Michael Menschel is an Arts and Features Editor at The Dallas Morning News. Hismiddle-grade novel, Revenge of the Star Survivors, is scheduled to be published in 2017. He can be found on Twitter @mmerschel
RaveThe Star TribuneEgan stuffs this account of his trek from Canterbury, England, to Rome like a seasoned backpacker—he’s loaded a whole lot into a small space, but it’s carefully balanced and will rest lightly on your shoulders. It’s a trail mix of the personal, historical and even gastronomical, but it’s never a slog ... The book is full of...history-buff-pleasing asides. And even as Egan will have you wishing you, too, had time to walk across Europe, this is no mere travelogue. Egan, \'a skeptic by profession,\' is weighing what, exactly, he believes in ... Egan makes his respect for Pope Francis clear, but if he achieves his goal of an audience with the pontiff, he will have a lot of questions.
RaveThe Star TribuneA quick summary might make Maggie Paxson’s The Plateau sound too earnest to bear ... But something surprising and beautiful happens in these pages. Paxson braids those strands of history, philosophy and reflection into a book that is precious and powerful ... Paxson is a descriptive essayist who can make readers feel the chill of a wintry French gale or the airlessness of a boxcar headed to a German death camp or her own heart breaking as she confronts other examples of human depravity, many involving refugees from around the world who find themselves at the Plateau. She’s evocative without being flowery, philosophical without being weighty. And political? Not overtly ... Some readers might not like the way she meanders from topic to topic, but she never really loses her focus.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsBrave Deeds is a riveting, disturbing war novel. Make that — a war-is-hell novel. It's a book that can leave you laughing, gasping and wincing ... Brave Deeds is a spiritual brother to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain...Both books will force you to think deeply about what war does — to our nation, and to the people we ask to fight.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsThe issue is not a lack of detail. Sims offers an abundance of it as he traces Doyle’s path from poverty in Edinburgh, Scotland, through his years as a struggling writer to the dawn of literary immortality. I wanted a book that focused on that rise, but Sims is keen to tell the story not just of Doyle’s struggle but of everything that influenced him along the way. This means that interesting biographical anecdotes — say, Doyle’s experience on an 1880 whaling voyage — are related in almost as much detail as the resume of the former medical school professor whose studies inspired Doyle to engage in a reckless experiment in self-poisoning ... Arthur and Sherlock is slowed by such narrative cul-de-sacs. But once I finally accepted that the road to Holmes’ birth would be paved with tangents, I settled into the ride. Which does have rewards ... Later sections offer the well-told biographical tale I was looking for.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsIt works because Chabon writes with the aplomb of a test pilot. Maybe some of the swagger, too — there are a few spots where you can almost see the words smirking from the page, and I can see where that might annoy some people. I didn't mind, because he also proves his skill in every chapter. His war scenes are the stuff of thrillers. His understanding of the history of the space program would please any sci-fi fan. His love story is heartbreaking ... Chabon pulls it off, and you can't help but applaud.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsWomen do not get many starring roles in his chapters, but his anecdotes are not told with machismo. Many are revelatory, instructional and poignant ... a young (or old) writer could learn a lot from the advice he has gleaned, if not from his own crisp, thoughtful sentences ... an engaging, soulful tribute to stories of all kinds and the quirky, complicated people who craft them.
RaveThe Dallas Morning News...a delightful, accessible guide to why your favorite productions work. It’s a little bit history, a little bit memoir, a little bit criticism and, for any theater fan, a whole lot of fun.