We Are Here
Written by Ellen Cassedy and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
 
The Wild Part
Written by Jerry Craven and Reviewed by Carol Smallwood
Ellen Cassedy's longing to recover the Yiddish she lost with her mother's death led her to an immersion course in a country where many Jews had been shot
not only by Nazi’s but by the Jewish police who patrolled during World War II. As she prepared for her journey, her uncle made a shocking disclosure about his
wartime experience, and an elderly man from her ancestral town made an unsettling request. The results are just part of her memoir, We Are Here.

Her personal journey broadened into an exploration of how today’s Lithuanians, Jews and non-Jews alike, are confronting their past and coping with the
destruction their ancestors participated in or observed. How do successor generations overcome a bloody past? How do we judge the bystanders,
collaborators, perpetrators, rescuers, and ourselves? These are the questions Cassedy confronts in We Are Here, one woman's exploration of Lithuania's
Jewish history combined with a personal exploration of her own family's place in it.

Her determination started in the classroom, where she was overwhelmed but persistent. It extended as she met with an old man who wanted to "speak to a
Jew" before he died and others who could help her research and translate. She visited the jails and burial sites where her ancestors and a good portion of the
nation were massacred and examined the effects of both Nazi and Soviet occupation. Her curiosity and determination helped her unearth a history that shows
the complexities of war and prejudice.

She concluded that it's not just the facts of history that matter, but what we choose to do with them.

Cassedy is the winner of the 2013 National Book Prize from Grub Street, the 2013 Towson Prize for Literature, the Silver Medal for History from the 2012
ForeWord Book of the Year Awards, the 2013 Prakhin International Literary Foundation Award, and the 2013-14 Best Book Award from the Association for the
Advancement of Baltic Studies. This book was shortlisted for the 2014 Saroyan Prize. Memoir fans and those curious about World War II should read this book.
In the award winning author’s preface, Jerry Craven relates that his novel came from memory “filtered through imagination.” The author manages the
difficult task of capturing a boy’s point of view. The Wild Part is multi-layered fiction for youth and adults that begins when Don and Rosita leave their
village of El Tigrito to catch a ride to a village to see a shrunken head supposedly hung in a shop; they end up in the interior of Venezuela.

Rosita is a strong native girl who knows how to live off the land and tells Don: “Where there are frogs, there will be snakes. We should climb a tree to
keep above the snakes.” Don worries about his family who are probably looking for him but after all their adventures, wonders if instead of returning
home, they should return to the jungle where Rosita wouldn’t be laughed at.

I would have liked to have had more about the lives of the two main characters before they began their trip-what their families, home, and village were
like, and something about how their trip related to their future: more development of the other people in the novel also would give contrast to events.

At the end of the paperback are very helpful discussion questions for teachers and book club leaders about faith, God, and a variety of native snakes
that appear in different scenes. The novel won Foreword’s Book of the Year Wards Indiefab Finalist for Best Novel of the Year in two categories.
+++

Carol Smallwood has appeared in: The Writer's Chronicle and  English Journal. Some anthologies she edited include: Library Services for Multicultural
Patrons: Strategies to Encourage Library Use (Scarecrow Press 2013); Bringing the Arts into the Library: An Outreach Handbook (American Library
Association, 2014).
+++
 
The End of Your Life Book Club
Written by Will Schwalbe and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club is a compelling, intelligent, compassionate memoir about caring for his mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe, as she
faced pancreatic cancer. The mother and son formed the book club while they sat at Sloan-Kettering during Mary Anne’s cancer treatments.

Some of the discussion is about the books and how they affect both Will and Mary Anne but a great deal more attention is given to how Mary Anne’s disease
affects her and her family, bringing them closer, and giving them new perspective on hope, compassion, and one’s effect on the world.

Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne are reminded that books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating. Reading often changes the
way that we interact with the world around us. It gives us more to give to others.

One of the things Schwalbe learned from his mother, who was an intellectual dynamo just like her son, is that “reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the
opposite of dying.” The author of this empowering story is right to say that and gives a gift to all readers with those words. Thank you Will Schwalbe for
giving me permission to read indulgently without feeling guilty about housework or any other projects.

A moving memoir of listening, caring, caregiving, and love-The End of Your Life Book Club is also about the joy of reading, and the ways that joy is multiplied
when we share it with others. The story is wise and strong. Don’t miss it.
 
