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Book Review Short Takes July 2012 

The Pocket Guide to Woodstock
Michael Perkins & Will Nixon, illustrated by Carol Zaloom
Bushwhack Books, 2012, $13.95
The Walking Woodstock duo returns with a lively, opinionated guide to “a small town with a large hold on the world’s imagination because of a landmark rock festival that didn’t happen here.” Compact and wide-ranging, it rambles from Village Green to mountain monastery, scattering fistfuls of facts like Johnny’s appleseeds. Town picnic book launch 7/8 2-5pm, Comeau property, with live music, history, and nature walks.

Drawing Breath
Laurie Boris
Amazon, 2012, $8.99
Teenage love is never easy, but Caitlin Kelly’s obsessive crush is a triple whammy: Her art teacher Daniel is 34, he lives upstairs, and he has cystic fibrosis. Convincing herself she’s protecting him, she meddles in his personal life, with devastating consequences for all of Boris’ s well-drawn, dimensional characters. This empathetic novel covers local turf from the Poughkeepsie station to Albany Med, and deserves a far wider audience.

A Violet Season
Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Simon & Schuster, 2012, $15
Some books have the ability to pick you up out of time and set you down smoothly in the past. Such is this lovely tale, set in the Hudson Valley of the late 1890s, where the violet industry is still booming. For one family, hard times are getting harder, and it is the women who rise to the occasion. Filled with historical details and compelling characters, Czepiel’s debut novel will give you a new sense of place.

The Dropper
Ron McLarty
Cemetery Dance Publications, 2012, $25
Hardscrabble boxer and plumber’s apprentice Albert “Shoe” Horn has grown up fast since his mother died; he looks after his handicapped brother Bobby and their drunken father. But can he protect Bobby from the nightmarish Dropper, a spectral midwife turned murderess? Set in the north of England in 1922, Dutchess County author/actor/audiobook star McLarty’s two-fisted novel is atmospheric as a foggy night.

City of Ravens: London, the Tower and Its Famous Birds
Boria Sax
The Overlook Press, 2012, $22
Charles II’s declaration that “Britain will fall” if the ravens leave the Tower of London is legend; intellectual historian Sax reveals that the birds arrived centuries later. Invented traditions, he writes, may become genuine folklore, “like a speck of sand in an oyster that eventually is transformed into a pearl.” Building lucent layers of inquiry and metaphor, he offers a fascinating natural history of ravens, men, and mythmaking.

Dust To Dust: a Memoir
Benjamin Busch
Ecco, 2012, $25.99
The actor who played Officer Colicchio on The Wire has an unlikely resume: son of novelist Frederick Busch, Vassar grad, Pushcart Prize nominee, US Marine officer. How he got there from here, and the elemental impulses that sent the son of two pacifists to war, is the theme of this somber, poetic memoir. Busch’s eye for detail renders his Upstate New York childhood as vividly as his two tours in Iraq.

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