Monday, March 28, 2011


You don't have to be a Bible scholar to enjoy "In God's Shadow" (Yarden Books, $19.99) by Lansing author Douglas Gershon Moffat.

The self-published debut novel focuses on 12-year-old B'tzalel, a young boy in Egypt who faces a wide variety of challenges.

It's an unusual coming-of-age novel, retelling the story of Exodus by offering viewpoints of an ordinary group of participants. It follows the Israelites as they leave Egypt after a deadly and overwhelming series of massive plagues and disasters.

Their journey is a difficult one; young B'tzalel, his parents and grandparents, his two sisters and their pet cat join thousands in leaving the servitude of the pharaohs.

B'tzalel had been living a relatively quiet life, apprenticing as a goldsmith since he was 6, working with his father and grandfather.

The youth hates to leave his village and wonders what the Big God has in store. He's not quite sure what to think about Moses, whose leadership raises an assortment of unanswered questions.

Those who are familiar with Exodus in the Bible are likely to be aware of young B'tzalel's important role. Moffat's novel explores his background and how he was able to complete a very important task.

While aimed at a young adult market, adults may enjoy this atmospheric, well-researched novel. Moffat and his son Michael even spent time on camels in the Sinai desert, gaining a more realistic perspective.

Moffat, who has published four other scholarly non-fiction books, is a development officer for MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. For more information, visit

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

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on March 27 2011.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Curious News

The Curious Book Shop and the upcoming Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show have received a flurry of attention from the local press!

The Spartan Online Newsroom recently wrote about Curious, which is one of East Lansing's most celebrated retail landmarks. "A rare survivor in business", by MSU student Kara Venturino-Eyde, offers insight into how Curious has grown over the years, struggles to survive in the current economy, and what makes it such a unique shop. recently featured a great profile on bookdealer Wally Jung. Jung, who specializes in rare and vintage postcards, is one of over seventy dealers exhibiting at the spring show!

The Lansing City Pulse has published an online edition of the show program! It includes an overview of the show, as well as a list of all dealers and tips for first-time and returning visitors.

Join us on Sunday, April 3rd at the Lansing Center (333 E. Michigan Ave.) for the Midwest's LARGEST book and paper show! A limited number of coupons offering $1.00 off admission are available at the Curious Book Shop and The Archives. Show programs are available in this week's issue of the City Pulse, available all over the Lansing area!

For more information about the show please visit our show webpage, our blog post for new show attendees, and stop by the Curious Book Shop for an admission coupon!


Monday, March 21, 2011


Local writers are at the center of attention in a new paperback anthology of prose and poetry.

"Seasons of Life" by Writing at the Ledges (Riley Press. $12.99) includes all new works by members of the Grand Ledge-based writers' group.

It's an invigorating mixture that's full of poetry, reminiscences, ponderings and fiction by 24 talented authors ranging in age from 17 to 88.

This enjoyable collection is arranged seasonally from spring through winter. The cover image by Patrick Reed Designs is sure to attract considerable attention.

Many participants may seem familiar as they were published in "Small Towns: A Map in Words," a collection that came out in 2008.

Randy Pearson, whose humorous novel "Driving Crazy" was released last year, makes four appearances, adding dark touches of irony and humor. "Cricks and Flat Pencils" is a brief essay about growing up in rural DeWitt.

Alta Reed has her own subsection of 20 pages of reminiscences, including many photographs. Local playwright Phil Kline has two quirky pieces; the group's co-founder, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske provides six carefully crafted contributions.

Carolyn Tody's "Music of the Wind" focuses on the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964, with very descriptive imagery of damage and destruction. K.L. Marsh's efforts include nine poems or essays. There are also emotional pieces by Lorraine Hudson, who's written popular children's chapter books under the pseudonym Judith Wade.

Newcomer Abe Khan offers two thought-provoking essays while Jan McCaffrey, author of "Illusions of Murder" provides insights into "Life in a Small Town" and two other selections.

Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the radio broadcaster for the Lansing Lugnuts, showcases five memorable pieces, including "Off Air" a poem that evokes fond memories of Ernie Harwell's broadcasting.

"The Year Santa Got Stuck in My Chimney" is a funny short story by 17-year-old Grand Ledge High School senior Shelby Pontius; Donnalee Pontius proffers two striking poems.

East Lansing resident Alan Dennis Harris appears with a funny short story and two poems; Sunfield author Jeannie Kirchen is represented by five poems and an essay.

