Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Razing the Dead by Sheila Connolly

"Razing the Dead" by Sheila Connolly (Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99) is the latest in her popular cozy mystery series showcasing Nell Pratt.

As President of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia, Nell has gotten into considerable trouble while solving difficult cases in four earlier books.

She gets involved in another challenging case when a major local developer hires her. Mitchell Wakeman has bought a large dairy farm outside of Philadelphia that has been in the Garrett family for centuries.

Wakeman wants to be sure that there are no problems with this purchase, as occurred nearby, where the dumped bodies of Irish immigrant railroad workers were discovered.

Pratt and Lisa Penrose, a new employee, go out with Wakeman to take a look at the property; they discover a dead body floating in a pond.

The corpse is identified as George Bowen, who worked for the local township in charge of land usage and zoning. The case gets more complicated when more bodies are discovered, possibly dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Pratt's boyfriend, FBI agent James Morrison, is called in on the case; he's still recovering from wounds he received in an earlier book, "Monument to the Dead."

While much of the book is devoted to the investigation, there's also significant attention paid to the growing relationship between Pratt and Morrison, which has turned a lot more serious.

Although the setting of this novel is not in a small town, it still falls into the "cozy" category of mysteries. It qualifies because it delves into aspects of small organization, with many atmospheric tones.

Suspects abound - as Pratt and Morrison dig deeper, they discover other intriguing aspects of the case, with deadly results.

While ending is merely satisfactory, there's plenty of room for future development in the series. For fullest employment, it would probably be best to read this series in order.

Connolly's characters are carefully crafted and believable. She's also the author of two other cozy series. "The Orchard Mysteries" and "The County Cork Mysteries", (set in Ireland).

If you like reading cozy mysteries, you might also want to try out any of a half dozen new paperback books released this month by the same publisher, Berkley Prime Crime.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has been reviewing 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 June 22, 2014.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Rafeeq O. McGiveron's Student Body (Takes place at MSU!)

"Student Body" by Rafeeq O. McGiveron (CreateSpace, $19.95) is an unusual novel that is set mostly on the campus of Michigan State University in the late 1990's.

The 421-page trade paperback focuses on an exceptionally trying week-and-a-half in the life of young Rick O'Donnell, a well-respected teaching assistant in the English Department at the university.

Set in the late 1990's, a lot of the action takes place at old Morrill Hall, where Rick and other teaching assistants have their offices.

Rick is happy at his work in the department, but trouble looms. His supercilious supervisor, Professor Koryzwick has raised questions about a grade that had been changed for one of Rick's former students, Lauren Delanier.

She is now a fellow teaching assistant in the department, but Rick must now prove that it was a simple clerical error.

This is tougher than Rick expects; there are considerably more complications. He had a very passionate affair with beautiful dark-haired Lauren, but after the term was over. If this is discovered, Rick may lose his job at the university.

Rick is married to Anna; they have three children,including a recent pair of twins. He's stopped his relationship with Lauren, but is sure that his marriage would also be ruined if the affair was discovered.

Most of the book is devoted to the relationship between Rick and Lauren, full of vivid descriptions of encounters and liaisons between the pair of young lovers.

McGiveron explores the sensuality of the situations in great detail. Although explicit flashback situations abound, they are smoothly presented in a carefully crafted manner.

While long paragraphs slow the flow of this emotional book, the unexpected conclusion is both believable and satisfying.

McGiveron, who graduated with a bachelor's and master's degree form M.S.U., deftly captures the attitudes and atmosphere of the times.

The author, who is an academic advisor at Lansing Community College, has also written numerous articles related to science fiction, especially the many novels and short stories by noted writer Robert A. Heinlein.

McGiveron was the editor of a book published last year by Salen Press, "Critical Insights: Fahrenheit 451", dealing with the famous Ray Bradbury work.

For more information or to order a copy of the book, visit

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has been reviewing 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 June 15, 2014.


Curious Book Shop's Newsletter for June 2014

Greetings from Curious!

It's nearly summer, and we're rolling out the deals...

June Sale - 30% OFF...
General Fiction (Paperbacks & Hardcovers!)
General Music
New Acquisitions:

It's been a busy few weeks at Curious, and we've added many treasures, new and antique, to our ever-changing selection...

