MixedThe Star TribuneHorwitz is an engaging writer and apparently an engaging guy as he banters and quizzes a range of people from the smugly secure to the desperately homeless ...Spying on the South was written before a change in the political weather last year, so it seems outdated. ... His blend of Olmstead’s 1854 views and his modern experiences produce a readable travelogue without a strong political bent.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsIts story might interest English readers more than American ones, but Atkinson hasn\'t lost her touch for plot and character. Transcription is an entertaining fast-paced read with the author\'s characteristic technique of playing with chronology to build layers of information that eventually add up to a logical conclusion ... Transcription is historical fiction at its best. Atkinson enjoys her research and uses it creatively to charm and inform her readers. She\'s not a pedant, but an accomplished storyteller with history as her background ... We don\'t see the denouement coming until it\'s right on top of us, although Atkinson has dropped clues throughout the novel, perhaps some too subtle to catch. Transcription tells a true story of the aftermath of World War II in Britain through the imagination of a talented, clever novelist who transforms the broad historical picture into a personal, intimate story.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning News[Famous Father Gir] describes a child eagerly courting her father\'s love but struggling for years to become a professional musician... Jamie writes that she\'s finally shed the weight of her father\'s \'burden\' to achieve success on her terms. The pronouncement arrives at the end of her memoir, a shame, really, since she does spend too many pages on her famous father\'s career and too little on her own accomplishments.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsThese essays cover a lot of ground, from the grimness of organized youth baseball to how to deal with the N-word in Huckleberry Finn when reading it to your children. Chabon is still learning as a father and is willing to share his successes and failures with his readers. His candor and humor combined with his considerable writing skills turn these essays into a challenging instruction book that asks more questions than it answers.
Edward J. Larson
RaveThe Star Tribune\"Englishman Ernest Shackleton, described by Larson as equal parts adventurer and publicity hound, won the support of the king of Great Britain and generous Australians to mount a drive to reach the South Pole. Hardy, but not foolhardy, Shackleton led his men to the farthest point south at 88 degrees, 23 minutes before turning back due to bad weather ... Larson writes in an engaging and fast-moving manner in reacquainting us with those heroes of yesterday who’ve slipped into the historical shadows.\
RaveThe Star TribuneHe’s a compelling writer with a fluid style that mirrors the smooth passages of his canoe through the Mackenzie. The author’s friendliness and tolerant approach to Canada’s native population gives readers a clear picture of the difficult life in the Northwest Territories. Castner also presents a grim picture of the effects of climate change on the far north. He encountered no ice as he paddled into the Arctic. Disappointment River is an adventure tale that will keep you happily reading while safely in your armchair.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsIt\'s unfortunate that his early adulthood of drug addiction and alcoholism, which spilled over into his characters, blurred in critics\' minds his compassion for the down-and-out that he mixed with bits of Christian forgiveness ... These sides to Johnson fill the pages of his posthumous story collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, a book that\'s not among his best ... They [the characters] do fit the theme of the book, which is failure, either to rise above the ordinary as the advertising man Whit in the title story or the stupid distractions that doom talented writers... Johnson\'s final work is tightly confined. Women are barely mentioned. His characters are middle-aged white men, and their lives seldom rise above the mundane ... Within this limited world, Johnson\'s carefully styled language conveys despair, pain, hopelessness, irreparable loss and glimpses of resurrection.
PositiveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteIn this, his final collection of short stories, Updike never breaks his composure, even though it was clear his life was winding down. The title story flirts as usual with the real details of the writer's life — his childhood in Central Pennsylvania, his departure for an Eastern college, his two marriages and, as he grew closer in age to his parents in their elderly years, accounts of their lives … There's so much quintessential Updike in this story, including the egotistical narrator and his offhanded attitude toward women and relationships. It's practically the condensed version of most of his fiction, including the ending … The 17 other stories...are the same kind of small, controlled and carefully detailed pieces, studded here and there with those flashes of stunning bits of pure writing that Updike was so skilled at.
PanThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMax Morden is a middle-aged widower struggling a year after his wife's death with loneliness and instability. Without Anna, whose wealth supported his indifferent career as an art writer, Morden is ‘at sea,’ adrift and determined to suffer as a victim ...Banville delves into the psyche of a soul unwilling to give up the past because he's emotionally unable to move on. This novel is so confined and static, despite its passages of lyric language, that it can't grasp the larger subject of the power of loss to transform its characters.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...Ursula is born in 1910 and dies in 1967, although she lives dozens of lives, revealed by the title of Atkinson’s eighth novel, Life After Life. The alternate title could also be Death After Death, as our heroine suffers painful departures with the finality of the frequent phrase, 'darkness falls' ... It would be easy to dismiss her as an exceptionally deft maker of crime plots if she weren’t such a fine writer, a skill displayed in Life After Life with its vivid characters centered around Ursula’s large family ... So much fascinating reality lives amid the artificial feel of Atkinson’s fantasy ...an entertaining and suspenseful story that tells many versions of the history of the 20th century.
MixedThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteLord of Misrule is divided into sections named for horses, three of which compete in the climactic race that the book has been building toward. The slight plot is as time-worn as the worn-out horses at Indian Mound, involving a young hustler, his girl, her long-lost uncle and the hood who has it in for them … Ms. Gordon has an acute ear for the accents and desires of her lowdown characters and a wide-lens eye for the rundown, junk-filled landscape of the river towns and farms. It's an ugly, heartless world of cruelty, insults, money-grubbing, rough sex and fists in the face … Lord of Misrule is not the best novel of the year...she's too much in love with her own words and too convinced of the romance of her race track milieu to sell it hard enough to readers.
PanThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMr. Barnes' unremarkable story seems to sputter out, although he adds a dramatic turn with Adrian's shocking suicide in graduate school … Without the fictional contrivance of this unlikely intrusion into Tony's humdrum life, our hero would be doomed to live out his ordinary life. Instead, it's the device Mr. Barnes employs to pursue his thoughts on how memory and time can be manipulated to preserve our illusions … The Sense of an Ending lacks the details and sense of reality that make Mr. Barnes' previous novels rewarding reading. Instead the payoff here is unremarkable, as ordinary as Tony's life.
PanThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteLarson mixes two stories that simply aren\'t related. The result is a synthetic blend that doesn\'t do justice to either … Alternating chapters of Burnham\'s accomplishments with Holmes\' depravity, Larson drives his book to what should be the intersection of his characters\' lives, but the stories are as far apart as the Museum of Science and Industry and the Loop … Adding to the artificial nature of the book are Larson\'s rambles of conjecture and his irritating use of what literary stylists call ‘foreshadowing’ … If Larson\'s book has lasting value, it\'s as the impetus to read more about the exposition, an event far more interesting than the author makes it out to be.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWhile it was Cormac McCarthy who brutally preached that America was founded in a river of blood, Meyer gets down in the dirt and gore, the rapes and the tortures that fed ‘the tree of liberty’ called the United States … The overarching theme of The Son is loss, from the natural abundance and beauty of the land to the cultures of the American Indians and the descendants of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico, all brutally wiped out by the ‘sons’ of the Lone Star state.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneEven though she limited her subject to white people, the topic appears too complex and fragmented to encompass all its parts ... Her history of that [early] time, however, is so full of details that it seems aimed at a religious history student rather than the general reader. Her list of figures in the movement reads almost like an Old Testament genealogy of 'begats' ... Evangelicals might be seen as a work in progress as the population of white Protestants — the traditional element of the movement — declines and is replaced by a growing number of nonwhite citizens. Along with its history, FitzGerald might have written its elegy.
Ronald C. White
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsFalling just short of [being called a] hagiography, his densely compiled book grudgingly admits that Grant made mistakes and poor judgments...Largely, though, White, author of several books on Abraham Lincoln, treats his subject with respect and at times reverence, praising Grant's honesty, kindness, loyalty and intelligence ... He writes in a straightforward style with little flair and at times tries to stuff too many facts into a sentence. Yet his eagerness to share his admiration for Grant drives the book's narrative to a satisfying conclusion.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsDespite Szalay's piercingly descriptive prose, this series of short pieces makes for grim reading. It includes scenes that, if you saw them in real life, you'd avert your gaze and maybe feel nauseated. He captures men often at their worst, with women, friends, careers and their children ... The male animal has seldom been portrayed with such bleakness and unhappiness. Abandon all hope, ye who read All That Man Is.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWright constructs a disturbing overview of missed opportunities, failures of communication, political maneuvering and straightforward incompetence in the government’s war on terror. He’s also a sharp critic of Israel and its policies in the Gaza Strip ... If the state of international affairs continues to falter, we should hear more from Wright in the future. For now, we have The Terror Years to lay out the complex background to help us understand today’s situation.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsRoach (Stiff, Spook, Bonk, Gulp) has developed a lucrative writing career by grossing out her readers, and she holds nothing back in her discussion of military medical efforts to reattach or rebuild the private parts of wounded soldiers. If her writing didn’t elicit so much empathetic discomfort, it might be pretty funny...Roach lightens the scene with her snarky sense of humor and sharp interviewing skills to make uptight military personnel loosen up and share entertaining anecdotes.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe author’s own sailing experience — he wrote In the Heart of the Sea, a popular book about a disastrous whaling voyage — shines in his vivid and clear accounts of these naval actions that led to Arnold’s victory over British troops at Saratoga in 1777 ... Other historians share Philbrick’s conclusion, but it’s one that needs more development to lend it significance in the face of larger events that effectively brought our country its freedom. Credit Philbrick with reacquainting us with the early history of the Revolutionary War, but we need more convincing to lay its success at the clay feet of Benedict Arnold.
PositiveMinneapolis Star TribuneHaigh taps into this economic boom and bust era with the fervor of a native shocked by fracking's toll on the environment and inhabitants she treasures...This is an angry book from Haigh, uncharacteristically harsh in her language and view of human nature. Fueled by the energy released in her native state, it more than earns the symbolism of its title.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsIt’s an idyllic picture, although Brinkley is a bit disingenuous about his role. He doesn’t tell his readers until the acknowledgments that he has been a trustee of Roosevelt’s presidential library and spent much time in the Hudson Valley steeping himself in the mythology of the Roosevelt legacy ... Regardless, Rightful Heritage is a valuable addition to the many books of Roosevelt’s influence and importance. If it will squeeze into your backpack, take it along to trace his presence in whatever national park you are visiting.
PanThe Philadelphia InquirerEditor Angell could have used an editor in selecting more interesting 'pieces' and fewer awful haikus and dull literary appraisals including his clunker on Lolita. There are standouts in This Old Man, particularly the title essay, but we are forced to wade through too much ordinary work to get to them.
PanThe Dallas Morning NewsStrout writes quick impressions, then moves on without developing these bare outlines into a fully realized novel. She only gives us Lucy’s side of the story, a relentlessly grim Dickensian tale of deprivation, ostracism and unkindness with hints of physical abuse.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsIrving has outdone himself in good and bad ways in his new book... [he] ignores the constraints of conventional fiction and tosses all of his ideas into his novelist’s blender and turns it on high.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsThis two-volume anthology provides a taste of the suspense genre of American fiction from our grandparents’ and parents’ eras, and while some of it is impressive for its energy and literate writing, it’s more of a curiosity piece in these days of the Lee Child-Patricia Cornwell school of blood, guts and gore.