Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky House Tale Set in State

“Spirits and Wine” by MSU graduate Susan Newhof (University of Michigan Press, $24) is a spooky, unusual book that’s hard to simply classify.

It’s a ghost story, a mystery, a tale of personal growth and more. It showcases John and Anna, a recently married couple, who buy an old farmhouse in Carlston, a small, fictional Western Michigan lakeshore town.

The old house is charming but needs considerable work; that’s only part of the problem. While the couple is initially skeptical, they soon discover that there are unseen, disquieting spirits in the house.

John is in the wine business, which requires him to fly off to service accounts on a regular basis. Anna busies herself with the house restoration, but she is strangely attracted to gardening, which hadn’t interested her before.

She can’t recall her actions for periods of time and has other challenges; John becomes more frustrated as they try to figure out what’s going on.

Their investigation into the past occupants of the house turns up unnerving information. During the Spanish flu influenza of 1918-19, the owners of the house died, but there are still many questions about the younger children in the family.

Anna falls seriously ill; they worry about the spirit’s possessiveness and get unexpected help from a Grand Rapids cafĂ© owner.

The plot gets more convoluted from there, but Newhof spins a highly entertaining tale, told in tandem viewpoints of Anna and John.

In a search for more information, the couple issues a press release; a resulting outstate journey raises other concerns which may change their lives forever.

Newhof notes in a press interview that the intriguing novel took 13 years for her to write. It started when she and her husband bought an old farmhouse in Montague MI. She states “Many of the things that happened in this story are based on events that happened in our lives and based on things that happened in the house.”

While “Spirits and Wine” is only 168 pages long, it is a carefully crafted, compelling tale filled with strong-willed characters and a satisfying conclusion.

This is the first novel for Newhof, the author of the popular guide series “Michigan’s Town and Country Inns”, but she is working on another.

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

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on October 30, 2011.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


Janet Hicks Ronk has seen a lot of changes in East Lansing since she grew up on South Harrison  Road.  It's hard to imagine the now-bustling thoroughfare as a one-track gravel road.

Her grandfather, Stephen Henry Hicks, and his family, originally from St. Johns, bought 160 acres of farmland on Harrison Road in 1911. They proceeded to move from their large home, 30 miles away, to East Lansing, described as "only a collection of little houses right around the corner of Harrison Road and Michigan Avenue."

The Hicks family slowly developed the land, creating the "Flower Pot" area out of their newly named Lilac Lawn Farm.

Ronk, an MSU alumna and a retired faculty emeritus, has written "A History of the Red Cedar Neighborhood in East Lansing, MI," now available in a second printing of a limited edition.

The attractively designed 72-page booklet is filled with fascinating insights and numerous family photos, including images of many early houses that were built as the development grew.

She provides detailed recollections of family members that vividly describe the challenges faced by moving by horse-drawn sleigh into rural East Lansing in the middle of winter.

At the time, Ronks' grandfather noted: "There was a little aggie school not far away with about 700 students, but no one thought much about it."

That school, then known as Michigan Agricultural College, later became Michigan State University.
The family grew and prospered, getting involved in the dairy business and creating apple cider. The Hicks family named the neighborhood streets after flowers; they were actively involved in constructing more than 60 homes in the subdivision.

The insights into the growth of the area include obscure historical tidbits, such as the fact that MSU's Brody dormitory complex originally was the location of the East Lansing dump.

You can get the book for $12.95 postpaid by writing to Books, Box 6400, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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

This review originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, October 23, 2011.



Two recent mysteries feature diligent Michigan journalists trying to solve puzzling crimes.

"Juror 55" by Shepherd author Chris Zimmerman (Joker's Conundrum, $17) again showcases Alma newspaper reporter Derrick Twitchell.

He witnesses the kidnapping of Congressman Floyd Capp from a Town Hall meeting. Capp had voted for a controversial health care bill; angry constituents were there to relay their displeasure.

