Book Review: 'Grandpa Magic'

Allan Kronzek, a professional magician who lives in Sag Harbor, has pulled off a wonderful trick – writing a how-to book for grandparents that's designed to connect them with their grandkids. Called "Grandpa Magic," but intended also for Grandmas, the book declares that its 116 amazing brain teasers, perplexing puzzles and simple stunts will wow kids of all ages. And lure them away from their digital devices for a while. Kronzek hopes to engage kids in an imaginative world full of mystery,

Book Review: Typewriters - Iconic Machines From The Golden Age of Mechanical Writing

Before the computer, there was the typewriter. It revolutionized the way we worked and did business. It could also be a thing of beauty. A new book takes a look at both the utility, and the design, of the typewriter. Book critic Joan Baum has this review.

Book Review: Typewriters - Iconic Machines From The Golden Age of Mechanical Writing

Book Review: 'The Kortelisy Escape'

In his new novel "The Kortelisy Escape," Leonard Rosen crafts an ingenious, complex thriller that's deeply moving, as well as highly original. The hook is the use of magic tricks to advance the plot and theme. The magical connection between the two main characters, whose alternating points of view move the narrative along, makes this unusual story memorable. He's Nate Larson, a grizzled 66-year old just out of Danbury prison when the story begins. She's his 14-year-old savvy, sardonic

Book Review: 'Lowdown'

It's cold, still dark early, a time, as the cliché has it, to curl up with a good book. And I've got one for you, if "good" means almost non-stop reading because you care about the main characters, even if they're not good. And they're not, in Anthony Schneider's new novel, "Lowdown." They're Mafia, but as "The Godfather" and Tony Soprano proved, complex goodfellas can fascinate. In "Lowdown" Schneider delivers an absorbing tale about a guy whose crime family has real-life connections to the

Book Review: 'The Other Woman'

A fun and games thriller, "The Other Woman" turns on intrigue about Russian espionage, and links present-day Russian attempts to sabotage Western democracies to the machinations years ago by, arguably, the most notorious double agent of the 20th century – the head of Britain's intelligence service, MI6, Kim Philby. In fact, it's now exactly 30 years since the unrepentant Philby died, in Moscow, having fled there in 1963 once he was identified as a member of the infamous British spy ring, The

Book Review: 'Boats Against The Current'

What's it going to be folks, Great Neck or Westport? We're talking about the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . In the decades following its publication in 1925 – to mixed reviews, it should be said – this now celebrated, adored and elegantly written tale of money, romance and identity in the Jazz Age, was understood to have taken place in fictional stand-ins for towns on the North Shore of Long Island. However, in a 1996 article in The New Yorker, scholar and journalist Barbara

Book Review: 'The Woman In The Window'

It's quite an accomplishment to write a psychological thriller these days. We're so sophisticated, so jaded by edgy crime in fiction and movies, not to mention real life, that we're suspicious when we're told a new book's come along that's a nail-biting page turner. Cynics that we are, we also tend to think that best-seller suspense tales must be contrived. But what debut novelist A. J. Finn does with "The Woman in the Window" is remarkable. He's created a breathless, stunning twist-and-turn

Book Review: 'Saving Sin City'

Every now and then when it seems the world can't get any greedier or immoral, a book comes along to remind us that the world's always seemed spiritually bankrupt to the generations who lived through their own mad, bad times. That's the implied premise of Southampton writer and historian Mary Cummings' fascinating narrative about New York's Gilded Age, which she revisits by way of one of the most bizarre murders in American history and its judicial aftermath, often called "the trial of the

Book Critic Joan Baum Remembers Philip Roth

American novelist Philip Roth has died. He was 85. Roth's work is known for its unflinching look at the human character. His style was deeply autobiographical. Many of his works were set in his hometown, Newark, N.J., and his characters often struggled with the complexities of integrating into mainstream American life.

