A Man of Genius – “Wright, Not Done Wrong”

April 14, 2016

A Man of Genius by Lynn Rosen

FL Wdownload

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.

JOHN: Emotional conflicts of historic characters are not necessarily true, but, as humans, we know they are there. Rosen creates a fictional character that looks, talks and acts like Frank Lloyd Wright (“a small man with the mass of hair, clothed in a cape, and odd hat, who, when out of doors, was always holding a walking stick in a gloved hand. He presented a dramatic, dynamic figure, never at rest.”).

SPANKY: Of course he’s an architect who acknowledges a symbiotic relationship between man and his environment.

JOHN: His attorney friend writing this, is in italics and says stuff like, “It is generally accepted tat the past controls the pathway to our understanding of the present…I’ve now sat for many weeks refining Carlyle’s tale with my memories filling in the voids.” I think this is an elaborate way for Rosen to tell a fictionalized tale of a real event and a real man.

SPANKY: Which becomes very confusing because of the many characters she presents.

JOHN: Yes, but it does provide a longer time frame, and added suspense at the end.

SPANKY: The architect falls in love with a young mistress who looks like his wife once did. The wife confronts the mistress and one of them is murdered (along with two sisters who die in the architect’s fire to cover things up.

JOHN: We aren’t sure which person the survivor is (thanks to the general confusion you mentioned earlier. So after his death we are left with the dilemma of the man’s public reputation and personal indiscretion.

SPANKY: As we are with Frank Lloyd Wright. The supposed author says: It is the rare person who has the capability to explore down to the heart of the matter.

JOHN: But that is exactly what Lynn Rosen does in this book.

SPANKY: I give it fiver barks out of five.

JOHN: And I, five rosebuds.




The Girl on the Train – “Contemporary Masterpiece”

August 31, 2015


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This piece is a contemporary classic. A thriller from three different perspectives (sometimes confusing to follow) that ultimately finds parallels and a theme (we want to accept lies that confirm our beliefs) that is there from the beginning – who doesn’t want to believe scenes we observe from  train windows are of people with better lives than ours – to the surprising ending of who kills the murderer.

I’m not one to follow dates on chapters and the narratives become complicated the more we see how these different women end up with lives parallel to each other. But this is profound, disturbing and something that you can’t put down untill the final page.

Oh yeah, there’s lust, love, marriage and divorce, too.

  • J. Lehman5 out of 5_edited-1

Goodey’s Last Stand – “The Real Thing”

August 5, 2015


I thought this would be stereotype, hard-boiled detective stuff. It’s not. Starting with the narrator shooting an innocent Polish night watchman by mistake, a cop losing his job and then being promised to get it back if he solves a rather involved murder as a PI.

Sure, there is the expected wise-guy patter, but in this case it seems heart-felt and there are settings (a cemetery outside of San Francisco, for example) and characters that are genuine (“Let me give you some advice: No matter how much you don’t like your job, it’s better than being retired. When the time comes that somebody wants to retire you, you take that gun of yours and blow your brains out first.”) Read the rest of this entry »


And the Mountains Echoed – “Truth”

June 22, 2015


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 

 This is a hard book to read. Not only are names confusing (a daughter named after a lost sister) but also it is filled with much pain. Unresolved pain we want a Hollywood ending to change. But that doesn’t happen, at least not in a way we expect.

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful writer who doesn’t let his readers off easy. I can honestly say I learned things about living in Afghanistan that I would rather not believe are true, but know they are. Does that mean I would recommend this to others, reread it myself, look for other books by the author? No, let’s pretend life is simple. That people come through for each other, that…. But once we know what it’s like, we can’t pretend.

Believe in fairy tales. It is easier. The trouble with reading is that sometimes we discover the truth.

5 out of 5_edited-1


Message from a Blue Jay – “Please Watch Where You FLy”

June 15, 2015

Blue Jay

by Faye Rapoport DesPres

A friend wrote a book of poems called What the Postcard Didn’t Say and I think it could be an excellent title for this book. On one side of a card we get a beautiful picture of a mountain sunrise or Kensington Gardens or a blossoming flower with a caterpillar winding up its stalk. But on the other is a handwritten message revealing much more: what it is like go grow old, to have a mother-in-law who hates you dying of cancer, to be childless.

