Monday, November 21, 2011

Grisham, Levine Both Score With New Novels

Sleazy lawyers abound in a pair of highly entertaining new novels. With many courtroom shenanigans and unexpected plot twists, these fast-paced tales are likely to keep you up reading all night, rooting for the underdog.

“The Litigators”, by best-selling author John Grisham, (Doubleday, $28.95) is his best book in a few years.

Grisham, the masterful storyteller well known for his excellent legal thrillers, doesn’t disappoint his loyal fans as adds a bit more humor, introducing ambulance-chasing attorneys Oscar Finley and Wally Figg.

The lower level attorneys have been together for over 20 years, operating out of a seedy Chicago office, specializing in quickie divorces and DUI’s.

David Zinc is a smart, young, burned-out attorney who’s tired of 100-hour weeks. He impulsively decides to quit his job at a prestigious law firm, ending up drunk at Finley and Figg’s office.

As unlikely as it seems, he joins the lawyers and soon becomes involved in a class action suit against a major pharmaceutical company.

That’s where the fun begins, as the attorneys try to get statements from people whose family members have either died or been harmed by Krayoxx, a popular cholesterol-reducing drug with possible deadly side effects.

Sleaziness is not limited to the Finley and Figg firm; other attorneys around the country jump on the bandwagon and the huge pharmaceutical firm has its own unscrupulous tactics. Grisham is in fine form with strong, likable characters, lots of courtroom action and a satisfying conclusion.

“Lassiter” by award-winning author Paul Levine (Bantam, $25) marks the gritty return of Jack Lassiter, a former football player who’s earned a reputation as a tough lawyer in Miami’s low rent district.

Beautiful Amy Larkin hires Lassiter to investigate the disappearance of her sister Kristi, eighteen years earlier at a party at a local porn producer’s mansion.

Runaway, underage Kristi had starred in some films, but has vanished; Lassiter was peripherally involved and vows to make amends.

The quirky case gets more complicated when Amy is accused murdering a mobster; the porn producer, now a philanthropist, is trying to stay out of the picture and a dedicated State Attorney is out for blood.

While it’s been 14 years since the last Lassiter novel, Levine, the author of the excellent Solomon/Lord series definitely hasn’t lost his touch.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop,
had reviewed crime novels regularly since 1987.

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


Monday, November 14, 2011

New Books from Michigan Authors

Here’s a quick look at some interesting books with a Michigan connection that came out earlier this year.

“The Color of Night: by L.C. Timmerman and John H. Timmerman (New Horizon Press $24.95) is a compelling true crime account of the struggle for justice in the murder case of 19-year-old Rachael Timmerman and the disappearance of Shannon, her 3-month-old daughter in Newaygo County.

The fascinating, gritty, highly detailed book opens with the 1997 discovery of Rachel’s body, duct-taped, handcuffed and chained to a cement block, in Oxford Lake.

She and her daughter had disappeared two days before she was to testify against Marvin Gabrion, who she had accused of attacking and raping her. The FBI is called in; eventually he is captured in a small New York town and is a suspect in other murders.

There are many more complications in the case; ironically, the 6th Court of Appeals recently overturned the death sentence on a technicality.

This well-researched book includes courtroom testimony as well as personal insights. It’s co-written by her father, who lives outside of Cedar Springs and her uncle, a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

“As Life Goes On” by Lansing author Larry Webb (CreateSpace $14.99) is an intriguing tale about Jeremy, a teen-ager whose best friend Scott is killed in a hit-and-run accident.

Jeremy goes to the cemetery, finding Scott and Jeremy’s long-dead dog Mooshy as ghosts, sitting on a mound of dirt.

It gets stranger from there, as the trio tries to unearth what really happened in the moments before Scott’s death.

The helpful spirits discover useful information; soon they assist Jeremy in a search for a missing classmate. Although they face numerous challenges, they are successful – in a way, opening the door for another paperback in the series, “Life Moves On”.

“In Which Brief Stories Are Told” by award-winning poet Phillip Sterling, (Wayne State, $18.95) is a slim, unusual collection of 15 short stories, some only two pages long.

These carefully crafted tales by Sterling are often enigmatic, offering quick slice-of-life glimpses of emotional situations.

It’s akin to reaching your hand into a large glass jar filled with razor blades, marbles and honey - you never know where Sterling’s literate tales will take you. Sterling teaches writing and literature at Ferris State University in Big Rapids.

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

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


Sunday, November 6, 2011


"Barn Stories" by Morrice author Larry Neitzert (LWN Press, $14.95) is an amazingly good collection of 14 mesmerizing short stories by one of Michigan's most talented writers.

Neitzert, who gained acclaim with his excellent debut novel, "Maggie's Farm," last year, has self-published an exceptionally entertaining paperback anthology that smoothly delves into a variety of human emotions.

While the central action takes place inside an assortment of Michigan barns, Neitzert covers a lot of territory, beginning with "A Blue Uniform for Jonathon" a thought-provoking story set during the Civil War.

Neitzert's next tale deals with an unusual discovery by four boys in a pile of rubbish on a creek bank. Their journey to the barn and the ultimate resolution is both realistic and hilarious.

"Painted Barn" is similar, dealing with two farmers' wives, their strong beliefs and frustrations; the surprising ending certainly is unexpected.

Other stories offer sobering viewpoints from the wives of farmers or their children, examining the changing role that agriculture or livestock production is having in today's economy.

In the haylofts and in the barns, Neitzert showcases his masterful storytelling talents when dealing with aging, proud farmers who face considerable challenges.

