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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 4 April 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Dustin's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harold's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf South's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Snow Moon Rising
Lori L. Lake
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
4700 Highway 365, Suite A, PMB 210, Port Arthur, TX 77642
1932300503 $ 20.95

Cheri Rosenberg

A Historical Novel that reads like an epic adventure!

Snow Moon Rising is an intimate glimpse of the seasons of Mischka Gallo's life. From her happy childhood, in spite of social injustice and bigotry against the Roma people (derogatorily referred to as Gypsies), Mischka maintains her innocence through her mid-teens. Only later does reality harden her. She displays a zest for life and heroic strength, believing that, "Everyone should feel the love, enjoy the exhilaration life afforded… [O]ver time she came to realize that each soul needs its own private place and solitude to nourish both joy and pain" (p. 2). It is this optimism that allows Snow Moon Rising to inspire us, rather than let us be defeated by the malice Mischka faces.

Many fictional stories are based on the atrocities of Hitler during World War II, but Lori L. Lake uses an uncommon perspective, telling the story from the Roma and German point of view, and then adding a refreshing twist. Without gratuitous sex or violence, Lake succeeds in writing an emotionally charged, action-packed, and authentic story. Her tight, crisp narrative flows seamlessly as Mishka, at eighty, recounts her life's experiences to her fifteen-year-old grandson, Tobar. As the events unfold, it's easy to imagine her world. Mischka says to Tobar, "I don't want to end your childhood with sad stories, but remember, after darkness there is always light. Just like after the moon disappears, the sun always rises" (p. 5). Throughout Lake's novel, the theme that resonates most isn't the bleakness you might expect, but rather, is hopeful.

The relationship between Mischka and Pauline Stanek (Pippi), as friends and lovers, spans seventy-one years. Pippi is the sister of a wounded AWOL German soldier, Emil. The Roma clan adopted Emil when Mischka was a child, and he became a beloved cousin of Mischka. It is through Emil, that Mischka and Pippi meet for the first time. The connection and kinship they feel is immediate. The two young girls make a vow to remain friends, forever bonded by heart, spirit, and soul. It seems theirs was an unlikely union, considering that homosexuality was considered a sin and punishable by death and both women end up on opposite sides during the war. Pippi knew Hitler to be the madman that he was, but what choice did she have when the Third Reich summoned her and ordered her to serve at a labor camp? One wonders how many unwilling German guards and soldiers were as much a victim of the war as the prisoners.

Snow Moon Rising is a page-turner because Lake carefully balances the storyline, choosing only the scenes that move the plot along. The immediacy and transparency, as the story unfolds, allows the reader to engage both emotions and intellect. The reader not only understands the horrid situation—but also feels deeply along with Mischka, her people, and Pippi as well. The narrative summaries don't lecture, but rather convey feelings, making the scenes compelling. This reviewer imagines what it must have been like in Mischka's camp: the sounds, the smells, the tastes. Even though written in English, you feel like they are speaking a foreign language, without having to sift through a lot of cumbersome dialect. The Roma and German phrases add to the story and set the tone for readers who are fluent in any language.

One would think it depressing to be Mischka in those days. A Roma woman was like chattel without civil rights; however, to watch Mischka before she was forced into marriage, and later, thrown into a concentration camp, she was the light in a dark world. She maintained her dignity in the face of inhumane treatment as her means to fight the enemy. The way Lake captures the heart of this admirable woman is the reason Snow Moon Rising reminds this reviewer of a photograph. Mischka thinks, "Memories surfaced, and pictures rose up from hidden recesses, not in the sepia tones she so often remembered, but stark, bright, vital, and as colorful as modern photographs" (p. 5). This is a fair description of how Lake tells, and shows, Mischka's story with clear and vivid detail, which remain bright despite her often dismal surroundings.

With an impressive bibliography at the back of the book, Lake's extensive research is rewarded by the vivid and heart-rending account of what life was like for the Roma "Gypsies" during WWII. Snow Moon Rising is easily Lori Lake's most accomplished work to date. The novel has already won the Alice B. Reader's Appreciation Award 2007 and is nominated for numerous other accolades. Fans of fiction containing historical truth will cherish this novel, and it would be a fine addition to any library.

Brinkley's Beat: People, Places, and Events That Shaped My Time
David Brinkley
Ballantine Books
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0345426797 $12.95 1-800-726-0600

Dan Schneider

David Brinkley was an important figure in the history of television news. But, that fact has no consequence on the fact that the man was not a particularly good writer. Before his death in June of 2003 he penned a slim book for Alfred A. Knopf called Brinkley's Beat: People, Places And Events That Shaped My Time, which consisted of minor essays on topics that concerned his career in journalism. Although divided into three sections- People, Places, and Events (real creative, eh?), and featuring essays on topics such as Bobby Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, Normandy, and the Kennedy Assassination (Jack, not Bobby), the book is a dull and tedious read. Too bad it was not a memoir, where one might get a sense of the real man, rather than this tepid string of musings. What is so odd is that Brinkley, in his role as co-anchorman of NBC News, with Chet Huntley, and in his later capacity as host of the Sunday Morning political talk show This Week With David Brinkley, on ABC, was known for a quick wit, often strafed with acid. Yet, rather than recapitulating on paper the unique inflections that set him apart from rivals like Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite, Brinkley lays down pieces with absolutely no depth. It's really remarkable to read how banal a man who saw so much can write of such bounty.

The People section is almost entirely composed of Washington politicos and insiders, and perfunctory to a fault. Brinkley seems to not have had a strong opinion on anyone nor anything. All of his pieces end sideways- as Brinkley chooses never to opine nor dig more deeply. It's almost as if he approaches the world with the depth of an old uncle who talks merely to hear himself speak, and not a journalist with inside information. All of the pieces end with a sort of mellow harrumph- even those on such forgotten scoundrels as openly racist Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo- who was sort of the white answer to Marcus Garvey in advocating resettling blacks to Africa, and Texas congressman Martin Dies, the founder of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Even worse than his emotional asides are Brinkley's utter lack of depth into major figures. Of the Presidents he covered in his lifetime, Brinkley speaks only of three, and says little of consequence about them. Scheming LBJ is depicted as energetic but out of his time- and also a personal friend who split with Brinkley when the newsman told the President the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, Ronald Reagan- a tabula rasa if there ever was one, is said to be impenetrable- as if there were any substance, and Bill Clinton is moralized upon, as if fellatio was as great a sin as the Constitutional underminings Reagan and Nixon proffered. Even J. Edgar Hoover is given Kid Gloves, as Brinkley says he was neither as bad as his detractors portrayed him nor as heroic as his idolators claimed.

Even when writing of the Normandy Invasion in 1944 or of Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s, the man can hardly seem to get excited. In fact, he seems more taken with the idea of the city of Vienna and its history of classical music and great food, or of old time Florida beaches and hotels before Miami and Orlando's twin rises to political and cultural prominence. Of the Kennedy Assassination, Brinkley can only gush at the service that television news provided for a shaken nation. In all the years of covering events could not Brinkley have learnt something of clichés and platitudes? Even worse is when he does try to occasionally opine more deeply. His intonations on the evolution of political conventions consists of declaring that they became too managed, dull, and void of real news. This is political blog level commentary, not real journalism.

Perhaps the only time in the whole book when Brinkley shows any real spontaneity or zest is when he describes his covering a small time traffic court case in 1938, for his local newspaper, then testing the man's car with a cop, to see if it could really go 65 mph or not. The man was fined $15, and Brinkley was chided by his editor for a lack of objectivity. One wonders if the lecture his superior gave Brinkley still hovered over this book, for objectivity in a book of remembrances is tantamount to a sleeping pill. Even when he ends his piece on President Johnson, all Brinkley is moved to imagine is if anyone who visits Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial Wall thinks of LBJ. Aside from being nearly mawkish, it misses the obvious, since LBJ was the architect, if not instigator, of that horridly wasteful and divisive war, so anyone with any gray matter cannot help but to think of the old Texan when they rue their needless dead.

However, since it is looked upon as gauche to speak ill of the dead, I won't. But, as for Brinkley's last book, I'll merely damn it the way he seems to have viewed the world in his final years….yawn.

An Island Far From Home
John Donahue
Carolrhoda Books
c/o Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
0876148593, $19.95 1-800-328-4929

Elizabeth A. Baehner

I selected "An Island Far From Home" for review because, as an elementary school librarian, I want to have first hand knowledge of the books on my library shelves. It is part of my job to be able to recommend books to teachers as well as students. I personally love historical fiction and try to read as many books of this genre as possible to help students develop a better understanding of history.

"An Island Far From Home" is John Donahue's first book. The idea for his book was the result of a visit to Fort Warren, an historical spot in Massachusetts.

Mr. Donahue was able to create a very believable young charter in Joshua Loring. The setting is 1864-1865 and the nation was growing impatient with its long, bloody civil war. You Joshua wanted desperately to enlist and fight the 'hated' rebels who had killed his physician father at Fredericksburg. This first time author is able to develop the character of a young boy, impatient to become a soldier, yet will to listen to the significant, loving adults around him. For example, in a conversation between Josh and his Uncle Robert, the author is able to convey the absolute trust this young boy had in his uncle. Josh wants so much to enlist and make the Rebels pay for the death of his father. Uncle Robert is able to help him see that his place is really with his mother right now. Later, Uncle Robert convinces Josh to write a young rebel soldier at Fort Warren which helps Josh understand that this 'enemy' is truly human and has needs similar to his.

The writing is straightforward and understandable by most fourth grade readers. The daily life of Josh could be a day in the life of many of the students reading "An Island Far From Home" due to Josh's days spent in school and his close relationship with his best friend, Logan. The days of fun, adventures and even disagreements are easy for the young student reader to identify with. Mr. Donahue, an attorney with the Massachusetts Appeals Court at the time of his writing this novel, seems to have a keen insight into boys of this age.

There are great books to be read by our youngest readers concerning this important time period of American History. "Pink and Say" by Patricia Polacco, also develops the friendship between two young boys on opposing sides of the Civil War as the get to know each other. "Across Five Aprils" by Irene Hung; "Bigger" by Patricia Calvert; "Bull Run" by Paul Fleischman; and "Charley Skedaddle" by Patricia Beatty are also excellent examples of this painful period of American History conveyed to young readers through the means of historical fiction.

The Rough Guide to Slovenia - Edition 2
Norm Longley
Rough Guides
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, UK
1843537257 $20.99

Ian Middleton

Insightful and informative, Rough Guide to Slovenia is an essential part of anyone's Slovenia travel kit!

As a seasoned traveller, having an accurate and useful travel guide is an essential part of my kit. Recently I have grown tired of mainstream and established guides leaning more towards database listings of where to go and what to do. I want insight. I want to know about a place, its history, culture and the author's personal views. I want to feel inspired to visit a place by the writing. So it's refreshing to see that the Rough Guides still manage to maintain an acceptable balance between information and insight.

The Rough Guide to Slovenia is now in its second edition and there have been many improvements. The most obvious is the new glossy cover; a full page photo with a translucent band across help to make the book much more aesthetically appealing to the eye, which is a vast improvement from the bland cover of the previous edition. The colour intro contains a useful quick reference guide to the country's highlights, and scattered throughout the book you'll also find two new colour inserts that help to give more emphasis on the two things the country is most famous for: caves and outdoor activities.

More importantly though, is the content. The author manages to maintain an easygoing style which almost makes you feel like he is actually talking to you. Whilst striving to provide accurate information he is also not afraid to give blatantly honest reviews of places and accommodation. His description of a place in Bled where I have personally stayed is right on the button:

"This popular lakeside place has a convivial atmosphere despite the rooms being dated and cramped."

It's for this kind of honesty that people buy a travel guide. If we just wanted a simple list of places to stay and go we would ask at the tourist office, or read the brochures. But independent travellers who want to plan their own itinerary want to know what the place is really like, so they can make an informed decision as to where to go and stay.

While boxed sections highlight special events or places of interest, the bulk of the information is neatly woven into sectioned paragraphs each written with a clarity and authority that is indicative of the author's thorough research and in-depth knowledge of the country. The second edition also contains more detailed maps than the previous edition and its map of the Triglav National Park is the best I've seen yet.

Extremely well written and packed with accurate and useful information, the Rough Guide to Slovenia is an essential aid to anyone planning a trip to this beautiful and diverse little country.

Jon Clinch
Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
1400065917 $23.95 1-800-726-0600

Michael Frechette

For Mark Twain lovers, the mere title of Jon Clinch's debut novel, Finn, could be enough indication that the author is following in the wake of a somewhat recent literary trend – using a classic novel as a springboard for one's own story. Basing a contemporary novel on a well-regarded piece of literature might seem like a quick and easy way for a debut novelist to be taken seriously. Many readers might dismiss such a device as a crutch for an author who will probably fade with time anyway. However, previous authors have successfully employed this technique, and some of their own works seem destined to live on as classics themselves. For example, last year, Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for March, a novel concerning the absent patriarch of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. And less recently, in 1995, Gregory Maguire earned a name for himself with Wicked, a novel and now Broadway musical which examines the untold story of the wicked witch of the west from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. With Finn, Clinch has given readers something similar, a serious work of fiction that uses Twain's great American novel to explore the complex issues of race and class. Like Maguire, Clinch creates a story that centers around the original tale's mysteriously evil character. However, whereas Maguire turns the good-versus-evil dichotomy on its head and evokes the reader's sympathy for the "wicked" witch, Clinch takes a different approach regarding his main character, Finn – the cruel father of America's beloved Huckleberry. While he does broach some possible reasons why Finn grew into such a racist, murderous monster, the character's actions far outweigh these reasons, leaving the reader in a state of horror and disgust with the novel's villainous subject.

With a structure that lacks chronology and chapters that alternate between past and present, Clinch takes his time churning out the details of the plot. The novel begins with the dead body of Huck's mother floating down the Mississippi River. She has recently been murdered by Huck's own father, Finn, who choked her to death, removed her skin, and dumped her in the river. As the novel progresses, the reader learns the biographical details. Finn met Mary years before aboard the Santo Domingo, a steamboat that had been hijacked by its black passengers and was steering northward to a part of the country where they could live as relatively free people. Finn himself discovered the plot, helped retake control of the vessel, and made sure to take a souvenir from this adventure – Mary, the daughter of the plot's organizer. The two of them end up living in a shack by the river, where Mary gives birth to Huck and essentially lives as a prisoner under Finn's violent wrath and watchful eye. Eventually, Mary and Huck are able to escape, and they fortuitously arrive at the Widow Douglas's, where it is decided that Huck will stay with the Widow to attend school and work towards a more upstanding future for himself. Unfortunately, Finn finds Mary living there and convinces her to move back to Illinois with him, where she meets her gruesome demise.

If it is not apparent by now, in Clinch's particular version of the story, Huck's mother is a black woman from the deep South, and Huck himself is obviously of mixed race, a point of contention perhaps for some literary purists. However, Clinch is careful to explain this seemingly divergent element in a way that is congruous with Twain's literary classic. Not only is Huck's skin pale enough for him to pass as white, but also both Finn and Mary tell Huck at different times that his real mother was a white woman who died during childbirth. For Mary, such a lie is meant to free Huck of the racial burden of being black and liberate him to lead a life of white privilege. Therefore, when readers first meet Huck in Twain's novel, he is supposedly operating under a false belief in his own racial makeup.

Race is certainly a major concern of the novel and one many early reviewers addressed in their explications of the work. Racism and prejudice are attributes of nineteenth-century American society and unsurprisingly have been passed on to Finn by his own culture and his own father. Finn treats Mary abominably throughout the story and refuses to treat the story's other black characters with any degree of respect or dignity. Nevertheless, his racism is also a source of internal torture for him and in the end, it is what drives him to commit such heinous acts. Unlike his father, Finn himself has a penchant for women with dark skin, but his deeply held belief in their racial inferiority results in his abuse of them, as was the case with Huck's mother; it is no surprise that he removes her skin after her murder, the part of her that he found the most attractive but that simultaneously disabled him from treating her humanely.

What seems most prominent in reading the novel, however, is not just race, but the intersection of race and class, something many early reviews seem to have overlooked. Like today, those characters from the upper class such as the Widow Douglas reside in homes that are perched on hills while lower class figures like Finn and his black counterparts live on the lowest elevation by the river. When Huck and Mary arrive at the Widow Douglas's, Clinch writes that "it feels like a place from which a person could jump off and land almost anywhere" (200). At first, the word "anywhere" sounds optimistic, suggesting that a person's options, when starting from the top of the social order, are limitless. However, "anywhere" also means that a person can land in a shack near the river like Finn, who surprisingly comes from a privileged household himself. When one considers that Finn resides at the bottom rung of white society, it is no surprise that he is attracted primarily to black women, the only segment of the population to whom he probably still feels superior. Yet even this sense of superiority is called into question at several times during the course of the story. In one instance, Finn has recently been released from prison to discover that his black wife has indebted them to a black man in "darktown," and Finn must spend his first earnings out of prison repaying someone who he believes to be beneath him. In a separate, more telling episode, Finn encounters two professors from Ohio, one black and one white. After a series of belligerent, racist remarks, the black professor prophetically says to Finn, "time and events will overtake you" (49). In both of these instances, class seems to trump race. Even though Finn perceives himself as the racial superior of both his black creditor and the black professor, they are both his superior in terms of class; they have more power in their dealings with Finn, which undoubtedly wounds his pride and provokes his hostility. In the latter episode, the black professor even suggests to Finn that his unwillingness to adapt and embrace cultural and social shifts eventually will lead to his downfall.

