Gaiman's throne: 'Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances' by Neil Gaiman

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"Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances" by Neil Gaiman; William Morrow (352 pages, $26.99)

Neil Gaiman's writing is so present, so engaging, that it can send spasms of bone-chilling terror through your body and your reaction would still be, "Please sir, I want some more."

His collection of "short fictions and disturbances" -- most ...Read more

Nick Cave goes the distance with 'The Sick Bag Song'

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"The Sick Bag Song" by Nick Cave; Canongate (162 pages, boxed, $49.50)

Nick Cave has long operated in a particular rock 'n' roll tradition: that of the poete maudite. Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan -- these are some of the analogues to Cave's creative posture. Not surprisingly, like all of them, he has not only made music but ...Read more

Cookbook serves as an introduction to mystery writers, 'murderous' recipes

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"The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook," edited by Kate White; Quirk Books ($24.95, 175 pages)

Mystery writers like to eat. So do their characters.

Here's an opportunity to meet and greet both without having any calories heading towards your waistline. "The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook," edited by Kate White, includes 109 writers and ...Read more

Literary democracy in action: 'The Little Free Library Book'

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"The Little Free Library Book" by Margret Aldrich; Coffee House (260 pages, $25)

I'm a sucker for a Little Free Library. It is, to me, an almost perfect expression of literary democracy: Take a book, return a book, reading not as commodity exchange but exchange of identity, of ideas.

Not long ago, I visited one in Los Angeles' Echo Park, which...Read more

'Little Black Lies' is the epitome of the psychological thriller

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"Little Black Lies" by Sandra Block; Grand Central Publishing (352 pages, $15)

Sandra Block's compelling debut, "Little Black Lies," is the epitome of the psychological thriller as the author delves deep into the inner makeup and subconscious of her heroine while maintaining an exciting plot. "Little Black Lies" also works as a heartfelt story ...Read more

'Marching Home': Veterans of Civil War had similar struggles to today's soldiers

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"Marching Home: Union Veterans and their Unending Civil War" by Brian Matthew Jordan; Liveright (384 pages, $28.95)

Although the Civil War ended 150 years ago, interest in the conflict has never faded. Perhaps this is not surprising. Those who lived through the war and its aftermath dealt with issues that are still central to the nation's life....Read more

Michelle Obama biography embodies highly specific version of the American Dream

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If the Barack Obama story is about carving out an identity from a multicultural, biracial upbringing with an absent father, then the Michelle LaVaughn Robinson story is about how to be black and successful in America, as well as how to be successful and black. In other words: How does a black girl from South Side of Chicago get to Harvard Law ...Read more

In sparkling 'The Turner House,' no escape from haunted Detroit

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In the opening pages of "The Turner House" -- Angela Flournoy's wonderful debut novel about an African-American family with 13 children set in 2008 Detroit -- the eldest of them is tussling with a ghostly haint, come to pull him out the window of the Turner family home.

It's 1958; Cha-Cha, as he's known, is then just 14. But this specter isn't ...Read more

Scottoline keeps a thrilling pace in 'Every Fifteen Minutes'

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"Every Fifteen Minutes" by Lisa Scottoline; St. Martin's (448 pages, $27.99)

Lisa Scottoline, who seems to own permanent spots on best-sellers lists, made her career with engrossing legal thrillers featuring strong characters and hefty plots. That approached earned her the nickname of "the female John Grisham."

Scottoline shows she's just as ...Read more

'The Phantom of Menace' is a delightful parody of 'Star Wars,' Shakespeare

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"William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First (William Shakespeare's Star Wars)" by Ian Doescher; Quirk Books (176 pages, $14.95)

Here we go again into the world where William Shakespeare and "Star Wars" collide in the most delightful fashion.

Ian Doescher's back with "The Phantom of Menace," a rewriting of the first ...Read more

Review: 'So You've Been Publicly Shamed' by Jon Ronson

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A man at a tech conference made an off-color joke to a friend; someone overheard, took offense and posted his picture online. A woman posed for a photo making a rude gesture at Arlington National Cemetery and, meaning to amuse her friends, uploaded it to Facebook. Another woman sent out a tweet intended as irreverent satire that came off as ...Read more

'Ghettoside': An intimate look at a black homicide in Los Angeles

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"Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America" by Jill Leovy; Spiegel & Grau (386 pages, $28)

"This is a book about a very simple idea: where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic."

With these words, Jill Leovy launches into her thought-provoking, must-read book, "...Read more

Stephen Church explores the story of 'King John'

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"King John: And the Road to Magna Carta" by Stephen Church; Basic Books, (328 pages, $29.99)

England's King John was a loser even to his contemporaries back in the 13th century.

However, he's a very memorable loser who has been remembered for centuries in areas as diverse as popular culture, history and the law.

Professor Stephen Church of ...Read more

'Out of Sight' gives LA's '60s art scene the respect it's due

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For most of the 60 years that Los Angeles artists have been making aesthetically powerful, conceptually acute work, book publishers have generally looked the other way.

Not surprisingly, it wasn't especially difficult during that time to find monographs on second- and even third-tier New York School artists or histories of parochial ...Read more

'The Brothers' looks at Boston Marathon bombers' motivations

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"The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy" by Masha Gessen; Riverhead (272 pages, $27.95)

Masha Gessen does something unexpected with "The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy." In a book about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, she barely describes the crime. Here it is, her account, ...Read more

Review: Reif Larsen's 'I Am Radar'

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"I Am Radar" by Reif Larsen; Penguin (656 pages, $29.95)

Reif Larsen's ambitious new book spans continents and decades, ranging from a makeshift Norwegian village near the Arctic Circle to Yugoslavia, onward into Cambodia and the Congo -- and back and forth to Elizabeth, N.J., with a side trip to the Meadowlands. It ruminates on weighty themes ...Read more

Review: 'I Refuse,' by Per Petterson

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"I Refuse" by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett; Graywolf Press (282 pages, $25)

The story of childhood companions whose adult lives have diverged will feel familiar to those who have read Per Petterson's other works, including "Out Stealing Horses," which won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2007. The...Read more

Review: 'What Comes Next and How to Like It,' by Abigail Thomas

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I want to grow old the way Abigail Thomas is growing old -- with grace and wit, humor and honesty, dogs and dear friends.

Her new memoir, "What Comes Next and How to Like It," is plain-spoken and wise. Her chapters are brief (some just a paragraph, none longer than three pages), but they feel complete and full. She says what she means and no ...Read more

Rafael Ygelesias' 'Wisdom of Perversity' works its way under the skin

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"The Wisdom Of Perversity: A Novel" by Rafael Yglesias; Algonquin (368 pages, $25.95)

Partway through Rafael Yglesias' 10th novel, "The Wisdom of Perversity," a screenwriter named Brian Moran chides himself, "Don't be a hack writer. ... Not everyone is a fragile flower like you." The occasion is his first meeting after many years with Julie ...Read more

'Cuba Straits' full of baseball, history and a love triangle

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"Cuba Straits" by Randy Wayne White; Putnam (320 pages, $26.95)

With the easing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, Randy Wayne White's 22nd Doc Ford novel couldn't be more timely. "Cuba Straits" delivers a rip-roaring plot filled with baseball, history, lost treasure and, just for good measure, a love triangle -- all wrapped in politics.

...Read more


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