Meet the Reviewers
Kate Ayers is a semi-retired court reporter in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying her extra time by writing short stories and book reviews. She has completed a novel-length mystery, A MURDER OF CROWS, and is currently working on another. The rest of her time is taken up with a gourmet cooking club, a book club, her Wednesday Free-Range Knitters, and daily entertainment of her slightly loony Shar Pei, not to mention her other best friend, her husband of many years. You can see some of her short stories at www.kateayers.com. Also, check out her blog at http://ifyoulikedthat.blogspot.com/.
Curtis Edmonds works as a civil rights attorney in Trenton, New Jersey. His writing has been published in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Big Jewel, National Review Online and the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. He is quite tall, and is uncomfortable talking about himself in the third person. He is married, with twin daughters.
Sarah Rachel Egelman
Sarah Rachel Egelman holds a masters degree in comparative religion and works and teaches in Seattle's Jewish community. She enjoys writing, spending time outdoors, and especially reading. Some of her favorite writers include Kafka, Vonnegut, Grass, Rushdie, Hemingway and Austen. Sarah also likes all types of poetry, and books on Europeon history and cultural or religious studies. Besides books of all shapes and sizes, she likes scary movies, art, music, thai food and monkeys.
Max Falkowitz writes about food and cooking for Serious Eats, the James Beard Award-winning blog on edible culture. You can follow him on Twitter (@maxfalkowitz), where he posts about cooking, eating, and Doctor Who puns. These days he mostly reads science fiction; he's long suspected that Cylons live among us.
Pauline Finch is a longtime resident of Kitchener, Ontario (Canada), where she attended Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo. While doing graduate work, she accidentally landed a full-time job with the local newspaper by writing a really vitriolic letter to the editor.
After nearly 22 years (and half-a-dozen journalism awards) spent covering the arts, religion, local features, book reviews and miscellaneous fields, she was among a large contingent of reporters “fired with money” during the corporate down-sizing wave of the late 1990s.
Newspaper reporting has been her longest continuous job, but she also has been (or still is) a freelance writer-editor, bilingual telephone operator, occasional music teacher, seamstress, photographer, gardener, ranch-hand, and lay-pastor.
She is a keen volunteer, using whatever professional skills she has acquired along the way to become involved in local organizations and learn new things. One of her major volunteer passions for more than a decade has been helping to tend and preserve a local heritage apple orchard that contains more than two-dozen old apple varieties that are virtually gone from the commercial market. Another has been her continuous involvement for nearly two decades with a local alternative economy system called BarterWorks, one of the biggest and most active groups of its kind in all of Canada.
Since 1999, she has been a part-time national media advisor and copyeditor-proofreader for the Canadian Islamic Congress. Nearly all of CIC's written material, from member bulletins and the weekly e-zine, to syndicated columns and press releases, go through her PC on its way to the rest of the English-speaking world.
During the years since leaving full-time journalism, she completed two Masters Degrees, with honours standing, in academic and applied theology but has since chosen --- without a single spiritual regret --- not to be a minister.
Among her avocations, she is an advanced lesson-taking flutist who plays with the Kitchener Musical Society Band (founded in 1876), a serious pipe-organ student, and a member of the newly formed Kitchener-Waterloo Community Baroque Orchestra.
She also enjoys gardening, home renovations, music, handcrafts, reading (of course!) and being the best possible environmental steward.
To Marge Fletcher, it seems like many light years ago that she was BookPage Spud, one of the first hosts of Bookaccino. Always an avid reader, Marge began visiting the chat room to discuss books and meet readers like herself. They had a great time, as the various personalities shone through cyberspace. When she planned her summer vacation, she visited several of her online friends in Maryland, Delaware and New England. She and another book page visited with Nora Roberts and discovered a really cool mystery bookshop in Baltimore. She even visited Carol, Jesse and the gang in New York at the offices of The Book Report. Armed with loads of books, she was glad she drove!
After 27 years as Director of Human Resources, Marge changed fields. She worked in manufacturing, retail and in social service agencies in Chicago, supporting people with disabilities. Currently, as the Senior Admissions Advisor Specialist at Colorado Technical University, Online division, Marge assists prospective students in realizing their dreams of receiving their college degree. All in all, life is good for this former Bookaccino host!
