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Meet the Reviewers


Kate Ayers
Kate Ayers retired from a career as a court reporter in the Pacific Northwest. Now she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and reviewing books, writing mysteries, and life in general. She has completed seven novels and is, as always, working on the next one. Trying to promote and sell the books is a daily challenge for Kate. But she lives in a beautiful part of the world with her best friend, Jim, and has a loony shar pei and a crazy Boston bulldog who keep her fully entertained between trips and books. She's always looking forward to what comes next.

Cindy Burnett
Cindy Burnett is the host of the "Thoughts from a Page" podcast, where she interviews authors about their latest works. An avid reader and book reviewer, Cindy loves to talk about books everywhere she can. In addition to hosting her podcast, she actively promotes books she loves on social media and writes two book columns for The Buzz Magazines. She is also a co-creator of Conversations from a Page, a Houston author event series that brings authors and readers together in a relaxed and welcoming setting; the group recently added an online book club as well. As a contributor, she writes "best of" book articles in the historical fiction genre.

Curtis Edmonds
Curtis Edmonds is the author of three novels: RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, WREATHED and A CIRCLE OF FIRELIGHT, all published by Scary Hippopotamus Books. His short fiction has been published in McSweeney's Internet TendencyThe Big Jewel and Untoward Magazine. 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 lives in New Mexico where she is a professor of Religion and Humanities. She also works and teaches in the Albuquerque Jewish Community. She enjoys writing, knitting, spending time outdoors and especially reading. She likes all genres and has a fondness for horror and nonfiction, as well as short stories, speculative fiction and literary novels.

Megan Elliott
Megan Elliott has been a reviewer for since 2014. Originally from the Chicago area, she currently lives in Southern California, where she works for an entertainment news website and spends her days watching and writing about TV (though she prefers reading, of course).

Pauline Finch
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 part-time work with the local newspaper, which became full-time and lasted nearly 23 years.
Her one claim to fame is that in 1991 she became the first person in the history of that paper to electronically file a news story. Not long after, she was among a large contingent of reporters “fired with money” during the corporate downsizing waves of the late 1990s.

For the past 20 years, she has been a freelance writer and editor whose clients include novel and textbook authors, church publications, corporate executives, academics, theologians and non-profit groups.

Among her avocations, she is a serious amateur flutist who began playing in 1964 but by 2007 had figured out that lessons are a good idea. She plays in the Waterloo Flute Choir where she learned alto and bass flutes as well, the Waterloo Concert Band as lead piccolo, and in a permanent local flute quartet. She is also a lifelong recorder-player who enjoys every size of the instrument from bass to soprano, and plays in several small socially distanced ensembles. For the past decade, she has studied organ and enjoys keyboards and pedals in harmony.

Pauline was introduced to by the late Robert Finn, a fine reviewer from Cleveland, OH, who was a wonderful career mentor when she most needed one.

Harvey Freedenberg
Harvey Freedenberg practiced intellectual property law and litigation with a large Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm before he retired in 2017. He has been working as a freelance reviewer since 2005 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. In addition to the more than 300 reviews he has written for since 2006, he writes for BookPageShelf Awareness and Kirkus Reviews. He also has published reviews and essays on a variety of other websites and literary blogs.

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. After graduating Summa Cum Laude, 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 15 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 tastes run to contemporary literary fiction and mystery/suspense/thrillers. She is also a film buff and loves to play word games of every sort.

Maya Gittelman
Maya Gittelman is an activist, blogger and writer. She graduated Skidmore College cum laude with a degree in English and a minor in Education, with a concentration on special education. She was awarded senior honors for her thesis on late Victorian masculinities, and her senior year novella received the 2014 departmental prize for fiction.

Her literary interests span classical, medieval, Victorian, genre and contemporary. Maya's favorite authors range from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Chaucer, Lord Byron to Janet Mock, James Joyce to J.M. Barrie, to Tolkien and beyond. Versed in theory, her true passions lie in examining and deconstructing the literary and sociocultural intersections of race, class, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and ability --- throughout classical and contemporary canons.

Formerly the events and special projects manager at a Manhattan branch of Barnes & Noble, she now works in independent publishing. When she's not reading, writing or ranting, she's probably working on social justice crafts, eating something drenched in chocolate, or getting altogether too emotionally invested in a TV show.

