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. Check out our instructions for how to submit books for review or book reviews to Cleaver.


Buckskin Cocaine, stories by Erika T. Wurth, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker

Buckskin Cocaine, stories by Erika T. Wurth, reviewed by Jordan A. Rothacker
Sometimes we read fiction to escape, to experience the art of writing, or to lose ourselves in plot. Non-fiction is often imagined the territory of learning, absorbing direct information on a topic. We often forget that fiction still has this power, to take you somewhere real you’ve never been, to ...
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BIRTH OF A NEW EARTH: The Radical Politics of Environmentalism, a manifesto by Adrian Parr, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

BIRTH OF A NEW EARTH: The Radical Politics of Environmentalism, a manifesto by Adrian Parr, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
When will we stop imaging climate change in the future and how can we reorient ourselves to this reality? Adrian Parr’s new academic work on climate change, Birth of a New Earth, attempts to answer this question by tapping into the recent trend of considering the positive, some might even ...
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TIME OF GRATITUDE, essays and poems by Gennady Aygi, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

TIME OF GRATITUDE, essays and poems by Gennady Aygi, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader
Time of Gratitude is an unusual text: the collected pieces are both prose and poetry, some of them written for events and some written as personal reflection. Translator Peter France has organized the book into two sections. The first one is devoted to Russian and Chuvash writers and artists, including ...
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TRANSLATION AS TRANSHUMANCE, a book-length essay by Mireille Gansel, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube

TRANSLATION AS TRANSHUMANCE, a book-length essay by Mireille Gansel, reviewed by Rachel R. Taube
For Mireille Gansel, the work of translation is an all-consuming task. Before embarking on a project, Gansel first immerses herself in the world of the poet she is translating. She studies the historical context of their writing as well as the personal context. Wherever possible, she engages with their physical ...
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AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, a novel by Tayari Jones, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, a novel by Tayari Jones, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck
Do Roy and Celestial have an ordinary American marriage? The title of Tayari Jones’ fourth novel implies that perhaps they do in fact have a quintessential American life, and in many ways they do… ...
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MIRROR, SHOULDER, SIGNAL, a novel by Dorthe Nors, reviewed by Brendan McCourt

MIRROR, SHOULDER, SIGNAL, a novel by Dorthe Nors, reviewed by Brendan McCourt
Above all else, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a novelist’s novel. Literary-minded readers will revel in the novel’s allegorical framework extending anywhere from cautionary tale to failed bildungsroman to a metaphor of novel reading itself ...
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BLACK GENEALOGY, poems by Kiki Petrosino, reviewed by Claire Oleson

BLACK GENEALOGY, poems  by Kiki Petrosino, reviewed by Claire Oleson
Situated between a national and a personal history, Kiki Petrosino’s poetry book Black Genealogy sifts through the past in search of lost identity, language, bodies, and self-possession amidst the legacy of the Civil War and slavery in America. The book details an exploration of both a familial and a larger ...
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HER BODIES AND OTHER PARTIES, stories by Carmen Maria Machado, reviewed by Rosie Huf

HER BODIES AND OTHER PARTIES, stories by Carmen Maria Machado, reviewed by Rosie Huf
For those of us still traumatized by the 2016 Presidential election, the debut novel Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado, is the emotional and intellectual release for which we have been waiting. It is electric with the #Resist spirit. It underscores the importance of the #MeToo movement ...
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SCHLUMP, a novel by Hans Herbert Grimm, reviewed by Kelly Doyle

SCHLUMP, a novel by Hans Herbert Grimm, reviewed by Kelly Doyle
When Hans Herbert Grimm’s semi-autobiographical novel Schlump was published in 1928 alongside All Quiet on the Western Front, it was advertised as a “truthful depiction” of World War I. It is no surprise that Grimm took on the the pseudonym Schlump, just as his protagonist does, to hide his identity ...
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LIGHT INTO BODIES, poems by Nancy Chen Long, reviewed by Trish Hopkinson

LIGHT INTO BODIES, poems by Nancy Chen Long, reviewed by Trish Hopkinson
The poetry of Light into Bodies begins and ends with a theme of identity while its pages flutter with the imagery of egrets, pigeons, swans, and starlings. Nancy Chen Long presents the complexity of exploring identity from multiple perspectives—from the viewpoint of a mathematician, from a child whose mother repeatedly ...
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COLLUSION: SECRET MEETINGS, DIRTY MONEY, AND HOW RUSSIA HELPED DONALD TRUMP WIN, nonfiction by Luke Harding, reviewed by Susan Sheu

COLLUSION: SECRET MEETINGS, DIRTY MONEY, AND HOW RUSSIA HELPED DONALD TRUMP WIN, nonfiction by Luke Harding, reviewed by Susan Sheu
Reading Harding’s new book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, published in mid-November by Vintage Books, gives the sense that we are living in a John Le Carre novel where we are not certain that the West won the Cold War or that the ...
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THE SCIENCE OF UNVANISHING OBJECTS, poems by Chloe N. Clark, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

THE SCIENCE OF UNVANISHING OBJECTS, poems by Chloe N. Clark, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck
Completely mundane happenings take on significant meaning in Chloe N. Clark’s The Science of Unvanishing Objects. Everyday things like butterflies, telephones, and mirrors assume a role beyond their normal functions. Likewise, ordinary events such as conversations between strangers and seeing a lover naked for the first time become catalysts for ...
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A WORKING WOMAN, a novel by Elvira Navarro, reviewed by Melanie Erspamer

A WORKING WOMAN, a novel by Elvira Navarro, reviewed by Melanie Erspamer
“She wanted […] the location of her madness to be now the location of her art.” This is how the narrator of The Working Woman analyzes her roommate, but the same can be said of the narrator herself, and perhaps as well of the only figure in this postmodernist novel ...
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DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR, a novel by Anca L. Szilágyi, reviewed by Leena Soman

DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR, a novel by Anca L. Szilágyi, reviewed by Leena Soman
Tatiana is supposed to spend the summer before her junior year in high school in Vermont with her only friend while her mother summers in Rome. Instead, she hitches a ride from her boarding school’s Connecticut campus to Brooklyn. It’s 1980, and Tatiana renames herself Pluta, an alter ego she ...
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MALACQUA, a novel by Nicola Pugliese, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

MALACQUA, a novel by Nicola Pugliese, reviewed by Robert Sorrell
Anyone who picks up And Other Stories’ edition of Malacqua, the first English translation of Nicola Pugliese’s Italian novel from 1977, will be immediately alerted to the strange weather which serves as the novel’s catalyst. Emblazoned across the book’s cover is Malacqua’s unofficial subtitle: Four Days of Rain in the ...
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PETITE FLEUR, a novel by Iosi Havilio, reviewed by August Thompson

PETITE FLEUR, a novel by Iosi Havilio, reviewed by August Thompson
Iosi Havilio’s Petite Fleur is a great book because it is a work of surprises intimately knotted around each other. The plot twists and writhes. Murders and magic lead to diatribes about jazz fusion that leads to rebirth and love and examinations of the anxiety of parenthood and marriage. The ...
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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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