Harvey Freedenberg practices intellectual property law and litigation with a large Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm. He's been working as a freelance reviewer since 2005 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. In addition to the more than 100 reviews he's written for Bookreporter.com, he reviews for BookPage, Shelf Awareness and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He also writes a monthly column featuring reviews and articles on other book-related subjects for Harrisburg Magazine. In 2000, Harvey took a six-month sabbatical from his law practice and studied creative writing at his alma mater, Dickinson College. Three of his short stories have won prizes, and he has written an as-yet-unpublished novel. Harvey enjoys literary fiction and a wide range of nonfiction. His favorite authors are too numerous to mention, but include Richard Ford, Tim O’Brien, John Updike, Charles Baxter, John Cheever, Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. To read all of Harvey's reviews along with his comments on the book world and assorted topics, follow him on Twitter (@HarvF) or friend him on Facebook.
Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum
Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum's professional writing career began in her senior year at the University of Hartford, when she published a scholarly paper on the work of Doris Lessing. From there she became the assistant editor of a scholarly journal published by that school's English Department. In short order she was asked to produce, write and host a local cable television program she named Literary Perspectives. By the time she had finished that project she landed a job with the Farmington Valley Herald newspaper; and started to sell her work on the freelance market. Over the years Barbara has taught a variety of writing classes, public speaking workshops, literature seminars and, for more than fifteen years, facilitated book discussion groups for adults. Her work with children inspired her to create a reading enrichment program for kindergartners up through sixth graders. Barbara is a voracious reader whose taste runs to contemporary literary fiction and mystery/suspense/thrillers. She is also a film buff and loves to play word games of every sort.
A member of Western Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation and Oklahoma City Writers, Inc., Judy Gigstad has reviewed books for Bookreporter.com for more than three years. She has had reviews published in an entertainment weekly news magazine, and KANSAS!, Persimmon Hill magazine and The Writer's Ink have published her feature stories. An avid reader, Judy learns from the written word. Her True Crime book is soon to be completed, and a historical novel set in Kansas is in the works.
Sarah Hannah Gomez
Sarah Hannah Gómez has a BA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Always at work on something, she writes fiction, nonfiction and songs. She is a graduate student in Boston. Visit her blog at http://mclicious.wordpress.com.
Amy Gwiazdowski currently works as the communications director for a business trade association in Washington, DC. Previously, she spent a few years working for the publishing industry's trade association where she had the opportunity to indulge her love of books and acquire more than the shelves could hold. She is also the author of the blog Just Book Reading (http://www.justbookreading.com), where she chronicles her reading habit.
Maggie Harding grew up wanting to be Brenda Starr. An avid reader from the time she was old enough to schlep books home from the library, she couldn't wait to begin her own life adventure. However, stuff --- as it often does --- happens. And now, many, many moons later, she is pursuing her dream. Perhaps she's not off to exotic locations with mysterious hunks wearing eye-patches, but she is definitely writing and enjoying every minute of it.
Maggie worked for many years with inner city folks, primarily Native Americans, as a substance abuse counselor. She used her writing skills to develop teaching and recovery materials. Now retired, she continues to volunteer with non-profit groups and reviews for several publications.
You can write to Maggie at Magster2@cox.net.
Joe Hartlaub is senior writer/reviewer for Bookreporter.com and has been with the site since 1997. In addition to reviewing for Bookreporter.com, Joe has had a number of short stories published in the crime and horror fields and is an actor, having had a supporting role in the critically acclaimed film LA-308. An entertainment attorney specializing in music and publishing, Joe lives in Westerville, Ohio with his family, who permit him to do a number of things that he probably shouldn't. He describes himself as a boring guy who lives a very interesting life. He has been a vociferous reader since he was four years old, starting with the Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie comic strips, before graduating to the Hardy Boys mystery series (the original one) before being thoroughly corrupted by Mickey Spillane and Richard Prather.
Steve Hubbard was born in South Carolina but raised in western New York. A reader before kindergarten (which got his parents in trouble), he became hooked on Fantasy writing after discovering THE LORD OF THE RINGS in his school library in the third grade. An avid hockey player and fan, it only made sense that he would migrate to Minnesota, where he now resides with his wife, four children and one Siberian Husky. In addition to reviewing books, he also sells them and has endeavored to make people aware of the work of Robert E. Howard as well as the work of John Gardner, whom he feels is America's greatest, and forgotten, writer. When not buried behind piles of books to read or sell, he is also working on a few of his own, having been inspired by Stephen R. Donaldson. What with reading, writing, selling and fathering, you'd think he couldn't find time for movies, but it's amazing how much more you can squeeze in when you cut down on sleep. He also likes pie.