I found the contrasts in this book very moving and It caused me to think of the ups and downs of my own life: prostate cancer, divorce, bankruptcy. Easy to gloss over but at the time agonizing. DesPres writes: “No life is fully shared. Loneliness is always waiting, like the water beneath the wooden plank that Ralph placed over the creek.”

This is not easy writing to read, but sooner or later we all have to face up to the other side. This author provides the right mechanism to do just that.

PS Be sure to read her FB entries at the end. I have long believed writing let’s us live life more fully. But it is not all intense, like the finished product. Some of it is listening to the conversation at other tables in Panera’s.



Adventures for Your Soul – “Life Changing”

June 9, 2015

Soul Book_

Adventures for Your Soul by Shannon Kaiser

This is the kind of book I get for someone else to read (my wife, my daughter). I am suspicious of anything with “soul” in the title. But, despite the very small print, I thought I would give this a glance. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Some of the chapters, “we fixate on our flaws” and “why we get comfortable being uncomfortable,” for example, are useful, but larger questions, such as, “if your life were a movie and you were a leading character how would you want to be portrayed” and “what did you want to be when you were still a kid?” keep you awake at night thinking.

This book can literally change your life. But this comes at a price. We have spent our whole time thinking one way, and now we are asked to consider life differently. Books used to ask us to do this in college, but it has been years of mystery novels and TV reruns. Now…”but there is only this life and we do matter.”

4 out of 5


Kerouac Biography – End of the Road

February 5, 2015


There are certain books you read, re-read, live and re-read. On the Road was one of them for me. I read it in college, went to San Francisco to become a beatnik only to discover I was fifteen years too late. But ever since, I have dreamed the book, oh not as literature but as the adventure it would always be. Read the rest of this entry »


Midlife Cabernet: Life, Love & Laughter after Fifty

January 1, 2015


Midlife Cabernet: Life, Love & Laughter after Fifty by Elaine Ambrose

I liked this book (except for the last couple of chapters which were somewhat maudlin). It is real. Down to earth. Full of practical Erma Bombeck-like advice for those of us watching the end of the parade. So what are some advantages of growing older:

You no longer have to worry about:

  1. career
  2. appearance
  3. dating and finding right spouse
  4. your kids
  5. where to live
  6. losing your savings in a spam investment
  7. being alone
  8. what others think of you (exercise programs)
  9. living this long
  10. fancy vacations

Read the rest of this entry »


Conditions – “Thought Provoking”

December 25, 2014


Conditionss by Christoph Fischer

Not great but something no one would have seen just a few years ago. This book starts with a brother and his wife who are resentful of his mother seeming to favor an autistic son. The story then goes on to explore members of both sides who gather for the mother’s funeral. This is when it got confusing and profound.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thoreau on Wolf Hill – “The Stars are Winking”

December 21, 2014


Thoreau on Wolf Hill by B. B. Oak

At first I didn’t want to read this. I am a big fan of Thoreau and it just didn’t seem right to mess with his image. But in the first half I discovered the context in which he lived, something of Emerson and why Thoreau’s observation skills make him an excellent American Sherlock Holmes.

Then in the second half, I became engrossed in the mystery. It has vampires, sex, theatrics, and unexpected surprises. I couldn’t put it down. Best of all it fits and enriches. This will be the Christmas I remember I read this book. Like Henry David Thoreau it became a part of my life.

5 out of 5_edited-1


The One We Love, Donna White Glaser, Abuse Shelters, AA, Wisconsin,  Jack Lehman, Rosebud Book Reviews, Mystery

December 9, 2014


The One We Love by Donna White Glaser

I have been reviewing books for several years and have over 80,000 hits on my web site from all over the world. At first I would get the self-published, digital books regular reviewers disdained. And many were poorly written and self-indulgent. But now these types of books have gotten better and better. They present real people in real places, giving insight into subjects all around us that big, established New York and California publishers are not bothered with. It would take an author twenty years to get published there and those that did followed formulas of what had sold before.

Here is a book that takes place in Northern Wisconsin. That gives behind the curtain dynamics between real people at a clinic and at a shelter for abused women. The narrator is a former alcoholic trying to come to terms with the second and third steps of that program. The future is here. Writing is here and now. Read the rest of this entry »


The Inn – “Waiting for You”

November 29, 2014

 The Inn

The Inn by William Patterson


Usually I like short chapters, but 450 pages of them? However each does represent a plot twist so this keeps you going late into the night.

