A Cineaste’s Bookshelf

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REVIEW: A Nervous Man Shouldn't Be Here in the First Place

Don't feel bad if you have never heard of Bill Baggs. He wouldn't have minded. In this biography, Condon's presentation of this little-known character is approachable, despite the deep dive she did into his complicated life.
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REVIEW: The Thursday Murder Club

Richard Osman's debut novel is a polite, heartfelt version of a crime story involving a retirement home and a handful of murders. At times laugh-out-loud funny, it's a cracking good yarn with memorable characters.
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REVIEW: Piranesi

Piranesi opens with strange and unintelligible descriptions of archways, empty chambers, marble statues and unending stairways. Slowly, clues to the narrator's labyrinthian world take form.
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REVIEW: The Vapors

Mostly a history, with a dash of memoir thrown in, David Hill recounts the history of the gambling and corruption that built Hot Springs through the lens of his grandmother and father's lives.
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Books for August

My reading list for August includes a new mystery in 1920s India, a popular psychology book, a real Victorian diary, a look at the mob in Arkansas and a classic Japanese murder mystery.
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REVIEW: The Lady from the Black Lagoon

As Mallory O'Meara uncovers in her book, there are worlds of fascinating stories behind the Black Lagoon costume. It was designed by Milicent Patrick, and following a triumphant publicity tour with her creation, she disappeared from the film world.
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REVIEW: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn

This is a difficult book to describe. There's an avalanche, a slobbery dog, maybe a ghost, maybe an alien, maybe a spy, probably some mafia, and definitely a world weary cop. Also, it's really funny and a good mystery.
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Favorite First Lines

I play this game when I'm reading a book - I try to guess what the first paragraph the author wrote is. As a writer myself, I presume what becomes the opening line isn't how the first draft began, but I always wonder where the original kernel is buried. These are some of my favorite (published) first sentences of books.
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REVIEW: The Snow Collectors

Somewhere in the frozen North, it doesn't matter where, really, Henna is trying to forget that her parents and twin sister disappeared in a boating accident. Where she lives, it's always cold and always snowing. She writes encyclopedia entries and takes long snowshoe walks with her dog, Rembrandt.
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Books for May

It seems like a quarantine would be the perfect time to read, and read lots. It's counterintuitive but I think I'm reading less, and certainly not more now. Working from home, household responsibilities, stress, worry, and insomnia make it hard to concentrate on a book for me. Still, I'm doing my best to look forward to new releases and upcoming titles. 
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REVIEW: Boston Massacre - A Family History

Historian and professor Serena Zabin approaches the American Revolution tipping point through the lens of societal and personal relationships. The story of the incident we learn in school is presented as black and white, but the circumstances behind it were much more complicated.
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REVIEW: Beheld

Prejudice and hatred are simmering beneath the rock strewn and inhospitable Promised Land. The characters, flung into the wilds of a New World, are on the knife's edge between survival and destruction.
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REVIEW: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

As with her previous books, Pulley develops slightly steampunk-y science that is delightful. She invents interesting physics that seem like they just might work. At the same time she tells a great story with danger, adventure, kindness, mystery, and oddness. 
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REVIEW: American Sherlock

With Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle prefigured some forensic techniques that wouldn't be used for decades. E. O. Heinrich did it in real life. He pioneered a nonexistent field of criminology through innovation, imagination and dogged methodologies.
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Five Star Predictions

Over time, book reviewers (and dedicated readers) get better and better at guessing whether or not they will like a book. Descriptions, genres, author history, even cover art all play a factor in deciding if one should devote several hours to a book.
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