Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fictionally Speaking, Women Win

Fewer and fewer men read fiction. They compose only about 20 per cent of the fiction market according to surveys. Some lay this off to genetics, suggesting that the way men’s minds work discourages them from entering into another’s experience the way fiction demands.

Leonce Gaiter: “Fewer and
fewer men read fiction.”
“Boys and men are, in general, more convergent and linear in their thinking; this would naturally draw them towards non-fiction,” wrote author Darragh McManus, pondering the question.

Others, like Jason Pinter, suggest that the overwhelmingly female publishing industry simply overlooks books that appeal to men because they fall outside the female experience. In other words, men now suffer the same fate women suffered at the hands of a male-dominated publishing industry for so many years -- and payback’s a bitch.

Others suggest that boys are discouraged from reading at a young age by children’s books that fail to engage them. Give them the proper material, the story goes, and young boys will engage with reading. They point to the fact that young males were principal consumers of the Harry Potter books as proof. “More boys than girls have read the Harry Potter novels,” according to U.S. publisher, Scholastic. “What’s more, Harry Potter made more of an impact on boys' reading habits. Sixty-one percent agreed with the statement ‘I didn't read books for fun before reading Harry Potter,’ compared with 41 percent of girls.”

I always balked at these rationales because I read fiction all the time. However, thinking on it, I had to admit that I avoid modern fiction like the plague. I have tried the popular plot-thick page-turners and the feel-good tearjerkers and the occasional cause celebre with a literary reputation.  So many have left me so cold, that I simply won’t shell out the cash for a paperback or e-book version, much less a hardcover.

Trying to assess what I found lacking in most of the current novels I attempt, I find their utter reliance on the world around them (and me) supremely dull. So many work so hard to place characters in a world I will recognize. Too many work hard to create characters with which I (or their prime demographic audience) will ‘identify,’ and recognize as someone they could be, or someone they know.

It then made sense that men would ask why they should read something “made up” about this world when there was plenty of factual reading material on that subject. I have never approached fiction to re-visit “this world.” I’m already here. Instead, I want an alternative—a vision of this world exhaled through the writers’ and characters’ hearts, minds and eyes. Exhaled with the distinction of the smell of an individual’s breath. Fitzgerald’s Long Island in The Great Gatsby is his own creation, no kitchen sink recreation. Fitzgerald’s people and prose warp this place into something utterly unique.

Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles is his distinctive projection of that city. You don’t pick up Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me with the idea of identifying with the protagonist. You don’t grab Faulkner to meet the boys next door or titter with recognition of your kith and kin. You don’t visit Patricia Highsmith to look in a mirror. You pick them up to enter worlds as fantastical in their way as Harry Potter’s. I read fiction to meet characters I otherwise would not. I read fiction for the larger than life -- not a retread of this one. I want to watch and think with characters who are nothing like me, who dare what I never would, who experience in ways that I cannot.

In an article titled, “Why Women Read More Than Men,” NPR quoted Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain suggesting a biological reason why women read more fiction than men:
The research is still in its early stages, but some studies have found that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men. That might explain why women are drawn to works of fiction, which by definition require the reader to empathize with characters. 
What horseshit. Reading, and reading fiction, require no such thing. They require that you understand and grow intrigued by characters and situations. You need not imagine yourself as them or believe that they behave as you would.

Perhaps more men stopped reading fiction when fiction stopped presenting unique worlds, and settled for presenting this one so that readers could better “identify.” Maybe we’re too megalomaniacal to “identify” with that. We want words recreated, not rehashed.

“Shall I project a world,” asks Oedipa Maas in Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” Somewhere along the line, in tandem with the female domination of the publishing industry and fiction readership, the ideal of doing so fell from vogue. Instead, writers rely on identification with this one. Male readers seem have checked out. ◊


Leonce Gaiter is a prolific African American writer and proud Harvard Alum. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, NYT Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times and Washington Post, and he has written two novels.  His newly released novel, In the Company of Educated Men, is a literary thriller with socio-economic, class, and racial themes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don Quixote’s Long-Lost Remains Found

Actually, the long-lost remains of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. From The Telegraph:
Forensic experts reported that they had discovered two series of tacks forming the thumb-sized initials “MC” on a coffin in the crypt believed to contain Cervantes’ remains. The bones inside the coffin, which are apparently mixed up with those of other burials, are now being analysed to see if they belong to the writer. 
Although Cervantes is Spain’s best-known writer, and said to be the first novelist, the exact whereabouts of his earthly remains has been a mystery for centuries.
And just in case you thought authors in the good ol’ days of the 16th century were the ones who landed the bucks, there’s this:
The penniless author was buried in April 1616 in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, a nunnery in Madrid’s historic Barrio de las Letras quarter. But after the building was reconstructed in 1673, the precise location of the grave was lost.
And though the search was exhaustive, it finishes well ahead of schedule:
Some 20 forensic scientists began the latest series of excavations last April, locating five different possible locations for graves using a geo-radar system inside the convent’s walls. The aim was to complete the investigation by early 2016, when there will be joint celebrations to mark the anniversary of the deaths of both Cervantes and Shakespeare – who died 10 days before the Spanish author.
The full piece is here.

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This Just In… Lila and the Dandelion by Sheryl Hershey

Lila is a little girl who listens with her heart and speaks with her hands. She and Dandelion help make the world a better place in this children’s book.

You can order Lila and the Dandelion here. Visit author Sheryl Hershey on the web here. ◊



This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Crime Fiction: The Burning Room
by Michael Connelly

(Editor’s note: This review comes from Anthony Rainone, a contributing editor to January Magazine and a (too-infrequent) contributor to The Rap Sheet. He lives in Brooklyn, where he writes screenplays, novels and stories.)

Los Angeles is a city in the midst of rapid change. Hotels are being renovated and renamed. Detectives are wearing expensive tasseled shoes instead of the traditional gum-soled footwear. Firmly entrenched in this neo-City of Angels, old-school LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch stands ready to do endless battle on behalf of his credo: Everyone counts or no one counts.