Christine M. Irvin
Christine M. Irvin is both an avid reader and a book reviewer. She currently writes book reviews for BookReporter.com, Teenreads.com, Kidreads.com, and the Christian Children’s Book Review.
She is also a writer, an editor and a published author. Ever since she was a young girl, Christine has wanted to “be a writer.” Later, she redefined that goal to that of being a “published writer,” as it seemed very easy to write something but very difficult to get anything published. She first achieved her goal when a short craft blurb she wrote was published in the November 1978 edition of The Workbasket magazine. Although that satisfied the technicality of being a “published writer,” it only served to whet her appetite for bigger goals and achievements. Today, Christine is the author of 11 published children’s books and numerous articles for both children and adults.
Christine lives in Columbus, OH with her husband, her son and her dog.
Ron Kaplan is a writer and sports editor for a weekly newspaper in New Jersey. His freelance articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as Baseball America,Mental Floss, New York Sportscene, American Book Review,American History, ForeWord Magazine and Verbatim, among others. He also writes a blog on baseball literature, ronkaplansbaseballbookshelf.com, and edits the Bibliography Committee newsletter for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
Marie Hashima Lofton
Marie Hashima Lofton was born and raised in East LA. She grew up playing classical piano and reading obsessively, but admits she didn't always enjoy the latter. She spent the last 10 years reviewing and reading books as her main focus outside of work, but the reading has taken a back seat. She still reviews on occasion, and while she will read almost anything, her favorite books currently are women's fiction and books that are either humorous or light.
She is currently working as a Medical Transcriptionist, her office being her home! It's hard work but very intense, thus the pulling back on the reading. Her off-hours are now spent knitting and crocheting with a passion (attending a once-a-week knitting/crochet class down the street), keeping up with her many friends through email and in person, doing 10k walks, playing with her many kitchen appliances (bread is baked a few times a week, and her crockpot is her best friend, along with her mini Cuisinart). She loves her two kitties, Bob and Blackie, and has been married to her husband since December 2000. They currently live in San Diego.
Shannon Luders-Manuel is currently finishing her Master's and PhD in English Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her undergraduate degree from Southern Oregon University with a major in English and Writing.
Her favorite literary genres are contemporary classics and memoirs, and she enjoys writing essays, short stories, poetry, screenplays, and, of course, book reviews. When not reading, Shannon is an avid Scrabble nut, karaoke junkie and lover of long neighborhood walks that meander endlessly.
You can visit her website at http://shannonluders.blogspot.com/.
Jennifer McCord is a writer, editor, educator and publishing consultant in Seattle WA. Her career in publishing began more than 25 years ago when she took on the job as manager of an independent bookstore on a dare from her then-teenage daughter. Jennifer moved from the independent store to management in a national retail chain (Waldenbooks). Additionally, she served as one of the original romance book experts and as the national spokesperson for the chain on the Romance Fiction category. She offered industry insights on Romance and Women's fiction as a contributing columnist for Waldenbooks for over a decade.
She received special industry recognition for her support of Women’s Fiction and the Romance genre from Romance Writers of America and Romantic Times.
For many years, Jennifer has worked in nearly every aspect of the industry, from traditional publishing paths to small press and self-publishing ventures. She has dedicated her experience to the success of the Northwest writing community as UW Extension Advisory board member for the writing programs, past president and board member of Pacific Northwest Writers Association and as President of Seattle Free Lances. She works extensively with writers and publishers through her consulting and certified creativity coaching business, Jennifer McCord Associates, www.jennifermccord.com.
Eileen Zimmerman Nicol
Eileen Zimmerman Nicol would rather read than eat (sometimes), shop (usually), or watch TV (always). Her desire to be a writer started in fourth grade, when her teacher told her she couldn't begin an essay with the sentence, "I hope it never happens to me again." Many years later she has attained the patience to revise, and published poetry and magazine articles, and she still thinks her teacher was wrong. Eileen's first novel awaits the perfect agent, and the second one is emerging as easily to her as childbirth. She believes that she is incredibly lucky to have a lucrative and part-time day job as a computer programmer, a grown child and a supportive husband. In other words, no excuses not to write!
