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The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry

Retired covert agent Cotton Malone becomes entangled in an international web of mysteries that quickly pulls the reader in and doesn't let go until the last page.

Eclipse thrills millions

Photo: NASA TV image of the 2008 total solar eclipse at totality.

On Friday, August 1, a total eclipse of the Sun took place within a narrow corridor that traverses half the Earth. We couldn't see it from the U.S. except via TV and the Web. The sight thrilled millions, however, seeing it with their own eyes or remotely, via electronic means.

Dinner Diaries

Can a food writer with two young children and a husband - picky eaters, all three - revamp her family's eating habits to include more local, organic, and sustainable meals that also involve less meat for the sake of her family's health as well as that of the environment? Author Betsy Block shares her experiences in her first book, The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World. Readers of Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) and Marion Nestle (What to Eat) will find themselves in familiar (and usually repetitive) territory reading about Block's research about food and conversations with the experts. In fact, Block quotes frequently from the three aforementioned books. But what makes this book unique and down-to-earth is the "diary" aspect - the feedback (which is often negative) that Block receives from her family, how she counteracts their resistance (not always successfully, she admits), what she finds worth persevering and what she decides not to fight about, and, ultimately, to what degree she found the whole experiment realistic and practical. Readers also will find helpful an appendix that includes recipes, Web sites, and other food-related resources.

No eclipse here!

Photo: Eclipse images by Lon Dittrick, Cuyahoga Astronomical Association.On Friday, August 1, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half the Earth but you won't be able to see it from Ohio! The path of the Moon's umbral (central) shadow begins in Canada and will speed across northern Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia, and China. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes far northeastern North America, most of Europe and Asia. No portion of the eclipse will be visible from the United States that day!

It's A Mystery 7/28/08

Authors Who Write More Than One Mystery Series

I started to make a list of mystery authors who have written more than one mystery series, but stopped when I realized there were too many to mention.

Robert B. Parker, for example, is currently writing three mystery series:  the long-running Spenser series set in Boston, the Jesse Stone series about a police chief in Paradise, Massachusetts, and the Sunny Randall series about a female private investigator in Boston.  In a recent interview Parker explained how each series evolved and why he created them:

"I invented Jesse Stone so I could try my hand at a third person narration, and a guy who was nowhere near as evolved as Spenser.  Jesse has problems with alcohol and his ex-wife.  Spenser is complete.  Jesse is a life work in progress.  I also liked writing about a cop and a small-town police force.  Sunny Randall was invented at the behest of Helen Hunt, who wanted me to invent someone for her to play in a series of movies.  We agreed that I would write a novel.  Putnam would publish.  Sony would buy it for Helen, and Helen would star.  Everything worked fine up to actually making the movie.  That is in limbo.  Sunny did well and my publisher urged me to continue, so I did.  I lean heavily on Joan [Parker's wife] for the woman's point of view here.  And I am able to write about things from the perspective of someone of great courage but limited physical strength."

A Little Trouble with the Facts

Valerie Vane, self-described "supreme scribe of the urban zeitgeist" as a Style reporter for a prominent New York City newspaper, suddenly finds herself relegated to the Obituary Desk after a drug-induced rage, covered thoroughly and gleefully in the tabloids, at a trendy nightclub. An unsolicited call from an anonymous tipster allows Valerie an opportunity to redeem her personal and professional reputation when she learns that the untimely death of a talented graffiti artist may have been the result of murder, rather than suicide, as had been stated in the young man's published obituary, which Valerie had written. Determined not to damage her career further due to another public mistake, Valerie embarks on a journey of investigative journalism that takes her into the heart of the clandestine subculture of the city's graffiti artists. Witty, clever, and full of film noir references, which creatively parallel the main characters and their lives, A Little Trouble with the Facts, the debut novel from Nina Siegal, will leave readers eagerly awaiting her next book.

Off the Beaten Path

Readers who like their history books with plenty of anecdotes, sidebars, and little-known facts will enjoy Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell’s stories-behind-the-stories of the assassinations of United States Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Vowell actually visited virtually every site connected with these three assassinations and recounts not only the history of the individuals involved (namely, the presidents and assassins and their respective families), but also the stories of contemporary-era individuals (historians, museum curators, tour guides, descendants of the famous and infamous) whose lives and livelihoods have been touched by these heinous crimes. An offbeat but very entertaining and educational read.

Patterson the Way You Like Him!

The Quickie
James Patterson
Lauren Stillwell's life turns upside down when she suspects her husband of having an affair. Her revenge seems swift and sweet, but soon leads to a crime she never imagined possible. Can Lauren recover from the lies and betrayal one night unleashed? Patterson keeps the story moving with his trademark suspense and pacing. Good beach reading!

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