Superior Reads

A PLACE FOR READERS AND WRITERS

It’s hard to write about the Dust Bowl without tipping over into melodrama, and at times it felt as if the only thing moving the story forward was the next disaster. The relationships between the women in THE FOUR WINDS kept me invested. Elsa is a bit of a sad-sack, but her daughter Loreda is fierce and as she ages, she challenges Elsa to overcome her fears.

One of the things I struggled with was the pacing; at times, the narrative dragged. And, because Addie never enjoys real intimacy in most of her relationships, some of the characters lacked depth; they read like character sketches and weren’t fully formed within the pages of the story. I would have liked to see more of Addie in the key historical moments the author only touches on – the French Revolution and World War II for instance. Instead of focusing so entirely on Addie’s love life, a plot that wends her through America’s turbulent 60’s or the Velvet Revolution or any number of culturally significant moments in history would have been more interesting to me.

THE GREAT CIRCLE is a big book – not just because it is nearly 600 pages long – but because of the breadth of the subject matter – art, aviation, prohibition, noncomformity, war, isolation, connection – and the period it spans 1909-2014 – give or take a few decade gaps. There will be So. Much. To. Discuss. with your book group! Maggie Shipstead has a keen understanding of longing and what it means to be human.

The choices Stella and Desiree make, and the outcomes of those choices, reveal the ugly inventions of race and sex and class in America. Hobbled by those definitions, Bennett’s characters push and pull against them. Stella sacrifices family and true connection for a false identity. Desiree surrenders to her identity and sacrifices her dreams.

McMorris’s novel flags at times, and some of the backstory feels unrealistic, but as the reporters close in on a dark underworld of mobsters, unscrupulous children’s homes, and characters broken by loss, the novel becomes compulsively readable. You’ll find yourself flying through the last third of the book, as desperate as Lilly and Ellis to find the lost children. Though the novel lacks the depth of other books on the era and at times tips into resolutions that border on magical thinking, the welfare of the children kept me reading till the end.

I cannot recommend EARLY MORNING RISER enough. EARLY MORNING RISER brims with love and hope and humor. Heiny redefines family in this enchanting novel and I felt my heart lifted from the heaviness of the past year. Her characters are complex and quirky – they’re your mother, your brother, or your neighbor – they are just like all those complicated people you encounter on a daily basis. Whether you live in a small town, or your village of people is in a big city, you’ll recognize them and after reading EARLY MORNING RISER, you’ll find the things that may have previously annoyed you, endearing. Heiny is like that – through her lens, you’ll see things differently.

BROOD brims with hope in the midst of grief and tenderness in spite of loss. “Life is the ongoing effort to live,” Polzin writes, “some people make it look easy. Chickens do not.” BROOD is an honest look at life, love, loss, and to some extent, chickens.

Once a pregnant sixteen-year-old incarcerated in the Minnesota juvenile justice system, Carolyn Holbrook went on to found SASE: The Write Place, and now leads More Than a Single Story, a series of panel discussions and community conversations for people of color, indigenous writers, and art activists. In a series of essays both heartrending and inspiring, …

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Holly George-Warren is a seasoned journalist and biographer and her biography of Janis Joplin, JANIS, HER LIFE AND MUSIC is one of the best rock and roll biographies I’ve read in years. Through interviews with friends, family, former band members, and other musicians George-Warren helps us to understand the enormously talented, but deeply conflicted, Janis Joplin.