book review

10/14/2019
(Atria Books) The epigraph at the beginning of William Kent Krueger’s could not be more apt: “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story” from Homer’s epic “The Odyssey.” The award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling novel “Ordinary Grace,” Krueger has crafted an American saga, epic in scope, a glorious and grand adventure that speaks of the heart and history of this country. Odie O’Banion, a born storyteller, narrates the tale, set in 1930s Minnesota. A group of young orphans — himself, his older (and handier) brother Albert, their friend Mose, and little Emmy, whose life...
10/06/2019
(St. Martin's Press) Renia’s diary — because that is what you hold in your hands, the diary of a young girl, a teenager, whose childhood was, as Greta Thunberg would say, stolen from her — feels private and due consideration should be accorded when reading it, and yet it is important that this written testimony be read and shared. Miraculously, this long-hidden diary survived the Holocaust but the young woman, an aspiring poet and hardworking student, did not. It has been translated from the original Polish, with notes included by her surviving sister. In descriptive prose, with verses of...
09/30/2019
(University of Georgia Press) As an essay collection, Emily Arnason Casey’s new book succeeds on every level. Her writing is evocative, relatable, haunting and magical. Using descriptive prose that stimulates your every sense, the essays transport you to particular places in time: the lake cabin of her childhood; her grandparents’ house in Minnesota, “beautiful to [her as one] who grew up in apartments and a walkout basement until the age of fourteen;” the cold blue room of her college apartment; the living room of a stranger as a naive teenager. The stories are quintessentially of the...
09/23/2019
(Knopf Publishing Group) As the Cold War began to intensify in the mid-1950s, the not-so-venerable C.I.A., referred to as “the Agency” in Lara Prescott’s sensational new novel, devoted a portion of its resources to playing the long game, and one of its objectives was to undermine the Soviet Union using their own art and literature against them. At that time, artists were sometimes taken as political prisoners, ending up in the infamous Gulag, a forced-labor prison camp, and their work was censured or banned. The story of how Boris Pasternak’s novel, “Doctor Zhivago,” came to be published,...
09/16/2019
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers) Frank Li is “Frankly in Love,” but just who is he in love with? Frank, a Korean American teen who runs with the Apeys-crowd (they’re sober kids, all in the same Advanced Placement (AP) classes), is torn. Can he finagle a way to make things work with Brett Means, a smart and beautiful girl? But Brett is white, and “Mom-n-Dad” have already disowned his older sister Hanna for marrying a non-Korean. At the monthly “Gathering,” with all the Korean families in their social circle, Frank realizes the issue: his parents came to America and built “this...
09/09/2019
(W. W. Norton & Company) A collection of stories as refreshingly cool and bright as these last few weeks have been in our Land of Milk and Honey, and shot through with startling observations on the human condition that are occasionally as difficult to grasp as the strands of a dream. These stories reveal the vivid and mythic imagination of Ayşe Papatya Bucak, an author born in Istanbul, Turkey — to an American mother and a Turkish father — who grew up in the United States. Each one is like a steppingstone to a new world somehow contained within itself. In “Little Sister and Eminem” a...
09/02/2019
(Minotaur Books) Steadfast readers of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series of murder mysteries: rest assured that “A Better Man,” the 15th book in the award-winning series, will exceed your expectations. Gamache returns to the Sûreté du Québec, though not quite as Chief Inspector, but rather as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with Jean-Guy Beauvoir — once under his command and also his son-in-law, who is preparing for a career move to Paris with his family. An intense storm bears down on the Canadian province, including the village of Three Pines, when a call...
08/26/2019
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers) In a follow-up to Small Spaces, Katherine Arden, bestselling author of the Winternight series, has crafted another spellbinding ghost story about a trio of young kids who must navigate a treacherous path relying on their own inventiveness and courage. Ollie, Coco and Brian, along with Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom, brave a serious snowstorm in their trusty Subaru (yes, this story is set in Vermont) to enjoy a free weekend at a newly reopened ski area and lodge; they were the lucky prizewinners. Before they are safely ensconced in the lodge,...
08/19/2019
(Graywolf Press) Rereading is its own simple pleasure, and discovering a book that you want to reread is a treasure. I first read “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson, when published in the U.S. in 2007 and since then, it is often the book I name when asked: “What’s your favorite read?” We first meet Trond, the story’s narrator, in 1999; his two children are grown and he lives pointedly alone, “in a small house in the far east of Norway.” He is set on fixing up the property, living out his days there, much in the manner of his father before him. In 1948, Trond spent a formative summer with...
08/12/2019
Will McCallum has been at the front of the antiplastics movement in his role at Greenpeace U.K. He recently spent a month in Antarctica with his team, investigating whether plastic is reaching the most remote region on the planet. It is. Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of the Antarctic this year add to evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said in June of last year. McCallum delivers grim news — the statistics are staggering — peppered throughout this accessible guide to eliminating plastic from your life, with...

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