7 Most-Favorable Reviews in January

  • February 4, 2020

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony this past month.

7 Most-Favorable Reviews in January

A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by John Hornor Jacobs (Harper Voyager). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “If there is a weakness to this second story, it is the sections told through Cromwell’s eyes; they move slowly, especially in comparison with Parker’s adventure-style writing. Readers may find themselves skimming over those and will miss little. Overwhelmingly, however, A Lush and Seething Hell is gripping and hauntingly evocative — a great read for fans of fantasy, horror, and everything in between.”

Oligarchy: A Novel by Scarlett Thomas (Counterpoint). Reviewed by Josh Denslow. “If I were sitting with the school counselors, I could recount many affecting moments in this novel. Small cruelties. Astonishing kindnesses. I might point directly to the scene in which one of Natasha's friends is only noticed by boys when she loses weight. Or that moment when the teacher who thought he'd left the school behind forever opens his door to find a group of teenage girls looking to him for answers. Or, especially, later, when Natasha realizes there’s little distinction between having everything and having nothing if she can’t make her own choices.”

The Scent of Buenos Aires: Stories by Hebe Uhart; translated by Maureen Shaughnessy (Archipelago Books). Reviewed by Bárbara Mujica. “The Scent of Buenos Aires is a collection of 25 stories in which nothing much happens. Rather than full-fledged narratives, these vignettes capture the feel — the sounds, sights, and scents — of everyday life in one of Latin America’s great cities and its surrounding areas. Hebe Uhart, who died in 2018, was one of Argentina’s most respected storytellers, known for her understated descriptions and subtle humor, as well as her eccentric and endearing characters. This is the first book-length collection of her work in English.”

Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “The point they drive home — a realization that perhaps has been sinking in with much of the electorate over the last three years — is just how little of the U.S. presidency is guided by statutory regulation. Instead, it is primarily built upon traditions and expectations that have accrued from one office-holder to the next. Candidate Trump ran on promises of thumbing his nose at tradition and trampling all expectations. Promises kept! Indeed, the authors emphasize, ‘Trump has rarely had to exceed the limits of executive power in order to abuse his office.’ This president spotlights the extent to which the office depends upon its holder’s noble intent.”

Run Me to Earth: A Novel by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “Yoon’s mission is not to educate the reader on the history of Laos, and those unfamiliar with the country must stay alert to figure out what’s going on. Other than the author’s note and a few incidental details, there is little explication of that country’s political situation. Instead, his story is the human tragedy of war, with a leitmotif on the calamity of colonialism.”

Remembrance: A Novel by Rita Woods (Forge Books). Reviewed by Sarah Trembath. “Though the human foils in the story are sometimes complex and, at other times, resemble stock villains and sidekicks, the book is compelling. Woods demystifies the supernatural, explicates little-known aspects of history, explores well-known histories afresh, and declares dignity as characteristic of what could be considered American history’s most abused women. And — with the exception of a slow start — she tells a story that will make you keep reading about the people and places she creates.”

Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Mitchell (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Chris Rutledge. “Mitchell has made it his life’s work to bring to trial the homegrown terrorists who fostered white supremacy and hatred for decades in the American South, particularly in Mississippi. He has done so at great personal sacrifice and risk, and his book is a compelling record of his efforts.”

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