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“Shots Fired” by C.J. Box
c.2014, Putnam $26.95 / $31.00 Canada 288 pages
Trapped in an elevator, office, front seat of a car, wishing you were someplace, anyplace, else. The people with you are getting on your last nerve. You’ve heard the same phrases over and over and over and you want to scream.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all lived through the irritation, but what’s funny is that it’s not at all chafing to read about it happening to someone else. And that’s just one of the themes in “Shots Fired,” a book of short stories by C.J. Box.
Throughout the years, says Box, fans have asked where they could find some of his shorter works, wondering why there wasn’t an anthology.
Now there is, with favorite characters and a few new faces.
Take, for instance, “ One-Car Bridge ,” in which a ranch owned by a big-city bully is on the edge of Game Warden Joe Pickett’s territory. Joe has bad news for the owner, but it could be worse news for the ranch’s manager: he could lose his job over something that’s not his fault. Could help come from the U.S. Mail?
Pickett, of course, is one of Box’s best-loved characters – maybe because Joe cherishes his neighbors so much. In “Dull Knife,” one of Wyoming ’s finest basketball players is dead. Joe remembers the girl, and he mourns what she could have been. How she died is an even bigger issue.
Joe’s friend, Nate Romanowski also appears in this book and he’s loaded for bear – or, in this case, for a rich Saudi who seems to think he owns the rogue falconer and can buy what he demands. In “The Master Falconer,” fans will be surprised to see that Nate tows the line. Or not.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, they say, but not necessarily in a canoe. In “Every Day is a Good Day on the River,” a long-awaited fishing trip turns into a nightmare when something unexpected shows up on the waters.
And in my favorite story here, “The End of Jim and Ezra,” two trappers are caught for the winter in a cabin high in the mountains. It’s 1835 and it’s been Three. Long. Months of living practically on top of one another.
Stir-crazy ain’t the word for it…
You know how it is when you want a book, but not the whole book? That’s when you reach for this: with its ten short stories, “Shots Fired” will just fill that nagging want-to-read hunger.
And yet, what’s nice about this book is that you can make it last. Most of author C.J. Box’s tales are short enough to read in one sitting, but not so involved that you won’t feel bad putting a bookmark in them for a minute. And that’s about how long you’ll need a bookmark – a minute – because these mystery-western-human-interest tales are awfully addicting.
If you’re a Box fan, this is a must-have. If you’ve never read his works, you’ll be a fan in short order because what’s inside “Shots Fired” will have you stuck to your seat.
“The Norm Chronicles” by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter
You hadn’t seen your old classmate in years.
He was never at reunions or any events. He never called you, either, and truth be known, you kind of forgot about him – until his name came up on Tuesday and on Wednesday afternoon, you spotted his face in the background of a stranger’s online photo.
Total coincidence? What are the odds? Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter say they’re actually pretty good, and in “The Norm Chronicles,” they explain.
Congratulations, your lottery numbers all came up. You missed being in an accident. You were in the right place at the right time, but you didn’t “defy the odds.”
That, say the authors, is impossible.
“Odds,” they explain, “simply describe how many people are expected to be on each side of a possibility.” Something good happened in the above situations; you were on the positive side, which is “meeting the odds.” And chance, of course, “always plays a part” in everything we do.
From the moment we’re born, we risk: infants have the “same level of annual hazard” as do middle-age adults. Get to age 10, though, and you’re good to go for awhile, since that’s the approximate age of our lives, roughly speaking, when we’re safest and have the lowest relative units of “MicroMorts.”
Or take, for instance, disease. You might think that everything causes cancer, but numbers can be deceiving. Is a specific risk relative or absolute? The former can “make the numbers seem scarier than maybe they should be.” Furthermore, the “nature of news” is that “things that are… likely to get you are not reported nearly so often as others that are rare.” Yes, some behaviors seem to invite disaster, but others “fall… into the same category of philosophy” that should include data on values and traditions. Alcoholic consumption is one of those.
Is it chancy to get immunized? To lose a job? To eat 5,000 bananas? Yes, but what we need to remember about risk, chance, and probability is that there is no average. You can be “average for some subset” of people but that can change – and besides, it’s all about perception anyhow, since probability is a “recipe for muddle.”
Through a mixture of fact and fiction about a regular Joe called Norm, “The Norm Chronicles” is an informative book that’ll tickle your funnybone.
