Punk rocker Patti Smith added “literary sensation” to her resume with the 2010 publication of her captivating memoir, Just Kids. That book simply and beautifully described her life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe beginning in the late 1960s, long before they found fame, as they scrounged for food and art supplies, holed up in New York's Chelsea Hotel and reveled in the city's downtown club and arts scene.
Fans hoping for Volume II with Smith's new book, M Train, will be sorely disappointed. “It's not so easy writing about nothing,” is the first line, which unfortunately proves true.
At best, M Train is filled with memory fragments and poetic-sounding descriptions. At worst, it's 250 pages of free association and mundane drivel. There are descriptions of her junk mail, her dreams and her repeated visits to a coffee shop. But there is nothing resembling a story.
Even readers who weren't fans of Smith's music were drawn into Just Kids by its strong narrative and brilliant evocation of an era in New York City when subcultures flourished amid urban decay and old-school neighborhoods. But it's not just the lack of a story or historical context that's missing in M Train. This book just feels like the jottings of a bored goddess, meandering aimlessly as she flies to visit a writer's grave or give a talk somewhere.
Occasionally Smith begins to veer into a semblance of a narrative, with memories of her late husband, Fred, or the story of her purchase of a house shortly before the area is devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But those merely tease the reader into thinking a full-blown story is on its way. It's not.
Skip M Train and stay tuned for a forthcoming Showtime series based on Just Kids.
— Beth J. Harpaz
Fetty Wap springboarded into mainstream success before releasing an album with the Top 10 pop hits Trap Queen, 679 and My Way. With that success, most wondered if the 24-year-old rapper-singer could deliver on a full-length project.
He certainly steps up to the challenge on his self-titled debut, showing those hits were not a fluke. The production is solid throughout and his vocal delivery is infectious, though his content lacks some depth.
Wap is not much of a lyricist, but he uses the same winning formula of keeping his sound melodic yet grungy on his 17-track album. It works on Couple Bandz and Again, another Top 40 hit, in which he attempts to convince a lover that he's about chasing money instead of other women.
On RGF Island, Wap brags about spending excessive money with his crew on an island. He introduces a loyal mate to the street life on Jugg, featuring Monty, who makes his presence known on multiple songs on Fetty Wap.
Outside of rapping about selling drugs on Trap Luv and money and cars on Time, there's not much substance on Wap's debut. But this is a musical approach that works for him — for now.
— Jonathan Landrum Jr.
Vince Flynn: The Survivor
The late Vince Flynn's main hero, covert operative Mitch Rapp, returns for another winner in The Survivor.
After Flynn died, Kyle Mills was chosen to finish this book, and he has signed on to write at least two more. Fans have nothing to worry about since Mills does an outstanding job in this novel.
Rapp has to deal with the ramifications of previous actions, and the target on his back is larger than he can imagine. A former CIA agent named Rickman has gone rogue and threatens to release state secrets.
Rapp eliminates him as a threat, but he had a backup plan. Now vital and classified intel is slowly being released, and Rapp has to figure out who is responsible for carrying out Rickman's final wishes.
To make matters worse, the government of Pakistan gets involved, and someone close to the president of the country sees this as the perfect opportunity for assassination and a takeover. Destroying the United States and Rapp as well would be icing on the cake.
Mills has created a wonderful tribute to Flynn while also writing a great novel. While fans miss Flynn, Mills was the perfect choice, and Rapp will continue in good hands.
— Jeff Ayers