The Franklin Avenue Rookery for Wayward Babies

Ever since reading Laura Newman’s first collection of short stories, Parallel to Paradise: Addiction and Other Love Stories, in 2014, I’ve been looking forward to more. Her new collection, The Franklin Avenue Rookery for Wayward Babies, is worth the wait.

What do I like most about Newman’s stories? She is a master of showing, not telling. I’d like to know how she can seem to be so familiar with the details of life all over the world. For example, we get to know one of the characters in “Tourette’s of the Heart” as a child in Tibet in 1950. “When winter finally breaks its back on the mountains, it is Dorje’s job to take the straw basket that forever smells of summer and walk the alleys of Lhasa looking for cloth. Any kind. A lost kerchief, a blanket on the verge of despair. Balding sheepskin. She is in competition with moths.”

Newman also seems to know exactly what nights are like for a poor girl living on the Pacific Coast of Mexico in “Sweet Nothings”: “At night Silvia most often slept outside in a hammock surrounded by the ficus and busera trees. Wild orchids reflected moonlight like monkey faces, high up in the trees. The night wind was full of the smell of the ocean, of things alive and things dead. When the wind jostled the dried palm fronds of the palapa it sounded like the whispered arguments of parents behind closed doors.”

Silvia ends up with a man who carves wooden Jesus statues and sells them at the San Ysidro border crossing. “La Pequeña Niña de Hielo, or The Little Ice Girl,” ends up at the same place in another story. On the Mexican side, “[t]here is a little house in the Canyon of the Goats, assembled from garage doors discarded in San Diego, patched together with plywood and gumption.”

The characters are as varied and as well portrayed as the settings. The protagonist in “Good as Biscotti” is a dishonest teenage girl living in Rome with an American artist, a former addict and pro bono solicitor, a “daytime lady of the night” and a parrot. A friendly vendor gives her fried eels: “It was possible I was eating mercury and sewage, but Signor Cacibauda had found a way to bread and fry the Tevere itself; he served up little pieces of the silver river.”

A girl in Scotland in the 1880s and 1890s catches and kills small animals and birds and then eats or stuffs them in “Pink Flamingos and the Good Friday Massacres.” She and her dead critters end up in Valdez, Alaska, and the story comes together a century later with a color-blind man who hopes to see the northern lights, a renowned violinist, and an indigenous woman. This story is not for squeamish animal lovers.

 “The House of Naan and Saffron,” about a Christian minister and his family, begins in a Norwegian forest and ends in India. In the protagonist’s words, “I tried to recall the north and it came to me as very blue and white. India is every shade intensified. Hard to sort; you just can’t organize it like a sock drawer.”

Nothing is what it seems at first in “The Franklin Avenue Rookery for Wayward Babies” in New Orleans. In “Silver,” we follow an Iowa boy into Italy in World War II.

Two of the stories are set in the recent past in Northern Nevada, where Newman lives. “Swisher Sweets” is about an ex-husband who had lost his arm at Sand Mountain as a boy and an attempt to disperse his ashes by swimming across Lake Tahoe that doesn’t go as planned. “I threw away the suit. Who wants that memory? Then I realized that part of Ben was in the garbage too.” “The Color of Fisticuffs and Bloodlines” begins and ends in Japan, but most of it is set in Northern Nevada. The characters and situations in each story fall into place in a satisfying, not always predictable way. I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I am already looking forward to Newman’s next collection!

A quick look at ‘Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion’

Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion by Joseph Cacibauda

Genre: Historical fiction (see comment)

My Synopsis: This fictionalized version of real events follows Sicilian immigrant Jake Valenti to southern Illinois in the early 1920s. His life and death there are immersed in the violence related to anti-immigrant resentment, Prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan. The author introduces all of these threads and then brings them together at the climax.

Publisher: Legas

Format and Number of Pages: Paperback. About 218 pages plus notes and bibliography.

Where to Find: Amazon

How Much Read: All

Comments: With the heavy research obvious, I would describe this as creative nonfiction rather than fiction. The author is a retired teacher living in Reno.

