“A Classic in Clown Shoes” by Becky Kueker. Outskirts Press. $19.95.

Becky Kueker writes that she didn’t want this new book on aging and retirement to be considered “self-help.” In fact, it turns out to be more “self-share.” In her 2015 book “Hiding in my Pajamas,” Kueker recounted her struggles adjusting to retirement from a high-powered business career. “A Classic in Clown Shoes,” picks up where that left off, but life hasn’t been entirely rosy in the interim. Kueker has been a successful writer and speaker, but has suffered from depression, was a wheelchair user for six months, and still considers her decades-long marriage “a work in progress.” You could come away from this text preferring to never age or retire. Although Kueker peppers her book with inspirational quotations and advice of experts, it nonetheless paints a rather grim picture of life after career. In the chapter on financial planning, for example, she writes about retirees shocked to discover they don’t have the means to live as they had previously. Pointing out that bankruptcy in not uncommon among the retired, she advises scrupulous preretirement financial planning. Much of the book is dedicated to women’s aging (disappearing eyebrows, anyone? sagging breasts?) and relationship issues (how do partners get along 24/7 when they were used to extended periods in the outside, professional world?). Kueker is candid about herself and includes supporting experiences from female friends and acquaintances. Her concluding interviews with male family and friends, however, give you pause: with retirement, come tectonic life shifts, and not all of these men are dealing successfully.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

“La Llorona” by Rodarte

“La Llorona: Ghost Stories of the Southwest” by Rodarte. La Llorona Productions. $14.95.

“Folktales are stories that teach us about cultural traditions and history,” writes author Rodarte (whose “more respectable doppelgänger” Mr. Rodarte teaches at Tucson’s Sam Hughes Elementary School): “they reveal how people used to live, and what they believed.” In this collection, the folktales feature the spectral “Wailing Woman” — La Llorona — the bogeyman character used for generations to keep Latino children (and wayward husbands) in line. Opening with a dramatized version of the Llorona origins, Rodarte presents 10 tales of Llorona encounters. Traditionally La Llorona is a ghost woman haunting water, wailing for her lost children, preying on living children. In Rodarte’s version, a young country wife is betrayed by her husband and his sophisticated city mistress, and — rather than lose her children to them, she drowns them and then herself in the river where she’d been courted. Several of the stories Rodarte tells come directly from family lore: a boy lingers in his uncle’s orchard too late at night, gets caught in a storm, and is nearly pulled by the ghost into a flooded ditch. A 14-year-old boy, happy to be home by himself, is terrified into near madness by a storm, scratching at a window, and screeching outside. And then there are the moral tales of husbands who gamble away the family income, drink, or chase sexy women. Raised in the tradition of the tales, Rodarte himself admits to having La Llorona moments (driving into a blinding storm with a broken window, for example, to avoid running water). Illustrated with rich drawings and eerie photographs, this delightful book is suitable for naughty children (and wayward husbands) of all ages.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

“We Were Killers Once” by Becky Masterman

“We Were Killers Once” by Becky Masterman. Minotaur Books. $27.99 hardcover.

There’s more mystery in this thriller by Tucsonan Becky Masterman than simply who-done-it: it suggests that sometimes the ones we love most we understand least. In “We Were Killers Once,” Masterman reimagines the 1959 Holcomb, Kansas, murders about which Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood.” In addition to Perry Smith and Dick Hickok, who were tried and executed for the slaughter of the Clutter family, Masterman adds a third, unknown murderer and rapist — Jeremy Beaufort. As the novel opens, Beaufort has just completed an unrelated decades-long term in prison, and he’s re-entering a transformed world — one in which forensic science can prosecute old crimes. Since he left behind some DNA in the rape/murder, Beaufort resolves to eliminate evidence linking him to the scene. That evidence trail will take him to the priest who heard Hickok’s final confession, and then to Carlo DiForenza, the ex-priest husband of our central character — former FBI agent Brígid Quinn. Quinn hunts him down, but the fundamental differences between the impulses of soul-saving Carlo and killer-killing Brígid then threaten not only their lives but also their marriage. Masterman has deftly and credibly woven historical reporting and Capote’s account into this satisfyingly complex novel.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

“66 on 66: A Photographer’s Journey” by Terrence Moore

“66 on 66: A Photographer’s Journey” by Terrence Moore, photographer. Foreword by Michael Wallis. Schaffner Press, Inc. $27.95

