PositiveThe Star TribuneFrench Like Moi, Carpenter’s droll take on his sabbatical year in Paris, keeps the reader chuckling and occasionally cringing. While largely a collection of essays published elsewhere, the pieces coalesce into a respectable memoir ... Carpenter describes his adventures with self-deprecating good humor ... Carpenter mostly plays for laughs, and the wisecracks get thick in places. But he also shares some worthy observations about French and American culture. The attitude toward homelessness, for example. \'Paris is unforgiving of small social infractions, but once you cross a certain threshold, almost any eccentricity can be pardoned — sort of the way that, in the U.S., petty thieves get thrown in prison while the more ambitious ones are put in charge of hedge funds.\'
RaveThe Star TribuneHornby (sister of author Nick Hornby) whips fact, romance and a little Gothic mystery into an imaginative compote that’s bound to satisfy those who hunger for more servings of Austen, and those who just enjoy a good tale. She channels Austen’s wry take on women in society, with a dash of ageism to boot ... Hornby delivers an engaging plot and some lovely passages[.]
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneKidd trades modern times for Victorian England, a setting well suited to her charming, chilling blend of fiction and fantasy. There’s a whiff of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes, with a dash of The Night Circus for seasoning. And, true to form, she unleashes a cast of outlandish characters, such as a boxer’s ghost with a mermaid tattoo that swims around his arm ... Victorian London comes to life in Kidd’s writing. You can feel the fog rising from the first page, and later, the formaldehyde ... Kidd has fashioned enjoyable, indelible characters and a plot that keeps readers guessing, smiling and maybe even flinching.
PositiveThe Star Tribune... [a] gripping story ... A House in the Mountains is exhaustively researched, which makes for some tough reading. The number of people, political parties and publications will challenge readers new to this phase of the war. But Moorehead artfully builds the tension as liberation approaches and partisans make a desperate last stand. She commiserates with her main characters when peace finally arrives and the new Italy looks \'very like the old one.\'
D. J. Taylor
PositiveThe Star TribuneIn The Lost Girls, British biographer D.J. Taylor does a richly researched dive into this transgressive 1940s subculture where men and women changed partners and apartments with equal ease ... At the center is the self-absorbed \'man of letters\' Cyril Connolly, a character both fascinating and repellent ... Readers who can’t set aside 21st-century attitudes toward feminism and sexual politics could be dismayed by the scenes of talented women subordinating their goals to Connolly’s ego ... Before judging, Taylor urges readers to take a more historical view of the Lost Girls.
PositiveThe Star TribuneCaroline Scott’s absorbing debut novel, The Poppy Wife, takes readers into the aftermath of World War I as people rebuild their lives. But it could be any war, any time, with the universal themes she explores ... Scott’s vivid writing puts us in the minds of the protagonists as they search, remember and regret. A typical tale would have readers hoping for a joyful reunion, but the more we learn, the more conflicted we become ... The Poppy Wife arrives a year after the centennial observances of the war’s official end on Nov. 11, 1918, and the timing seems perfect. It reminds us that just because something has ended doesn’t mean it’s over.
RaveNewsdayIn this historical novel, Liza Wieland distills Bishop’s formative years into an artful blend of biography and imagination. Her challenge is to echo Bishop’s poetic voice without losing her own, and she manages beautifully. She delivers an impressionistic novel, with individual scenes coalescing to form a luscious whole ... Readers unfamiliar with Bishop’s poetry will not get a tutorial here. But there are many glimpses—\'Paris, 7 a.m.\' is the title of a poem. These, in addition to the adventures Wieland creates for Bishop, give readers an appreciation for the woman who set a new direction in American poetry.
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"For her debut novel, Scharer wisely focuses on the formative years that Miller spent with Ray ... Readers watching her mind at work may be tempted to say, \'Oh, grow up!\' But Miller\'s dilemma illustrates the pressures that many ambitious young women face in their love and work lives.\
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"... delightful ... The plot is no surprise ... But Kamal knows that it’s the journey rather than the destination that keeps Austen fans coming back, and she winds interesting variations on the themes to provide a tour of her native country and update some of the anachronistic elements of the original story.\
Tatiana De Rosnay
MixedStar TribuneTatiana de Rosnay...again mines the past to deliver a powerful tale of people caught up in major moments in history ... De Rosnay is so good at this storytelling that I wish she had focused on her family/flood narrative. Her decision to intersperse a decades-old mystery adds little but distraction. My advice to readers would be to skip the italics sections and savor the story of her beloved city on the brink.