Or, as much as you can understand it, anyway.
Authors Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter sprinkle wit all over their chapters and fill them with asides and silly stories that illustrate risk throughout life and in all aspects. The thing is, the facts and stats just don’t let up, which can be overwhelming for some readers. We learn one thing that seems contradictory elsewhere (the nature of possibility), and the numbers just keep on coming…
Now, that’s not to say that this is a bad book; quite the contrary, it’s good entertainment, but it’s just going to need some digesting-time, that’s all. Give yourself that, and I think “The Norm Chronicles” is a book you’ll probably like.
“A Wolf Called Romeo” by Nick Jans
c.2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $26.00 / $33.00 Canada 267 pages
Your dog just can’t get enough of “catch.”
Yes, he has plenty of toys, and just picking one up incites a glint-eyed round of the game. Nothing, apparently, is better than snatching something from the air. He’d play til he dropped, if you’d let him.
Some dogs love a ball. Some dogs love squeaky-toys, while others crave complicated playthings. And in the new book “A Wolf Called Romeo” by Nick Jans, some dogs have unusual playmates, too.
Nick Jans was astounded at the size of the pawprints.
They weren’t ordinary, dog-sized prints; these were huge, indicative of a wolf prowling near the city limits of Juneau , Alaska . It was a late afternoon in December 2003 and, though most residents of the Last Frontier “spend a lifetime” without ever spotting a wolf, here one was, almost teasing Jans with its bold presence.
Days later, while walking their dogs, Jans and his wife encountered the wolf. He was full-coated, black, in the prime of his life, tipping the scales near 120 pounds – and before they could stop her, their Lab, Dakotah, dashed out to meet him, and to play. The wolf seemed smitten with the yellow (spayed) dog, a puppy-love that ultimately gave him his name. Though the Janses tried to keep Romeo under wraps, other dog owners also noted throughout that winter that the wolf interacted happily with their pets, too.
From a handful of neighbors, Romeo’s fan club grew. When he returned for a second, then a third winter to the edge of Juneau , so did people who enjoyed his friendliness but often disregarded that he was still a wild animal. That made some Juneauites clamor for the wolf’s removal. Others, believing him a danger, wanted Romeo dead.
But, as Jans noted, fatal wolf attacks are extremely rare. “You have to be… unlucky – right up there with being struck dead by a piece of space junk – to be killed by a wolf.” And so Romeo stayed because “there was no basis for action unless something actually happened. And then it did.”
There’ll be two camps that will read this review: those who love wolves and the natural history behind them, and those who think they’re varmints and want them eradicated. “A Wolf Called Romeo” is for the former type of reader.
And yet, author Nick Jans offers his readers balance: in his basic overview of Canis lupus, he admits that attacks happen and that the presence of a wolf can be problematic; indeed, Romeo reverted to his natural behavior more than once, and may have killed a pet dog or two. Still, what happened to him, the controversy that swirled around him, and the aftermath of his unfortunate death are things that no self-respecting animal lover will want to miss.
In addition to the wolfish tale here, I also enjoyed the travelogue that’s inherent in a story like this. I think that if you love wildlife, if you love nature, or you enjoy spending time outdoors, then “A Wolf Called Romeo” is a book to catch.
This time of year always does it to you: you start seeing places to clean.
Any other time, there can be a whole warren of dust bunnies living with you, but that restless last part of summer…? Nope, gotta clean – which leads you to this years’ big discovery: a Christmas bookstore gift certificate that you forgot but that you found.
So what to do with it? You could send it to me.
No, just kidding. Why not use it on any of these great reads:
A forced suicide, a powerful family, and a long-buried secret are at the heart of “What We Lost in the Dark” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When a young woman with a devastating disease loses her best friend, she knows who forced the girl into suicide. She knows, but what can she do? What can you do but read the latest novel from this beloved author? You might also like “Dirty Copper” by Jim Northrup. It’s the story of a Native American Marine who returns to the Rez after a stint in Vietnam and becomes a lawman. Needless to say, that’s not exactly what his fellow citizens want…
If a little fantasy is to your liking, then try “Killer Frost” by Jennifer Estep. This latest installment of the Mythos Academy features a little bit of romance, a little bit of humor, and a lot of darkness – which will please current fans and make new ones. Yes, you can read this book all by itself, but you’ll be happier with at least one earlier one, to get you a bit more up to speed.
