Ron Rash's new novel 'The Risen': Remarkable

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"The Risen: A Novel" by Ron Rash; Ecco (272 pages, $25.99)

In present-day Sylva, a headline blares: "Remains Identified as Jane Mosely," with a photograph of a young woman who, in the summer of 1969, had initiated 16-year-old Eugene Matney into the rites of sex, booze and drugs.

Eugene and his dutiful older brother Bill knew the red-haired, ...Read more

Chiaverini's 'Fates and Traitors: A Novel of John Wilkes Booth' depicts evolution of a monster

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"Fates and Traitors" by Jennifer Chiaverini; Dutton (400 pages, $27)

After a man commits a horrible act of political violence, the women who knew him struggle to accept and understand his action -- and examine their consciences.

The shape of John Wilkes Booth's story, unfortunately, is a familiar one in our time. As is the response of his ...Read more

Chicago blogger Luvvie Ajayi offers wit, wisdom in new book 'I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual.'

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"I'm Judging You" by Luvvie Ajayi; Henry Holt (256 pages, $17)

The wit of culture blogger Luvvie Ajayi ( has earned her quite the following.

She has been called upon by the likes of McDonald's, Comcast and wine brand Rosa Regale to take over their social media accounts, live Tweet events and blog about "Scandal" and "Being ...Read more

Review: 'Generation Chef: Risking it All for a New American Dream,' by Karen Stabiner

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"Generation Chef" by Karen Stabiner; Avery (311 pages, $26)

I am not a foodie. I seldom dine out, and I have never worked in a restaurant. With the fine exception of "The Great British Baking Show," I never watch food television and would be hard-pressed to name a famous chef. But I absolutely devoured "Generation Chef," journalist Karen ...Read more

Author Joseph Lelyveld illuminates FDR's last months

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"His Final Battle: The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt" by Joseph Lelyveld; Knopf (416 pages, $30)

The 365 days of 1944 would seem to have been the busiest of Franklin Roosevelt's life.

The climactic decisions and meetings of WWII demanded his complete attention, as it related to winning the war and a peace he hoped would live on for ...Read more

Ann Patchett's moving 'Commonwealth' explores post-divorce families

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"Commonwealth: A Novel" by Ann Patchett; HarperCollins (336 pages, $27.99)

"Commonwealth," Ann Patchett's moving, beautifully crafted novel, begins with the sort of set piece that often looms large in stories including divorce as well as marriage: A booze-soaked party and all it does to lower inhibitions.

This one, taking place outside Los ...Read more

'The Shattered Tree' continues gripping Bess Crawford series

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"The Shattered Tree" by Charles Todd; Morrow (304 pages, $25.99)

One legacy of war -- no matter the countries involved or the cause -- is the commonality that survives century after century, generation after generation. There will always be career military who fervently believe in the cause of their country; young men -- and now young women -- ...Read more

'Little Nothing' a fierce fairy tale

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"Little Nothing" by Marisa Silver; Blue Rider Press (352 pages, $27)

Fairy tales waste no time getting under the skin. They pretend to be innocent, once upon a time and all that, but they never are. The darkened wood, the hooded stranger, the soup served at dinner hide only briefly a more sinister intent.

Freud called it uncanny, this ...Read more

'The Oliver Stone Experience' is a deep dive into a monumental movie career

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"The Oliver Stone Experience" by Matt Zoller Seitz; Abrams (480 pages, $50)

Is there another living American director with a greater run of movies than Oliver Stone? The dozen films he directed over a span of 13 years, from 1986-1999, form a body of work unparalleled in contemporary cinema. They came one after the other -- artful provocations, ...Read more

Harmonies, strife in Love's Beach Boys tale

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"Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy" by Mike Love with James S. Hirsch; Blue Rider Press (448 pages, $28)

Mike Love is acutely aware that he is perceived as a villain.