English translations of Nordic, Swiss, Flemish, Danish and other centuries-old European stories; Issues of the Journal of Asian Studies (more coming!); Mythology & Folklore; Collections of American and European Folk Songs, Ballads and Drinking Songs

Also New: Theatre (lots added to Clearance, too!); Painting and Drawing How-To Guides; Silver Age Comics (mostly DC); Cookbooks; Gardening Guides; American History; Political Science; Philosophy; Stephen King books; Memoirs and Essays

We have obscure Bukowski titles in the New Books section, as well as current Bestsellers. New in stock is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, soon to be a major TV series! Also worth mentioning are new and popular books by Brandon Sanderson, George Saunders, John Green, George R.R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling and more!

Shop Gossip:

It's been a strange month at Curious - a mix of long, slow periods and chaotically busy weekends. Be a Tourist in Your Hometown and the East Lansing Art Festival brought droves of booklovers to our shop.

We've also welcomed the first wave of students freed from the drudgery of the school year. They're stocking up on classic and new science fiction, fantasy and dystopian novels. Beach reads are also a favorite, though the water's still a bit cold up north.

We're gearing up for summer, and for CLASSICON 45!

Local Literary Events:

CLASSICON 45 comes to Lansing on Saturday, June 28th. Classicon is Lansing's PREMIER convention for lovers of comicspulpsglamour art and other 20th-century literary collectables. Specialties include vintage mystery and detective stories, science fiction, aviation, romance, westerns, and classics from the 20s - 60s.
For more information you can contact Curious Book Shop, 517-332-0112. Admission is $3.00. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

University Quality Inn, 3121 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing ( just off US 127 at exit 78, near Frandor) For more information you can contact Curious Book Shop, 517-332-0112.

Great Lakes Postcard & Paper Expo
Presented by the West Michigan Postcard Club
Saturday July 19, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. in Wyoming, MI
Featuring postcards, trade cards, photographs, maps, ephemera, local history and more! 
More Info: Wally Jung (517) 230-0734

PULPFEST 2014 / FarmerCon IX
August 7 - 10 at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio
'Celebrating Science Fiction's Golden Year of 1939 and 75 Years of Fantastic Fiction'
Pulpfest is a neat event for pop-culture fans, and a great chance to shop around and network. Ray will be there, so stop by the Curious booth and say 'Hello!"

Photographica Show & Sale
Sunday, October 19 at the Royal Oak Elks Lodge
2401 E. Fourth Street.
Hosted by the Michigan Photographic Historical Society, this event features vintage cameras, photographs, postcards, ephemera, and photography specialists ready to answer your questions.

Postcard and Paper Shows by Wally Jung
Wally Jung, local postcard specialist, is hitting the road this summer! Don't miss your chance to see some amazing items at a show near you: Frankenmuth (June 29), Toledo (August 3), Traverse City (August 10), Lansing(August 23), Metro Detroit / Troy (November 16)
More Info: (517) 230-0734 or

And of course...
The 60th Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show
returns to Lansing on Sunday, October 5th.
Mark your calendar! You won't want to miss the MIDWEST'S LARGEST show of its kind, featuring over 180 tables of first editions, children's books, Michigan history, military history, autographs, ephemera, photographs, art, postcards, vintage magazines, cookbooks, sheet music, and so much more.
Literary Birthdays:
June 1: Christopher Marlowe
June 2: Thomas Hardy, Carol Shields
June 3: Allen Ginsberg, Larry McMurty
June 5: Richard Scarry, Margaret Drabble, Ken Follett
June 6: Aleksandr Pushkin, Thomas Mann
June 7: Elizabeth Bowen, Gwendolyn Brooks
June 9: Patricia Cornwell
June 10: Maurice Sendak, Saul Bellow, Immanuel Velikovsky
June 11: Ben Jonson, William Styron
June 12: Johanna Spyri, Anne Frank
June 13: William Butler Yeats, Dorothy Sayers, Fanny Burney
June 14: Harriet Beecher Stowe
June 15: Brian Jacques
June 16: Joyce Carol Oates
June 19: Blaise Pascal, Salman Rushdie
June 20: Lillian Hellman
June 21: Jean-Paul Sartre, Ian McEwan
June 22: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, H.R. Haggard, Octavia Butler
June 24: Ambrose Bierce
June 25: George Orwell
June 26: Pearl S. Buck, Walter Farley
June 27: Alice McDermott, Helen Keller
June 28: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mark Helprin
June 29: Antoine de Saint-Euxpery
June 30: John Gay 

MANY THANKS to all of you lovely bibliophiles!
We wouldn't be here without your continuing support, and can't find the words to fully express our gratitude. 

