PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... the most compelling parts of Becoming Duchess Goldblatt come when the author explores her family’s past. She creates wrenchingly intimate portraits of her father, who is generous to a fault, and her brother, who struggles with mental illness ... Not all readers will appreciate the Duchess’ humor or understand why anyone would bother to follow her online. The woman in the painting doesn’t strike everyone as kind. And some will wonder whether the unnamed author is herself a construction of some kind ... It’s true that the author could be leading us astray. But her story, a kind of reverse Frankenstein, rings true: When her life was in tatters, she created a character out of spare parts of herself and used it to create the community she craved. That lesson can never be heard too often. Like objects in a rearview mirror, the inspiration we seek may be closer than we think.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...spectacular ... Larson, as America’s most compelling popular historian, is at his best in this fast-moving, immensely readable, and even warmhearted account of the battle to save Britain ... Along with Churchill himself, a pair of dashing young people give this book its heart: Mary Churchill, the fun-loving but somewhat naive teenage daughter of the prime minister, and John \'Jock\' Colville, a private secretary. Both individuals leave deeply revealing diaries that capture their refusal to put their personal lives on hold for queen and country ... Should we care about privileged people who find time for love and cats while a nation faces oblivion? Absolutely. As Churchill and his nation demonstrated, leadership and resilience don’t require a grim determination or even an always-stiff upper lip.
T. J. Stiles
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorVanderbilt’s story is indeed epic, and so is The First Tycoon ... The book’s length will intimidate many casual readers, as will the in-depth discussion of business strategies. But those who brave its heft will find many rewards ... Stiles is a perceptive and witty writer with a remarkable ability to paint a picture of the America in which Vanderbilt lived ... Readers looking for heroes won’t find them here. Everybody is out for a buck and it doesn’t help that Vanderbilt was never a terribly likable man in the first place.
Mary Jo McConahay
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorJournalist Mary Jo McConahay uncovers this fascinating story in her comprehensive, colorful, and often-troubling new book ... McConahay, a veteran Latin America correspondent, focuses on compelling characters whose ordinary lives are transformed ... As we look forward, McConahay\'s book gives us insight into the region\'s intricacies and the disastrous dance moves that belong in the past.
MixedThe Christian Science Monitor...It\'s a towering tale of official ineptitude and battlefield fortitude that plays out against the backdrop of American\'s most forgotten modern war ... Our guide is master storyteller Hampton Sides, who specializes in captivating readers with his trademark moment-by-moment accounts of American history ... the book\'s only significant weakness, there\'s not much about the lives and motives of the fighters on the other side. Instead, Sides focuses on the experiences of American troops and the fascinating story of a young Korean man who helped the Americans and now lives in the US. Sides even manages to find a light moment when a mix-up over an order of Tootsie Rolls actually helps the Marines keep their machines running.
RaveChristian Science MonitorBefore any former slaves were promised \'40 acres and a mule,\' before anyone uttered the words \'Go west, young man,\' free black Americans flocked to the nation’s western frontier. There, in the sprawling territory that would become states like Michigan and Illinois, many plowed the land that they themselves owned ... Historians have known many blacks lived in the territory, but Cox writes that it wasn’t clear before that so many were entrepreneurial farmers who owned dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of acres each ... Her findings reveal \'a reality that no one thought existed, of a population that most have considered impossible – a population of successful African American pioneers integrating America’s first frontier,\'
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorBeneath a Ruthless Sun is multiple books in one – a gripping true-crime narrative, a deeply wrenching story of American bigotry and corruption, and an inspiring tale of heroes fired by love and righteous fury ... King's canvas is large and vivid. Among other topics, he examines attitudes toward insane asylums and he explores the bizarre contradictions of Southern attitudes toward miscegenation, infidelity, and rape ... When we face moral catastrophe in our own communities, this extraordinary book suggests there's a similar route to inspiration and comfort: Look for the women who refuse to yield.
