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Good Night

night night

Night, Night, Sleep Tight: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, $14.99, 320 pages)

The setting is Los Angeles, California, and the time is May 1985. Deidre Unger, a woman whose life was forever altered by an event that took place 22 years earlier, finds her father, screenwriter Arthur Unger, drowned in the swimming pool at his sadly neglected house. Deirdre has come from her home in San Diego to assist in readying the house for sale. Her father’s untimely death appears to be an accident but that might not be the case. Deirdre can’t rely on her brother Henry who lives at the house to help her make sense of what has happened. Henry is a slacker and he lives a hazy existence.

Much of Deirdre’s life has been spent limping along on the leg and foot that were crushed in the wreck of Arthur’s Austin Healy convertible back in 1963. The circumstances surrounding the middle of the night drive and subsequent crash are a bit cloudy for her due, in no small part, to the trauma she suffered as a result. As she works to uncover the reason her father has died, Deirdre encounters people from her childhood – a neighbor boy, Tyler Corrigan, and Realtor Joelen Nichol, her best friend.

night night sleep tight wide

Author Hallie Ephron uses her childhood in Beverly Hills and a true-life spectacular only-in-Hollywood event that fascinated her as a pre-teen to underpin this memorable suspense novel. That event was the stabbing death of super glamorous actress Lana Turner’s boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. This was no ordinary lover’s spat; Turner’s daughter Cheryl Crane was the killer.

Although characters Joelen Nichol and her mother, Bunny, have a past not unlike Turner and Crane, the similarity ends there. Ephron uses her considerable writing skills to draw the reader into a cleverly woven plot while maintaining a tone that places this book in the category of literature. The treatment of the scenes is cinematic and yet subtle. Readers who are familiar with southern California will easily see the places and scenes in their minds.

Hallie Ephron

The initial attraction to this Ephron’s work was spurred by this reviewer’s enjoyment of her sister Nora’s writing; however, Hallie now has a new fan. I look forward to reading her past and future works.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Cat and Mouse

The Cat, The Devil, The Last Escape: A Novel by Shirley Rousseau Murphy & Pat J. J. Murphy (William Morrow, $24.99, 313 pages)

The Cat The Devil

On their visits to Morgan she found it increasingly hard to hide her despair at the lack of a job. When she was with him she talked hopefully about their request for an appeal, but too often he would simply hug her and change the subject, knowing she was holding back her stress and doubts.

This book is a second collaboration between prolific author Shirley Rousseau Murphy and her husband, Pat J. J. Murphy. They have spun off from Ms. Murphy’s talking cat series and put humans at the center of the action. (Oh, no. Ed.) Predictably, there’s a morality theme focused on struggles with the Devil. The tale is a seamless follow-up to The Cat, The Devil, and Lee Fontana.

Misto, the ageless cat, is the link tying a small family in deep trouble with Lee Fontana, the train robber turned bank robber. There is a pervasive theme of despair mixed with anxiety as the somewhat predictable tale meanders around the country in search of justice for the small family. The reader must wait until one-third of the way through the book before things take a turn for the better. (It must be noted that the co-authored books do not flow as smoothly or effortlessly as the ones written solely by Shirley Rousseau Murphy.)

The Cat, The Devil back cover

Cautiously recommended for fans of Lee Fontana and Misto.

Cheer Up Mouse

Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry (Houghton Mifflin, $12.99, 32 pages)

Mouse is feeling sad and his wonderful gang of friends is here to bring him back from the depths. As with Good Night, Mouse, little listeners and their story readers will delight in the lush illustrations by Jed Henry. His lyrics, for the words are much more than just a story, follow the rhythm of the characters’ natural inclinations as each takes a turn at cheering up Mouse.

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There’s no need for a spoiler alert because the author/illustrator guarantees a happy ending. Sometimes simple is better and suffering can be alleviated with love and caring. This book only takes 30 some pages to make its point, unlike the Murphy collaboration that struggles along for 313 pages.

Cheer Up, Mouse banner

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Good Night, Mouse!

Good Night, Mouse

Good Night, Mouse! by Jed Henry (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $16.99, 32 pages)

Some children’s storybooks rely on clever illustrations to capture their audience and others rely on rhymes. Jed Henry’s adorable picture book, Good Night, Mouse!, gently brings his audience into a softly illustrated tale of Mouse, a fellow who can’t fall asleep. The characters, all of whom are friends of Mouse, take turns using their own method of falling asleep while encouraging Mouse to drift off to sleep.

Good Night, Mouse!

The book is not too big and not too small. It is right-sized for cuddling on a downturned comforter. The wording is a blend of beautiful and caring sounds. Rabbit says, “I know how to wear him out. Tripping, skipping, tired tumbling. Good night, Mouse!” Noting that Mouse has become all wound up in Rabbit’s jump rope, Frog suggests, “A bath will soothe his weary bones.”

And so it goes, as each of Mouse’s many friends take a turn at putting him to bed. The book has long been a favorite of this reviewer’s little granddaughter. The book lives at grandma and grandpa’s house. It makes an appearance as the last book to be read before lights out. Funny how it lulls the reader and listener so that by the end of the story everyone is ready to say, “Good night.”

GoodNight black and white

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This book is recommended for children between the ages of 4 and 8.

Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry is also available.

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