Women and Children First

Mystic River

In The River Wife (Random House, $24.95), Jonis Agee, a former College of St. Catherine professor and author of Sweet Eyes and Strange Angels, explores a charismatic, opportunistic Frenchman’s effect on four generations of women. That character, Jacques Ducharme, may be this summer’s most fully realized pirate. Agee’s latest saga is as curvaceous and full-of-life as the river that anchors the novel.

Teen Tales

Several Minnesota authors have new novels that will engage middle-schoolers this summer. (Most kids will plow through the new Harry Potter novel in less than a week.) National Book Award—winner Pete Hautman of Golden Valley draws on the recent youth poker craze in All-in (Simon & Schuster, $15.99), a crack account of a 16-year-old gambler. (Full House, his anthology of true poker stories, will be published in September.) Hautman also collaborates with his partner Mary Logue on Skullduggery, their second Bloodwater mystery (Sleuth/Putnam, $16.99). Anne Ursu, formerly of Hopkins, continues her fantastic Cronus Chronicles with The Siren Song (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Jane St. Anthony of Minneapolis follows her 2006 debut with another sweet summer story, Grace Above All (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16), featuring a 13-year-old whose “life is a job list.” Next month, look for Defect (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16) by Will Weaver of Bemidji.

Weaver at the Loom

I Was Searching and I Found

When he’s not studying English and philosophy at Bethel College, Dan Smith of Lakeville leads the adventurous studio group Weaver at the Loom. The band’s sweet piano intros and ringing guitars bring Coldplay and the Church to mind, but that’s just the start. Their debut contains five interlinked mini-epics about a quest for lasting truth and greater meaning. The compositions are full of surprising beauty, with relaxed tempos and concise, sensitive lyrics, creating a rare sensation of heightened calm. A giant first step on a fascinating journey.
Click here to listen to a music clip from Weaver at the Loom.

Strange Friends

Fireside Recordings
Volume 1

It took 15 years for Strange Friends to settle down and make a real CD. Last year’s funky breakout, Dave’s Not Here, delighted core fans of their fiddle-filled Americana music, but it didn’t pay the bills. So the group cut costs, recording a session in leader John Fenner’s backyard. Local soundman Chris Frymire of the Cedar Cultural Center produced the perfect, bittersweet ambiance for this dark collection of songs about lost loves and dead runaways. But as always, laughs creep in and warmth softens the blunt ballads. Not so strange after all.
Click here to access www.strangefriendsmusic.com and listen to music samples.