PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch... impressive ... a steady parceling out of plot points to keep the story moving ... [Graff\'s] background as a hunter and a hiker gives him plenty of raw material to make the natural trials faced by Fish and Bread and their trackers realistic and, at times, harrowing ... Sprinkled through the book are the religious overtones you might expect when the main characters are called Bread and Fish, but Graff wisely doesn’t go overboard with them. Raft of Stars has a happyish ending, tying up a lot of loose ends in a way that readers may find a little too pat and implausible. But his outdoors expertise enriches the narrative to the point that, in the end, you’ll be glad that most situations turn out just fine.
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch... textbook Grisham — and that’s a compliment. Though its racial angle is underplayed, it is a briskly paced legal drama, with just the right amount of suspense, conflict (physical and otherwise), plot twists, courtroom theatrics and musings on legal ethics and lawyerly strategy ... As Brigance wrestles with that case as well as with his defense of Drew, Grisham’s love for the law, with all of its flaws and quirks, comes through on every page.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch... this book reminds us of the important roles compromise and contention have played in American history ... In highly detailed fashion, Kreitner’s incisive analysis delves into how secession, division and other forces that separate Americans have played into the nation’s history, from revolutionary days until now.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch[An] insightful, sobering analysis of the modern news landscape ... Sullivan emphasizes that she isn’t simply bemoaning the demise of an industry because she has devoted her professional life to it. What is at stake, she says, is democracy itself ... Another proposed solution sparks Sullivan’s well-deserved skepticism: direct government subsidies for news outlets. Money means control ... Let’s hope that readers will be able to follow the story, and find out the answers, in well-staffed, reputable, healthy local news sources.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-DispatchEven for people who have spent their whole lives in this area, Walter Johnson’s way of connecting the dots of racial strife across the American centuries, and having the message spell out St. Louis, will throw a new, not particularly flattering light on familiar events. Readers of The Broken Heart of America will never view the history of the region the same way again ... Johnson bolsters his case using a litany of familiar names and events placed in an often-unfamiliar context ... Just because Johnson teaches at Harvard doesn’t mean the writing in The Broken Heart of America is stodgy or academic. He moves the story along briskly and chronologically and shows an occasional flair ... Johnson generally sticks to his main thesis, though some readers may find his discussions about labor union activities and communist influence a little too long and a little too off-point ... Then, surprisingly, Johnson pivots to optimism ... he sees the roots of a better future.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-DispatchCrombie tak[es] full advantage of the staples of crime fiction—loud quarrels, illicit sex, blackmail, threats of violence and backstories that reveal people to be not exactly what they appear to be. And the novel gives readers insight into the high-pressure world of restaurants. At times, the large cast of characters in A Bitter Feast...may become a little difficult to keep track of. But the mystery resolves itself in a satisfactory manner, and fans of Kincaid and James will appreciate how the family’s story moves ahead. In all, Crombie weaves an intricate tale that readers will wonder about and savor—just as much as they would truly enjoy a legendary meal from O’Reilly’s kitchen. Far from being bitter, this feast goes down very well indeed.
William Kent Krueger
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchIn an author’s note at the end of the book, Krueger says he envisioned This Tender Land as \'an update of Huckleberry Finn,\' and that antecedent is clear on almost every one of his briskly written pages ... Krueger’s writing is usually plain, although at times it wanders close to the purple prose boundary ... the tone and the story of the 1932 episodic river odyssey match nicely.
RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch... [an] evocative, engrossing novel ... Prescott skillfully melds the political and personal through the lives of three women ... The Secrets We Kept is far from ordinary. Not surprisingly, Prescott’s novel appeared on bestseller lists almost as soon as it was released, so its achievement has hardly been a secret. It deserves all of the attention it gets.
RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch...a detail-packed, incisive look into the modern worlds of American commerce and politics ... Leonard goes a long way toward lifting the veils surrounding Koch to correct and expand the public record ... In many ways, Kochland is as sprawling as the company and the family it covers ... will Koch’s philosophy and financial prowess prevail at the ballot box [in 2020]? Based on the portrait of power that Leonard paints in Kochland, the upcoming showdown could be epic. S
PositiveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"... an engrossing, inspiring, thought-provoking tale ... Kingsolver deftly uses the shifting narrative... But literary technique is only one tool that makes Unsheltered memorable ... Lacking a strong shelter forces everyone in the novel to reimagine their lives and redefine what normal is. And that’s just what a good novel is supposed to do.\
PositiveSt. Louis Post-DispatchPart memories, part economic analysis, part sociological treatise, Heartland ties together various threads of American society of the last 40 years ... Smarsh’s book is persuasive not only for the facts she marshals, but also because of the way she expresses it ... she uses minute detail to get across the tenuous state of the lives of her family ... in her silent speeches to a never-born child, Smarsh spells out clearly what she has gained, what she has had to leave behind and the cost for both.