A quick look at ‘A Chronicle of Nevada’s Great Basin’

A Chronicle of Nevada’s Great Basin by Jerry Aaron

Genre: Nonfiction, history

My Synopsis: Jerry Aaron loves Nevada and has taken photos throughout the state over the years. He hopes to infect his readers with his enthusiasm for our history. He does this by telling the stories of the past in a readable, almost conversational and by sharing many of his photos. He also includes previously unpublished photos from Jerry Fenwick’s collection along with other sources. Almost every page has at last one photo.

Publisher: Self, 2017

Format and Number of Pages: Hard cover, 127 pages, about that many photos

Where to Find:, Sundance Books, history museums throughout Nevada

How Much Read: All

Comments: Jerry Aaron and I have something in common: We both like to imagine what Nevada was like for the people who traveled through or lived here in the past. All the photos in this book make it much easier. The photos also document disappearing evidence of the past.

RT Booklovers Convention coming to Reno

How often do we have national book conventions here in Reno? Never say never, because the RT Booklovers Convention will be here next spring!

What is it?

Of course, it’s a convention for book lovers–readers, published authors,aspiring authors, book bloggers, reviewers, booksellers, librarians, everyone. The numbers I’ve seen vary, but between 600 and 800 published authors and twice that many readers will be there.

The convention packs in a giant book fair, free books and other goodies, parties, mixers and other reader events. Authors will find marketing opportunities and 150-200 workshops. Publishers host events and giveaways.

I suspect you have to actually attend before you really know what it is, but the FAQs give you an idea of what all it has.

The convention is put on by RT Book Reviews, formerly Romantic Times. The name change reflects the many genres it now covers.

When and where is it?

May 15-20, 2018

Registration opens tomorrow, Sept. 14.

Heads up: You’ll need to register with the site before you can access all the information and register. You can read the FAQs without registering, however.

How much does it cost?

Here’s a price list:

It sounded expensive to me at first, but then I realized it’s probably the only opportunity I’ll ever have to attend a major book convention without having to travel. Besides, I want all the freebies!

They do offer payment plans and day and weekend passes to make it more affordable.

Who will be there?

So far local author Heather Petty and Northern California authors Kristina Mathews and Jill Shalvis have committed.  Look for your favorites by clicking through all the other authors on the convention site. They will be adding authors up to the time of the conference.

Why am I excited about it?

  1. Books. Being around books and the people who write them.
  2. Authors. I hope to meet a few of my favorite authors.
  3. Freebies. The Goody Room, Swag Alley, the registration bag sing to me like sirens.
  4. Connections. I’m a book editor—what better way to talk to potential clients in person?

Numbers 2 and 4, of course, will be difficult for this introvert, but it sounds like a friendly event. Maybe I’ll meet you there!

May U. of Nevada Press book events

Thursday, May 4
Book Reading and Power Point Presentation: A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013 by Stephen Mikesell
7 p.m.,
Sundance Books & Music

Thursday, May 25
Book Reading and Signing: The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain: Stories by Don Waters
7 p.m., Sundance Books & Music

Wednesday, May 31
Book Reading and Power Point Presentation: 50 of the Best Strolls, Walks, and Hikes around Reno by Mike White and Mark Vollmer
6:30 p.m., REI, 2225 Harvard Way, Reno

University of Nevada Press has new site

Photo credit: Anastasia  Zhenina. Courtesy of

Image: Anastasia Zhenina. Courtesy of

Have you checked out the new website of the University of Nevada Press? I’m impressed. It looks good and works well.

You can order current titles right from the main page. You can search for others from there; if you prefer to browse,however, a click takes you to a page where you can sort by author, title, subject, series title or publication date. The Spring 2017 catalog is on the site as well.

Remember that all titles are 20 percent off when you order through the website.

Another link from the main page takes you to the author (submission) page. The Press is soliciting contributions to its active book series and also will consider fiction and memoir.

Bourne Morris launches latest mystery

From a Sundance Books and Music news release

redqueenrulesSundance Books and Music welcomes Reno author Bourne Morris on Wednesday, Dec. 14, for the launch of the third mystery in her Red Solaris trilogy, The Red Queen Rules. The launch party begins at 6:30 p.m. at Sundance.

Red Solaris faces serious trouble when a white supremacist group schedules an event and her university is in an uproar when students threaten to riot. Is hate speech always protected? Red must confront her own feelings about First Amendment rights versus campus safety. At the same time, Red’s beloved Detective Joe Morgan goes undercover to rescue a young girl from the dangerous world of sex trafficking. He disappears and Red wonders if she will see him again.

