Ages 18+.

Fun Comedy/Detective Hybrid from Carl Hiaasen

"Bad Monkey," by Carl Hiaasen, is nothing short of morbidly hilarious. An ex-detective named Yancy is determined to win his job back on the Monroe County police force by proving he can solve one of the most gruesome and puzzling murder cases the beach town has ever seen. Yancy suspects foul play and will do anything to see that the truth comes to light.

Hiaasen's private eye style mirrors the darkness of "The Big Sleep" while incorporating ridiculous characters more reflective of "The Big Lebowski," with many characters that offer a slightly offensive vocabulary. Readers will laugh to tears over their uproariously selfish acts, such as when an enormous spec home diminishes natural wildlife and blocks the beautiful Florida sunsets and Yancy subjects the builder to constant pranks to destroy his business prospects. The novel also features an incredibly detailed setting complete with side stories that only augment the main plot line.

In addition to being the author of numerous novels, Hiaasen is also a regular columnist for The Miami Herald and the author of the children's book "Hoot."

Teen Novel: A Cautionary Tale of Sexting

Thousand Words by acclaimed author Jennifer Brown is a wrenching piece of realistic fiction that shows – not in a preachy way – that sexting is stupid and dangerous. This new book, written for readers in about grades 9-11, stars tenth-grader Ashleigh, who is pressured by her friends into texting a full-frontal nude photograph of herself to her boyfriend. The photo is meant for his eyes only, but when he leaves for college, there is a nasty break-up. Seeking revenge, he sends the photo to everyone on his contact list.

Ashleigh is shocked to find herself arrested and facing community service, and her ex-boyfriend may be headed for prison. The community – where Ashleigh’s father is superintendent of schools – is an uproar. Gradually, Ashleigh is able to work through layers of issues and find hope in a future, with help from a shy, kind and troubled young man she meets in community service. This is an engaging, beautifully written novel that parents and teens probably should discuss together. I thought it was an utterly believable story and a valuable literary cautionary tale.

Amiri Baraka, playright, poet, and founder of the Black Arts Movement, has died

Amiri Baraka, controversial writer and founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, died yesterday in Newark, New Jersey.

Born Leroy Jones (he later changed the spelling to LeRoi Jones to honor the memory of Roi Ottley, an African American journalist), Baraka was a brilliant student who could not tolerate mainstream academia, becoming ever more political, especially after his brief stint in the Air Force.

His first play, Dutchman (and incendiary indictment on race relations at the time). was performed Off Off Broadway and won the 1964 Obie for Best American Play.

The assassination of Malcolm X further radicalized Baraka. He changed his name two more times, first to Imamu Ameer Bakarat and then to Amiri Baraka. He abandoned his white wife and children, founded the now-defunct Black Arts Repertory Theater, and was credited with starting the Black Arts Movement which jump-started the careers of such noteworthy authors as Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, and Gil-Scott Heron.

His volatile personality got him in trouble in 1979 when he assaulted his second wife, poet Amina Baraka. He was sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house and used that time to pen his autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984).

In 2002, he was named New Jersey Poet Laureate, a title that he held incident-free for just one month. When Baraka published Somebody Blew Up America, a furious poem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with some strong anti-Semitic accusations, the governor of New Jersey demanded he resign his poet laureate post. Baraka refused so a year later the New Jersey legislature passed a law dissolving the position altogether.

Among the authors who recognized Mr. Baraka's influential, brilliant, provocative writings were Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg who became a lifelong friend when they exchanged a brief correspondence written on toilet paper. He was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he won the Langston Hughes Award.

Mr. Baraka, who suffered from diabetes, was 79.

Donald Lystra, Ann Arbor author, has written a 2014 Michigan Notable Book

Donald Lystra, an Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan alum, is once again on the Library of Michigan's Michigan Notable Books list.

Lystra's electrical engineer career morphed into fiction writing in the 1990s. His debut novel Season of Water and Ice (2010), was not only a Michigan Notable Book in 2010, but it also won the Midwest Book Award that year.

This year's entry, a short story collection, Something that Feels Like Truth (2013), is on this year's Michigan Notable Books.

Mr. Lystra and his wife, parents to two grown children, split their time between Ann Arbor and northern Michigan farm.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #446 - "It is all connected"

The first stand-alone apart from her popular Dandy Gilver historical manor-house cozies, Catriona McPherson gives us "a dark, absorbing, contemporary" mystery in As She Left It *, "(w)ith an appealingly quirky cast of characters and a nicely paced narrative."

13 years after her escape from an alcoholic mother, Opal Jones returns to the Leeds neighborhood to find very little has changed. Kind Margaret Reid still keeps an eye on the happenings on Mote Street while 'Fishbo' Gordon, Opal's trumpet-playing music teacher and Mrs. Pickess, the wicked witch,"hadn't change one iota, not a jot." The unsolved disappearance of Margaret's little grandson, Craig 10 years ago (whom Opal used to babysit) is the only event that unsettles her homecoming.

"Soon the resourceful Opal undertakes three missions: finding the missing child; locating the family of her beloved Fishbo; and solving the puzzle of papers found in the posts of the secondhand bed she just bought. Undeterred even by a threatening note and a break-in, Opal finds that little is what it seems as her own painful and hidden memories come to light."