Haslett author Carolyn Nye-Shunk and Okemos writer Karen Marie Duquette are among other writers whose works are included.

A brief biographical section denotes the many varied accomplishments of these local, talented authors. For more information, visit website

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

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on March 20, 2011.


Monday, March 14, 2011


Two recent, highly entertaining novels would make great movies - full of interesting characters, unusual locales and riveting action. While one is set during the great depression and the other is set in the near future, both have memorable conclusions.

"The Cyprus House" by Michael Koryta (Little Brown, $24.95) is a distinctive, hard-to categorize tale set in Florida in 1935. It combines a number of different genres, deftly blending supernatural elements in a crime novel with noir touches.

Arlen Wagner and Paul Brickhill are on a train going through Florida, on their way with others to work at a Civilian Conservation Camp.

Wagner, who fought in World War I, has visions of forthcoming death; he convinces Brickhill to join him and leave the train. Soon they get a ride to "The Cyprus House," a Gulf Coast boardinghouse run by beautiful Rebecca Cady, where their troubles intensify.

When you throw in a major hurricane, a nasty sheriff, a crooked judge and additional violence, you've got all the elements for an intriguing tale.

The strong character development is showcased as emotions surge and unexpected situations cause significant stress and tension.

The author of four excellent mysteries and the horror novel "So Cold the River," Koryta masterfully creates a mesmerizing, highly atmospheric novel that's tough to put down, especially the last hundred pages.

Patrick Lee's latest effort, "Ghost Country" (Harper, $7.99) is in the same category, but there's considerably more action and violence.

This is a gripping page-turner that opens with the abduction of Paige Campbell. She's kidnapped after showing the U.S. President an unusual alien artifact that serves as a time portal.

Campbell is out to stop the utter devastation that the device shows her, with Mankind facing utter ruin 73 years from now.

Quick-thinking Travis Chase is recruited to rescue Campbell and is in for a full-throttle adventure; government agents are in pursuit, trying to stop them at any cost.

This is more than a slightly skewered "Stargate" type of tale; it's full of narrow escapes and deadly close calls that could be easily adapted to film.

While "Ghost Country" reads well as a stand-alone novel, it's best to first pick up Lee's paperback debut "The Breach", which introduced Chase, Campbell and the mysterious alien artifacts.

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

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on March 13, 2011.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Lansing author questions ethics of medicine field

Two recent novels focus on hospitals, eccentric doctors and questions of medical ethics. Each feature strong, interesting characters placed in unusual, life-threatening situations.

“Child from the Ashes” by prolific Lansing author J.R. Kesler (CreateSpace, $14.95) offers an intriguing premise that showcases dilemmas facing pediatric resident physician Brian Tanner.

He’s working at a Lansing area hospital, running into challenging confrontations and fighting off the memories of his own experiences as an abused child.

Tanner’s dealing with many emotional issues at the hospital, particularly when dealing with abused children and their angry parents.

His violent temper is hard to control; his vigilante justice to the parents has little success. Kristin Grey, a social worker with secrets of her own, is able to offer assistance, but there’s no easy solution.

Hazel Tanner, the main character’s adoptive mother, is vital to the plot and makes numerous decisions that will positively affect Tanner’s life. She appears in many flashback scenes that Kesler expertly uses to develop the characters.

Readers who enjoy local settings will appreciate the appearance of local landmarks as well as a memorable CATA bus ride. Kesler’s books, including “Trash Baby” and “The Gift”, are available from the author at

"Public Anatomy” by A. Scott Pearson, (Oceanview, $25.95) is the sequel to his award-winning novel “Rupture” which featured Eli Branch, a hard-working Memphis surgeon.

Branch gets a call for help when Liza French, an associate he hasn’t seen in 10 years, gets into big trouble after a botched robotic surgery is webcast. The patient dies, the hospital has major concerns and the media exposure intensifies.

Soon Branch’s life gets more complicated - hospital medical personnel are murdered, with grim anatomical sketches left at the crime scenes. The body count quickly escalates; Branch discovers information that indicates the murderer is using a 16th century anatomical dissection book as a re-enactment guide.

The last half of the novel cranks up the tension, dealing with assorted ethical issues and grim discoveries; the violent conclusion exposes a clever, deadly scheme.

Readers who appreciate stomach-churning, bloody scenes are likely to appreciate Pearson’s writing talents in this medical thriller. Others may wonder why the police can’t put clues together nearly as fast or as well as the diligent doctor.

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

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on March 4, 2011.