Monthly Archives: July 2012

Close One Loophole, Open Another

Recently there was a shocked reaction to news that our Congress people used knowledge that was privileged (because, supposedly, it was politically necessary to the law-making process) to buy and sell stocks for their own personal gain. This is insider training and it is illegal for everyone, except, apparently our elected representatives in Congress.
In order to close this loophole in the insider trading of stocks a new law was passed in Congress and signed by President Obama. We were pleased that our reps voluntarily chose the path of fairness, which they sort of had to do given that their game had been exposed to the light of day. Now, however, we are told that once again the power these lawmakers hold has led to abuse. These lawmakers, who we thought had done something laudable, actually left a loophole in the law they themselves designed to close the insider trading loophole. Although they cannot use the info to which they are privy to buy and sell stocks, their families still can.
Are we right to be disillusioned by our government? Are we right to think they are possibly robbing us blind? Are we justified when we think about voting them out of office? Despite the fact that our answers to these questions would be “yes”, “yes”, and “yes” we know that there are risks to just replacing them all with their opposites. First of all, there is nothing to stop these new representatives from indulging themselves in exactly the same way as their counterparts. In the second place, we have seen the dangers of replacement just for the sake of replacement. Just because we are not happy with those who currently hold office does not mean we will be well represented by the opposition candidate.
We know our representatives are too intelligent to have left this loophole in the law by accident. In fact there were two versions of the law – one with the new loophole, one without. Guess which one they chose? This is exactly the kind of activity that makes us feel that our government is broken. We have relied on a certain idealism, on checks and balances, on public scrutiny, and on the necessities of facing frequent elections to provide us with a government that truly represents the American people, but what we often seem to get is a government that helps itself and its members first and provides the rest of America with the leavings. Get a grip on your greed Congress and stop undermining our democracy.

My Spirea – One Year Later

Last spring I took some pictures of my baby Renaissance Spirea plants. This year I took a picture or two of the same spirea bushes after one year of growth. Spireas grow fast. Sadly our weather was too warm in the early spring and then, just after the buds formed for the flowers, several nights of hard frost hit and so the spirea never exploded into bloom, never got to imitate fireworks. Luckily the plants did not die, however, and have managed to stay alive and grow in a very hot summer with very little rain.

I added two more spirea plants at a 90 degree angle to the first three.

When someone I know rented a rototiller they tilled a few garden spaces in my yard for me. One garden, a flower garden, I have tucked in behind the spirea bushes.

 

I have a tiny vegetable garden with three tomato plants and 3 squash plants which the bunny and the woodchuck have been sharing in spite of the chicken wire fence I built around it. Its current state is embarrassing so I decided I would not photograph it. Another space has been dedicated to those seeds (in this case wildflower seeds) that come in a sack and that you broadcast at random. They are growing, but have not produced anything worthy of photographing either. This is a nice big garden space and will be my project for next summer.
Still, I wish I could have had a picture of my original three spirea plants in full flower. They will, I hope, someday look something like this.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith – Book

In the midst of mass shootings and too many 90-degree days and droughts and fires and all the other worries that plague our lives (when we let them) it is so nice to escape once again to Gaberone, Botswana with Mma Romotswe, Mma Makutsi, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and their friends and families where, although there are problems, they usually have a much more human scale than those facing us in more metropolitan environments. The newest book in this big-hearted series is called The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection and is, as usual, by Alexander McCall Smith.

When Mma Romotswe first set up the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, she used the principles described by her chosen mentor, Mr. Clovis Anderson in his book The Principles of Private Detection. In this current adventure Clovis Anderson, runs across Mma Romotswe’s detective business totally by accident (are there any true accidents) while he is visiting friends in Gaberone after his wife, as Mma would say, ‘became late’. He helps Mma Romotswe and her associate detective, Mma Makutsi, solve at least two of the everyday sorts of cases that they solve so well. These two women are very good at keeping evil people from complicating the lives of good people.
We can see that Clovis Anderson is having some difficulty accepting the praise being heaped upon him by his two- person fan club and this situation must also be unraveled. And it will be, all in good time, and accompanied by the drinking of many, many cups of tea (bush tea for Mma R. and black tea for Mma M.) In fact, while traveling to the edge of the Kalahari to help their friend, Mma Potokwane, the ladies actually estimate the number of cups of tea they drink in a year and then try to estimate the number of cups of tea quaffed in larger establishments all over Botswana – a mind-boggling number.
If you get a chance, visit Gaberone soon. It will slow you down and warm your heart and bring you some solace. It will help you see that the world may not be “going to hell in a hand-basket” quite yet.