Each new entry in Michael Connelly’s series is a bittersweet undertaking, and The Burning Room (Little, Brown) is no different. The clock is ticking on Bosch’s mandatory retirement and his posting to the Open-Unsolved Unit. This implies that contemporary Bosch is also perhaps nearing the end of his fictional run, after 17 novel-length adventures. The character is aging in real time, so unless the author chooses to do a Barnaby Jones-type thing -- portraying an aging man using his intellect and guile, and not his decreasing brawn, to put bad guys behind bars -- we may be seeing the end of Bosch. Of course, there are tantalizing other possibilities. Maybe a new series with Bosch’s daughter, Maddie, taking up the mantle; the offspring of Bosch and deceased ex-FBI agent and gambler Eleanor Wish is already interested in police work. There is another, perhaps more thrilling possibility, however. Last year, in an interview at the Center for Fiction in Midtown Manhattan, the author alluded to back-dating Bosch and writing novels set during the time his protagonist was still in uniform. And we shouldn’t forget the Amazon TV series Bosch, which is set to debut next month. This reviewer would pay top dollar for any or all of these options.

In The Burning Room, Bosch has a new partner, Lucia “Lucky Lucy” Soto, to indoctrinate with his principles and take up his baton. Soto seems a very good candidate for such responsibilities. Like Bosch, she lost a partner and killed a suspect. She also carries childhood scars, just as Bosch does, with the same burning desire to avenge those past wrongs. At first, Bosch doesn’t know what to make of Soto. She earned her detective shield by killing armed robbers while a patrol officer, and thereby garnered a coveted spot in the Open-Unsolved Unit. While earnest in her approach to the job, there is something suspicious about Soto. Only once Bosch is satisfied with her loyalties does he realize (along with the reader) that this is a dynamic personality. Soto boasts a richness and an edginess that remind me of my two favorite former Bosch partners: Jerry Edgar and Kizmin Rider.

This latest novel starts with the primary cold-case murder: the death of a Mariachi musician, Orlando Merced. Through the years, Connelly has taken his readers on his own inspired geographical tour of various L.A. locales. Here, he introduces us to Mariachi Plaza, where Mexican musicians gather to wait for gigs, and where the latest fatality occurs. The victim in question is recently deceased, but he was originally shot 10 years before. Connelly is a master at telling a small story cocooned inside an overlay of larger thematic rings, all radiating outwards. The theme of terrorism in The Overlook (2007), for example, or of mob activity in Trunk Music (1997) -- the plot of which instead hinged on infidelity. In The Burning Room, the murder of Orlando Merced. initially investigated as a gangland drive-by shooting, quickly develops into something else when a bullet lodged near Merced’s spine is finally retrieved at autopsy. It is up to Bosch and Soto to sort through a decade’s worth of rusty facts and testimony to find the truth. In a city constantly reinventing itself, though, the degradation of the human soul that resorts to murder stays constant.

While barely into the Merced investigation, Bosch is pulled away into a second cold-case that has major implications for Soto: the Bonny Brae apartment fire, which took place 21 years ago. “Nine people, most of them children, perished” in an unlicensed day-care center housed in one of the apartments. Soto was 7 years old at the time and staying in that day-care herself when the blaze broke out. Some of the children left dead in the tragedy were her friends. After first being dubious of Soto’s intentions to solve the case in her spare time, Bosch soon realizes that that long-ago fire provided one of Soto’s chief motivations to become a cop. He understands this because he took the time to solve his mother’s murder in The Last Coyote (1995), and learned much from it. Like two thoroughbreds racing against each other, the Merced murder and the Bonny Brae disaster pull Connelly’s investigators -- and his many readers -- along a course offering an increasing tempo and perilous turns. Old thematic adversaries appear again. Bosch fights against the uptight administrative behavior of his new boss, Captain George Crowder. And in both of these fictional cases, the detectives who originally investigated the crimes see Bosch and Soto as the enemy: two cops who think they know better. The truth is that Bosch does know better. Ultimately, the snake-headed monsters of politics and wealth clash with simple greed, and Connelly once more reveals the dark underbelly of sunny L.A. Both cases come down to base passions, and both are resolved in tragic ways.

At this point in his career, Harry Bosch is like finely distilled bourbon: you can taste the layers, but you’re not sure how they got there. True fans, however, can recall what ingredients helped shape him: how he fought for his professional life in The Concrete Blonde (1994); the damage that was done to his relationship with Rachel Walling in Echo Park (2006); the countless battles with former Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, most recently in The Drop (2011); and the death of his ex-wife and only true love, Eleanor Wish, in 9 Dragons (2009). Bosch is why we buy and read the books, and why we will continue to follow him, in all his glorious incantations in the near and far future. ◊

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Best Novels of the Century

Even though we’re just 15 years into our new century, BBC Culture has polled the critics to come up with a list of the top novels of the 21st so far. Topping the list is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. The book is “about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love.”

From The Guardian:
The list also includes Zadie Smith’s debut novel White Teeth, Jeffrey Eugenides’ tale of hermaphrodite Calliope Stephanides, Middlesex, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, set amidst the Biafra conflict. Adichie’s Americanah, and Smith’s NW, also feature in the overall top 20, which includes three works in translation: Austerlitz by WG Sebald, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, and 2666 by Roberto Bolano.
But the Guardian seemed more concerned with what wasn’t there:
But it does not feature some of the last 14 years’ most acclaimed works, from Franzen’s latest novel, Freedom, to Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Instead, BBC Culture’s critics completed their line-up of “The 21st Century’s 12 greatest novels” with Ben Fountain’s award-winning debut Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, distinguished by its “sheer wise merriment”, according to critic Steven G Kellman, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. “Chabon’s capacious, propulsive and many-storied novel is exquisitely written, emotionally rich and historically and morally profound,” said Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/20/brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-wao-novel-21st-century-best-junot-diaz

Here’s the top dozen:

1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
2. Edward P Jones, The Known World (2003)
3. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
4. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
5. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)
6. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
7. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
8. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)
9. Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
11. Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)
12. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

Monday, January 19, 2015

New in Paperback: The Last Pirate by Tony Dokoupil

If you missed The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuna (Anchor Books) when it first came out in the spring of 2014, you have a great chance to catch it now in paperback. If you enjoy memoirs featuring larger-than-life characters and strong hits of comedy with all of life’s drama, you’ll enjoy Tony  Dokoupil’s account of growing up as the son of the 1980s dope king of Miami, Anthony Edward Dokoupil.

Dokoupil ran the US operations of one of the largest marijuana rings in the 20th century. By several accounts, “Big Tony” was personally responsible for the distribution of at least fifty tons of the stuff.