Amy Gwiazdowski
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, where she chronicles her reading habit.

Joe Hartlaub
Senior Writer Emeritus
[email protected]
Joe Hartlaub recently retired as's senior writer/reviewer after 24 years with the site (1997-2021). An entertainment attorney specializing in music and publishing, Joe is a Fox News Channel contributor on matters pertaining to publishing law and has been featured on panels concerning the entertainment industry. He has been a vociferous reader since he was four years old, starting with the "Dick Tracy" and "Little Orphan Annie" comic strips before he graduated to the Hardy Boys mystery series (the original one) and later corrupted his mind and soul a few years later with the works of Mickey Spillane and Richard Prather.

In addition to reviewing for, 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 feature film LA-308, as well as a co-starring role in the short feature Seducing the Shrink. He is also a bi-weekly contributor to The Kill Zone blog. Joe describes himself as “a boring guy who lives a very interesting life.” He lives in Westerville, Ohio, with his family members, who give him the space to do a number of things that he probably shouldn't.

Steve Hubbard
Steve Hubbard was born in South Carolina but was 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. When not embroiled in the active lives of his four children, or spending time with his fiancée Stacy, he continues to grow his library, still clinging to the notion that physical books trump digital. He likes coffee, movies and progressive rock. He also likes pie.

Christine M. Irvin
Christine M. Irvin is both an avid reader and a book reviewer. 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. She lives in Columbus, OH with her husband, her son and her dog.

Ron Kaplan
Ron Kaplan is an award-winning journalist and blogger, and is the author of three books: 501 BASEBALL BOOKS FANS MUST READ BEFORE THEY DIE (2013), THE JEWISH OLYMPICS: The History of the Maccabiah Games (2015) and HANK GREENBERG IN 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War (2017). His freelance articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as Baseball America, Mental Floss, American Book Review, American History, ForeWord Magazine and Verbatim, among others. He also hosts Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf, a blog about baseball literature.

Eleni Karavoussianis
Eleni Karavoussianis has her undergraduate degree from Roger Williams University for Journalism and Web Development, and is pursuing her Masters for Publishing at Pace University. She has spent time as a freelance journalist and grew up in a small town outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Currently she resides in New York City, where she enjoys going to Central Park to catch up on her reading. She knows that if a book can make her cry, it is a good one.

Pamela Kramer
Pamela Kramer began her obsession with books by reading the entire Wizard of Oz series when she was in kindergarten and first grade. She was a lawyer for many years and is retired from her job as a dual language gifted teacher in Highland Park, Illinois. Pamela enjoyed combining her love of books and her love of animals with her teaching. She got to read new picture books to younger students and used their reactions in her reviews. Through her website, she is able to recommend middle grade and young adult books to students. All the students and former students (and teachers) know where to go for good book recommendations! She served on the Illinois Bluestem steering committee (Illinois School Library Media Association Award) for several years.

Pam also loves to read adult books, and several authors whose books she has reviewed have become friends. She has rescued a variety of animals, from dogs and cats to rats and rabbits, and she loves nothing more than reading while cuddling with one of her four dogs or two cats. She always has a foster dog in her home as well. She has reviewed books online since 2010 and began writing about books for the now defunct website and later as a contributor to Huffington Post. She continues to review --- mostly on her blog, She spends school breaks reading as much as possible while also organizing and checking the massive piles of books in her home. Her favorite thing? Seeing a quote from one of her reviews on the back of a book!

Jane T. Krebs
Jane T. Krebs has made plenty of masks in 2020 and plans to make more in 2021. She also continues to create non-paper towels, Kind2Nature. In the fall of 2020, she helped harvest medical marijuana for a new company in northern Pennsylvania. Her day job for many years was teaching secondary English and studying with many, many students in the Carlisle Area School District. She tutors as needed, most recently with young community basketball players over the summer.  

Jane enjoys reading with two book clubs, one started in 1985 with other teachers who read a wide variety of books. The second, a Racial Justice Book Group, came into being in early 2017 and focuses on local and national racial issues. Jane also meets monthly with her writing group, which originated through the Capital Area Writing Project. She is pen pals with Max, Simon, Oliver and Greyson --- little boys who are learning to read and who like getting mail. She and her husband also have two granddaughters, Emma and Ella, who are good students and good friends.