Confession: I once owned a bed and breakfast and still live it—a 150 year-old building that had originally been a hotel and dance hall.  I haven’t noticed any ghosts, but there always has been a conflict between the original architecture and improvements to make the place more consumer friendly (hot tub, private bathrooms, WI-FI). And as a writer it is interesting to use certain past events as context for short stories (The Angry Grandfather Chronicles) and novellas (Dogs that See Ghosts). Read the rest of this entry »


Windy City Blues – “My Kind of Town”

November 24, 2014

Windy City

Windy City Blues, Marc Krulewitch

I grew up on the North side of Chicago so many of the locations, even street names, bring back a flood of memories.

And about half way through this book, I thought the author had an interesting theme—family (in the Georgian tradition) versus nepotism (“Chicago corruption, “The City that works”). This is embodied in the central character, Tamar, a Russian who works at a bakery and a private detective who is investigating the murder of a guy who issued parking tickets. The father of the PI had been to jail. Read the rest of this entry »


Emily & Herman – “A Literary Romance”

November 12, 2014

download (1)

Emily & Herman by John Healey,  Arcade Publishing. $17. 54

BUY DIRECTLY FROM AMAZON. CLICK: Emily & Herman: A Literary Romance

Let me begin in left field. I am recently doing a book on Houdini where he has a talk with a modern magician, Teller. In Houdini’s day audiences would attribute magic to a supernatural cause. Teller supports a magic that gives the audience the appearance of  free will (but the illusion depends on its thinking as the magician wants it to). Spiritual or no? Free Will or not? Read the rest of this entry »


The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald– “Gatsby Revisited”

September 12, 2014

F. Scott Fitzgerald 

The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald

Author: David Handler

Print Length: 256 pages

Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (June 26, 2012)

Buy Here from Amazon, $7.99: Click: The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Stewart Hoag Mysteries)

I am writing a book that parallels The Great Gatsby and thought I’d get some background information from the library on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boring. But one book I got by accident was this which had Fitzgerald’s name in the title. It turned out to be a terrific diversion from the others. It is about a has-been writer with a basset hound that sleeps on his head.

The narrator has been asked to ghost write a book by a media-favorite who has writers’ block. What a reader doesn’t know is how the plot actually does go along the same path as The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s life. What an inspiring surprise and the mystery makes more and more sense as it untangles. I couldn’t put it down and when the book was over I had plenty to think about.




Shopgirl – “Not Wild and Crazy”

August 14, 2014



by Steve Martin

Print Length: 130 pages

Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (July 1, 2001)

Paperback Price: $ 4.78

Buy from Amazon. Click Here: Shopgirl: A Novella

I recently read a book of Conversations with Steve Martin. After the exhausting Introduction (these were interviews printed in the media at different stages of his career), I didn’t know if I needed more.

But the chapters did prove interesting. In each he comments on what is happening in his life. From stand-up comic to actor/director, to writer. It made me glad I was not famous and didn’t have to live up to any particular expectations.

At the library, putting a hold on some of his essays from the New Yorker I picked up a copy of his book, Shopgirl. If I read it before It had given up on it before completing it.
Read the rest of this entry »


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – “Our Secret Sharers”

August 10, 2014


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

Print Length: 260 pages

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014

Price: $ 15.76

Buy from Amazon. Click Here: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

I love this book. It starts out good and gets better and better. And central to its appeal is, for a reader, the appeal of books. Here we have contemporary stories of relationships, of an abandoned child, even of brain cancer…and they are linked to our secret sharers, books.

But this is all very real and current. I challenge anyone who reads it not to think over their own life and the role books have played in it. I know I have. We turn the page to find out what will happen, and when it does with 100% credibility we come full circle―from a missing Edgar Allen Poe to discovering what happened to it and why.

There is a chapter on ebooks, on a book club for policemen, on Facebook, even why a community needs books. It reminds us what saves us from isolation, and most important gets us going back to books that have made us who we are―Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Conner, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If you have to take one book on a trip, this is it. You will be carrying many back.

