Turn! Turn! Turn!

last season hardcover

The Last Season: A Father, A Son, and a Lifetime of College Football by Stuart Stevens (Knopf, $24.95, 224 pages)

“All along, the football season had been just an excuse to spend time together, and now that we were toward the end of the season, it seemed less important to pretend the games were really the best moments.”

A reader wrote on Amazon that, “Every Ole Miss fan, every SEC fan… will love this book.” Well, no. A key flaw with this book is that it is horribly and sadly biased. Political consultant Stevens writes that, “The SEC draws the best (athletes) in the country.” And he attempts to pile on by calling the SEC “college football’s brightest stage.” Well, this may be true in some years, but certainly not all.

This is intended to be a moving memoir about a son who celebrates what is likely his 95-year-old father’s final year on earth by attending every University of Mississippi football game. But it’s a missed opportunity. Stevens never wastes a chance to go sideways be inserting his ineffable personal opinion on, oh, almost everything. For example, “I didn’t really like New Orleans. It wasn’t interesting, it was boring and predictable.” Really?

Stevens also makes broad characterizations which are clearly not credible: “This love of college football and it’s importance in life’s schemes are natural for a southerner but difficult for (others) to grasp.” Really?


Steven’s father never comes to life in this work. And the conclusion leaves the reader wondering if this was, in fact, the final season.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

The Last Season was released on September 18, 2015.

My Losing Season 2

Note: A great book that the sports-minded reader might want to consider reading is My Losing Season: A Memoir by Pat Conroy. “Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass.” Pat Conroy

“…maybe the finest book Pat Conroy has written.” The Washington Post

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Proof Positive

Proof Positive Amazon

Proof Positive: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

Proof Positive is Archer Mayor’s 25th novel (Three Can Keep A Secret). Mayor uses his expertise as Vermont’s medical examiner to paint effective pictures of good guys and bad guys and the setting in which they take place (i.e., Vermont).

The opening line of the novel is excellent: “It was the time of year when New England wobbles between fall and winter, as prone to Indian summer as to sudden, short-lived snowstorms.” The story is enticing from the start. The introductory pages are arguably the greatest strength of the book. Some of the writing that follows is less consistent (“Neil’s body collapses like a dropped sack of laundry,” p. 213, comes to mind).

Ben Kindall is a Vietnam vet and a hoarder, which is significant because it provides for the circumstances that mask the real causes of his death. Ben’s cousin, medical examiner Beverly Hillstrom, alerts Vermont Bureau of Investigator and her flame, Joe Gunther, of Ben’s death. The mystery of missing negatives uncovers a trail of dead bodies and a list of potential targets. The suspense builds as a senator and hit men are discovered to be involved.

As is common in many crime novels, dialogue is the convention of choice, and the degree to which this is effective depends on the reader’s preference.

Proof Positive back

Fans of the series will be happy to know that immediately upon the conclusion of Proof Positive comes the first two chapters of novel 26, The Company She Kept, meaning that the next Joe Gunther fix is just around the corner.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. “…a smoothly plotted and absorbing mystery.” Publishers Weekly “The best thing going!” Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Anna Blanc

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc: A Mystery by Jennifer Kincheloe (Seventh Street Books, $15.95, 367 pages)

Sweat beaded on Wolf’s brow as he led Anna among the desks to meet the man in charge. His lips stretched in a tense smile, his skin a little paler than before he had hired Anna. “Captain Wells, may I present Mrs. Anna Holmes, our lovely new assistant matron. She types, speaks Spanish, but most importantly, she’s nervy. I say that’s a vital quality for a matron who will be venturing into unsavory territory.”

Fans of the history of southern California will find this remarkably charming mystery an accurate period piece. The opening chapters of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc offer a well-described glimpse into the life of Miss Blanc. Anna is the only daughter of Christopher Blanc, a wealthy banker and business leader in Los Angeles. Mr. Blanc treats Anna as though she were an asset/possession. Who she marries means more to him than does her happiness.

The time is 1907 and the locales for the tale include Riverside and both the wealthy and shabby areas of Los Angeles. The action begins when Anna has eloped from her father’s Bunker Hill mansion with Louis Taylor. They hop onto a train bound for the historic Mission Inn located in downtown Riverside where they plan to marry in the chapel. Due to the strictness of her Catholic upbringing, Anna has never actually touched a man without wearing gloves. The exception is her father. As she and Louis sit in a third class rail car rolling toward their destination, the action speeds up and one thing leads to another.

Jennifer Kincheloe

Author Jennifer Kincheloe infuses Anna with equal measures of spunk and cleverness. Our heroine longs to be a lady detective just like the ones she reads about in the contraband books she hides by using the covers of books that meet her father’s approval. Fate throws Anna into a controversial encounter with the Los Angeles Police Department. This encounter leads to the opportunity she has been dreaming about. Trickery and abundant guts are all Anna needs to launch her career!