PositiveThe Minnesota Star Tribune\"Kathryn Schwille\'s richly descriptive debut novel weaves local drama into a national trauma to illustrate how regular people\'s lives play out beyond the headlines. The action moves forward and backward in time, with characters literally picking up the pieces of the disaster or reflecting back on it later. The interlocking stories touch on issues of race, religion, domestic violence and family relationships ... the stories here construct a less coherent picture, with action and characters spread out much like the shuttle\'s debris field. There\'s a lot to like in this novel, but the structure can distract from Schwille\'s beautiful language.
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"Australian writer Josephine Wilson immerses us in this moving story of guilt and reckoning with powerful prose, intriguing characters and heartening touches of humor. The strangely apropos photos and drawings of engineering marvels and extinct animals that accompany the chapters leave readers smiling and pondering the trail that humans leave behind, as a group or by ourselves.\
B A Shapiro
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"Art and intrigue make scheming bedfellows in the latest novel by B.A. Shapiro, master of the \'historical art thriller\' ... The plot requires readers to suspend disbelief in key places, but the payoff is a fast-moving, multifaceted battle of wits. Art lovers will savor Shapiro\'s sensual descriptions of paintings that bring now legendary masterpieces to life.\
PositiveThe Star TribuneThey took off in wooden crates loaded with gasoline. They flew over mountains, deserts and seas without radar or even radios. When they came down, their landings might be their last. For pilots of the 1920s and ’30s, the challenges were enormous. Multiply that exponentially for women. Author Keith O’Brien recounts the early years of aviation through a generation of female pilots who carved out a place for themselves and their sisterhood. Despite the sensation they created, each \'went missing in her own way.\' ... The story builds to a thrilling climax with the 1936 Bendix race, a cross-country contest that featured Earhart and Thaden and the men heavily favored to beat them. O’Brien’s rich details put the reader in the cockpit as pilots confront equipment failures, crash landings and the frenzy of the finish line Fly Girls winningly revives that contradictory decade of high flight and deepening Depression, when female pilots had to balance their intense rivalry with their need for friends.
Katherine J Chen
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneMary B deserves a place among the many additions to the Austen franchise. Random House assures that one doesn’t have to read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this sequel, but knowledge of the first will enhance enjoyment of the second. P&P fans’ satisfaction likely will depend on how well they receive Mary’s critiques of key characters. Mary’s tale also invites a guilty rethinking of those witty put-downs that seemed to go over her head in the original novel. Rest assured, they did not.
Meghan MacLean Weir
PositiveThe Star TribuneDebut novelist Meghan Maclean Weir delivers a page-turning tale informed by her background as a preacher’s daughter. She divides the story among three young narrators: Essie, her potential groom, and a journalist covering the show. It’s a good device, but Weir struggles to create three distinct voices. Readers also may flinch at her occasional swipes at evangelical churches and the fictional show’s resemblance to the real-life 19 Kids and Counting. Even so, the story’s fast pace and plot twists will hold readers until Essie’s episode comes to its dramatic end.
RaveThe Star TribuneIn Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, Jess Kidd delivers another charming mix of magic and mystery, this time wrapped around a tale of family love and dysfunction. Kidd keeps the story tethered to reality just enough before letting it fly into a world roamed by cats named for authors, a host of eccentrics and the ghosts of opinionated saints ... The action-packed climax leaves us with the whiff of a sequel. We can only hope it will come soon.
RaveThe StarTribuneLisa Genova, the neuroscientist and author who riveted audiences with her tale of early onset dementia in Still Alice, delivers another gripping journey through a dread disease in Every Note Played. This time she trains her masterful storytelling skills on ALS as it plays out in a fractured family ... Genova continues to refine her niche of using fiction to describe the scientific and emotional impact of disease on the stricken person and their caregivers ... This time Genova enriches the medical story with the power of music, capturing in words what sound feels like ... As the ultimate life-or-death decision arrives, Genova crystallizes the choice that so many real-life families feel when disease strikes:
'It’s either his life or hers.'