Remotes

Why do our TV’s and accessories always outlive their remotes? We live in a society of smart phones and touch screens. Can’t someone design a remote that will continue to work effectively after the original batteries are replaced? Apparently not! Here is something someone could tinker with in their garage. If they were successful in devising a remote that lived as long as a television they could join the 1% and buy a yacht. They could become an entrepreneur and employ lots of Americans (well maybe they couldn’t actually afford to hire Americans).
It doesn’t hurt us to get up and turn our media on and off, but it is so much nicer when the remote works as it should. The dials on our TV’s and accessories are no longer designed to be accessed by hand. They are no longer dials for one thing. They are arrows. You can’t just dial in the channel you want; you have to scan through until your channel pops up. These dials are often not on the front of your unit, they are probably situated in a vertical line on one side. Try to read them. The on/off switch is pretty easy. From there it goes awry. Which arrows are for channels? Which for volume? Are your eyes older than the 40-year-old sell by date? Then you probably cannot even see the arrows, let alone the arrow labels.
It is a minor frustration but it is annoying a number of times during any given day. So here’s an area just waiting for innovation, a trademark, and a manufacturing operation. Maybe we need a round remote so we don’t have to keep squeezing it to get it to work and so the buttons in the middle don’t go wonky before the ones around the edges. How about a touch screen remote.  I will leave it to one of our electronic wizards to solve.
Here is a picture of my many remotes. I like to see TV in almost every room in my house. Not all of my TV’s are new. At least one of these remotes belongs to a prominent cable company and it doesn’t work either.
Here are the remotes that don’t function probably:
These remote do work but only because I rarely use them or they are new.

I’m sure everyone has an array of devices similar to mine. Opportunity awaits.

Spacey Again

I don’t know why space fascinates me. It’s scary. It’s infinitely infinite. It makes me feel like an ant. It is also so beautiful it takes your breath away and it holds out possibilities that are equally breathtaking. It makes us think deep thoughts; how did we get here, are we alone. It makes us hope there is a God.

I don’t want to go there. I do not have that gene that makes me crave edgy adventure. But I watch avidly whenever we send something or, with even more excitement, whenever we send someone, into space.

Recently physicists announced that they had finally isolated the Higgs boson. It was produced in Switzerland by colliding two protons (in the Hadron Collider). The Higgs particle decays very quickly which is why it has been, and continues to be, so elusive. To most of us the significance of this scientific discovery sounds sort of like; something, something, dark matter; blah, blah, gives matter its mass; yada, yada, the God Particle, or, as someone said, “the Godless particle” because, apparently it offers an explanation that shows a scientific basis for how the Big Bang could work without God.
http://m.startribune/opinion/?id=161956395
Jeffrey Weiss, “The Godless Particle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scientists have long believed that there are multiple universes. Although my mind is totally boggled by the size of one universe; I am being asked to fit my brain around the knowledge that there is more than one universe. My mind is still digesting the existence of multiple galaxies. However, intellectually I comprehend what scientists are saying. Conceptually it makes my brain hurt to try to picture it. But anyway, here’s what they had to say:

In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at arXiv.org, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist.

The idea that there are many other universes out there is not new, as scientists have previously suggested that we live in a “multiverse” consisting of an infinite number of universes. The multiverse concept stems from the idea of eternal inflation, in which the inflationary period that our universe went through right after the Big Bang was just one of many inflationary periods that different parts of space were and are still undergoing. When one part of space undergoes one of these dramatic growth spurts, it balloons into its own universe with its own physical properties. As its name suggests, eternal inflation occurs an infinite number of times, creating an infinite number of universes, resulting in the multiverse.
These infinite universes are sometimes called bubble universes even though they are irregular-shaped, not round. The bubble universes can move around and occasionally collide with other bubble universes.

http://phys.org/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On August 5th a new Mars Rover called Curiosity will land on Mars, we hope. It will be observed by the Odyssey, an array in the sky over Mars. Odyssey was having some difficulties, but has apparently been repaired so we are still hopeful that we will be able to watch Curiosity land.