In the late 60s, Roberta O'Hara's mother, already fortysomething, earned her first driver's license. Why? With dad shipped off to Vietnam, her mom required the means to drive to the library every week for new books. Roberta and her siblings made the weekly trip too. Such was the beginning of Roberta's life-long love affair with literature. Today she's a writer/administrator at Princeton University. Whether facing down the pages of a 300-page book or writing a review for Bookreporter.com, she prefers her back to the camera.
Ray Palen is an Actor, Drama Teacher and Executive Producer/Director of a highly successful Theatre Group on Long Island. He has also been an avid reader and writer throughout his life --- reading at least three books per week as long as he can remember (a love of reading and lifelong insomnia being the dual cause of this). Ray has been reviewing books, movies and theatre for decades in several formats and currently has a national byline with The Jewish Post as well as other online publications. He lives in Long Island with his wife Debbie and is probably reading a novel right now!
Norah Piehl is the Director of Communications and Development for the Boston Book Festival. A former children's bookseller, Norah has also worked in the publishing industry for both university and trade publishers. She is an active writer whose essays, interviews and reviews have been published in Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Brain, Child, Skirt! magazine, National Public Radio, and many other publications, as well as in several print anthologies. Her short fiction has appeared in Literary Mama, The Linnet's Wings, The Legendary, Printer's Devil Review, and the anthology Battle Runes: Writings on War. Norah lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Barbara Bamberger Scott
Barbara Bamberger Scott grew up in North Carolina, where she now makes her home in the semi-fictional town of Mayberry. She has traveled the world, living and working in Botswana, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, England, Sweden and Spain, with five trips to India to visit sites associated with the spiritual master, Meher Baba.
Back in the US apparently forever, she continues to roam, taking yearly long road trips with her husband, Donnie "Dobro" Scott, with whom she authored TWO LANE TRAVELING (Booksurge, 2009).
For work she chooses any human services job she can get at the time, and that has included small-scale gardening in the Third World, composing project newsletters, facilitating services for people with developmental disabilities, acting as a Spanish interpreter in various medical projects, and, most recently, assisting clients in a Joblink in rural Carolina counties.
A diarist for the past 30+ years, she started writing for others in 2001 with the book GOLDEN THREAD, concerning the impact of Meher Baba on a group of drug-crazed hippies (herself among them) in 1967 (Meher Mownavani Press); and most recently completed THE EMPTY CHAIR, focused on the work of Meher Baba in 1968-69 (White Horse Publishing Company, 2011). In between, she wrote a book of creative nonfiction about her years traveling with the American carnival, WITH IT (Behler Publications, 2003) and assisted an Impressionist artist to craft an autobiography entitled LOVE BADE ME WELCOME (Behler, 2005).
But her great love, writer-wise, is short pieces, including hundreds of book reviews (mostly nonfiction "with a human face") and a series of articles about simple living and the heart of gardening, which appears on www.homestead.org. She still thinks of herself as the little girl writing an essay for English class, trying to impress the teacher and get an A.
Barbara runs the website www.awomanswrite.com, a perennial novel-writing competition (now with a nonfiction prize as well) for aspiring female pensmiths, and www.thebookmd.com --- both websites underscoring her popularity as an editor, particularly for beginning authors.
Terry Miller Shannon
Several years ago, Terry Miller Shannon quit her day job to write full time --- and hasn't looked back! She enjoys writing book reviews, educational books, reading passages, picture books, middle-grade fiction, nonfiction children's books, travel articles, gardening articles, health articles, essays, and more. Terry feels uniquely suited to a job allowing her to work in her pajamas, read constantly, and discuss life's mysteries with her dog.
Roz Shea lives in, and works to preserve, the Sonoran desert at the base of the Superstition Mountains in east central Arizona. She is married with three grown children and one grandson in whom she wants to instill her passion for the desert and reading. She originally heralded from Ames and Des Moines, Iowa, where she was educated, then found her way to Arizona and never want to leave. In her spare time she builds trails, writes grant proposals and, of course, READS.
One of Roz's fondest early childhood memories is of listening to her older sister, a drama major, read to her the entire collection of A.A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH books, complete with gravelly or squeaky voices befitting each character. She was seven years old and fully capable of reading them on her own (she still has them all and now reads them to her grandson), but she had been quite ill. No slacker herself at overacting, she had convinced her sister that she was too frail to undertake such a task. Since then, reading and encouraging others to read has been a passionate pastime.