Though Finn is depicted as a cold-blooded, murderous racist, Clinch does offer glimpses into his childhood in a half-hearted effort to offer some type of explanation for his behavior. In these glimpses, we learn that Finn actually grew up in a privileged household, with a sickly brother named Will, a high-society mother from Philadelphia, and a mean, racist father who Finn and Will refer to only as the Judge. Finn's father literally is a Judge in Lasseter, Illinois where they grew up, a well-spoken, educated individual who treats Finn as any other potential criminal who appears before him in court. Rather than shower him with love, praise, and paternal discipline when needed, he forgoes the love and praise and meets out punishments like a cold, heartless dispenser of justice. Finn implies in talking with Huck that even corporal punishment would have been better interpreted as some form of loving discipline: "He wouldn't so much as lay a hand on me. What kind of father is that?" (76) More than just biographical details about Finn's childhood, though, the novel also seems to beg for a psychoanalytic reading in certain places. For example, in finishing a cloth-filtered jug of whiskey near the beginning of the book, Clinch writes of Finn: "even after he's taken the cloth into his mouth and suckled it like a woman's breast, it is only enough to fuel his need for more" (13). Such a simile seems to suggest that Finn was deprived of the early nurturing that perhaps would have altered his development for the better. However, mere similes fall short of offering a full, comprehensible explanation for Finn's actions. One early reviewer rightly noted that Clinch deliberately leaves Finn a mystery at the end of the novel to suggest the impenetrability of evil. And if one combed the story for the number of times Clinch uses the word "unknowable," such an interpretation would seem very reasonable.

Despite the childhood glimpses and the psychoanalytic twist, Clinch is careful not to lay it on too thick, disabusing the reader from falling into the trap of sympathy for a character who deserves nothing but contempt and the fate at which he eventually arrives. Even if sympathy had been Clinch's aim, some readers may ask how it is possible to feel pity for a character who removes the skin of his victim and tosses her into the Mississippi River. Some artists have achieved such an effect, though. Consider the film The Cell in which a viewer feels unexpected shreds of sympathy for a serial killer of women whose childhood trauma is partly responsible for his murderous adulthood. However, this particular response is not possible for Finn, a villainous wretch who shows us the ugliest side of America's racist past.

While the novel would be engaging enough simply for its relevant themes, it is also extremely pleasurable to read. The places where the story intersects with Twain's leave this reviewer feeling nostalgic for high school English class. In addition, the prose is very lyrical and the text is full of pithy maxims that are delivered in Clinch's own original style. One early reviewer rightly noted, though, that the novel is lightly infused with buzzwords like "signifier" that come straight from the mouths of contemporary academic critics. Such words seem overreaching and contaminate the imaginative world and poetic prose that Clinch achieves over the course of the novel. In addition, the vocabulary in certain spots is unnecessarily elevated. For instance, the word "micturate" could easily be replaced with a synonym more appropriate to the character and station of Finn (183). However, these incidents in the prose can be excused for a debut novelist who is simply trying to call attention to the fact that he intends to be a serious writer of serious literature. All in all, Finn is a very imaginative extension of a classic novel, one that intelligently treats subjects that still haunt the American consciousness today.

Creating Wealth For The Average Guy
Rocky Castleberry
Swan Publishing
Southwind Ranch, 1059 CR 100, Burnet, TX 78611
0943629608 $9.95

Peter Hupalo

Creating Wealth For The Average Guy by Rocky Castleberry is a brief introduction to the key principles of building wealth. Castleberry tells readers to create a vision, aim high, and work to achieve their financial goals.

Castleberry writes: "The 'Vision,' what is it? It is the thing that drives all great men, it is the catalyst, the enabler, it is what drives us, consumers us, makes us want to succeed. It is what pulls us and separates us from those around us. It is the basis of the Entrepreneur. The Entrepreneur is the fabric of this nation: the Henry Ford's, the Edison's, Getty's, and Carnegie's. What separated these men from others? Was it the desire to maintain the status quo? Was it to live on past successes or past achievements? No! It was the 'Vision,' the thirst for bigger and better; the continual striving towards defeating the self-inflicted restrains of past experience, failures, prejudices and the constant barrage of friends, family and naysayers that said it wasn't possible."

Castleberry, a Texas real estate investor and entrepreneur, emphasizes the importance of living below your means, so you'll have money to invest. He tells the story of a friend who wanted to save $100,000 to start his own business. Unfortunately, Castleberry knew his friend was unlikely to achieve his dream with his current mindset. He was unwilling to give up his expensive truck and lifestyle to sock away the money. By cutting back his expenses, Castleberry shows how his friend could have rather easily achieved his goal. Castleberry says too many people put the cart before the horse—purchasing luxuries before acquiring the income to properly support them.

Castleberry writes: "We all wake up every morning exactly where we are. I know it sounds mundane or even trite, but remember, every decision you have made in the past has brought you to this point and every decision you make today will shape your future. You can't change the past, you can only start moving up from where you are today."

Even after acquiring a lot of money, over-consumption can still do in a would-be-mogul. Castleberry points out how M.C. Hammer, after his initial success, spent $30 million and then went bankrupt. Castleberry writes: "Individuals become euphoric with their new found wealth. They rush out and buy new cars, new boats, the "dream" vacation, etc. without considering the consequences of their actions. They increase their liabilities without increasing their cash flow. A dangerous trap."

After saving money for your goals, Castleberry says you must put your "little green employees" to work. Money properly invested will go to work for you to create more money. Creating Wealth For The Average Guy explains the importance of time and compounding in achieving wealth. Castleberry discusses the difference between good purchases, which will add to your cash flow, and bad purchases, which simply put your "little green employees" to work for somebody else.

The book covers: rental real estate; deciding which debts to pay off first; understanding when to finance a purchase; the importance of planning and getting expert advice; and teaching your children to value money properly.

Ultimately, Castleberry says true wealth is about personal contentment, family, and character. Wealth is a way to care for your family. Creating Wealth For The Average Guy is a great book for people who want to understand the basics of successful personal finance and growing wealth.

The Twilight of Atheism
Alister McGrath
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0385500610 $23.95

Rose Glavas

'Historians date the birth of "avowed" or "intentional" atheism in Britain to around the year 1742…' p. 113

My interest in atheism is a personal one and I don't have any training in theological subjects. I found this title hard to read at first, but more and more engaging as I went along. I think if you had more of a background in religious subjects it would obviously be much easier going. I found the exploration of various religious and secular thinking fascinating and educational.

McGrath has written numerous books and is a professor of historical theology at Oxford University. Some of the other books the author has written include: 'In the Beginning, The Reenchantment of Nature', and 'The Journey'. McGrath is also a consulting editor of 'Christianity Today', and the general editor of 'The Thematic NIV Study Bible'. He lives in Oxford, England and had been an atheist when he was younger. This put a new slant on this book in my understanding of his own personal approach to exploring 'The Twilight of Atheism.'

Personally, I don't find history interesting so I found the first part of the book a bit hard to get through but as I got closer to more recent historical developments and characters I found this book much more interesting. Some historical characters, events and eras covered include: the French Revolution, Marx, Freud, Darwin and the Marquis de Sade – an interesting cast in this exploration of the life of atheism! The importance of historical developments becomes clearer as you are exposed to various ideas in this book. For example, I liked the way McGrath phrased this:

'… one of the most obvious lessons of history is that atheism thrives when the church is seen to be privileged, out of touch with the people, and powerful – precisely the situation that emerged in Germany during the revolutionary years of the 1840s.' p.55

The reason I kept working through this book is a personal interest in learning about what brings inspiration and meaning into people's lives. This is important to the work I do on a daily basis with clients in helping them through their personal difficulties and hopefully gaining direction in their lives. As part of this process it was interesting for me to read the following paragraph where McGrath explores 'The Brothers Karamazov' (1880) the last novel written by Dostoyevksy.

'… The church, out of a deeper concern for humanity, wishes to deny them freedom, and replaces the curse of freedom with the intellectual and spiritual opiates of miracle, mystery, and authority. By revering the mystery, believing and accepting the miracles, and following the dictates and directives of the church, people can live their lives with the heavy load of accepting responsibility for their own actions. The majority of people, according to the Grand Inquisitor, are weak and are likened to sheep. Happiness can only be achieved by the surrender of human freedom. People may cry out for it, but in fact they prefer slavery. Only the strong, those few at the top of the power structure, should have to bear the weight and responsibility of freedom.' p.147

This was of interest to me because there is a ring of truth in it. For some, freedom of choice is overwhelming.

To finish up:

'… It was reported that 86 percent of Americans as a whole, 99 percent of family physicians, and 94 percent of HMO professionals now believe that prayer, meditation, and other spiritual and religious practices exercise a major positive role within the healing process. …these viewpoints are grounded in a growing body of empirical evidence that has established a positive correlation between spirituality and health…' p.263 – 264

In summary this is a comprehensive, well written examination of the development of spiritual thinking from classical Greek times right up to our more contemporary times. An excellent book. Covering this topic in such a complete way would not have been an easy task but McGrath sails through explaining this complex topic in a way that is manageable for the lay person. Definitely worth reading if you have an interest in anything religious/spiritual.

A Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novel
Plum Lovin'
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010
0312306342 $16.95

Sharame Vodraska

This is the 14th Stephanie Plum novel from prolific writer Janet Evanovich. In the book, Plum Lovin', Stephanie gears up for Valentine's Day as Diesel reappears in her life. Morelli is strangely absent, but Ranger makes a cameo appearance. Diesel showed up previously in the novel, Visions of Sugar Plums, and spent Christmas with Stephanie's family. Which had some disastrous yet comedic results, the hilarity continues in this saga. Diesel and Stephanie strike a deal in which Stephanie becomes less bounty hunter chick and more of a matchmaker to help Diesel with an ongoing case. She finds out that her sister, Valerie, is in the matchmaker's file as a priority to be fixed by Valentine's Day. So Stephanie hatches a plan with Diesel to fix her sister's problem and on the way Lula and Connie get involved as well. All in all the book is a pretty funny read.

Into the Woods and Back Out Again
Michael Matheny
Cantarabooks LLC
8721 Santa Monica Blvd. #129, Los Angeles, CA 90069-4507
1933688017 $9.95

Tim W. Brown

Into the Woods and Back Out Again lives up to its subtitle, "an inspirational guide to writing (and finishing!) your first novel." Interestingly, the author, Michael Matheny, approaches the topic using a parable rather than the predictable how-to format common to most advice books. Thus, the book achieves literary status in addition to motivating aspiring novelists. Additionally, it is suffused with a welcome sense of humor.

The story begins like those of many novelists: a love interest inspires the writer, in this case a voracious reader whom the protagonist, Arthur, meets in a bar and tries to pick up. Shot down, he goes home and drunkenly talks to the photograph hanging on his wall of members of the Algonquin Round Table. A supernatural episode ensues as Lord Algonquin ("Al") emerges from the photo and offers to lead Arthur on a quest to become a novelist.

Rich in allusion, the story takes Arthur through an odyssey in which he learns the novel-writing process. He rides a trusty steed, Ulysses, through a dark, mysterious forest. He must draw a giant pen, Ex Libris, from a stone. He wears magical spectacles that allow him to view the reality of numerous writers' traps, including carnival players who attempt to waste his time, a writing professor who promises him success if only he adopts his writing method, and a sexy woman who tempts him with her body and her father's riches.

Under Al's and Ulysses' guidance, Arthur rejects these distractions and buckles down to write his novel. He interacts with his characters and learns how to breathe life into them, and he learns how to plot a story complete with the appropriate digressions to foil readers' expectations. Above all, he learns to tap and control his imagination, discovering in the process that writing a novel is a high calling which demands as much courage and dedication as that possessed by the heroes of Arthurian legends.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Grief And Sexuality
Rachel Nafziger Hartzler
Herald Press
616 Walnut Avenue, Scottsdale, PA 15683-1999
0836193407, $14.99 1-800-759-4447

At the age of 51 and having endured the intense sorrow and confusion of widowhood after her husband unexpectedly died of a heart attack, Rachel Hartzler brings a very special expertise in "Grief And Sexuality: Life After losing A Spouse", a book designed to help others deal with the universal questions about grief, spirituality, and the loss of a romantic and intimate relationship. "Grief And Sexuality" is especially recommended reading for both men and woman having to reconstruct their lives after the loss of a loved one, as well as an important and insightful addition to the supplemental reading list of Christian pastors, priests, ministers, counselors, and mentors working with widowed parishioners, their friends and families.

All This Way for the Short Ride
Paul Zarzyski, author; Barbara Van Cleve, photographer
University of New Mexico Press
1312 Basehart SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106-4363
0890133085 $17.50 1-800-249-7737

All This Way for the Short Ride: Roughstock Sonnets is a rollicking blend of poetry and action-packed, black-and-white photographs celebrating the American West, the ranch way of life, and especially rodeo culture. Written in the continued spirit of the original "Roughneck Sonnets", All This Way for the Short Ride pays especial tribute to the brave men and women who dare to ride fiercely bucking broncos for as many seconds as they can. A collaboration brimming with life, love, and the passion of the strongest roughnecks, highly recommended for western and rodeo fans. " The Night the Devil Danced on Me": A werewolf moon glares / from the top row of the bleachers, horned / owl with one eye plucked. In the black hole / of chute 8, Lonewolf waits - / an ugly bronc, mustang and rank, / the cowboys say, with notched right ear / and snaky, suck-back ways.

Notebooks of Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Avenue, Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719
0816525838 $16.95

Notebooks of Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is a diverse collection of poetry, prose, and political views. that questions the all-too-common bias and distortion that permeates retellings of American history. "...the Image of The White American Male as Fearless Explorer and Conqueror, intrepid, strong and brave Seeker of New Vistas going out fearlessly into the Unknown, is well established in story and legend. Why else was Star Trek the most popular television show in the history of the small screen?" A biting critique of national self-aggrandizement, written with intelligent passion and a keen sense for pointing out misdirections and half-truths. Cook-Lynn is especially fearsome in her denouncement of human atrocities, subversions of the democratic process, and cover-ups. "Democracy in 2002 and the Free Press": A disputed election / a pretender president // press coverage / like a flood shrouds circumstances / of political theft, journals stride past in fear / and darkness, faded shawls about their shoulders // but, the FCC changes its regulations / so news organizations / can become conglomerates / ravenous, sanctimonious abusers / of the rights of mankind.

Conversations At The Nursing Home
Deanna Shapiro
PRA Publishing
PO Box 211701, Martinez, GA 30917
0972770356, $12.95

"Conversations At The Nursing Home: A Mother, A Daughter, And Alzheimer's" is a unique work in which author Deanna Shapiro divides the first have of her book to telling stories about her childhood, her mother, and her immigrant Jewish relatives – in a free verse format. In the second half, Shapiro relates the intimately personal story of her Alzheimer afflicted mother's residence in a nursing home, along with their mother/daughter conversations, as well as Deanna's observations of conditions ranging from birds at a feeder, to patients sometimes alarming behavior with each other. There's a grim kind of realism in the depiction of how life can end cruelly for a parent despite all that a loving daughter can do. "Conversations At The Nursing Home" is a welcome and recommended addition to the growing library of personal memoirs with respect to Alzheimer's and the growing concern regarding assisted living and nursing home care in this country.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Family Crests Of Japan
Stone Bridge Press
PO Box 8208, Berkeley, CA 94707
1933330309, $18.95 1-800-947-7271

Japan has a rich tradition of graphically distinctive family crests emblematically symbolism high court nobility's family names during and after the 12th century. Hallmarked by contrasting motifs and simple geometries, the designs range from cherry blossoms, to well buckets, to floating clouds, to fans, and hundreds of other iconic images. "Family Crests Of Japan" features descriptions of more than 850 individual family crests along with their cultural backgrounds. Enhanced with informed and informative essays on the historical development of family crests and a selection of photographs demonstrating how crests were used on banners, signs, and buildings, "Family Crests Of Japan" is a unique, superbly presented, and enthusiastically recommended addition to academic library Japanese Culture & History reference collections, and the supplemental reading lists of professional designers and non-specialist general readers with an interest in Japanese culture, art, and history.

Sailing Away From Winter
Silver Donald Cameron
McClelland & Stewart
75 Sherbourne Street, 5th Floor, Toronto, ON M5A 2P9
077101841X $25.95 1-800-788-1074

"Sailing Away From Winter: A Cruise From Nova Scotia to Florida and Beyond" is the true-life memoir of Canadian columnist Silver Donald Cameron, who dared to make his dreams of a sea voyage come true. With his wife and their beloved dog, he traveled more than three thousand nautical miles in 236 days, visiting towns dotting the coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, crossing the Gulf Stream, experiencing the Bahamas, and much more. A vividly detailed recounting of the joys and perils of navigating the ocean in an aged Norwegian-built ketch, the camaraderie shared with other cruisers, and much more. Highly recommended.

The USCG on the Great Lakes
Thomas P. Ostrom
Elderberry Press
1393 Old Homestead, Second Floor, Oakland, OR 97462
193276271X $19.95

Written by history, anthropology, and geography teacher Thomas P. Ostrom, who served in the USCGR from 1961-69, The USCG on the Great Lakes: A History chronicles the existence and duties of the United States Coast Guard on the Great Lakes from its inception in the late 1700's to the present day. From life-saving duties to environmental protection, law enforcement, port security, and much more, the USCG's contributions to national defense throughout the centuries are efficiently summarized, with an extensive bibliography for further reference. A handful of black-and-white photographs and an index round out this highly accessible and thoroughly engaging contribution to American military and nautical history shelves.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Color of Violence
Andrea Smith, Beth E. Richie, Julia Sudbury, et. al.
South End Press
7 Brookline Street, #1, Cambridge, MA 02139-4146
089608762X $20.00 1-800-533-8478

Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology is a collection of politically charged writings by a diverse variety of authors (all or nearly all of whom are female) concerning violence against women of color, endemic in numerous settings - from domestic violence to institutionalized or even militarized rape committed against women of color crossing the US-Mexico border, legal and illegal immigrant women of color, and women of color in the prison-industrial complex. Other feminist and person of color concerns addressed range from the tendency of state systems to take black children away from their mothers more readily than white children in the same living situations; the profound negative impact that war has upon the lives of women and the culture they live in; discrimination and dehumanization amid domestic violence shelters; and much more. Though some of Color of Violence may lean toward the radical side of social engineering - such as the exhortation "prisons don't work", which ignores the simple fact that a rapist or murderer removed from society cannot continue his violence against society at large while he remains isolated from it - the majority of the essays are biting, candid, and honest in their assessment of very real inadequacies on personal, familial, and governmental levels to promote a safe world for women, as well as how the white, middle-class feminist perspective can actually be deleterious to the needs of women of color. Highly recommended.