Curiosity will explore this unusual Mars mountain:
These photos are from the Christian Science Monitor
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We have to say good-bye to Sally Ride who left us this week. She was the first woman in space.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I will leave you out in space with this very beautiful photo of two galaxies.



Sitting Ducks

I am worried that we will grieve for Aurora, Colorado and then move on, as we do, to life as usual. It’s not that I want us to dwell on our sorrow; but I don’t want us to live in denial about this disturbing aspect of modern culture.

All cultures in all ages have experienced both peace and killing. It’s not as if longing for safety and stability, yet living with uncertainty is anything new. Some cultures have been able, however, to offer long periods of peaceful prosperity. Our culture has not always existed without violence. We have been at odds a number of times in our short history. We fought over slavery, we fought over labor unions, we fought about civil rights, and we are in the midst of a non-violent fight about what our American policies and our government and our society will be like in the near future. We have also experienced times of unity and national productivity.
But the kind of violence represented by incidents like shopping mall shootings and Columbine and now Aurora represent a new sort of violence. This violence does not seem to arise from ideological disagreements or even imperialist tendencies. It is an expression of personal deviation and alienation. It is also, in a sense, an expression of egoism. It is cold-blooded and has a quality of unreality about it, as if the person is not killing real people, as if the person is shooting targets. The very randomness of it and the fact that it does not involve any one-on-one confrontation between killer and victim, or any political motivation, separates it from the modus operandi of most serial murderers.
Since we don’t know how to protect ourselves from such attacks (short of carrying a gun and shooting back, which, so far, has not happened and is, apparently, problematic) we just take a pause to mourn, recognize that we are probably not happy with what is going on, and then shake it off and go back to living normally. There must be some things we can do however. Our Constitution does give us the right to bear arms, but if you go back to the times when the Constitution was written and think about why our forefathers put this in the document, I think that you would not have a problem limiting the ability to buy or own semi-automatic and assault weapons. 
Why aren’t groups of experts meeting to work on identifying and helping people who are in denial about psychological problems? There must be some approaches we could take that would not affect those who are managing their mental issues well. Why are we sitting tight with our fatalism and our denial, our ‘this-probably-won’t-happen-to-me’ rationalization? Why are we not calling for some kind of study and some plan of action? We are Americans. We believe problems can be solved if we put our minds and hearts to it yet we have let America’s children kill each other in our cities and suburbs, and we have accepted mass killings. We have come up with a few approaches especially in the area of urban violence and some have been somewhat successful and some have been dismal failures.
Has anyone in an appropriate field of study kept track of these approaches, made a collection of what has worked and what hasn’t? Is there a body of work about this? All I hear is the same speculation that is offered each time we encounter this disturbing new aberration. We hear an outcry about gun control, we hear that the person may not qualify as insane (what does it take to qualify), we hear that TV, movies, and video games are too violent and then we move on. As we move on another erratic individual decides that s/he (a theoretical she) will take a stab at putting together the perfect mass killing. Well James Holmes has set the bar pretty high. Can we expect escalation? I am sure we can find better ways to help our young people, both those involved in “gang” warfare and those committing crimes of alienation. Helping those who have already been in the system should be even easier. Let’s have some conferences where experts meet to devise some strategies. Let’s not just act like sitting ducks.

