Smoke gets in your eyes : and other lessons from the crematory

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author:  Caitlin  Doughty

Title:  Smoke gets in your eyes : and other lessons from the crematory  

What? An interesting, informative, and occasionally amusing book about death and cremation?In a word, yes. Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician, has managed to pull off this seemingly incongruous combo. She recounts her experiences work-wise, beginning with her first job as a crematory operator, and gives a lot of background information about what she refers to as the “death industry.”  Witty, irreverent, and sometimes graphic, this memoir provides food for thought.

The frozen dead

From Eileen Effrat

Author: Bernard Minier

Title: The frozen dead

This fast paced French thriller has it all—-a decapitated horse hanging from a cable car, three men brutally murdered with similar modus operandi, and patients on the loose from  a  maximum security psychiatric hospital. Commandant Martin Servaz, a city cop from Toulouse, leads the investigation as past nefarious deeds in a small village in the French Pyrenees finally come to roost.  This is a police procedural with some rather grisly details.  Only recently translated into English from the French, this is Minier’s  first novel and I can’t wait for more.

The teacher wars : a history of America’s most embattled profession

From Edna Susman

Author: Dana Goldstein

Title:   The teacher wars : a history of America’s most embattled profession 

Coming from a long line of teachers, the author, Dana Goldstein, is a Spencer Fellow in educational journalism, a Schwarz Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute. Numerous issues such as overcrowding, teaching ESL, educational fads, federal funding, teachers’ unions, and the use of test scores and ratings are addressed. Many of these issues have been part of our American educational debates throughout history. Even with this, the author remains optimistic about the profession.

8:46 [videorecording DVD] : never forget

From Ellen Druda

Author: Jennifer Gargano

Title:   8:46 [videorecording DVD] : never forget

There are no surprises in a film about September 11th. We all know how it’s going to end.  Filmmaker Jennifer Gargano imagines stories about some people caught in the event: the victims and their families, workmates, friends and lovers, and what was happening in their lives that day.  The characters are fictional but possible amalgamations of stereotypes based on many real lives.  The film spends most of the time leading up to the attacks in order for us to get to know the individuals.  When the planes hit the buildings, we see the panic and heroics of these everyday people from inside the towers and those in the immediate area.  Ms. Gargano has created a heartfelt, if a little clichéd, tribute to the casualties and heroes of 9/11, with a portion of the proceeds going to Tuesday’s Children, a charity for those impacted by the events.

Saving Simon : how a rescue donkey taught me the meaning of compassion

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author: Jon Katz

Title: Saving Simon : how a rescue donkey taught me the meaning of compassion 

Saving Simon : how a rescue donkey taught me the meaning of compassion by Jon Katz was a mostly uplifting read. I say mostly because when you, the reader, first start the book, the fate of the donkey seems dire indeed. Simon is a “rescue” donkey meaning a concerned individual spotted Simon in a risky living situation and started the process of liberating him from that situation. Simon’s rescuers found the donkey in a fenced area too small for him and his care had been severely neglected. Jon Katz owned a “gentleman” farm, a “gentleman” farm in that farming is not the owner’s main occupation, fiction and nonfiction writing are. Jon agreed to “rescue” the donkey and provide him with a safe living environment. For the first few months, this “rescue” operation required multiple applications of ointments and salves and lots of TLC. In the course of rescuing Simon, Jon began to define and redefine, for himself, the meaning of mercy and compassion. He poses a question to himself and essentially to all of mankind regarding mercy and compassion. The question that he seeks to answer is – does only the blameless individual(s) deserve compassion? This book encouraged me to look at how I define mercy and compassion and to whom I award those gifts. Saving Simon was a most thought-provoking read.

Holy ghost [videorecording DVD]

From Ginny Pisciotta

Author: Darren Wilson

Title: Holy ghost [videorecording DVD]

Filmmaker Darren Wilson (Finger of God, Father of Lights, Furious Love) challenged himself to film a documentary totally led by the Holy Spirit. Without a plan or script,  he went wherever he felt the Holy Spirit lead him.  He travels to Salt Lake City, Monte Carlo, a Korn concert and Varanasi, India where a Hindu high priest allows Christian musician Jake Hamilton to sing and play his guitar inside a temple.

Wilson films the love of God reaching out to diverse people in diverse places in diverse ways. Holy Ghost was an excellent and inspiring film. I am looking forward to his next film.

The Darkening Field

From Eileen Effrat

Author: William Ryan

Title: The Darkening Field

This is Ryan’s second Captain Alexi Korolev mystery. Sent from Moscow to Odessa, Korolev now investigates the murder of a dedicated party member filming a major Soviet movie. The woman is supposedly the lover of Yezhov, Stalin’s right-hand man.  Korolev finds himself once again treading lightly  in this extremely sensitive investigation.  As in his first novel, The Holy Thief,this is a good police procedural set in 1937 Moscow. If you enjoy Martin Cruz Smith’s Detective  Araday Renko  or Tom Rob Smith’s Detective Leo Demidov, Ryan’s Soviet based mystery series is for you.