• Review: ‘Death Rides the Ferry’

    Death Rides the Ferry Patricia Skalka/208 pages, University of Wisconsin Press, 2018   For readers with a logical turn of mind, it is bliss is to sit by the fireside and read a well-written mystery novel – a book with a valiant hero or heroine, a mysterious murder, the theft of a priceless object, a […]

  • Book Review: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

    The word “dystopia” – meaning a negative utopia – is a relatively new but useful addition to the English language. A dystopia is typically a work of fiction set in the midst of a utopian project that has gone horribly wrong. One of the most enduring dystopian novels is George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949); […]

  • Book Review: Michael Perry’s ‘Montaigne in Barn Boots’

    In the first sentence of his new book, Montaigne in Barn Boots, Michael Perry attempts to test an electrified pig fencer by seizing it with both hands. Two chapters later, while packing his van for a book-and-performance tour, Perry keeps reminding himself not to forget the cash box. He jumps into his van, heads down […]

  • Book Review: ‘The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir’

    When Kao Kalia Yang was very young, her father explained to her how children come into the world. “Before babies are born,” he said, “they live in the sky where they race along with the clouds and can see everything – the beauty of the mountains, the courses of streams, the dirt of the paths that […]

  • Book Review: ‘Out the Door!’ by M.L. Collins

    According to promotional material, M. L. Collins’ new book Out the Door! is a satirical novel about “geology, sex, politics, the environment, prairie voles, cheese curds, casinos, aphrodisiacs, sturgeon, trilobites, herring gulls, Hat Island, a bit of mystery and more!” A critic might reasonably wonder whether Ms. Collins or any other writer could handle all […]

  • Review: ‘The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For’

    David McCullough’s new book The American Spirit will come as welcome relief to people who are so beaten down by the constant reports of bad or bizarre news that they are in no mood to give thanks or be merry during the forthcoming holidays. The American Spirit is small enough to fit into a Christmas […]

  • Review: ‘The Summer Before the War’

    Helen Simonson followed the bestseller success of her 2010 debut novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand with a second book, The Summer Before the War. The British author had spent her teenage years in the East Sussex village of Rye, the setting for her novel which begins in 1914 during the summer before the beginning of […]

  • Review: ‘My Baking Bloopers’ by Charlene Berg

    Charlene Berg is a familiar figure in the Gills Rock area. On summer mornings her sleepy customers gather at the Gills Rock Coffee Shop to sample Charlene’s cherry turnovers, cinnamon rolls, and fresh-baked quiche. A businesswoman of considerable ability, Charlene is also the author of a recently published autobiography, My Baking Bloopers & Other Amusing […]

  • ‘The Weirding Storm’: A Dragon Epic For Our Time

    In the sea of time long past, many mighty creatures have risen to prominence only to be swallowed up by the unending cycle of death and renewal. Some fought valiantly for their survival; others were wiped out quickly and mercilessly. A tale of one of these moments in time is found in the pages of […]

  • Review: ‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood, Canadian author of more than 40 books of fiction, has just brought out her latest novel, Hag-Seed, the title taken from one of the disparaging epithets slung at the monstrous Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. However, the much-maligned character fares better in Atwood’s fictional treatment of the play. Felix Phillips, Atwood’s protagonist, has […]

  • Review: ‘Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories’

    “The children of Milwaukee are the reason I wrote this book,” Jennifer Morales explained. “Their struggles, discoveries and resilience in this difficult place compelled me to try to pin some of Milwaukee’s voices down, to listen and maybe sound out something about how this city came to be the way it is.” Morales’ collection of […]

  • Review: ‘Two If by Sea’

    Frank Mercy, the hero of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s latest novel, is the most star-crossed fictional character since Romeo and his Juliet. At the end of the four-page first chapter of Two If by Sea, Frank’s life has already been destroyed twice, and more wreckage is certainly on the way. Jacquelyn Mitchard, a long-time resident of Madison, […]

  • Review: ‘A Man Called Ove’

    In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that on occasion I have been characterized as a grumpy old man, perhaps deservedly. And my ancestral DNA results revealed that I am 48 percent Scandinavian. Subsequently, I cannot be regarded as completely objective when I add my praise to A Man Called Ove by Swedish […]

  • Review: ‘The Guest Room’

    A classic bachelor’s party gone wrong is the starting point for Chris Bohjalian’s new novel The Guest Room. When his irresponsible younger brother is about to be married, successful investment banker Richard Chapman agrees to host a bachelor party for him, assuming that if the event occurs in his fashionable Westchester home then some of […]

  • Review: ‘Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis’

    After the bombardment of postmortems following November’s election, many of us feel that we have reached the point that the autopsies of the autopsies have left no political remains to be buried. Nonetheless, let me recommend J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The 31-year-old author writes of his […]

  • Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

    The year 2016 proved to be an exhausting time for the American electorate, but it was a good year for fans of Harry Potter and his magical world. On July 30 a play titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened in London. This play is unusual in that it does not stand alone; it […]

  • Review: ‘In the Unlikely Event’

    Judy Blume gained fame with her iconic novel for young people, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970), and proved her versatility as an author with the novel for adults, Wifey (1978). Her latest novel In the Unlikely Event is her 29th book. Blume, who grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was in the […]

  • Book Review: ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’

    Bill Bryson is a Midwestern writer who loves Britain. Born in Des Moines in 1951, Bryson first visited England when he was only 20. He eventually married an Englishwoman, settled in England, obtained dual citizenship, and launched a successful career as a travel writer. His latest book, The Road to Little Dribbling, begins with a […]

  • ‘Good Seeds’ Author Brings Menominee Indian Food Memoir to Door

    Because my Wisconsin dairy farm family foraged for hickory nuts, morel mushrooms, and wild blackberries, I read with interest Thomas Pecore Weso’s new book, Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir. A member of the Wisconsin Menominee Nation, Weso takes readers through an indigenous culinary history of his people, every chapter devoted to a different […]

  • Book Review: ‘Memories of the American Girl’

    Memories of the American Girl, the title of a slim book by Washington Island resident Jim Anderson, might suggest to some mainlanders the memoir of an all-American woman looking back on her life. And in a metaphorical way, that thought would be correct. But in this case the American girl is no lady, rather a […]