PositiveChristian Science MonitorFollowing their 2011 graduation from Minnesota’s St. Olaf College, Natalie Warren and Ann Raiho paddled the 2,000 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, becoming the first women to complete the trip. ... It’s no surprise that Warren and Raiho reach their destination, given their skill, their bond, and their determination. Nor is it unexpected that the trip had a profound effect on both women. At the end of the narrative, an engaging dialogue between the women allows Raiho a chance to share her perspective and establishes the trip as a watershed moment in their lives. The story of their impressive accomplishment, retold by Warren with affection, is an inspiration for young people everywhere to chart their own course.
RaveChristian Science MonitorAlthough the Heart Mountain Eagles are at the figurative center of this book, sports fans seeking football history will find themselves searching for even the mention of a ball within the first half. Contrary to what the title implies, the football team is a secondary focus. However, when the sports writing does pop up, it is nothing short of glorious ... Using meticulous research and a whole lot of heart, Pearson gives a devastatingly powerful history of Japanese American internment and demonstrates its absurdity with the tale of an undeniably all-American football team ... Though there is not as much football as the title seems to promise, this is an inspired and necessary work of history.
RaveChristian Science MonitorHarvey Araton, who went on to write for The New York Times, shares the story of his decadeslong friendship with Michelle Musler. ... the book is downright charming and comes off precisely as intended: a tribute to a remarkable woman who played a tremendous role in the life of the author, and who was a largely unknown but highly influential on-the-sidelines figure during this period of Knicks basketball ... This is a memoir about life as much as about sports, although the ever-wise Musler would have likely argued that the two are inherently connected. As Araton recalls, she \'loved sports because she always thought a single game, segmented into stages, was a microcosm of life, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.\' ... This heartfelt story of friendship is one to be savored.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAbramsky presents a well-researched account of a woman whose rare losses were almost more newsworthy than her consistent victories ... These two biographies [Little Wonder and The Divine Miss Marble] serve not only as opportunities to marvel at the accomplishments of these women, but also as reminders that some things haven’t changed. For example, Dod and Marble were criticized for how they dressed, accused of playing like men, and berated for their progressive political views. These books are celebrations of women’s progress, but they also show how much work is left to be done.
RaveHarvard ReviewThis poignant essay collection is the perfect mediator to join our hands with nature once again. Macdonald makes it clear in her work that nature is her ultimate teacher. Her humility in the face of the vastness of the world around us is one of the many things that makes her so likeable. When you sit down with a Helen Macdonald book, you can trust that there will be no ego and no lecture. Though her voice is clear and her presence is deeply felt, the author is happy to give up her starring role in her own book, letting the natural world shine. By doing so, readers can step more completely into Macdonald’s shoes. It’s clear to see, in her life as much as in this book, that nature leads. Alas, not every essay in the collection is equal in power, and the titular essay seems misplaced at the midway point—an essay that completely summarizes the spirit of the collection demands its rightful place at the front. But the raw emotion that Macdonald brought to H Is for Hawk, giving the book its electricity, is all over Vesper Flights ... consider this collection balm for the soul.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorWeintraub uses Marble’s memoirs as the foundation of his research, and his discoveries turn this sports biography into a page-turning thriller ... serves not only as an opportunity to marvel at the accomplishments of these women, but also as a reminder that some things haven’t changed.