In the 1920s, iconic Route 66 was one of the original highways in what was planned as a continuous system of roadways connecting the east and west coast. In the ensuing decades, however, a new and more modern highway system evolved, bypassing the original Route 66 and isolating its heartland businesses and towns. As a college student in the 1960s, premier Southwest photographer Terrence Moore began documenting the impact of the bypass on this left-behind segment of rural America; he’s been at it ever since. For over 50 years Moore has photographed the buildings, landscapes, Americana, and denizens of Route 66 with an artist’s eye for a beloved subject; 66 of these photographs comprise this captivating volume, each identified with its location and the year it was shot. Some of them will make you smile, others may leave you awash in nostalgia, but all will fascinate you. As a collection they are a potent homage to travels on the Mother Road, and it’s a trip you won’t want to miss. Moore’s work has appeared in numerous publications including Smithsonian, American Heritage, Rolling Stone and Arizona Highways, and he has published several books. He lives in Tucson.

— Helene Woodhams

“Afterlife, Interrupted” by Nathan G. Castle, OP

“This.” By Kristen Cook. Independently Published. $9.99. $3.99 Kindle.

The last century brought us Jean Kerr who admonished “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies;” and Erma Bombeck, at her “Wit’s End.” They made a generation smile at their comic views on the complexities of suburban life. Now comes Kristen Cook with a fresh and funny look at familial bliss in the 21st century. The former features writer for the Arizona Daily Star has turned her award-winning writing skills and effervescent wit to “This.,” her uniquely personal take on life as we know it. With a journalist’s eye for detail, the edgy spontaneity of an improv troupe, and the exasperation of a sleep-deprived mother of three, Cook takes aim at the commonplace absurdities of everyday life and hits a bull’s eye with her wry and chatty observations of domesticity run wild. There’s no shortage of everyday grist for her mill and she details it all in vivid anecdotes, from her therapy dog drop-out who conducts 4 a.m. welfare checks with his cold nose, to the soul-deadening consequences of driving a minivan that announces to the world “I change diapers and have someone else’s boogers on my shirt.” Dive into this book anywhere and chuckle through a few pages, or consume it whole in one satisfying read. There’s truth in humor, and Cook offers plenty of both.

— Helene Woodhams

“Why Don’t You Like Me?” by Joseph “Pat” Ricca

“Afterlife, Interrupted: Helping Stuck Souls Cross Over — A Catholic Priest Explores the Interrupted Death Experience” by Nathan G. Castle OP. Bowker. $19.95; Kindle $9.99.

Father Nathan Castle has reassuring news about the afterlife. We are all eternal, he says, and his deeply-held belief is based on more than scripture. For the past 20 years he has helped “stuck souls” — those who have died suddenly and traumatically — transition from this life to the next. It’s not a blessing he sought — calls for help arrive, unprompted, while he sleeps. With the calm assurance and unquestioning faith of a parish priest (he belongs to a semi-contemplative Community of Dominicans serving the University of Arizona) Father Nathan describes specific instances in which he facilitated the passage of stuck souls with prayer and deep listening. He estimates he has helped 250 individuals; during the process, aspects of the afterlife have been revealed to him. This is not a book for those interested in the occult, nor is it intended to be doctrinal. By relating his experiences, Father Nathan simply means to share the hopeful news that the best is yet to come.

— Helene Woodhams

“This.” by Kristen Cook

“Why Don’t You Like Me?” By Joseph “Pat” Ricca. LifeRich Publishing. $16.58; Kindle $3.99.

Billy is a bully who picks on people because of the way they look or dress, their ethnicity, or their physical challenges. He even picks on kids when they are successful, because they “think they’re so smart.” Making people feel bad entertains him. Only pretty Jessica is exempt from his taunting; he likes her and wants to be friends, but she calls him on his bad behavior and, for once, being a bully isn’t satisfying. We’ve all experienced bullying, says the author, and it can be traumatic. With this picture book for young elementary school-aged kids, Joseph “Pat” Ricca hopes to raise awareness and include parents and teachers in a conversation about combating this serious problem. Ricca, who has two grandsons, is a retired medical technologist and Vietnam-era Navy Hospital Corpsman; he lives in Vail.

— Helene Woodhams

If you are a Southern Arizona author and would like your book to be considered for this column, send a copy to: Sara Brown, 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Give the price and a contact name. Books must have been published within a year. Most books are available locally at Mostly Books or Antigone Books.