Look What Love Has Done
Joseph Walker
Shadow Mountain
PO Box 30178, Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0178
1590387104 $14.95

Columnist Joseph Walker presents Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit is a collection of vignettes sure to refresh, reawaken, and engage one's spiritual side. Each writing is only a couple pages long, but touches upon heartfelt warmth, wisdom, and love. A delightful collection to learn from and cherish, whether one reads and reflects upon a few messages at a time or all at once. For example, "Some of us forget that forgiveness and accountability are not mutually exclusive and being sorry - and being forgiven - doesn't free us from the consequences of the choices we make. We can be sorry, forgiven, and accountable. Even if our mistake is big and everyone knows about it."

Skystreak, Skyrocket & Stiletto
Scott Libis
Specialty Press
39966 Grand Avenue, North Branch, MN 55056
1580070841, $24.95 1-800-895-4585

Airforce aviation expert Scott Libis presents "Skystreak, Skyrocket & Stiletto: Douglas High-Speed X-Planes", a 184-page history and survey of Douglas X-Planes, include details of the first Mac 2 aircraft (D-558-2) and the original March 2 flight by test pilot Scott Crossfield. Libis also covers the ill-fated X-3 Stiletto program. Enhanced with more than 300 photos and illustrations (including a full color section) "Skystreak, Skyrocket & Stiletto" also features the men who flew these plans and the rocket engine technology they helped to develop. "Skystreak, Skyrocket & Stiletto" is an impressive and seminal title that is a strongly recommended, core addition to personal and academic library American Aviation History reference collections.

The Passionate Gardener
Des Kennedy
Greystone Books
2323 Quebec Street, Suite 201, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5T 4S7
1553651987 $16.95

Written by active speaker, gardener, and environmentalist Des Kennedy, The Passionate Gardener: Adventures of an Ardent Green Thumb is a true-life memoir written about the love of gardening, for fellow gardeners and would-be gardeners. With a witty flair, chapters recount the little quirks bordering on insanity common to "plant people", from weather phobias to obsessive-compulsive behavior. The Passionate Gardener perfectly captures the agony and the ecstasy that comes with pursuing a beloved hobby to the best of one's ability, and is especially recommended as a giftbook for gardening enthusiasts.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Celebrate Simply
Nancy Twigg
Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
082543890X $10.99 1-800-733-2607

Written by resourceful wife and mother Nancy Twigg, Celebrate Simply is a solid guide to learning how to celebrate the true meanings of holidays without excessive shopping and overspending. Although a spiritual as well as family-centered guide, Celebrate Simply primarily focuses upon practical strategies for joyful celebration on a budget. Chapters discuss meaningful gift giving, simplifying Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, wedding celebrations (and this is sorely needed in today's hyper-expensive wedding culture), Halloween, Thanksgiving and graduation ceremonies, and also birthdays and anniversaries. Enthusiastically recommended for all families regardless of income level, as the frugal suggestions are notable for their emphasis on the person-to-person connections that holidays are truly all about. "Look for free or low-cost activities that could serve as the theme and entertainment for the [children's birthday] party. Does your city have a children's museum? Is a local church hosting a free puppet show?"

1/2 Price Living
Ellie Kay
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60610
0802434320 $12.99 1-800-621-5111

Written by "Shop, Save & Share Seminars" founder Ellie Kay, popularly known as "America's Family Financial Expert", 1/2 Price Living: Secrets to Living Well on One Income is a practical, no-nonsense guide to cutting one's living expenses in half - including food bills and vacation expenses to housing, clothing costs, and outright debt. From owning a home business that doesn't own you, to means to adapt when one's savings are hit, to the advantages of being a stay-at-home mother (or father) despite the reduced family income, 1/2 Price Living is enthusiastically recommended for learning frugal habits. Anyone who isn't fabulously wealthy - even reasonably well-off readers will find the tips, tricks, and techniques helpful for saving up for a rainy day.

The Christian Combat Manual
Dan Story
AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37421
0899570372 $17.99

Written by Christian apologist Dan Story, The Christian Combat Manual: Helps for Defending Your Faith: A Handbook for Practical Apologetics is emphatically not about physical combat, but rather a guide for Christians to promote and defend their faith, morals, ethics, and worldview in spite of philosophical attacks against it, especially naturalist and postmodernist attacks. In particular, The Christian Combat Manual meticulously deconstructs such postmodernist concepts as "There are no absolute truths" and "All religions are equal", as well as more self-indulgent arguments such as "You Christians have no right to judge other people's behavior." Written in plain terms especially for novice to intermediate Christian apologists, The Christian Combat Manual offers straightforward responses to some of the most common criticisms of Christian beliefs, values, and ethics ("How can you claim that God exists when there is so much pain, suffering, and evil in the world?" "Why do you blame God for evil acts that people are clearly responsible for?"). It should be noted that The Christian Combat Manual takes an unquestionably pro-life stance, and denounces homosexual sex as well as male-female cohabitation outside of marriage, among other traditionalist views, and offers numerous rhetorical tools to persuade and defend these viewpoints. An effectively worded and persuasive guide, though the focus on defending fundamentalist Christianity from uncompromising postmodernism ("There are no absolute truths") detracts from its effectiveness in defending fundamentalist Christianity from more moderate forms of postmodernism ("There are some absolute truths, but none of them cover your argument.")

Coming to Terms with Nature
Leo Panitch & Colin Leys, editors
Monthly Review Press
146 West 29th Street, #6W, New York, NY 10001
1583671528 $25.00 1-800-670-9499

Edited by Leo Panitch & Colin Leys, Coming to Terms with Nature: Socialist Register 2007 is an anthology of essays by learned authors discussing the dramatic ecological challenges to capitalism today, and whether socialist thought has progressed sufficiently to address capitalism's weakness in this regard. Writings include "China: Hyper-Development and Environmental Crisis", "Neoliberal Hurricane: Who Framed New Orleans?", "Africa: Eco-Populist Utopias and (Micro-) Capitalist Realities", and much more. It should be noted that "Coming to Terms with Nature" is not a wholesale attack upon capitalism, nor a blind sermon on the mount extolling the virtues of socialism; the purpose here is to explore the failings of each system in addressing serious social and environmental problems, and thereby pave the way for more effective solutions. From smokescreen attacks against "litterbugs" that fail to question the overproduction and overpackaging that contributes to litter and landfills, to so-called "green capitalism" that too often fails to meet the mark of being truly ecologically sustainable, to the significance of the impasse concerning the Kyoto protocol, Coming to Terms is a solid keenly whetted reader, offering eye-opening perspectives to ecological issues long in the making.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Cold-Case Killer
Dorothy Francis
Five Star/Thomson Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
1594144850 $25.95

Keely Moreno is enjoying her business as a foot reflexologist as well as life with long-time friend and lover Punt Ashford while trying to resolve lingering fears and nightmares from her past with an abusive husband. When Keely's cleaning lady Maxine Jackson asks her to help Maxine's son Randy, Keely is hesitant. Randy has recently been released from a 20-year imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend Dyanne Darby after DNA evidence proved he was not the killer. However, when Keely receives a note stating that she will die if she helps Randy, she decides to ask Punt, partner in an investigative agency, to look into the matter.

Randy is angry at his wrongful imprisonment and has a volatile temper. Although proven innocent, no one will hire him and his predicament has embittered him. He insists that the person who killed Dyanne must be one of the divers he used to work with, and Keely and Punt begin to look into these men, most of whom are now successful businessmen. Keely decides to lay low after someone tries to run her over while riding her bike, but the killer, after her with a vengeance, kidnaps Keely and takes her to an abandoned cabin somewhere in the Keys. Keely manages to escape, but facing danger from snakes and alligators is the least of her worries as a fierce race begins between her and the armed killer.

Dorothy Francis gently draws the reader into the laid-back appeal of Key West, her words eloquently portraying its lush beauty and brutal ruggedness. This cozy mystery is loaded with suspense woven into a well-developed mystery that will keep the reader eagerly engaged. Keely is a woman with a past that has left mental sequelae who is trying to move forward with her life. The warm chemistry between Keely and Punt is a bonus for those who enjoy romance, and the secondary characters surrounding Keely add further depth to an exciting read.

Murder off the Books
Evelyn David
Echelon Press
1590805224 $12.99

Rachel Brenner has just started her new job at O'Herlihy Funeral Home when she learns her brother Dan Thayer is wanted by the police for embezzling money from the college he worked for as well as murdering a coworker. It's bad enough she is being questioned by detectives but private investigator Mackenzie Sullivan is always hanging around with inquiries of his own. Mac has been hired by the university's insurance company to find the money and he figures the best lead to Dan is through his sister. Bodies start popping up everywhere, all with ties to Dan, and Rachel is desperate to prove her brother's innocence while Mac is on his trail, determined to put him in jail.

This is a real whodunit with a fast pace and unique characters. Mac is a retired cop who drives around in everything from an ice cream truck to an exterminator's van. His sidekick Whiskey, a Wolfhound, adds extra dimension to the story and is a real treat for dog lovers. Rachel is a divorced woman with grit and determination. The fact that she and Mac are middle-aged will be appreciated (and applauded) by baby boomers. Mac's associate JJ is quirky enough to be appealing, and the chemistry between Mac and Rachel begs for further exploration in future books in this series.

Evelyn David is a pseudonym for authors Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett. Their voices blend to a perfect pitch and make for an exciting read filled with suspense and packed with action.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

Super Mom Saves the World
Melanie Lynne Hauser
New American Library
c/o Penguin
0451220366 $14.00

Super Mom, the newest member of the Justice League of America, has a lot on her plate in this second installment in Melanie Lynne Hauser's series featuring Birdie Lee, mild-mannered grocery clerk turned uber-Frau. Having gained her extraordinary powers in book one after a Horrible Swiffer Accident--Birdie can clean with the power of ten thousand Swiffers--she finds her powers suddenly upgraded this time around, a mixed blessing, it turns out, as Super Smell can have its drawbacks. With great power comes great responsibility, of course, and Birdie finds a new nemesis or two stirring up trouble in Astro Park, the evil plot of the moment connected with the construction of an over-sized, domed stadium for the town's Little Leaguers. More interesting than Birdie's super-difficulties, however, are the more mundane issues she faces as an ex-wife and mother: her children are growing up--and dating and driving and shutting her out and fraternizing with undesirables--and her ex-husband Dan seems to be on the rebound after a second failed marriage. Meanwhile, Birdie's relationship with nerdy scientist Carl brings its own complications into her life.

The Super Mom books are an interesting mix. In part Hauser offers comic book fantasy, with over-the-top bad guys, in jokes for the superheroically literate (e.g., journalists Jimmy Nelson and Lois Blane), and action scenes in which Super Mom uses her cleaning powers to thwart evildoers. But on top of this cartoony infrastructure Hauser builds a more serious, quite realistic story. And this is where her writing shines, where it is downright poignant at times, when she explores the complicated relationships within families, and in particular the changing dynamics between mothers and their growing children. Humor mixed with heartache. In this outing Hauser does an excellent job, too, of exploring Birdie and her son's developing relationships with Carl's son Greg.

I do have two complaints about the book, one substantial and one...born of disgust. Taking the latter first: there are two occasions in the story in which Birdie--a sworn enemy, remember, of sticky spills and dust and germs, a woman who passes out Wet Naps while crime fighting--in which she...well, I'll let the passages speak for themselves:

"'Birdie.' His arms tightened around me. 'Do you have any idea how much I love you?' I nodded. Then blew my nose on the sleeve of his shirt" (p. 24).

"I blew my nose on the sleeve of his shirt, because I knew he wouldn't mind. And he didn't. He just laughed and wiped it off on the sleeve of my shirt" (p. 63).

He didn't mind?! In what alternate universe is blowing one's nose on the habiliments of one's paramour appropriate behavior? I'm still shuddering over this.

Secondly, I worry that Hauser has jumped the shark in introducing advertising icons such as Mr. Clean into her story as real-life entities. To me part of the strength of the Super Mom story lay in introducing a little bit of fantasy into the otherwise banal world of a more-or-less average house(ex)wife. I am able to accept (a little unwillingly, actually) the existence of the Justice League of America in Super Mom's universe, but for me, at least, positing the real-life existence of the Scrubbing Bubbles and the magical cleaning world they inhabit goes too far. I would implore Hauser to rein in this particular fantasy in her next installment.

And I would advise readers to seek out the author's blog Refrigerator Door, where she writes regularly and with great humor about her own family life and her experiences as a writer.

[Disclaimer: Since reading Melanie Lynne Hauser's first book I have come to know the author a bit, virtually, through our respective blogs, and I in fact have her to thank for my copy of this book. I hope that our acquaintance has not influenced my review.]

Unholy Grail
D.L. Wilson
0425214788 $7.99 320 pages

Fordham University professor and Jesuit priest Joseph Romano and Brittany Hamar, a professor at Hunter College, are on the trail of an ancient manuscript in D.L. Wilson's debut novel Unholy Grail. The text they're after is alleged to have been written by James, the brother of Jesus, shortly after the crucifixion. The quest involves the two in a millennia-old religious conspiracy involving the true nature of the Holy Grail and the possible existence of a bloodline of Christ, with descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene alive in the present day. Their investigation is a dangerous one: Hamar has been targeted already by a shadowy assassin, and Jesuit priests have a way of turning up dead after meeting with her.

Unholy Grail is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the author offers some nice surprises early on in the book, when Romano and Hamar first meet in Grand Central Station. And the mystery of the dead priests and the unusual condition of their corpses is initially an interesting one. But the book's dialogue is clunky and there are numerous bits of boring exposition related to Hamar's flirtation with unorthodox religious beliefs. The characters are two-dimensional and no real suspense is built in the story. And the storyline, frankly, feels a bit stale in this post-DaVinci Code world. Unholy Grail is by no means an awful book, but there's nothing that stands out about it either--despite the raves it's elicited from a number of high-power blurbers.

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii
Lee Goldberg
0451219007 $6.99

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii is the second in a series of mysteries by Lee Goldberg based on the television series Monk, which stars Tony Shaloub as the obsessive compulsive Detective Adrian Monk. Monk can't deal with the dirty minutiae of everyday life, but he has a compensatory gift for noticing the telling details that others miss, which makes him both unspeakably annoying to those around him and a brilliant detective. The stories in the Monk books are narrated in the first person by Natalie Teeger, Monk's personal assistant, who provides her boss with a steady stream of Wet Naps and caters, more or less patiently, to his eccentricities.

In this outing, after the solution of an intriguing medical mystery in the book's first chapter, Natalie flies off to Hawaii to attend a friend's wedding, eager for a blissfully Monk-free week on Kauai, but feeling somewhat guilty for having left Monk bereft of her support. Happily, he crashes the party by booking a seat on the same flight. The chore of packing and traveling on a germ-infested airplane would normally be nearly impossible for Monk, but a dose of prescription dioxynl leaves him temporarily compulsion-free, enough to not only enjoy the flight but to use a public restroom and eat off someone else's plate. Once landed in Hawaii, and returned to his usual self, Monk intrudes on the case loads of the local constabulary, who are more than happy for his take on the murder-by-coconut of an elderly woman at Monk's hotel.

There were precisely three spots in Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii when I thought its author was being slightly sloppy--once, for example, when Natalie mentions that she and Monk have to be somewhere in three hours when they can't possibly have that much time to wait (see pages 116, 133, and 138). That is to say, there were three very minor tics in Goldberg's writing that brought me for a moment out of my reading trance. For the rest, it's all good. This second book in the series is a charming read, with funny dialogue that is true to the television series. The experience is really very much the same as as sitting down to watch the show--except that one's enjoyment of the story lasts longer than an hour. Pure escapist fun.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu
Lee Goldberg
0451220137 $6.99

There's a serial killer on the loose in San Francisco, a foot fetishist who strangles women while they're jogging and absconds with their left shoes. That the victims are left unevenly shod is particularly irksome to Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective who is called in to help the SFPD solve the crimes. Before long, Monk becomes more than a consultant on the case. Contract negotiations between the police union and the City have broken down, and a great many police officers--for whom it is illegal to go on strike--have opted to call in sick with the "blue flu" of the book's title. To cope with the crisis the Mayor of San Francisco gives Monk his badge back (Monk lost it years before when his OCD rendered him incapable of performing adequately) and promotes him to Captain of the homicide division. At the same time, a handful of disturbed former police officers are temporarily reinstated on the force to work with Monk.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is the third installment in Lee Goldberg's series of TV tie-ins. The story is unusual not only because Monk is operating this time around from within the police department but, more importantly, because he is required to work with a team, delegating tasks he would rather undertake himself to his skeleton force of department rejects. This deviation from the usual formula of the series may be why the Blue Flu is not quite as successful as the previous Monk books. Goldberg needed to concentrate on Monk's responsibilities as acting Captain and focus less on Monk's interactions with Natalie Teeger, his personal assistant and the narrator of the books.

What has impressed me most about the Monk series is Goldberg's charming, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny dialogue. There is still some of this to be found in the Blue Flu:

"Mr. Monk helped you shop?" she said warily.

"Yes," I said.

"I already have enough first-aid supplies and disinfectant to open my own hospital," she said. "I really don't need any more."

"You know what they say," Monk said. "You can never have too much disinfectant."

"Who says that?" Julie said.

