It will come as no surprise that we are good friends with hyperbole. We go out to lunch several times a month. We helped hyperbole move their sofa last week, up at least sixty flights of stairs. And around a corner. Past a pit of vipers. It looks nice in the corner of the room, actually. Anyway, that relationship aside, we understand that some times it can seem like we're talking things up a bit here on the newsletter. 


For instance: last week, we mentioned Hanna Jameson's The Last, which has, as a plot point, the gruesome discovery of a dead body floating in the chalet's cistern. We understand it might strain credibility that no one noticed the *ahem* change in the water quality *ahem*. We also understand that once you unravel one bit of a plot, the rest of the plot can be suspect. 

This week, we'd like to point out that a dead body in the cistern supplying water to a housing complex is probably the only REAL thing about Jameson's The Last


Now, here's Gone at Midnight, Jake Anderson's true crime exploration of the death of Elisa Lam in 2013. How did Lam die? Well, Lam was found . . . wait for it . . . in the cistern of LA's Cecil Hotel. Her death was ruled an accident, but for many—including Mr. Anderson—there were too many inconsistencies. Inconsistencies keep people up at night, you know, and they spawn conspiracy theories. Gone at Midnight is the summation of Anderson's exploration of Lam's death (and life), and as Anderson considers whether Lam's mental health contributed to her death, he also wonders if his obsession with her death is also an indicator of a mental imbalance. This is a gripping read for true crime buffs and for folks who are fascinated with our relationship with our interior selves and how that is reflected by and into the external world. 

Welcome to A Good Book newsletter. It might get dark this week. Bring an extra flashlight. And a huggable friend. 

Speaking of huggable friends, Colum McCann is back this week with Apeirogon, a novel about grief. Rami Elhanan is a Palestinian; Bassam Aramin is Israeli. They have both lost their daughters in the never-ending conflict in the Middle East. As a way through their grief, they turn to advocacy for peace and understanding. Over the course of a 1,001 splintered chapters, McCann presents the conflict from both sides, and nudges his characters (and us) toward a realization that humanity is what should bring us together instead of driving us apart. 


Meanwhile, romance superstar Denise Grover Swank has got a hot winner on her hands with Let It All Burn, a paranormal woman's fiction novel. Darcie Weatherby's life is overflowing with chaos: she's got a full house with a pre-teen, rebellious twins, and a grandmother who doesn't stay where you leave her. Outside the house, she's got a jerk-face ex-husband and a *stronger bad word* boss. Oh, and she's got hot flashes.  

Literally. Like "burn the laundry and set the dog on fire" hot flashes. Now, if she can't get these powers under control, she's going to go full-on Carrie at the town's Founder's Day Masquerade Ball. What's a middle-aged single mom to do? 

No. No. This isn't a trick question. Darcie really wants to sort this out. Don't be that dark. 

Meanwhile, Erik Larson has put out a new book. We know. We said it awfully casual-like. "Oh, ho hum. Erik Larson bla bla bla something something." And we buried the lede, didn't we? Well, okay, how about this, then: we will have SIGNED copies of his new book. That get your attention? 

Oh, what is the book about? Well, it's called The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, and we can assure you that's it's got drama, intrigue, gasp-worthy moments, along with all the other non-fiction goodness that is an Erik Larson book. As Michael Schaub at NPR says: "There are countless books about World War II, but there's only one Erik Larson." 

Larson's book starts with the tumultuous early days of Churchill's time as PM of Britain and carries through a full year's worth of daily recollections of the Blitz. Larson dives deep into the lives of those around Churchill and their families, giving us not only the political highlights but a record of those in the streets who day-to-day lived through the decisions made by those in the British government. 

A gripping yarn, by any standard, and yes, we'll have a few SIGNED copies of this book NEXT week. Please call or visit if you'd like to get one of those copies when they arrive. 

Speaking of signed copies, local author Kimberly Derting will be here this weekend to celebrate the release of her new Cece Loves Science book. This one is a level reader (level 3), and small scientists who wish to meet Kimberly, do some science, and get a signed copy of Cece Loves Science: Push and Pull should make a plan to visit the store on Sunday at 3 o'clock. (This is a ticketed event, by the way, and your $5 ticket gets you a copy of the book as well.)

James Patterson, by the way, will not be here this weekend. We know some of you are disappointed by this news, but as we don't think he was ever thinking about wandering by, maybe it is best to simply come pick up this week's new release instead. We know. It does almost feel like he's here, what with all the new books he's publishing, but it's just a phantom sensation brought on by the constant marketing reminder that he exists solely to write books for you. 

This week's reminder of his existence is Blindside, the twelfth book in the Michael Bennett series. Blindside, co-written by James O. Born, has kidnappings, extortion, cybercrime, dead bodies, national security considerations, and an overabundance of acronym agencies. It probably has one hundred and sixty-four chapters, all of which end on a cliffhanger. You probably should hydrate before you start this one. 

