Welsh still overflows with predicaments to thrust his antiheroes into, for better and for worse.

DEAD MEN'S TROUSERS

The miscreants from Trainspotting (1993) return, off heroin and more financially stable but still prone to calamity.

The fourth novel in Welsh’s series—following the 2002 sequel Porno and the 2012 prequel Skagboys—thrusts the narrative into 2015 and 2016, with most of the leads pursuing lives beyond junk, beat downs, and petty thievery. Begbie has mined his thuggish Edinburgh past to become a rising star in the LA art world. Renton is a globe-trotting DJ manager. And Simon, aka Sick Boy, is an oversexed owner of an escort service. All are cleaner but not exactly clean, which Welsh plays for comic effect in the early going: Simon sends his brother-in-law on a sex-obsessed midlife crisis after dosing him with MDMA, and Renton is forever chasing down fixes for his demanding clients. Darker circumstances reunite the group as they’re blackmailed into an organ-harvesting scheme that ropes in their old friend Spud, and things get grotesque and absurd quickly: Renton needs to leave a Berlin dance festival and ferry his laptop to an ad hoc operating theater so he can play a YouTube video demonstrating kidney surgery. Welsh’s peculiar talent is finding the comedy in sex, addiction, betrayal, and death, and he handles the job so deftly that the novel nearly qualifies as comfort reading even in gross-out mode. (The steepest hurdle is the prose mimicking the narrators’ thick Scottish burrs, with Spud’s nearly impenetrable: “Ah pure dinnae want tae look up, cause sometimes ye git a radge or a wideo giein ye hassle”). And scenes featuring DMT trips are rendered in graphic-novel form, an inventive touch. Still, Welsh tends toward the gassy, with detours into soccer and a weak subplot involving a cop stalking Begbie. His characters have endearingly messy lives, but the mess is often in the prose, too.

Welsh still overflows with predicaments to thrust his antiheroes into, for better and for worse.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61219-755-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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