“Grow: A Novel in Verse”

May 28, 2015 by

Growby Juanita Havill is a quick read about a community garden in an urban setting suitable for upper elementary/lower middle school-age students. 12 year-old Kate, who has a low self-image, teams up with adult Berneetha, a large, loud woman who decides to start a garden in an ugly vacant lot. People in the neighborhood seem suspicious of their good intentions and frown upon the ‘do-gooders’ as they start to clean up the land to prepare it.  Harlan, a “gangster-like” young teen pitches in and reveals more to his personality than meets the eye. Slowly, other residents of the neighborhood notice the positive changes and begin to offer help and contributions. A good book to be paired with Paul Fleischman’s ‘Seedfolk.” With only 159 pages, Havill manages to create an incongruous collection of characters who join together and plant hope in an unlikely plot.

“The Job”

May 28, 2015 by

One night while riding home in the car, I caught the middle of an NPR broadcast in which the author, Steve Osborne, was sharing a story from his time as an NYPD police officer. I thought Osborne entertaining enough with his “unmistakably authentic New York accent” (as stated on the book jacket), that I continued to sit in the car in my driveway long enough to finish out the segment. This printed collection of stories spans much of Osborne’s career, from his time in the Anti-Crime Unit during the 1990s, to his role as a first responder during 9/11, to his retirement from the Manhattan Gang Squad in 2003. While I found certain parts of his stories to be repetitive, and some may find themselves at odds with his politics and point of view, Obsorne proves himself a storyteller. The book as a whole provides an approachable, amusing, and at times moving account of a fascinating career. I would recommend it for any reader looking to learn a bit of police jargon, more about crime in New York City in the ‘80s and ‘90s, or with an interest in the professional and personal lives of those in law enforcement.

Murder on the Champs de Mars by Cara Black

May 26, 2015 by

black2As the latest novel in the Aimee Leduc mystery series opens, the reader finds Aimee with her baby, Chloe, hurrying to be ready for the baby’s christening. We meet the godparents: Martine, Aimee’s best friend, and Rene, Aimee’s partner at Leduc Detective Agency are godmother and godfather, respectively. However, she is thrown off guard when the baby’s father shows up (whom Aimee has not seen for 6 months), along with his current wife and threatens to sue for custody of Chloe.

Aimee’s latest case involves a gypsy informant for her now deceased father, whose son begs Aimee for help locating his mother, who was kidnapped from her hospital bed. He is soon killed in front of Aimee and the bodies begin to pile up. Aimee’s beliefs become threatened and her life endangered when she comes too close to the real truth of the case, while baby Chloe is happily minded by her sitter, unaware that her mother is in danger.

I think this novel is Ms. Black’s most ambitious to date, as she weaves the threads of Aimee’s father’s unsolved murder throughout Aimee’s investigation as she attempts to solve the case and discover who was responsible for her father’s death.


May 26, 2015 by

25192223280_p0_v3_s114x166 Several years ago Tom Brokaw wrote a book calling  the men and women who lived during the Second World War the “Greatest Generation.”  After viewing the movie “Unbroken,” it is undeniable that those who served their country, at home and overseas, were indeed men and women whose sacrifices were unbelievable and great.

Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best seller, “Unbroken” is the true story of Louis Zamperini.  The movie traces Zamperini’s story from his childhood in Torrance, California, to his feats as an Olympic runner, to his service in the Pacific during the war.

After being shot down, he and two members of the crew, endured 47 days on a raft.  After miraculously surviving, the two remaining crew members are captured by the Japanese to endure years in a prisoner of war camp and hard labor at a Japanese port.

Never having heard of Louis Zamperini, I was mesmerized by his story as I read Hillenbrand’s book.  The movie does a good job of capturing the pain and cruelty that these men endured. Perhaps because I had read the book, the movie, for me, was anti-climatic.  For those unfamiliar with his story or for those who do not have a strong background of the Second World War, this is an emotional movie of one of the members of the “Greatest Generation.”


The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

May 24, 2015 by

5th gospelCo-writer of The Rule of Four, Caldwell pens an intriguing mystery surrounding two brothers and the Shroud of Turin, the cloth believed to have covered Christ’s body in the tomb. The novel is set in 2004, and begins on the property of the Vatican. Father Alexander Andreou, an Eastern Catholic priest with a young son, receives an urgent phone call one evening from his brother Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, who begs Alex to “pick him up before the police do…”  When he arrives at Castel Gandolfo, Alex finds Simon standing over the dead body of their mutual friend,Ugo Nogara, who was working on an exhibit for the Vatican Museum, whose focus was the Shroud. The mystery of Ugo’s death is just one piece of the puzzle, which widens to include the Crusades, Pope John Paul II’s dying wish, the Orthodox Church and the four Gospels of the New Testament.

The Fifth Gospel is fast-paced, and provides a fictional look inside Vatican politics for the curious reader.


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