And speaking of thrilling stories with lots of twists and turns, Gordon Corera's Russians Among Us is waiting for you on the shelf over here. Corera, who is the BBC's Security Correspondent, has spent a good portion of his career paying close attention to what's in the shadows. In Russians Among Us, Corera charts us through spying in the post-Cold War era, where it's not so much about stealing state secrets as it is co-opting nationals into doing things that are to the benefit of a foreign state. Things they might not even be aware they are doing. 

Why, yes, there are some parallels to the political landscape today. Hmm . . . 

Anyway, Corera's focus is on the last decade or so, and he brings us along on a thrilling hunt for deep cover spies on American soil. Almost like a reality TV version of The Americans, which is a marvelous thing because we are all lamenting the lack of new episodes, aren't we? 

Wait. Does that make US co-opted nationals who are unwittingly in league with a foreign state? But . . . but what if we stay home and read? Is that still safe? Oh, boy. Everything is upside down now, isn't it? 

We need something less complicated, don't we? Thank goodness for William "My Headstone is Getting Weathered" Johnstone. One—yes, there is more than one—of this week's Johnstone releases is A Hill of Beans. We're just going to copy and paste the marketing copy because why mess with perfection? 

"Mac is back. Framed for a murder he didn't commit, Dewey 'Mac' McKenzie is a wanted man on a cattle drive heading west—as a chuckwagon cook. Though he's never even boiled an egg, McKenzie has a natural gift for cobbling together good trail drive grub. Now, with two trail drives under his belt, McKenzie has proven to be more than a good chuckwagon cook. He's good at serving up justice, too—with a side of hot lead."

Pew! Pew! That's a zinger. 

This one is probably followed by Draw Some Slaw, wherein Dewey 'Mac' McKenzie has to deal with rascally castle rangers who dare to question his portioning when dinner is served. Mac's response to the rambunctious roughnecks is: "Do you want some hot lead with that slaw? 'Cause I got two hands. I can serve and shoot at the same time." 

Of course, if this were some other western series, there'd be a hot-tempered redhead who'd reply, "But what if I'm not hungry for slaw, Mr. McKenzie?" But let's not divert too much attention from the bony-fingered, hard-working William W. Johnstone. 


ANYWAY, how about that Carl Sagan? Also still dead. Also still a marvelous shiny light when it comes to our understanding our place in the universe. This week's reminder of Sagan's legacy is Ann Druyan's Cosmos: Possible Worlds. A companion to the recent National Geographic series, Possible Worlds continues Sagan's fabulous exploration of space and humanity. Yet another reminder that we are a pale blue dot in an immense universe of possibility. 

And finally, we have Edward Brooke-Hitching's The Sky Atlas, a marvelous book about the history of astronomy. It's filled with all sorts of historical charts, ancient start catalogs, descriptions of antique instrumentation, and medieval wondering about the night sky. Say it with us. "Celestial Cartography." It's as marvelous as it sounds. 

And that, dear readers, is it for us this week. Remember to step outside and fill your lungs with fresh air. Look up and gaze at the stars once or twice. You may only have one or two opportunities, after all. Read and reflect, and come visit us on Sunday for some science. 

Overheard At The Store »»

COLBY: Is it still the same century? 

HODGE: Oh dear. Is it time to change the clocks already? 

PODGE: Colby! Where have you been? 

COLBY: I've been taking that dammmmmmm—mungle bungle freesh freesh.

PODGE: The what? 

COLBY: That customer service intake test. 

PODGE: Oh. That's not—I don't understand. 

COLBY: It's not important. I'm trying to modulate my language. 

HODGE: . . . 

PODGE: . . . 

COLBY: For the kids. 



COLBY: Whatever. Have I missed anything? 

HODGE: Nope. 

PODGE: Nope. 

HODGE: Well . . . 

PODGE: What? Oh . . .

COLBY: What? 

HODGE: It's just . . . 

PODGE: You see . . . well . . . 

COLBY: What did you spill? 

PODGE: I didn't spill anything!

HODGE: I wasn't even in the same room!

COLBY: <sigh> Where's Sera? I need to talk to a grown-up.  

PODGE: Yes, ah. That's ah . . . 

HODGE: Yes, yes. About Sera. 

COLBY: What about Sera? 

PODGE: Well . . . 

HODGE: It's not our fault. I wasn't even in the same room. 

COLBY: What happened? 

PODGE: She's gone. 

COLBY: Gone? 

PODGE: Look! She's gone. 

COLBY: Where did she go? . . . Never mind. You don't know the answer to that. 

HODGE: We don't know any of the answers!

COLBY: True. It keeps slipping my mind.  

PODGE: Do you think she was . . . 

COLBY: What? 

PODGE: Llamanapped? 

HODGE: We're waiting for their demands. 

COLBY: Whose demands? 

HODGE: The ransom demands. 

COLBY: You don't even know she's been llama—"kid"—napped. 

HODGE: Of course we do. Podge just said she was. 

PODGE: I did!

COLBY: No, you asked if it was possible. 

PODGE: Which means she was! 

COLBY: No, that's not how that works. 

Meanwhile . . . 

THE MASKED ALPACA: Mwahahahahaha!


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