Peter Collier's 'Choosing Courage': Ordinary people, extraordinary things

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"Choosing Courage Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero" by Peter Collier; Artisan (226 pages, $18.95)

Open to any page of "Choosing Courage" and prepare to be awed at the ability of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. These tales of heroism take the reader from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan and to U.S. shores, where ...Read more

Get the paddles: Margaret Atwood's new novel in need of defibrillation

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"The Heart Goes Last: A Novel" by Margaret Atwood; Nan A. Talese (320 pages, $26.95)

In the gritty initial chapters of Margaret Atwood's "The Heart Goes Last," an epic "financial-crash business-wrecking meltdown" has triggered an equally devastating implosion of civil society.

Homelessness is endemic. Marauding bands rape, rob and kill. ...Read more

Review: 'After You' by Jojo Moyes

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"After You" by Jojo Moyes; Pamela Dorman Books/Viking (352 pages, $26.95)

The agile Jojo Moyes can make you laugh or make you cry, and in her novel "Me Before You," she hit both ends of the emotional spectrum (don't lie -- you know you wept, possibly in loud, gushing sobs the way I did).

The same can be said of "After You," the sequel Moyes ...Read more

'Ladies of the Canyons' the story of extraordinary women who blossomed in the Southwest

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"Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest" by Lesley Poling-Kempes; University of Arizona Press (384 pages, 24.95 paper)

In May 1903, Natalie Curtis stepped into the Arizona heat for the first time. She was accompanied by her brother George, who'd been working in the region as a ranch...Read more

Roberta Kaplan's 'Then Comes Marriage' a gripping story of lawyer's victory over DOMA

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"Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA" by Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey; W.W. Norton (320 pages, $27.95)

Early in "Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA," Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who won the DOMA case before the U.S. Supreme Court, writes about her wife, Rachel Lavine, and her ...Read more

In Edwidge Danticat's lyrical 'Untwine,' a teen rebuilds her life

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"Untwine: A Novel" by Edwidge Danticat; Scholastic (320 pages, $16.99)

Scholastic Press is targeting Edwidge Danticat's new novel "Untwine" at readers 12 and older. But this tale of grief and resilience should appeal to people who love Danticat's fiction for adults, too, such as "Breath, Eyes, Memory" and "Claire of the Sea Light."

It recounts...Read more

'The Shift' puts you in a nurse's shoes for 12 hours

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"The Shift" by Theresa Brown, RN; Algonquin Books (272 pages, $24.95)

U.S. medical schools typically send out books to their incoming first-year class to give students a glimpse of the profession they're about to embark upon.

Rush Medical College in Chicago, for example, mailed to its class of 2019 "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," the ...Read more

'Still Life Las Vegas': Debut novel is a Mobius strip of memory and misery

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"Still Life Las Vegas" by James Sie and Sungyoon Choi; St. Martin's Press (336 pages, $26.99)

"Still Life Las Vegas," James Sie's 326-page debut novel illustrated by Sungyoon Choi, isn't easy to pin down. On one level, it's an account of one boy's coming of age. More precisely, it's a tale of his coming to terms with his mother's disappearance,...Read more

Lauren Groff's 'Fates and Furies' looks at paradoxes of marriage

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"Fates and Furies: A Novel" by Lauren Groff; Riverhead (400 pages, $27.95)

"Marriage is made of lies," reflects a character in "Fates and Furies," Lauren Groff's terrific new novel. "Kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you'd crush them to paste."