5 out of 5_edited-1


Things a Little Bird Told Me – “Learning to Flock”

June 14, 2014


Things a Little Bird Told Me

by Biz Stone

Print Length: 237 pages

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 1, 2014)

Price: $12.99 Kindle, $26.95 Hard Cover, Click: Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind

I have probably belonged to Twitter for ten years. Building a following, posting tweets, but seldom reading it. That’s one of the reasons I found this book interesting—it helped me understand what Twitter was really about. It’s like listening in on a party phone call among friends. And if you are not interested, it might be because these aren’t your friends and you are trying to sell something. So you start over.

And here is an inspiring thing about this book. Read the rest of this entry »


Authorpreneur – “A writer’s must read”

April 22, 2014
Jack Lehman, book reviewer

Jack Lehman, book reviewer


by Geraldine Solon

Paperback: 82 pages

Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

$11.23 on Amazon, Kindle is less, (Click: Authorpreneur in Pajamas: Building Your Author’s Platform Without Leaving Your Home)

This book is so now.  We all suffer, especially writers who tend to be anti-social, under the delusion “build it and they will come.” But as Geraldine Solon points out, we need to know the “who” and “what they will get” before we write it. And that, that is the hard work. Fortunately no one has the answers.

Fortunately because we have to find them for ourselves. And this book is just the encouragement we need to do that. With the demise of big publishers, agents, even bookstore chains—no one knows the answers. Except now it is an even playing field and with Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads etc. we have the means to market what we publish on demand or on Kindle. Read the rest of this entry »


The Man who Built Boxes – “Best Short Story, Ever”

February 19, 2014

 The Man who Built Boxes

Man Who Built Cropped

by Frank Tavares, 240 pages, $8.99

Bacon Press Books (January 13, 2014)

Available from Amazon. Click here:  The Man Who Built Boxes and other stories

Most of these stories are “close but no cigar.” Astoundingly realistic characters who remind me of Pirandello. Except in search of a play, they are in search of a plot. All, that is, except the title story. It is perfect and one of the best short stories I have ever read. It is well worth the price of the book alone and shows how the rest of the selections are working toward this. Wow! This is a life changer.




How I Became a Famous Novelist – “Read This Book”

November 29, 2013

How I Became a Famous Novelist

by Steve Hely

Steve Hely

Print Length: 333 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802170609

Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; Original edition (June 25, 2009)

Sold by: Amazon, $8.80 Kindle, $11. 70 paperback

How many times have you read a book that has changed your life? This one is amusing, with a clever title, but much more important, it deals with a subject important to writers and important to those, like you, reading what they write.

What I don’t understand is Read the rest of this entry »


Eili, Ely – “She don’t love me no more.”

November 18, 2013


Eili, Ely 

by Ezekiel Tyrus

Hard Head Press, 2013, 283 pages

$12.94 Paperback

I am not in my late twenties or early thirties, though I must admit I did go to San Francisco to be a beatnik in the 60s (I was a little late).

What I like about this book, no love about it, is that it captures the uncertainty of life for me at the time. Sure, there are explicit sex scenes that should get some sales and self-indulgent examples of the writer’s own work that will lose them, but what I got caught up in was the narrator’s dilemma. He has been given an ultimatum by his girlfriend which he is trying to understand. Friends pitch in, but ultimately he, and the book, find a deeper significance in all this. And I did too. Read the rest of this entry »


Man in the Dark – “Putting the Metaphor before the Horse”

August 27, 2013

Paul_AusterMan in the Dark

by Paul Auster

Picador, 180 pages

$12.25 paperback

This is a book which I didn’t expect to like that moved me deeply. The description on the book cover seemed a bit to sci-fi, with parallel universes and mysterious assassinations. But…it is all the thoughts of a writer whose wife has died, whose daughter has gone through a painful divorce and whose granddaughter has experienced a tragic loss.

We live through his late-night fantasy and then discover the sources of his apprehension.

I have long been an on-and-off fan of Paul Auster. I am a writer and seventy-two (like his narrator). Read the rest of this entry »


From First Word to Last–“Shut up and write.”

