Apportioning just the right attention to each of their stories, Blum weaves a truly memorable frontier tale.

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THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN

A TRUE TALE OF THE LAST FRONTIER AND THE YUKON GOLD RUSH

An accomplished storyteller and two-time Pulitzer nominee charts the criss-crossed lives of three remarkable Klondike characters.

By 1898, George Carmack, the prospector who first discovered gold at Bonanza Creek and set off the Yukon gold rush, was looking for a way to transport a quarter-million dollars’ worth of ore from his claim to the stronghold of a boat headed for Seattle; Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, the underworld king of the Skagway, Alaska, boomtown planned on stealing the treasure; Charlie Siringo, an intrepid Pinkerton detective, owed an unusual debt to Carmack and sought to repay it by helping to foil the robbery. By now, fans of Vanity Fair contributing editor Blum (American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century, 2008, etc.) are familiar with his narrative formula: Take a few colorful characters, each a book-worthy subject in his own right and build a story that culminates in their mutual encounter. If the final collision here of the three principals comes as a bit of a letdown, it’s only because following the seemingly predestined paths of each to their Skagway wharf confrontation has been so wildly compelling. A California sheepherder who always dreamed of finding gold, Carmack joined the Marines, learned the Tlingit language and ways, deserted and then returned to Alaska intent on prospecting and fulfilling his mystical destiny. The garrulous Siringo, former shopkeeper and cowboy, signed on with the Pinkertons for adventure and, mourning the death of his wife, went undercover in Juneau to solve the Treadwell mine heist. An outrageous con man, Soapy and his scamming gang had taken over and been run out of a series of Western towns before landing in Skagway. The tumult of the times tosses these three hardened men together—two fleeing warrants, all driven by private demons and outsized dreams—against the backdrop of the last great stampede for gold.

Apportioning just the right attention to each of their stories, Blum weaves a truly memorable frontier tale.

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-46172-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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