Groff drives this point home ...Read more

Review: 'White Light' by Vanessa Garcia

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"White Light" by Vanessa Garcia; Shade Mountain (284 pages, $28)

Fear of failure isn't a subject that most artists want to casually sling around in public. But a young painter, writer or musician speaking frankly and privately might give you an earful about the repeated rejections, the disapproval of well-intentioned relatives and the brutal ...Read more

Valeria Luiselli's 'The Story of My Teeth,' a collision of storytelling, lying and art

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"The Story of My Teeth" by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney; Coffee House Press (184 pages, $16.95 paper)

"The Story of My Teeth" is a destabilizing read, a puzzle of a novel that at first seems explicable enough. Each successive chapter reveals new aspects and dimensions to the tale, giving the story new shapes and forms. ...Read more

Rash's 'Waterfall' plumbs heartbreak, meth and mystery

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"Above the Waterfall" by Ron Rash; HarperCollins (272 pages, $26.99)

With Ron Rash's latest and sixth novel, "Above the Waterfall," I felt a thrill when he mentioned, as he did in his 2012 novel, "The Cove," the parakeets that once nested in the mountains of Appalachia. The thought of those colorful creatures flitting about decades ago lifted ...Read more

'Building Art' vividly renders Frank Gehry yet misses the full picture

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"Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry" by Paul Goldberger; Alfred A. Knopf (528 pages, $35)

There are some important sources we don't get to hear from in "Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry," Paul Goldberger's blandly titled, generally astute, terrifically readable and disappointingly restrained new biography of Frank ...Read more

David Maraniss chronicles 1960s Detroit — glorious but vulnerable

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"Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story" by David Maraniss; Simon & Schuster (464 pages, $32.50)

Trivia question for you: Early in the summer of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. unveiled his "I have a dream" speech during what was then the largest civil rights march in American history. What city hosted that march?

If you guessed Washington, you'd...Read more

'Reckless': Rocker Chrissie Hynde tells her story with tough-girl insouciance

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"Reckless: My Life As A Pretender" by Chrissie Hynde; Doubleday (336 pages, $26.95)

Pretenders front woman Chrissie Hynde has penned a memoir of hash, pot, heroin, alcohol, LSD, beatings, rapes, gang rapes, gonorrhea, poor judgment and missed chances, all tossed off with tough-girl insouciance.

The once and present "high priestess of badass ...Read more

Clancy Martin's new novel is not about 'Bad Sex' but the bad stuff sex can make us do

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"Bad Sex: A Novel" by Clancy Martin; Tyrant Books (184 pages, $23)

Among my favorite aspects of Clancy Martin's second novel, "Bad Sex," is that it is not about bad sex; in fact, the sex is relentless, passionate. Rather, it is about all the bad stuff sex -- or sexual obsession -- can make us do. Narrated by Brett, a recovering alcoholic who ...Read more

Ilan Stavans appreciates 'Don Quixote' as a giant astride two cultures

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"Quixote: The Novel and the World" by Ilan Stavans; Norton (288 pages, $26.95)

Not only does Miguel de Cervantes' novel "Don Quixote" (1605-'15) tower over Spanish literature like a giant windmill, it also can be seen as a turbine that powers Spanish culture.

But the novel's kinetic energy doesn't stop at the Iberian peninsula. As scholar Ilan...Read more

'The Beer Bible': the history, theory and practice of beer

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"The Beer Bible" by Jeff Alworth; Workman (656 pages, $19.95)

It is thought that beer was created when an early human left a damp bowl of grains forgotten in a corner. The grains fermented and mingled with naturally available yeast, a drinkable spirit was produced, and it beat the heck out of chewing on damp cattails after a hard day of ...Read more

Patrick deWitt's 'Undermajordomo Minor' winks at fairy tale conventions

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"Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel" by Patrick deWitt; Ecco (336 pages, $26.99)

On the acknowledgments page of his third novel, "Undermajordomo Minor," Patrick deWitt cites as inspiration a variety of writers, including Thomas Bernhard, Italo Calvino, Roald Dahl, Shirley Jackson and Jean Rhys. This tells us something important about his intent. ...Read more

'The Nature of the Beast': Retired chief inspector Armand Gamache returns in Louise Penny's latest thriller

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"The Nature of the Beast" by Louise Penny; Minotaur Books (384 pages, $27.99)

Few of us, this side of the border, know that under Canadian law, if a crime is deemed too disturbing for the general community, there may be a secret trial-within-a-trial, behind closed doors to determine the penalty. Only the accused, the judge, the prosecutor, the ...Read more

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