March 13, 2013


From First Word to Last

by Arlene F. Marks

247 pages, $19.95

Publisher: Legacy Books Press Reference

A behind the scenes look at writing risks spoiling the magic trick (at least in my experience teaching high school and adult students), but for a writer it is essential learning.  My technique emphasizes the dynamics between characters in scenes, but many of Arlene Marks observations hold. This is what we need (at least the first three-quarters of the book, then it starts to seem pedantic). Read the rest of this entry »


The Dog Lived (and So Will I) – “Focus on the Cookies”

November 11, 2012

The Dog Lived (and So Will I)

by Teresa J. Rhyne


276 pages, paperback $14.95

This was a very difficult book for me to read for personal reasons. My favorite dog, the Coon Hound Zelda, died unexpectedly of cancer and a few years later I went through treatment for prostate cancer.

And now, through this painfully candid account I come to emotional terms with what had happened to me. Perhaps nothing in my life could be more important, or more challenging. Read the rest of this entry »



February 6, 2012

The Long Drunk
by Eric Coyote, 2011

Kindle, $2.99

This is the gritty story of a homeless alcoholic who must solve a murder in order save his dog’s life. If that turns you off…wait.

When I first started out as a graphic illustrator I thought maximum contrast meant black and white. Gradually I discovered that gray makes black seem blacker and white whiter. Read the rest of this entry »


Walden – “Once More with Love”

January 7, 2012

How many times can you read a book. Well, I have read Walden so many times I can’t believe some of the ideas in it did not originate with me. Anyway, Bob, a good friend, suggested my doing poems on books instead of critiques. Drop whatever you are doing, or think you’re doing, and read Thoreau’s classic, but for a teaser, here is my poem:

Order Walden directly from amazon for only $3.50. Click: Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (Dover Thrift Editions)


PRETTY GOOD JOKE BOOK – “Here They Come, Radio on or Not.”

July 2, 2011

Pretty Good Joke Book: 5th Edition

Keillor’s Pretty Good Joke Book

by Garrison Keillor

High Bridge, 2011, 5th Edition

$12.95, 400 pages

There’s a reason good sales people are good joke tellers. As Keillor points out in the introduction to this book, “It’s a way to get to know people in a short time.” And how do you review a joke book? You don’t. Readers want some examples and if they don’t laugh, forget it.  If they do it’s A Pretty Good Joke Book.

  1. “Veni, Vidi, Velcro”—I came, I saw, I stuck around.
  2. If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose? Read the rest of this entry »

THE BEATLES, THE MUSIC AND THE MYTH — “Strawberry Fields Forever”

December 17, 2010

The Beatles, The Music And The Myth

by Peter Doggett & Patrick Humphries

Omnibus Press

$14.95, 194 pages

If you watched the PBS special on John Lennon, this book is everything that production was sorely missing. The TV show reached for some simple psychological melodrama, but The Beatles were anything but simple. Doggett and Humphries document the complexity of every song, every album, every concert, every recording session in a way that is enjoyably profound. Read the rest of this entry »


THE NEW YORKER STORIES – “Greatness within Grasp”

December 14, 2010

The New Yorker Stories

by Ann Beattie


$30, 516 pages

Beattie’s stories (then and now) articulate certain confusions and disappointments that often haunt the reader not as fiction but as things that have happened in real life. Now when I look at a short story writer, I am most concerned with what I, as a writer can learn, and pieces by Hemingway, Faulkner, even my favorite, Raymond Carver, Read the rest of this entry »


LADY GAGA – “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich”

October 9, 2010

Looking for Fame, the Life of a Pop Princess, Lady Gaga

by Paul Lester

Omnibus Press

$17.95, 154 pages

Since “Just Dance” nearly two years ago, she’s had six top 10 hits and has almost single-handedly revived the waning art of music videos. What did we talk about before we had Lady Gaga to talk about? She owns pop culture these days. Read the rest of this entry »


BUILT TO SELL – “This book may be the best investment a business owner will ever make.”

May 23, 2010

A must read!

Built to Sell
by John Warrillow
flipjetmedia, 2010
160 pages, $25.95

     This is a book every entrepreneur must read, whether or not they are going to sell their business. Years ago I read a book stating that there are people good at starting an enterprise, those who can make it profitable, others who excel at sustaining it and finally, a unique few individuals who can figure out how to profitably get out from under it. A business needs all four. This book… Read the rest of this entry »


THANKS, BUT THIS ISN’T FOR US – “More how-to advice for writers.”

