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This Month's Articles

REVIEWING

Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes—from Cleopatra to Camus

By Kelly Murphy with Hallie Fryd

The Blue Hour

By Patti Davis

Reviewed by Fred Beauford

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What is Young Adult Literature?

I have been curious about this category of literature for some time. We all know about the enormous success of the Harry Potter series, which made JK Rowling the second richest woman in the United Kingdom.

Also, perhaps with a bit of envy on my part, Walter Myers, who was with me in a writer’s workshop at Columbia University, has gone on to great recognition as a Young Adult author.

As a publisher, the best selling book of all at Morton Books, Inc, was the Paperboy pre-teen series. We sold over 50,000 copies and are still selling the four book series.

But Paperboy was not a young adult book; this was a pre-teen book, written by a pre-teen. So what then is Young Adult Literature?

The best explanation I found on the internet was offered by Kay E. Vandergrift of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey:

“Young adult literature is often thought of as a great abyss between the wonderfully exciting and engaging materials for children and those for adults--just as young adults are often ignored in planning library facilities and services. There is, however, a wealth of fiction created especially for teens that deal with the possibilities and problems of contemporary life as experienced by this age group. These contemporary problem novels reflect the troubled times in which young readers are coming of age, but young people also ....Read More



REVIEWING

The Story of Mankind

By Hendrik Willem van Loon
Updated and introduced by Robert Sullivan

Reviewed by Jane M. McCabe

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In 1921 Hendrik Willem van Loon wrote The Story of Mankind for his grandchildren. At the time the book’s scope was revolutionary, and it was awarded the first John Newberry Medal. Similarly, in 1920, H.G. Wells, a British Fabian, wrote the comparable eight-volume, The Outline of History.

The difference between the two seems largely that van Loon wrote his book for children and Wells wrote his for adults. Both took on the daunting task of trying to cover all of history. When van Loon was asked how he decided what to include, he answered, “Did the person or event in question perform an act without which the entire history of civilization would have been different?”

Van Loon’s book is sprinkled with the illustrations he drew to accompany the text.

In 1972 W.W. Norton & Company, van Loon’s publisher, updated his book, and in 1984 and again in 1999, Professor John Merriman of Yale University updated the text and new illustrations were added by Adam Simon. In 2014, for the present update, Robert Sullivan added new chapters and a new introduction.

It’s been now 93 years, nearly a century, since van Loon first penned The Story of Mankind. Much has happened since then. Much has changed in nearly every field, including publishing. In 1920 the avuncular style that van Loon used in this book was perfectly acceptable then, but by today’s standards he would be accused of needless editorializing and ....Read More



REVIEWING

The Usual Rules

By Joyce Maynard

Reviewed by Sally Cobau

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Afterlife

The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard is an unusual book.  It is mysterious, yet grounded, a quickly moving page-turner, yet a thought provoking book that resonates long after the last page.

My eleven-year-old daughter received The Usual Rules for Christmas.  It seemed much more substantial than most of her tween books, and I was drawn to it.  After she finished, it was my turn.

Like other books, which defy classification, The Usual Rules felt more sophisticated than many young adult novels and didn’t dumb down to its audience.  (For some reason, many of our most vibrant writers have turned to writing young adult books, such as Sherman Alexie with his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

The novel also refers to an array of teen books including The Diary of Anne Frank and The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers.

The protagonist of The Usual Rules is Wendy, an “average” thirteen-year-old New Yorker, with “average” teen problems—she’s worried that one breast is developing faster than the other and she feels that she’s too fat.  She doesn’t know why she feels so crazy—joyful one moment and so angry the next.

If the reader is an adult, she or he may recognize these feelings—adolescence in all its glory.  The reader quickly sees that Wendy has a more than ideal family—a gentle bass playing stepfather who takes the time to create raisin designs on pancakes, an adorable little brother who wears capes and pretends to be Superman, and a mother who has forgone her dream of becoming a professional dancer in order to provide for her family as an executive secretary—but (because of adolescence) her family is driving her nuts.

She does not realize how good she....Read More

REVIEWING

Undisputed Truth

By Mike Tyson

Blue Rider Press | 580 pages

Reviewed by Robert Fleming

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There is a memorable scene in David Lynch’s 1980 surrealistic film, The Elephant Man, where the disfigured creature, encircled by a crowd, shouts in a passionate voice: “I’m not an animal, I’m a human being.”

