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“Laws of Wrath” by Eriq La Salle

c.2014, 4 Clay Productions Inc., distributed by Ingram $14.95 / higher in Canada 287 pages


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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.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both”

c.2014, Harper $25.99 / $32.99 Canada 339 pages


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You stopped in the store the other day, and stopped short.
In all its electric-colored glory, tie-dye is back. Or maybe it never left, just passed down by Baby Boomers like you who also loved groovy music, an everybody-helps-everybody mentality, and how wonderfully carefree that felt.

Ah, the good ol’ days… or were they?  For author Cea Sunrise Person, the answer was “no” for years, but in her new memoir “North of Normal,” she explains how she made peace with it.
Cea Sunrise Person’s grandfather was more at home in nature than he was anywhere else. He’d always wanted to live in the outdoors and so, shortly after he came home from Korea , he took his new bride to live in the wilderness.

In about the mid-60s, the family (including three girls and a boy) moved to Wyoming , then to California where they fit in perfectly: they’d already embraced the emerging counter-culture, so “pot smoking, nude cookouts, and philosophical discussions” were easy additions. Their home soon became known as a clothing-optional place to hang out and score drugs, and “the parents were always totally groovy with it all.”
Not-so-groovy: Person’s mother was sixteen when she became pregnant. She married the boy but they parted before their baby was born, so Person’s first home was a drafty shack in the British Columbia woods.

Later, when she was a toddler, the family moved into a tipi on Indian land where she recalls the freedom of an idyllic childhood spent on chores, pretending, and running through meadow, woods, and water.
But that, too, would end: when Person was five, her mother met a man who whisked them away to a life of tent-living, theft, and things little girls shouldn’t see. By the time she was thirteen, Person had enough of the “misfits,” so she lied about her age, left family behind, and started a surprising career – though she still wondered why they couldn’t seem to be “normal.”

Twenty-five years later, broke and twice-divorced, she finally learned the truth.

As a tail-end Baby Boomer, I was really excited to start “North of Normal.” Would author Cea Sunrise Person’s recollections be ones that I shared, too?

No.  Not even remotely, which just made this book more enjoyable.

Through memories of her own and that of her mother’s family, Person tells what it was like to be raised by an unconventional hippie mom who did her best but was, herself, a product of the times. That alone would be a far-out tale, but the way it’s told makes this a book to read: Person is a gifted storyteller, and that snatched me up from the first paragraph. I also was fascinated by her voice, as it changed with the age she was as she remembered.

Beware that this coming-of-age memoir contains explicit language, but it fits with what you’ll read. Yes, it might make you wince but you’ll be so engrossed in the tale that you might not even notice. For you, that’s a hint of what “North or Normal ” has in store…

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“The Illusionists” by Rosie Thomas

c.2014, Overlook Press $27.95 / $30.00 Canada 480 pages


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Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The magician’s coin jumps from hand to hat and though you’re astounded, that would be an easy trick to learn. You could research, and know how he made an elephant disappear. You could teach yourself how to conjure the right card from a deck.

But why would you? Being baffled is half the fun – unless your life depends on sleigh of hand. And then, as in the new novel “The Illusionists” by Rosie Thomas, the trick’s on you.

At the age of ten, and just before he killed a boy, Hector Crumhall fell in love with magic.

He couldn’t quite get over the stunts an itinerant conjurer performed. Hector pestered his father until the elder man explained that there was no such thing as magic, that it was all just entertainment for fools, but Hector thought it fascinating. So when he needed to flee tiny Stanmore for London , there were dreams of magic that the boy took with him, and little else.

But that was all he needed – that, and a name change to something more mysterious. And thus, only his best childhood friend, Jasper, knew the truth about Devil Wix, and that was how Devil wanted it to stay.

And it might have remained so, if not for a fortuitous meeting with a street performing dwarf who called himself Carlo. Recognizing an opportunity, Devil partnered with Carlo for a feat of illusion that would make them rich by attracting a good audience.

It also attracted the lovely Eliza Dunlop.

At just twenty years old, Eliza wasn’t like other women. She spoke her mind, traveled without chaperone and, against her father’s wishes, took a job as a model at an artists’ school. For a Victorian-era lady, that was scandalous but Eliza knew what she wanted – and what she wanted was Devil Wix.

Though she had surely caught his eye, Devil wasn’t the only man who wanted Eliza’s company. Jasper was madly in love with her, as was Carlo. And so was Herr Bayer, the automaton-maker who craved Eliza’s beautiful voice…

I suppose, with a theme of Victorian magic, sideshows, and darkness, it’s inevitable that this novel would be compared to two blockbuster books from summers past.

Inevitable – and wrong.

Here’s the thing: “The Illusionists” starts out well, with shades of malevolence that will give you shivers for around 30 pages. And there’s about as far as it goes.

After that, author Rosie Thomas’ story continues like a broken-down dray horse, forever plodding nowhere in particular; in fact, I waited for a punch line that never seems to come. There is no edge-of-your-seat climax in this novel – there’s no climax at all. The characters aren’t particularly likeable. I even thought the romance here was trite and predictable.

