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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

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The Four Winds

Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah, the author of "The Nightingale," has written another bestselling work of historical fiction, this one set in Texas during the devastating drought of the 1930s. The main character of Elsa (who could be nicknamed Elsa, Plain and Tall) is someone who loves but rarely if ever seems to be loved in return, whether by her parents, her husband or her daughter. She is a hard worker, though, helping to run the family farm that sinks deeper into Dust Bowl despair. Eventually, she heads to California, where she is dismissed as an "Okie," struggles against extreme poverty, and ends up living in a tent alongside other migrants. The research that Hannah obviously did makes for intriguing reading about the era. But the humans in the story tend to feel like cardboard characters.

— Kristina Dorsey



Nils Frahm

One of those young-ish European keyboard sorcerers whose roots are in Chopin and Debussy as well as Steve Reich, Brian Eno and a host of electronic minimalists, Frahm continues to impress — even though "Graz" is only surfacing 12 years after it was recorded live in the Mumuth Concert Hall at the University of Music and Performing Arts as part of the thesis "Conversations for Piano and Room." Look, I don't know much about piano composition and I can't read music, but Frahm summons beauty, melody, tension and resolution in consistently fresh fashion. And, apparently, he was doing it even in 2009.

— Rick Koster



Watching the gentle, warmhearted "Minari" feels like getting a hug. The characters might go through struggles, but the overwhelming atmosphere is of familial love and community support. The story is inspired by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung's real life. A Korean immigrant family moves to Arkansas to fulfill the father's dream of starting a farm. His wife loathes the experience, the wilderness and the mobile home they move into. But the kids find nature to explore and friends to make. The arrival of the wife's hot-ticket mother (played by scene-stealing Youn Yuh-Jung) changes things up, as she bonds with her grandson (adorable Alan S. Kim). "Minari" is up for a number of Oscars, including Best Picture, best supporting actress for Youn Yuh-Jung, best actor for Steven Yeun as the father, and Chung for writing and directing.

— Kristina Dorsey



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