After the kidnappers get away, Capp is murdered, and Martin Yandle, leader of an ultra-right wing religious group, is sought as the killer.
Weeks later, Twitchell stops a deadly attempt by Yandle at an Amish schoolhouse. The reporter gets help from psychologist James Ong while his wife tries to infiltrate the religious group.

The trial in Flint involving the murder case causes serious complications. An Amish juror provides unexpected challenges for Twitchell and Ong as another major crime develops.

"Dead Dogs and Englishmen" by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli (Midnight Ink, $14.95) is the fourth in her paperback series starring Emily Kincaid, a part-time journalist in the small northern Michigan town of Leetsville.

As usual, Kincaid gets into trouble, this time when local deputy Dolly Wakowski takes her to the site where the brutally slain body of a woman has been discovered at an abandoned farmhouse.

The corpse of a dog is also found there; further investigation reveals that bodies of dead dogs have been thrown into the yards of Mexican migrant farm workers.

Kincaid's ex-husband is back on the scene; he provides her with an unusual job offer from Cecil Hawke, an eccentric, wealthy Englishman.

Hawke wants her to edit his manuscript; Kincaid takes the job, only to discover a much darker side of the hopeful author. When another murder occurs, Kincaid and Wakowski are drawn deeper into the case, with deadly results.

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


Wednesday, October 19, 2011


For 42 YEARS the Curious Book Shop 
has happily served the 
East Lansing / Lansing / MSU / LCC community.

Stop by the shop this week 
(Oct. 19 - Oct. 25) 
to take advantage of our 
anniversary sale:
All used books and magazines
priced $42.00 and less 
are an astounding 
42% OFF!
All other items are
20% OFF!

This offer is not valid on online sales.

Thank you, to all of our loyal customers.
Here's to the wonderful, book-filled years to come!

Ray Walsh, founder and owner of the Curious Book Shop,
at the 54th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October Curiosities Newsletter

Hello, from the Curious Book Shop!

You're one of the first to know about our big October Sale:

30% OFF Horror, Humor, Health & Hunting
What do the the Dictionary, the Bible,
the Harry Potter books and The Shining have in common?

They're all banned books!

Come celebrate National Book Month and
Banned Book Week at the Curious Book Shop.
There are dozens banned books on display,
along with information about when, where and why they were banned.

Shop News:
New acquisitions include beautiful art and art history books;
many cookbooks; childrens books; history books about ancient Egypt,
Greece, Rome and medieval societies; MSU Football programs (1960s - 1990s);
 a fascinating collection of conspiracy theory texts and new age books;
books about Wilhelm Reich, Freud and Jung; and titles by your favorite
bestselling authors of yesterday and today!

Other new items include vintage issues of Western Horseman,
Cycle (a magazine all about motorcycles), Gleanings in Bee Culture
(bee keeping magazine from the 1930s - 1960s), Southwest Art
and the new issue of Locus, our favorite science fiction & fantasy magazine!

Do you want to be the FIRST to know when something unusual comes into the shop?
We are, admittedly, a bit behind the technological times... but we're on Facebook!
Follow us and watch for new acquisitions, posted almost every day.

Did you attended last month's 54th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show?
Tell us about your experience!
What were you hoping to find?
What items interested you the most? 
We value your opinions and strive to make each show better than the last.

Mark your Calendar: The 55th show will be held on Sunday, April 1st, 2012!

More Local Upcoming Events:
MSU vs UofM The big game is this weekend,
which means parking will be at a premium.
Kickoff is at noon, at Spartan Stadium.
We've restocked our classic MSU football programs,
so stop in and take a walk down memory lane, or
fill in the gaps in your collection.

MSU Homecoming is October 21st and 22nd!
Join us along Grand River Ave. on Friday the 21st for the
annual MSU Homecoming parade, which begins at 6 p.m.
Keep in mind that parking may be quite difficult.

Enjoy beautiful downtown East Lansing before the big
football game (vs. Wisconson, 8 p.m. kickoff).
Be sure to stop in and say hello!