Mystery mavens might enjoy “Rivers to Blood” by Michael Lister. It’s a noir-ish whodunit featuring a unique sleuth with an equally unique tie to crime. Here, he desperately tries to find a maniacal escaped prisoner and a killer with a penchant for cruelty. This is the sixth book with this crime-solving character, so beware: it might propel you to find the other five in this series. And if you’re still looking for your next whodunit, look for “Death Stalks Door County” by Patricia Skalka. It’s a mystery set up North and it’ll keep you guessing, whether you’ve traveled there or not.
If you’re up for something a little different, try “The Newirth Mythology: the Invasion of Heaven by Michael B. Koep. It’s the story of a psychologist who falls from a cliff into the icy drink, and when he comes out of it, his life has changed. Nothing is the same, so he writes it all down for someone else to decipher. It’s part adventure, part fantasy, a bit of mystery, and all fun.
Are you hooked on leaving your status? Can’t get enough of the memes your friends are posting? Then you’ll enjoy “Fakebook: A True Story. Based on Actual Lies” by Dave Cicirelli, a book about a Facebook experiment and what happens when a virtual life separates from the real one. And if that quirky book piques your interest, then you should also look for “A People’s History of the Peculiar” by Nick Belardes. It’s filled with quick-to-read entries about the weird, freaky, and unusual among us.
World War II buffs will surely want to read “Under the Eagle” by Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker, and Robert S. McPherson. It’s the story of Holiday’s life, his childhood, his culture, and his service in the War. This decorated veteran’s tale is one you won’t want to miss…
Are you a Michael Perry fan yet? You will be after you’ve read “From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio” by Michael Perry. This is a book filled with essays on this and that, a bit about something else, and comments that may make you nod your head in agreement.
If you dream of a different life and are constantly searching for a way to have it, “Ancient Treasures” by Brian Haughton will help you dream. This fascinating book takes a look at riches found by treasure hunters, above ground, underwater, and under the sod. Take a look at this paperback and you’ll never look at a plot of land the same again. Readers who love treasure-hunting may also want to find
“Defending Your Castle” by William Gurstelle. It’s about how you can make your own catapults, moats, bulletproof shields, and other things you might need to protect the treasure you’ll find…
History fans won’t want to miss “Tudor: The Family Story 1437-1603” by Leanda De Lisle. It’s a thick book about Henry and Louis, Thomas Cromwell, Mrs. Henry I through VIII, Elisabeth the first, and her sister Mary. It’s deliciously scandalous, wonderfully detailed, and irresistible, if you’re a British history buff. Along the same lines, Downton Abbey fans will want “Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times” by Lucy Lethbridge.
If you’re an animal lover – the wild kind or the wild-at-heart ones – you’ll enjoy “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed” by Marc Bekoff. This anthology of quick-to-read chapters takes a look at the emotional lives, friendships, and intelligence that animals possess, and what you can do to observe and preserve it. For skeptics and believers alike, this is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book.
Another interesting book by an author you won’t expect: “Myths of Love” by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer and Jerome E. Singerman. It’s a book about ancient mythology and what it has to do with love and romance today.
Parents of school-age children might like reading “The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids” by Quanyu Huang. Mixing parenting advice with anecdotes illustrating the difference in culture and attitude, this book may set your child on a path to success… or it might rile you. Now aren’t you intrigued? Also in the news: look at “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality” by Jo Becker. It’s a book about same-sex marriage in California and how that battle changed the way the nation looks at an institution.
I was quite fascinated by “Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men” by April Moore. In this book, you’ll read about despicable crimes, horrible murders, and the men who paid for their transgressions with the ultimate punishment. And even though most of these executions happened around 100 years ago, this book will still chill the true crime fan. And if that sounds like a juicy read to you, then look for “Passport to Hell” by Terry Daniels, who spent time in a prison in Spain – five years after being cleared of charges.
So your baby is heading for college in about a years’ time or so. That makes it a great time to check out “The Perfect Score Project” by Debbie Stier, a book about the SATs. How can you UP those numbers? Is there a right way to study for them? Find out by reading this book by a Mom who’s been there, done that. And for the student who’s going into sales after graduation (or even before!), “Ditch the Pitch” by Steve Yastrow is a book that might help him (or her). It’s about a new way of selling, which could be the start of an awesome career.
