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Deb Baker, columnist

The Mindful Reader: Debunking ‘kids today’ theories

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Alfie Kohn uses some of his previous theories on the problem with rewards, homework and competition to debunk the prevailing view that “kids today” are overindulged, overprotected narcissists, and that their helicopter parents made them that way. Given his earlier research, he wondered what evidence supported such anecdotes. He notes that many of … 0

New John Wayne biography hits target dead center

Sunday, April 6, 2014

“John Wayne: The Life and Legend” (Simon & Schuster), by Scott Eyman Who’s that on the cover of Scott Eyman’s splendid biography of Hollywood’s most enduring movie star? Surely that wavy-haired young fellow in the suit and tie isn’t John Wayne. Where’s the Stetson, the Winchester rifle, the six-shooter, the boots and spurs? … 0

’Love & War’: Unlikely story of love and politics

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Love & War is the unlikely love story of one of America’s best-known power couples and how their marriage has survived despite their sharply different political views. The subtitle of the book by Mary Matalin and James Carville is Twenty years, three presidents, two daughters and one Louisiana home. That offers a hint … 0

Books: The everyday miseries of child-centered parenting

Sunday, February 9, 2014

“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” by Jennifer Senior. Ecco. 320 $26.99 The day I told the man who would become my husband that I didn’t want to have children, I couldn’t even look … 0

‘My Notorious Life’ sucks you into 19th century reproductive rights issues

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kate Manning’s novel My Notorious Life grabbed me from the start, and it did not let go. It was one of those rare books you hate to see end. Manning tells the story of Axie Muldoon, a young … 0

The Mindful Reader: Taking stock of our relationships and how they shape us

Sunday, February 9, 2014

University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer co-wrote an article in 1990 called “Emotional Intelligence.” Journalist Daniel Goleman wrote a book about Mayer’s ideas that popularized his work. Mayer’s new book, Personal Intelligence: The Power of … 0

Books: Lover man, oh where can you be?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The secret of the game “Never have I ever” is that while it seems to revolve around guys – guys you’ve liked, guys you’ve kissed or slept with – it is actually all about girls. It is a … 0

Teenage blogger Tavi Gevinson has book deal

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Teen blogger-actress granted a book deal This is more than beginner’s luck: Teenage blogger-actress Tavi Gevinson has a two-book deal for more highlights from her online magazine Rookie. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House, announced Tuesday that … 0

Book review: A harrowing tale of piecing a life back together

Sunday, February 2, 2014

David Stuart MacLean’s troubles began about a decade ago on a train platform in India. “I have no idea who I am,” the 28-year-old MacLean said to a police officer. He couldn’t recall his name or even what … 0

Symbol of democracy or human sacrifice? A radical reinterpretation of the Parthenon frieze

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Parthenon, that ancient wonder built to honor the goddess Athena, has a history of making visitors swoon. “The repository of the sacred standard, the basis for all measurement in art,” Le Corbusier called it. Its architectural echoes … 0

Best-seller would be traditional women’s-novel fare, if it weren’t French

Sunday, February 2, 2014

‘The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, which has been a runaway best-seller in France and translated into more than two dozen languages, seems at first to follow a traditional women’s-novel formula: A drab middle-aged housewife is deserted by her … 0

THE WAY OF ALL FISH By Martha Grimes. Scribner. 341 pp. $26.99. ISBN 978-1476723952 Hit men with terrible aim end up taking out an aquarium at a New York restaurant in Martha Grimes’s new satire, The Way of All Fish. Among the diners who try to rescue the gasping clownfish are Cindy Sella, a novelist having a lousy year. Two other hit men on the scene, Candy and Karl, also help mop up the mess. They’re the Publishers Weekly-reading killers we last saw in Grimes’s 2003 satire, Foul Matter. This time around, Candy and Karl are at the Clownfish Cafe doing reconnaissance work on a potential target: L. Bass Hess, Cindy’s ex-agent and the man responsible for her troubles. Hess is suing Cindy for a commission on one of her novels that he didn’t even represent. Despite the spuriousness of the case, Cindy’s lawyers are doing a poor job of defending her. “Lawyers to the right of her, lawyers to the left, lawyers in front, lawyers behind,” one character remarks. “Is there a vision of hell, even in Dante, that could possibly compete with that?” Candy and Karl are among those moved by Cindy’s plight. You see, they have scruples, as well as a taste for literature. They only take on clients who, in the classic Texas defense, need killing. But they can’t employ their usual methods because if Hess turns up dead, Cindy would be the No. 1 suspect. Instead, they become part of an elaborate scheme to drive Hess crazy. A best-selling writer, a junkyard operator, an alligator wrangler, a Vegas magician and a Malaysian con woman are among the crew who band together to rescue the bland but likable Cindy. The story travels from New York to the Everglades to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to a monastery in ever more hilarious efforts to make Hess pay. The Way of All Fish is completely different in tone from Grimes’s Richard Jury mysteries, and fans who haven’t read Foul Matter might need a few pages to catch up. Publishing also seems a less ripe target for satire than it did back in 2003. In the decade since Foul Matter appeared, someone seems to have taken out a hit on the entire industry. But Grimes, who was named Mystery Writers of America Grand Master in 2012, has packed in plenty to amuse readers, from her ever-spiraling plot to the motley characters to allusions to classic mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers, Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins. “Yeah sure,” Karl remarks about a writer whose L.A. private eye is billed as being “in the great tradition of Raymond Chandler.” “Only guy that writes in the great tradition of Raymond Chandler is Raymond Chandler.” (Hard to argue with that.) Hess’s final comeuppance is particularly delicious. For bookworms and mystery fans, The Way of All Fish is a goofily offbeat delight. Just don’t follow Cindy’s example and put your clownfish in a vase of tap water: Marine fish – and unethical agents – die in fresh water.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Another terrific crime satire by author Martha Grimes … 0

E.L. Doctorow explores mind of brain scientist

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The narrator of E.L. Doctorow’s latest novel, Andrew’s Brain, is a cognitive scientist with a guilty soul. He blames himself for every bad thing that has happened to him in his lifetime, and that’s a lot. His first … 0