May 21, 2010

Sorry, Jessica, not for us!

by Jessica Page Morrell

Tarcher/Penguin, 2009

358 pages, $11.53

     Subtitled “A (Sort of ) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected,” I do think the tone is sympathetic. The how-to advice is directed where it should be—not how to trick publishers and agents into liking what you do—but making what you do appealing to readers (including publishers and agents). I love the emphasis on scenes, and the book’s… Read the rest of this entry »



May 16, 2010

Two Books by Tim O’Brien

     The Things They Carried is the most powerful writing about Vietnam or about any modern war. In the Lake of the Woods, by the same author, is one of the worst.

     How can that be? In the first book the ator takes tackles the subject head on. Anyone who has ever lived and re-lived that war (as I have) knows O’Brien has expressed the impossible. His chapter “How to Tell a True War Story,” that first appeared in Esquire,… Read the rest of this entry »


Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets – “Five Terrific Business Tools.”

December 4, 2009

Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets by Mary Buffett & David Clark

I read something in the first chapter of this little book that I have been thinking about for days: “Pick the right business to work for.” It seems simple, but means the difference between a high-paying career and a life of drudgery. Yet most of us, at least when the age we are first looking for a job, take anything. We don’t feel we deserve choice. In a nutshell, that is the most amazing quality of this compendium of five simple principles for personal and business success, it empowers the reader… Read the rest of this entry »


Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll – “A generat-ional thing.”

October 13, 2009

 Brand new from our friends at Omnibus Press

Raw Footage

Raw Footage

ISBN: 9780711941311

Price: $24.95

Height: 12, Width: 9

Pages: 192

Binding: Paperback

Publication    9/1/2009  

The cover promises “X-Rated Photos” and there are plenty of bare breasts and occasional limp penises, but this piece of pop history is interesting for other reasons depending upon who you, the reader are… Read the rest of this entry »


Expanding the Conversation

August 30, 2017

by Jaime B. Hansen

This is a book that has changed my life. The weird thing is that I read a part of the beginning and decided, at first, no to read anymore. That said, millennials, are the business people of the future and this book is directed at them. I am retired and at first thought I could care less about millennials, But I have a grandson on the Ausberger Spectrum and have always felt he wasn’t disadvantaged, but the waive of the future. Plus I had an ad agency, that I felt played a

secondary role to clients.

I remember once coming home (running out of gas on the way because the gas gauge was broken on my clunker) from a new client. The VP, manager of training, had said, I didn’t have to do anything, they would provide me with ad content, all I had to do was pretend it was from me and send a bill. Years later I was to appreciate that advertising, at least my role, was entirely secondary to their operation.

Now I had time to write about this and would skim over this book to get some insight into the situation. I did and came to realize that male vs female earning were the least of the problem. Jaime Hansen, the author, says, “To date women who want to attain success in business are manly, advised to behave like a man. Think like a man, speak like a man, act like a man, even lead like a man… Women should be encouraged to highlight their differences, emphasize their positive-gender-dominant attributes. The mos successful teams result form individuals who complement each others strengths, not replicate them.”

And so I did in the ad business. And so I will in my life.


The Fortress by Danielle Trussoni – “Over and Done”

October 12, 2016

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.

JOHN: Most people don’t want to read, or think, about love being over. We have a Hollywood, TV view of “happily ever after.”

SPANKY: Not this book. We see love growing and dying.

JOHN: I have visited Bulgaria and the south of France, that’s what drew me to this book. But I will never see them the same way now, yet…

SPANKY: She loves her husband, they divorce, fight over kids, their home together in a fortress in Southern France.

JOHN: But at the end she comes back to what was, years ago, and the places they lived. Readers come back too. This is a difficult, even painful story, yet it is one we have lived.


The Writing Class – Real Answers

May 15, 2016


John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.


The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

JOHN: I can’t believe this book. As someone who has taught writing workshops for twenty years I would never attempt to portray one. Who would be interested? Not only are the bits of student writing revealing, but the writer shows a brilliance in presenting her course I can only wish I had had.

SPANKY: I’d eliminate the “had had/” But the book progresses beyond the classroom. Someone writes devastating criticism and threatens the safety of students so they meet ouside of the classroom at various homes and in the end someone brings in a “murder” play with fictional characters based on the real participants.

