Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis & The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

Summer's almost over, but there's still time to catch up on a pair of recent children's books by highly talented Michigan authors.

      "The Mighty Miss Malone", by Newberry Medal Award winning author Christopher Paul Curtis (Wendy Lamb/Random House, $15.99) is a fine, insightful, and carefully crafted book. 

      It is told from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old Dez Malone, growing up during the Depression, who first appeared in Watson's classic 2002 children's novel "Bud, Not Buddy."

      Dez lives in Gary, Indiana with her older brother Jimmie and her parents; she's exceptionally smart but faces many challenges. Her brother is shorter, more likely to get in trouble and has "a voice like an angel."

      The excellent novel is broken up into a series of brief and compelling vignettes, dealing with the assorted adventures of the African American family. 

      The unwary reader should be ready for a roller-coaster ride of emotional scenes that vary from hilarious and poignant to surprising and heartbreaking. 

      There are many intriguing images of the struggle for survival during the 1930's; racism, patriotism, honesty and personal growth are only a few of the subjects covered. 

      The action takes place mostly in Gary and in Flint. As Mr. Malone leaves Gary in an attempt to find work, the other members of the Malone family lose touch and soon follow, taking a memorable train journey. A small, but highly important scene takes place in Lansing.

      Dez notes, "You can tell you are reading a really good book when you forget all about everything else and know you'll die if you don't get to at least the end of the chapter."

      She's a little overly dramatic, but she's right. This book is tough to put down and is a strong candidate for many outstanding literary awards. Curtis, who grew up in Flint, currently resides in Detroit.

      "The Art of Miss Chew" by Union City author Patricia Polacco (Putnam's, $17.95) is a funny, well-illustrated book designed for young readers.

      Patricia has problems with tests at school but can draw amazingly well. A teacher notices and encourages her to go to Miss Chew, who's teaching a special high school art class.

      A substitute teacher intervenes and wants Patricia to quit; the talented artist is learning quickly and doesn't want to stop.

      Based on her own life experiences, Polacco's book is highly entertaining and inspirational. It's ideal for libraries or children whose goals seem out of reach.

      Polacco, who has created over 50 picture books, was born in Lansing, and grew up in Williamston.

      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 Sunday, August 27, 2012.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Ray's Book Review: Discretion by Allison Leotta, Guilt by Degrees by Marsha Clark, Guilt by Association by Marsha Clark, Slip and Fall by Nick Santora

MSU Grad Pens Second 'Anna Curtis' Crime Novel

Clever prosecutors and sneaky lawyers abound in four well-written and entertaining crime novels.

The best of the bunch is "Discretion" by Michigan State University graduate Allison Leotta (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $25). It again features diligent Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis, who debuted in Leotta's highly praised 2010 novel "Laws of Attraction."

Curtis gets involved in a high-profile case when beautiful, young Caroline McBride falls to her death from a congressman's balconey.

McBride was one of Washington D.C.'s highest-priced escorts; the congressman is in the middle of a re-election campaign and doesn't want bad publicity.

As Curtis investigates, she discovers a variety of information about Discretion, the escort service that employed McBride. Curtis has other problems - the chief homicide prosecutor is her lover.

Leotta has produced a nifty, taut, tense crime novel that provides solid escapism - or great beach reading.

"Guilty by Degrees" by Marsha Clark (Mulholland Books, $25.99) is the second in her acclaimed series starring Rachael Knight, Los Angeles special trials deputy district attorney.

Knight takes on an unusual case involving the murder of an unknown homeless man, which may have wide-ranging repercussions.

She gets help from her best friends, detective Bailey Keller and attorney Toni LaCollier. They discover that this murder may have links to the brutal killing of a hardworking LAPD cop two years earlier.

"Guilt by Association" by Marsha Clark (Mulholland Books, $14.99), now out in trade paperback, introduced Knight as a determined investigator who was looking into the death of an associate.

It's also a well-plotted tale of violence and death, with an unexpected and surprising conclusion.

Clark was the lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson murder case and co-wrote "Without a Doubt" about the trial.

"Slip and Fall" by Nick Santora, (Mulholland Books, $13.99) is a trade paperback by a writer/producer for television shows like "The Sopranos" and "Prison Break."

It showcases Robert Principe, a struggling attorney who gets involved with the Mob in a major insurance scam. When the FBI investigates, Principe is in the hot seat; thee's no easy way out.

Santora puts his writing experience to good use; his solid debut features lots of nasty characters, tough situations, significant violence and emotional challenges.

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

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, August 5, 2012.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 2012 Curious Book Shop "Curiosities" Newsletter

August 2012 Curiosities Newsletter - Curious Book Shop

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year,
like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.
The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring,
and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.
It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone.   

Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Greetings, Curious Book Shop Lover!

Come in to the book shop, cool down in our air conditioning and get lost for a while in these dog days of summer.

Throughout August, visit Curious and SAVE 30% on items from these sections:

TV-related Books and Magazines
Mystery Paperbacks and Hardcovers


Camping, Exploration and Adventure

Foreign Languages (Including Greek and Latin)
Essays & Memoirs

And, as a special bonus:

20% OFF ALL VINTAGE MOVIE POSTERS until August 15th.

