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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:03AM


Connelly delivers with ‘Black Box’

Michael Connelly has been writing books featuring Los Angeles police Detective Harry Bosch for 20 years, and his 25th novel, “The Black Box” (Little, Brown, $27.99), continues his streak of telling stellar crime stories.

This time, the case holds a personal connection to Bosch. In 1992, during the L.A. riots, a woman’s body was found shot in a dark alley. She was a reporter from Europe who was working on a big case, but why was she deep in the middle of the chaos? Was her murder related to the riots or her investigation? Bosch never had a chance to find out because he was pulled to another crime and the case was turned over to another unit.

Her murder was never solved, and Bosch never forgot about it. Working for the cold case unit, Bosch decides to reopen the case, and soon discovers the gun used in her shooting was involved in other crimes involving gang members.

Instead of following the money, he decides to follow the gun. His hope is to find the plane’s “black box.” He knows that if he’s persistent, he’ll finally discover the truth.

His character and code of honor make Bosch one of the top detectives in crime fiction. Connelly has a gift for taking what seem to be cliches and making them fresh and vibrant.

Jeff Ayers / AP


‘Diary’ a fascinating child-star tale

Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis isn’t just familiar with the term “stage mom,” she lived it.

Francis grew up a child actress, with a full-time role on “Little House on the Prairie” when she was 8, but what people might not know is that her mother was so invested in her daughter’s career that she was often manipulative and selfish.

Francis writes about her own “Mommy Dearest” experience in the memoir, “Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter” (Weinstein, $26). She tells how her mother was like a drill sergeant, making sure she was prepared and punctual for auditions and jobs, while at home, the conditions were often that of squalor. Laundry would pile up, often there was no food in the refrigerator, and when Francis wasn’t working, her mother would fall into a deep depression.

Interwoven with memories of Hollywood are examples of how Francis’ older sister, Tiffany, was often the forgotten child and began to act out as a result. As Francis grows up and wants to focus on being a college student, her sister regresses and becomes more dependent on her parents.

“Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter” is not only a fascinating read but also an inspiring story, as Francis’ strength and determination to become more than just a former child star is nothing short of commendable.

Alicia Rancilio / AP


Funny life tales from Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette of the comedy-magic duo of Penn & Teller follows up last year’s “God, No!” with “Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday!” (Blue Rider, $25.95), filled with humorous essays that provide new perspectives on familiar life struggles. Readers will enjoy extremely funny stories from a man who loves his family and doesn’t let his celebrity go to his head.

One story tells of how dressing up as a ghost to read a book at his daughter’s day care center became a nightmare when Jillette realized that he looked like a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

He explains how Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” is edited and describes his collision with singer Clay Aiken when they both appeared on the show.

He also tells many stories about his work with Teller, including their early years working on street corners, and how some of their tricks have gone horribly wrong. Jillette realizes just how lucky he and Teller are to have a following and that people are willing to pay to see their act.

A few of the essays are follow-ups to “God, No!” but reading the previous book isn’t necessary to enjoy this one. However, Jillette can get quite vulgar and gross at times, so if R-rated language and situations are an issue, stay away. Otherwise, enjoy!

Jeff Ayeres / AP

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