"The people without enough disinfectant," Monk said. "Shortly before their miserable, drooling deaths."

But Goldberg's latest simply isn't as funny as the series' previous books. I also had trouble swallowing the book's premise. However depleted the ranks of the SFPD, and however corrupt San Francisco's Mayor, I could not accept that Monk--and, even more so, the wackos returned to active duty to serve under him--would in fact have been reinstated for any length of time.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is still a decent read, but it lacks the spark of Goldberg's previous Monk books.

Debra Hamel

Dustin's Bookshelf

His Pain
Wrath James White
Delirium Books
P.O Box 338, North Webster, IN 46555
No ISBN, $35.00

This limited edition, hardcover novella from extreme horror author Wrath James White is a wonderfully crafted piece of the beautifully grotesque. A feat only a select few have pulled off with success and His Pain is no exception.

Since birth, young Jason has suffered through Acute Hypersensitivity, a rare disorder in which every aspect of life brings horrible pain: touch, sight, sound, breathing, eating, etc. With the help of his parents and an unorthodox yogi, Jason will learn to turn his pain into pleasure. But pleasure comes with a heavy price: love and loss, death and desolation.

Wrath James White has written a disturbingly brilliant novella for those with the stomach to experience such a sexually violent and intelligently plotted graphic piece of horror fiction.

Via Dolorosa
Ronald Damien Malfi
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
1933293217, $29.95

Once again Ronald Damien Malfi has written an astounding piece of horror literature that has the makings of a classic.

Returning home from Iraq, Army lieutenant Nick D'Nofrio and his young bride are spending their honeymoon on the beautiful Hilton Head Island. Struggling with a worn hand and inner demons sprouting from memories of the war, Nick begins to unconsciously express his despondency on the mural he has been commissioned to paint on the wall of the main entrance of the hotel. His young wife finds herself between her husband's arms and a dream within a dream as he drifts away during stormy nights to the hotel bar for single-sided conversations with the father of a young soldier who lost his life in the presence of the lieutenant.

Malfi writes with deep emotion, creating characters that grow on the reader and create attachment for the main actor and the supporting cast. His placement is vivid and imaginative, the self-desolation brought on by events and memories of a horrific war experience and the resulting post traumatic stress disorder of the protagonist bring the reader to experience their own inner demons and feelings of pity for the mental condition of Lt. D'Nofrio and the relationship with his wife. At the ending, the reader may look deep within and wonder what happiness and love truly are and what one is willing to do to survive loss and heal unseen wounds.

A Choir of Ill Children
Tom Piccirilli
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0553587196, $5.99, 2004, 240 pages

Tom Piccirilli's novel, A Choir of Ill Children is this reviewer's introduction to a fine and bright horror author that has no doubt a large and loyal fan base that will continue to grow long after the author's last words are written.

The ghosts of times past and gone haunt this book to a disturbing and integral effect; what the protagonist hides and hints towards seep through the stunningly structured sentences to reveal themselves in surprising and entertaining conclusions. Throughout this novel the reader will come upon several interesting characters: a geek, elderly witches, conjoined twins, serial dog kickers and child murderers.

Piccirilli's bizarre southern gothic brings the creepiest tones of the deep-south to life in beautifully written atmosphere, strange and exotic characters, and in the prose of a poet.

Dustin La Valley

Gary's Bookshelf

Battlestar Galactica Sagittarius is Bleeding
Peter David
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765316072 $14.95

I have to admit that when this show came on three seasons ago I was not a fan. Not because I am such a die hard for the original. I just did not like certain things about this new version. But it is Peter David who changed my mind. He gives a depth to the series I was unaware of and tells a very good story. I now, have watched many episodes with a new understanding.

Mighty Mite Zoo Gone Wild
Tao Nguyen
The Amazing Factory LLC
0978846923 $14.95

Max and his family go to the zoo and have lots of interesting things happen to them. The author has once again told a story in very simple terms that packs a lot of deeper meaning. Kids and parents should read and discuss this book together.

Killer in High Heels
Gemma Halliday
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
050552712X $6.99

For those of us who like Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich, this is the same type of tale that is a fun witty mystery that will have you laughing out loud. Her characters are memorable with fast paced writing that moves along to a nice final conclusion.

America's Last Days
Douglas Makinnon
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843958022 $6.99

Many businessmen feel the United States is on the wrong course. A handful want to change the path forever. They have devised a plan to turn the nation around and set it on a new track. This is a very well done "Seven Days In May" type of novel of government takeover. It is a fast paced read that says a lot about our country and shows how the American people have very little say.

Riding Shotgun
Story by Nathaniel Bowden artwork by Tracy Yardley
Tokyopop Inc
5900 Wilshire Blvd Suite 2000, Los Angeles, CA 90036
1598167405 $9.99

I was hooked from the first page of this violent and weird graphic novel. Graphic is one great word to describe it. The story deals with hit men finding their targets and taking them out. They are doing their job with guns blazing, high-speed chases, and dead bodies left behind. This is not material for kids.

Hundred-Dollar Baby
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153764 $24.95

This Spenser mystery moves around from Boston to New York with a story that is very simple. A character from several other novels returns to hire Spenser to protect her from some bothersome men who want to put her out of business. Spenser and Hawk are on the case that has lots of twists and turns until the final surprise ending. Parker once again has written a story with snappy dialogue, fast paced writing and characters you love in one of the best Spenser books in a long time.

Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425204324 $7.99

Robert B. Parker is back with a great western that has colorful characters, fast paced dialogue and swift writing that carries the story along. The relationship of the main characters is very much like Spenser and Hawk, Parker's own Spenser series. This is a good western by a very gifted storyteller.

Cow and Buffalo in Adventures in Sandwich Making
Mike Maihack
9781424325856 $10.00

For a couple of years this comic has only been available on the Internet. Now this is the first collection of the cow and buffalo adventures from September 2005 to August 2006. There is some funny stuff here that is great for any age.

The Morning of Joy
Edgar John L'Heureux Jr
Sabal Palm Press
PO Box 756, Goldenrod, Fl 32733-0756
0961634138 $16.95

This is another fine novel involving humans and the environment. L'Heureux is the Florida John Updike because he tells his stories with strong prose that keep readers interested and grand characters in believable conflicts.

My Heart Purse
Written and illustrated by Chris Shea
Harper Festival
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060838752 $9.99

This nice little book in the shape of a heart shows and tells about the purse and it many function. Kids of all ages will enjoy this fun book.

7 Days at the Hot Corner
Terry Trueman
Harper Teen
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060574941 $15.99

I love how the author tackles a social issue and shows the relationship of two long time friends and how it's changed, as well as each characters parents and how they deal with the same issue. The sport of baseball is the backdrop for a story that is filled with interesting characters, simple writing that flows the story along until its surprise ending.

Vengeance of the Rain God
Publish America
142414275X $19.95

I love this novel of a con artist who assumes the identity of a detective. The fun of the story is seeing if he screws up or not. This tale is very much like the old pulp mystery fiction with a lady in peril and a private investigator to the rescue. The writing is very strong and moves rapidly with characters that enrich the story. This is a novel that should be in the Hard Case line of mystery fiction.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Deadly Advice
Roberta Isleib
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0425214745 $6.99 800-847-5515

Roberta Isleib, the author of five novels in the Golf Lover's Mysteries series, here introduces what one may hope is the first of many in the Advice Column Mysteries. Her protagonist is the psychologist/advice columnist Dr. Rebecca Butterman, who pens a column called "Late Bloomer," aimed primarily at lonely housewives, for the online magazine "Bloom!," dispensing advice under the nom de plume of Dr. Aster. She returns to her home in Guilford, Connecticut one evening only to find that her next-door neighbor has apparently committed suicide. Though she had not been close to the women, Rebecca, a clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety, depression and marital problems [she is also an adjunct faculty member at Yale], feel s a responsibility, questioning her own abilities in not discerning what must have been severe depression in her neighbor. Beyond that, the woman's mother is convinced that what seems to be a suicide note was not actually written by her daughter. [I have to admit to thinking her reasons for suspecting murder were a bit flimsy, but that's what a willing suspension of disbelief is all about, I guess.]

To complicate her already crowded life, her editor wants Rebecca, herself a divorced single woman, to explore the singles scene, online and otherwise, and write an article with follow-ups on her findings, which turn up scenes more interesting than even she would have wished. Rebecca is an interesting protagonist, with her busy multi-faceted life. Parenthetically, I loved the brief appearance made in the book by Cassie Burdette, the protagonist of this author's other series. The book is well-written and interesting, and the culprit an unexpected one. And the author gives us an intriguing glimpse of what may be an interesting romantic liaison for Rebecca in future books.

Storm Runners
T. Jefferson Parker
William Morrow
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060854235 $25.95 800-242-7737

Talk about your attention-getting opening lines. This newest book by Edgar-award winning author T. Jefferson Parker opens with this one: "Stromsoe was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son." That man is Mike Tavarez, for four years Matt Stromsoe's best friend, at some point thereafter the lover of his wife-to-be, and ultimately the person who caused her death and that of their eight-year-old son from a bomb that was meant for him. The explosion also left him with horrific injuries: the loss of one eye, a finger, ruptured eardrums and several broken bones, among other things. Tavarez is arrested and ultimately sentenced to life in prison for ordering the bomb. At that point in his life, Matt had been for many years a narcotics deputy with the sheriff's office, living in Newport Beach, California, Mike Tavarez [nicknamed "El Jefe"] the boss of one of the worst of the California gangs, one which had a thousand members with gangsters in every state in the US and twelve foreign countries.

Following his family's death, almost understandably Matt falls victim to a deep depression and alcoholism until, 2 years later, he is hired by a former colleague who runs a private security firm, and he begins to move on with his life. Assigned to protect a beautiful young meteorologist/TV weather forecaster who is being stalked, things come full circle when a still vengeful Mike Tavarez once again enters his life.

The author has woven a crafty and imaginative plot in an ingenious tale that brings Matt into the sights of powerful people, with Tavarez once again plotting his destruction. He offers a fascinating glimpse into a world with which most readers are unfamiliar, one similar to but with more poetry than the one limned years ago in the classic film "Chinatown," and does so convincingly. Suspenseful as are all Mr. Parker's books, with a pulse-pounding ending, Storm Runners is another winner for this author.

Cold Day in Hell
Richard Hawke
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
1400064260 $24.95 800-726-0600

The opening line of Richard Hawke's new novel [following the first in the series, Speak of the Devil], is: "On the last day of her life, she took a yoga class." The 'she' in question is Robin Burrell, whose neighbor, Margo, is the girlfriend of Fritz Malone, the NYC p.i. who is Mr. Hawke's protagonist in this series. Robin is the third woman to have died in similar gruesome manner, and Marshall Fox, the man who had been her lover, and who had known the first two victims, was now in jail and on trial for those two murders. The trial has been grist for the mill of the media, since the accused is an internationally known late-night comic. When there is a fourth, similar, killing less than eighteen hours later, the inescapable conclusion is that in all likelihood, someone else is the killer of all these victims—or is it a copycat?

One week before she was killed, Robin had asked Fritz to look at some of the huge amounts of letters and e-mails she'd received since the trial had started, some supportive, some hateful and hate-filled, which he gladly did; now he is feeling some guilt for not having warned her to be more careful, that somehow he could have or should have done something that would have avoided her death, as a result of which he feels compelled to look into the matter. This causes no small friction between Fritz and Margo, his significant other and the daughter of his one-time boss, partner and mentor.

To merely call Cold Day in Hell eminently readable is to do it an injustice, but that is the phrase that came to me while engrossed in this well-plotted and intriguing tale. Megan Lamb, the troubled police detective who works with Fritz on the investigation, is an interesting character, and Fritz is a wonderful protagonist, his humor lightening the grisly story of what appears to be a serial killer, or more than one killer committing lurid murders with no discernible connection to each other. A fast and enjoyable read.

Gray Ghost
William G. Tapply
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312363036 $23.95 646-307-5560

In his newest novel, William G. Tapply brings back Stonewall Jackson [Stoney] Calhoun, protagonist of Bitch Creek, the first in what appears to be a new series for this prolific author. [This was apparently not the author's original intention, but the acclaim received by the first book encouraged him to bring Stoney back.] Stoney woke up seven years ago in a VA hospital where he was taken after being struck by lightning, with absolutely no memory of who he was or anything of his life before that moment. Now 32 years old, he has started a new life for himself as a part-time fishing guide and part-owner of a fly shop and guide service in Portland, Maine, living alone but for his dog, Ralph [full name, Ralph Waldo], in a cabin in the woods.

Out one day on a charter fishing job with Paul Vecchio, a likeable and inoffensive history professor, they stop at one of the many little islands in the Bay and stumble upon a man's body, burned beyond recognition, throat cut and body mutilated. The sheriff, who other than Kate, the complicated woman who is his business partner and more, is just about Stoney's only friend in the world, urges Stoney to let him deputize him and assist him in the investigation, but Stoney turns him down. The sheriff tells him: "You know how to analyze things. You're objective. You notice things, and you remember everything. You're smart as hell, and you're discreet, and most of all, I trust you. I need you." He concedes: "I guess I used to be some kind of cop…before I got hit by lightning and had everything zapped out of my brain. All I can tell you for sure is, I'm not a cop anymore, and I don't want to be. I just want to hang out with my dog, sleep in my cabin in the woods, listen to the birds sing and my brook gurgle, split and stack firewood, and maybe go fishing once in a while." But when Stoney comes home to find Vecchio's dead body sitting in a chair outside his cabin a couple of days later, he reconsiders, feeling somehow responsible.

Stoney Calhoun is a wonderful creation, a man with all sorts of abilities the origin of which he cannot begin to fathom—"he'd also discovered that he knew how to hurt people with his hands, and that it didn't bother him when he had to do it." And then there is the presence of the person Stoney refers to as The Man in the Suit, who turns up from time to time since the VA hospital to try to determine what if anything Calhoun might have remembered from his previous life and always relieved when told that he remembered nothing.

The wonderful descriptions of the Maine landscapes and waters, the well-rendered characters [including Ralph, as much of a presence as any human in the story – although not in a "cute" way – not that that's a bad thing, mind you], and the mystery of both the past and the present, make this a beautifully written, terrific read, and it is highly recommended.

Disturbing the Dead
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Ste.103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
1590583787 $24.95

The attention-grabbing opening line of Sandra Parshall's new novel, Disturbing the Dead [after her stunning debut novel in 2006, The Heat of the Moon], is "He wanted the skull." The "he" in question is Tom Bridger, chief deputy with the county sheriff's department in Mason County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, who, with the rest of his men, is searching for the remaining parts of a skeleton discovered on a remote Appalachian mountaintop, the victim having apparently been murdered. Tom is half Melungeon, a tri-racial group indigenous to the area, a mixture of white, Native American and black historically living under the yoke of poverty and legalized discrimination. [Among other things the author has accomplished with this novel is to raise the reader's awareness about this group which, I suspect, is little known to most Americans, providing a fascinating insight.] Tom was a cop with the Richmond, Virginia Police Dept. before returning home to fill the position previously held by his late father. The skull is found, and identified as being that of Pauline McClure, a beautiful, wealthy widow, herself Melungeon, who had gone missing ten years earlier. That case was one that had haunted and even obsessed Tom's father, and Tom now takes up the investigation. But there are those who fe el sleeping dogs should be left to lie, and Tom is told: "I wish you'd never found her…I wish she'd been left to rest where she was. You mark my words, young man, no good will come from disturbing the dead." Rachel Goddard, the young veterinarian of whom Tom is enamored, introduced to readers in the earlier novel, becomes involved in the mystery of Pauline's death through her connection with the woman's niece, Holly, who Rachel has taken under her wing. Her problematical relationship with Tom, and her ongoing attempts to deal with the past trauma in her life, continue to make her a sympathetic protagonist.

Family dynamics, as well as their secrets and the anguish they can leave in their wake, are drawn by this author in the same resonating manner as in her earlier novel. The sense of place, and the ever-present bird and animal life, are terrific. I had an inkling of where the author was headed with the plot, but she still managed to surprise with the suspenseful conclusion. Despite a few clunky phrases which crept into the otherwise fine writing, Disturbing the Dead is a first-rate follow-up by this author to her outstanding first novel.

Dead Simple
Peter James
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011
0786718498 $14.95 800-788-3123

The 'hook' in Dead Simple is a fairly terrifying scenario in which Michael Harrison, a young but already wealthy property developer, is taken out by four of his best buddies for a stag night, preceding by a few days his impending marriage to Ashley. He would seem to have it all: wealth, looks, money, and a gorgeous and loving fiancee. But his friends' idea of fun is to bury him alive, in an act dubbed 'Operation revenge!' and planning to return two hours later to dig him out. Michael, after all, is the one who planned the truly awful pranks played on the others before their marriages. They leave him with a flashlight, a porn magazine, a walkie-talkie and a breathing tube. But things go awry when their car is involved in a horrendous crash just after leaving the forest in which the drunken men have buried their friend. The only one of Michael's friends not present for the 'fun' is his business partner, Mark Warren, who had actually organized the evening's events but had not been able to join them until later in the evening. Knowing all the details, he lies to the police, whose investigation is headed up by Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, the protagonist in this new series.

Matters of the heart play a part in the plot, with doubt about Ashley's fidelity coming into question, as well as in D.S. Grace's private life: Now 39 years old, and his wife having disappeared nearly nine years previously, with him having had only a handful of dates in all that time, he finds himself reluctantly embarking on romantic forays, juggling guilt with the feeling that perhaps it was time for him to 'move on.' Also playing a part is the way the author, or should I say D.S. Grace, brings another element to the tale, that of the occult, or supernatural influences. This is not dealt with in too much detail and, though that is generally not my thing, its effect was a small but vital part of the story line, and I think the author handled it well. Also handled well by Mr. James is accomplishing the difficult task of sustaining the suspense inherent in the situation virtually from page one and throughout the book, tamping it down a bit here and there and just as suddenly ramping it up again, never quite letting the reader off the edge of his or her seat. Although this book was published almost exactly a year ago, the rationale behind it being read and reviewed at this time is because "Looking Good Dead," the next book in the series, just published, now awaits my attention. My hope is that it is just as good.