Halloween / Pumpkin Walk at CuriousBring the whole family for one of our favorite nights - the Pumpkin Walk!
Join us on Thursday, Oct. 27th between 5 and 7 p.m. to stock up
on tasty candy, coupons and great books for kids and adults.
This is a wonderful community event that regularly brings
over 1,000 children and parents into our shop.

Our staff will be dressed in literary-related costumes,
so be sure to try and guess which book or character we're celebrating!
Safe Halloween webpage

Classicon 40:
A Collectable Paperback, Pulp, Comic and Glamour Art Show
is coming to Lansing on Saturday, November 12, 2011!
Admission: $3.00. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the
University Quality Inn (near Frandor Shopping Center).

Thousands of collectable pulp magazines, comics, digests and
paperbacks will be available for sale or trade, as well as original
art pieces, calendars, pin-up art and many more unusual items.

Interesting in exhibiting? Contact Ray at

October's Literary Birthdays:
Tim O'Brien (Oct. 1), Wallace Stevens (Oct. 2), Mahatma Gandhi (Oct. 2),
Graham Greene (Oct. 2), Mikhail Lermontov (Oct. 3), Thomas Wolfe (Oct. 3),
James Herriot (Oct. 3), Gore Vidal (Oct. 3), Kazauki Takahashi (Oct. 4),
Anne Rice (Oct. 4), Edward Stratemeyer (Oct. 4), Denis Diderot (Oct. 5),
Frank Herbert (Oct. 8), R.L. Stine (Oct. 8), Elmore Leonard (Oct. 11),
Conrad Richter (Oct. 13), Katherine Mansfield (Oct. 14), e. e. cummings (Oct. 14),
Virgil (Oct. 15), John Kenneth Galbraith (Oct 15.), Arthur Schlesinger (Oct. 15),
Mario Puzo (Oct. 15), Gunter Grass (Oct. 16), Oscar Wilde (Oct. 16),
Noah Webster (Oct. 16), Arthur Miller (Oct. 17), Wendy Wasserstein (Oct. 18),
John Le Carre (Oct. 19), Ursula K. LeGuin (Oct. 21), Doris Lessing (Oct. 22),
Michael Crichton (Oct. 23), Anne Tyler (Oct. 25), Pat Conroy (Oct. 26),
Dylan Thomas (Oct. 27), Sylvia Plath (Oct. 27), Ivan Turgenev (Oct. 28),
John Locke (Oct. 28), Ezra Pound (Oct. 30), Fjodor Dostoevsky (Oct. 30),
John Keats (Oct. 31), Dick Francis (Oct. 31).

If there's a specific book you're looking for, please let us know!
We'd be happy to keep your request on file, or perform a special order.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the Curious Book Shop.
What do you think of this month's newsletter? We'd love to know your opinions!

Many thanks from Ray, Audrey, Mark and the rest of the Curious Gang

Curious Books
307 East Grand River
East Lansing, MI  48823
(517) 332-0112


Sunday, October 9, 2011


"Medieval Murders," by Michigan author Aaron Stander (Writers & Editors, $15.95), is the fifth book in his popular series starring Cedar County sheriff Ray Elkins.

This time out, Stander shows Elkins in a different light, exploring a puzzling case that occurred before the dedicated lawman took his job in Northern Michigan.

This prequel to the series begins with Elkins serving as acting director of university police at a major Michigan college.

He's got five days left on the job. He's looking forward to going back to teaching again and returning to his position as chair of the criminal justice department.

Instead, Elkins is called to a crime scene on campus, where the body of medieval studies specialist Sheila Bensen is discovered after falling from the top of the carillon tower.

As an ex-cop in Detroit, Elkins has experience at crime scenes; he decides to dig deeper into the suspicious death.

Elkins gets assistance from Charlene Pascoe, Head of Investigations, a talented former student who has been recruited back to the department.

Further complications arise when a second medievalist dies on campus. The action intensifies more towards the end of the book, when the body of a third department member is discovered.

This is a well-crafted, cerebral police procedural that should easily satisfy fans who've enjoyed reading about Elkins in other books.

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

This review appeared in the Lansing State Journal on October, 9 2011.