“Little Tony” writes beautifully. A senior writer for NBC news, Dokoupil the journalist examines his memories and incorporates deeply personal stories into a tale that reflects not only the story of his own family, but provides an interesting and sometimes even illuminating tale about how drugs have fit into the American picture.
If you smoked Columbian weed in the 1970s and 1980s, I owe you a thank-you card. You paid for my swim lessons, bought me my first baseball glove, and kept me in the best private schools in south Florida, alongside President George H.W. Buch's grandsons, at least for a little while.
It is this personal voice that elevates The Last Pirate beyond a simply  interesting story about a colorful and somewhat tragic character. As the book begins, Dokoupil describes the end of his father’s drug dealing days in colorful strokes:
Each day ended with the ocean smeared purple, the men holding their ladies close, and the kids clustered on the bow, dreaming of shipwrecks, pirates, and buried treasures. Thew old around was fenceless and so was the future. But the Old Man was restless in this paradise. He had broken a cardinal rule of dealing and become an addict himself. Coke and hookers mostly. He left the party early in search of both.
 Dokoupil has spun pure gold. Moving, sometimes funny, gorgeously etched and compellingly told. Whatever you come to The Last Pirate expecting,  Dokoupil delivers more. ◊


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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Fewer Children Reading for Fun

A survey of survey of 2,558 US parents and children has turned up some distressing news: the number of children reading for fun is in decline. From The Guardian:
The number of American children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped almost 10% in the last four years, according to a US study, with children citing the pressure of schoolwork and other distractions.
And a new aspect of the study confirmed something that parents of readers have always known. Kids that are read to when they are teeny are more likely to read on their own.
Scholastic also surveyed the parents of children between the ages of zero and five for the first time this year in an attempt to discover what made children frequent readers. The report found that a six to 11-year-old child is more likely to be a frequent reader if they are currently read aloud to at home, if they were also read aloud to five to seven days a week before starting nursery, and if they are less likely to use a computer for fun.
The full piece is here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This Just In… In His Way by Rebecca Duvall

Rebecca Duvall writes: 

Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together: it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids. 

God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it. 

Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this, God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.

You can order In His Way here. Visit author Rebecca Duvall on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Today: Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee by William C. Davis

Few names from the era loom as large as those of the top generals from North and South each: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. In story and fable, both men have been elevated to the place of myth.

Author William C. Davis (Three Roads to the Alamo, The Pirates Lafitte) combs through the four historical meetings the two men actually had in an effort to uncover details that might have impacted where they both ended up.

Davis has said that Crucible of Command (Da Capo) is not a conventional biography. “I’m not interested detailing every incident of their lives.” Rather, “the focus is on their moral and ethical worlds, what they felt and believed and why.”

On that journey, Davis states more than once that, without the Civil War, neither man would have come close to his potential. “Without the war, Grant would have remained a civilian working in his father’s leather goods store… Lee… was dissatisfied with the army, with his life and just about everything else when the war came. It is not too much to say that both were heading nowhere when the war plucked them out of their old lives.”

Once activated, though, both men had a huge part in shaping the post-war nation.

Davis is the author of more than 50 books, and he demonstrates his experience in Crucible of Command, a magisterial dual biography that rises far, far above the average. Davis balances fact and research with searing action and penetrating personality. This very entertaining history is much more than the sum of its parts. ◊

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This Just In… Bridge Beyond Betrayal by Stephanie Parker McKean

In her Christian mystery-romance-suspense, Bridge to Nowhere, Stephanie Parker McKean sends the adventure-loving Miz Mike on her second Three Prongs mystery, combining adventure, excitement, danger -- and even murder -- with romance in a spicy reading mix. 

When successful mystery writer Michal Rice spots a dead body in a red pickup truck, she springs into action. But no one believes her and she is left searching for the elusive truck and murder victim herself. When she learns the identity of the murdered man, once again no one will believe her, not even her fiancé, Marty Richards. 

When Mike unexpectedly joins a party of bone dowsers and the body is found, Marty accuses her of witchcraft and turns against her: the ultimate betrayal. But when someone is arrested for the murder, it is the wrong someone. Mike can’t let an innocent person suffer while the real murderer escapes and she risks her life to bring the killer to justice. Her quest attracts an unusual mélange of helpers, including wildlife safari park manager Frank who is determined to replace Marty and win Mike’s heart. 

You can order Bridge Beyond Betrayal here. Visit author Stephanie Parker McKean on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Cookbooks: The Gluten Free Revolution by Jax Peters Lowell

It turns out that The Gluten Free Revolution (Holt) is such a good name for a book, it’s been used twice. Once less than a year ago on a book by blogger Caroline Shannon-Karasik and published by Skyhorse. And now on an intentionally encyclopedic work by Jax Peters Lowell, who “fired the first shot” on the gluten free revolution. Both books are valuable and have their place (though probably should have their own titles) but this isn’t a contest, That said, if it were, Lowell’s would win by virtue of thoroughness and weight alone.

The subtitle conveys Lowell’s intent: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about Losing the Wheat, Reclaiming Your Health, and Eating Happily Ever After. Which is a lot of claims to pack into one subtitle. Still, Lowell goes a long way to deliver. From simple explanations of both the rise of interest in gluten-free foods to what the words actually mean to how to incorporate gluten-free eating into a variety of diets and lifestyles.

The recipe section is the largest in the book and its also where The Gluten-Free Revolution really comes into its own. Carrot cake, lasagna, cupcakes, and even Buckwheat Crepes Gratin with Cauliflower, Chanterelles, and Cave-Aged Gruyere, so clearly, no one is going to starve lugging this one around.

If you are on or are cons[iderig a gluten-free diet, The Gluten Free Revolution provides a very lucid foundation to a new and more healthful way to prepare food. ◊

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

This Just In… Anne Frank, Silent Witnesses: Reminders of a Jewish Girl’s Life by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

Ronald Wilfred Jansen visited Anne Frank’s home addresses in Frankfurt am Main, Aachen and Amsterdam; her hiding place the Secret Annex; and the Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps where she was imprisoned. His book describes her history and the objects that today still remind us of the environment in which she lived. 

Jansen’s motivation for writing the book was that it was one of the last opportunities he would have to contact the people who knew Anne. As a result, Jansen was able to uncover some new facts about this remarkable young woman and her world. 

Other contemporaries of Frank’s also contributed fascinating information about her surroundings. By tracing her footsteps, the author gained a more complete picture of Anne Frank and her environment.

