Moshfegh interrogates many things in LAPVONA; absolute power, classism, corruption, blind faith, bad faith, survival under extreme duress, violence and victimhood, delusion and dishonesty, that we're born alone and will die alone and quite possibly everyone we've ever met is inexcusably and irreparably terrible in ways we'll never even begin to comprehend. It's kind of like a comedy of errors, only depressing and unflinchingly grotesque. Long story short, it's incredibly good.
Reading this book felt like watching a slow-motion swan dive into pavement. HAWK MOUNTAIN examines the effects of cis-heteronormativity and isolation in one of the most stressful, propulsive, I-know-things-are-gonna-get-bad-before-they-get-worse packages I’ve opened in a minute. Twisty and grisly and dark dark dark. I couldn’t put it down.
Kick the Latch feels like trading stories over beers at a dive bar with the tough old bitch I've always wanted to be. This short but deeply immersive narrative, populated by a cast of colorful outsiders united by common obsession, reveals the life and expertise of a working class everywoman on the margins in compulsively readable vignettes and requires no previous interest in horse racing to appreciate. Despite my mother's best efforts I never was a horse girl, but this book made me catch a little fomo for life on the backstretch.
Expectations exceeded tenfold. The seemingly quirky premise--woman wins lottery and recreates the Three's Company universe alone on a secluded mountain--could have gone a number of ways, and it's with great pleasure that I report back from the depths of Ashley Hutson's debut novel a little breathless. ONE'S COMPANY is a strange and thoughtful examination of the perils and pratfalls of unresolved trauma; main character Bonnie Lincoln an object lesson in how unchecked depression can and will trick one’s brain into believing warped narratives about one’s own existence. Comparisons to Ottessa Moshfegh seem to be a dime a dozen, but they actually feel warranted here. There are shades of both the unnamed narrator of MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION and Eileen in Bonnie Lincoln. But make no mistake: ONE'S COMPANY is very much its own glorious, darkly compelling thing. This one gets a permanent spot on the keeper shelf.
Red and Blue are top agents on fundamentally opposing sides in the titular time war. Having noticed one another as equals from afar, they begin a secret and very off limits correspondence with repercussions that will be felt across the multiverse, as their battlefield boasts quickly (in an over-the-span-of-all-space-and-time kind of way) develop into something deeper and far more dangerous for them both. Friends, this book is so good. As in I had to leave the room after I finished it to keep myself from diving right back in for another go. As in how the heck did Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone craft such a brutally romantic and deeply moving queer love story AND a mind-blowingly rich time-travel narrative in the span of 198 short pages? To steal a phrase from another time-travel franchise you may be familiar with, This Is How You Lose the Time War is very much bigger on the inside.
Melissa Chadburn's debut novel combines seriously gritty realism, Pilipino lore and incendiary prose to examine how people (particularly young women of color) are betrayed by the systems created to keep them safe. An activist and survivor of the very foster care system in which main character Marina comes up, Chadburn know’s her stuff. Some scenes are legitimately disturbing to read (trigger warnings galore apply to this one), but hard truths require unflinching honesty and Chadburn pulls no punches. That being said, A TINY UPWARD SHOVE is not without moments of transcendence. This is no mere torture porn, and though we’re aware of Marina’s demise from the jump she’s so well developed, so determined and full of potential, we can’t help but root for her as we follow the trajectory of her tragically short life from the mythic aswang’s eye view. A dichotomy of ugliness and grace, a story of spitting hope in the face of terrible odds and the rebellion of resilience. You won't be able to shake it.
Easy Beauty got me with its first whiz-bang sentence and held me rapt until the last. This book has more moving parts than I anticipated; the word memoir set me up for certain (probably biased) expectations and Chloe Cooper Jones blew em out if the water. Frank, crisp, thoughtful. This is a memoir yes, but it’s also travelogue, a discussion of aesthetics, a meditation on disability, parenthood, and the spaces in which they intersect—all while exploring how best to exist in the world when hemmed in by both its expectations and your own defenses against them. And y’all, on top of all this, it is really charming.
I haven't written so many notes in the margins of a book in a very long time. In pencil. I'm not a monster.