"Retirement for Louise" focuses on a woman who wants to escape the farm life; her stubborn husband has other ideas. Another story deals with rural racism; others explore many generational differences and similarities.

"What to Do With Uncle Paul" is an emotional short story about an elderly relative who grew up on his sister's farm and has problems adjusting when the farm must be sold.

Neitzert's short stories are best absorbed a little at a time. It's almost like taking literary vitamins: one a day should make you feel much better.

The author is an MSU graduate who grew up on a farm in Coldwater and was a classroom teacher and athletic coach for 31 years. He is an adjunct instructor at Baker College of Owosso in social studies, where he teaches history.

Copies of the book can be ordered for $17.95 postpaid from the author at Larry Neitzert, P.O. Box 251, Morrice, MI 48857.

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

This review was originally published in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 6th, 2011.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Curiosities Newsletter for November 2011

Greetings, Curious Readers!

Isn't it about time you brushed up on your American History?

During the month of November, the following sections are 30% OFF:
American History
World History
Rock & Roll Books

New Acquisitions at Curious include a set of Ellery Queen's best mysteries, attractively bound; vintage football programs for Michigan State and University of Michigan spanning from the 1950s to the 1980s; dozens of manga graphic novels; plenty of general fiction bestsellers; hardcover and paperback novels by Terry Pratchett; many religious books; 3 companion sets of Great Books, to be purchased together; paperback series fiction for children, including Michigan Chillers, Barbie, Magic Tree House, Choose Your Own Adventure, American Girl and more!
We have also acquired numerious bestselling paperback and hardcover books by authors including Jonathan Franzen, Stephen King, Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, D.H. Lawrence, Rebecca West, Margaret Mitchell, Robert Jordan, James Michener and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; a wide variety of Paranormal Romance novels (located on our main floor and in the basement); signed copies of A History of the Red Cedar Neighborhood by Janet L. Hicks Ronk; books about various religions; and many nicely illustrated children's books, perfect to give as gifts to young readers!

Shop News:

Many thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate our 42nd anniversary, last month.
We would LOVE to know of your fond memories and favorite books from Curious.
Please post them on our Facebook page!
Ray will be reviewing Barn Stories: A Collection of Michigan Short Stories
by Michigan author Larry Neitzert! Watch for the review in this Sunday's
edition of the Lansing State Journal, or on our blog!
Neitzert will be signing copies of of his latest work at Everybody Reads
( 2019 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing, Mi 48912)
on Wednesday, Nov. 9th, from 7 until 9 pm.

Join us at the University Quality Inn on
November 12, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
(3121 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing, MI)
Admission: $3.00
At Classicon you will find thousands of collectable Pulp Magazines,
Digests, Comics and Paperbacks availbable for sale or trade!
Other items of interest include Calendars, Pinups and Glamour Art;
Original Paperback Artwork from the 1950s and 1960s; Mysteries;
Detective Stories; Westerns; Romance; Science Fiction and other
Classics from the 1920s - 1960s!
For more information, please contact the Curious Book Shop.

Shop and Save on GREEN FRIDAY at the Curious Book Shop!
Downtown East Lansing businesses will take part in this big sale day
on Friday, December 2nd, offering stellar discounts on all sorts of
wonderful gift items. EVERYTHING will be at least 25% OFF at Curious!

Did you stop by Curious during the Pumpkin Walk?
We had an estimated 1200 kids (plus parents!) visit the shop last Thursday,
and saw some extra-cool literary themed costumes, including Laura Ingalls Wilder,
Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Winnie the Pooh,
Olivia the Pig, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.

Community Happenings:
The Spartans play Minnesota on Saturday, November 5th.
This is a home game, and it begins at noon.
Remember, downtown parking is at a premium on football Saturdays!

The Spartans play their final home game against Indiana
on Saturday, November 19th. Go Green! Go White!
Scene Metrospace (110 Charles St., East Lansing)
presents Bedlam, a "visual exploration" by local photographer
Robert Turney, depicting 19th century mental patients and institutions.
This show runs from Nov. 4th until Dec. 11th.
The East Lansing Film Festival is November 9 - 17!
Tickets and schedule information is available at,
or by calling (517) 993 - 5444.
We will be open on Sundays, from noon until 5 pm,
and there is free parking in East Lansing's city parking lots!
Literary Happenings through History for November:

Ivan Turgenev, born Nov. 9 1818. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. born Nov. 11, 1922.
Herman Melville's Moby Dick first published by Harper and Brothers in
New York on Nov. 14, 1981. Sylvia Beach opened her Parisian book shop,
Shakespeare & Co
., on Nov. 17, 1919. George Eliot born Nov. 22, 1811.
Ray Walsh
, owner and founder of Curious Book Shop, celebrates his
birthday Nov. 25th! Lewis Carroll gave his handwritten manuscript,
Alice's Adventures Underground, to Alice Liddell as an early
Christmas gift on Nov. 26, 1864. John Donne, born Nov. 27 1573.
C.S. Lewis
born Nov. 29, 1898. Oscar Wilde died in Paris, Nov. 30, 1900.

As the holiday season approaches, please consider shopping for gifts at Curious,
You'll find unique, beautiful gift-quality and rare books at affordable prices.
Call or email to set up an appointment with Audrey, our gift-giving guru.
She can help you find just the right item for that special someone - or for yourself!
Hours of Operation:
Monday - Saturday, 10 am - 8 pm
Sundays, Noon - 5 pm

As always, we thank you for supporting a local, independently owned book shop!
 - Ray, Mark, Audrey and the rest of the Curious Gang


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