Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS

Cleaver reviewers present the most exciting literary work from around the globe. We specialize in American independent press releases but also vital work in translation that’s all too often overlooked by American readers.

Scroll down to browse excerpts from Cleaver’s latest reviews of books by small and indie presses.
Looking for a specific title? Check out our alphabetical index of reviews.
Looking for reviews by genre? Try: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young adult, or graphic narrative.
Are you a publisher or author hoping to be reviewed at Cleaver? Our masthead has contact information for the review editors. Are you a writing hoping to write reviews for us? Contact the review editors for the genre of your choice.


CHEESUS WAS HERE, a young adult novel by J.C. Davis, reviewed by Kristie Gadson

CHEESUS WAS HERE, a young adult novel by J.C. Davis, reviewed by Kristie Gadson
In the small town of Clemency, Texas Sunday morning worship is even more important than Friday night football. With a population of 1,236 and only two churches in town, everyone looks forward to putting on their Sunday best and lifting the Lord’s name on high ...
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I’M THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, a memoir by Andrea Jarrell, reviewed by Helen Armstrong

I’M THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, a memoir by Andrea Jarrell, reviewed by Helen Armstrong
Reading Andrea Jarrell’s memoir felt like I was squatting in the bushes outside of her house, fingers perched on the windowsill, watching and listening as her life unfolded, taking comfort in her family’s dysfunctions which mirrored my own in asymmetric ways. Being from a dysfunctional family myself, I take some ...
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THE MINORS by Chris Ludovici reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

THE MINORS by Chris Ludovici reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
THE MINORS by Chris Ludovici Unsolicited Press, 376 pages reviewed by Ryan K. Strader Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. A fastball travels at 90 miles per hour, moving from the pitcher’s mitt to the catcher’s glove in approximately .44 seconds. If the ...
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A MYRIAD OF ROADS THAT LEAD TO HERE, a novella by Nathan Elias, reviewed by Kelly Doyle

A MYRIAD OF ROADS THAT LEAD TO HERE, a novella by Nathan Elias, reviewed by Kelly Doyle
Nathan Elias’ first novella, A Myriad of Roads that Lead to Here, tells a story that is simultaneously frustrating and accessible. This bildungsroman provides a snapshot into the emotional journey of a naive and sometimes selfish narrator, Weston, as he grapples with the untimely death of his mother, which had ...
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KONUNDRUM: SELECTED PROSE OF FRANZ KAFKA by Franz Kafka reviewed by Eric Andrew Newman

KONUNDRUM: SELECTED PROSE OF FRANZ KAFKA by Franz Kafka reviewed by Eric Andrew Newman
With the centenary of Franz Kafka’s first three major publications having passed just a few years ago, a plethora of new translations of Kafka’s stories have recently been released. Among them is Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka, with works chosen and translated by Peter Wortsman, a writer known for ...
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GODS ON THE LAM, a novel by Christopher David Rosales, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

GODS ON THE LAM, a novel by Christopher David Rosales, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck
Christopher David Rosales, on the dedication page, describes Gods on the Lam as “an homage to Roger Zelazny, without whose books I may never have been inspired to write.” Zelazny’s influence is evident. Famous for his direct execution and his penchant for genre-mixing, the lifeblood of the late speculative fiction ...
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BONE CONFETTI, poems by Muriel Leung, reviewed by Marilynn Eguchi

BONE CONFETTI, poems by Muriel Leung, reviewed by Marilynn Eguchi
Muriel Leung’s Bone Confetti is an open door into a house of mourning; an exceptional look into the aftermath of loss, and in turn, an examination of what it is to love someone. A challenging collection of lyric and prose poems, the poet manipulates the space where words are carefully ...
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AFTERGLOW by Eileen Myles and THE STRANGERS AMONG US by Caroline Picard, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker

AFTERGLOW by Eileen Myles and THE STRANGERS AMONG US by Caroline Picard, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker
Dog people and cat people often like to stake their identities on the idea that they are starkly different from one another, but are they really so different? Regardless of species, a pet’s companion is a certain type of person who probably prefers their dog or cat to other people ...
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THE MASK OF SANITY, a novel by Jacob Appel, reviewed by Kelly Doyle

