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Spotlight: Must-Reads

Reviewing and recommending new fiction and nonfiction across all genres.

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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Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours by Tony Oppedisano with Mary Jane Ross memoir Scribner – June 2021 Ol’ Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. The Sultan of Swoon. Saying I like Frank Sinatra is akin to saying that New Yorkers are just a little annoyed by slow walkers—the understatement of the millennium. In my humble opinion, Sinatra is the personification of the fragility and false pretenses of the oft-discussed “American Dream.” He was a man who seemingly had achieved every single possible accolade someone in his profession could—the first true entertainment superstar the world had ever seen. And yet, he was a person at war with himself—someone brimming over with contradictions, self-loathing, and loneliness. To put it lightly, he is endlessly fascinating—an exemplification of the necessity of checking your expectations (and assumptions) of what defines happiness at the door. I wear the label of “Sinatra Superfan”…

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The Forest of Vanishing Stars

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel historical fiction Gallery Books – July 2021 There isn’t a single, original WWII story left to tell. That’s what some ill-informed people in the film/TV and publishing industries might have you believe. They’ll hit you with some comment about how the genre is oversaturated, and that production companies/studios/houses aren’t looking for that type of material anymore. Blah, blah, blah. And to those people? I triumphantly shove The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel in their dumb-dumb faces. That’s right. I said dumb-dumb faces. Because I’m an adult, damn it. On a more serious note, I hold WWII stories, across all mediums, to an incredibly high standard. My mother (the New York Times best-selling author L.M. Elliott) wrote a novel (Under a War-Torn Sky) loosely based on my Air Force bomber pilot grandfather’s experiences in WWII after he was shot down behind enemy…

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The Disappearing Act

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman psychological thriller Ballantine Books – June 2021 I hate Hollywood. There. I said it. I adore storytelling. Love the craft of screenwriting with all of my heart. I cherish all of the artists involved in the filmmaking process. But, as any creative who’s done anything in Hollywood can tell you, the business side of the industry is—to put it mildly—a soul-sucking, mangy hyena. So, any piece of fiction in any medium that holds up a mirror to that vacuous carnivore and pokes a skewer at it, either satirically or seriously, immediately garners a tip-of-the-cap from me. That said, that goodwill only gets you so far—the work in question has to stand on its own two feet. The Disappearing Act not only does that, but it made me disappear into its pages. Chalk me up a good ol’ basket of dad-joke zinger points. The Disappearing…

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The Babysitter

By Spotlight: Must-Reads

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan true crime Atria Books – March 2021 What if you found out that someone you cared about deeply—someone who was your babysitter and a happy fixture of your childhood—turned out to be an infamous serial killer? If you answered “that’s already happened to me, Peter,” or some variation of that, then … yeesh. I’m assuming that you’re reading this review wedged in between the myriad therapy sessions it would take to cope with something like that. I’m giving you a virtual hug through my computer. If you’re like most people, however, and have (thankfully) never experienced something that traumatic, then you’ll probably find The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan quite the ride—to put it lightly. The Babysitter recounts Liza’s lonely childhood growing up in Cape Cod in the…

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