Friday, April 29, 2022




There’s a lot for me to look forward in May. Saintly Wife Barb has recovered from her recent surgery and is good to go back to work as of Monday, May 2. While it’s been nice to have her home with me, she needs to finish up the process of retiring from her full-time job. That should be by the end of May, though she’ll likely work part-time for her current employer after that.

Tuesday, May 3, is the last day of voting in the primary elections here in Ohio. The Republicans have put forth particularly horrible candidates this time around, almost all of them seeing just how far they can crawl up Trump’s butt. The GOPholes are going for big lies and racism and attacks on the LGBTQ+ community while also tearing each other apart. Like a pack of hungry sharks.

Speaking of sharks, my “favorite” Republican candidate for office is Mike Gibbons, a businessman who ended a lot of jobs in Ohio and sent more of them overseas. I can’t decide if he looks more like a mayor who won’t close the beaches or the evil industrialist whose been dumping waste into the lakes, rivers and swamps and creating giant mutant alligators and snakes and woodpeckers. If I ever make any movies like that, I’ll likely tell the casting director to look for a “Mike Gibbons” type.

The best thing about the primary elections being over is that I’ll no longer have to watch TV with my finger on the mute button. Never thought I’d miss ads for boner pills and insurance.

Come the first weekend of May, my family and I will be leaving for the Virgin Islands for a short vacation. We will be staying on St. John and welcome your suggestions for attractions, restaurants and
sights to see.

Note to self: go shopping. You’re running out of time to find that special swim wear that won’t scare women and small children.

One last amusing item before I delve into the files for unpublished items to fill out today’s bloggy thing...

For the longest time, I had problems with the delivery of the three newspapers I get. The Akron Beacon-Journal. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. The (Medina) Gazette. The same carrier delivers all three of them. If we didn’t get one of the papers, the chances are that we wouldn’t get away of them. Of late, that situation has changed for the better. It’s been months since we’ve had any problem with newspaper delivery whatsoever. Despite this change for the better, I now get a daily e-mail from the Plain Dealer:

Delivery of [today’s] edition of your newspaper will be delayed due to a delivery delay in your area today. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

Except...that hasn’t been a delay in the afore-mentioned months. I never got these e-mails when they were problems. I starting getting them about a month or two ago. This makes me chuckle.


Near as I can tell, I wrote the following book reviews sometime in early 2021 and never posted them:

Seph Lawless’s Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks [Skyhouse Publishing; $30] is one of several photo journals by the “artivist” who, for well over a decade, has been documenting those places we have left behind. I’m a huge fan of his work. His books and quietly evocative photos fill me with melancholy. These images inspire me, fragments of history and of stories to be told.

In Abandoned, Lawless journeys into the amusement parks that once loomed so large in our lives. As a kid traveling with my family, I visited the Geauga Lake Amusement Park in Aurora, Ohio. Indeed, it was where Sts. Phillip and James students were bused to celebrate the end of school years. I went to the Chippewa Lake Amusement in that Ohio city, the Enchanted Forest Playland in Toledo, Ohio, and the Prehistoric Forest in Onstead, Michigan. Even though the ruins, I can recognize some of those sites.

A chapter on Disney World’s Discovery Island and River Country was a revelation of the past hidden from plain sight even in that most vibrant of entertainment parks. I was also awed by the chapters on the Li’l Abner-inspired Dogpatch, USA (Marble Falls, Arkansas) and the Land of Oz (Beech Mountain, North Carolina).

When I think about similar theme parks that made be left behind in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, I hope Lawless or other sturdy explorers will memorialize them while they are still with us and as they make their way into history.

Abandoned would make a terrific gift for fans of amusement parks, artists, photographers and writers. You can spend hours looking at these images and likely return to them regularly.

ISBN 978-1-5107-2335-1



Killer Kung Pao [St. Martin's Paperbacks; $7.99] is Vivien Chien’s most recent Noddle Shop mystery. Heroine Lana Lee is the manager of her family’s restaurant, a leader in Cleveland’s Asia Village and an amateur detective. Detective Adam Trudeau is her boyfriend, who has pretty much given up on trying to stop Lana from investigating the alarmingly frequent murders in that community. Both characters are well-crafted and relatable. In this book, Lana and Adam relax by binge-watching Supernatural. That put a smile on my face, even though I’m unlikely to ever find the time to follow suit.

This time out, the case is the death by electrocution in a beauty shop by a most unpopular Asia Village woman. It’s pretty clear it was murder, but who done it? There are no shortage of suspects, a list that includes some of the noodle shop’s most loyal customers.There are lots of twists in this book, making it one of the best of the series to date. Six books and counting.

Fatal Fried Rice, the seventh in the series, is due out in March. I’m looking forward to reading it.

ISBN 978-1-250-22830-7


I often write my review columns in piecemeal fashion. Which is why, though it has been a couple months for me, it was just a few lines ago that I told you I was looking forward to reading Vivien Chien’s Fatal Fried Rice [St. Martin's Paperbacks; $7.99]. Having read it, here are my thoughts on the novel.

In the previous Noodle Shop mysteries, each new case has had some connection to Cleveland’s Asia Village. The ever-curious Lana Lee, who manages her family’s Chinese restaurant, gets involved because of her proximity to the event or because her amateur investigative skills have been requested by someone from the Village. That’s not her doorway into this book’s murder mystery.

Lana takes a cooking class at Cuyahoga Community College in nearby Parma. Because she’s embarrassed she doesn’t know how to cook the food served at the family restaurant, she keeps this a secret from her family and friends. The first class goes well. Up to a point. That point being when Lana forgets something, returns to the class and finds instructor Margo Chan stabbed to death.

Things get worse when a Detective Bishop decides Lana and a janitor with a criminal record are the killers. Naturally, he can’t prove it, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing them to the exclusion of other suspects. He even figures that because Lana’s boyfriend is a Cleveland detective that she has knowledge of how to cover up her involvement in the murder.

Asia Village and some of its familiar characters figure in Lana’s search for the actual killer, but the novel still has a different  vibe from the earlier book. Chien’s been growing as a writer with each new entry in the series and this slight change of pace speaks to that. I liked this novel a lot.

Alas, while every prior book in the series, had a sample chapter of the next novel, this one does not. I hope this doesn’t mean Chien is done with Lana, who has become a favorite of mine.

SIDEBAR: Calling all television show runners. Given the outpouring of support for Asian-Americans in these times of Republican-driven violence against them, now would be an excellent time to give Lana Lee and her adventures a close look. You can thank me by giving me a role in the sure-to-be-a-hit Noodle Shop series.]

ISBN 978-1-250-78259-5

That concludes today’s bloggy thing. I’ll be back with more stuff as soon as possible.  

© 2022 Tony Isabella

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