A parallel exists with this raw, vulgar, maddening memoir, Undisputed Truth, by former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, with assistance from writer Larry Sloman, which is the latest attempt to humanize the scorned beast who once proclaimed he was “the baddest man on the planet.”

Many of the book’s events have been very well publicized, but like a good entertainer, Tyson knows how to put a new slant on the details while connecting the dots like wacky funnyman Richard Pryor used to do.

Like an irate pit-bull straining against its chain, Tyson rants and raves for attention and the folks still line up to see him self-destruct. “I’m a convicted rapist,” the boxer shouted for anyone who would listen. “I’m an animal! I’m the stupidest person in boxing! I get gotta here or I’m gonna kill somebody.” 

Nothing gets our attention like bad behavior and this super-sized book is full of it. Celeb watchers kept their eyes in recent times on outlaws like Lindsay Lohan, Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Chris Brown. However, Tyson’s roller coaster life through the years was great viewing for fans and foes alike, all wanting to see the next meltdown, the next ego-fueled punch-out.

It’s all here, spelled out in graphic ....Read More



PORTFOLIO

Portfolio:

by Kara Fox

steven fisch

The Magic of Stephen Fisch

A great photographer doesn't just happen. While the technique helps to add to the image, the magic comes from deep within. Stephen Fisch has that magic. A second generation Angeleano, Stephen began to unleash his gift as he held a small Kodak Instamatic camera in his curious hands.

He remembers always loving to take snapshots. In the 8th grade, his class was assigned a science project and he decided to develop a roll of film for his project.  He was intrigued by the process and thought his teacher would find it interesting.  After “cold-calling” the nearby Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer photo lab in Culver City and having the good fortune to connect with someone who was nice enough to invite him to visit the lab, he rode his bike onto the MGM lot and embarked on a life-long journey.  As this man showed him the process he realized he was hooked!

Filled with excitement he took this newfound knowledge into his home. He bought the necessary tank and chemicals, a roll of film and prepared a presentation to wow his science class. He was now on the path from which he has lived much of his life.  And he continues to wow us.

At 15 he began taking every photography class offered in High School. He wanted to learn as much as he could. During his junior and senior years he enrolled in 5 classes. Arnold Rubinoff was his instructor and inspiration. His conversation is still peppered with lessons this man offered him...a solid technical background for him to carry along side his ....Read More



A WRITER'S WORLD

A Writer's World

Abu Dhabi and me

By Molly Moynahan

Abu Dhabi and me

What can I say? I moved to the middle-east in 2013 because I felt my life had hit a plateau, because I broke my shoulder, because I received a new blank passport, my condo was gutted, and because my mother and son and husband were too needy?

All of those are true and probably contributed to my decision, along with the feeling I would be helping Emirate girls become educated young women and the job was worth some money.

I liked the sound of Abu Dhabi, I liked the idea of being on my own in a faraway land, never mind that the temperature was upwards of 125 f and you were under Sharia law and contracts meant nothing.

I read blogs describing cheap spa treatments, cheap household help and cheap taxis and ignored the fact that those things were cheap because they were done by imported labor, slave labor really, individuals from India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Asia who were poorly paid, deprived of their passports and placed in camps.

As we neared the airport my seatmate and I raised our widow shades to look down at the landscape. It was the most desolate thing I had ever seen, miles and miles of desert with an occasional cluster of buildings interrupting the sand.

It was possibly the first time I had wondered whether this decision was sound and....Read More



REVIEWING

A Death in San Pietro

By Tim Brady

Reviewed by M. J. Moore

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If ever a new book made excellent use of a lengthy subtitle, it’s Tim Brady’s A Death in San Pietro~~The Untold Story of Ernie Pyle, John Huston, and the Fight for Purple Heart Valley

Right off the bat, we know we’re going to be immersed in a unique three-way story involving a specific chapter of the war in Europe, a legendary journalist (Ernie Pyle) whose columns from varied fronts were syndicated all across America, and a filmmaker whose name alone (John Huston) connotes Bogart, Hollywood, and edgy rebellion. 

That’s quite an agenda.  And you might be asking: Where in the world is San Pietro?  Indeed, it was a village in Nazi-occupied Italy where the fighting raged in December 1943; where elements of the U. S. Fifth Army were pulverized; and from which the Germans retreated north amid the grinding furies of the Italian Campaign. 