More New Global Warming Math

Interesting new stuff about global warming this week – The Daily Beast calls our attention to a new article published in Rolling Stone called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math. While it is true that every time we have a warmer-than-usual season people start to get nervous about global warming, it is also true that unusual seasons and more extreme storms do seem to be the new normal. The Rolling Stone article opens with some data:
“If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 1099, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the ‘largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.’ The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.”
In the New York Times, Monday, July 23, 2012, Paul Krugman wrote Loading the Climate Dice in which he gives the following analogy:
How should we think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience? Almost a quarter of a century ago James Hansen, the NASA scientist who did more than anyone to put climate change on the agenda, suggested the analogy of loaded dice. Imagine, he and his associates suggested, representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards with a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white, and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then.
And so it has proved. As documented in a new paper by Dr. Hansen and others, cold summers by historical standards still happen, but rarely, while hot summers have in fact become roughly twice as prevalent. And 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
But that’s not all: really extreme high temperatures, the kind of thing that used to happen very rarely in the past, have now become fairly common. Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but
more often when the dice are loaded. And this rising incidence of extreme events, reflecting the same variability of weather that can obscure the reality of climate change, means that the costs of climate change aren’t a distant prospect, decades in the future. On the contrary, they’re already here, even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms, a small fraction of their eventual rise if we don’t act.
Bill McKibben, the author of the article in Rolling Stone, tells us three important numbers that we need to keep track of regarding global warming. One is the number 2 degrees Celsius, the second is the number 565 gigatons, and the third is the number 2,795 gigatons.
The significance of the first of these numbers which came out of the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, which produced little else besides this number, was this point contained in the first paragraph of the accord: “it formally recognized ‘the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” It also declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required…so as to hold the increase in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius. (We have so far measured an increase of 0.8 degrees Celsius.)
The second number represents this agreement: “Scientist estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (Reasonable, in this case means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)
Mr. McKibben goes on to say:
“This idea of a global “carbon budget” emerged about a decade ago, as scientist began to calculate how much oil, coal, and gas could still safely be burned. Since we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we’re currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two degree target.”
As for the third number:
“This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.”
What It Means
It means that this is the moment we must start to switch away from fossil fuels. It means politically and economically it is scary to make this move, but environmentally we must. It means we will become independent of foreign nations that provide us with fossil fuels, but in a totally different way than we are thinking about it right now. It means that unless fossil fuel companies wake up and offer us new ways to make inexpensive energy they will die a horrible death that will be catastrophic for the market place. They must lead the way to non-fossil fuel alternatives or we will have to drive them out of business. They are already in panic mode. Have you counted the number of ads being offered in the media by the fuel industries? We are bombarded constantly by propaganda to make us believe that coal can be clean (will it no longer produce CO2), that we need to get more fossil fuels from tar sands and fracking the shale laid down by glaciers in prehistory.
It means that, in spite of our economic challenges, we need, to find a way to subsidize solar energy to make it much more affordable. We could plaster solar panel all over American housing and let people pay for them with their power bill savings. We need to help everyone switch to hybrid and electric vehicles, again with some kind of subsidies where necessary. We need to put lots of pressure on countries like China and India who are ignoring environmental issues in their understandable goal to raise the standard of living in their respective countries. The planet cannot afford to let them have their fossil fuel moment. These energy companies and energy countries can either continue to be part of the problem which will eventually lead to their demise, or they can be proactive and be part of the solution. The people of the planet beg you to choose the latter approach. Choose it right now, please. Wean us now.  

Moonrise Kingdom – Movie

Although there is a lesson here for parents who do not always understand the effects their actions have on their children, this is not a preachy movie. Given the cast we would not expect it to be. It is a pretty film, it’s fun, and Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Ed Norton and Frances McDormand guarantee it will be full of character. There are young lovers (very young) played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman who run away as a rare hurricane is about to arrive. There are plenty of young scouts running around with excellent skills for survival in the wilderness and there is some meanness which dissolves in empathy.
Lately a number of our movies and books have had a quality of the fable about them and that is present in this film. Authors also seem to want to plunk their characters down in isolated settings like islands or remote jungles which can only be reached by canoe or the occasional ferry. The novels Swamplandia by Karen Russell and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett both use this conceit. Now we have Moonrise Kingdom which also takes place on an island except that this island is missing the tropical vegetation and climate which gives rise to the steamy motivations and dark events found in the books. In a crowded world, locating a story in a remote location simplifies the number of influences on the events and allows for the quirkiness that our homogenized society seems to want to quell. 
This movie is sweet and light-hearted for the most part. It is like the clear air and the meadows and the woodsy paths of New England – innocent and timeless. It is probably not the “great American film”, but it is a pleasant experience. It reminds me of the end of Overboard when the young sailor on the Coast Guard ship says “It’s a hell of a day at sea, Sir.”  Well, in this case, “It’s a hell of a week on the island, Sir.