When a Harvard graduate becomes a detective in the Greenbury Police Department of upstate New York, people assume he’s there to get background for a
screenplay. They certainly don’t think he’s serious about police work as a career, and his condescending arrogance does nothing to change their minds or
endear them. Former LAPD detective Peter Decker is willing to take him on the challenge of working with him, though. The drunken college kids and small town
capers are boring to a seasoned detective and McAdams finds no use for his pre-law background and iPad skills in Faye Kellerman’s Murder 101.

The two become a viable team rather than an adversarial duo once they begin investigating a theft of Tiffany panels stolen from a cemetery. When a college
student and visiting professor both turn up dead, Decker’s homicide skills and McAdams intellectual curiosity provide the brain power needed to dig into a crime
that is more than it seems to be.

Kellerman is a skilled, experienced mystery writer. Since this is a series, her stock character’s actions and reactions are predictable. We return to a series
because we love the characters and we’ll only tolerate superficial changes in them. The freshness comes from the new situation Peter Decker and Rina
Lazarus find themselves in and the unexpected challenges of two murders in one small town. Kellerman’s blend of familiar and new elements works. Although
some of the repetition surprised me, the story is well worth reading whether you’re a Kellerman fan or are simply looking for a good detective story.

With 26 books to her credit Faye Kellerman’s latest mystery, Murder 101, introduces new elements into her Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series. Whether you’re
looking for adventure, imagining retirement, intrigued by art, or just looking for a tightly written story, you should get a copy online or at a brick and board
bookstore.

+++

If you would like to writer reviews for Writer Advice, send a letter about your experience and your genre preference plus a sample review to Lgood67334
@comcast.net <mailto:Lgood67334@comcast.net> . We have books we can send you or you may select books you’ve recently read.
Reading with a Loved One
Two Murders in One Small Town
Murder 101: A Decker/Lazrus Novel
Written by Faye Kellerman and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin

 
Our Brains Scramble Facts
One Step Too Far
Written by Tina Seskis and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ONE STEP TOO FAR
Written by Tina Seskis and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 978-0-06-234007-8
William Morrow

THE WILD PART
Written by Jerry Craven and Reviewed by Carol Smallwood
ISBN-10: 0988384418
Angelina River Press, Fort Worth, Texas 2013

THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB
Written by Will Schwalbe and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0-307-59403-7
Alfred A. Knopf


WE ARE HERE
Written by Ellen Cassedy and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0803230125
University of Nebraska Press

MURDER 101: A DECKER/LAZRUS NOVEL
Written by Faye Kellerman and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0062326355
Harper Luxe
What sorrow haunts Emily so strongly that she runs away to London and
reinvents herself as a woman named Cat? She can hide her identity, but can
she hide her truths behind a mask of party girl clothes? Will vodka and coke
take the secret away? And what is the tragedy that keeps bubbling up, this
memory that she refuses to give words to? The answers are contained in Tina
Seskis’s excellent debut novel One Step Too Far.

Emily runs to London where she finds a room in a squalid, shared house and a
friend named Angel who works the casinos and introduces her to a beguiling,
fast lifestyle. She’s changed on the surface, but the memory of May 6 haunts
her. She cannot or will not say why. Then another May 6 brings a whole new
tragedy into her life. What is the motivation for this heart-wrenching complex
woman’s bizarre behavior and what will it take for her to leave the past behind?

Seskis is a skilled fiction writer. She reveals details with outstanding timing and
writes evocative phrases. She self-published the book in the U.K. in 2013 and
her book shot to #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. Harper Collins picked it up.
Book deals happen in so many new ways now and this is an additional story
worth telling.
Seskis shows us that life is imperfect and our brains scramble facts. Get inside Emily/Cat’s life to experience her troubles and get insight on
your own. Be sure to get a copy of this absorbing psychological exploration of a woman whose life has gone one step too far. The title, by the
way, applies to almost every character in the book.
Memory Filtered Through Imagination
 
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Writer Advice welcomes reviews of recently published books. Be balanced, be fair, and pick a book you want to honor. Let your voice come through. Submit your reviews of approximately 250 words to Lgood67334@comcast.net. Unless there is a byline, the reviews in this issue are written by B. Lynn Goodwin.


“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”  -- Anne Lamott
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