Author Archives: george


The audience for Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North is obviously women. But the review I read in The Wall Street Journal suggested male readers would profit from reading this helpful guide to aging, too.

My favorite chapter in Women Rowing North is “Building a Good Day.” Pipher shows how our choices each day affect our happiness and health. Too many older people get stressed out because they over-schedule their days trying to jam in too much stuff. Pipher is definitely in the “Less is More” camp.

Friends and family become more important as we age. Dealing with increasing health problems and infirmities that come along with the aging process can be eased with a little help from our friends and family. I know my visits to the Alzheimer’s wing of the nursing home my mother resided in the last 8 years of her life lifted her spirits and resulted in better treatment by the staff. Yet I saw some residents who NEVER had a visitor. Their treatment was much different.

Aging tests us all. This wise and witty book can help us prepare for what’s ahead of us. GRADE: A
Introduction 1
I Challenges of the Journey
1 A New Stretch of the River 14
2 The Lay of the Land 26
3 The Worn Body 37
4 Intensity and Poignancy 53
5 Caregiving 60
6 Swept Away 69
7 Loneliness and Solitude 83
II Travel Skills
8 Understanding Ourselves 98
9 Making Intentional Choices 109
10 Building a Good Day 122
11 Creating Community 135
12 Crafting Resplendent Narratives 147
13 Anchoring in Gratitude 160
III The People on the Boat
14 Travel Companions 174
15 Co-Captains 184
16 The Lifeboat of Family 195
17 Grandchildren 206
IV The Northern Lights
18 Moon River: Authenticity and Self-Acceptance 220
19 The Long View 231
20 Everything Is Illuminated 241
Acknowledgments 252
Index 253

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY By Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (also on NETFLIX soon)

On Friday, February 15, 2019 Netflix will release episodes of The Umbrella Academy. The Umbrella Academy, based on a graphic novel created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá and published by Dark Horse Comics. The Apocalypse Suite‎ introduces a strange group who have “powers.” Thirty-seven single women give birth to babies with powers. Most of the babies are abandoned.

The Umbrella Academy is established by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (aka, “The Monocle” and Colm Feore), a mysterious alien disguised as a wealthy entrepreneur and world-renowned scientist. Hargreeves adopts the seven members of The Umbrella Academy at birth including Spaceboy (Tom Hopper), The Kraken (David Castañeda), The Rumor (Emmy Raver-Lampman), The Séance (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), The Horror (Ethan Hwang), and The White Violin (Ellen Page). Number Five, who has the power to time-travel, goes to the near future and finds the world is destroyed. It takes Number Five 50 years to figure out how to travel back in time. When he does, he finds he’s back in his 10-year-old body. Number Five and the other members of the Umbrella Academy try to stop the forces that threaten to bring the Apocalypse. I enjoyed this quirky graphic novel and now I want to check out the Netflix series. GRADE B


Trouble comes to LEGOLAND and our hero Emmitt (Chris Pratt) and his love interest Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) try to save the day. But Lucy gets kidnapped by “aliens” and Emmitt has to take a trip to Systar to rescue her. On the way, Emmitt meets Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt) and his spaceship run by raptors. Things get silly when the Evil Queen (Tiffany Haddish) wants to marry “Man of Bats” (Will Arnett). If you’re in the mood for some laughs and silliness, watch The LEGO Movie 2. GRADE: B+


In this latest STARK HOUSE volume, long-time FFB participant, J. F. Norris (Pretty Sinister Books), provides an informative and lively essay “Jean Potts,” an introduction to very canny writer. The first novel in this wonderful STARK HOUSE omnibus, Go, Lovely Rose (1954), won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The novel begins with the death of Mrs. Henshaw, a woman universally disliked. Mrs. Henshaw’s body is found dead at the bottom of some stairs. The late Mrs. Henshaw had been a “housekeeper” to Doctor Buckmaster, his daughter Rachel, and son, Hartley. After Mrs. Henshaw’s death, which may or may not be accidental, Rachel returns home to look after her brother…who may be a suspect. Jean Potts captures the anxieties and suspicions of the 1950s in this chilling psychological thriller.

The Evil Wish (1962) deals with an innovative situation: two sisters, Marcia and Lucy Knapp, plot to murder their father. Dr. Knapp plans to marry his much younger nursing assistant and then disinherit his daughters. But, ironically, on the very day Marcia and Lucy plan to kill their father, Dr. Knapp and Pam the nurse die in a car accident. End of story, right?…not quite. Jean Potts allows the guilty conscience of each of the sisters to breed doubt, deceit, and treachery. The Evil Wish will keep you up late at night long after you finish reading it. The Evil Wish was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. I hope STARK HOUSE reprints more of Jean Potts’s unique novels. GRADE: B+ (for both)

SHADOW CAPTAIN By Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds’ SHADOW CAPTAIN runs aground about a third of the way through its 426 pages. One of the crew of the Revenger–a former pirate space ship–is injured while performing some maintenance on the hull of the ship. Sisters Adrana and Arafura Ness and their crew decide to take their injured crew member to Wheel Strizzardy, a nearby space station for doctor’s assistance and provisions. What they find on Wheel Strizzardy is a society dominated by criminal elements and a leader, Glimmery, who holds power through torture and violence.