Curious offers a 1/2 hour of FREE PARKING VALIDATION for all City of East Lansing lots and structures!

New Acquisitions:

We've recently restocked our poetry, Michigan history, science fiction & fantasy, literary criticism and foreign language sections with plenty of great new books.

Also new to the shop are dozens of beautifully illustrated children's books and great young adult novels.

Shop News & Gossip:

Talk about a time warp!

Stop in soon and take a look at some of the curious things we've come across recently.

Our walls are newly bedecked with vintage items from the Olympic Games - some dating back to 1896.

Also on display are collectable items from the last 100 years of the Boy Scouts of America,
including Norman Rockwell prints, Jamboree Journals from the early 1900s and other ephemera.

July was a whirlwind month at Curious, bringing some fascinating items (and people!) into the shop.

We were thrilled by a visit from bestselling mystery writer James Rollins,
who kindly hung out signed books on his way through town.

Check out Ray's LSJ review of Bloodline:

 "'Bloodline' features strong woman characters,
intriguing interaction, cutting-edge science
and seemingly endless nerve-wracking scenes teeming with violence."

We have a limited number of SIGNED first edition copies of Rollins's latest book, Bloodline.
Call the shop to reserve yours, today.

We look forward to seeing some friendly faces this month.
as thousands of MSU students - new and old - settle into East Lansing.

Here at Curious we're restocking the shelves with some of your favorite titles.
What great books have you read, this summer?
What new titles would you like to find on our shelves?
"Townies" take note:
MSU campus move-in starts around August 24th. Classes being August 29th.
Ray's book buying hours will be limited in the coming weeks.
Please call ahead before bringing in books to sell or trade!  (517) 332 - 0112

Upcoming Local & Literary Events:

Pulpfest 2012 is August 9 - 12th in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
It's one of the biggest and best pulp conventions in the world, and Curious will be exhibiting,
with lots of original art, pulp magazines and related books.
Find out more about the show and collectable pulps: http://www.pulpfest.com/

The Great Lakes Folk Festival is August 10 - 12
th, in downtown East Lansing!
Enjoy this fabulous mixture of diverse music, art, food and people
that explores cultural heritage and traditional arts from around the world.
Find out more: http://www.greatlakesfolkfest.net/glff2012/

The 51st Chicago Book & Paper Fair is Saturday, August 18.
Curious will be there, so please stop by and say hello!
Find out more: http://www.mwaba.com/calendar.html

The Kerrytown Bookfest is Sunday, September 9 in Ann Arbor.
This literary festival is fun for the whole family, and features
authors, bookbinders, publishers, booksellers, librarians and more.
Find out more: http://www.kerrytownbookfest.org/

And don't forget...
The 56th Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show
is coming to Lansing on Sunday, October 7th!
Find kindred spirits at this gathering of book and paper lovers
and browse through over one million items from the past few centuries.

There is a limited amount of dealer space available.

Find out more by visiting or calling Curious!

Show webpage: http://www.curiousbooks.com/shows.html

Literary Birthdays:

Aug 1: Herman Melville
Aug 2: James Baldwin, Isabel Allende
Aug 3: P.D. James, Leon Uris, Diane Wakoski
Aug 4: Percy Blythe Shelley, William Henry Hudson
Aug 5: Guy de Maupassant
Aug 6: Janet Asimov, Piers Anthony, Alfred Lord Tennyson
Aug 7: Robert Blake, Garrison Keillor, Ann Beattie
Aug 8: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Aug 9: Philip Larkin, Jonathan Kellerman, John Dryden
Aug 11: Alex Haley, Enid Blyton
Aug 12: Edith Hamilton
Aug 14: John Galsworthy, Ernest Seton
Aug 15: Sir Walter Scott, Edna Ferber, Stieg Larsson
Aug 16: Emily Bronte, Georgette Heyer, Charles Bukowski
Aug 17: Marcus Garvey, John Hawkes, Ted Hughes, V.S. Naipaul
Aug 19: Edith Nesbit, Odgen Nash, Ring Lardner
Aug 20: Edgar A. Guest, H.P. Lovecraft
Aug 21: Christopher Robin Milne
Aug 22: Ray Bradbury, Dorothy Parker, Annie Proulx
Aug 23: Edgar Lee Masters
Aug 24: Jorge Luis Borges, Malcolm Cowley, A.S. Byatt
Aug 25: Bret Harte
Aug 26: John Buchan
Aug 27: Theodore Dreiser, C.S. Forester, Antonia Fraser
Aug 28: Leo Tolstoy
Aug 29: Oliver Wendell Holmes
Aug 30: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Aug 31: William Saroyan, Theophile Gautier

As always, we thank you for your continued support of our independent East Lansing book shop!

Many thanks, and we hope to see you soon!

Ray, Audrey and the Curious Gang


Curious Books

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


If you would like to be added to our monthly email newsletter, please email us at curiousbooks@gmail.com