Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

Favorite Links
Eularee's bookshelf: read

Snow in AugustWatchersRising SunThe Andromeda StrainThe ShiningThe Hunt for Red October

More of Eularee's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
Mad Mimi Email Marketing

Calico Joe

Calico Joe

John Grisham

Doubleday, New York

Hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio


Dust off the bleacher seat, buy some peanuts and crackerjacks and prepare to enjoy the game of baseball through the eyes of a master storyteller. Since I am life long fan and played catcher in my younger years with better knees, I am perhaps more critical of baseball novels than most. If you don't know your stuff, can't walk the walk or talk the talk, I'll take my ball and glove and go home. Grisham captures not only the spirit of the game but has all the players he needs to color the pages with the history of the game. 

I repeatedly had to refer to the dust jacket to remind myself the story was indeed fiction. Inspired by the true story of Ray Chapman, the only professional player who was killed by a pitch, the backdrop for the story is baseball in the 70's, a very mean and lean time to play the game. The teams, the Cubs and the Mets. The players, Tony La Russa, famous for his pitching retailiation, Yogi Berra, Dutch Patton, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Willy Mays, Hank Aaron, Catfish Hunter, and Joe Castle. Castle, a young rookie gets beaned by Warren Tracey, a mean drunk but phenomenal fast ball pitcher, who played old school rules, the code. Pitchers used the bean ball to keep batters from crowding the plate, for retribution for taking one out of the park, or even to send a warning to the remaining line-up. In this case, Tracey, was looking to take the young and rising star Joe Castle, out of the game.

The story, although peppered with baseball anecdotes and a few loosely used statistics, was really about a young boy, Paul Tracey and his father, Warren. Tracey's relationship with his alcoholic father was filled with abuse. Paul despises his father for taking away the career of his favorite player, his hero, Joe Castle. As the boy becomes a man, he can't let go of the fact that his father, let go from the bigs, disgraced, has never admitted to the wrong doing. He becomes obsesessed with wanting to somehow right the wrong he saw that afternoon from the stands. He knew the intent of his father the moment the ball left his father's hand and wants the world to know it was not a runaway ball as his father claimed. 

The coming together of father and son buffets the story until the end when his father is dying and it is now or never to bring about the reunion of the two fated players. Grisham is a remarkable wordsmith and the anquish of both father and son, along with the redemptive angle of the story, bring a story filled with the human condition sliding into home plate.

A great story on its own, but if you are lover of the game, you get a double header. Read and enjoy. Remember a time when the bean ball was a tool of the mound and the players were legends without steroids.




The Racketeer

The Racketeer

John Grisham


$28.95 Hardbound, available in e-book format

I inherited this book in a way. My Dad was a huge John Grisham fan and always pre-ordered his books. His library has a whole section of John Grisham books. The book arrived after my Dad passed away. I think he would have liked this one.

If you are a Grisham fan, you know that his novels typically come from a lawyer's point of view. The story takes an odd twist as the lawyer finds himself on the wrong side of the gavel and faces many years in prison for his lack of better judgement. When a federal judge is murdered, Malcolm Bannister decides it is time to play the ace up his sleeve and informs the FBI that he knows who the killer is but wants his freedom in exchange. 

The story takes us through the intricacies of witness protection, the mob and a variety of less than savory characters along the way. Grisham is a master of character and plot twists. There were so many that I wasn't sure who to believe or who to trust before the final twist was revealed. I must admit that Grisham played all his cards close to the vest, and had this reader flipping the pages to find out not only who killed the judge but Bannister's role in the deception. 

The author's note at the end of the book claim the book is a work of fiction with almost nothing based in reality. Grisham says research was not a priority and long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid fact finding. I tip my hat to the writer who can pull off such a work of fiction that keeps one turning the page to find out what happens next, believing every word must have come from some basis in truth to seem so real.

Dad, this one belongs on the shelf with the rest of the Grisham library. Thanks for ordering it.


Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf

Jodi Picoult

Emily Bestler Books

Washington Square Press  Simon And Schuster

$16  Paperback, available in Kindle 

A strange and compelling story to be sure, Lone Wolf tells the story of a family in crisis. Jodi Picoult delves deeply into the mind of a father who finds comfort in the company of wolves rather than his family. The abandoned wife decides to raise their two children on her own, as her driven husband continues to place his study of the lives and habits of wolves above everything else. He becomes so obsessed that he lives and literally eats with the wolves in his effort to become one of the pack.

As the children become adults their mother encourages them to connect with their father. The plot begins to careen when the son, upon prompting from his mother, decides to talk to his father about his sexual preference. The result is a bitter argument which drives the son not only out of the country but to cut off all contact with his family. As a result the daughter clings even tighter to her father as he seems to drift farther away emotionally from his children. A tragic car accident involving her and her father brings everyone together as life and death decisions need to be made for the comatose father. 