Kirk Wallace Johnson
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorWhy on earth would a talented musician risk a prison term by stealing a bunch of bird skins? A fascinating new book provides the answer while exploring the bold derring-do of naturalists, the batty heights of Anglo-American eccentricity, and the high price of our never-ending attraction to beauty in nature ... one of the most peculiar and memorable true-crime books you\'re ever likely to read ... Johnson is an intrepid journalist who doesn\'t mind venturing into the arcane world of, say, a Victorian salmon-fly-tying symposium held at a DoubleTree in New Jersey. He also has a fine knack for uncovering details that reveal, captivate, and disturb.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor\"Hilgers is a thoughtful chronicler with an eye for telling details about the Wutan uprising, the revealing upbringing of Zhuang and Little Yan, and their complicated, sometimes-tense marriage. She also vividly tells readers about the challenges facing immigrants ... Ultimately, Patriot Number One is an eye-opener. It\'s startling but heartening to realize how much of a beacon the US still is to the rest of the world when so many Americans of different stripes feel our nation is deeply flawed and our rights too limited.\
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorHe paints a remarkably revealing portrait of China's youngest generations in his fascinating new book, Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World … No generations in China's history have been more exposed to the outside world nor, perhaps, more devoted to questioning societal assumptions. These bold, anxious, and driven young people could produce a new kind of Chinese resilience, a new kind of nation – and a new kind of world power.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorThe Second Coming is a scholarly history with both the strengths and weaknesses of academic works. There's little in the way of storytelling, and the characters don't come alive on the page. Readers will need to look elsewhere for vivid portraits of heroes and villains in the KKK drama. But Gordon is a thorough and perceptive historian, and she's careful to keep most of her opinions to herself: 'I am less interested in condemnation than explanation.' She is willing, however, to link the KKK of the 1920s to today's American politics, especially the nationalist movement. But there's more to The Second Coming than grim déjà vu. There are lessons, too.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...[a] captivating book ... Mundy doesn’t entirely succeed in deciphering the extraordinary complexity of codes and cryptography for layperson readers. It can be hard to understand exactly how codes were created and cracked. But it’s clear that plenty of brainpower was needed along with a unique blend of individual and collective genius ... Here’s hoping these books mark a publishing trend that, like a woman’s work, is never done.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorJoyland does feature a murder mystery and a wonderfully garish pulp-fiction cover that looks like it just flew in from 1958 ... At its heart, this is a captivating story filled with more light than dark, more sweetness than horror, and plenty of grace ...still brilliantly captures the doubt and despair that can overtake the lovelorn, the brooding tapestry of why-didn't-she-want-me and I-don't-want-to-go-on ... The amusement park itself is another vivid character in the novel, full of rides like the Whirly Cups and (groan) the Chair-o-Planes. But King doesn't take the easy way out by painting Joyland as a sinister place of screeching carnies, shadowy tunnels, and creaky machines ... There are a few bumps in Joyland ... But the characters, the setting, and the simple lessons about life are so vital that nothing else really matters.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorIndeed, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the most controversial 20th-century novel of the 21st century, has problems beyond its now-notorious depiction of Atticus Finch as a fallen hero. Talky and preachy, this sort-of-sequel lacks the cinematic power of its legendary predecessor. What’s more, the novel’s origin story is peculiar, and the worrisome dispute over the frail Lee’s role in its surprise release is enough to make anyone want to skip a second visit to the Maycomb of To Kill a Mockingbird.
But Go Set a Watchman is hardly the horror show suggested by early reviews. As understandably rough as it is, readers will thrill to Lee’s sly humor and vivid storytelling. And those who can bear the stunning transformation of an American icon will gain insight into the minds of the polite racial separatists, those who thought men in black robes – not white ones – could preserve Southern life’s strict divides.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAs Fuller explains in his engaging book, Darwin's book imploded in an America that was finding itself on the literary, scientific, and religious fronts and often blending the three ... Fuller goes a bit further, potentially annoying readers who've found ways to synthesize science and faith, to write that when 'taken to its logical conclusion,' the idea of survival of the fittest 'demolished the idea that people had been created in God's image.'
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...it’s clear that Smee is onto something important. His book may bring us as close as we’ll ever get to understanding the connections between these bristly bonds and brilliance.
Lesley M. M. Blume
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe origin story of The Sun Also Rises, as masterfully told by journalist Lesley M. M. Blume, reveals the complicated sides of the young Hemingway: brilliant and vicious, arrogant and ambitious, an obsequious charmer and a jerk of the highest order...[T]his tale never crackles with the excitement and tragedy of Amanda Vaill’s masterful 2014 look at Hemingway & Co. in Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. Even so, Everybody Behaves Badly is deeply evocative and perceptive, and every page has a Hemingway-like ring of unvarnished truth.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorInformed by hundreds of interviews and intensive research into documents, Olson vividly chronicles the eruption through the stories of the victims and the witnesses...Olson tracks the human errors and failures, but he didn’t write this book to point fingers after the fact. He has a bigger picture in mind, one of the eruption’s role as a touchstone for an evolving society and natural world.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorLough’s wealth of detail about Churchill’s money – sprawling over 545 pages – can be overwhelming. But his extensive research and perceptive insight offer a fascinating window into the alternate universe in which the various Churchills lived.
PositiveChristian Science MonitorJust about any other memoirist this obsessed with detail and fuzzy philosophy would risk a bad case of book-hurled-against-wall syndrome. But Smith is so charming and non-pretentious, so full of genuine delight, that her rambles carry more than their weight in words.