PositiveThe Star TribuneThis is a richly satisfying read, with so many lines worthy of underlining ... both time-tested storytelling and 21st- century originality ... As a companion to the book, she includes an online playlist (tinyurl.com/straycitymixtape) time-stamped to the era. The musical underpinnings carry into the story. Johnson constructs the narrative like a song, with two main sections connected by a 'bridge' of voice mails, e-mails and letters never sent ... Stray City takes the reader on a journey, too, probing what makes families, whether biological or chosen. And it reminds us what it means to find home.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneBallad of the Anarchist Bandits follows the trail of a committed cadre of 'illegalists' — anarchists who believed that robbing banks and looting stores were fair game in a corrupt society ... Author John Merriman delivers a ripping good yarn with a lineup of compelling characters. It was a pivotal time in France, with World War I looming ... With so many people to introduce and so many intriguing asides — Arthur Conan Doyle even gets a mention — the narrative drags a bit in early chapters. But it picks up speed as it goes and leaves the reader with some timely questions about where a country should set the balance between security and civil rights for people with unpopular views.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneKent’s suspenseful storytelling plunges readers into early 19th-century Ireland. She brings vivid life to the hardscrabble scenes: dingy cabins and backbreaking work and the grim hiring fairs where poor children sell their labor to less poor people such as Nóra. When Nóra and Nance head off to confront the fairies, you can feel the mud sliding beneath their bare feet. Although The Good People is fiction, it faithfully represents the hold of ancient Celtic myths on generations of Irish. It also lays bare some hard truths about human nature and leaves you thinking about belief, suspicion and what happens to a community when fear takes hold.
RaveNewsdayForeboding builds from the get-go of The Good People, Hannah Kent’s haunting historical novel about a rural Irish community gripped by sudden death and suspicion ... It’s 1825, and the people in the hills near Killarney strike an uneasy balance between the sacred and the superstitious: rosary beads in one pocket, and cold embers to ward off evil spirits in the other ... Kent’s suspenseful storytelling plunges readers into early 19th century Ireland. She brings vivid life to the hardscrabble scenes... Although The Good People is fiction, it faithfully represents the hold of ancient Celtic myths on generations of Irish ...bare some hard truths about human nature and leaves you thinking about belief, suspicion and what happens to a community when fear takes hold.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThis stranger-than-fiction true story has something for just about every reader: lifestyles of the rich and famous, clandestine recordings, suspicious payouts from Swiss bank accounts, even suspected Nazis. For me, the most fascinating element is the palace intrigue — literally. This scandal reached all the way to the Elysée Palace and may be why Nicolas Sarkozy is not president of France. Sancton’s quick work allows this book to appear in almost real time, with the daughter still under investigation and the mother declining into dementia. Sancton doesn’t judge, but presents the facts that make the reader ask the question: Was it worth it?
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWith clear-eyed sympathy, Worsley traces the wanderings of a woman who let her few chances for prosperity pass by, but who never gave up writing ... Mining the family archives, Worsley introduces us to Austen’s inner circle and points out resemblances to characters in her novels — the hypochondriac mother in Pride and Prejudice, for one. She scoffs at the sanitized family memoirs and cautions against taking Austen’s own letters too literally: The tricky thing is that Jane — as always — was joking.'”
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe four tales here are replete with Russo’s insightful studies of relationships between couples and/or brothers and observations about the state of humankind … Throughout, we enjoy Russo’s skill at weaving a story in which conflicted characters find moments of revelation and, sometimes, redemption. While I missed the broad comedy in this Pulitzer Prize winner’s other books, these stories are still rewarding and worth ruminating about.
MixedThe Minneapolis Star TribuneOverall, this is an interesting story, unevenly told. The narrative tone is so strong in places that you can forget you’re reading nonfiction. Then Willner drops in a 'My mother' or other personal details. It’s no easy feat to weave a personal memoir into a larger tableau of world events, and Willner complicates her task by trying to do justice to so many family members ... She can’t quite pull all the strands together. Even so, she paints a vivid picture.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneIn this compelling biography, Laura Thompson captures all six sisters in impressive detail ... Coming soon after the death of the last Mitford sister, Thompson's crisply written account brings them back in all their unapologetic glory.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneChapters are broken down by tense, from the past perfect to the future, and the story lags a bit in the past. But it takes off when Collins throws herself into language classes and funny Franglish conversations with her in-laws ... Gradually, fitfully, it all comes together. 'Four years after having met Olivier, I’m hearing his voice for the first time,' she says. Magnifique!
PositiveMinneapolis Star TribuneEgan drops gems of detail...throughout The Immortal Irishman. Fans of his other narrative nonfiction (The Worst Hard Time, The Big Burn) will see him work his magic again to let one story illustrate the larger convulsions of history and their legacy for today’s world.
PositiveMinneapolis Star TribuneAs earnestly as Sciolino digs into this dynamic neighborhood, she can only go so far...Unable to go deep, Sciolino goes wide, showing how remarkable a place can become when it is fully appreciated.