Patrik Svensson, Trans. by Agnes Broomé
PanOpen Letters ReviewSuch a fascinating concept and publisher copy that is eager to draw comparisons to Sy Montgomery’s charming The Soul of an Octopus and Helen Macdonald’s runaway hit H is for Hawk seem to promise readers another fascinating memoir-nature writing hybrid, only with a mystery angle, to boot ... While the riddle of the eel may prove a draw to readers of this genre, the grander mystery that will endure is the appeal of this book...Rife with admitted anthropomorphizing, The Book of Eels tries to layer meaning within the mysteries of the eel, but profundity wriggles out of Svensson’s grasp with every attempt. Pairings of practically rhetorical questions and uninteresting blanket observations are frustratingly littered throughout the scientific portions ... One is liable to forget that this is a nature book and not a freshman philosophy paper with adjusted margins to meet the required length ... The memoir portions provide a much-needed reprieve from the false insights, largely providing snapshots of the author’s relationship with his father throughout his childhood; the father-son pair spend quality time together as they trap, prepare, and eat the eels they catch. The quiet atmosphere of these sections makes them touchingly genuine ... Instead, Svensson decides on an even split between his personal stories and the science peppered with off-into-the-distance questioning. At times, he brushes against meaningful depth, but his devil’s advocacy often muddles the message ... Here’s the thing about mysteries, whether they be cozy, hard-boiled, or even nestled within a work of natural history: the reader expects some semblance of a resolution by the end. The Book of Eels not only fails to deliver one, but sadly proves itself to be a pseudo-philosophical work that poses more questions than it answers. If the eel is still keen to leave something to the imagination, then perhaps this was an exposé best left for another day.
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteFrances Cha’s debut is filled with biting commentary about the position in which women find themselves in modern South Korea. With such an onus on appearance and social rank, women’s lives come to be dominated by envy, and our main characters are no exception. Each one of them, through their narratives, seems suspended in space, desperately grabbing out for something unreachable, believing that getting a hold on that whatever is missing will fill the hole inside of them. Ms. Cha’s debut has the potential to provide a window into South Korean culture for the uninitiated, highlighting its richness as well as its problems. The book, for all its sharp wit and acerbic asides, is breezily and delightfully readable, perfect for a one-sitting binge. Wanting only for more differentiation between the character voices and a separate perspective of the group’s keystone friend, Sujin, Frances Cha has given us a novel to write home about.
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewThroughout the book, in between presentations of the run and the runners, Álvarez deeply considers what the run represents. He notes, correctly, that the run stood in defiance of the negative connotations of running historically attached to immigrant populations ... The fact that the run, in a powerful way, reclaims the act of running as a positive one, highlights the biggest shortcoming of the book; simply stated, there is not enough of the run in Spirit Run ... Throughout, Álvarez delivers moments of profound insight as he re-develops his own relationship with the land ... A reverent examination of the spiritual links to oft-trodden ground, Spirit Run stumbles at times, but still crosses the finish line.
RaveOpen Letters Review\"By sympathizing with the devil, Hammer is able to dig deeper into Lendrum’s psyche, proposing that the falcon thief’s motives may be more complex than mere cupidity. These arguments appear to have weight to them, but perhaps that’s merely wishful thinking on the part of the audience, wanting to believe that the antihero can turn hero ... Hammer covers all sides (or is it surfaces?) of this egg-shaped story, giving readers a full picture of the situation with judicious research and insider information gleaned from lengthy interviews, not only with individuals connected to the headline-making saga, but even with the falcon thief himself. The book is expertly organized and the writing is sharp; Lendrum’s risky adventures obtaining eggs, sometimes in the most inaccessible nooks and crannies of a cliff wall, come to life, and the balanced storytelling will give readers an aerial view of this story, a case study of the war between the thriving wildlife black market and crime fighters working, at times in vain, against it. Slipping as perfectly into the newly developing natural history-true crime subgenre as it does into a carry-on, The Falcon Thief both informs and thrills.
PositiveOpen Letters Review... this book weaves intriguing food for thought into a fun romp of a story. The time travel element may be overly simplified, but the choice allows Montimore to explore other avenues and focus on characters in her debut. Readers will easily slip into Oona’s shoes as she develops following her internal age versus her external one, but learns no less about life for it. In different, yet entirely the same ways as the rest of us, Oona loves and experiences loss, triumphs, and falls flat on her face, but, at the end of the day (or in this case, year) she proves what we all already knew: the passing of time makes fools of us all.
RaveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMs. King strikes a balance between these two simultaneous love interests as easily as she did in Euphoria by avoiding the typical irritants of the love triangle dynamic and letting the situation instead provide further insight into Casey’s unattended demons. She inevitably must choose between the two men, but not before she spends time answering questions about her life she didn’t even know she had ... The majority of the narrative space is refreshingly dominated by Casey’s attempts to navigate the social politics of her restaurant job and make the right choice of man, but we get the sense that her writing is what helps her cope with these matters. It is the means by which she resolves the internal conflict of her past and present, and her way of putting into words all that she can’t say to the people around her ... What at first appears to be a surface-level, nostalgic venture into the life of a starving artist in the ’90s slowly becomes an examination of all that writing demands and provides. In this novel, writing is both passion and hardship, reprieve and punishment. It allows Casey to close earlier chapters of her life and open to a blank page ... a triumph of a novel, as witty as it is profound. A queen of nuance, Ms. King hides an arsenal of emotional power behind quiet, intentional prose. Nearly every word of this novel seems carefully and deliberately chosen, rewarding close readers and promising re-readers an even deeper experience. Most significantly, although Ms. King’s portrayal of a writer’s life is brutally honest, it urges all of us to personally take on the agony, but also the sublime ecstasy of the writer’s journey. After all, we all have something to say, it’s merely about finding the right words with which to say it.
RaveOpen Letters Review...a glittering and richly drawn story ... Readers will half expect to look up and see a finished tapestry, shimmering with moonlight, after they finish a passage detailing her handiwork ... Natural slower periods in the storytelling are equally as entertaining with skillful worldbuilding, mouth-watering food writing, and, of course, Ximena’s beautiful weaving ... this novel is full to the brim with heart.
E. J. Koh
PositiveThe Open Letters Review... [the letters] read like an extended, fussing hand, hoping to hold onto that mother-daughter bond across an ocean of distance ... There is no dissection of the letters or of the author’s feelings about the absence of her mother in those critical years of development into womanhood. Indeed, the letters are presented mainly without comment and in between the author’s recollections of those years of physical estrangement. She is not forthright with her feelings, but the selected memories hint at her emotions ... There is a whole shadow self lingering behind the words of this book; it only suggests the true pain and longing that the reader can feel in the pit of their stomach. There is no doubt that a second book’s pages could be filled with all that’s left unsaid here. The absence of such words gives this book a quiet, melancholic tone. Wounds kept hidden in this book do not interrupt its smooth, elegant prose, though it is the literary equivalent of sweeping matters under the rug ... a beautiful, sorrowful kind of wandering into the past. It is the kind of recollection that has spikes, the ones that, despite the passing years, still tear at us when we pull them out of the proverbial, or even literal, closet.
RaveOpen Letters ReviewFor the blissful blink of a moment spent in this book, we don’t simply get to know Jemima; we get to be Jemima as we are welcomed into Julie’s family home. We’re offered sustenance with the descriptions and illustrations of all the food Jemima uses to grow up strong. We’re invited into bird-dominated conversation by Zickefoose’s stunning paintings of Jemima that introduce each chapter as though they were hanging casually on the walls of her home. And, only reaffirming the bond the author has already established with the reader, the book’s conclusion is the equivalent of an unforgettable heart-to-heart at the end of a lovely visit ... The entire book feels like home - the love and grace that encircle it and all the clumsiness and heartache that can be safely felt inside. This is more than a bird book. This is the respite every reader needs from the dangers of the wild. Given the chance, it will feed your soul as you build back up the courage to rejoin the larger world outside.