On her shelves you'll find an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction by John Irving, Herman Wouk, Harriett Doer, Annie Proulx, Robert Ludlum, John LeCarre, James Michener, Martin Cruz Smith, Homer Hickam, Ken Follett, Bill Bryson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Thomas Flanagan, Bill Montalbano, James Herriot, Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and most of the classics. In another vein she collects Terry Pratchett, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Douglas Adams. Mysteries deep, mysteries funny, and mysteries cozy are her secret vice: James Lee Burke, Elizabeth George and P.D. James are among the former; Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Sharyn McCrumb and Laurence Shames make her laugh out loud while unraveling a good mystery. She also collects series writers Tony Hillerman, Sinclair Browning, S. J. Rozan, Barbara Seranella, Jim Thompson, Edna Buchanan, Robert McCammon, Sue Grafton, J.A. Jance, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Robert B. Parker, Steve Martini, John Dunning and in good form and bad, King and Koontz and Grisham and Cornwell. She got hooked one long, hot summer on W.E.B. Griffin, so she has a long shelf devoted to one of America's most prolific wartime writers.
Not a few in her collection have been lost to Bailey, her Airedale (AKA Baileygoat because of her eating habits. Her favorites are hardcover, signed, first editions.) A dog of impeccable tastes, according to Roz.
Stuart Shiffman has been a state court trial judge in Illinois for 19 years. He has always been an avid reader and writer and welcomes the opportunity to share his thoughts about the many books that he reads with anyone who will listen. He is an active participant in the "Law and Literature" movement, where works of literature are examined in an attempt to better understand legal issues. In addition to both fiction and nonfiction legal books, he enjoys biographies, history and sports, with a special interest in golf. Stuart is married and has three grown children --- one works in advertising, one is a CPA and one is still in college.
Melanie Smith enjoys the scenic wildlife of Utah, where she lives with her three children and husband of 15 years. She splits her time between managing a home care and hospice business (a proud family tradition) and being full-time mom to three exceptionally energetic boys! After carting the kids all over for their hobbies, she enjoys camping, mountain biking, tennis, skiing, boating, hiking, gardening and reading. She lives through the adventure of books and loves to pass on the good ones, a habit that has earned her a crackpot reputation among friends.
Amie Taylor is a freelance writer whose 700+ articles appear on eHow.com, Livestrong.com and USA Today Travel Tips online. Her confession stories have appeared in True Story, True Love and True Romance magazines. Amie spends her days in her doublewide trailer in Southwest Ohio researching, writing and reading. Her literary preferences include cozy mysteries, romantic suspense and historical romance novels, true crime stories and anything that offers even a hint of smut and scandal.
Carole Turner has been reviewing for The Book Report Network since the fall of 2004. She has done some freelance writing and enjoys writing book reviews as well. She prefers nonfiction books about gardening, animals, travel and history. She reads in her comfy old recliner chair in Grove City, Ohio.
Donna Volkenannt’s love for stories began as a child when her mother read to her THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. Donna’s reading tastes have changed since then, but she still favors stories with determined and inspiring characters who overcome challenges or great hardships. The real-life characters who inspire her are her husband and their two grandchildren, whom she and her husband have been raising since 2005.
When she’s not reading, she’s writing, revising, rewriting, reviewing, blogging, carpooling, or feeling guilty about the clutter in her house. She and her family, along with their black Lab Harley, live in the “Show Me” State of Missouri. Except for an occasional flood or a tornado, the Show Me State is a wonderful place to live, especially if you’re a writer. Learn more about Donna on her blog, http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com.
Kathy Weissman writes fiction (her stories have been published in Seventeen and Ploughshares), essays, and style features (she was a contributing editor at O, the Oprah Magazine, for 10 years). Until 1998 she was executive editor of Mademoiselle, where she worked for 18 years. She has been reading since the age of four (and writing almost as long) and feels secure only if she has a pile of unread books by her bed and many, many more on her shelves. She has not gone over to the Dark Side all the way, but she does currently own a 3G Kindle, which is a means to instant book gratification and permanent book security when not within reach of aforementioned shelves. Her original essays and blog posts, as well as an archive of her traditionally published work (including reviews on bookreporter.com), may be found on her website, www.katherineweissman.com. She is an ardent student of ballet, art, and the piano. Her favorite novels (a partial list) include A PASSAGE TO INDIA, ANNA KARENINA, JANE EYRE, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS and THE RAJ QUARTET. She also adores fantasy: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and, of course, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Most recent fiction rave: THE SECRET SCRIPTURE by Sebastian Barry.