JOHN: Not only are there a dozen participating characters but now there are an additional twelve stereotypes.

SPANKY: But who is the guilty one? We don’t find out until the very end. Meanwhile, tha author showcases what it means to be a writer.

JOHN: As if those attending want the answer to this. Even those reading the mystery want to think it is magic, not explainable.

SPANKY: For book readers who are not afraid to find real answers, this is the place. And I especially liked the last two chapters where the dog transitions the plot from the intellectualizations of the class to the real threat posed by the “sniper.”

JOHN: 5 out of 5_edited-1


A Temporary Ghost – “Haunting”

May 6, 2016

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.


 A Temporary Ghost by Michaela Thompson

JOHN: Two things I love about this book: the descriptive pictures of Provence and, even to the end, not sure who the murder is.

SPANKY: I also liked the title, and the dynamics. The narrator is hired to be a ghost writer for someone she doesn’t know is innocent.

JOHN: There are many characters but the author makes it easy for the reader to follow them and keep things straight. Not easy. And way too many books on Kindle (especially the free ones) don’t think about the reader and his or her challenges.

SPANKY: The ending makes sense even though it is a surprise. This is a page-turner and we have every confidence the author knows what she is doing.

JOHN: I highly recommend the mystery. It might not be the same as a trip to Provence, but you will spend less time getting there.

5 out of 5_edited-1

SPANKY: Yes, five times “yes.”


Geroge the Dog, John the Artist – “A Rescue story”

May 2, 2016

George the Dog, John the Artist  by John Dolan

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.

JOHN: This caught my interest immediately because I am a cartoonist and Spanky (our dog) and I review books, DVDs, etc.

SPANKY: We should have written this book.

JOHN: The guys drawings, at least the simple ones, look a bit like mine.

SPANKY: And the dog rescues him, not the other way around. The author was homeless, often in prison, and begging for a living.

JOHN: We never have fallen that low. Though many people might think living in Wisconsin qualifies.

I liked the first chapter, where the guy talks about how he got the dog, and letter, after a boring build-up to his show, the pay off of how much it means to be reunited with his family.

SPANKY: I have to agree (because you are typing this), that the details of his drug addition and life on the streets of England get a bit tiresome. But there is a purpose in this, that indicate why the big show of his work comes to mean so much to him.

JOHN: This is not a book for everyone, but I found it personally rewarding. I even have gone back to doing some drawings. I know this book will get the five out of five from you Spanky and I will award it five rosebuds. I hope Dolan’s life has continued to get better and better.



Lawyer for the Dog – “At beck and call” by Lee Robinsin

April 24, 2016


John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc

JOHN: The judge is her ex-husband,she has a mother with Alzheimer and there is a dog, Sherman, who she is to protect (being given temporary custody). The owners are going through a divorce and have different views of handling Sherman (the wife is overly strict, he a little too casual).

SPANKY: We get first hand experience, not only with differences in dog care, but with divorce, Alzheimers, a single working woman who still has feelings.-

JOHN: Surprises with each turn of the page that make you think.

SPANKY: And ask questions what you would do under these circumstances.

JOHN: This is a unique book whose title and picture of a cute dog on the cover suggest it will be something less.

I say 5 Rosebuds out of 5.


SPANKY: I like the cover, but agree with you about the rest.

5 Barks, from me.


The Invitation – “One You Can’t Refuse” by Anne Cheiran

April 19, 2016

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.


JOHN: Neither Spanky nor I are from India, but the conflicts between different generations and the disappointments, not only of a Harvard student who doesn’t want to continue or a MIT graduate who wants to become a cook, seem manifestations of what my parents must have felt.

SPANKY: And you, yourself, with their aspirations imprinted on you.

JOHN: I liked the book’s format, the simple structure of expectation, an event that brings all of the participants together (with a few surprises). It seems to really fit the many relationships.

SPANKY: Sometimes the number of people is confusing, but the near-death of a loser cousin at the graduation party makes everyone appreciate what to value in life: life.

JOHN: And readers will experience that too; in a way the Indian background of some of the characters makes this easier to do because that background seems so different from that of readers.

SPANKY: But the problems they face, we all face, are not remote at all and this book is a fine opportunity to place these problems in perspective. I give it five barks out of five.

JOHN: And I, five rosebuds.