Critical Notes

Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By David Varno

Welcome to another week of unrelenting heat, humidity, and maddening literary discourse. Fortunately, we’ve got lots of very smart book reviews to catch up on. (Also recommended: Unplug! Log out! And find a good swimming hole.)

In the Spotlight 

The ferocious and funny Human Blues, a voice-driven novel by Elisa Albert about a punk folk singer’s aversion to what she calls “industrial fertility.” Clea Simon’s review for The Boston Globe dwelled on the main character’s likability meter, while Lauren LeBlanc’s rave for Oprah Daily—which includes an interview with the author—offers insight on Albert’s ambitions. In an essay for Gawker, Lily Meyer discussed Human Blues as a triumph of “feminine literary swagger.”

Member Reviews/Essays

Former NBCC board member Tom Beer wrote about the enduring appeal of the “nineteenth-century-style” novel for Kirkus Reviews.

Heller McAlpin reviewed the novel Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens for NPR.

Lee Rossi reviewed Talking to Strangers: Poetry of Everyday Life by Peter Neil Carroll for Big City Lit.

Keishel Williams reviewed Erika L. Sánchez’s Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir for The Washington Post.

Eric Liebetrau reviewed the biography Putin by Philip Short for Kirkus.

Celia McGee reviewed The Lunar Housewife by Caroline Woods for Avenue.

Ron Slate reviewed the poetry collections Tenderness by Derrick Austin and Within the Sweet Noise of Life by Sandro Penno in his “Book Notes” column at On the Seawall.

Oline Cogdill reviewed I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown and Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman; Dance Among the Flames by Tori Eldridge and Florida Woman by Deb Rogers; Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton and The Verifiers by Jane Pek; and The Gallery of the Beauties by Nina Wachsman, all for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

At, Tobias Carrol wrote about the Marvel Comics’ No-Prize and its effect on shaping a generation of fans.

Frank Freeman reviewed the fortieth anniversary edition of Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory for Today’s American Catholic.

Patrick Davis reviewed Wayne Koestenbaum’s three trance notebooks, highlighting the most recent, Ultramarine, for the summer print issue of Rain Taxi.

Kitty Kelley reviewed My Place in the Sun: Life in the Golden Age of Hollywood and Washington by George Stevens Jr. for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Stalking the Atomic City by Markiyan Kamysh, trans. by Hanna Leliv and Reilly Costigan-Humes, for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Mark Braude’s Kiki Man Ray for the Wall Street Journal.

In a composite review of Ed Yong’s  An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us and When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness by David M. Peña-Guzmán for Slate, former board member Laura Miller calls the latter a “work of moral philosophy.”

Member Interviews

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis interviewed YA author Jason Reynolds and artist Jason Griffin about their collaborations Ain’t Burned All the Bright and My Name Is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story, Our Way for Kirkus.

Lee Rossi interviewed Kim Schuck, San Francisco’s seventh poet laureate (2017-2021), for Poetry Flash.

In a profile for Publishers Weekly, Elaine Szewczyk sets out to find what makes prolific feel-good writer Debbie Macomber tick.

Member News

Lisa Russ Spaar was interviewed about her new novel, Paradise Close, here.

Photo by NBCC member Judith Reveal. Used with permission.

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