Open Line

by Ellen Hawley

Coffee House Press, $15

Late one night on her radio talk show, sassy host Annette Majoris poses a question that rocks her Minneapolis listeners: Did the government somehow fake the Vietnam War? Almost immediately, the station is deluged with threatening phone calls, denunciations, and demands for her head on a platter. But the notoriety is intoxicating, and Annette, dazzled by the glare of the spotlight, keeps pushing herself and her show toward the brink. Hawley’s satirical second book, which features a startling climax, shows just how far a person will go to achieve fame and wealth in the world of media and politics. —Holly Saari


South of Shiloh

by Chuck Logan

HarperCollins, $25

Twin Cities author Chuck Logan is finally giving his favorite protagonist a break. After six consecutive novels featuring St. Paul ex-cop Phil Broker, Logan opens a new chapter with the story of John Rane, a rogue Minnesota news photographer who turns detective after learning about a strange death: His former girlfriend’s husband “accidentally” died during a reenactment of a Civil War battle in Mississippi’s backwater country. Though more complex character drama than true thriller, Shiloh still has plenty of unexpected twists and hairpin turns—a perfect read for the beach or the cabin. —Mike Enright


Big Star

Haley Bonar

Afternoon Records

The title of this South Dakota native’s latest album, like the singer-songwriter herself, tells it like it is: She isn’t merely “going to be” a big star. She is already a big star, at least in the world of gentle, inviting indie rock to which she has aspired. What’s more, on this recording, Bonar sounds like a big star: Listening to her, you feel lucky—like knowing that impossibly hip yet nice girl from high school who just happens to be a rock star now. The beautifully cascading “Better Half” and tambourine-happy “Something Great” are easily two of the best songs to come out of the Twin Cities so far this year. —Jessica Chapman


In the Ever

Mason Jennings

Brushfire Records

Much of Mason Jennings’s reputation stems from his fans’ fierce adoration for his 1998 self-titled debut. That album’s sensitive soul-baring made it seriously swoon-worthy. Since then, the Jack Johnson—touring pal has been—fairly or unfairly—held to a fussy standard that nothing can ever live up to. While “In the Ever” has moments that recall the “classic” Jennings, more than anything this album’s bouncy rhythms and trademark awkward syncopation make it sound like a collection of children’s songs. Maybe that’s the point. Jennings is a father now, and kids will bounce around the room to “I Love You and Buddha Too.” —J.C.


History buffs will find plenty of factoids to feast on in Karal Ann Marling’s new Minnesota, Hail to Thee!, a guide to where Minnesota has been—and where it’s headed. Here are three things we didn’t know. – Tourists flocked to Minnehaha Falls after reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Songs of Hiawatha, published in 1855. Minnehaha Park was named in tribute. – During the grasshopper plague of the 1870s, every man was expected to spend one day a week combating the insects and received a bounty for those capture alive. – The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis featured a sculpture of Father Louis Hennepin and a Native American guide—made entirely of Minnesota butter. —Allison Wickler