If you’re itching for hunting season to start (or you mourn that it’s over), then look for “Wingbeats and Heartbeats” by Dave Books. This is a meditation in short bits on life, prey, prayer, and dogs. It’s also a book you’ll want to remember for gift-giving in a few months, too. Still, if hunting season is too far away for your tastes, look for “Wheel Fever” by Jesse J. Gant & Nicholas J. Hoffman. It’s a history-type book about Wisconsin, biking, and our love of the two-wheeler.
If it looks like you’re going to be a caretaker this summer, then you may want to use your gift certificate to find “Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death” by Erica Brown. It’s a book about the end, how to lessen fears of it, and how to make life before it, grander. Another book for a beautiful you, outside, is “Ageless Beauty: The Ultimate Skincare & Makeup Book for Women & Teens of Color” by Alfred Fornay and Yvonne Rose. This book includes step-by-step ideas for using make-up correctly, how to cover flaws, and how to know which cosmetics are right for you. Bonus: it’s easy to use and includes quizzes.
Health care is another issue on the minds of a lot of people – and if you’re one of them, then find “The American Health Care Paradox” by Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor. It’s a book about why the cost of health care is going up but the outcome is, the authors profess, declining. There’s outrage in this book, but there’s hope, too, and that’s something every adult needs to know. Another book to look for – and this one is more for medical professionals – is “Taming Disruptive Behavior” by William “Marty” Martin, PsyD and Phillip Hemphill, PhD. It’s a book about making sure your patients follow along with their own protocol and treatment.
At the end of the day, rest is what you want and you’ll find it inside “Burning the Midnight Oil” by Phil Cousineau, a book of short essays and poems by night owls and lovers of lateness. And if that doesn’t do the trick, then look for “Yoga, Meditation and Spiritual Growth for the African American Community” by Daya Devi-Doolin. It’s a book that can teach you to do yoga (it has pictures!) and gain inner peace.
Of course, you want to take care of yourself this summer, so why not know what’s inside first? “Leonardo’s Foot” by Carol Ann Rinzler takes a look at those things at the end of your legs that help you perambulate. That’s walking, you know. Then, grab “Year of No Sugar” by Eve O. Schaub, a memoir about where sugar is, what it does, and one woman’s quest to see if she could live without it.
If a memoir is more to your liking, try “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. This book – heartfelt and genuine – gives readers a peek inside the life of a beloved novelist, her family, her thoughts, and her love.
I remember watching “The Great Santini” and then reading the book – or was it the other way around? Anyhow, you can guess how excited I was to see the true story that inspired it, “The Death of Santini” by Pat Conroy. It’s the true story of Conroy’s father, his mother, and the family dynamics that inspired Conroy’s novels (and the movies). Bring tissues. You’ve been warned. For a lighter biography, look for “Romance is My Day Job” by Patience Bloom, a book about editing books about romance, and finding the real thing.
Popular belief says that farms are bucolic and peaceful but that’s not always the case, as you’ll see in “One Hundred and Four Horses” by Mandy Retzlaff. This is the story of a ranch, horses, and the war that separated them all from the land they loved. Horse-lovers won’t be able to put this one down. And speaking of farms, I loved “Chickens in the Road” by Suzanne McMinn, which is the story of a city girl’s new life on a farm – complete with animals and the chores that come with them.
You got a gift certificate, which means you’re undoubtedly a book lover so you might enjoy “The World’s Strongest Librarian” by Josh Hanagarne, a book about an unusual librarian in Salt Lake City and his unusual life. And if this sounds great to you, you might also like “I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia” by Su Meck (with Daniel de Vise), which is a book about injury, coping, and ultimate triumph.
Readers who are interested in The Other Side will also be interested in reading “There’s More to Life Than This” by Theresa Caputo, also known as The Long Island Medium. This book is part memoir, part anecdotal, part new-agey, and every bit as much fun as Caputo’s show.
Your pugilist (or fan of the art) will love reading “Undisputed Truth” by Mike Tyson. This brick of a book is all about Tyson’s life as he sees it, his career, and the men (and women) he’s known. Excuse me for saying it, but this book packs a punch.
