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Books

Review: ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ sends up social media, Internet fanatics

By Patty Rhule
If you find little to laugh about in the revelations that the National Security Agency peeps into the online lives of ordinary Americans to combat terrorism, settle in with David Shafer’s of-the-moment new novel, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” Shafer’s savvy, sardonic take on our social media- and Big Data-worshipping society is …

Review: ‘In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette’ tells almost-forgotten tale of polar exploration

By Hector Tobar
The great achievement of Hampton Sides’ unforgettable new book about a group of American Arctic explorers only becomes apparent halfway into its 400-plus pages. “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette” tells …

Review: ‘The Home Place’ a strong debut for Carrie La Seur

By Oline H. Cogdill
Carrie La Seur’s finely crafted debut chronicles a woman’s complicated relationship with her hometown of Billings, Mont., her relatives who stayed behind and her ancestral history. La Seur’s graceful prose in “The Home Place” complements her incisive character studies of …

Toonseum hosts launch of comic-book salute to remarkable Holocaust stories

By Rachel Weaver
Creators of a new comic book know real heroes don’t need superpowers. “Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust” tells the true stories of five extraordinary men …

Review: ‘The Book of Unknown Americans’ just another teenage romance

By Gregg Barrios
A dilapidated cinder-block apartment complex surrounded by a chain-link fence is the setting for Cristina Henriquez’s second novel, “The Book of Unknown Americans.” What at first appears to be a no man’s land is actually Delaware. Welcome to the United …

Review: ‘I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You’ an exercise in wit

By Connie Ogle
Richard Haddon, the morose British artist at the center of Courtney Maum’s amusing and yet still heartfelt new novel, used to be devoted to the avant garde. He made mixed-media collages using saw blades and driftwood and melted ramen noodle …

Review: ‘Maeve Binchy: The Biography’ recollects Irish writer’s wit but offers few insights

By Mary Cadden
e_SDLqMaeve Binchy: The Biography” is a loving tribute to the popular Irish writer who died two years ago at the age of 72. And much like its subject, the book is at times smart, often entertaining and not without flaws. …

Review: ‘Song of the Shank’ celebrates unique American musician

By Hector Tobar
“Song of the Shank,” Jeffery Renard Allen’s epic and brilliant new novel about slavery and musical genius, is not an easy book to read. There is the book’s odd and sometimes confounding protagonist, based on a real man who is …

‘Land of Love and Drowning’: Yanique makes Virgin Islands seem vast in debut

By Jennifer Kay
For most of us, if we think about the U.S. Virgin Islands at all, we think just of tropical resorts and hurricanes. Tiphanie Yanique’s debut novel, “Land of Love and Drowning,” is a deft argument that a rich and complicated …

‘Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands’: A troubled teen in flight from a nuclear meltdown

By Ann Levin
Wiser than the adults around her yet convinced she’s a hopeless loser, Emily Shepard is a literary descendant of Holden Caulfield. Like J.D. Salinger’s famous teenage misfit, Emily relates her harrowing story of escape and survival from within the confines …

‘The Great Glass Sea’: Modern Russian fable is superbly drawn

By Kendal Weaver
Twin brothers Yarik and Dima were virtual lookalikes as boys growing up in rural Russia. Their joys and dreams entwined. Often when one spoke, the other would finish his sentence. Their innocent world of fantasy and mirrored lives began to …

‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music From Bill Haley to Beyonce’ a hard-charging history of rock ‘n’ roll

By Mikael Wood
In 1954, Bill Haley shook, rattled and rolled. In 2003, Beyonce went crazy in love. That’s two pop stars, among the biggest of their time, using similar language (and similar grooves) to describe more or less the same thing. But …

Highland Park author Martin knows her audience

By Rege Behe
When asked if she tries to achieve anything with each of her novels, Nancy Martin says, “I want the reader to turn the last page …

‘The Mockingbird Next Door’ recalls life with Harper Lee

By Tom Beer
What ever happened to Harper Lee? The Alabama native was 34 when her first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was published in 1960. This tale …

‘Ways of the Dead’ a fast-paced tale

By Michelle Scheraga
Neely Tucker’s debut novel is an utterly thrilling mystery set in Washington, D.C., in the late 1990s, just before the Internet and the rise of smartphones changed the landscape of print journalism. Sarah Reese, the teenage daughter of a powerful …

Author talks magic, memories, Houdini

By Nicholas P. Brown
Canadian author Steven Galloway explores the fickle nature of memory in “The Confabulist,” his book about the life and death of one of the world’s …

Bird soars to literary greatness in ‘East China Sea’

By Joy Tipping
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching Sarah Bird’s career flourish during the past few years. Her books, sometimes serious in tone, sometimes lightly comedic, have a loyal Texas following. Her latest novel, “Above the East China Sea,” should be the one that …

Alle-Kiski Valley native returns to roots for first novel, ‘Brutal Youth’

By Braden Ashe
New Kensington native Anthony Breznican’s dark, coming-of-age debut novel isn’t just set in the Alle-Kiski Valley — it was born from it. From the Tarentum …

Rowling spins web of publishing mystery

By Carolyn Kellogg
If J.K. Rowling had as much fun writing “The Silkworm” as I did reading it, she had a blast. As the woman who created Harry …

‘Farm’ cultivates little suspense

By David L. Ulin
Tom Rob Smith’s fourth novel, “The Farm,” opens with a vivid conflict: A Londoner named Daniel receives a phone call from his father with troubling …