We Need a New Approach to Mental Illness

The NRA is so powerful that we cannot approach this trend of theatrical crimes (no pun intended) against unarmed and helpless groups by restricting access to guns, even though these guns are being used against people who are captive in the sense that they are collected in a certain public environment at the moment the horrible drama is enacted. There can be little doubt that to certain people in our culture these criminals become heroes so that these murderers are, in a sense, competing with each other to “make a better movie”. I wish we weren’t quite so free with our guns, but we will not be allowed to solve this situation from a gun control angle.
In many science fiction books authors describe a future when we no longer meet in public spaces; we live in small cells with our technology and communicate only through electronics. This may evolve through a fear of contagious diseases, or because a totalitarian state wants to hold on to control and prevent revolution or because people lose their desire to communicate face to face. Well the kinds of violent ‘deathcraft’ undertaken lately on too many occasions (since one is too many) are just the ticket to make a future of isolation seem attractive. If we want to maintain a society that includes enjoying entertainment in person at public venues we need to approach this problem somehow.
As far as I can remember, every one of these “death eaters” who survived and was taken into custody has been shown to be in a state of mental disorder or to have a mental illness. What we need to do, so that we are not constantly grieving and constantly fearful, is to take a new look at how we are treating the matter of mental illness in America these days. Obviously, in these enlightened times, we cannot return to the days when we put everyone in a mental institution for warehousing and possible treatment. But neither should we just be turning people out on the streets with a handful of psychotropic drugs when they have symptoms that will derail their lives and possibly the lives of others if they do not stay on their meds. These meds are not perfect. They have unpleasant side effects, often dampening the ability to experience a range of emotions, and sometimes other physical side effects. Many people with a mental illness may not be responsible enough to take their meds and to keep taking them day in and day out.
We do need a way to remove mentally ill people from the public arena when they prove they will not and cannot take their medications. We do need to work harder to identify mentally ill people who are flying under the radar and to decide if the particular type and degree of mental illness they manifest could be a danger. I am not at all sure how we will accomplish this in a society that reveres freedom. Does safety trump freedom? The parents of this most recent ‘player of reality death games’ apparently knew their son had mental problems. Somewhere between the two extremes of institutionalization and sending mentally ill people off into the streets with a gentle push, there lies a better approach to mental illness in America. Perhaps the experts can convene a conference to look at this subject and send some proposals our way that might help us deal with mentally ill people who will not get treatment or stay on their medications. We have spent way too many days watching the sad outcomes of these terrible attacks in the past decade or two.