THE MASK OF SANITY, a novel by Jacob Appel, reviewed by Kelly Doyle
The protagonist of Jacob Appel’s 2017 novel, The Mask of Sanity, is a doctor, a family man, and a murderer. Appel offers a rare insight into the life of this high functioning sociopath, Dr. Jeremy Balint. With a staggering seven master's degrees, medical degree, law degree, and experience in clinical ...
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THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ELIZABETH HARDWICK reviewed by Robert Sorrell

THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ELIZABETH HARDWICK reviewed by Robert Sorrell
Reviewing Elizabeth Hardwick’s new collection of essays is a task to strike fear into the heart of even the most headstrong literary critic. Biographer of Melville, co-founder of the New York Review of Books, and noted sharp tongue, Elizabeth Hardwick cast a long shadow in the literary world of the ...
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MY SHADOW BOOK, a novel by MAAWAAM, edited by Jordan A. Rothacker, reviewed by William Morris

MY SHADOW BOOK, a novel by MAAWAAM, edited by Jordan A. Rothacker, reviewed by William Morris
In the summer of 2011, novelist and scholar Jordan A. Rothacker discovered a box containing the journals of a being known as Maawaam. Thus begins My Shadow Book—part literary manifesto, part metafictional frame narrative. The novel itself is credited to Maawaam, while Rothacker gives himself the title of editor. This ...
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THE BEST WE COULD DO: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR by Thi Bui reviewed by Jenny Blair

THE BEST WE COULD DO: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR by Thi Bui reviewed by Jenny Blair
The Best We Could Do begins with birth. Thi Bui is a first-time mother in California, and her own mother--despite having flown across the country to be there--has quietly excused herself from the delivery room ...
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ALL THAT MAN IS, a novel by David Szalay, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

ALL THAT MAN IS, a novel by David Szalay, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
In an interview with NPR, David Szalay pointed out that the title of his novel, All that Man Is, can be read two different ways: “either as a sort of slightly disparaging, sort of all that man is, and this is it. Or it can be read as a sort ...
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THE MADELEINE PROJECT, a work of creative nonfiction by Clara Beaudoux, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

THE MADELEINE PROJECT, a work of creative nonfiction by Clara Beaudoux, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
In 2013, a young journalist named Clara Beaudoux moves into a Paris apartment. The previous tenant, a woman named Madeleine, lived there for 20 years before passing away in her nineties. Strangely, Madeleine’s things have not been removed from the cellar. “All I had to do was open a door, ...
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THE FUTURE WON’T BE LONG, a novel by Jarett Kobek, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker

THE FUTURE WON’T BE LONG, a novel by Jarett Kobek, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker
The New York City of the decade in which The Future Won’t Be Long is set is a city in transition, sloughing off the dirty skin of a seriously fertile artistic period to eventually reveal a heartless skeleton scraped clean by Mayor Giuliani and the NYPD by the book’s end ...
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ISLAND OF POINT NEMO, a novel by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube

ISLAND OF POINT NEMO, a novel by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube
Island of Point Nemo is a fast-moving adventure story featuring murderers, romance, and preternatural turns. But dig further into those turns, and the novel is ultimately a eulogy to books, both as physical objects and as containers for fiction. Written by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès and newly translated from French ...
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INSURRECTIONS, stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, reviewed by William Morris

INSURRECTIONS, stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, reviewed by William Morris
The stories in Rion Amilcar Scott’s debut collection, Insurrections, are set in Cross River, Maryland, a small East Coast city you won’t find on any map. The city itself is a work of fiction, but the lives of its inhabitants feel startlingly real. Among the Cross Riverians—or Riverbabies, depending on ...
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MAP DRAWN BY A SPY, a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, reviewed by reviewed by Jacqueline Kharouf

MAP DRAWN BY A SPY, a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, reviewed by reviewed by Jacqueline Kharouf
Posthumous novels are both a joy and, sometimes, a let-down. Left behind by an author whose polished work stands as a testament to the full capacity of his or her mind, the words on the page surface at first like an extension from the past. This one last bit of ...
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IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, a graphic novel by Kristen Radtke, reviewed by Jenny Blair

IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, a graphic novel by Kristen Radtke, reviewed by Jenny Blair
If we felt attached to and invested in the ground beneath our feet, how would the world be different? What’s the difference between feeling rooted in a place and feeling stuck there? And how is one to face the facts of geographic and human impermanence? ...
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NOTES OF A CROCODILE, a novel by Qiu Miaojin, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

