Reviews of the Week, with Tana French, Nick Mamatas, Neal Shusterman, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from August 6–10 below.


Monday, August 6

The Witch Elm, by Tana French

French, author of the award-winning Dublin Murder Squad series, delivers a spellbinding stand-alone novel carefully crafted in her unique, darkly elegant prose style, which Stephen King has called “incandescent.” Toby Hennessy always considered himself a lucky guy, trading on his considerable charm for a successful life, until he has the misfortune to surprise two burglars in his flat. He is beaten and left for dead, and after a less-than-successful recovery, he agrees to care for his dying uncle, Hugo, at the family’s ancestral home while working on regaining his own cognitive and motor skills. When a skull is found in the trunk of an ancient tree in the garden, his dysfunctional brain struggles to reassess the past, evidently not what it once seemed and now abounding in “million-euro” questions.


Tuesday, August 7

 Circe, by Madeline Miller, read by Perdita Weeks

Circe, daughter of the Greek sun god, Helios, threatens the Titans with her witchcraft and is banished to a solitary life on a remote island. Encounters with gods, goddesses, and mortals reveal Circe’s growth as a powerful woman, herbalist, and magician. Narrator Weeks raises this eloquent reimagining to new heights with her stunning performance. Weeks inhabits Circe in this intimate first-person retelling; like Circe’s, her voice mesmerizes as she casts a spell on listeners in her seductive alto.


Wednesday, August 8

Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real about the Worst President Ever, by Rick Wilson

Hear the sizzle? That’s the sound of Wilson, Republican strategist and now Never-Trumper, burning the president, his family, cabinet, and GOP stalwarts. He also has some words for Democrats, but his focus is on those who enable “the avatar of our worst instincts and darkest desires.” The rhetoric (and insights) heightens as the text progresses. Wilson admits to years of stoking fires of political discontent, but even he was shocked by how “a celebrity con-man vomiting out Steven Bannon’s spittle-flecked nationalist message” captured the Republican nomination. So Wilson has turned his considerable talents to making the anti-Trump case across media and, now, in this audacious book that names names.


Thursday, August 9

 Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Alyssa and her brother, Garrett, are normal kids in a suburb in Southern California—that is, until surrounding states shut the floodgates to the Colorado River due to prolonged drought. At first, people dismiss the news, but circumstances turn dire quickly when bottled water disappears off store shelves while the spigots remain dry. What ensues is a horrifyingly fast descent into barbarity as neighbor turns on neighbor, government intervention falls short, and society’s civil facade disintegrates. Alyssa and Garrett must travel to find new sources of water, all the while defending themselves against people crazed by thirst.



Friday, August 10

 The People’s Republic of Everything, by Nick Mamatas

Mamatas’ (I Am Providence, 2016) voluminous output of short stories has been spread across the periodical publishing landscape. Thankfully, he has compiled 13 previously published stories, one brand-new tale, and his preferred text of his short novel, Under My Roof, a brilliant but overlooked tale based on Aristophanes’ Acharnians in which a Long Island family builds a nuclear bomb in their garden to use as leverage to secede from the U.S.



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