Much love from Curious,
Ray, Audrey and the Curious Gang
Copyright © 2014 Curious Book Shop, All rights reserved.
Thanks for joining our monthly book shop newsletter. We appreciate your continued support! 


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Steve Breen's Unicorn Executions and Other Crazy Stuff My Kids Made Me Draw

If you're trying to escape reality during these hot summer days, it's time to grab the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Breen.

You won't find it on the shelves as a long-winded novel under great literature -- it's an exceptionally humorous collection of one hundred black and white drawings.

"Unicorn Executions and Other Crazy Stuff My Kids Made Me Draw" (Skyhorse, $16.95) is a bizarre grouping of pun-filled, highly creative illustrations.

In his brief introduction, Breen comments "I should note here that even though I'm a cartoonist, most of the images in this book are not cartoons."

Instead, as the book's title indicates, they are drawings suggested by his three sons who were unimpressed with his work as an editorial cartoonist.

Breen's highly entertaining book is broken into a number of unusual categories including sections on dinosaurs, sharks, zombies and famous people as well as aliens, animals and other creatures.

The dinosaur section includes images of a velocirapper (complete with sunglasses and a portable microphone) as well as a velociraptor with a flame-throwing jetpack.

In the section devoted to sharks, Breen showcases a talented surfer riding a wave standing on his hands on top of a surfboard; the next page provides a memorable image of a surfer juggling chainsaws on top of an open-mouthed shark.

"Zombies, Zombies Everywhere" features sketches of a variety of assorted zombies, including a Santa zombie, Zelvis (zombie Elvis) and a twisted Statue of Liberty zombie.

A longer section is devoted to famous people, as Breen skewers celebrities, offering "Guess the Celebrity Cyclops" and "Secret Mutant Powers of U.S. Presidents."

Breen's fantastic imagination really shines when he focuses on unusual creatures, such as "The Lizard of Oz" (with a tasty meal!), "Giant Invisible Squashgoblins" or "Centaur Claus."

Unicorns are also present, including some odd variations, such as "the Moo-nicorn", "the Ewe-nicorn" and "Kangeroo-nicorn."

Bad puns abound; it's quite easy to groan and grimace at Breen's warped sense of humor. The book features a mischievous, spurious foreword by North Korean President Kim Jong Un.

The artist obviously had a lot of fun creating these striking images and putting together this weirdly enjoyable compilation.

Breen's collection of drawings shouldn't be gulped all in one sitting; it's best to savor them slowly.

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 June 8, 2014.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Suspicion by Joseph Finder

If you're looking for an exciting book to take to the beach, "Suspicion" by best-selling author Joseph Finder (Dutton, $27.95) will be an excellent choice.

Full of intriguing characters, squirmy, fast-paced action and a nifty, convoluted plot, Finder's latest is a real keeper.It's likely to keep you flipping pages until you reach the final, unexpected conclusion.

The main character is Danny Goodwin, who's struggling to raise Abby, his head-strong teenage daughter, after his wife died.

Goodwin, who has published a popular biography, is working on a new book about 19th century robber baron and financier Jay Gould. He's suffering from writer's block and is behind schedule, but that's not his only problem.

Abby is attending a posh private school in Boston, but Goodwin is behind in payments. The school threatens to kick her out unless he catches up and the author sees little hope.

Thomas Galvin, father of Abby's best friend at the school, makes an appreciative, generous $50,000 loan to Goodwin. This helps him solve his immediate challenges, but ironically gets him in deeper trouble.

Galvin is an incredibly wealthy money manager- but his only client is a major Mexican drug cartel. The DEA is conducting a serious investigation into money laundering; Goodwin unknowingly becomes ensnared.

Two DEA agents give him little choice, work for them or be killed by the cartel. Goodwin has to work undercover, planting a listening device to gather information from the cartel's financial whiz.

There are many complications as devious plans don't quite go as expected. The tension rises to a fever pitch in a struggle for survival as the violence escalates.

Finder's two most recent novels were conspiracy-related books starring "private spy" Nick Heller.

It's been almost three years since Finder's last novel; he made a decision to switch agents and publishers, buying out his lucrative contract.

He was tired of being branded as one of the best corporate thriller writers; he wanted a different marketing approach.

Since two of his earlier novels ("Paranoia" and "High Crimes") were made into hit movies Finder was taking a big chance.
It seems to be a great move; Finder's on the way to more success. "Suspicion" is a terrific, taut tale that's tough to put down.

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 June 1, 2014.