I guess if you’re a fan of 19th-century theatre or early prestidigitation, this novel might appeal to you; the descriptions and historic details here are exceptional. Other than that, though, as far as big enthusiasm for “The Illusionists,” I just can’t see it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“The Skeleton Crew” by Deborah Halber

c.2014, Simon & Schuster $25.00 / $28.99 Canada 240 pages


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You can’t find your keys.  Again.

It happens every now and then: you get busy, distracted, and you put them down somewhere they don’t belong. Then you spend an hour looking for them.

Fortunately, you always find them because they won’t travel far without you. But, as you’ll see in the new book “The Skeleton Crew” by Deborah Halber, some things go missing for a lot longer…

Wilbur Riddle was a well-driller back in May of 1968 and was waiting for a job to start when he noticed a canvas sack on a stone slab just off Kentucky ’s Route 25. As he got closer, he could see that something was inside, and then he could smell it. He kicked the tent-canvas bag and was shocked at what he spied.

Inside the bag was a girl, curled up and bound tight with a rectangular bit of white cloth over her shoulder. She was long dead – long enough that identifiable features were nearly gone. Without a name to attach to the body, the media dubbed her Tent Girl.

The case of “Tent Girl,” says Halber, “drew me in.”

If you’re a fan of TV detective shows, you might think that the world is littered with unidentified bodies – and there are “shockingly large numbers of them out there,” says Halber. A survey done several years ago indicated “more than thirteen thousand sets” of unidentified bones moldering in morgues, but one estimate places the number nearly three times higher. While “many people are unaware of the extent of the problem,” a fierce group of folks are well-acquainted with the issue.

Lurking online under pseudonyms and handles that often belie their age and gender, these people spend hours “obsessed” with matching data for missing persons with data for unknown bodies. Often sneered at by local police (and sometimes totally ignored), this “Skeleton Crew” has single-handedly solved decades-old cold cases, given names to corpses anonymously buried, and offered closure to families of people who vanished generations ago.

They’ve solved murders in Missouri . They’ve ID’d vagrants in Vegas. They’ve closed cold cases in Canada . And in a situation that launched a career, one man ascertained the identity of Tent Girl.

You know you’ve got a great read in your hands when, on page two, you mourn that the book will end. That’s what happened when I read “The Skeleton Crew.”

With a mystery-true crime-science mix of facts and detective stories, author Deborah Halber explains why this two-pronged issue exists and how modern technology and amateur sleuthing is helping lessen it.
Along the way, Halber tours morgues and back-rooms, lurks near an exhumation, and tries her hand at solving one of New England ’s best-known cases.

And on that one, she learns that there’s some information best left buried…

If you tend to get a little queasy, this isn’t the book for you. It’s graphic and gruesome, but oh-so-fascinating and hard to put down. When it comes to your Books to Read pile, in fact, “The Skeleton Crew” is one that shouldn’t be missing.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“The Pocket Book of Weather” by Michael Bright


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c.2013, Adlard Coles Nautical / Bloomsbury     $18.00 / $20.00 Canada     144 pages

A stranger – unknown, but not unfamiliar – told you what to take to work today.

She also told you how to dress the kids, what to avoid this weekend, where to park the car, and whether or not you should water the garden.

And you appreciated the information; after all, what would you do without your weather forecast?  In fact, you wanted more - and when you’ve got “The Pocket Book of Weather” by Michael Bright around, you’ll get it.

For as long as there have been people, there have undoubtedly been people who’ve looked skyward and wondered if they’ll get wet, sweat, or need more sunscreen. Just as it is now, their day-to-day existence was affected by weather – and because of that, early humans began to recognize trends in the atmosphere.

Of course, some of them were Old Wives and they had tales to tell but, even as far back as 400 BCE, meteorologists (a word coined by Aristotle) had real ways to measure what was going on outside. By the 1700s, meteorology was a “new science;” in the mid-1800s, information was shared internationally; and by 1900, the world had climatologists who understood winds and storm-making.

Today’s meteorologists have a lot of information with which to prognosticate: they can tell which clouds will soak you and which will dissipate. They can track the path of a tornado or hurricane (something birds seem adept at doing naturally). And they can offer a hint of what your weekend will be like, although Bright says that the farther out the forecast gets, the less correct it is.

In this book, you’ll learn what oktas are, and how to measure them. You’ll see that “high pressure” isn’t what you put on your weatherman when you want sunshine. You’ll find out why you should run from a pogonip, the difference between a cyclone and a tornado, why you should take flash flood warnings very seriously, how hail can kill you, what snizzle is, how bugs can tell the temperature, and why you should definitely avoid being outside at 7:30pm in July during a thunderstorm in central Florida.

If you’re like just about everybody I know, the weather has been a big concern of yours in the past year or so. You look to the sky, you check the batteries in your weather radio, and you read or watch the forecasts. Once you’ve got “The Pocket Book of Weather,” you’ll be able to understand what they mean.

But deciphering weather reports isn’t all that author Michael Bright offers his readers. We also get anecdotes about unusual weather phenomena, history of instruments and ideas, explanations of how weather is made, and how animals adapt to it. In addition, Bright goes on to look at climate change and the future of our planet.

I like this book because it’s wide in scope but not too much so. It’s easy to understand, it’s enjoyable to read, and with real information and facts you can believe, “The Pocket Book of Weather” isn’t just full of hot air.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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