, with real problems, were never able to get out of their own damn way.