You can order Anne Frank, Silent Witnesses here. Visit author Ronald Jansen on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fiction: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

A beautiful moment in history is brought to life in Vanessa and Her Sister (Ballantine) with a correspondence between an as-yet-unknown group of young artist and writers who despair of ever amounting to anything. The title’s Vanessa is the painter Vanessa Bell, sister to theVirginia who would later become Woolf. Their friends include an as-yet-unpublished E.M Forster and Lytton Strachey. John Maynard Keynes is job hunting.

Here we have a fictional reworking of what-might-have-beens. An imaginative collection of notes, journal entries, postcards, letters, telegraphs, epiphanies and dreams, all wrought by the hand of Priya Parmar (Exit the Actress), who seems here to magically revisit history on our behalf, concocting a delicious and imaginative quilt from a time long past filled with names we know well.

Though the group of friends is endearingly wrought, the focus is on the sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, here coming into their maturity with alarming results. As Vanessa falls in love and pulls away into her own life, Virginia feels abandonment and a despair that at times borders on madness.

Vanessa and Her Sister is memorable and unique. Though the work is fiction, it leaves us feeling like we know a bit more about the secretive story between these dynamic sisters. ◊

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Paris Tragedy

There is nothing we wish to add to the bare facts about the horrific events that occurred in Paris yesterday. The news is everywhere at the moment and we feel there is nothing real we can contribute beyond our sorrow. From Publishing Perspectives:
The horrifying attack took place yesterday, Wednesday, January 7 at the offices of Paris-based satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo: two masked, armed men killed twelve people, including cartoonist Charb, the director of the publication, and celebrated political cartoonists Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, wiping out the majority of the staff, which was holding an editorial meeting at the time of the attack. As the men fled, they shouted, “The prophet has been avenged,” and “We killed Charlie Hebdo,” a statement that is as chilling as it is true. Two of the cartoonists, Cabu and Wolinski were in their late 70s and early 80s, and had collaborated in the 1960s with the magazine Hara-Kiri, which was the inspiration for Charlie Hebdo.
We bow our heads.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cookbooks: Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw

In the last month or so I’ve been in no fewer than four restaurants where mashed avocado on toast was featured on the menu. Generally completely as is, but with maybe some red pepper or lime sprinkled over top. Minimalist. Pure. Perfect. And around eight bucks a pop.

Now, understand: I’m not complaining. And I did, in fact, partake of the offered avo goodness on a couple of occasions. (And more than a couple at home.) But it was not until reading Choosing Raw: Making Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat (Da Capo/Life Long) by Gena Hamshaw that I thought of this as raw food. Which, of course, it is. Hamshaw elevates it with style rather than a lot of messing around. “I find avocado to be a better toast topping than butter or cream cheese ever was, and it’s so much richer in antioxidants and healthy, unsaturated fats.”

Though even for raw “cooking” the recipe for Simple Avocado Toast is… well… simple, effortless health is the key to Choosing Raw. “Plant-based eating can feel like a seismic shift at first,” writes Hamshaw, “but the truth is that planning a healthy vegan diet isn’t so different from planning any kind of healthy diet.”

This down-to-earth approach to the entire question sets Choosing Raw apart.  From her explanations about her personal journey -- beginning with veganism for health reasons and coming later to the ethical aspects. And then, as a nutritionist, coming back to the heart of the matter:
In the absence of enzyme theory, it makes sense to ask why anyone would bother eating raw food. My answer is that the benefits of raw food go far beyond the enzymes! Raw foods are hydrating, rich in fiber, and full of antioxidants. They’re innovative, colorful, crisp and fresh.
Because this is a new field for many, Hamshaw includes a FAQ section as well as one on myths and misconceptions. There is also a section on setting up the vegan kitchen. And those just getting started on a raw or vegan lifestyle will find the author’s 21 day meal plan especially helpful as it can act as  a roadmap to what can at first seem like a very new and different way of life.

The Bulk of Choosing Raw, however, is given up to what we stood in line for: the food. Hamshaw starts us off with basics: hand made almond milk. A basic green smoothie. Cashew cheese. And then recipes from every part of each day and meal. A few favorites: the Raw Pad Thai is based on kelp noodles, cabbage and a lot of traditional flavors. And Hamshaw’s Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds is more than a nod at traditional risotto. And for those vegans who are missing their dairy, the Cashew Banana Yogurt is a satisfying and healthful alternative. At lunchtime, the Dilly Raw Vegan Sunflower “Tuna Salad” provides a great sandwich filler and the Raw Lasagna kind of really isn’t, but it IS delicious.

There are 125 recipes in Choosing Raw and it’s a terrific book. Even those not interested in pursuing a raw foods lifestyle will find their knowledge and recipe file enhanced. ◊

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Zuckerberg’s Book Club

What do Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and media maven Orpah Winfrey have in common? Well, probably more than a little, but what we’re looking at today is Zuckerberg’s newest venture: a book club.

Zuckerberg started out his Facebook year by announcing that his “challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week -- with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”

The first book mentioned on Zuckerberg’s newly created Facebook page A Year of Books is The End of Power by Moisés Naím (Basic Books, 2013). Subtitled From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, “It’s a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuck writes. “The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I’m looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.”

Since The End of Power was in Amazon’s number 86 position at time of writing, it would seem likely that Zuckerberg’s literary pronouncements might pack the same wallop Oprah’s did at the height of her powers in the 1990s.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Goose Lane at Sixty

In 2015, the distinguished all-Canadian publisher, martime-based Goose Lane Editions turns 60.

Last fall, to mark the anniversary, the house published a fantastic collection, tiny but splendid collection. Goose Lane selected six “tiny perfect stories” and published them in six, well… tiny perfect books. Each story is individually bound, though offered as part of a set under a specially designed sleeve.

The resulting package is… well, truly special, representing, in a way, Goose Lane’s glorious past, as well as it’s shining future.

Included is Alden Nowlan’s “A Boy’s Life With Napolean,” published posthumously in 1988. Also included are titles by Lynn Coady, Douglas Glover, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Mark Anthony Jarman. The collection is precious, in the best possible way, and memorable. A sliver of the best Canadian writing of all time: which, when you think about it, sums illustrious sexagenarian Goose Lane up pretty well.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

New This Week: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Pragg

Menna van Praag’s highly anticipated second novel (after 2013’s The House at the End of Hope Street) delights with elements of fantasy, fairy tale and magical realism. Beautifully written and vibrantly shared, it’s a tough tale not to fall in love with.