Jane has been reviewing books for for seven years and finds clicking the "Send" button on an email to Tom Donadio very rewarding.

Jennifer McCord
Jennifer McCord is a writer, editor, educator and publishing consultant in Seattle, Washington. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Jennifer has worked in many areas of the publishing industry --- from national book retailers and New York publishers to small presses and self-publishing ventures.

For many years, she has dedicated her experience to the success of the Northwest writing community as advisor to University of Washington Continuum College Writing Programs, Writer on the Sound Conference, and as past president and board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Assn. She works extensively with writers and publishers through her consulting and certified creativity coaching business, Jennifer McCord Associates,

Bronwyn Miller
Bronywn Miller is the pen name for an avid reader who has been working in the publishing/film/TV space for over 25 years. In addition to loving great books and writers, she's an avid fan of theater, comedy and podcasts.

Rebecca Munro
Rebecca Munro is a project editor at W. W. Norton & Company and a member of the Morristown Festival of Books programming committee. Previously the Editorial Manager of and, she has moderated panels at BookExpo and the Morristown Festival of Books. A former intern, Rebecca has reviewed for the site since 2014 and has loved every second of reading, reviewing and finding new recommendations in the weekly newsletter.

L. Dean Murphy

Dean Murphy was a medical research paralegal for a Miami insurance defense firm. Now retired, he relocated to the Orlando area. His first book reviews were published by the Charlotte Observer, and he correctly predicted that Judith Krantz’s SCRUPLES would be the 1977 #1 bestseller. He began reviewing for in 2009. An avid reader (he devoured ATLAS SHRUGGED in five days, at age 12), Dean is a member of International Thriller Writers and a Lifetime Member of Florida Writers Association. He volunteered for 10 years at annual Florida Writers conferences and recruited bestselling authors to be speakers. His short stories have been published in anthologies, and he writes for various publications and blogs. His novel, THE ART OF MURDER, is in its fourth trimester. Write on!

Eileen Nicol
Eileen Nicol had a long career writing code for computers in the tech industry. Now retired, she still enjoys writing, although for human audiences: book reviews, magazine articles, poetry and long fiction. She comes from a family of readers, including her husband and grown daughter, and her environment --- an island in the famously rainy Pacific Northwest --- supports the habit. Tom Robbins, Elizabeth Strout, Jennifer Egan, Don DeLillo and George Saunders are a few of her favorite living authors. When she’s not babysitting her grandson or reading, she sails in Alaska, does yoga, plays tennis, volunteers in the community and studies Buddhism.

Ray Palen
Ray Palen is an award-winning actor, drama teacher, and former executive producer/director for 15+ years of a highly successful regional theater group that is still based on Long Island. Additionally, he is a published playwright with several short plays being registered with the Writers Guild of America. One of his short plays that featured his fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes, won first prize in a Holmes short play contest.

Ray's go-to pastime, however, has been reading. He has been an avid reader and writer throughout his life --- reading at least three books per week for as long as he can remember (a love of reading and lifelong insomnia being the dual cause of this). His book collection numbers in the thousands, and he prides himself on his rare and signed first editions. Ray has been reviewing books, movies and theatre for decades with several online and print publications.

In 2015, Ray relocated from the New York City area, where he lived his entire life, to Central Florida for a job opportunity with Walt Disney World. He also satisfied his burning itch to act again when he starred as the psychopath Harry Roat Jr. in a production of Terrence Knott's "Wait Until Dark," which was performed at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort. Recently, Ray has been acting at a popular theater in Central Florida where he had starring roles in both "And Then There Were None" by Dame Agatha Christie and "Dial 'M' for Murder" by Terrence Knott. He was cast in both plays as the villain --- which he plays off as both preferring more complex, villainous roles and relishing the opportunity to show off his native British accent! Ray continues to act as the post-pandemic era is upon us and local theater is back in full swing. He is rehearsing for the regional debut of the Broadway musical “Amazing Grace”...and, of course, he is playing a lecherous Red Coat! Currently he works as a drama teacher in the Polk County, FL school system.