Looking Good Dead
Peter James
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., NY, NY 10011-5300
0786718803 $26.95 800-788-3123

The reader is irritatingly [but necessarily] reminded at this outset of this novel of the ubiquity of electronics in our world – incessant cellphone chattering, texting, laptops. Some of the uglier abilities are made all too clear when Tom Bryce discovers that a CD left behind by a passenger on the train with him, which he picked up with the best of intentions to try to return to its owner, holds what appears to be a snuff film, depicting the brutal stabbing death of a beautiful young woman as she is in the act of undressing. A horrified Bryce is soon warned, through e-mail, not to pursue what he has seen, nor to contact the police, on threat of dire consequences to himself and his family.

The action in Looking Good Dead begins the day after the resolution of the crime depicted in Dead Simple, this author's excellent first book in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. Grace is immediately plunged into a new murder investigation when a woman's dismembered torso is discovered where it had been dumped in farmland in a suburb of Brighton, England. Is it the same woman Tom had earlier witnessed being murdered? The reader isn't told [well, not for a while, anyway.]

Grace's thoughts are, of course, still preoccupied with his wife who has been missing without a trace for nearly nine years, and wondering if she is alive or dead, while trying to move on with his life and risk new romantic entanglements, something he has till now resisted [for the most part]. At the same time trying to solve his newest murder case. As in the earlier novel but in a relatively small way, Grace's tentative belief in the occult comes into play.

The author raises the question: "Do we all have a hidden dark side?" The suspense in intense, the writing is wonderful – I loved the author's descriptions, e.g., a tie is described as looking 'like it had been designed by a colour-blind chimpanzee on crack' [although I must admit I'm still trying to figure out the hue of eyes described as 'the colour of sunlight on ice'], and his invoking of one of my favorite lines ever, from Conan Doyle: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' Looking Good Dead is a wonderful follow-up to a terrific first novel. [Caveat: Don't read the flyleaf – Spoiler contained therein.]

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Dead Run
P.J. Tracy
New American Library a division of Penguin Putman Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451218159 $7.99

If you have read other stories by Tracy, you might be expecting a murder mystery. 'Dead Run' is an action/adventure shoot-em-up. The characters from the other 'Monkeewrench' novels are there but the detective core of the story is shifted to an action with the flawed female antagonists taking the lead.

Grace MacBride, Annie Belinsky and Sharon Mueller are driving to Green Bay to help the local police find a killer when their car breaks down. They walk to an isolated gas station and a café, the only remaining buildings of a dying town called Four Corners. Nothing is moving and no sounds can be heard. They find the phone lines cut. A pickup speeds into town and they watch gunmen kill the couple inside. Men with rifles surround the town and seem to be willing to kill anyone they find. Three women with two handguns have to survive against scores of men with rifles. The killing has just started.

P. J. Tracy is a mother/daughter writing team. Using their perspective of the genders, they have produced a readable spin off the male action novel. It is a continuing development of the characters introduced in the first 'Monkeewrench' novels. But 'Dead Run' should not be considered a mystery but rather a suspense novel based on action. It is a good story that fits between the typical genre lines.

The Lincoln Lawyer
Michael Connelly
Warner Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Connelly writes action/mysteries. In 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' he shifts from his standard detective mystery to a legal protagonist. His storytelling has improved with the change. The layers, of personal and professional details, permit the mystery to unfold without the extreme gymnastics expected in today's detective novels.

Mickey Haller is a defense lawyer. He spends at least as much time making money as he does defending his clients. To become his client, you first have to pass the financial question. Will defending this client generate money, produce marketing public relations or fulfill a previous commitment? If the balance sheet tips in Mickey's favor, he takes your case. Mickey is called by a Beverly Hills rich boy to defend him in an assault case. Haller sees a long expensive case with hundreds of billable hours at his top rate. Suddenly he finds his worst nightmare, an innocent man. He also finds pure evil. The legal machine, as he calls it, is pulling everyone, including Mickey Haller, into its maw of justice. Too bad for Mickey if the machine doesn't care who it chews up.

'The Lincoln Lawyer' is a must for those who like hard mystery stories. The protagonists feel real with built in flaws. The typical legal mystery feels staged with façade of the legal profession masking the tale. The fast paced grittiness of the story with layers of personal and professional details creates a fun ride. It is one of the best mysteries of last year.

S.A. Gorden

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Black River
Kenneth Sherman
The Porcupine's Quills, Inc.
68 Main Street, Erin, Ontario, Canada, N0B 1T0
University of Toronto Press (distributor)
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
0889842892, $14.95 1-800-565-9523

Kenneth Sherman's poetry uniquely balances tragedy and comic irony as it takes for its subject matter such issues as the Holocaust, the decimation of Canada's First Nations, the posturing of politicians and the hubris of literary impresarios. Sherman's untitled verse is a cornucopia of local history, social commentary, and personal reminiscence formulated through a lyrical language that holds as its common anchor a meandering stream near Sutton, Ontario named 'The Black River' by the original settlers of the area. Fascinating and thoughtful reading, "Black River" is an accomplished collection that will introduce a skilled poet to an appreciative audience far beyond the borders of geography and time. 'How could he see/the small tributaries of the Black River/stoked with ammonia, phosphates, PCBs?/Our luminous cocktail. 'How could he know/those river deities would one day be requisitioned by/the Sunlight Detergent Company, the Simcoe/Dairy Factory, the Georgina Township/Water Authority? The Brackish surface/a deep bottle green breeding algae on the bleached banks,/cotton-like strands melting to slime/between trembling fingers./Our horror ditch.'

Primary Care
Angela Belli & Jack Coulehan, editors
University of Iowa Press
11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628
1587295032 $19.95

Primary Care: More Poems by Physicians is the second anthology of its kind edited by Professor of English Angela Belli and medical practitioner and teacher Jack Coulehan. Compiling (mostly free-verse) poems from fifty-two contemporary physicians, Primary Care expresses views on medical practice, interpersonal relationships, and the modern world. Marked by sympathy for the suffering, recognition of the toll that trauma and death take on life, the poems speak with an authentic reality and unforgettably powerful tone. An introduction, set of thumbnail biographies of contributors, and index of titles round out this superb collection. Also highly recommended is the previous anthology in the series, "Blood and Bone: Poems by Physicians". "Kindergarten Physical": 6th of 8 children / he stands, / stripped to his superman / underwear, / round scars on chest / and back, / one thick straight scar / (razor cut) / down the trunk, / and, removing his sock / the ring: / "Mama use to chain me / down the basement."

As Long as the Moon Shall Rise
Ellen Moore Anderson, editor
Holy Cow Press
PO Box 3170, Mount Royal Station, Duluth, MN 55803
0977945804 $14.95

Edited by oil painter and former teacher Ellen Moore Anderson, As Long as the Moon Shall Rise: Reflections on the Full Moon is a wondrous combination of colorful art, timeless poetry, and snippets of prose. Compiling excerpts of classical moon-themed writings by authors such as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Ralph Waldo Emerson with diverse and eclectic moon-themed artworks, "full-moon journal" pages in which the reader can write, a three-year lunar calendar, moon-related information, and a list of suggested full moon gifts, As Long as the Moon Shall Rise is a quality, one-of-a-kind giftbook that celebrates the full moon and humanity's reflections upon it as surely as it expresses thoughts of tenderness and compassion. "An Inquiry on a Blustery Night": Inscrutable silent queen, / are you fleeing from that billowing armada of clouds, / or, sedately seated, commanding those ghostly galleons / to sail on out of your realm?"

Coming Together for the Sake of God
Hanspeter Heinz & Michael A. Signer, editors
The Liturgical Press
St. Johns Abbey PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
0814651674 $19.95 1-800-858-5450

Edited by Hanspeter Heinz and Michael A. Signer, Coming Together for the Sake of God: Contributions to Jewish-Christian Dialogue From Post-Holocaust Germany gathers position papers and guides from the discussion group "Jews and Christians" sponsored by the Central Committee (a federation of groups) of the German Catholic Church. Currently composed of ten Jewish and sixteen Catholic members, the group has sponsored conferences and conventions since 1979 among other activities to promote religious education, study, and dialogue. Coming Together for the Sake of God is partly about repercussions from the Holocaust, and partly about critical issues in Jewish-Christian theological dialogue, and the essays range in date from 1979 to 2005. In addition to the eight main essays (including "After Fifty Years: How Can We Talk about Guilt, Suffering, and Reconciliation?", "Reflections on the Shoah", and "Pope Pius IX and the Jews"), Coming Together for the Sake of God also includes a set of responses to the work of the discussion group. Appendices offer more information on the diverse contributors, membership lists for the discussion group, and more. A somber, respectful search for enlightened common ground between faiths, especially in the wake of genocidal historical atrocity.

Able Greenspan

Harold's Bookshelf

When Turtle Grew Feathers
Tim Tingle
August House Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 3223, Little Rock, AK 72203
0874837774 $16.95

Basically this is the story of the Turtle and the Hare as told by the Native American Choctaw nation. In this version we learn the value of friends and helping one another. As expected Turtle wins this race but there is something very unusual about this particular turtle. A delightful read and well-illustrated When Turtle Grew Feathers is a highly recommended children's book.

Battling the Corporate Giants
Daniel L. Lowery
American Book Business Press
PO Box 65624, Salt Lake City, UT 84165
1589823613 $19.95

Author Daniel Lowery uses the story of David and Goliath as an object lesson for businesses. In this book Lowery skillfully discusses the challenges faced by small business in a world of corporate giants. Throughout the book there are examples of how large corporations typically attack and consume smaller companies and how smaller companies can not only defend themselves but thrive in this environment by actually taking advantage of the features of corporate giants.

Some of the items discussed include how to deal with price wars, supply problems, changing rules, and employee hijacking. How to choose your weapons instead of having your opponent choose them for you and many other clear illustrations of how large corporations take advantage of their size and how those strategies can be defeated. An excellent book for the small business person, Battling the Corporate Giants is easy to read, easy to understand, insightful and highly recommended.

Unicorn Races
Stephen J. Brooks
Purple Sky Publishing
PO Box 12013, Parkville, MO 64152
0976901730 $16.95

The first thing that catches your eye with this book has to be the rich, colorful illustrations on every page. Combine that with an imaginative story that children, and especially young girls, are sure to love and you have a real winner of a book. In this story Abigail spends each night in a clearing in a magical forest where unicorns race across the night sky. After the race and some well deserved treats she is returned home for her night's rest. Beautifully illustrated and sure to keep the attention of young children, Unicorn Races is a recommended read.

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher
Peter Bowerman
Fanove Publishing
3713 Stonewall Circle, Atlanta, GA 30339
0967059860 $19.95

If you are self-publishing your book and want access to one of the better guides in the industry they you will be interested in this book. Author Peter Bowerman walks the reader through the process of publishing your book, creating demand, and filling that demand. In addition to the route that he chose for publishing his books he shares the results of his research into the various options and the pros and cons of each. So, if your book does not fit the same niche style or marketing options that his does then you still end up with the information needed to take an alternative path to reach your goal.

Some of the areas discussed by the author include why you should consider self-publishing, how to enjoy sales and marketing, how to correctly build the book from choosing a cover to copyrighting, to pricing, building demand, working with, getting free publicity, and the Print On Demand option. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher is the best how-to book of this genre that I have seen and, consistent with Peter Bowerman's other titles, a highly recommended read for all self-publishers.

Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story from His Family's Perspective
Erik Greene
Trafford Publishing
6E-2333 Government St., Victoria, BC V8T 4P4 Canada
1412064988 $22.50

Many people have written biographies of the life and music of Sam Cooke. What makes this book different? Most other books generally portray the history of the artist but there is another side to Sam Cooke that few people really know. This book vividly portrays the life of Uncle Sam Cooke from the perspective of those who knew him best – his family.

Written by his grand-nephew, Erik Greene shares in the foreword how he came to appreciate the music of his Uncle Sam. As you read through the book you soon come to feel you are being invited to somehow become a member of this family. Written in a very personable style reminiscent of someone sharing at a family reunion, it is a delight to read. "Our Uncle Sam is highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of Sam Cooke the man or the artist.

The Portable Seminary
David Horton
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55438
0764201603 $34.99

Since receiving this book the most common question I get is whether or not it is really equivalent to a Master's Level education. The first thing to note is that it does not claim to be equivalent to a Master's Level education. The subtitle calls it a Master's Level Overview. It is a summary of important points and details and never claims to be an actual Master's Level detail education.

The Portable Seminary: A Master's Level Overview in One Volume is a great resource for those who would like to know the basics of what one learns in a Seminary program. The areas covered include the doctrines of Scripture, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Humanity, Sin, Salvation, the Church, and Last Things, the subjects of Biblical Languages, Scripture Interpretation, the Old Testament Survey, the New Testament Survey, and the time between the Testaments, Apologetics, World Religions, Church History, Missions, Church Leadership, Christian Ethics and Christian Education.

Remembering that this is an overview the Biblical Languages section gives a good example of the level at which this is written. Obviously in 20 pages you are not going to learn to read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. However, it does provide the alphabet in both Hebrew and Greek, examples of translational problems, examples of unique aspects of the language, historical information, grammar, style, figures of speech, and other items of interest related to the language. This in turn brings a much greater respect for the language and the problems of translation. The chapters on church history are excellent and include many of the early church heresies as well as important individuals and movements.

The primary items you will learn at a typical seminary but are not included in this book are things like how to pastor a church, church finances, performing church functions, church human resources, Christian counseling, and similar items related to the running of a church. The focus is much more on classic Bible doctrines, history, and other educational items directly related to understanding and applying the Bible and not church administration. That makes this an excellent resource for those who want to deepen their knowledge of the Bible, the history of the church, comparative world religions, and applying Biblical principles in everyday life.

The book is written in a style that allows the average reader to understand concepts easily. A thoroughly enjoyable read and an excellent high-level overview of a typical Master's level seminary education, The Portable Seminary is highly recommended to all Christians.

Marketing in the Public Sector
Philip Kotler, Nancy Lee
Wharton School Publishing
Pearson Education, Inc., One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
0131875159 $34.99

The target audience for this particular book is government agencies. Inside you will find tools to get citizens involved with and supporting your agency, using your products and services, and how to influence public behaviors. The authors also include specific roadmaps to creating brand identity, gathering citizen input, and evaluating the results of your efforts. One of the better sections includes a how-to model for building an organization that is both high-tech and high-touch.

The book focuses on all levels of government agencies from the public servant trying to allocate scarce resources to governmental units trying to create social consensus to get things done. Loaded with lots of examples, Marketing in the Public Sector is required reading for governmental agencies

Talk Turkey to Me
Renee S. Ferguson
Wishbone Press and Promotions, Inc.
PO Box 414, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
0977732134 19.95

The title says it all with this book. It is simply about how to prepare Turkey and all the trimmings for a delicious meal. The information is complete, covering things like how to pick the right size, working with fresh versus frozen, thawing techniques, seasoning, checking doneness, and basting. It even includes a surprising variety of ways in which to cook your turkey such as in an oven bag, open pan, covered pan, convection oven, on a grill, in a smoker or even deep frying. If that is not enough then what about the even more unusual methods such as brining, upside-down, microwaving, roasting from frozen, boiling, stewing, and even cooking in a crock-pot.

Of course the book would not be complete without recipes for all the things that go with turkey and the recipes are here - gravy, appetizers, cranberry and other fruit side dishes, vegetable dishes, potato dishes, stuffing, breads and rolls, and desserts. There are even instructions for storing and serving the leftovers which many people plan for when they buy their turkey. Each recipe is well written and easy to follow and the results are delicious. Talk Turkey to Me is a highly recommended specialty cookbook.

Harold McFarland

Harwood's Bookshelf

Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith
Uta Ranke-Heinemann
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
006066861X $12.00

Consider the following synopsis: "Wind in the Willows is infested to the core with fairy tales. Words and actions attributed to Rat and Mole were never spoken or performed by them. And because of those fairy tales, the true message of Toad of Toad Hall has been distorted and falsified. We must put aside the fairy tales and start following the eternal truths that Toad actually taught." Before reading Putting Away Childish Things, I could not in my wildest fantasies have imagined anyone not only writing such imbecilic drivel, but actually believing it. But URH's book is an absolute analogue of the foregoing endorsement of Wind in the Willows's "real message."

Uta Ranke-Heinemann proves in this book that it is possible to reject almost every fairy tale promulgated by the Catholic Church, and still consider oneself a Catholic. That is analogous to rejecting flat-earth doctrines while still considering oneself a flat-earther. It can be done—but only by the intestinally challenged who need to cling to an afterlife belief in order to overcome their terror of death and get them through the day without losing control of their bodily functions. As for URH's continued admiration for Jesus, that raises a question of whether she has actually read the sermons put into the mouth of that fatuous, xenophobic, egocentric, self-deluded, "my way or the highway," prototype Pat Robertson. And her declaration that, "What Jesus preaches overcomes all the sermons [by Catholic theologians] on Hell" (p. 247), allows for only two possibilities. Either she has never read the gospel passages in which Jesus threatened his skeptics with eternal torture in an underworld Auschwitz that can only be described as a sadist's wet dream, (Mk 9:47-8; Mt 5:22; Lk 16:23-25), or "there are none so blind as those who will not see."

