Summer reading list: 12 books from alumni writers you don’t want to miss
Looking for some adventure this summer? Perhaps you’d prefer a little romance? Maybe true crime, tales of the supernatural, or poetry are more your thing. Wherever your tastes lie, we think you’ll find something you’ll like among these books, each written by a TCNJ alum. And the best part of this summer reading assignment is that there’s no test to take or paper to write when you’re finished reading.
Eagles Don’t Die
by Ronald L. Chiste ’65
Fans of Tom Clancy and Nelson DeMille thrillers should check out Ron Chiste’s first novel, Eagles Don’t Die, a suspenseful page-turner that won First Prize in the Action-Adventure Category of the 2006 Maryland Writers’ Association International Novel Contest. Tom Lasino, the hero of Eagles, is an Army vet and physics professor at a small New Jersey college (sound familiar?) whose mundane life is turned upside down when the CIA recruits him to help foil a terrorist plot. A lone wolf has replicated a nuclear warhead and plans to detonate it on American soil. Lasino must go undercover to befriend the man the CIA thinks is behind the impending attack, and with the help of an elite team, try to prevent the unthinkable from happening. Though fictional, the book is based on an actual incident. In 1971, while Chiste was stationed with the U.S. Army’s Heavy Artillery Unit in Germany, someone broke in to the Army’s nuclear weapons training room and photographed top-secret materials, Chiste said. Officials investigated, but Chiste never heard how, or if, the case was resolved. “I thought about that incident all these years, and when I had some time in retirement…I made up a story based on a similar [occurrence],” Chiste said. The result is a timely tale of action, adventure, and romance so full of twists and turns that you’ll be guessing until the very end.
by Mariah Stewart ’65
Mariah Stewart figures that, over the years, she told friends and family “at least 500 times” that she wanted to write a book. The last time she mentioned it was in 1990, right before her husband reminded her how many times she had said it without actually doing anything about it. Spurred on by the challenge, Stewart set about writing her first novel. Two decades later, she’s the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of more than two-dozen books. Her latest, Almost Home, “is the story of two people who have been circling around each other forever who finally have to decide if they’re better together or apart,” Stewart explains. Released in March, the book had already cracked the Times’ Top 20 “Paperback Mass-Market Fiction” best-sellers list when we spoke with Stewart in early April. Almost Home is the third installment of the author’s Chesapeake Diaries series, in which each book is set in a fictional town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Stewart explained that each of the books in the series stands alone, so there’s no need to have read the first two (Coming Home and Home Again). But if you like Almost Home, we’re sure you’ll want to check out those two—and you’ll also want to be on the lookout for the series’ fourth installment (Stewart’s 30th novel overall), Hometown Girl, which will be released in September.
Inside Out: Fifty Years Behind the Walls of New Jersey’s Trenton State Prison
by Harry Camisa ’84 and Jim Franklin
During his five decades working at what is now called New Jersey State Prison at Trenton, Harry Camisa watched 13 inmates die in the electric chair, was taken hostage twice, had threats made against him and his family, and spent his days among the most violent criminals the prison ever housed, including Dutch Schultz’s killer Charlie “The Bug” Workman, mob hit-man Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, and serial killer Rich Biegenwald. Yet throughout it all, Camisa managed to maintain a sense of humor and decency, which makes this memoir of his 50-year career both fun to read and informative. Camisa’s experiences, which he recounts here with the help of coauthor Jim Franklin, reflect the changes in American society that shaped the last half of the 20th century. Woven throughout the book is the story of a remarkable friendship that developed between Camisa, a white guard, and Teddy Roberts, a black inmate serving a life sentence for murder.
A Perfect Scandal
by Tina Gabrielle ’93
After receiving her mechanical engineering degree from TCNJ, Tina Gabrielle worked on nuclear power plants. She left that job to attend law school, and then worked as a patent attorney as well as a New Jersey Deputy Attorney General for several years. But all along, what Gabrielle really wanted to do was write fiction, and with the help of a writer’s group and some courses at a local community college, she made her dream a reality. Her new book, the historical romance A Perfect Scandal, tells the story of Lady Isabel Cameron, who dreams of studying art in Paris but whose father has arranged for her to marry a domineering lord twice her age. Isabel devises the perfect escape: a marriage of convenience to her childhood flame. But a marriage that starts as “pretense becomes deliciously real,” Gabrielle explains on her book’s Web site. Like her first novel, Lady of Scandal, and her forthcoming In the Barrister’s Chambers (due out this September), A Perfect Scandal is set in the Regency Period (c. 1790–c. 1820). “I love history, and I particularly love that period,” Gabrielle explained, before adding that she’s thinking about tackling other historical periods in future books she’s under contract to write. Her three published novels share another characteristic: Each tells the story of a fearless, self-reliant woman—not the typical damsels in distress that some readers might associate with romance novels. “Publishers like strong, educated women; that’s what’s selling these days,” Gabrielle explains.