NOTES OF A CROCODILE, a novel by Qiu Miaojin, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
Lazi argues that mapping secrets and pain can be a matter of life and death, and Qiu’s suicide seems to attest to that. Considering the stresses of our present age, where identities and ideologies are masking and unmasking, the intrapersonal mapping of identity is even more significant for artists that ...
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The Apostle Killer, a novel by Richard Beard, reviewed by Ansel Shipley

The Apostle Killer, a novel by Richard Beard, reviewed by Ansel Shipley
The Apostle Killer by Richard Beard Melville House, 331 pages  reviewed by Ansel Shipley Jesus is the enemy in The Apostle Killer: a socialist anti-establishment religious extremist. In the novel, Richard Beard creates a world that melds both the superstitious past, in which a self-described Messiah could amass a ...
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GOING DARK, stories by Dennis Must, reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner

GOING DARK, stories by Dennis Must, reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner
An aging and dying actor, a blank slate, a forgotten man. This is the first narrator the reader meets in Dennis Must’s 2016 collection of seventeen short stories, Going Dark. The narrator of the title story, though a nobody, shares much in common with the other narrators and characters of ...
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FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson

FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson
In Nico Amador’s Flower Wars, the lines of poetry are full of flesh and voice, both of which are sure of their uncertainty and masterfully show the reader that, if we would trust an author to write their own poem, we should absolutely trust someone with reordering, preserving, mangling, and ...
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LATE FAME, a novella by Arthur Schnitzler, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

LATE FAME, a novella by Arthur Schnitzler, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
Herr Eduard Saxberger lives in a pleasant apartment overlooking the Vienna Woods. Each night after spending the day in his civil service office, he eats at his usual restaurant where he interacts little with his companions beyond small talk and basic requests, and goes for a walk. His life is ...
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THE BURNING GIRL, a novel by Claire Messud, reviewed by Amanda Klute

THE BURNING GIRL, a novel by Claire Messud, reviewed by Amanda Klute
Hindsight never fails in providing a comprehensive scope of recently-felt chaos—this is the key narrative tool Claire Messud employs in her intimate coming-of-age novel, The Burning Girl. The Burning Girl offers deep insight into a seemingly minuscule and ordinary loss of two young Massachusetts girls, and quietly probes us to ...
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PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck
Plainspeak, WY is impressive in its attention to detail and draws clear connections from matters of the earth to matters of the soul—and back again, repeatedly. The poet’s central obsession is depicted, in fact, somewhat subtly, on the cover of the book as a topographical map. Atop a cool, arctic ...
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THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES, a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, reviewed by Ansel Shipley

THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES, a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, reviewed by Ansel Shipley
Catherynne M. Valente’s most recent novel, The Refrigerator Monologues, exists in an odd space between novel and what could be called a pseudo-parable. Valente’s six protagonists and her interconnected narratives clearly parallel famous female comic book characters and their narrative arcs. Each of them, in fact, exhibits numerous traits that ...
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FINGERPRINTS OF PREVIOUS OWNERS, a novel by Rebecca Entel, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier

FINGERPRINTS OF PREVIOUS OWNERS, a novel by Rebecca Entel, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier
“The narrator of this book is a Caribbean woman. You may have noticed that the writer of this book is not,” Rebecca Entel notes in a preface to Fingerprints of Previous Owners, her novel set at a resort built on the nettle-choked ruins of a former slave plantation. Alluding to ...
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MIKHAIL AND MARGARITA, a novel by Julie Lekstrom Himes, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader 

MIKHAIL AND MARGARITA, a novel by Julie Lekstrom Himes, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader 
Julie Lekstrom Himes’ novel, Mikhail and Margarita, imagines the love affair that might have inspired The Master and Margarita. This is Himes’ first novel, following the publication of several short stories and essays. Himes is a physician in Massachusetts; interestingly, Bulgakov was also a physician. In an interview with the ...
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BARDO OR NOT BARDO, a novel by Antoine Volodine, reviewed by Amada Klute

BARDO OR NOT BARDO, a novel by Antoine Volodine, reviewed by Amada Klute
Take the existential universe of Jean-Paul Sartre and pull his pants down around his ankles—this is the paradoxical narrative met with in French comedic novelist Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo. Volodine’s blunt, absurdist style illustrates a marriage between the profound and the comedic, using humor as a weapon to ...
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