In his new autobiography, "Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy," Love puts the conventional public framing of his relationship to his cousin and musical collaborator ...Read more

Review: 'Tell Me Exactly What Happened' by Caroline Burau

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"Tell Me Exactly What Happened" by Caroline Burau; Minnesota Historical Society Press (184 pages, $16.95)

In her second memoir for the MHS Press about working as a police dispatcher, Caroline Burau is snappy, compassionate and funny. And she really needs to pee.

Burau was police and fire dispatcher for White Bear Lake, working one-person ...Read more

Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Here I Am' depicts a marriage falling apart

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"Here I Am" by Jonathan Safran Foer; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (592 pages, $28)

True to the crumbling marriage at its center, what's best in "Here I Am" -- Jonathan Safran Foer's moving, maddening and messy novel -- comes early.

Julia and Jacob have been married for 16 years and have three boys. In the beginning, they'd committed to a policy ...Read more

Historian examines his past in “The Making of a Racist”

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"The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade" by Charles B. Dew; University of Virginia Press (185 pages, $23.95)

In "The Making of a Racist," historian Charles B. Dew, a descendant of Thomas Roderick Dew, one of the Old South's most passionate apologists for slavery, provides a candid, courageous and ...Read more

A life lived fully in the confines of one Moscow hotel room

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"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles; Viking (480 pages, $27)

In Amor Towles' enjoyable, elegant new novel, an enormous hotel becomes an art nouveau prison for a nobleman after the Bolsheviks sentence him -- for life -- to house arrest there. Once an aimless man of means and leisure, he finds leisure is mostly what remains after he's suddenly...Read more

What went wrong in Israel? Milton Viorst's 'Zionism' grapples with a fractious history

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"Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal" Milton Viorst; Thomas Dunne Books (336 pages, $27.99)

For years after David Ben-Gurion triumphantly declared its establishment in May 1948, the state of Israel was widely admired around the world as a spirited, resolute and self-reliant young nation -- one that rose from the ashes of the ...Read more

Review: 'The Man Who Snapped His Fingers' by Fariba Hactroudi, translated by Alison Anderson

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"The Man Who Snapped His Fingers" by Fariba Hachtroudi, translated from the French by Alison Anderson; Europa Editions (133 pages, $15)

This prizewinning Iranian-French author tells a gritty and arresting tale of a woman held in a military prison in an unnamed theological republic who is brutally tortured but refuses to give up the man she ...Read more

Review: 'Morgue: A Life in Death' by Vincent Di Maio

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"Morgue: A Life in Death" by Vincent Di Maio; St. Martin's Press (258 pages, $26.99)

Experts are cool. They sort out confusion, bring clarity to chaos, certainty to doubt -- depending, of course, upon the expert. In most trials, both the defense and the prosecution employ them. So it's fascinating to read Vincent Di Maio's accounts of forensic ...Read more

'The End of the Perfect 10': From Nadia to Simone, surpassing perfection in gymnastics

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"The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics' Top Score -- From Nadia to Now" by Dvora Meyers; Touchstone (226 pages, $26)

Dvora Meyers' "The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics' Top Score -- From Nadia to Now" begins, appropriately, with the carefully set scene onto which 14-year-old Romanian ...Read more

How far will you go for your autistic child?

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"Harmony" by Carolyn Parkhurst; Pamela Dorman Books/Viking (278 pages, $27)

Being a parent is always full of ups and downs, of course, but being the parent of an autistic child, Carolyn Parkhurst writes in her splendid new novel, is a lot like riding a roller coaster that never stops to let you off and catch your breath. Sometimes you marvel at...Read more

Murder lurks deep in the mind

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"Hell Fire" by Karin Fossum, translated from the Norwegian by Karl Dixon; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (272 pages, $24)

With Scandinavian crime fiction all the rage and enormous attention paid to writers like Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, it's almost, well, criminal, that Norway's Karin Fossum isn't better known.

Translated into ...Read more


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