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Spotlight: Must-Reads

Reviewing and recommending new fiction and nonfiction across all genres.

Notes on an Execution

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka literary suspense William Morrow—January 2022 There aren’t any original takes on the serial killer novel left. No f***ing way. One thing you should know about me? I LOVE serial-killer narratives. When firing on all cylinders, these pieces make for fantastic brain food—macabre dives into the plunging psychological depths of the human psyche that allow us to confront our darkest fears, desires, and obsessions while remaining in the safe confines of our own home. And combine that with the fact these types of stories often contain propulsive plot twists that give you carpal tunnel because you were gripping the book so fiercely? It’s a win-win. In fact, my appreciation of this thriller subgenre is so well-documented amongst those who like/love me that it’s become a running joke: oh [insert name of book/film/TV series here] is really dark, moody, and features a serial murder trope?…

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Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe narrative nonfiction Doubleday Books—June 2022 Long-form journalism is dying. In our current age of clickbait headlines, viral videos, and pontificating tweets, that unfortunately true axiom is perpetually drilled into my head. Those gloriously in-depth profiles/features in publications like Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Rolling Stone that I used to devour growing up? They are becoming rarer than an Amur Leopard sighting. It’s a damn shame—but that’s the reality of an ever-evolving media landscape competing for rapidly shortening attention spans and waning interest in global affairs. Enter Patrick Radden Keefe. This esteemed New Yorker staff writer and author has been carrying the torch for long-form journalism since 2006 with great aplomb—he’s been decorated with literary awards such as the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, the National Books Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and the Orwell Prize for Political…

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The Violin Conspiracy

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb thriller/mystery Anchor Books—February 2022 How could the world of classical music possibly be conducive to a thriller? To be completely fair, this was the first thought that entered my head when The Violin Conspiracy was recommended to me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea of a novel placed in the oeuvre of professional orchestral music—I come from a family of musicians and played three different types of saxophones (soprano being my favorite, obviously) for the better part of a decade. But I was struggling to wrap my head around how that would translate well to the specific structural demands of a thriller novel. Is it a highly unusual, unique backdrop to set a story in? Absolutely. But, when you think about glissandos, andantes, and vibratos, does your mind immediately modulate to a pedal-to-the-metal, plot-driven storytelling genre like a thriller? And, more importantly—would it…

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I Am the Ghost in Your House

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

I Am the Ghost in Your House by Mar Romasco-Moore young adult contemporary Delacorte Press—April 2022 Do you believe in ghosts? If you’re like me? The answer is a big, fat, emphatic NO. While I completely believe that there’s (most likely) life outside of Earth yet to be discovered, and I love a good conspiracy theory (here’s looking at you, Mr. Kennedy)—the idea of apparitions floating around “haunting” us here on Earth seems … far-fetched. In my humble opinion, whenever someone claims to have seen a ghost, there’s almost always some sort of logical explanation for the sighting that the seer is choosing to ignore—willfully or otherwise. So, when I was looking for a new book to spotlight for Pipeline and stumbled across I Am the Ghost in Your House, I was … skeptical. Given the ominous title, the unsettling cover, and the fact that a good majority of fiction…

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A House Between Earth and the Moon

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

A House Between Earth and the Moon by Rebecca Scherm science fiction Viking —March 2022 DINOSAURS!!!!!! For those of you who listen to the podcast that I co-host (“This Podcast Needs a Title“—yay shameless plugs!) and understand that weird reference, you’ll know that I approach pieces of science fiction—whether it be a novel, film, TV show, or otherwise—with a healthy dose of … shrug. It’s not that I don’t understand the value of works like Jurassic Park, I just … don’t really care about them? *Peter ducks profusely as he dodges the proverbial tomatoes thrown at him by readers who <3 dinosaur theme parks and aliens and such.* This delightfully heated discussion with my wonderful TPNAT co-host Erica Davis inspired me to review a novel that very much goes against my natural inclinations: A House Between Earth and the Moon—a complex sci-fi epic that takes place in a near-future world…

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I Must Betray You

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys young adult historical thriller Philomel Books—February 2022 I wanted to slap myself across the face. Looking back over all the wonderful works I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for Book Pipeline, I’m proud to say I’ve read across a wide gamut of genres and subject matters. As any critic worth their salt will tell you—what you choose to read/watch and then write about says a lot about who you are as not only a consumer of the arts, but also as a human in general. And I think that my selection of novels and nonfiction so far have given you a pretty good glimpse into my personality. All that said (and ego stroking aside), I recently noticed a glaring hole in my repertoire: I hadn’t reviewed a single Young Adult or Middle Grade novel. *Insert theatrical gasp here* I’m not one of those…

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Sorrowland

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon lgbtq+ fiction MCD (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)—May 2021 A befuddled writer walks into a Brooklyn watering hole and is asked to pitch the premise of Sorrowland in a succinct, logline-like manner. Said writer slams down an overpriced beer and wordlessly walks out. Because it just … can’t be done. Did this happen to me? In reality? No. But in my head? Many times over. Because … TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE! *Peter slaps himself across the face and reminds himself that he isn’t Rust Cohle.* There are plenty of books, films, and TV series that try to be “genre-agnostic”—pieces of art that claim to exist simultaneously in several different genres. In reality (not the one where I’m in True Detective) very few of them truly accomplish the feat. But by my count? Sorrowland could be accurately placed in six: LGBTQ+ coming-of-age, survival thriller, supernatural horror, speculative…

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All’s Well

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

All’s Well by Mona Awad lit fiction Simon & Schuster—August 2021 Have you ever wondered what you would get if you crossed the bizarre, eerie surrealism of David Lynch with a biting, deliciously dark, female-driven absurdist satire? To be honest? Me neither. Until now. Because that’s exactly what I got with All’s Well by Mona Awad. I can assure you, without any exaggeration, that this is truly the most bonkers, challenging, yet highly rewarding book I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for Pipeline. The only way I can accurately describe this piece is to categorize the overall effect that it had on me—reading it was like clinging on to the side of a bullet train careening through the Alps. It was whiplash-inducing, exhilarating, and completely upended my belief on what a novel could be. So strap the fuck in. All’s Well follows college theater director Miranda Fitch, a former star…

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All Her Little Secrets

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris thriller William Morrow—November 2021 Usually for my book reviews, I spend quite a lot of time researching potential picks. I analyze everything from the sales numbers, their genres, the publishing pedigree of the author, and much more. Furthermore, I’m very meticulous about what piece I select for each review—and why. And, surprising to no one who knows me, this is a characteristic that transfers over to almost every aspect of my life. Yes. I admit it. I, Peter Malone Elliott, am a control freak. Nice to meet you. However, this month, I wanted to buck that trend, go against my inherent nature, and do something I’ve never done before: take a blind recommendation and just go with it. Throw caution to the wind. Let the chips fall where they may. I’m trying to think of a third clichéd expression but … I…

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Beautiful World, Where Are You

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney lit fiction Farrar, Straus and Giroux—September 2021 Doing what I do for a living, I’m constantly speaking with fellow industry and creative folks about what we’ve been watching or reading. To be frank? It’s probably about 75% of the conversations I have. Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love talking about the works of art that I find engaging and interesting. Those tête-à-têtes are always lively, incredibly stimulating, and thoroughly enjoyable. Inevitably, though, in the past two to three years, there’s been something that, without fail, manages to wheedle its way into these discussions—and has become something that I utterly dread. “Did you watch Normal People?” Sigh. Then I reply that not only have I not seen Normal People, I have not read any of Sally Rooney’s books. Then the conversation grinds to a halt and people look at me as if I have…

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