Cora Sparks, a scientist, lost her parents under mysterious circumstances many years ago. Since then, Cora has immersed herself in her work and in the corners of her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. What Cora doesn’t know -- though we all suspect -- is that one should never underestimate the power of a good dress. And there is magic waiting in the shop’s corners that will help her realize all of her dreams: even the most important ones.

Make no mistake, The Dress Shop of Dreams (Ballantine) is a classic love story, but the well applied tastes of magic and fairytales bring the tale to a different level. Menna van Praag knows how to tell a story. And she does it with charm and even panache. The Dress Shop of Dreams is just the right tale with which to begin a fantastic new year of reading. ◊



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This Just In… The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever by LB Johnson

It is a story, not one of science, and one that may not be remembered past this one lifetime. It is the story of someone who did not know his destiny, but followed it with unfaltering step, bound to his human companion, not by vows or paper, but in the name of the trust that was the best part of his nature. 

It is a story of the one that taught her to love, even as he occasionally barfed on the carpet. It is simply the tale of a black Labrador retriever named Barkley. It was the beginning never anticipated; belief that there were no limits that made tragedy inevitable, a gentle nuzzle that made the walls fall away, and the pull of the leash into the day’s infinitude. It was an ending she did not expect; a leash laid across the chair, an empty bed, a glass tipped over, spilling the blood of wine. The noise that an empty room makes is as clear as tears.

In between, there are the stories, of friends, of joy and dog hair, of a small pink ball with feet known as Mr. Squeaky, which became the mortal enemy at dawn, as she tried to sleep. It is the story of rambunctious trespasses such as “the bacon incident” and the loving trust that bound a lonely road warrior and a dog together in unspoken understanding.

The Book of Barkley is a tribute and memoir that will resonate with everyone who has reached out without thinking to their pet... only to remember that their beloved friend is no longer present. The Book of Barkley is a love story that will enrich every animal lover's library.

You can order The Book of Barkley here. Visit author LB Johnson on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Literary Thoughts for a Brand New Year

“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” -- Maya Angelou
It’s a brand new year. And who better to help us shape and inspire the year that will be than our favorite authors?
“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” -- Anaïs Nin
Though, as The Huffington Post reminds us:
Great writers don’t always offer the words of undiluted inspiration we’d like; their keen insight and penchant for honesty about the human condition produces observations about our weakness, our sins or about how painful history can shadow our futures (“The past is never dead. It's not even past,” as William Faulkner wrote).
HuffPo collects “15 galvanizing passages from your favorite authors” here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Got You Covered!

We’ve already seen which books The Rap Sheet chose as their top picks for 2014, now come have a peek at the contenders (and final winner) of the top crime fiction covers. This is always a terrific field!

The final blow-by-blow is here.

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This Just In… Saint Wally by Courtney Taylor

Walter Matthews kills himself and arrives in Heaven’s Waiting Room, where he witnesses a misdeed that quickly culminates in the abduction of the Almighty. 

Getting God back is a responsibility charged to Creation’s Vice President, Jesus H. Christ, who isn’t quite sure he’s up to the job. So begins an interDimensional adventure with a cast of trillions, in which Jesus and Walter have to restore the Good Lord to His throne before All Existence is destroyed.

You can order Saint Wally here. Learn more about author Courtney Taylor on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Children’s Books: The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

You remember that scene in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge asks about two children, a boy and a girl, huddling under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present? The Ghost tells him that the children are Ignorance and Want.

In The Last of the Spirits (Bloomsbury) they are real children, street kids who, in fact, sneaked into Scrooge’s home while he was off with the spirits and took refuge in his dining room, which is at least a little warmer than the streets. The story is told from the viewpoint of the boy, Sam and his sister Lizzie. They once had a home and parents, but their father died in debt and their mother soon after.

Sam is angry with the world, especially one Ebenezer Scrooge, who had snubbed them when they pleaded for a little money. So that night, when they are trying to sleep in the graveyard and run into the ghost of Jacob Marley, on his way to save Scrooge’s soul, they follow, with Sam thinking that a piece of lead piping applied to the old miser’s head might improve him greatly and get them some of the money he refused them the first time.

Sam, too, it seems, needs and benefits from visits from the three spirits...

This is a nice take on the original novella, with Scrooge’s story happening on the side, with the children watching and listening to bits and Sam being a little irritated with the Ghost of Christmas Present for using them as props in the show he is staging for Scrooge. It probably means more if you are familiar with the original story, but can be read by itself and, who knows, might encourage children to look for the original story once they’re old enough to follow it. ◊


Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.

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This Just In… Caesar’s Son by Jon Zackon

Fourteen year old Arlus dreams of leaving behind his abusive stepfather and joining the legions as a cavalry officer. But when a tax collector from Rome rolls into town, a chain of dramatic and violent events leave Arlus begging for his life.

To save her son, the boy’s mother is forced to admit who his father really is: the Dictator of Rome, Julius Caesar. In an instant, Arlus’ life is altered forever. Seeing the potential for profit, the tax collector Maxinius takes Arlus to Rome in a bid to have him recognized by Caesar as his son and heir. Thrown into a whirlwind of politics, alliances and Patrician society, Arlus prepares to meet his father.

But the day set for Arlus to meet Caesar is the fateful Ides of March, and his meeting with the great ruler doesn’t go quite as planned: his father is murdered before his eyes by traitors within the Senate. Suddenly in even more danger than before, Arlus is forced to flee.

As Rome prepares for civil war in the wake of Caesar’s assassination, Arlus returns home to a conflict of his own: a mob of bandits threaten Rezzia, and Arlus must muster every ounce of his strength and cunning to defeat them and save those he loves. But will he be able to live up to his father’s reputation?

“A brilliantly told story.” -- Robert Foster, bestselling author of The Lunar Code.

Jon Zackon is also the author of A Taste For Killing. He was born in South Africa but has spent most of his working life as a journalist on British national newspapers. He currently lives in the UK.

You can order Caesar’s Son here. Visit author Jon Zackon on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Art & Culture: Streisand: In the Camera Eye

Almost from the moment she appeared on the scene in the early 1960s, Barbra Streisand had been a icon.

At first, she was a curiosity. How could a skinny girl from Brooklyn with a stubborn nose and slightly crossed eyes ever make it in show business? Well, we started with that voice of hers. And with a voice like that, who cares what she looks like?

Except people did care. And by the end of her first public performance, she began to take on the sheen and luster of a star, as well as all the trappings. People began to see her beauty. Magazines began to flaunt her fashion sense. She wasn’t just a singer, not just an actress. She was a force.

Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Harry N. Abrams), the new book by frequent Streisand biographer James Spada, examines her life in a series of 170 photographs, many never before published. Instead of recounting her life in words, he recounts it in images accompanied by short contextual essays. But it’s the photos here that amaze.

Here’s Barbra very early on, looking more than a little like a Modigliani painting. Here she is on stage in “Funny Girl,” and then later in the movie. Here are images from her 60s TV specials, as well as Hello Dolly; What’s Up, Doc?; The Way We Were; A Star is Born; Yentl; and all the rest. There are also photos from album cover shoots, some photos from magazines, concerts, and more -- a true chronicle of the woman and her work. Both career overview (50 years and counting) and photo essay galore, Streisand: In the Camera Eye is a collection of images that, taken together, form the portrait of a woman who is always the same yet constantly changing. Where early shots show us her shy vulnerability and her less-than-assured presence in front the camera, others reveal her increasing comfort, and later her embrace of it. ◊

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This Just In… All Meat: A Redneck Meets LSD-25 by John Aalborg

All Meat is the first book, once lost, in John Aalborg’s Schaffner Family crime and adventure trilogy.

All Meat: A Redneck Meets LSD-25 is not only the drama of a struggling young white family in Miami during the 1960s, but how a normal, cash-strapped husband and wife deal with psychedelic drugs and racial integration.

The adventures, the scary romantic stuff, the South Beach hippies, the changing Miami neighborhood during integration, the free sex, and the casual attitude toward marijuana and other psychedelic drugs are all representative of the time.

All Meat is the prequel to Harry & Ivory and Lowboy #22.

You can order All Meat here. Visit author John Aalborg on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Top Crime Fiction of 2014

What were the top works of crime fiction in 2014? At The Rap Sheet, six top critics opine. And here’s a hint: expect to be at least a bit surprised!

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This Just In… The Coconut Latitudes: Secrets, Storms and Survival in the Caribbean by Rita M. Gardner

The Coconut Latitudes is a memoir about a childhood in paradise, a journey into unexpected misery, and a twisted path to redemption and truth.

Leaving a successful career in the U.S., a father makes the fateful decision to settle his wife and two young daughters on an isolated beach in the Dominican Republic. He plants ten thousand coconut seedlings and declares they are the luckiest people alive.

In reality, the family is in the path of hurricanes and in the grip of a brutal dictator. Against a backdrop of shimmering palms and kaleidoscope sunsets, a crisis causes the already fragile family to implode. The Coconut Latitudes is a haunting, lyrical memoir of surviving a reality far from the envisioned Eden, the terrible cost of keeping secrets, and the transformative power of truth and love.

You can order The Coconut Latitudes here. Visit author Rita M. Gardner on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Neal Stephenson Named “Chief Futurist” at Magic Leap

Novelist Neal Stephenson (Quicksilver, Snow Crash) has announced that he will join the hot and mysterious tech startup, Magic Leap. From NPR:
Stephenson announced that he will be joining the startup Magic Leap as the company's "chief futurist." While the company itself remains something of a mystery, the Wall Street Journal reports that "the startup is developing its own eyeglasses-like device, different from Google Glass, designed to project computer-generated images over a real-life setting." In other words, the technology is said to try to blend seamlessly what's real with what's virtual—not unlike some of the technologies in Stephenson's book.
Though the company has yet to produce anything, Google and several other tech titans have been big backers of the project, to the tune of $542 million in investments.
“I'm fascinated by the science, but not qualified to work on it,” Stephenson wrote in a post on the Magic Leap blog. “Where I hope I can be of use is in thinking about what to do with this tech once it is available to the general public.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Just In… The Holy Mark: The Tragedy of a Fallen Priest by Gregory Alexander

In The Holy Mark, a disgraced and exiled Catholic priest from a powerful New Orleans family ponders his future and reflects on his 25 years in the priesthood.

Father Tony probably should have never been a priest. With his family’s money, courtesy of ties to the New Orleans mob, he could have pursued his interest in literature or even worked with young boys -- only free of all those silly Church strictures. But there was no priest in the Miggliore family, much to the shame of his immigrant Italian grandmother. So at his birth, when the old woman beheld a peculiar mark on his head and declared it to be a sign from God -- a “segno sacro” in the only language she knew -- this grandson’s destiny was set.

Those marked by God, though, are often marked by men as well: Father Tony’s jealous uncle will never forgive him for finding favor with the Miggliore matriarch. And with his ties to the city’s Catholic hierarchy, he’ll plot to destroy his nephew if it takes the rest of his life. Meanwhile Father Tony is determined to outwit his uncle and the Church, even if he has to conceal his identity and prowl the streets of New Orleans by night to do it.

Family, power, and revenge, The Holy Mark is the story of one reluctant priest caught between the cynicism of his own Southern upbringing and the political machinations of the Roman Catholic Church.

You can order The Holy Mark here. Visit author Gregory Alexander on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Cookbook: Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse

I’m a sucker for a good cookie, and I’m always looking for new things to bake. Madeleines are my new passion, and Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share (Quirk Books) by Barbara Feldman Morse is the book I’ve been using in recent weeks, much to the delight and dismay of my waistline -- and the waistlines of my friends and family. (Sorry, everyone!) 

In a word: Wow. I’d always thought madeleines were hard to make. How could that lovely golden sponge, even unadorned, be such a snap? But you know what? They totally are. Barbara Feldman Morse makes it easy. Along with recipes, she tells you exactly what you need, her own little secrets, supplies and where to buy them, and the many different ways you can decorate your madeleines to make dinner guests swoon in anticipation.

The dozens of variations include classic madeleines, cream cheese madeleines, chai tea madeleines, madeleines au chocolat, banana pecan madeleines, blueberry cream madeleines, dark chocolate espresso madeleines, Kentucky Derby madeleines, gruyere and rosemary madeleines, and many, many more.

 Published just in time for all those holiday parties you have to bring something to, this little gem of a cookbook will keep you busy for quite some time, indulging in your little French cookie fantasies. And it’ll inspire more than a few New Year’s resolutions. ◊

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Monday, December 15, 2014

This Just In… The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship & The Writing Life by Lori A. May

Writing may be a solitary profession, but it is also one that relies on a strong sense of community. The Write Crowd offers practical tips and examples of how writers of all genres and experience levels contribute to the sustainability of the literary community, the success of others, and to their own well-rounded writing life.

