Daniel James Brown
Rowers will appreciate this look at what the sport was like in the early 20th century, with accounts of how hugely popular rowing was as a spectator sport at the time and with portraits of iconic figures like boatbuilder George Pocock. But even non-crew fans will appreciate the way Brown sets up this story of a group of underdogs who fought their way to win the gold medal at the Olympics in 1936 - held in a Berlin that was under Adolf Hitler's rule. The author creates a vivid portrait of his main character, gutsy rower Joe Rantz, whose childhood was rough and tough - and that was even before his father and stepmother abandoned him at age 15, leaving him to fend for himself. But the author also frames everything in terms of history: Nazi Germany's rise; America's struggling economy; and the dramatic and dangerous dust storms that whipped the U.S. Local angle alert: There are a few fleeting mentions of the Yale-Harvard Regatta in New London - including an FDR trip to see his son row here.
- KRISTINA DORSEY
The Kiss of Spirit and Flesh
It's about to be high summer, and the humidity's so ridiculous that breathing feels like eating fog. Consider, then, relaxing to the lilting, crisp and autumnal music of Leafblade, a collaboration between Anathema guitarist/producer Danny Cavanagh and poet/musician Sean Jude. The sounds and images are very pastoral and evocative of Ancient Times in the British Isles - the sort of material you'd associate with Fovea Hex, King Creosote, Marillion, the Pan-happy era of the Waterboys, or Sand Snowman. Feel free, as you listen, to pray to an antler'd stag-god of antiquity!
- RICK KOSTER