Recent Reviews

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Less (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize): A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer is a hoot of a book. It's hero, Arthur Less, is a second-rate novelist, who sets up the book tour of his life. With a Candide-like trust of the fates, Less navigates many potentially disastrous mishaps with hardly a scratch. I am stingy with laughter while reading, but with this one, I couldn't help myself. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Not of This Fold (A Linda Wallheim Mystery #4) Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

Following up on her debut novel in the  Linda Wallheim mystery series, Mette Ivie Harris's new novel, Not of This Fold, again ventures into the world of Mormon women fighting for power and a voice. Wallheim is pulled by her friend and fellow doubter, Gwen Ferris, into the investigation of a murder of a Latina mother whose death threatens to reveal corruption at the very highest levels of church leadership. Harris also deftly handles the side plot of Wallheim's son Samuel's struggles as an openly gay man on his first mission. Her intimate understanding of Mormonism and carefully drawn, complex characters will draw readers into a world and a faith tradition in transition, mirroring the struggles of the larger culture. Review by Kely Barth.

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Lake Success: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

As with Gary Shteyngart’s other novels, Lake Success features protagonists you love to hate. Hedge-fund manager and antique watch collector, Barry throws his credit cards in a trashcan and leaves wife Seema and autistic son for a roadtrip on a Greyhound bus in hopes of finding his high school sweetheart, Layla, and his true self. Equally caught up in self-loathing, Seema has an affair with a friend’s husband and chastises herself for her neglect of her son. Though they live as part of the nation’s economic 1 percent, their meager yet earnest attempts to connect are embarrassingly universal. That the primary action takes place in the last few months of Trump’s bid for the Presidency seems just about perfect. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Wolf in the Snow Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

This bright and whimsically illustrated Caldecott medal winner Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell has no words, but a child will love “telling” and “retelling” the story of two little lost ones, a wolf pup and a little girl, who help each other reunite with pack and family in a blizzard. Recommended by Kelly Barth

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Fanny Says Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

Fanny Says by Nicole Brown is a poetic love story to a Southern grandmother--not the one you're thinking, but one in a white caddie who smokes, drinks, and calls her grandchildren "little f**kers" as a term of endearment. But love--this grandmother and this granddaughter knew it. These poems will sting and soothe. Soak them up like a julip.

Recommended by Kelly Barth

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Rosetown Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

What it lacks in the present-day angst so present in many novels for young people, Rosetown makes up for with its zen-like narrative. It isn't as if the protagonist, Flora Smallwood, doesn't understand the troubles of the real world of the 1970s—the Vietnam War and her parents' separation—but it's the plucky way she weaves through life in the face of them. And the reliability of her small-town support system of the local bookstore, an adopted stray cat, and her new friend Yuri will reassure modern readers that there is goodness to be found just around the corner. Recommended by Kelly Barth.

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Unsheltered: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

Set in the same dilapidated house, Kingsolver’s alternating narratives represent an ambitious and deeply satisfying contemplation of how various characters meet this most basic need for a physical and spiritual dwelling. Though their lives are separated by more than a century, each person faces a difficult choice: Shelter in the security of old ideas or move into the unknown with new scientific understanding as their guide. By embracing their blossoming friendship forged by Darwin’s myth-shattering understanding of evolution, neighbors Thatcher Greenwood and Mary Treat, face the destruction of relationships, livelihoods, and small-town reputations. Present-day characters, Willa, Zeke, and Tig Knox grapple with their own proper response to a suicide, a crumbling inheritance, economic uncertainty, and a future of unraveling climate norms and all the challenges these represent for grandson, Dusty. Unsheltered is a timely, necessary, and soulfully reassuring book. Review by Kelly Barth.

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Hey, Marfa: Poems Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

I thought I knew all I needed to know about Marfa from Amazon's short-lived, made-for-Internet-TV version of Chris Kraus's "I Love Dick." It's where poets go to play cowboy, right? Wrong. Jeffrey Yang's visionary "Hey, Marfa" works in the documentary poetic tradition of Lorine Neidecker and Robert Smithson, offering up lessons on language, landscape, and the intersecting lines of power in the American desert. With patience and skill, Yang teaches the reader to look as closely at the page as he has looked at the land. The result is a book at once sparse and bursting with life, sketched with the crosshatched lines of history and the Now. A must read for anyone interested in contemporary poetry! Review by Katie Foster.

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The Kinship of Secrets Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

Just before the onset of the Korean War, a mother and father leave Korea for America, bringing one young daughter with them, but leaving the other behind with relatives in the hope to someday return for her.  In alternating chapters, the two very different lives of Miran and Inja unfold with love, war, and rock-and-roll. But when Inja finally arrives in America, will she be meeting her true family at last or leaving her family in Korea forever?  Inspired by the author’s family history, The Kinship of Secrets is a powerful story of the everlasting bond between two sisters. Review by Mary Wahlmeier

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Oculus: Poems Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sally Wen Mao’s Oculus is a masterfully pieced together book of poems. Language is at once precise, playful, sharp, and twisting like a knife. Mao turns her lens toward race, the past, the future, the super computer, the eye, and light. At times verging on the realm of science fiction, Mao’s poems hurtle the reader through time and space, particularly in one sequence involving Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star, and a time travel machine. These poems were a pleasure to read and I have found myself thinking of them often since finishing the book. Anyone who loved Tracy K Smith’s Life on Mars will enjoy these poems.  Review by Katie Foster.