Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Picks For Book Lovers

by Jocelyn McClurg)

What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY's picks for book lovers include a "Southern" memoir by Frances Mayes and a young-adult twist on the Wizard of Oz.

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes; Crown, 336 pp; non-fiction

Readers united in droves back in the '90s to savor the adventures and revelations of Frances Mayes as she restored a crumbling villa (Under the Tuscan Sun) and discovered much about life, beauty and things that matter.

The woman who fled the sweltering monotony of small-town Georgia as soon as she came of age, realized a few years back, after decades in San Francisco and in Tuscany, that the tendrils of her Southern heritage had been firmly braided into her soul. She felt suddenly compelled to buy a house on Southern soil (North Carolina this time). And the internal currents reawakened by that decision propelled her to prospect this earlier period of her life.

She tells of growing up (in the 1940s and '50s) with hard-drinking parents who were devastatingly attractive, dysfunctional and stuck in time and culture.

USA TODAY says ***½ out of four. "With perfect-pitch language, Mayes unblinkingly describes her growing-up years."

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige; HarperCollins, 464 pp.; fiction

Young-adult novel imagines a Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy is the despot of Emerald City, and another girl from Kansas is tapped to take out the pigtailed menace and her little dog, too.

USA TODAY says ***½. "Fantastically flips the fantasy script on the wonderful land of Oz."

Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell; Dutton, 352 pp.; non-fiction

Timed to the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt of the Tsarnaev brothers.

USA TODAY says *** out of four. "A riveting piece of journalism … a page-turner that takes the reader from race day to the remarkable recovery of the city."

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue; Little, Brown, 403 pp.; fiction

The author of Room returns with historical fiction set in 19th-century San Francisco, about the friendship of two young women, one of whom is murdered.

USA TODAY says ***. "With rich, well-researched details, Donoghue evokes a multicultural, rough-and-tumble San Francisco."

The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style by Nelson George; William Morrow, 236 pp.; non-fiction

Chronicles the 1,117-episode run of Soul Train, the syndicated TV dance-and-music series that saw African-American culture leap to the forefront of mainstream pop.

USA TODAY says ***½. Offers "rapier-keen social history and street-savvy cultural criticism."

Contributing reviews: Sharon Peters, Brian Truitt, Aamer Madhani, Martha T. Moore, Gene Seymour