Joining the exemplary on Kirkus Reviews' 2013 Best Fiction Books, As She Left It will appeal to fans of Tana French, Laura Lippman, and Chevy Stevens.

* = starred review

Run Run Shaw, movie director, has died

Run Run Shaw, creator of a mammoth movie empire in China and Hong Kong and considered the father of martial arts movies, died Tuesday in Hong Kong.

He and his brother, Run Me Shaw made their first successful film in 1924 in China. Three years later, the political strife in China forced the brothers to move to Singapore, where they continued to produce one money-making film after another.

Next stop, thanks to the invasion of the Malay Peninsula by the Japanese, was Hong Kong where they established their martial arts movie street cred, first with the 'dragon lady' genre, and then with Five Fingers of Death, 1973 (on order)

The Shaw Brothers' movie house empire expanded to the U.S. where their fortunes continued to grow until a serious miscalculation. They rejected Bruce Lee's offer of a contract for several films. Raymond Chow a former Shaw employee, jumped at the chance to work with Lee and the rest is history.

In 1977, Queen Elizabeth knighted him for his philanthropy which benefited orphanages, hospitals, and universities in England, Singapore, and China.

One of his biggest successes was the 1982 science fiction hit, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young.

Mr. Shaw was 106.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #445 - Dead man scheming

You really ought to start with Dead Anyway * * * (2012), the first in the Arthur Cathcart series by Chris Knopf. The BOCD was perfect for a recent family road trip. Don't let that scary-looking cover fool you.

A hit man shows up at the Cathcarts' Stamford, Conn. home and shoot them both in the head after he forces Florencia, owner of an insurance-brokerage firm to sign a piece of paper. His wife is dead but Arthur Cathcart survives, barely. With the help of his physician sister, he is declared dead. A crackerjack market researcher skilled with electronics, Arthur is able to create a series of new identities to stay out of sight while he plots and schemes to track down the "who" and the "why".

"Knopf's tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages,... (he) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark. "

"(R)eminiscent of Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels with a dose of Grosse Pointe Blank", the Arthur Cathcart caper continues with Cries of the Lost * * (2013).

Readers who enjoy their mystery mixed with comedy would want to check out the author's "reflective, quietly loopy" Hamptons-based series featuring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews

Jump into a good book...and then try to survive it!

Spending time inside the worlds of your favorite books sounds like a dream come true, doesn't it? But every good plot has an element of danger, a fact that Namesakes know all too well! Thrown into famous fictional lands, Namesakes are forced to live out the story of the protagonist in order to make it back home - in one piece, if they're lucky. But usually it's an Alice who falls into Wonderland, a Jack who climbs the beanstalk, a Wendy who flies off to Neverland...why, then, is Emma Crewes tossed into the Wizard of Oz, expected to play the roll of Dorothy? Emma doesn't know, but one thing is for certain: with shadowy organizations Calliope and the Rippers vying to add Emma to their ranks, wicked witches and warlocks everywhere she turns, and a sister who is developing strange abilities of her own, the power of the page has shattered the quiet of Emma's settled life.

Join her on her unwitting adventure through literature in Namesake Vol. 1 - and then find out the rest of the story at namesakecomic.com!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #444

The World Noir imprint first came to my attention with this gritty and cinematic procedural - The Crocodile * by Maurizio De Giovanni, put out by Europa Editions.

Those of you with a soft-spot for the disgraced lone-wolf detectives would not want to miss this one.

A cold, methodical killer the newspapers are calling "The Crocodile", commits murders largely undisturbed around Naples' diverse neighborhoods. Like a crocodile he waits and watches until his prey is within range, and then he strikes. So far he targets only the very young, and the only clue found is a paper tissue left at each site with the murderer's tears on it.

Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono, a recent transfer from Sicily who spends his days playing games on his computer, senses that this might be his chance for redemption while his colleagues dismiss the murders as Mafia shenanigan.

The beautiful Laura Piras, a young prosecutor, aware of his preternatural skills and his incredible powers of observation, charges him with finding the link between the victims. In the process, he also finds another potential victim: a 6-month-old infant.

"The Crocodile offers an elegant narrative and vividly rendered characters. It's genuinely seductive."

"In this crisply translated (by Antony Shugaar) novel, De Giovanni explores Lojacono's loneliness and vulnerability while simultaneously revealing his brilliance as a detective." Check out the Commissario Ricciardi series by this winning team of author and translator.

* = starred review

New Year's Resolutions: Making & Keeping Them!

It’s time to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. As part of a fresh start many of us will make New Year's resolutions. Sadly, few will actually stick to them. One of the biggest set ups for failure is creating resolutions that are not reasonably attainable or lack a solid game plan. In the book Changeology : 5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions, author John Norcross reveals a 90 day plan with 5 simple steps: Psych (get ready), Prep (prepare before leaping), Perspire (take action), Persevere (manage slips), and Persist (maintain change). Backed by self-assessments, a free interactive website for customizing plans, and cases featuring the most popular goals, this is the ultimate tool for realizing any New Year’s resolution—and sticking to it.
Author John C. Norcross, PhD, ABPP, is an internationally recognized expert on behavior change. He is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical College, and a board-certified clinical psychologist in part-time practice.

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