Through interviews and examples of established writers and community members, readers are encouraged to immerse themselves fully in the literary world and the community-at-large by engaging with literary journals, reading series and public workshops, advocacy and education programs, and more.

In contemporary publishing, the writer is expected to contribute outside of her own writing projects. Editors and publishers hope to see their writers active in the community, and the public benefits from a more personal interaction with authors. Yet the writer must balance time and resources between deadlines, day jobs, and other commitments.

The Write Crowd demonstrates how writers may engage with peers and readers, and have a positive effect on the greater community, without sacrificing writing time.

You can order The Write Crowd here. Visit author Lori A. May on the web here. ◊


This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Art & Culture: Star Wars Art: Posters

Yes, I know: Who needs another book about Star Wars? Well, it turns out I did, and maybe you do too. Because Star Wars Art: Posters (Harry N. Abrams) is a different kind of Star Wars book.

We all know that George Lucas’ space saga has inspired countless novels, toys, musical interpretations, other movies and TV shows, and more. The reach of the film seems endless. But one area that needed a bit more exploration is posters.

Like all movies, each film has had its lobby posters, and this book features all of them. But even better are the other posters that the films inspired along the way. Some were done by heavy-hitter artists like Drew Struzan and Roger Kastel, some by very talented fans, and many by people in-between.

While many artists were paid, some did their work because it was fun and because Star Wars moved them. And moved is what you will be when you get an up-close-and-personal look at the 120 posters in this book. You’ll find the classics, as I mentioned, but you’ll also find some of the sketches that came first, the little explorations that became the posters we know so well. The errors, too, and the first drafts. You’ll find art from all over the world, as well as versions of posters you may already know, concept drawings and paintings that helped shape the Star Wars universe, and much more.

These are posters used to advertise movies, radio programs, TV shows, gallery exhibitions, video games, and on and on. What they posters all have in common is that they bring the drama to life: the characters, the action, and sometimes the larger questions about life in that galaxy far, far away. 

Rather than a collection of posters, which always feature creative blocks at the bottom (the credits), Star Wars Art: Posters does away with that distraction, treating these works of art as what they are: art. I was surprised at how much difference that made when looking at these images. They come alive truly alive, and tell a story that we all know and in a way that’s fresh. ◊

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This Just In… Bones Along the Hill Nancy Sartor

Neva Oakley is a funeral facial restorationist with a legendary skill at making the dead look alive. But for all her talent, she can never bring back Gray Ledbetter, her first love, who took his own life ten years ago.

Davis Pratt, too, is consumed. Long ago his younger brother disappeared, and Davis won’t give up hope. Perhaps that’s why he and Neva are such a good couple. Or perhaps that’s why they can’t move forward. Then the search leads them to the Oakley cemetery and a murder tied to a human trafficking ring. Suddenly, impossible crimes threaten both family and friends, crimes that cannot be ignored. Not even the Nashville PD can keep Neva safe, but if she and Davis succeed, together they just might solve all their mysteries and free each other to embrace their future.

You can order Bones Along the Hill here. Visit author Nancy Sartor on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: The Art of Deception

Seeing is believing, so they say. But I’m betting “they” never saw The Art of Deception: Illusions to Challenge the Eye and the Mind  (Imagine).

More than a collection of optical illusions (though it surely is that), The Art of Deception features painting, photography and graphic design that’s made to make you look twice. Or three times. These are works that scream out to you: “Hold on a sec, all is not what it seems.”

Take Liu Bolin’s photograph of a small wooded area near Beijing. Looks innocent enough, until you notice the sly presence of a man standing right in front of you. Is he painted to blend in? Is he transparent? Or Ben Heine’s photograph of a drawing that offers a bird’s eye perspective of a nest of what could be skyscrapers. A young man is holding the drawing in such a way that he seems to be floating above them, looking down into them. Or how about Nikita Prokhorov’s tessellation art, in which figures are intertwined in what could be endless patterns? Or Oscar Reutersvard’s impossible figure designs?

 There’s really almost too much here to marvel at, and your eyes will widen to amazed orbs as you take it all in. From Punya Mishra’s ambigram of the word “good” with the word “evil” embedded inside it, to Guido Daniele’s paintings of animals on hands, The Art of Deception is a brilliant study of how artists from across the globe see and bend the world around them. It’s not so much a game, though it can be, as it is an interpretation of the world as they see it. Their juxtapositions surprise, then illuminate, and finally provide “a-ha!” moments that leave you smiling.

This wonderful book features a foreword by John Langdon, king of the ambigram, and bite-sized essays about each work of art. They don’t give the secret of the work away, but each one offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist and a peek at what he or she is trying to accomplish within each piece. ◊

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

This Just In… A Viable Suspect by Barry Ruhl

For more than 30 years, retired Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Barry Ruhl has believed that a criminal with whom he had a violent encounter early in his career might be responsible for a string of unsolved murders of young women in Ontario, including the 1959 death of 12-year-old Lynne Harper.

The only suspect ever investigated in that sensational case was 14-year-old Steven Truscott, who was convicted and sentenced to hang before being cleared almost 50 years later. But in the 1980s, Ruhl had approached his superiors with a theory about an alternative suspect in the Harper murder and other similar cases. A Viable Suspect tells the story of how Ruhl arrived at his conclusions, his frustrated attempts to prompt the OPP to thoroughly investigate Talbot and the tragic irony of how, just when it seemed police were finally taking Ruhl’s theory seriously, the suspect slipped out of reach, permanently.

You can order A Viable Suspect here. Visit author Barry Ruhl on the web here. ◊



This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Top Books We Don’t Finish

Since the article is pretty much without qualification or meaningful explanation, I want to write off The Telegraph’s list of Top Ten Books We Never Finish but, honestly? The list resonates for me. What about you?

1. Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
2. Capital by Thomas Piketty
3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
4. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
5. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
6. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
7. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I mean, the Clinton. Obviously. You want to, but you just can’t get there. Infinite Jest is one I’ve been taking runs at for years and, though I love the writing I read, I just can’t seem to make myself read all of it. A Brief History of Time, if you haven’t gotten to it by now, you might as well free that shelf space up. I don’t think Fifty Shades of Grey was ever meant to be gotten through. The Great Gatsby is another I’ve made valiant attempts at. Truly. But something in the writing fails to hold me. Am I deficient? Honestly: does it hold you?

You can see the list and The Telegraph’s explanations with regards to the individual novels here.