PositiveThe Open Letters ReviewGiven that this is a story of Florida, a level of absurdity is expected, if not outright required. Pittman happily obliges with a number of colorful caricatures ... Though the cast of characters becomes large as new additions join the fray as the saga goes on, distinctive and memorable portraits of each of the players keeps clear what in another author’s hands would be confusing and not nearly as readable. Pittman is at his best when retelling some of the more wacky scientific endeavors undertaken in the name of rescuing the panther, inserting humor in just the right spots to earn belly laughs ... The author’s humor doesn’t always hit its mark ... His style gets chummy with the reader, at times making the story feel like a belly-up-to-the-bar hometown tale, and in other moments, like a surrender of his authorial authority. There are many sections of the book in which the author seems to forget what he’s writing is not a voiceover script for a documentary; his dramatic closing points to chapters give the feeling that he’s setting up readers for a commercial break rather than smoothly introducing the next section ... What his style does achieve, however, is a feeling of camaraderie with the reader ... Human entitlement leaps off the page higher than the panthers themselves ... a full-length reading of Cat Tale may not be quite as hopeful and uplifting as the premise suggests, but it does tell an honest, entertaining story of an apex predator being brought back from the brink, despite all the odds against it. Pittman’s history with this story and its actors clearly shows; his research is robust and the tale is lovingly told. As only a true Floridian could, Pittman makes sense of the bizarre and clears a path through the chaos in this parable of a species holding onto life by its claws in an inhospitable world.
PositiveThe Open Letters Review... one can feel Doughy laying the groundwork for achieving her goal of a death-accepting Western culture by using the same guiding principle leaned on by marketing teams for every sugary cereal brand out there: start them young! ... Her tone is surprisingly lighthearted and packed with all the dry wit readers have come to expect from Doughty ... It’s precisely this willingness to lean into the jovial worldview of a child that makes this book so successful. While some will see her tone as irreverent, perhaps us stuffy adults need to, once again, relish in the ick factor and allow death to become as much as an everyday talking point as it is an everyday occurrence. In this way, children are the ideal ground zero for Doughty to promote her death-positivity agenda. Since the Western cultural thumb hasn’t yet flattened their interest in the topic and rolled it into cold, hard fear, kids are far more likely to ask some of these questions that initially sound kooky, but with further thought, slowly morph into totally rational curiosities. The type of unknowns that will nag at one’s psyche if left unanswered. Do bodies decaying underground affect the taste of the groundwater in the area? Read the question and you’ll be dying to know the answer.
RaveOpen Letters Review[Moreno-Garcia] focuses not on our ears but our mind’s eye as she brings this world to life with color. The titular jade is abundant and the author’s palette is expansive ... the simple yet richly evocative prose vividly paints their path and the various other magical characters they meet on it. Even the underworld, a place we would assume would be the epitome of drab, comes alive with vibrant hues ... The effect is deeply sensory and absorbing, taking the reader on a visual and emotional journey as the two leading characters are confronted with fearsome foes and impossible choices. Readers of Naomi Novik will drink this book in with greedy gulps. Concise yet commanding and measuredly paced, Gods of Jade and Shadow combines whimsy, adventure, and an uplifting central message to create the kind of rip-roaring good time that myths are made of.
RaveThe Open Letters ReviewThe author is far from a judgmental outsider. She doesn\'t attempt to pretend she\'s peering into the fishbowl: she\'s a crime junkie herself and, like many others, can\'t help but wonder if society is correct in thinking that ladies like herself, who find themselves absorbed by such dark material, must have something deeply corrupted inside. Interspersed throughout the book\'s compelling true stories are our author\'s descriptions of her own history with the genre and her connections to the same archetypes she\'s outlining. It allows a steadfast vein of relatability to run through the entire work ... thoroughly entertains. Monroe is the perfect guide through these well-researched stories, using personal experiences, psychological insights, and historical context to direct us. True crime fans, guilty pleasure and unapologetic readers alike will want to dive into this book to try to determine what inspires their own love of the genre. In an enormously satisfying way, this book has just the right recipe to become the crime fanatic\'s newest obsession.