On page 2 URH refers to "the truth of God's compassion, which has been obscured by the Church's many fairy tales and which is nonetheless the only truth." On page 6 she refers to "the truth of the resurrection." On page 10 she endorses the third gospel's pretence that Jesus and John the Immerser were cousins, when any biblical historian could have told her that they were leaders of opposing sects, opposition messiahs. On page 11 she endorses the myth that Jesus grew up in "Nazareth," even though there was no village of that name earlier than the fourth century. And she refers to Common Era dates as "A.D." blissfully unaware that such terminology is offensive and insulting to the 5.5 billion persons on this planet who do not believe they are living in the "year of the master." And while recognizing the "virgin birth" as a fairy tale, she attributes it to the anonymous authors of Matthew and Luke, with no awareness that it is an interpolation that was not originally a part of either gospel. After those early warnings that URH is as ignorant of historical reality and documentary analysis as believers in the nonsense she does recognize as fairy tales, it would have been unrealistic to expect any part of her book to serve any useful function. And it does not.

URH believes that Jesus really did rise from the dead on the third day. Believers in that myth have used various means to explain away the fifty other saviors resurrected on the third day as much as 3,000 years before Jesus. A notorious Canadian Holocaust denier responded to a "letter to the editor" that cited Jesus' fifty predecessors by stating in effect that, if he had not heard of a fact of history, then it did not happen. Tertullian rationalized that the devil had impersonated Jesus by imitating his resurrection—millennia before it happened. URH, who recognizes that Jesus was neither a god nor the son of a god nor the son of a virgin, as all previous resurrected saviors had been, does not even mention the myth's prototypes. That raises the question: Is she so ignorant of the subject she has the chutzpah to teach, that she does not know there were risen saviors before Jesus? Or does she buy into Tertullian's masturbation fantasy? There is surely no third explanation. Either way, any person who continues to believe that a man was resurrected from the dead, even after being confronted by the evidence, should seek employment more compatible with her limitations—such as sweeping streets.

Because of the Concordat between Pope Pius XII and Adolf Hitler that gave the Catholic Church in Germany veto rights over what universities are allowed to teach about religion, URH was fired as a theology professor for teaching that the virgin birth fairy tale is indeed a fairy tale. It is a damning indictment of the Catholic Church's totalitarianism that a professor could be fired for rejecting virgin birth, even after Cardinal Ratzinger had written in Einführung that, "The doctrine of Jesus' divinity would not be violated if Jesus had been the product of a normal human marriage. For the divine sonship that faith speaks of is not a biological, but an ontological fact" (p. 41). In firing URH, was the church hierarchy labeling the future pope a heretic? Don't expect an answer to that question in this century. That Ratzinger himself is a liar of the first magnitude is made clear by UHR's identification of him as the book-burner primarily culpable for the attempted suppression of the Dead Sea Scrolls (p.248), to say nothing of his repeated cover-ups of priestly pedophilia.

Despite her dismissal from the Faculty of Superstitious Hogwash, URH continued teaching theology (God is real and admirable. There was a resurrection), but passed it off as history, a discipline over which the RC church has no jurisdiction. Her theology is different from that of the church to which she still claims to belong, but it is no less incompetent, insane, and plain stupid. She believes that the most sadistic, evil, insane serial killer in all fiction really does rule in Cloud Cuckoo Land and is a nice guy who must be obeyed; that a man who preached, "Cheat those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to do you good" (Luke 16:1-9), was admirable; and that the most blatant violation of the laws of biophysics in all mythology was a fact of history. If such a person has anything useful to say, then so did L. Ron Hubbard and John Mack.

So what motivates a scholar who knows full well that the Catholic bible is a collection of fairy tales from start to finish, to cling desperately to a metaphysical belief that stands or falls on the validity of that same bible? Is she simply a dirty little yellow coward who cannot overcome her fear that, if she recognizes the Sky Führer's nonexistence, it will sentence her to be phuqt in Hell for all eternity—and not in a good way? Or does she have the defence of being intellectually challenged? Your guess is as good as mine.

Warning to nontheists: With friends like Uta Ranke-Heinemann, who needs enemies?

Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest-Growing Faith
Robert Spencer
Encounter Books
666 Third St, Suite 330, San Francisco, CA 94107-1951
1893554589 $16.95

"When Yahweh your gods has settled you in the land you're about to occupy, and driven out many infidels before you … you're to make no compromise with them or show them any mercy…. You're going to exterminate them in a massive genocide until they're eliminated" (Deuteronomy chapter 7).

Most Jews and Christians have no awareness that their sacred writings contain such unambiguous endorsements of proto-Nazism. More important, when such passages are drawn to their attention, instead of rushing out and acquiring a stockpile of rocket launchers and improvised explosive devices, and massacring every Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, nontheist and person whose skin is a different shade within range, even the most inflexible biblical literalists rationalize that their deity must have had a good reason for issuing such an order 3,000 years ago, but assuredly does not approve of similar behavior today. In other words, since Jews and Christians are millennia more morally evolved than the biblical authors, their god must be similarly more evolved.

And that is the difference between religions that have evolved beyond their sacred writings and Islam. If Christian missionaries from such hate cults as the 700 Club, Right to Life, and the Christian Defence League, infiltrated a church and, by quoting biblical passages that supported their homicidal philosophy, urged their congregations to bomb an abortion clinic or "kill a kike for Christ," they would have little success. "Virtually all Christians, including fundamentalists, would agree that [biblical atrocities] pertained to a particular time and set of circumstances" (Islam Unveiled, p. 24).

Islam quite simply has not evolved. The only reason every Muslim is not a terrorist is that the majority are unaware that the Koran endorses terrorism. When a missionary from al Qaeda infiltrates a mosque and draws attention to such Koranic passages as, "Slay the pagans wherever you find them" (p. 1); "Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them" (p. 18); "When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads" (p. 29); the entire congregation accepts that what was godly behavior for Mohammed must be godly behavior today. And Muslim men who cannot get lucky any other way become suicide bombers in the conviction that dying in the process of murdering infidels will win them 72 virgins in Cloud Cuckoo Land to screw the twat off. That behavior approved by Mohammed might no longer be approved by Allah, and conceivably was never approved by Allah, is beyond their conditioned thought processes.

Newsweek religion expert Kenneth Woodward, whom Spencer quotes (p. 30), noted that, "Israeli commanders do not cite the Hebrew prophet Joshua as they go into battle, but Muslim insurgents can readily invoke the example of their Prophet Muhammad," even though Joshua and Mohammed were both prototype Hitlers. The difference is that Jews are not threatened with execution if they acknowledge that their ancient military leader was less than admirable. Muslims are so terrified of exactly that, that they are conditioned not even to think, "Big Brother is ungood."

The Tanakh and the Bible are permeated with horror stories. A Psalm (137:9) tells the Babylonians, "How fortunate he will be, who takes your children and smashes them against the rocks." A chronicler records that King David "dragged out the [Ammonites] and put them under saws and under iron harrows and under iron axes, and incinerated them in the brick kilns" (2 Sam 12:31). The final Redactor of the Hexateuch writes that Joshua "raped the whole land…. He left no one alive, but carried out the ritual sacrifice of everything that breathed, just as Yahweh the gods [generic plural] of Yisrael had ordered" (Joshua 10:40). But as Spencer points out, "No modern Jew or Christian reads the stories and celebrations of Hebrew warriors as a guide to behavior in the present." Similarly, "No Christian or Jew is likely to sell his daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7)…. But for the Muslim, all of the Qur'an's commands are valid for all time" (p. 23). And while "Liberal Christians read the life of Jesus as metaphor and fable," and only fundamentalists see it as literal truth, "virtually all Muslims are fundamentalists" (p. 22).

And because Muslims are Koranic literalists by definition, they have a very different concept of a martyr than that of the Christians. While many Catholic saints deliberately attained martyr status by such capital offenses as vandalizing pagan temples, they were disqualified from canonization if they killed themselves rather than provoking "heathens" into killing them. In contrast, "The notion of a 'martyr' as someone who kills others viewed as enemies of the faith, and in the process gets himself killed, is a distinctly Islamic construct" (p. 11).

Islam is likewise not amenable to the findings of scholars. When the Jesus Seminar reported that over eighty percent of the words attributed to Jesus in the Christian gospels were never spoken by him, literalists hurled vitriol and threatened the scholars with eternal damnation—but they did not murder them. Similarly, when Jewish scholars informed believers that King David's aforementioned sadistic torture and massacre of Ammonites never happened, that it represented what the xenophobic chronicler thought David should have done when he had the chance, there were screams of outrage from Jewish fundamentalists at such denial of Tanakh inerrancy, but the scholars reaching such a conclusion had no trouble finding publishers, and did not have to go into hiding or publish under pseudonyms.

In contrast, when a Muslim "wrote a scholarly book suggesting that the Qur'an, the sacred book of Islam, has been mistranslated and misinterpreted by Muslims themselves," fear for his life caused him to resort to a pseudonym, "Christoph Luxenberg." And when scholar Suliman Bashear "argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet," his students at a Muslim university (oxymoron) in the West Bank threw him out of a second-story window (p. 4). Similarly, when novelist Salmon Rushdie drew attention to Koranic passages that Mohammed himself had labeled as "Satanic verses" when he later annulled them, Muslim fanatics who did not want believers to know that the Koran, like the Tanakh and the Bible, contains mutually exclusive teachings, put a million dollar contract on him.

The Christian gospels endorse anti-Semitism and misogyny. Islam is anti-Semitic and misogynous. But Christians have learned that their gospels reflect the thought processes of an uncivilized era. Muslims believe that, if the Koran endorses an evil, then it is not evil. Quite simply, Muslims are brainwashed from birth to have no ability to tell right from wrong, and in most of the world that makes them legally insane. Christian extremists are similarly brainwashed and similarly insane, but they live in a culture that recognizes extremism as a minority position. If they remain extremists into adulthood, it is because they are individually incurable, whereas Muslims are culturally incurable.

The most observable difference between Muslim extremist Osama bin Laden and Christian extremist Pat Robertson is that Robertson lacks the means and freedom to put his hatred of the human race into practice. But just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, so is Robertson. And he was totally right when he said (p. 2), "I have taken issue with our esteemed president in regard to his stand in saying Islam is a peaceful religion. It's just not. And the Koran makes it very clear, if you see an infidel, you are to kill him. That's what it says. Now that doesn't sound very peaceful to me."

It is considered politically correct in the Western world to foster the pretense that "Islam is Peace," that terrorists like Osama bin Laden "violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith" (p. 7, speech by George W. Bush in late 2001). Indeed, promoting that Big Lie may well be the only alternative to the nuclear war between Islam and the rest of the world that mad dogs like bin Laden are actively seeking, resulting in mutual assured destruction. But the reality is that Muslim terrorists are not an aberrant minority. Moderate Muslims who categorized 9/11 as "an atrocity contrary to the Koran" are the aberrant minority. "Khomeini, bin Laden and the like are the true Muslims, just as they claim to be" (p. 37).

Various chapters of Spencer's book ask, Does Islam respect human rights? Does Islam respect women? Is Islam compatible with liberal democracy? Does the West really have nothing to fear from Islam? The answers to those questions are, as the subtitle indicates, disturbing.

It is becoming increasingly evident that Christian appeasement of Islam is not working and, like Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of an earlier terrorist, merely helps the other side strengthen itself to the point where the ultimate inevitable war will no longer be one-sided. Anyone who doubts that has not read this book. If Robert Spencer set out to prove that Islam is a repulsive, evil, insane, antihuman perversion, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. But since his attempts to show why that is so ignored the ultimate first cause, let me clarify: Islam is a religion, and religion is a repulsive, evil, insane antihuman perversion.

(Biblical quotations are from The Fully Translated Bible,, 2007)

The Bible Through the Eyes of Its Authors: A Political History of Ancient Israel & Judah Frederic March
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595379125 $35.95

As always with a book purporting to be a work of biblical history, I started by reading Frederic March's bibliography. After that, the work's content and perspective became fully predictable and offered no surprises. March's sources included three books by Richard Elliott Friedman, whose books have given his breakdown of the Torah authorship into J, E, P, D, and R, and Harold Bloom's The Book of J, that picked up Friedman's wild speculation that J might have been a woman and ran with it. Books March did not consult include Peter Ellis's The Yahwist: The Bible's First Theologian, Gerald Larue's Old Testament Life and Literature, and William Harwood's Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus and The Fully Translated Bible, all of which give author breakdowns that agree with Friedman in many places but disagree with him (and with one another) in others. And because March blindly follows Friedman in areas in which NOBODY agrees with him, such as crediting J with continuing his narrative beyond the Hexateuch through Samuel and Kings, when Friedman was right March is right, and when Friedman was wrong March is wrong.

There are typos, such as "BCE" where March meant "CE" (p. xxvii), but no more than even a thorough proofreading is bound to miss. But there are also inconsistencies that can only be described as careless. For example, March credits E with writing the Holiness Code of Exodus 20 to 23. But he then attributes the "Ten Commandments" to P—even though they appear at the beginning of the section he has already attributed to E.

Reality: E incorporated the somewhat older Holiness Code, including its (now-called) Ten Commandments into his original Torah, and E's Big Ten list was repeated unchanged in Deuteronomy 5. Exodus 20 now contains P's copy of E's original, with only minor changes in places where P's theology differed from E's. And when March correctly attributes to J "an early priestly version of the Ten Commandments" (Exodus 34), he shows no awareness that Exodus 34 contains the ONLY lawcode in the Torah specifically identified as a Decalogue.

Some of March's errors are later mitigated. For example, in a footnote on page 56, he writes, "Friedman 1997 attributes the Ten Commandments to P. But Friedman 2003 attributes them to an older source, perhaps in E's time." And he at that point also identifies the Holiness Code (or Covenant Code) as beginning at Exodus 20:18.

But when he writes (p. 58), "Even atheists, who reject the mythic setting, praise the Decalogue as one of the foundations of humanism in our civilization," I can only refer him to the chapter, "The Ten Commandments: History's Best Lawcode—Or its Worst?" in A Humanist in the Bible Belt. To reiterate a couple of its points: Jews were prohibited by the first commandment from honoring any of Yahweh's rivals in Judea, "before my face," where Yahweh would be subjected to the indignity of having to watch, but were free to worship Babylonian gods in Babylon and Egyptian gods in Egypt. All five Torah authors were monolatrists, not monotheists (Exodus 9:14; 12:12; 18:11; Numbers 33:4; Deuteronomy 3:23) They were prohibited from robbing, killing, or perjuring a reak, fellow Jew, but not from perpetrating the same injuries against the dirty, unchosen gentiles. They were prohibited from impregnating the wife of a fellow Jew, but not from robbing a gentile of his right to pass on his inheritance to his biological heirs. The modern interpretation of adultery, as including nonconsequential recreation when impregnation is not possible, did not yet exist when Thomas Malory showed Lancelot copulating with Guinevere but avoiding adultery by practicing coitus interruptus. Only a person brainwashed into believing that right and wrong are whatever a dice-tossing lawgiver says they are could believe that a sane god (oxymoron?) would ban acts that do not have the observable effect of hurting somebody.

The commandment concerning the treatment of parents should be translated as, "Worship your father and mother," thereby, in a culture that had not yet developed any afterlife belief, give them the only kind of immortality available by keeping their names alive. As for the demand that everybody rest on the seventh day, that may have been practical in the agriculturist society of 3,000 years ago, but today is impractical and absurd. And the tenth commandment, forbidding Jews from lusting after the property of a fellow Jew, including his wife, was nothing less than an affirmation of the status of women as a slave caste put on earth for men to use as they see fit. Admittedly the Tanakh translation of commandment 3 that March quotes, "You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God" (p. 56), is a huge improvement on the common Christian mistranslation, that is for all practical purposes the same kind of prohibition of free speech that the Allah perversion is currently trying to impose on the civilized world. Other than that, March's fatuous assertion that even the educated praise the Decalogue is horse manure.

March apparently does not see any contradiction in simultaneously accepting Friedman's conclusion that J was "probably a layperson and not a priest," and his own identification of the J Commandments as "an early priestly version." He does get right that P "wrote a very abbreviated version of the combined J/E stories probably to supplant a previous version because they set unacceptable political, ritual or moral precedents" (p. xxix). But everything he got right is explained much more clearly in Mythology's Last Gods. And unlike March's The Bible, MLG takes into consideration the conclusions of other scholars besides Richard Friedman.

March's narrative begins (p. 3), "God is the principal character initiating the action, filling the stage with His presence as He choreographs the world's creation ending with His crowning achievement—humanity, an errant species that is so bent on evil that He decides to destroy all but Noah's family in a global flood."

That paragraph illustrates March's status as an amateur with neither the historical nor linguistic expertise to be writing an elaboration of his solitary source's theorizing. His capitalization of possessive adjectives and pronouns referring to imaginary deities has been abandoned even by moderate theologians in recognition of its offensiveness to the educated. March's reference to a character called "God" rides roughshod over the reality that the Hebrew Tanakh makes no mention of any such entity. The Genesis passages from the year dot to Noah were written by one author whose deity was named "Yahweh," a proper name no different from Zeus or Apollo, and another author whose deity was a committee called "Elohim," a dual-sex, generic plural meaning, "the male and female gods." March observes, "It is curious that P refers to a collective of divine beings who create humanity: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (p. 7). It does not occur to him that the truly "curious" element is why bible makers would intentionally mistranslate the "Elohim" who issued that decree as the singular, masculine, proper name, "God." Let me explain it to him: Religion's overseers protect their bread and butter by pushing the Big Lie that bible authors believed the same things taught to modern worshippers.