San Pietro is rarely recalled, just as the Italian Campaign itself (which lasted for 20 months, blazing away between September of ’43 and May 1945) is hardly discussed in today’s culture, which has sadly reduced the American experience in the war against Hitler to Omaha Beach at Normandy and the subsequent Battle of the Bulge.

Tim Brady’s new book, however, reminds us that long before June 6, 1944, the Americans and Brits and the Free French and Poles and the Canadians and New Zealanders and many other Allied soldiers (ranging from North African colonial troops to mountain guerrillas from India) were embroiled in the Italian Campaign, with the U. S. Fifth Army being an unusually polyglot international fighting force. 

In this remarkable and highly readable work of narrative nonfiction (it qualifies as both history and military history in particular; American studies and multicultural studies as well; but it’s written with a zest and heart, unlike academic history), the story told focuses on the ill-fated 36th Infantry Division of the U. S. Army.  Branded even then as a “hard-luck division,” the story of the 36th Division’s crucible in the vicinity of San Pietro (where the brutal mayhem that ....Read More



REVIEWING

Report from the Interior

By Paul Auster

Reviewed by Jan Alexander

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Inside Paul Auster

The Europeans, especially the French, get Paul Auster in a way that Americans don’t, judging by his much stronger following across the Atlantic. Jack Lang, France's former minister of culture, proclaimed Auster the only "great young writer" in America back in 1996.

Auster spent some of his formative writing years living a La Boheme lifestyle in France and has translated, among other French poets and writers, Andre du Bouchet, Jean-Paul Sartre and Stéphane Mallarmé.  Much of his own writing follows the French literary tradition of the recit—a studiedly short narrative style in which seemingly simple reminiscences lead up to a sense of tension that reveals no end of ambiguities. Andre Gide and Albert Camus are forerunners of the style.

Yet Auster’s novels capture a uniquely American sense of existential absurdity. His characters tend to start out with delusions that they can succeed in a world that’s rigged against them, then fade into the New York skyline without truly disappearing, failure being its own path to wisdom and the blissful void that is nirvana.

In his autobiographical writings he parts the curtains an inch at a time and offers glimpses of how he arrived at his views of man as a creature not quite of the material world. He has already written five books of autobiographical impressions—The Invention of Solitude, The Art of Hunger, The Red Notebook, Hand to Mouth and Winter Journal—so another such book is bounds....Read More



REVIEWING

The Highway

C.J. Box

Read by: Holter Graham

Reviewed by: Michael Carey

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C.J. Box, author of the award-winning Joe Pickett series, brings the Sullivan girls, Gracie and Danielle back in his latest effort, The Highway. Danielle, the older, prettier, and more self-involved sister, hijacks hers and Gracie’s Thanksgiving trip to see their dad in order to go win back her boyfriend, Justin, whom she has been losing touch with in a long distance relationship. Justin’s parents got back together after his father, Cody Hoyt, saved him and the Sullivans in Back of Beyond. The girls’ road trip is going fine until they cross the path of ‘The Lizard King’ and vanish from the road.

Cody is a police investigator but loses his job when his rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, allows the sheriff to use her, exposing Cody’s questionable tactics. He copes with a bottle after a long stint of sobriety, but this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Justin can’t reach Danielle or Gracie and, fearing the worst, goes to his father. Cody accepts the task of going to find Danielle and Gracie. With the help of Cassie, who wants to repair the relationship she ruined by costing him his badge, Cody will try to match wits with an intelligent criminal who’s always a step ahead.

The Highway is not a murder mystery but a murder adventure. We experience the story from the side of the protagonists and antagonists alike. We know what happens, but we are drawn in to ask, “How will it end? Can they get to the girls in time?” We’ve probably all heard that to make a better story, make a better villain. Box seems to be adept at this. With over fifteen novels under his belt, Box manages to create a villain that is at once intelligent, perverse, violent, and disciplined. Therefore ‘The Lizard King’, with a little help of his own, throws open the door of possibilities making the task of finding the Sullivans near impossible.

The Highway is a joyride. Withholding some clichéd talk and relationship dynamics, all of which involve Danielle, and most of them between her and Gracie, Box’s latest novel is thrilling, intense, and complete. I can’t help but....Read More