July Book List 2012

This time I owe my book list picks to Publisher’s Weekly who offered a preview of the July Indie Next List. I did not have to find my own summaries because these books had already been reviewed by owners of independent book stores. I linked to this site through Twitter but there is a link to the indie site at the end of the list.
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter – “In 1962, a young Italian innkeeper unwittingly ends up taking part in the Hollywood ‘clean up’ of a love affair on the set for the film Cleopatra. Fast forward to present day Los Angeles; Pasquale Tursi shows up at the studio of a legendary Hollywood producer to find out the fate of the actress he met so briefly, so long ago.” Susan Harvey, Tattered Book Store, Denver, CO
The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker – “The end of the world does come with a bang but with a whisper in Walker’s wonderful debut novel. Earth’s rotation is slowing, the days are becoming longer, gravity mutates, radiation spikes, but still, life must go on. The narrator is 12-year-old Julia, and she chronicles everything she sees happening in the world around her, from shock and panic to people desperate to maintain normal routines.” Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Co., Milwaukee, WI
The World Without You: a Novel by Joshua Henkin – “A year after a young journalist Leo Frankel is killed while covering the war in Iraq, his family gathers at their summer home in the Berkshires for a memorial service. “ Ashley Montague, Pennsylvania Book Center, Philadelphia, PA.
Alif the Unseen: A Novel by G. Willow Wilson – “Alif is an Arab-Indian computer hacker who gets into deep trouble when he tries to erase himself from the web. His troubles only increase when he receives an ancient text – written by the mythological Jinn – that may be the key to unlocking a whole new way of programming. This is a smartly written, action-packed thriller…unpredictable to the very end…” James Wilson, Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
Things That Are: Essays by Amy Leach – “A beautifully crafted little book that is filled with weird, funny, oddly poignant, and plainly stunning vignettes about the natural word surrounding us. Leach uses words to describe animal and plant life that you swear aren’t real, only to discover, to considerable glee their veracity. There’s something about the way all of her sentences come together that feels comfortable and almost euphoric.” Seth Marko, UCSD Bookstore, La Jolla, CA
Fifteen Seconds: A Novel by Andrew Gross – “Fifteen seconds is all it took to cause an innocent man to start running for his life. The train of set-ups is so believable that it is no wonder that the police want to shoot Dr. Henry Steadman on sight. We are taken along for a white-knuckle ride….This is the best yet from Andrew Gross.” Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith – “For readers who suffer anxiety, the world just may feel a tiny less lonely; for others, the hope is that this book will give insight into, and compassion for, those who do.” Jennifer Wills Geraedts, Beagle Books, Park Rapids, MN
Miss Fuller: A Novel by April Bernard – “One of the great things fiction can do is pluck a historical figure from obscurity and introduce her to a new audience. April Bernard accomplishes this with flying colors when she give Margaret Fuller, a 19th century transcendentalist and feminist, posthumous life, and modern readers are richer for her efforts.” Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Juliet in August by Dianne Warren – “This quietly lovely story of people finding joy where they can is set near the Little Snake Hills sand dunes of the Canadian West, where small town lives can be as dry and brittle as the prairie grasses or as rich as the history of the area.” Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM
Some Kind of Fairy Tale: A Novel by Graham Joyce – “Twenty years ago, 15-year-old Tara Martin disappeared without a trace, until one Christmas morning when she appears out of the blue, looking as though she were still a teenager and claiming she was lured away by ‘the fairies’. … A mind-bending psychological narrative filled with mystery and beautifully written prose.” Heath Christman, Warwick’s, La Jolla, CA
Yes Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson – “Truly multicultural in the very best sense, Marcus Samuelsson was born and orphaned in Ethopia, adopted by a Swedish family, and learned to cook in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and France. At the age of 24, he became the chef at New York’s Aquavit, then a Top Chef Master, and, finally, opened his own restaurant in Harlem.” Ellen Sanmeyer, Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, Chicago, IL
Some Kind of Peace: A Novel by Camilla Grebe and Asa Traff, (Trans., Paul Norlen) – “The intensity of Scandinavian crime fiction, its intimacy and human scale, is impressively on display in his novel by Swedish sisters Greve and Traff. I often feel freezing when reading a thriller from the North, but from the very first page, this compelling fiction paints a warm and lively portrait of a Swedish summer, its beauty and lighthearted spirit, its customary celebrations – so ironic a background for a dark, wrenching, and compelling story.” Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ
The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben Winters – “The clichéd plot of the end of the world gets a new look in The Last Policeman. With an asteroid on its way to Earth, normal life has already shut down. Faced with certain doom, people decide working is a fool’s game and head off to fulfill their ‘bucket lists,’ except for a very few, including Detective Hank Palace. His only desire is to be a policeman, so he can’t help trying to solve crimes even though it’s a thankless job. Modern technology is useless with no workers to keep it going, so Hank uses old fashioned footwork and reasoned thinking to find a murderer. If certain doom ever becomes a reality, I would include this series in my stack of books to read before the end!” Ann Carlson, Harborwalk Books, Georgetown, SC
Growing Up Dead in Texas: A Novel by Stephen Graham Jones – “If Quentin Tarantino and Cormac McCarthy crossed paths in a rundown whiskey bar just north of the Rio Grande, this is the book that connection would produce. It’s a novel wrapped in a mystery and dipped in autobiography with a dash of investigative journalism about Jones’ return to his hometown and the unintended consequences of a fire from his childhood that ripped the community apart.” Matt Falvey, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI 
The Other Woman’s House: A Novel by Sophie Hannah – “This psychological mystery is certain to send a mid-summer chills up your spine. Hannah has created a tale of domestic betrayal and terror, where one woman’s search for answers may lead her either to uncovering the identity of a murderer or succumbing to her own madness. Sure to captivate!” Christine Grabish, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, CO