Objectionable practices that had my stomach churning include a reference to an imagined "Holy Land," as if the only real estate in the Middle East with no oil under it was objectively "Holy" (whatever that means). In more than one place March cites English-language bibles' references to "strangers," apparently unaware that the Hebrew word thus mistranslated meant "foreigner." He refers to J as "she," when even Friedman stopped short of that unambiguous depiction of J as a woman. And while he reports that, "Friedman believes R was the priest Ezra" (p. xxxi), he then writes in the next paragraph that, "R wrote in the reign of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes II (404-358 BCE)." But Ezra preached from R's Torah in 434 BCE. Either R was Ezra (a conclusion I endorse), or the R Torah was constructed a generation after Ezra's death. March cannot have it both ways. As for the statement that, "Oversight of domestic religion and justice was delegated to a High Priest elected by the Sanhedrin" (ibid), that was true a couple of centuries later but not for the time of Ezra. The Sanhedrin was instituted by the Maccabees in the belief that they were restoring a council of seventy instituted by Moses.

March begins his Foreword with, "For a long time I searched for a book of biblical commentary based on archaeological and other secular historical evidence, without promoting a Judeo-Christian religious agenda." That explains why he decided to write such a book himself. He thought he was filling a vacuum. In fact there is no shortage of objective but non-expert evaluations of religion and its bible by similarly motivated persons, such as Jack Truett's Litany of Loons and John Henderson's and Fear, Faith, Fact, Fantasy. There is also no shortage of scholarly works by persons whose findings were not distorted by a need to conform to the dogmas of religion. The bibliography of Mythology's Last Gods would have been a good place to start. And of the many books on the subject written since 1992, some of the best can be found in the Biblical Criticism section of Prometheus Books' Complete Catalog, page 72 of the 2006 edition.

In choosing to parrot and elaborate only the theories of Richard Friedman, March at least trusted a guru who was right more often than he was wrong. He could have done worse. He could have swallowed the masturbation fantasies of John Allegro, Immanuel Velikovsky, or Roman Piso. And in choosing a bible translation from which to take his quotations, the Jewish Publication Society's Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures was as good as any other authorized (by a religion) version.

But while one authorized translation is as good as another, only a translation not authorized by a cult with pews to fill can have any validity. Consider the following passage from Tanakh, quoted by March on page 9, "When the Lord God made earth and heaven." Compare that with The Fully Translated Bible: "On the day that Yahweh the gods fashioned the land and the skies." (Gen. 2:4b). JPS's falsification of the proper name "Yahweh" to "the Lord," and "the gods" to "God," was no accident. Pushers of Judaism have the same incentive to keep the masses ignorant of what their scriptures really said as pushers of Christianity. Fortunately, in the case of a well-meaning amateur with no expertise in the original language, venturing into a field far beyond his competence, ignorance IS an excuse.

The Book of J
translated by David Rosenberg & interpreted by Harold Bloom
841 Broadway, NY 10003-4793
0802110509 $15.00

This is a Jewish book. The translator's preface, despite a determined effort by its author to suppress his outrage, makes crystal clear that the Christian terms, "Old Testament" and "New Testament" are extremely offensive and insulting to Jews. For a comparison, try to imagine the Catholic Church's reaction to Martin Luther's claim that his new religion was a Reformed version of the old, rather than, as they saw it, an indefensible perversion of it.

Having said that, let me express my bewilderment that a scholar capable of recognizing that the oldest parts of the Torah were composed three centuries after the death of Moses, (whom I view as based on a real person, despite the increasing number of scholars who disagree), can continue to regard Judaism—or any religion—as qualitatively different from Mother Goose's Adventures in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Bloom's psychoanalysis of the J author is best described as interesting but not compelling. He reaches many conclusions that parallel those of Peter Ellis (The Yahwist: The Bible's First Theologian) and Richard Elliot Friedman (The Bible With Sources Revealed), but also in places disagrees with one or both. His conclusion (p. 14) that, "The God of the Jews and the Christians, of the Muslims, of the secular scholars and critics, is not the Yahweh of J," while accurate, is not exactly profound. He inaccurately credits J with originality in his tale of the creation of Eve from Adam's rib. His declaration (p. 28) that, "there is absolutely no other story of the forming of a human female in all of the surviving literature of the ancient Near East," while technically correct, suggests that he is unfamiliar with the Sumerian birth-goddess Ninti, who was credited with giving women the power to make babies out of their ribs.

Bloom's comparison of Jewish touchiness about Moses and Christian touchiness about Jesus with the alleged touchiness of "secularists about an idol they call Objectivity" (p. 15) was not unforeseeable, coming from an author who acknowledges that he is neither a historian (p. 14) nor a biblical scholar (p. 41). I doubt if he has any awareness of how insulting that comparison is to biblical historians, or indeed to all scientific researchers regardless of their discipline. And when he offers his non-expertise as a justification for his being "uninhibited enough to go further still" in fanciful speculations (p. 41), describing that as chutzpah may be unduly polite. But Bloom's most irritating conceit is his persistent reference to J as "she," stemming from his conclusion, based on arguments as waterproof as a sieve, that J was a woman.

As for Bloom's assertion that, "J is as strict a monotheist as the sages" (p. 275), I find myself wondering if Rosenberg classified Exodus 9:14 as non-J for the ad hoc purpose of justifying such a conclusion. Is he taking the position that it was P who wrote, "so you'll learn that no god in the whole land is my equal"? NO Torah author was a monotheist. Judaism became monotheistic some time after the Babylonian Captivity.

I have a lot more problems than that with Rosenberg's translation. For example, he attributes to J Yahweh's asking Adam, "Who told you naked is what you are?" But no nakedness concept existed anywhere on earth in J's time. It was Ezra who invented a nakedness taboo for the purpose of preserving the circumcision ritual that Jews were abandoning in order to compete naked in Greek gymnasiums without their mutilations causing them to be ridiculed. By criminalizing nakedness, Ezra made it impossible for Jews to compete in the games, thereby depriving them of any reason to remain uncircumcised. The Redactor, who probably WAS Ezra, then inserted Ezra's nakedness taboo into J's Gardenof-Eden myth.

Rosenberg also shows J writing, "And here they were: the sons of Noah leaving the ark, Shem, Ham, Yafat. It is Ham who is father to Canaan."

The Fully Translated Bible corrects the misattribution. Its translation of Genesis 9:18 reads:

(J) And the sons of Noakh who went out of the ark were Sem

(R) and Kham

(J) and Iapet and

(R) Kham is the father of

(J) Khenaan.

It was P who made invented Ham, whose name was Egyptian for "black," to counter J's failure to include an ancestor of the black races on Noah's ark. R inserted his interpolation into Genesis 9:18 to harmonize J's version of Noah's sons with P's.

Like previously translators who have credited J with naming Ham as Noah's son, Rosenberg offers no explanation for Yahweh's punishing Canaan for the crime of Ham. The FTB translation reads, "Khenaan saw his father's helplessness, and told his two brothers outside," closely followed by, "Then Noakh awakened from his drunken stupor and saw what his youngest son had done to him." Rosenberg offers no explanation of "what his youngest son had done to him," and distorts his translation to make it seem that the son's crime was looking at Noah's nakedness—centuries before there was such a thing as a nakedness taboo. The Talmud recognizes that a verse has been omitted (by R) between 9:22 and 9:23, namely that Khenaan emulated the Greek Titans by castrating his father, so that Noakh could not produce a fourth son to replace him as Noakh's heir under the prevailing system of ultimogeniture.

I could fill a volume with the inadequacies of Rosenberg's translation (let us not forget that, unlike Bloom, he is a Believer). But that should be sufficient. My immediate reaction after obtaining Friedman's The Bible With Sources Revealed from interlibrary loan was to buy my own copy. I will NOT be adding The Book of J to my reference library.

William Harwood

Kaye's Bookshelf

Back From Bora Bora
Sondra Luger
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595266088 $15.95

About this story and I quote from the back cover:

"Eve Nelson is 30, head of sales at the New York Money management firm of Williams, Wetcliff, and Snell, and bored with her career. She would consider marriage, which would thrill her insistent, widowed mother, but as a 'plain Jane' who gets the respect, but not the eye, of men like handsome Bill Wetcliff, her chances are slim. She is outraged when George Snell, her fan and mentor, explains he is temporarily embarrassing her with a handsome male secretary and assigning her to supervision of national plans to attract and service the accounts of senior citizens, the top priority of Frederick Willard Williams, who has come out of his 20-year enforced retirement in Bora Bora and, at age 90, once again has controlling interest in W.W.&S.

"Into a large pot place one skirt-chaser, one sexy, easy mark, one independent 'plain Jane,' one love-sick underling, and one bossy mother. Stir in one hell-on-wheels, clever, stubborn, vengeful, five-times-married, woman-hating, ancient curmudgeon and step away. The lid is about to blow, and heaven help anyone who's in its path!"

If you enjoy the intrigue of high finance with some romance and humor mixed in, this is a book for you. Sondra Luger is a good writer with excellent technical skills. Back From Bora Bora is her debut novel, and I wish her much success.

Really Good Friends - The Last Spin the Bottle Novel
Daisy Jordan
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595267207 $12.95

Really Good Friends reads like a teenager's diary and might appeal to teenage girls. It's a story about the dynamics of being a teenager girl–friends, peer pressure, school work, parents, boys, etc. The book is well written; however, Daisy Jordan's style of writing would be considered average . . . it tells the story adequately but leaves us wanting with regard to how its told.

Be[(com)ing] Real - A Coming-of-Age Story for Twenty-Somethings
Megan Noelle
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595266576 $12.95

This story is about two people–Donna DiSimone and Kenny George–and the dynamic changes in their lives. Donna, a person with a terrible self-image, has known Kenny all her life, and they both thought he was gay. Donna's engagement to marry and Kenny's sexual breakthrough into heterosexuality bring about these life-altering changes.

The title of the novel is Be[(com)ing] Real as these characters supposedly stop meandering through life and take charge of their lives.

What do you think? . . . can people really take charge of their lives? . . . or do we just continue to meandering and stumble along . . . deluded that we are in control. Certainly, we all have breakthroughs along the way with regards to attitudes, drugs and sexuality which help us to minimize the drama to which we subject ourselves. Does that mean we were 'less real' before the breakthroughs and that we are 'more real' after? And whose to say Donna's marriage will last and Kenny will not return to his 'gay' status? Life is full of surprises and the only guarantees are change and that it will all end one day.

Megan Noelle is a good writer in that she can tell a story, but not an exceptional writer at this point in her writing efforts. For the price and if you like the subject matter, you may want to give it a try.

Did You Ever Wonder Why Black People Do The Things They Do?
Kevin D. Moore
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595267382 $9.95

The title of this little book is what it's all about, and Kevin D. Moore has written it to help bridge the gap between the known and the unknown. He discusses many aspects of his culture such as fashion, language, natural rhythm, grooming and myths. Moore presents his answers from a personal point of view with a warm sense of humor and informal style.

If you are interested in learning more about the black culture, this little book may be of interest and for $9.95, you can't go wrong. It's well organized, an enjoyable read and a step in the right direction–appreciation through understanding.

The American Problem
Thomas J. Roatch
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595266774 $9.95

In this compact little book Thomas J. Roatch addresses many of the problems we face in America today–eleven to be exact: automotive/energy, health, politics, air travel, the internet, borders, drugs and crime, space, Iraq and Afghanistan, racism and gender ignorance, and education.

He presents these problems in a precise, clear manner and adds documentation to inform and support his position. On the back cover it states: "Tom claims he wrote The American Problem 'because I was raised never to complain about anything unless you had a solution for that problem.'" The problems may seem overwhelming to the average American, and they are indeed complex.

This little book, however, does not tell us "how to solve the problems" in the matrix in which they exist. Tom has his opinions, as we all do, but his little book may be one of many to be written to help us clarify the issues and inspire 'the people' to find the strength to stand up and say, "Enough is enough", particularly in regard to our energy problems. When the people have had enough, they will stand up, as they did in the Soviet Union.

Of particular interest are the facts presented about our energy problems and how our leaders have neglected to deal with them because as JP Morgan said to Nikola Tesla in 1905, "If anyone can draw on the power, where do we put the meter?" And, are you aware that the 'country' of Brazil does not use gasoline; they use ethanol made from sugar. Realistic solutions are out there to solve our energy problems, but it's difficult to get around the greed of the automotive and energy monopolies.

Thomas J. Roatch has cared enough about our problems to write this book. If I were to make a constructive criticism, it would be that he has not provided us with a constructive means to unite the people to bring about the needed changes. I highly recommend this book as an informative delineation of America's problems, and for the price of $9.95, it is well worth the price.

Dristlemore: The Chronicles of Dristlemore Volume I
Brian Moniz
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595405681 $19.95

If you have read some of my past reviews, you already know that I am not a fantasy fan. Therefore, I do not feel I am the best reviewer to review this new novel; however, I will present the basics and my opinion on the quality of writing.

The back cover tells us:

"Thoughout the world of Gandril, there are dozens of small, peaceful villages like Geddington. Tucked away in the countrywide, far from the affairs of kings, queens and politics, the people of Geddington are safe from the dangers and hostilities of the world–or so they believe.

"Soldiers serving the Twilight Union come to Geddington in search of a mysterious man named Dristlemore, keeping their reasons private. But Dristlemore is sought by the powerful sorcerer Lord Mydoc for a far more sinister purpose–to be eliminated by whatever means necessary. In a vicious raid, Geddington is burned to the ground, and its people are butchered like livestock. When the horror finally ends, only three survivors and one cryptic letter remains.

"Alone and with nowhere to go, the three survivors follow their only clue in the mysterious letter, hoping to find answers and learn the identity of Dristlemore."

Again, the eternal fight between good and evil.

Brian Moniz tells a good story and if you're a fantasy fan, you will probably enjoy Dristlemore. Brian is a consummate, energetic writer with a captivating style of writing. Enjoy!

When Pigs Fly
Bob Sanchez
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE
0595407706, $18.95

My first thought: Bob Sanchez is an exceptional, gifted writer, and this novel should be picked up and published by a mainstream publisher. His writing style and humor remind me of John Dunning's The Bookman's Wake and Janet Evanovich's crazy, colorful characters. When Pigs Fly is not just a simple story but an experience in masterful writing with marvelous metaphors, and then again, it is a simple story . . . about a retired cop, Mack Durgin, trying to fulfill his deceased partner's wish to have his ashes scattered over the Grand Canyon.

You can open this book at any page and find something delightful. Let's check out page 127:

"Carrick and Brodie Durgin (Mack's parents) felt like the luckiest couple on Earth. They had survived a nasty assault, in large part due to Brodie's fortuitous purchase of a bullwhip in Laramie a few years back. How many husbands were thoughtful enough to give their wives bullwhip-cracking lessons for their wedding anniversary. And my goodness, how many people were rescued from bodily harm by apparently conscience-stricken housebreakers? The Durgins owed their lives to those two young lads. Without them, that reprehensible, smelly beast would surely have killed them both. The police had taken statements from Carrick and Brodie but had no luck in locating the attacker or the two young men.

"None of this hampered Carrick and Brodie's plans. Three days after the attack, they flew into Las Vegas with a gambling budget of a hundred dollars each. Then they gleefully wrestled the one-armed bandits as they won a dollar for every two they lost. Dinner was a wonderful catalog of everything forbidden in their diets, but ah, the consequences were for another day. They made love in a luxurious bed, though it wasn't quite so easy for them after sixty years of marriage. Carrick would challenge anyone to name a woman–albeit a very mature one–prettier than Brodie. For her part, she could name several older men more handsome than Carrick, but she had the good grace not to.

"Their blessings were plenty: His prostate was healthy and her mole benign. Her arthritis didn't act up every day, and his arteries had been Roto-Rootered–angioplasty was the fancy term–and their teeth held tight when they bit into apples. Each could finish the other's sentences, but out of mutual consideration they didn't do it unless the spouse's train of thought had derailed. Each knew the other's mind was slipping, and each was determined to compensate. Of course they were drifting downstream, headed toward the distant, inevitable rapids, but they planned to hold hands for as long as they could and marvel at the ride."

Besides the catchy tale of humorous, crazy characters and bizarre situations, a sweet thread of sensitivity weaves its way throughout these pages. Bob Sanchez is a consummate writer and has spent most of his life as a technical writer in New England. He currently writes fiction, book reviews and magazine articles in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

Payson Heights
Joseph A. Wellman
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595427243 $17.95

Real estate, power, politics, social issues and sex are at the heart of Payson Heights. After reading this book and recalling past scandals in the Catholic church, a priest is the last person to whom I would confess . . . anything. What would you think of a priest who records confessions and then blackmails the confessors? Does it happen? . . . possibly and if so, what a sad state of affairs.

I reviewed Mr. Wellman's The Darkness of Mid Day in January of this year and stated that he is a good writer. He tells his intricate stories in an intriguing manner which keeps them moving forward. I do believe, however, that he has a preoccupation about women who were once prostitutes, decided to change their lives, and then have to confess the 'error of their ways' to have a meaningful relationship with a man. Several women characters in his novels have this little problem. Oh, the agony of it all.

According to the back cover of this novel, "Payson Heights has been selected as a finalist for the 2007 Allbooks Review Editor's Choice award for fiction." I'm not sure just what that is, but I wish Mr. Wellman the best of luck in his writing endeavors.

The Bard of Bethlehem
David James Trapp
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424133130 $19.95

This story takes place in 5 B.C., during the 22 year of Caesar Augustus's reign and his mandatory census and taxation. Political scandals abound. Terentius, a bard, and Bridicia, a fish peddler, fall in love–a love that endures through all the dangers and intrigues.

The Bard of Bethlehem is rich in historical folklore and customs of the people–Celts, Druids, Jews, Romans and Greeks. If you're interested in the politics and the lives of the people around Judea prior to the birth of Christ, you will probably enjoy this novel.

David James Trapp is a good, knowledgeable writer. He is an attorney living in the San Francisco Bay area and has also written Dog Days in Bedlam.

The Raven
John Lawson
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424143802, 24.95

Sorry to say, but fantasy is not one of my favorite genres, particularly with its unpronounceable names and made-up languages. Please take this into consideration when reading my review. The back cover tells us:

"Guiromelans is a knight, a sacred paladin, seeking nothing more than to obey the commandments of God. But when God betrays him and allows a hells-condemned witch to defeat him in battle, he is forced to reexamine his faith. What did he do to merit such disgrace? What can he do to atone for his sins?