Baseball’s Greatest Series:Yankees, Mariners, and the 1995 Matchup That Changed History
by Chris Donnelly ’03
“No series in baseball history had as much riding on it—both on and off the field—as this one,” says Chris Donnelly about the 1995 divisional playoffs between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. “The Mariners were literally playing for their existence in Seattle,” Donnelly said, explaining that a series loss meant the team would be moved to Tampa. On the Yankees’ side, key personnel were in the last year of their contracts, and in the background lurked owner George Steinbrenner, who was never more than one loss away from firing everyone. “And that doesn’t even get into what happened on the field,” Donnelly says, where there were blown leads in every game, two of which were extra-inning affairs and three of which were won in the home team’s final at bat, all while numerous offensive records were set. Through interviews with former players (including Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner) and front-office officials from both teams, Donnelly chronicles the earlier struggles of both clubs during the 1980s, their mid-1990s resurgence, all five heart-stopping games of the series, and the dramatic and long-lasting effects of Seattle’s victory.
The Vampire Seduction Handbook: A Guide to the Ultimate Romantic Adventure
by Luc Richard Ballion and Scott Bowen ’91
Ladies, if you’re looking to meet a lover who lasts forever—literally—and find a romance that’s to die for—again, literally—then The Vampire Seduction Handbook is the book for you. It teaches you how to meet, snag, and hold on to your very own prince of darkness. “Written” by real-life vampire Luc Richard Ballion (who was born in 1753, wounded in the Revolutionary War, and has been undead ever since)—with more than a little help from “coauthor” Scott Bowen—this is the perfect how-to dating guide for women looking to meet and marry “that very extraordinary gentleman,” Bowen wryly explained. And for the guys out there who are tired of watching creatures of the night steal all the girls, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Bowen’s The Vampire Survival Guide: How to Fight, and Win, Against the Undead. It’s your field guide to saving the world from eternal darkness. Bowen, a freelance professional writer and editor who has been a fan of vampire fiction and film—“both the classic stuff and the pulpy, comic-book stuff,” he says—since childhood, is also the author of a short-story collection, The Midnight Fish & Other Stories.
Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2)
by Holly Black ’95
Perhaps you’ve heard of The Spiderwick Chronicles, another series of supernatural-tinged tales written by Holly Black? That five-book serial, released in 2003–04, has sold millions of copies, has been translated into 32 languages, and in 2008 was adapted into a major motion picture and video game. Black is back, this time with Red Glove, her 20th book overall and the second in her Curse Workers series. Set in a world where magic exists but is illegal and controlled by the mob, Red Glove continues the story of Cassel Sharpe. In White Cat, the series’ first installment, Cassel discovered he is a curse worker—someone with the power to control others’ emotions, memories, and luck. In Book 2, the mob is after Cassel because of the power he holds, and the Feds have called on him to help solve a murder—his brother’s. As Cassel tries to figure out who he wants to be—“he’s not an entirely good guy, and he’s not doing entirely good things,” Black explains—he has to stay one step ahead of both sides to survive. Black says readers can expect “more cons, more romance, and more twists” in this book, which she describes as a “mobster fantasy novel” aimed at a more mature audience than her kid-friendly Spiderwick collection.
The Bachelor Chronicles
by Ron Geraci ’92
As the former dating columnist for Men’s Health, Ron Geraci went on hundreds of dates and found himself in situations the average guy wouldn’t or has, but just never wrote about it. The Bachelor Chronicles is Geraci’s hilarious memoir about the time in his life when he unintentionally became the “male Carrie Bradshaw.” From working with a professional matchmaker and image consultant, to navigating the world of online dating, to shaving his entire body to back up a lie that he was a competitive swimmer, Geraci shares the often outrageous particulars of his steadfast quest for true love with unabashed honesty. “I decided when I was writing this book that I could not hold anything back,” he explains. “Women will enjoy the book because it’s [a look inside] the absolutely unvarnished male mind. And men will recognize some of the same impulses they have, and will be able to commiserate and perhaps learn from some of the things I’ve seen.” Geraci, whose book has been optioned for film and television, reports that he’s “still dating and looking to meet that perfect woman.” But beware, ladies: he’s also thinking about writing a follow-up book chronicling his continuing search for Ms. Right. “I’ve learned a lot more dating throughout my 30s,” he says.
