Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

  "Seconds" by award-winning author/artist Bryan Lee O'Malley
(Ballantine, $25) is a highly entertaining graphic novel full of
        In today's world of graphic novels, the unassuming reader
doesn't really know what to expect - but O'Malley, creator of the
best-selling Scott
Pilgrim series, isn't disappointing.
        When you pick up the book, it's easy to see that the
dust-jacket is cut rather oddly - it's missing the bottom inch.
Naturally, the curious
reader is likely to take it off and see what's lurking underneath.
        It's not your usual plain cloth cover - instead, it's a bright glossy
design with an image of a young woman floating against a starry
background, surrounded by other characters, mushrooms and more.
      If you're shaking your head and saying "Huh?" - welcome to the
crowd - but after a brief introductory prologue, the quirky, unusual
saga begins.
        It focuses on the plight of Katie, a talented chef and the successful
owner of "Seconds", a popular restaurant. She's got plans to open another
location, but things aren't working out quite as she'd like; her
ex-boyfriend returns, a new relationship sours and her best waitress is
        She gets an unusual opportunity to change things, when in a
dream she meets Lis, a mysterious spirit. Lis offers Katie a second
chance to do
things over by taking a magical mushroom. She must, however, abide by a
list of rules:
1: Write your mistake.
2: Ingest one mushroom.
3: Go to sleep.
4: Wake anew.
        Katie does that, and just like the main character in the
"Groundhog Day" movie, she starts the day over again.
        Unfortunately, things don't get better, but worse; Lis says that there's
a limit of one mushroom, but Katie discovers more, decides to break the
rules and try again.
        That's when the tension begins to increase and the intensity
accelerates. Talented O'Malley uses bright retro manga-type images and
brisk dialogue to keep the reader entertained.
        There's never really a dull moment as the storyline progresses to a
satisfying conclusion; the graphic novel is broken down into short
chapters that are easily absorbed.
        Rife with flashes of dark humor, O'Malley's masterful tale deftly
captures the emotions, angst and worries of his intriguing cast of
        Tough to put down, "Seconds" is quite captivating and enjoyable.

        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has
reviewed books regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 26, 2014.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ray's Reviews: It Waits Below by Eric Red

"It Waits Below" by motion picture screenwriter and director Eric Red
(Samhain, $16) is an action-packed, underwater thriller that packs a
powerful punch, liable to keep you up all night, feverishly turning
        The oversized paperback opens with a brief prologue that sets
up the rest of the quirky novel's premise. An asteroid carrying an
alien life form
hurtles through the atmosphere in 1853, crushing the Spanish warship
Corona and sending all of its crew to a deep watery grave.
        Then the novel jumps ahead 160 years, where a major underwater
salvage company has discovered the wreckage almost three miles down.
        They go to the site and launch "The Neptune", a specially
designed three man DSV (Deep Submersive Vehicle) which can reach those
distant depths safely. Their goal is to find and bring to the surface
the estimated $30 million gold bullion treasure that the Corona was
        The three people in the bathyscaphe have varying degrees of
experience, including Captain Sebastian Enright, one of the owners of
the salvage company. Pilot Oleg Polidori is a former Russian sailor
and Jane Clark is the attractive apprentice pilot.
        The crew's problems begin when they reach their goal, also
discovering a deadly extraterrestrial life form that's been waiting
        Their challenges multiply as they are trapped deep below the
surface and their support ship is attacked by nasty, gun-wielding,
        The action really picks up in the second half of the book, where the
frenzied submarine crew fights desperately for survival, trying a variety
of methods to escape their potential watery grave.
        The alien organism significantly becomes more of a deadly threat; it
could easily decimate life on Earth if it accomplishes its hungry goals.
        Eric Red has written a variety of motion picture scripts, including the
original 1986 movie "The Hitcher" starring Rutger Hauer. He's also
directed films for Showtime, Paramount, Warner Bros. and others.
        While there are distinct similarities to a trio of underwater
movies that
came out in 1989 ("The Abyss", "Leviathan" and "DeepStar Six", this could
easily be made into a very scary motion picture.
        Although this is only his second novel and could use a bit
more character development, it's highly entertaining, providing solid
escapism and tense suspense.

        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has
reviewed thrillers and crime novels regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 19, 2014.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Assault With a Deadly Lie by Lev Raphel

"Assault With a Deadly Lie" by Okemos author Lev Raphel (Terrace
Books, $26.95) is the eighth book starring successful university professor
Nick Hoffman.

While it's been a few years since the last books in the series,
Raphael comes back roaring with a real winner-a controversial suspense
novel that could easily have been torn from today's headlines.

Hoffman is now a full professor at that State University of Michigan
in Michiganopolis (a thinly veiled Michigan State University and East
Lansing). He lives in a quiet neighborhood with his partner Stephen
Borowski and is enjoying a typical peaceful evening.

The carefully-crafted tale starts off with a bang- a real bang- when
two armored police carriers suddenly screech to a stop outside their
house, lights flashing.

A dozen heavily armed men in ski masks emerge- there's pounding and
shouting at his door. He can make out the words "police" and
"warrant"; chaos errupts when Borowski opens the door and the troopers
surge in.

Local authorities have gotten a call of a "hostage situation"; they go
out in full force, using lots of military gear. Despite the fact that
it was a false report, Borowski is taken out for questioning.

A neighbor, Vanessa Liberati, who's a local attorney, comes to their
assistance, gaining Borowski's freedom. She accurately predicts that
there may be other threats coming.

As Hoffman investigates, his relationship with Borowski faces real
challenges. Different suspects emerge and tempers flare. The head of
their University department doesn't want the publicity- he just wants
this all to go away.