The novel is way too well written to give away any more than the barest of plot details. It’s rare that a thrilling mystery is also a laugh out loud read.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

“Fast, funny, and fabulous. You’re going to love this book!” Lori Rader-Day, author of Pretty Little Things. “A madcap frolic through turn-of-the-century Los Angeles, Jennifer Kincheloe’s debut mystery is an addictive read.” James W. Ziskin, author of Stone Cold Dead.

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Coming Up Next…


A review of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc: A Novel by Jennifer Kincheloe.

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Old King

Old Faithful dogs

Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age by Pete Thorne (Harper Design, $19.99, 144 pages)

Missy isn’t good with math and has no idea of what “senior” means, so she still often behaves like a puppy, running and playing, which makes us and her, happy, and even though playtime isn’t as long as it once was, she’s still up for it every day.

mini poodle

The picture that accompanies this text shows a sweet fifteen and a half-year-old miniature poodle with large bright eyes and a gray muzzle. What’s not to love? Puppies are cute and wiggly but if you want a real buddy, go for one with wisdom and character written across its face. Missy loves everyone, even cats.

Pete Thorne, a professional photographer, became fascinated with older doggies. His online post featuring one at his grandma’s birthday party touched many folks. Seventy-five of the many biographies sent to Thorne have been gathered into an elegant, coffee table-style book. His full-page headshots taken while meeting with the owners and small versions placed next to the biographies fill the book.

Old Faithful dog 2

old faithful dog

old faithful dogs 3

I doubt you will leave Old Faithful sitting on a table or shelf. The furry face on the cover seems to be ready to bark. “Open the book and see what we’re all about.” Unlike many elegant books featuring photos accompanied by small blurbs of explanation, this one is filled with heartfelt joy and wonder. I dare you to resist running to the nearest shelter to adopt a dog of a certain age! (And let’s hope that Thorne proceeds to put together a similar book about cats of a certain age. Meow.)

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Pete Thorne

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Baseball Dreams

Life and Life Only

Life and Life Only: A Novel by Dave Moyer (iUniverse, $14.95, 200 pages)

Because I like baseball (having written a baseball novel), have endured martial strife, and am a father (all major themes in Dave Moyer’s novel), I enjoyed reading Life and Life Only. It details Dan Mason’s life from his birth in 1974 to his early-forties in the future year of 2018. Incidentally, the book was published by iUniverse, Inc., in 2009, nine years before the story ends.

An abundance of facts are presented as the novel primarily follows the baseball career of talented pitcher, Dan. We accompany him through youth, high school, summer, college and semi-pro baseball as he seeks his dream of playing professional and eventually major league baseball. Unfortunately an arm injury undermines that dream. Baseball also is an important part of his marriage to the lovely Southern belle, Anna Jean, and even permeates, in a positive way, his excellent relationship with his only child, Melinda Sue.

The novel does have its shortcomings, however. The interspersing of historical details and the music of Bob Dylan aside, it has, as I mentioned, an abundance of facts. And Moyer often presents these facts randomly, and sometimes in a helter skelter manner, frequently changing point of view in the process. Such a voluminous number of facts ultimately sacrifices the drama inherent in Life and Life Only. Moyer regularly violates the important writers’ adage of “Tell, don’t show.” Thus he keeps the reader at a distance instead of inviting him into each scene.

Even with the novel ending some nine years after publication, it seems very autobiographical. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I simply mention it because a little poetic license might well heighten drama.

Life and life only (1)

Again, I enjoyed the book. I am sure I would have found it more compelling with fewer facts and more drama.

Recommended (3 stars out of 5).

Alan Mindell

Alan Mindell is the author of The Closer: A Baseball Love Story, and The B Team: A Horse Racing Saga.

The Closer Mindell

Dave Moyer is an education administrator in the greater Chicago area, author, and a reviewer for this site.

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Tail Gait (Amazon)

Tail Gait: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown (Bantam, $26.00, 307 pages)

“Smartest thing we ever did, separation of church and state, and we can thank Madison for drawing up those Articles for Virginia when we were a colony.” Ginger’s tone brooked no interference, but then the rest agreed on this issue.

Professor Greg “Ginger” McConnell, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Virginia is a tenacious researcher who has been digging into land ownership matters that must be sensitive to someone who wants to keep the past buried. Ginger is the victim of that someone and he’s found dead in the rough of a golf course by several of his former students.

Tail Gait follows two story threads, one set in the Revolutionary War and the other in 2015. The plight of a brave young British soldier captured by the Americans is contrasted with the murder of the history professor. The locale is Rita Mae Brown’s home turf, Virginia.

Typical of Ms. Brown, there are many teaching moments inserted here and there. Readers familiar with the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries may be disappointed that the feline Mrs. Murphy and her furry friends are not more prominently featured in the solution to Ginger’s murder.

The two story threads seem unrelated until more than halfway through the book. The reader is left wondering when, if ever, Ms. Brown will get to the point. The writing in both threads is sadly uneven. This reviewer needed to reread passages for clarification. This work is far below the standard earlier set by Brown; thus, it’s not engaging or entertaining. If there’s another book in the series, let’s hope that Mrs. Murphy is returned to her starring role!

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

You can read a review of Cat Striking Back: A Joe Grey Mystery by Shirley Rousseau Murphy here:


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