Sometimes, a good novel is what you need. And if that’s the case, then look for “Just Between Us” by J.H. Trumble. It’s the story of seventeen-year-old Luke who falls in love with his band tech, Curtis. But does true love ever run smoothly? Not when one of the boys is HIV positive and the other one won’t listen to reason…
A missing mother who harbors a surprise for her grown son is at the heart of “Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab” by Shani Mootoo. When writer Jonathan Lewis-Adey was just a boy, his mother disappeared. Later, he learns what happens but he doesn’t know the whole truth until much, much later. This book comes from a Canadian publisher; American readers may have to search a little extra for it, but you won’t be sorry.
If time is of the essence – and when isn’t it? – you’ll want to snag “Naming Ceremony” by Chip Livingston. This anthology of short stories and essays takes a look at what we call ourselves within our communities, and how that fits with the people we are and the people we want to be. And at under 200 pages, it won’t take much time to read, either. Pair it up with “In a New Century” by John D’Emilio, a book of essays on queer history and more.
Can you stand another memoir about a gay man who’s HIV-positive? If you can, then you’ll be rewarded by “The Nearness of Others” by David Caron. Caron is HIV-positive, and struggles with many aspects of it: when to reveal it, who to tell, what it’s like to live with it and how to deal with people who still fear it. And if you read Caron’s book, you’ll want to look at “Cured” by Nathalia Holt, a book by a molecular biologist who’s worked in research with HIV patients since the mid-90s.
Can religion mix with a gay lifestyle? Jeff Chu takes a look at that question in “Does Jesus Really Love Me?”, now in paperback. This is a nation-wide search for prayer, protest, and proselytizing; it’s got humor in it, spirituality, and sadness. How could you miss that?
And now, the fine print: some books may have to be ordered from your local bookstore or library. Titles are subject to change. If you need more information, ask your very favorite bookseller and you’ll get scads more information. Really, booksellers are somehow related to Superman. For sure, they Know All.
“Laws of Wrath” by Eriq La Salle
c.2014, 4 Clay Productions Inc., distributed by Ingram $14.95 / higher in Canada 287 pages
One for me, and one for you.
Divvying up candy when you were a kid was an almost-exact science. Everybody had to have an equal amount, and they watched closely to ensure that happened.
One for you, one for me. Even Steven, it’s all the same. But, in the new book “Laws of Wrath” by Eriq La Salle, what’s good for the goose might kill the gander.
Phee Freeman could never forget why his brother left the family.
A.J. was gay, which was something that neither Phee, nor their father, Clay, could accept back then. When Phee and Clay learned the truth, it was as if A.J. had never been born. Phee couldn’t forget that, nor could he forgive himself for shunning his only brother – especially when A.J. was found mutilated and dead.
Naturally, Clay Freeman mourned for his eldest son but as an older man, Clay had seen death before. He’d lost his beloved wife years ago – but prior to that, he’d been on the wrong edge of trouble and the right end of a gun. It wasn’t something he was proud of, but that was all in the past.
Although it wasn’t protocol, when Detective Quincy Cavanaugh was assigned to investigate the murder of A.J. Freeman, he needed his partner by his side. Having been a team for years, he and Phee were known around the NYPD for being the best at solving unusual cases – so when a second mutilated body was found, Cavanaugh knew that this would be one of the strangest cases of all.
Years ago, there were other corpses with similar mutilations, but Dr. Daria Zibik, the person behind those murders, was sitting in prison. She couldn’t have committed these crimes, but Cavanaugh knew that Zibik led a Satanic cult and had prepared someone to take over until her release. It made sense for him to offer Zibik a deal in order to figure out why innocent people were being tortured and killed.
But time was of the essence. A killer was on the loose, and he apparently had the Freeman family in his sights…
There are two things you need to know about “Laws of Wrath.”
First of all, this book screams for an editor and a disabled comma key. Yes, it’s rough, littered with extraneous (and incorrect) punctuation and choppy sentences - both of which are increasingly irritating as the pages fly by.
Which brings me to the second thing: the pages will fly by because, though his story can be quite gruesome at times, author Eriq La Salle gives thriller fans that edge-of-the-seat feeling they crave. There are good guys here that are filled out nicely and criminals who couldn’t be more evil. I was also pleased to note that while I saw some of the ending coming, I didn’t see it all.
And when you ignore its punctuation flaws, “all” is what you’ll get with this otherwise fine thriller. If you want to pick a nail-biter, in fact, “Laws of Wrath” may be one for you.
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