Hoffman and Borowski don't know where to turn- they get threatening
phone calls and other harassments. They obviously can't trust the
police; their paranoia increases as more shocking allegations surface.

The author deftly deals with a wide variety of emotions; he created a
thought-provoking tale that blends academia with today's necessary
worries about police brutality.  The violent conclusion is unexpected
yet realistic.

Raphel's latest book has more relevance as it actually was released
before the Ferguson MS and St. Louis forceful police assaults.

It's not essential to read others in the Nick Hoffman series in order
to enjoy this fast-paced novel. Raphel has also published books in
numerous different genres, including non-fiction and memoirs.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed
crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles

at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 12, 2014.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ray's Reviews: The Murder of Maggie Hume: Cold Case in Battle Creek by Blaine Pardoe and Victoria Hester

        "The Murder of Maggie Hume" by Blaine Pardoe and Victoria
Hester (History Press, $19.99) is a fascinating analysis of a real
crime that took place over forty years ago.
        Subtitled "Cold Case in Battle Creek", the book focuses on the
brutalization and strangulation of 20-year-old Maggie Hume on August 16,
        A graduate of Kellogg Community College, Hume was working as a
medical secretary at a local doctor's office.  When she didn't appear,
a call was made to her father, the athletic director and football
coach at St.
Philip High School.
        He didn't know where she was, but thought that Margaret Van Winkle,
Maggie's roommate, might have some ideas.
        Margaret had returned from a trip to Europe, arrived back in their
apartment at 4:00 a.m. and had gone straight to bed. She hadn't seen or
heard from Maggie, but suggested that they call Jay Carter, Maggie's
        Carter and Maggie's younger brother got the keys from Maggie's
dad; they went to investigate. There was no immediate sign of Maggie;
her purse and glasses were gone. Soon the police were called. Margaret
came over to the apartment; an officer found Maggie's dead body
stuffed into a comforter
in the closet.
        Maggie's boyfriend was obviously the prime suspect; his story kept
changing and he didn't have a solid alibi. Carter failed an initial
polygraph test, but there was no physical evidence. Additional police
tips led to other discoveries; a deadly car crash silenced the voice of a
potential witness.
        Detective Dennis Mullin, who had interviewed Carter, did further
investigation, checking out other suspects, but the case went cold.  In
1986, Mullin and Detective Joe Newman, head of the Major Crimes Unit,
became more involved when another suspect, Michael Ronning surfaced.
        Ronning, a convicted murderer, had lived in the apartment
below Maggie's.  He left town the day after the murder and was a
suspect in two other similar Michigan murder cases. Ronning confessed,
but the facts didn't all match.
        The further investigation caused a deep rift between the Battle Creek
Police Department and the Prosecutor's Office that has lasted for
        Pardoe and Hester, a father-and-daughter writing team, have
presented a well-organized and highly entertaining examination of a
puzzling case that's still rife with unanswered questions.

        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has
reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 5, 2014.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Book Show Cometh! Join us THIS SUNDAY in Lansing for the 60th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show!

Join us for MIDWEST'S LARGEST Antiquarian Book & Paper Show...

The Midwest's LARGEST show of its kind, the 60th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show, is coming to Lansing THIS SUNDAY!
If it's on paper you're likely to find it at the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show. Organized by the Mid Michigan Antiquarian Book Dealers Association, this show has become a regular event for book and paper enthusiasts from across the country.
Over 160 tables and specialty dealers from across the United States will offer vintage, antiquarian and collectible books, magazines and paper items of all kinds for sale. There is something for everyone, including first editions and signed books, children's and illustrated books, regional histories, noir mysteries, newspapers back to the Civil War (and before), original movie posters, WWII posters and sports collectibles galore.
Antique photographs, lithographs along with autographs. Vintage advertising art, framed prints, beautifully-detailed maps and so much more! You'll find things you always wanted but never new existed!

This family-friendly event is sure to be a wonderful experience for the WHOLE family. come for the entire day.

In addition to the countless paper treasures you'll see, guests are encouraged to sit and enjoy the live acoustic music. Lunch is a snap, too! Refreshments (drinks, salads, wraps, pretzels and more) will be available from the Lansing Center's concessions stand.
When: Sunday, October 5th
9:30 AM to 5 PM (Sorry, no early admission)
Where: The Lansing Center,
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
How: Admission is $5.00, children 13 and under enter free
Please note that parking is not included. There are many parking options at and near the Lansing Center.
Be sure to print out the attached admission coupon, and save yourself a dollar!

Check out the virtual Show Guide, provided by the Lansing City Pulse, for a sneak peak.

And in Curious Book Shop News...

Later this month you'll receive a "proper" book shop newsletter, but we thought we oughta mention a few new arrivals: Gorgeous, high-quality Art Books; a trove of Science Fiction; French books galore!; Poetry to please all; general Cook Books to whet your palate; and plenty of General Fiction.

Our sister shop, The Archives, has acquired a large number of beautiful, boxed Folio Society editions in fabulous condition. Many will be available at the big book & paper show, but not all of them. Stop by their cozy shop and peruse their collection!

We're quite excited for the big show. Packing has begun, so please excuse the big gaps on our shelves in the coming days. Also, keep in mind that Curious will CLOSE EARLY this SATURDAY, at 7pm. The shop will be OPEN on Sunday from noon until 5pm, and the shop will be hoppin' with book show fans searching for extra deals. Curious will be CLOSED on Monday the 6th, for a much-deserved and very appreciated Staff Recovery Day. We'll be full of pancakes and back to our regular store hours on Tuesday, the 7th.

Many thanks for your continued support, Book Lover.
We'll see you at the show!

Ray, Audrey and the Curious Gang