His greatest personal production to date is his beautiful daughter, Anna, who is now nine and loves growing up in the shadow of Cinderella Castle. She already has a fond appreciation for books, reading and the performing arts. Ray resides just 20 minutes outside of Walt Disney World in Clermont, FL, with his wife Debbie, his little Princess Anna, and four cats (Mickey, Rory, Lorelei and Shuri). There is a very good possibility that he is probably reading a novel right now. Cheers!

Norah Piehl
Norah Piehl worked for 10 years at the Boston Book Festival, overseeing their day-to-day operations. She is now the Director for Literary Programs at the Bay Area 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 WeeklyThe Horn BookBrain, Child, Skirt! magazine, National Public Radio and many other publications, as well as in several print anthologies. Her short fiction has appeared in Literary MamaThe Linnet's WingsThe LegendaryPrinter's Devil Review and the anthology BATTLE RUNES: Writings on War. Norah lives in Berkeley, California.

Barbara Bamberger Scott
Barbara Bamberger Scott grew up in North Carolina and 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, Spain and India.

Back in the US apparently forever, she continues to roam whenever possible, taking long road trips with her husband, Donnie "Dobro" Scott, with whom she co-authored TWO LANE TRAVELING. She has written two books concerning the work of spiritual master Meher Baba. Her most recent book is GENEROUS FRUITS, a survey of American homesteading.
She is now retired after years of working in human services --- teaching small-scale gardening overseas, counseling adults with developmental disabilities, serving as a Spanish interpreter in various medical projects, and, most recently, assisting job seekers in rural Carolina counties.
Her great love, writer-wise, is short pieces, including hundreds of book reviews (mostly nonfiction "with a human face") and articles about simple living and the heart of gardening, which appear on Barbara created and manages the website A Woman’s Write, an annual novel-writing competition for aspiring female pensmiths, making it possible for her to communicate with and encourage creative women all over the world.

Lorraine W. Shanley
With years of reviewing experience at Book of the Month Club, Publishers Weekly, etc., Lorraine Shanley now enjoys being able to choose the books she reviews, which tend to be narrative nonfiction, thrillers and suspense. An avid reader and listener of audiobooks and podcasts, Lorraine's day job is in media consulting. She also serves on several nonprofit boards in education and community outreach.

Stuart Shiffman
A lifelong avid reader, upon his retirement after 22 years as a state court judge in Illinois, Stuart Shiffman was looking for an opportunity to turn passion into a project. Stuart is an active participant in the "Law and Literature" movement, where works of literature are examined in an effort to better understand legal issues. He also served on the faculties at Illinois State University and the University of Illinois Springfield, where he taught several legal subjects. Additionally, he serves on two legal book award committees. Beyond books about the law, he enjoys biographies, history, politics and sports with a special interest in golf. And now that he has grandchildren, Stuart enjoys spreading the joy of reading and rediscovering new classics with them each year.

Jana Siciliano
Jana Siciliano is a writer and filmmaker. Her company, Thieving Granny Productions, creates film projects for non-profit companies, instructs children ages 4-18 in creating original films and graphic novels, and is hard at work writing her own first novel.

Carly Silver
As the ancient and classical history expert for, Carly Silver serves as a tour guide through antiquity; as an assistant editor for Harlequin Books, she knows what makes a good story. Residing in Brooklyn, New York, she's also passionate about all things literary.

Katherine B. Weissman
Katherine B. Weissman writes fiction (her stories have been published in Seventeen, Ploughshares and Southwest Review, where she was awarded the 2017 Meyerson Prize for Fiction), essays and style features (she was a contributing editor at Othe Oprah Magazine for 10 years). She has an essay, "It Figures," in the book IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME: 32 Women on Life After 50. Until 1998 she was executive editor of Mademoiselle, where she worked for 18 years.

Katherine 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, plus a library card. She has not gone over to the Dark Side all the way, but she does currently own three Kindles, which are a means to instant book gratification and permanent book security when not within reach of the aforementioned piles, shelves and libraries.

Her original essays and blog posts, as well as an archive of her traditionally published work (including reviews on, may be found on her website, She is an ardent student of ballet, art and the piano. Her favorite novels (a partial list) include A PASSAGE TO INDIA, THE LEOPARD, 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 and the newish Book of Dust saga.

Katherine had a month-long arts residency in 2019 at the peerless and beautiful Ragdale Foundation and is currently working on stories, perhaps a novel, having to do with families, aging and islands.