Morris began writing at Bennington College, where she studied with the late poet laureate Howard Nemerov. After college, she went into the New York advertising business and was hired by David Ogilvy as a writer at Ogilvy & Mather during the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s. In 1977, she was sent west to head Ogilvy’s advertising agency in Los Angeles.

In 1983, she joined the University of Nevada, Reno as a professor in journalism, where she learned about campus politics. She retired in 2009 to write fiction. The Reynolds School of Journalism recently announced an endowed scholarship in her name.


“Once again, the inquisitive and impulsive Red Solaris ricochets between ivory tower abstractions and real world mayhem. The best Red Queen mystery yet.”
— Ann Ronald, author of Friendly Fallout 1953

“Morris hits it out of the park with this third novel of her Red Queen mystery trilogy.  It is smart, fast-paced, and utterly contemporary with plot lines of disturbing developments in hate groups and higher education’s attempts to teach students how to respond peacefully yet effectively to hate speech. Red Solaris struggles to keep those she loves safe from an increasingly dangerous world, both on campus and off.”

— Don Hardy, author of Because I’d Just Hate to Disappear

Desert rat English prof to read, sign latest book

raising%20wildFrom a Sundance Books and Music news release

Award-winning Reno author Michael Branch will be reading from and signing copies of his new book, Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness, from 6:30 to 8 p.m on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Sundance Books and Music.

Branch, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a writer, humorist, environmentalist, father, desert rat and curmudgeon who lives with his wife and two young daughters in the high desert north of Reno.

Raising Wild, his sixth book, explores environmental experience in the context of parenting in western Nevada’s rugged, high-elevation Great Basin Desert. The chapters combine humor, lyricism, natural history and reflections on raising two young daughters in an extreme desert landscape.

“Michael Branch has been an essential figure in western letters for years,” said author Robert Michael Pyle. “Now, in Raising Wild, he brings us an intimate look into one remarkable family’s life situated deeply in their place. Whether writing of antelope or antelope squirrels, scorpions or daughters, Branch sweeps smoothly between downright mordant humor and stilling insight, through depths of fresh thought all along the way.”

Branch’s other works include the Pulitzer Prize-nominated John Muir’s Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (Island Press).

Details: 775-786-1188 or

New Reno history focuses on Virginia Street bridge, Riverside Hotel

genesis-of-renoFrom a University of Nevada Press email

Back before a city of Reno existed, a log and timber bridge crossed the Truckee River. This bridge would one day connect north and south Reno as part of Virginia Street, the main thoroughfare in what is today a bustling and busy city.

Just south of the bridge was an inn and tavern where cowboys, drovers and miners could find a good meal and a good night’s rest. This tavern would evolve into the famous Riverside Hotel.

The Genesis of Reno by Jack Harpster is the remarkable story of these two iconic landmarks, and of the people, the events and the community that have played an important part in shaping their long history.

Harpster spent 43 years working in the newspaper industry in Southern California and Southern Nevada. He has published eight other books, along with dozens of essays and articles on history and biography in national and local journals and magazines. He now lives in Reno.


1 P.M., SUNDAY, OCT. 23
Book Signing
Downtown Reno Library

6:30 P.M., THURSDAY, OCT. 27
Nevada State Museum
Carson City

5:30 P.M., WEDNESDAY, DEC. 14
Writers Series: The Genesis of Reno
Nevada Historical Society


Published by University of Nevada Press
ISBN 978-1-943859-23-8

TMCC literary magazine launches today

From a Sundance Books and Music news release

meadowSundance Books and Music will host the launch of the 2016 issue of Truckee Meadows Community College’s literary magazine, the Meadow, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today (Thursday, Sept. 15).

The issue includes works from many local writers including Matthew Baker, Courtney Cliften, Logan Seidl, Virag Nickolics, Amelia Pease, Troy Cavins, Elena Gabriel, Tom Sanchez, Alisha Bingham, Joan Presley, Anette Swindle, Mikaela Powell, Felicia Sanchez and Cheyenne Dowd.

Editors Hank Sosnowski, Arian Katsimbras and Lindsay Wilson will read selections from the issue as well.

Free copies of the Meadow will be provided.

Learn more at