Mark Haskell Smith
PositiveSTL TodayThe action kicks off when foreign exchange trader Bryan LeBlanc decides that there is no reason to settle for his big salary when he can make an even bigger score skimming money from his clients’ accounts. When the theft is discovered, his boss, Seo-yun Kim, has to track Bryan down but keep the case quiet so that the firm’s clients aren’t alarmed. So she and colleague Neal Nathanson, director of special collections, whose job typically involves \'tracking down investors who’d overreached, taken bad bets, had their margins called, and then skipped out,\' head south to find LeBlanc and the $17 million he stole ... Blown is well-plotted, with Smith mixing up the allegiances of the various characters so it’s never quite clear where their loyalties lie. And he deftly sketches their back stories.
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchAs a young writer, Michael Chabon found himself at a party where an older and presumably wiser author gave him this advice: \'Don’t have children\' ... He went on to have...two sons and two daughters ... He also penned these essays on fatherhood that prove that being a parent doesn’t diminish writing talent ... The two most affecting essays are about Chabon’s sons and the pressure on teens to be individuals and conformists at the same time, in the realm of adolescent fashion ... Chabon concludes that his books and his children did not need to be mutually exclusive, that each supplies a different kind of joy.
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchNye...paints a vivid portrait of Cincinnati in the mid-1990s, using music, video games and popular mall stores like Benetton and Sam Goody to establish a convincing sense of place. The plot unfolds slowly — perhaps too slowly for some readers ... Nye’s writing style is easy to read, with few flourishes, and he often is able to dish up concise descriptions of characters and situations ... All the Castles Burned is the kind of novel that readers will cruise through and be eager for what the author offers next. Stay tuned.
Luis Alberto Urrea
RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch...Luis Alberto Urrea has crafted a story that is teeming with family love, secrets, jealousies, alliances and surprises that make it burst with life on every page ... The House of Broken Angels can be a multigenerational, multinational dwelling anywhere. Get a copy for your house.
Ed. by John Freeman
RaveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchThe book’s subtitle — Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation — sets out Freeman’s viewpoint clearly. The two Americas are privileged and poor, wealthy and worried, separated by race, class, ethnicity, geography, age and a list of other factors … Freeman hopes that ‘there is a bandwidth of care that still exists in America. One where people don’t give a hand just because it suits them but because it is the right thing to do — it is how we all get by.’ That attitude is sorely needed before America can be made great again. But anyone reading Tales of Two Americas may find it hard to believe it still exists.
John A. Farrell
RaveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch...an absorbing, insightful biography ... In a biography that is more synthesis than revelation, more analysis than breaking news, Farrell puts the politician’s accomplishments and failures in context to give a good accounting of one of the most fascinating, enigmatic figures of 20th-century America.
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchPerabo alternates chapters from each point of view, deftly switching from the perspective of a middle-school girl to that of a parent who is visited by tragedy for the second time ... The tension is strongest when the focus is on Claire. The novel’s most powerful scenes come when Claire and Lisa’s mother, Colleen Bellow, meet — one mother whose daughter is missing physically, the other whose daughter is present but distant and troubled. Perabo’s portrayal provides a realistic, haunting look into what both women are feeling ... Readers who like their mysteries tied up neatly may find the ending of The Fall of Lisa Bellow unsatisfying. But as Claire comes to realize, this story and most stories aren’t really about endings, happy or otherwise. It’s the journey, day by day and hour by hour, that makes them interesting. In that respect, Perabo will give readers what they are looking for.
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch\"...a book of nearly 900 pages, with minimal dialogue but long passages of narrative description, can be daunting. At times, moving from one version of Ferguson to another, readers may take a few pages to recall just where they are. But the narrative is well written, and overall, Auster uses Ferguson’s story to capture a time and an outlook on life that will speak strongly to Americans who shared the same experiences.\
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-DispatchTruevine is an expanded version of a series of Macy’s newspaper articles about George and Willie, and at times the book seems to be padded, with more detail about the times and the shows than readers may have patience for. But Macy’s digging, and how she chronicles her effort to find the truth, even if they end up less than definitive, make Truevine a true mystery that provides insight into a long-gone world that still has echoes today.
Joyce Carol Oates
PositiveThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch...the terrifying tales in The Doll-Master...cover a wide variety of situations and protagonists, and they are certain to stick in your mind long after you’ve turned the last page ... The stories always have an undercurrent of menace poised to break through at any moment. Readers familiar with Oates’ writing in this genre will be satisfied but not surprised by these stories. Anyone whose experience is primarily with her more literary works will find these tales of terror well done and hard to forget.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-DispatchIn The Secret Chord, [Brooks] goes a long way toward making [David] not just a legend but a real human being.