This Just In… When All Balls Drop: The Upside of Losing Everything by Heidi Siefkas

Heidi Siefkas was a happily married, globetrotting professional who seemingly had it all -- until a tree limb in New York’s Hudson River Valley struck her down, breaking her neck and leaving her unconscious. Suddenly, life as she knew it stopped. She lost her independence. She lost her career. She watched her marriage disintegrate as she confronted a trail of devastating lies about her husband’s double life.

She had lost all that mattered, but she was a survivor. She fought to restore her health, repair her broken heart, and rebuild herself. Along the way, she gained clarity about her core values, ultimately coming to a deeper understanding of what it means to have it all.

Through down-to-earth, short vignettes, When All Balls Drop shows us how it’s possible to “look up” in spite of pain, deceit, and loss. Heidi’s memoir--rich with hope and humor--inspires anyone who’s had to confront tragedy and reassess their life in the wake of life-altering events.

You can order When All the Balls Drop here. Visit author Heidi Siefkas on the web here. ◊



This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lost Work by Raymond Chandler Uncovered

An early work by Raymond Chandler has been discovered. Thus far, the Chandler estate is blocking publication or performance of the libretto, called The Princess and the Pedlar, as being “a very early work, and not representative of Chandler’s oeuvre. Yes, it is of course a curiosity, but we feel no more than that.”

Writing for The Guardian, former January Magazine contributing editor, Sarah Weinman, tells the fascinating story of the rediscovery of The Princess and the Pedlar at length:
The 48-page libretto to the comic opera The Princess and the Pedlar, with music by Julian Pascal, has hidden in plain sight at the library since its copyright was first registered on 29 August 1917.
The work, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian, was found in March by Kim Cooper, shortly after she published her debut novel, The Kept Girl, featuring a fictionalised Chandler in 1929 Los Angeles. 
While looking for more information about Pascal, Cooper discovered a missing link between Chandler’s English boyhood and his detective fiction: a witty, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inflected libretto for a fantasy-tinged romance between Porphyria, daughter to the King and Queen of the Arcadians, and Beautiful Jim, a “strolling Pedlar.”
Chandler penned pithy lines for supporting players, and even foreshadowed his own crime fiction career, as when the humpback Gorboyne sings: “Criminals dyed with the deepest dyes/Hated of all the good and wise, Soaked in crime to the hair and eyes/Very unpleasant are we.”
The full piece is here.

This Just In… The Cause by Roderick Vincent

The second American Revolution will be a fire lit from an internal spark.

The year is 2022. America is on the verge of economic and social collapse. The government has made individual freedom its enemy. 


African American hacker Isse Corvus enters a black-ops training camp. He discovers the leaders are revolutionaries seeking to return the U.S. back to its Constitutional roots. Soon the camp fractures. Who is traitor? Who is patriot? Corvus learns that if he doesn’t join The Cause and help them hack the NSA’s servers, it could mean his life. If he joins, he becomes part of a conspiracy to overthrow America’s financial oligarchy. 

NSA Director Titus Montgomery is building a system to pacify America’s instigators. The President tells him that rule of law must be maintained at all costs. But what happens when martial law meets revolution? 


The Cause is a dystopian thriller taking many topical issues to the next logical level. The dense web of the NSA’s previous generation’s surveillance system has been supplanted by a new, more ruthless one. Robotic warfare, drones, quantum computers, Anonymous, the NSA, and a cast of conniving characters, this novel takes you on a manifest journey on how a new revolution could be born.


You can order The Cause here. Visit author Roderick Vincent on the web here. ◊




This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

The Philosophy of Pratchett

Terry Pratchett as philosopher. Fans of the UK-based author’s Discworld series will not be surprised to think about Pratchett in those terms.

With more than 75 million copies of his books available around the world, he is one of our planet’s top selling writers. Forty Discworld novels have been published since the first, The Colour of Magic, was released back in 1983. But, according to The Guardian, a new about to be released book about Pratchett and his work will be the first to look at the author as the philosopher he may very well be.
Edited by philosophy professors and Pratchett fans James South and Jacob Held, the collection of essays examines questions including “Plato, the Witch, and the Cave: Granny Weatherwax and the Moral Problem of Paternalism”, “Equality and Difference: Just because the Disc Is Flat, Doesn’t Make It a Level Playing Field for All”, “Hogfather and the Existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard”, and “the Importance of Being in the Right Trouser Leg of Time”.
South, associate professor of philosophy at Marquette University, is adamant Pratchett’s novels “hold up to sustained philosophical reflection”
“Pratchett is a very smart man, a gifted writer, and understands as well as any philosopher the power of storytelling and the problems humans face in making sense of their lives and the world they live in,” South said. “Or, as Death puts it so well: ‘DO NOT PUT ALL YOUR TRUST IN ROOT VEGETABLES. WHAT THINGS SEEM TO BE MAY NOT BE WHAT THEY ARE.’ This is a truth that Pratchett relatedly acknowledges and tries to get his readers to acknowledge as well.”
You can read the full piece here.

This Just In… Leaving Montana by Thomas Whaley

Saying that Benjamin Sean Quinn had “anger issues” was an understatement. For those who knew him for the shortest amount of time, his life was in order: He was physically fit, had a great job which provided him a house in the suburbs and the material things he desired, a loving, monogamous relationship, two happy, healthy daughters and an established circle of friends. In all accounts, his life seemed perfect. But to those who knew him the longest, they knew he was an idle grenade, waiting for someone to pull the pin. 

For decades, Ben did his best to conquer his demons; to suppress the anger he accumulated towards his parents, Carmella and Sean, throughout their tumultuous marriage. Ben was their only child; forced to witness and experience things that most adults couldn’t even try to handle. He could not escape them or the anger, and no matter how hard he tried, as he matured, it became a part of him. Ben strived to end the toxic cycle and avoid adopting their pattern as part of his own life. By the time he reached his early thirties, he finally seemed to have it all under control. 

Then Ben’s father told him a “secret.” One left in Montana when he and Carmella were stationed there 40 years earlier. It would exhume the painful memories and suppressed anger that Ben had been avoiding for years and force him to relive his past in order to face his future. 

Today Benjamin Sean Quinn boards a plane to Billings, Montana. It was time to face the secret head on and let go of the anger that silently ruled his life. It would be the boldest move he ever made, ultimately changing his life and the lives of those around him."

You can order Leaving Montana here. Visit author Thomas Whaley on the web here. ◊


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