The story slows to a crawl as Adrana and Arafura attempt to deal with aliens called the Crawlies and escape Glimmery’s web of deception alive. Not enough action for my taste. My review of the first, and much better book in this series, REVENGER, can be found here. I have a very strong feeling there’s at least one more book planned featuring the Ness sisters. Perhaps SHADOW CAPTAIN suffers from the dreaded “middle book of a trilogy letdown.” GRADE: B-


When I visited my allergist for my yearly checkup, she consulted her iPad and said, “Your mattress is 10 years old. Time for a new one.” So Diane and I started our search for a new mattress. Christmas, New Year’s, and the Polar Vortex delayed us a bit, but we finally found a mattress we both found comfortable: the Serta Perfect Sleeper mattress. We chose the “firm” mattress from the many options. We’re also getting the 9-inch box spring and a new bed frame. Are you due for a new mattress?

SENSE & SENSIBILITY: A PLAY BY KATE HAMIL [Based on the novel by Jane Austen]

Imagine all the set pieces on a stage on wheels. And further imagine the cast moving all those props around as the action on the stage changes from scene to scene. Diane and I were delighted with this stage version of Jane Austen’s classic novel (which I reread before I saw this play). The story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, whose father dies and leaves them, their young sister Margaret, and their mother, in financial difficulties reflects the harsh English society of 1811. Given their plight, Elinor and Marianne are open to marriage to a suitably wealthy man. But Jane Austen provides plenty of romantic difficulties. Marianne falls in love with a scamp named John Willoughby. Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, a young man whose fortune is controlled by his mother who decides who he will marry.

Kristen Tripp Kelley (no relation) plays the sensible sister, Elinor. Renee Landigan–a friend of my daughter Katie–plays the flighty Marianne. The rest of the cast of the Irish Classical Theatre production play multiple roles (including pretending to be dogs!) with humor and cleverness. The sold-out performance we were part of didn’t seem 2 1/2 hours long because the action on the stage was so energetic. If you get a chance to see this play version of Sense and Sensibility, you’ll enjoy it. Are you a fan of Jane Austen? GRADE: A-

BROTHERS KEEPERS By Donald E. Westlake

For 200 years, the Crispinite Order of the Novum Mundum–a group of monks–have lived in a monastery on Park Avenue. But now, real estate interests want to demolish the monastery and replace it with a new, modern 37-storey office building. Brother Benedict discovered that the monastery was in danger and tried to stop the project. But the Dwarfmann Investment Management Partners (DIMP) have already bought up the adjoining properties surrounding the monastery and are poised to level all existing structures.

Donald E. Westlake takes this business scheme and turns it into comedic gold. Brother Benedict and his fellow monks attempt to come to grips with the threat that faces them. But a life of contemplation doesn’t quite prepare them for the Dirty Tricks real estate moguls will resort to in order to make money and seize property.

Brother Benedict, isolated from the Real World since joining the Order 10 years ago, encounters temptation in the form of beautiful Eileen Flattery. Eileen, the daughter of the builder of the new office building, falls in love with Brother Benedict…and he falls in love with her. But, can this star-crossed young couple topple a real estate empire and save the monastery? Westlake’s wonderful story will keep you guessing and laughing right up until the very end. GRADE: B+


The New England Patriots are 2 1/2 point favorites over the LA Rams. I’m still sulking because the Saints (who should be in this game) got robbed on the “no call” fiasco. And I would have preferred the up-and-coming Kansas City Chiefs to the perennial cheaters, the New England Patriots. That being said, we’ll probably watch some of the Super Bowl. I’ll have a book in my lap for most of the game, looking up if someone scores. Who do you think will win the Super Bowl this year? Are you rooting for one of these teams?


Tomorrow, February 3rd, is world-class artist Robert McGinnis’s 93rd Birthday. As a teenager, I was drawn to paperbacks with McGinnis cover artwork before I knew who Robert McGinnis was. That explains all the DELL Mike Shayne and Signet “carter brown” books I read in the 1960s. But, my interest in Robert McGinnis is dwarfed by the interest Art Scott took in the artist and his work. Art Scott has EVERY paperback that Robert McGinnis did a cover for! Art has met Robert McGinnis, had a caricature drawn by McGinnis, owns original McGinnis artwork, and has written two insightful introductions to two books of McGinnis artwork.

Art Scott suggested that we celebrate this iconic paperback artist. Art also suggested we check out these two links:

Robert McGinnis: A Life in Paperback Art

Do you have a favorite Robert McGinnis cover?