Book Review: 'The Book Of Cheese'

"More than any other food, cheese has personality," writes Liz Thorpe in her gorgeous, yummy, almost overwhelming treatise, The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You'll Love . "Punk cheeses, boring cheeses, comfort cheeses" and her own favorites, based on flavor, texture, scent and surprise, but Thorpe urges everyone to follow his or her own nose and taste buds. Her theme is: take a chance, discover something new. Start with a cheese you like—maybe one you remember from

Book Review: 'Fractured Continent'

There's an old proverb popularized by Mel Brooks that sums up "Fractured Continent," William Drozdiak's fine, eminently readable analysis of European politics that made The New York Times Most Notable 100 Books list for 2017. The proverb is: "Hope for the best, expect the worst." But even if the "crises" explored by Drozdiak in 14 Western capitals, don't constitute the worst in the continent's 70-year-old attempt to achieve unity after World War II, they do exemplify a deepening division within

Book Review: 'Poetry Will Save Your Life'

It's a forceful and confident title that Jill Bialosky gives her unusual memoir, Poetry Will Save Your Life. She writes "will" not "can" or "may." I'm not so sure, nor am I convinced that a favorite book wouldn't do, or music, with its purported power to soothe the savage breast. Because it's longer and without meter or rhythm, however, a novel is not as likely as a poem to prompt immediate reaction. In any case, there's no denying that poetry as consolation, if not salvation, worked for

Book Review: 'The Coyote Hunter Of Aquidneck Island'

James Conroy's new novel, The Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island not only introduces readers to a still rural bit of paradise set in Narragansett Bay, but to little known facts about indigenous New England Indian tribes...and coyotes. And, starting with the opening dialogue, the novel also introduces some good writing that brings together domestic drama, lore about the environment and some little-known Civil War military history. Conroy, a published poet and novelist from Long Island has an unusual

Book Review: 'Building Small'

It may be hard to credit in this age of monster McMansions that the "tiny house movement" which began in the hippie `60s, continues to grow. But so say architectural designer and illustrator David Stiles and his wife, Jeanie Stiles, a writer and photographer. Their attractive newest how-to book, Building Small , their 25th, pitches barns, cabins and sheds as weekend and year-round retreats, whether off the grid or on. Would you believe an adorable 8' X 11' backyard Tudor or a two-level Japanese

Book Review: 'Astrophysics For People In A Hurry'

According to reports, the famous astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, won't be available to answer any questions during Monday's solar eclipsey. Tyson says he'll be in an undisclosed location where he will experience this celestial phenomenon in private. But Tyson did share his ideas about the cosmos and the people who have studied it, in his latest book, "Astrophysics For People In A Hurry." Book critic Joan Baum has this review: Neil de Grasse Tyson knows he's a science rock star and loves it.

Book Review: 'The Burning Girl'

In her moving, elegiac new novel The Burning Girl , Claire Messud alludes to childhood as a Wordsworthian time when we still trail "clouds of glory." For adolescence, though, she invokes the Biblical phrase "through a glass darkly," meaning that what we think we see and know of life and ourselves is imperfect. That the "weight of the world falls upon us" in adolescence, and pain and fear and uncertainty replace the bliss of being young. The Burning Girl is a haunting coming-of-age story in the

Book Review: 'Steven Spielberg: A Life In Films'

Despite praise for Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films – an assignment journalist Molly Haskell accepted for Yale University Press's Jewish Lives series, this witty, accessible though sometimes glib inquiry disappoints. But not because Haskell's not Jewish. She was surprised, she said, that she was asked to do the book, and she readily acknowledges being ambivalent about many Spielberg movies, especially his pre-Schindler work. A feminist critic and an intellectual, she always favored complex,

Book Review: 'My Mother's Kitchen'

At an age many people retire – or expire – Judy Gethers who never worked a day in her life became a renowned gourmet chef. The granddaughter of a famed dairy restaurant owner on the Lower East Side, Ratner's, she loved to eat well, but that was it. And then one day, sitting with her husband in Ma Maison, Wolfgang Puck's upscale restaurant in Los Angeles, she suddenly decided she wanted to learn how to cook. She was 53. Puck put her to work as an unpaid intern in his kitchen: "You'll be our slave

Book Review: 'The Stars Are Fire'

It's been said that if there are raised letters on the jacket cover and the pages have a ragged, hand-cut look, the book's important. Of course, that doesn't mean it is, but in the case of Anita Shreve's new novel, The Stars are Fire , her 18th, the signaling design proves correct. Shreve, who came to fame with The Weight of Water and an Oprah selection, The Pilot's Wife , both made into movies, has crafted in The Stars are Fire a moving, suspenseful, delicately erotic, landscape-harsh tale of

Book Review: 'The Huntress'

Despite its odd title, The Huntress is not about hunting, though Alicia Patterson was an excellent shot and a superb horsewoman. What it is, is a biography of the debutante who was the founder and editor of Newsday . The co-authors are Alicia Patterson's niece, Alice Arlen, who died this past February, and her husband Michael Arlen, a staff writer for years at The New Yorker . Alicia Patterson was quite a mover and shaker. The subtitle of The Huntress gives the chronology: "The Adventures,