Lascivious Something/Roadkill Confidential/That Pretty Pretty; Or, The Rape Play: Three Plays
by Sheila Callaghan ’95
The two comedies and one drama anthologized here are Sheila Callaghan’s newest, most recently produced, “and perhaps most political” plays, the author explains. Roadkill Confidential, a comedy, “attempts to tackle, with style, humor and high theatricality, mediated violence and the numbness it produces,” and examines “whether in art or in global politics, the ends can justify the means,” says Callaghan. The other comedy, That Pretty Pretty; Or, The Rape Play, features “guns, gals, Jell-O wrestling, war, and lots and lots of profanity,” and is “a fragmented exploration of the things we find really [expletive] hot,” she notes. The lone drama, Lascivious Something, takes place in 1980 on the day Ronald Reagan was elected president. Although the story is set on a Greek island, “the Reagan years hang like an ominous pall over the play’s landscape,” wrote one reviewer. Callaghan, currently a writer on the Showtime series The United States of Tara, was profiled by Marie Claire as one of “18 Successful Women Who Are Changing the World,” and named one of Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” in 2010. Her pilot Over/Under is currently being filmed for the USA Network.
The Spaghetti Set: Family Served Italian Style
by Rose Marie (Maisto) Boyd ’73
Set in 1947, The Spaghetti Set: Family Served Italian Style is the story of two Italian-American clans struggling to “cope with the absurdities of love, intimacy, and life,” author Rose Marie Boyd said. “But readers don’t have to be Italian to enjoy the book, smile at the characters’ antics, or identify with their frustrations,” she explained. At the center of Boyd’s comedy of errors are Teresa Camara, who recently immigrated to America from Italy, and “love-starved” Mack Matteo. When Teresa and Mack’s paths cross, their economically disparate families are thrust together. But a scheming parent jeopardizes the relationship by trying to hurry it along rather than letting nature takes its course. Boyd, who lives in Arizona these days, looked back East for inspiration when writing The Spaghetti Set. Her story is set in a fictionalized representation of her childhood home: Chambersburg, the former “Little Italy” section of Trenton. Boyd said the book grew out of stories her relatives used to tell her about her own family. “But there is a lot of fiction thrown in,” she quickly added with a laugh, lest any of her relatives recognize themselves. Readers who aren’t related to Boyd will delight in the antics of the Camaras and Matteos as they slowly drive each other crazy. Said the author: “The book affirms the old adage: Family is family, like it or not.”
My Times in Rhymes
by Paul Leestma ’77
“I’ve always felt that if you read something it should evoke some sort of feeling…or have some meaning, so that’s what I try to do with my poetry,” said Paul Leestma. My Times in Rhymes, the first published collection of his poems, is a powerful and heartfelt work that fuses together the topics of love and hope with fear and failure in a truly beautiful way. Leestma said he began writing poetry “as an outlet” in high school, and the hobby continued into his undergraduate days at the College (a few of the poems collected here were published in The Signal and Chimes, a now-defunct college literary magazine). “But that was as far as my writing career went,” Leestma said. Recently, upon rediscovering several poems, he started to write again with an eye toward publishing a collection of his works. Leestma, who is already at work on a second volume, said he published this first book more as the completion of a personal goal than for financial gain. “I’m not going to make a lot of money off [the book],” he said. “But it’s copyrighted and has a Library of Congress number, so when I ‘go’ someday, at least there will be a little part of me that shows I was here.”
Driven: Stories in the Life of a Limo Driver
by Joseph James Shoemaker ’94
Joe Shoemaker witnessed plenty of wacky, wonderful moments while driving a limo for 15 years. Friends always told him to write a book about his adventures. That’s just what he did. In Driven: Stories in the Life of a Limo Driver, Shoemaker relates his tales of chauffeuring the rich and famous (his clients included Oprah Winfrey, three Dallas Cowboys, and actor John Lithgow) to the rich and hilarious (such as the trust fund princess who, when her parents kicked her out of the house, packed all her belongings—including the furniture and the rugs—into Shoemaker’s limo, climbed on top of them, popped open a bottle of whiskey, and instructed Shoemaker to take her to a posh New York City hotel). “Some of these stories will make you laugh, and some will make you cry,” Shoemaker says. “Some will even seem impossible to believe, but I guarantee you they’re all true!”
Posted on June 8, 2011