This Boy’s Life: 4 Books About Growing Up

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Poet and novelist James McManus has a new book of linked stories out, Education of A Poker Player. We follow Vince Killeen through adolescence as he grows away from his childhood desire to be a priest and thereby save his beloved grandmother from Purgatory. Nothing against his grandmother—girls and cards are just more fun. Set in Lisle […]

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Cheerful Ladies: Women Sleuths of the 1920s

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There are plenty of mysteries set in the 1920s and solved by women, of which Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is perhaps the most famous, but I've decided to focus on the humorous ones to celebrate a new addition to the field. Come Hell or Highball is the first of what promises to be a new series by Maia […]

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Chicago Noir 2: The 1970s

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Michael Raleigh, author of the Paul Whelan mysteries, has written what will hopefully be the start of a new series set in 1970s Chicago. Peerless Detective follows Billy Fox, a vet from small-town Michigan, to Chicago in search of an old girlfriend. In a series of events, he ends up apprenticing in a detective firm, […]

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Darkness and Light: The Marriage of Opposites

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I always relish a new Alice Hoffman book, and I am not disappointed with The Marriage of Opposites; far from it. This is a story of people who defy convention to be their true selves. Rachel always wants her own way, and her father usually lets her have it, until he arranges for her to marry an older man to […]

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The Matter of Kansas

Kansas Flag

Most people regard Kansas as a place to get through on the way to somewhere else, or as a bastion of conservatism. This mentality has led to books like What's the Matter With Kansas? that ask how the birthplace of the People's Party could come up with Republican stalwarts like Senator Pat Roberts. There are fascinating […]

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Holy Women, Batman! Women Religious in Historical Fiction

Nuns At The Beach

Robyn Cadwallader is a new novelist, and The Anchoress is a delight. Sarah, a cloth merchant's daughter in 1255, is looking to escape the anguish of her sister's death and the predations of the local lord's son. This leads her to vows as anchoress, a holy woman contained in a nine-paces-by-five-paces cell, never to emerge. As […]

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Travel to Novel Places: Colonial Kenya

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Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife, has a new novel: Circling the Sun.  It focuses on the early life of Beryl Markham, a horse trainer and one of the first female commercial pilots. Coming to what would become Kenya at a young age and abandoned by her mother, Beryl grows up wild on her father's […]

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Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Hurricane and Spitfire planes

I couldn't be more excited to see some of the cool aerial and water stunts at this year's Chicago Air and Water Show on August 15 and 16. To prepare for the show, check out these great flying and sailing books. After spending his life around diesel-powered Clanker machines, Austrian Prince Alek is suspicious of the […]

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Remembering E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime book cover

Today the world mourns the loss of Edgar Lawrence Doctorow, a literary legend and virtuoso of the historical fiction genre. Known for blending fact with brilliantly realized fiction, Doctorow was one of modern literature's most experimental minds, capable of writing from nearly any voice or perspective. Here we remember this amazing talent, and share his work […]

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Traveling to Novel Places: India

Varanasi Woman

Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel is a book at once sweeping and intimate, covering the end of the British raj. Layla Roy has an unlucky horoscope and a grandfather who believes in educating women, and so she is sure she will never marry. However, Manik Deb, a British-educated neighbor, takes a romantic interest in […]

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