Mary Doria Russell
RaveThe Open Letters ReviewMary Doria Russell is one of those rare authors who can make genre her playground ... Russell demonstrates her skill in the way she makes what otherwise may be a textbook dialectical struggle into something personal and homegrown ... Many different characters in this situation get their turn in the narrative driver\'s seat...This allows the reader to get a well-rounded view of this tug-of-war. It is this personal touch that assists the modern audience in understanding how and why the harsh tactics of the company were so effective by first making clear the vulnerable position of the workers and their families ... The writing makes her approach all the more successful. Her prose is appropriately simplistic, but rich with nuance. By cutting down on the window dressing, Russell is able to focus in on characterization through dialogue and body language which represents her true authorial muscle. Nearly every conversation is a loaded one and close readers will be rewarded for an attention to detail ... But since we are so laser-focused on the people of this story, a noticeable stumbling point in the portrayal of Calumet & Hecla manager James MacNaughton begins to stand out. Though his tactics are true to the history books and the villain shoes fit, his demeanor is far more robotic and efficiency-obsessed than felt realistic...Even with that minor infraction, this book is a triumph ... Astutely researched, the writing of this book was clearly a labor of love for the author. She stays true to the heart of this lesser-known part of American history while tweaking just enough to give it the momentum and power it needed to make a compelling story.
MixedOpen Letters ReviewA dreamlike combination of the pressures of Hollywood and the increasingly dangerous delusions of an unstable main character, the book personifies all the nasty and envious emotions stirred up by the all-too-frequent comparison exercises of one\'s own social media profiles to those of old schoolmates ... gives a sense that [Abby] is teetering on the edge of something desperate, providing the same uncomfortable compulsion to keep reading as does a work of true crime ... Any logistical concerns about the unlikely arrangement between Elise and Abby are more or less swatted away by the author who attempts to detract attention away from the milky and surreal sheen the book achieves. Yet there are very real questions left unanswered by the author\'s skewed focus on atmosphere ... the director simply lacks the needed gravitational pull to make Abby\'s hero worship believable ... As a disturbing psychological thriller heavy in atmosphere that doubles as a cautionary tale of who we should allow reentry into our lives, this book mainly hits the mark. However, it does conclude leaving us with a feeling of longing and incompletion...A bizarre and hazy aura created by Abby\'s dreams and the churning sense of dread fostered by her delusions is muddled by inconsistent characterization and a lack of powerful narrative focus. Readers are left to turn to their own dreams to imagine what might have been had these elements been given their due.
RaveOpen Letters ReviewComing-of-age storytellers take note: here is your model heroine. Across time, adolescents have sought to define what they are by first defining what they are not. Lara Prior-Palmer canters away from the known world and all the expectations of her it contains ... Readers will be grateful for her investment in the present, but also her choice to faithfully write down the events of each day in her Winnie the Pooh notebook. Her recorded experiences combine with the wisdom of hindsight to create the pure magic of this book. In writing it, we can feel the author, now aged 24, returning to this defining the experience in her mind\'s eye and retrospectively defining it for the lasting impact it has clearly had on her life. This memoir is a glance behind at trodden ground and acknowledgment of the course to come. Each pony gallops across the in-between.
Lauren E. Oakes
PositiveOpen Letters Review\"[Oakes] provides a thorough, yet layman-approved explanation of the scientific methods they used and outlines her interview process with Alaskans ... At times this book reads like a nature detective novel with Oakes never revealing her hand too soon. The structure and prose insist that we go on this physical and emotional journey with her. As she describes, her PhD stripped away the humanity of her experience in Alaska, reducing her findings to charts of data. This book is the other side of that coin: the side with the human face ... In this book, Oakes makes the effects of climate change tangible; she allows you to reach out and touch its consequences with your fingertips. She presents the devastating impacts on real people and the ripple effect on the ecosystem. She demands the reader consider his or her own connection to the environment since most of us are dangerously removed mentally from the natural spaces in which we live. By writing this book with deep and complex emotion, she provides the critical first spark of making climate change feel like a personal problem in each of our lives.\
PositiveOpen Letters Review\"In this new novel, French unshackles herself from writing a mystery through the eyes of those paid to solve it. By doing so, she’s able to go deeper into the psyche of an individual and his shifting worldview ... What’s for certain is that readers can count their lucky stars to get to spend time absorbed in a new Tana French novel. Despite stepping away from the series that has made her so popular, this is still a mystery that deeply satisfies.\