The circumstances of the family seemed odd at first and it was hard to relate to a father who choose wolves over his children. But as the story reveals the lessons learned by the children from their father's eccentric behavior and his fondness for the wolf pack, it becomes less about a distant father and more about what the siblings fear most about losing their father. The mother also plays a difficult role of helping her children to stay connected to their father while fighting her own frustration at being abandoned by him. 

The painful story of this family is somehow mirrored in the lives of the wolves that the father cherishes and in the end, the wolves lonesome howl fills all their souls. It was a good story, well written, but a bit off putting for some readers I have encountered. The father's attempt to not just understand but to actually become a wolf is a strange affected insight into his own madness. It was hard to discern if he had lost his grip on reality or just chose to hide from the world using the wolves as his shelter. The climax of the story was the interaction between the siblings and how they resolved their opposing views of their father and make peace with the result of his and their choices.

Picoult weaves a good story and from beginning to end, slipping back and forth from wolf talk to the storyline made for interesting reading. This book was part of a book club series, otherwise I am not sure I would have picked it up. Glad I did and I recommend it as a good summer read. 



The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstein is truly an artist. She has painted a mysterious and magical world of the Night Circus. Conceived by master innovators and lovers of the truly mystical, the circus is born at a midnight supper. Those in attendance offer their help in designing this remarkable venue. What they do not realize is that this Night Circus was set in motion years before as part of a wager, a competition between two illusionists and their protege.

The Night Circus travels the world, here one moment and disappears to reappear somewhere else. It has its own set of groupies called Revelers. The circus is all black and white, save for these fans who don the color red to show their faith and devotion to this rare and spectacular dream world.

The two lovers are unaware of each other at first but Celia Bowen, the illusionist, becomes curious about the circus owner, Chandeler's assistant, Marcos. Although Chandeler sets the Night Circus into being, it is Celia and Marcos who truly keep it alive. As they begin to realize they are opponents, the competition finally unfolds, involving the circus at the center of its climactic conclusion.

Despite, or perhaps, because of the love story, the Night Circus will become a favorite of anyone who enjoys the lyrical writing of Morgenstein. Her descriptions pull you into the circus and the drama that surrounds all those who enter through its gates at the stroke of midnight and leave as the dawn rises. Well crafted, story telling at its best. A wonderful escape and insight into the world of the Night Circus.



Desert Baths

Desert Baths

by Darcy Pattison

Ilustrations by Kathleen Rietz

Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing, South Carolina

Hardcover: $17.95

I must admit I was intrigued by the title of this book. One does not think of taking a bath and the desert in the same sentence. Personally, I have a deep affection for the desert and the animals that inhabit its sparse and often hostile environment. Darcy Pattison's new book, Desert Baths, is a great way to learn about the animals that call the desert, home.

The warm tones of the illustrations reflect the heat of the desert. Each page is framed in a desert motif of a tortoise shell pattern, prickly cactus and desert sky. The story takes us deep into the nooks and crannies of the desert floor to find the animals seeking shelter from the desert sun. Even the hummingbird bathes in the dew drops from the cool desert night. Each animal cleans itself with such care and curious behaviors as it grooms without benefit of soap and often little or no water.

Thick, cool mud serves as a place to wallow, roll and scratch for the javelina, while the pallid bat takes a spit bath by the stars in the midnight sky. Darcy writes of the yipping coyotes, making us want to cock our ears to hear the lonesome howl. Mothers and babies cuddle and wrestle in the desert light, to the comforting tongue baths that send them gentlly off to sleep. Pattison's descriptions of the animals and their surroundings are just as colorful as the illustrations. Her writing is like a paintbrush across the desert sky, vividly setting the stage with broad strokes. Her words detail the smallest ant in the beak of the quail as it uses it like a scrub brush. From snake to mule deer fawn, each page introduces us to the clean ways of the desert animal.

My grandchildren are fascinated by the animal kingdom, from barnyard to backyard. This book is a treasure filled with a place and animals they rarely see. Although suitable for young pre-school children, the book includes For Creative Minds, a study guide filled with fun facts, matching the animals to their survival skills, maps of the deserts in North America and many more engaging tools for parents and teachers. Teaching activities include language arts, math, geography and science. 

Darcy Pattison, award winning author, has also published Prairie Storms and her books have been published in eight languages. In demand for her teaching, she is also the Co-Chair of the Children's  Program for the Arkansas Literary Festival. You can visit her web site at 

Kathleen Reitz, lifelong artist, has worked as illustrator, designer and product developer. Her numerous book illustrations speak volumes as to her love and play of art in the literary style. Learn more about her work as illustrator and teacher on her web site,

Pattison and Retiz have captured the essence of the desert without getting sand in your shoes. Desert Baths is a great book to have on any child's bookshelf and certainly a must for any elementary classroom.

Available in hardcover, paperback and in ebook format  featuring auto-flip and auto-read. You can find this wonderful book at Amazon. com and Barnes and Noble, retail bookstores and Sylvan Dell.