"Facing challenges both of the flesh and of the soul, Guiromelans begins a pilgrimage across the known world. In search of redemption and forgiveness, he discovers the true meaning of God's will. The Raven is the sequel to John Lawson's first novel, Witch Ember."

The Ravens are a superior class of knights, sworn to a strict code of conduct. In Witch Ember, Guiromelans betrayed the trust of a lady in need (a breach of ethical code) because she was a witch, and did so as the Medians demanded the death of all witches.

Most of this long novel deals with Guiromelans' bloody encounters with all kinds of opponents–sorcerers, Norsemen, pirates, centaurs . . . to name a few. Most of the characters in the story live lives of constant struggle, yet continue on.

The Raven is a fast-paced, unpredictable read and if you're a fantasy lover, I'm certain it will appeal to you. John is a good writer and it's quite evident that he take pleasure in the writing process.

Boxer's Start-Up: A Beginner's Guide to Boxing
Doug Werner
Tracks Publishing
140 Brightwood Avenue, Chula Vista, CA
1884654096, $12.95

For those interested in physical fitness, this may be just the book for you. The sport of boxing has grown in popularity over the past few years, not so much to fight, but as a general good workout with the added benefit of learning to defend oneself.

Boxer's Start-Up is well organized and will provide the beginner with sufficient basics to get started. There are lots of pictures to help you learn about the gear, stances, basic footwork, punches, combinations, working with the heavy bag, basic defense and counters, the boxer's workout, and sparring.

Werner has added some history and a boxer's journal to complete this little book. For the price, you'll get a lot of punch for your buck.

In the Company of Fishers
Ken Boire
Outskirts Press, Inc.
Parker, CO
1432701746, $14.95

Have you ever wondered or thought about living and working on a fishing boat in the Pacific Northwest? I think many of us have had such dreams, me included, but it takes courage and knowledge to follow such a dream . . . it's not an easy life. However, if such a life is not a realistic possibility for you, you can at least experience some sense of this life style as you read Ken's novel. Through his extensive personal experiences, Ken Boire has brought this world to us in a very real way.

Ken is a very gifted, knowledgeable writer with a delightful style which brings his story to life. Allow me to quote a few paragraphs to spark your interest.

"To a certain extent the book is about grief, deep pain, and recovery. Some people deal with loss powerfully. Rex forged a different life after the loss of Sharon. As a failure in the ministry, he might have been expected to be the least likely to recover and advance. Self-realization of his inadequacies became apparent as Sharon's prognosis became grimmer. His eventual adjustment led him to being the person he'd always wanted to be, a fisher of men. Did Rex find happiness? Is there such a thing?

"A disfiguring accident changed Red's personality and appearance. In a sense, the obvious changes lost Red to everyone but Molly. She faced grief and deep pain for him. Her love filled a void the accident created in his personality. She was blind to the physical changes. Is love really blind to physical changes? Is love among humans conditional to appearances?

"Jonnie couldn't face the pain of losing Koo, and burdened himself with guilt. His unconscious reaction was to block out the world. Love of devoted friends retrieved him from the cold blackness of depression. Memories of Koo haunted him for the rest of his life even though he dealt with the guilt. In another dimension, the pain is permanent, and he remains unaware that he has found Pierre Shani. Did Pierre become aware of who Moosemeat was? For a while Moosemeat saw Pierre in every young face. He never stopped looking but when their paths came together all he could see was Koo. Why was it that he never saw Koo in the form of Pierre?"

These are just a few of the fisher characters in this living drama, and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Most likely, In the Company of Fishers will satisfy in a small way that longing for the sea. It is a novel you will want to share with family and friends.

R. E. Starr, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
1591138140, $17.95

Mounds . . . mounds of the dead as monuments to a killing entity. The back cover tells us, "Open your mind and leap into, Mounds, a supernatural detective story introducing a myriad of 20th century characters following the trail of an ancient story of two intelligent and warring storms. These storms, the Ying and Yang of the skies, represent man's constant struggle between the forces of good and evil."

The novel starts with a gathering storm and how a supernatural entity works within the clouds. 'The Storm' becomes the hurricane which devastated Galvestion, Texas, on September 8, 1900, and to which ninety children and ten nuns of St. Mary's Orphans Asylum lost their lives.

Towards the end (pages 358-359) in this eternal battle, Starr writes:

"Bursting from the mound, the army of spirits rose as one, each on a mission to avenge their individual deaths and the deaths of their families, friends, and neighbors. Alandra combined and melded their anger into a unified weapon of destruction. Determined to recapture the earth from a scourge plaguing mankind since the beginning of time, the force surged up.

"Soaring towards a clash he considered suicidal, Aegis sensed the mound's eruption. He sensed a rising source of energy.

"Aegis glanced toward the largest of the mounds dotting the landscape below. He witnessed a rising array of thousands. Although he had no clue who or what they might be, the rising tide radiated an immense source of energy as they gained altitude.

"Gohr scanned the sky below him. He discovered Aegis' track. An unknown and rishing force confused him.

"What the . . .? Gohr paused his descent. He redirected his focus towards the unknow threat radiating vast sources of energy as it rose on an intersection path towards him.

"Not sure what he witnessed, Aegis sensed the rising army represented an ally, not an enemy. They're joining me in a battle I've fought alone for eons.

"Aegis positioned himself at a point ahead of the charging warriors. He maintained a speed insuring he achieved first impact with Gohr. The joined forces charged without fear and without hesitation towards the immense structure streaming towards them. Aegis listened to Alandra and the millions of others who died at Gohr's hands as they cried in unison. He wasn't sure what they screamed. It resembled a shrieking tornado Gohr might have released and commanded to, Kill!!!!!!!! Kill!!!!!!!! Kill!!!!!!!!"

R. E. Starr is a good writer and Mounds is a fast-paced, uniquely interesting novel which I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Kaye Trout

Margaret's Bookshelf

Holistic Home
Maxine Fox
Findhorn Press
305a The Park, Findhorn, Forees, IV36 3TE, Scotland, UK
1844090701, $16.95

Based in south-west London, Maxine Fox is a complementary health therapist and holistic design consult who works with her clients to resolve their physical, emotional, and spiritual stress through a holistic approach. In "Holistic Home: The Homemaker's Guide To Health And Happiness", Fox addresses how anyone's residence can work against their emotional and physical well-being, and how that same residence can be transformed to support and enhance the lives and well-being of those who live there through the careful application of holistic life principles. From cleaning up the premises from chemical contaminants, to eating properly, to the use of color, and more, the health supporting aspects of any home and life style can be improved. Of special note is the section devoted to Active Healing and addresses the issues of community, market-place, the global environment, 'Animal Magic', gardening, 'The turning of the Year', the cosmos, and 'The Self/The Whole'. Enhanced with references, a bibliography, and a 'user friendly' index, "Holistic Home" is a welcome addition to the growing library of Alternative Medicine & Life Style titles, and is especially recommended for non-specialist general readers wanting to incorporate holistic principles into their lives and homes.

When No One Understands
Brad Sachs
Trumpeter Books
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
1590304071, $14.00 1-800-733-3000

Brad Sachs is a prominent child and family psychologist who brings a very special expertise to "When No One Understands: Letters To A Teenager On Life, Loss, And The Hard Road To Adulthood". This 144-page compendium of experienced based commentary and advice surveys and addresses commonly held concerns shared by teenagers and includes such topics as relationships, breakups, drugs and alcohol, parents, family dynamics, coping with loss, dealing with depression, and the necessity to put life events into a workable perspective. A gifted public speaker and workshop presenter, Sachs is also a talented writer who, as a psychologist and an author, is able to communicate with equal fluency to both teens and their parents, making "When No One Understands" highly recommended and thoroughly 'user friendly' reading and a welcome addition to community library collections and personal self-help reading lists.

The Get A Life Campaign
Tyeese Gaines Reid
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741439255, $10.95

Specifically written for today's modern and time-stressed woman, "The Get A Life Campaign: A Pocket Guide For The Busy Woman Campaign" is a 101-page compendium of practical, concise, 'user friendly' insights, advice, ideas and resources that is intended to equipt the reader with the tools necessary to effectively and efficiently organized and prioritize their personal and professional lives. A superbly presented supplement to Tyeese Reid's unique website at (which allows the website visitor to trace their own individual progress and communicate with other women in similar circumstances to their own), "The Get A Life Campaign" offers 'tips and techniques' for freeing up time from a crammed schedule; the pitfalls to look out for, operating on a limited budget, enhancing personal surroundings, dating, and so much more. "The Get A Life Campaign" is very highly recommended, life-changing, occasionally inspiring reading, and a critically important addition to personal self-help, self-improvement reading lists.

10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life
Eve A. Wood, M.D.
Hay House
Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
Cate Cummings Publicity & Promotional Group (publicity)
7601 East 93rd St., Kansas City, MO 64138
1401911218, $24.95

Written by psychiatrist and award-winning author Eve A Wood, M.D., 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life: Overcoming Anxiety, Distress, and Depression Through Whole-Person Healing is a straightforward self-empowerment guide written for everyone - from people dealing with fallout from a catastrophic emotional event to individuals coping with medical conditions such as brain chemical imbalance, to ordinary readers simply seeking to improve the overall quality of their emotional lives. The steps, discussed at length in the chapters, offer a very logical and practical approach to dealing with difficult problems, from determining whether one is in need of medication to making life choices that are suited for one's personal nature to sharing stories and building connections. A positive-minded, life-empowering guide, that gives useful information about the benefits of not only psychotherapy and traditional medicine, and does not scoff at the possible benefits of alternative medicine. 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life is a consumable text, offering the reader the opportunity to fill in blanks and express thoughts of self-discovery or self-empowerment. A valuable self-help guide for anyone coping with anxiety, distress, or depression.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

Get Media Airplay: A Guide to Getting Songs Exposure, Music/Product Tie-Ins, Brand Integration Discoveries, and Radio-Play Spins!
Rick Davis
Hal Leonard Corporation
7777 Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213
1423413083 $12.95

Rick Davis' new book contains a wealth of information for those looking to break into the music business. Mr. Davis is the master of press, public relations and music marketing. Long respected in the industry for finding airplay for independent and label artists, he cuts to the chase in his new A-Z book on going from zero to star. If you're looking to by-pass American Idol, this definitive new book is your road map. Not being in the music business myself, I found the book an easy read, chock full of sure-fire ways to learn the basics and a whole lot more.

Chapter titles include: The Price of Music, Radio Format Fundamentals, Radio Station Job Details, The Main Keys to Handling Radio Promotions, Radio Industry Tracking Services, What Every Musician Must Know!, How to Build Your Media List Doing FCC/, Demo Radio/Event Plug Case Studies, Build a Fan Base Showcasing Promoter's List, The Mix Tape Phenomenon, Digital Music Programming, Obtaining Album Exposure from Satellite Radio Programmers, What About Independent and New Bands Getting Adds at Alice@97.3?, Radio Show Producers List, Planning and Being Prepared for Your Professional Development, Musician's On-Air List of Performance Opportunities, Radio Promotions Program Guide, National Reporting DJ Sheet, Directory of Professional Independent Publicists, The Hottest PR Firms and Music Web Sites, Internet Broadcasters and Resources, and Press Media Outlets. Additional features are an introduction, glossary, and an author biography.

A perfect desk reference book for those looking to make the charts or those looking to jump-start their music career. The inside skinny in this book is worth ten times the price.

Happy About Apartment Management: 30 Years of Expert Tips and Advice on Multifamily Property Management
Robert W. Klag, M. Gary Wong, Steven M. McDonald, Gemma G. Lim
21265 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 205, Cupertino, CA 95014
160005031X $19.95

If you're looking for a no-nonsense, nuts and bolts book on building and tenant management, pick up a copy of Happy About Apartment Management. Written by an ensemble of experienced managers, the just-the-facts-please content is a quick study in the areas and technologies a new or experienced owner should keep their eyes on. While the book is filled with quick-tips and advice to keep your eye on the prize; the business of managing a building is the common thread. If you're looking to profit from apartment building ownership, this should be required reading.

Major content sections are divided into parts with sub-chapters. Parts include: Technology and Property Management, Occupancy and Marketing, Property Management, Affordable Housing, Asset Management, and Portfolio Performance. Each Additional features are an introduction, about the authors and Westlake Realty Group,Inc, and a resource appendix.

A handy reference tool for apartment building owners, 1031 Exchange Qualifying Intermediaries, real estate editors and educators, leasing and rental managers, real estate agents and brokers.

Book review: Prefabulous: The House of your dreams delivered fresh from the factory.
Sheri Koones
Taunton Press
63 South Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470
156158844X $25.00

Sheri Koones latest book Prefabulous follows on the heels of her three previous shelter books, all considered home runs by those who are in the residential housing industry. Prefabricated homes of today offer features and benefits that place them on equal footing with stick or site built homes. Koones in her thorough and leave no stone unturned style, explores the options in rich from-the-trenches writing detail, coupled with relative photography.

Prefabulous should be required reading for architecture students as it highlights an important coming trend in North American residential housing. Prefabricated homes are being embraced by builders, developers and designers coast-to-coast as starter, custom, primary and secondary residences. Before you sign a site-built new construction contract, read this book and you will discover an option that can dramatically decrease delays, expenses, stress, time and waste in building your dream home.

Chapters cover: Modular, Panelized, Structural Insulated Panels, Timber Frame, Log Construction, Concrete and Steel. Additional features include a forward, an introduction, and a resource appendix. A must-have guide for prospective new-construction homeowners, manufacturers in the factory-built construction industry and those looking for a "green" alternative to site-built housing.

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

Meter Made
M.D. Benoit
Zumaya Publications
3209 S. IH 35 #1086, Austin TX 78741-6905
1554103029 $12.99 512-707-2694

A kick-ass detective, a world where people and buildings are disappearing, universes within universes, cloning, and multiple dimensions are some of the elements in Meter Made that will keep you turning those pages till the end.

The novel begins with an intriguing scenario when Jack Meter receives an unusual request—to find a building which has simply vanished into thin air. Soon a beautiful yet cunningly deceiving agent from the Intergalactic Agency joins him in the investigation. As they 'travel' from one universe to another and escape from bounty hunters, it becomes clear the problem isn't really about a lost building. Something incalculably higher is at stake, something that may destroy their own universe, and it's up to Jack to prevent it. But will he—when he's surrounded by people he can't trust, unjustly suspected of multiple murders, almost fried by acid, and followed by vicious killers—one of them his own clone?

If you enjoy science fiction, mysteries, and physics theories about multiple dimensions, this is the book for you. The protagonist, Detective Jack Meter, is utterly sympathetic and has a sharp, witty tongue. The plot is intriguing and moves at a quick pace. Talented author M.D. Benoit utilizes quick, sharp dialogue to propel the story, which has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing for the culprits. The science behind the premise of the story is fascinating and they way Benoit moves her characters from one strange world to the other believable. Meter Made is the second book in the series. Though the book stands well on its own, I'd recommend reading Metered Space first, if only to more fully understand past references in the story. I sure look forward to reading more books in the Jack Meter series.

They Was Holdin' Hands
Venera Di Bella Barles
Arche Books
9101 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 105-112, Las Vegas, NV 89117
1595070656 $26.99

They Was Holdin' Hands is an unusual, beautifully written novel which combines elements of mystery and literary fiction.

The story begins when the protagonist, an aspiring writer named Carmela Valente, reads by chance an intriguing article on the Seattle Times about three old women who mysteriously died huddled together by a wood-burning stove in the kitchen of their rural farmhouse in the small mining community of Pine Grove Haven, PA. Carmela soon becomes obsessed by the incident, so much so that she decides to go to the mining town to investigate. The idea of writing a novel based on the incident propels her. Of course, the demure, reserved people of Pine Grove Haven aren't exactly thrilled by her visit. The town holds dark secrets, secrets that parallel Carmela's own disturbing childhood. As the secrets of the town and the mystery of the old women's deaths are gradually revealed, so are Carmela's deeply hidden memories. In this sense, this is a dark novel about self discovery and about the grim, and often contradictory, realities of human nature.

The story is told in the first person through the view point of the protagonist, and the author uses a technique which is not common nowadays in fiction; the protagonist is never quoted in the dialogue, but instead she's always paraphrased, as in this example:

I confessed to him that I still didn't know what it was I wanted, but I hoped I would know in a day or two. I asked him if he felt the deaths were accidental.

This technique brings a quiet, old-fashioned storytelling quality to the novel, reminiscent of 19th century novelists. There are other beautiful passages in the novel, some with lyrical yet simple, vivid images:

I brushed away the snow from a concrete bench and sat down. The day was clear. No heavy, bleak clouds blocked the sun's welcome gift. I watched as the melting rivulets of snow slid down the gravestones like tears.

This is a novel that will please those readers of mystery who look beyond the usual commercial literature. The two interwoven storylines are deftly crafted and the dialogue sparkles with authenticity. The author has a flair for characterization. In sum, this is an excellently written novel and one I'm very pleased to have read.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Eve Titus & Paul Galdone
Knopf, Random House
530 E 72nd NYC, NY 10021
1562929356 $14.00

Enchanting Read …….. Recommended … 5 stars

The narrative opens as Anatole, the happiest, most content mouse in the world, contemplates his world. Anatole lives in a small mouse village near Paris, France. Anatole and his wife Doucette are the happy parents of six lovely children. During evenings Anatole, his chum Gaston and the other men mouse of the village pedal on their bicycles to Paris where they enter the homes of humans through secret entrances. The men mouse are looking for food for their families. One night Anatole is horrified to overhear the humans talking. The humans are upset that the mice are coming to take the food. Anatole, an honorable husband and father, knows he cannot continue to creep into homes looking for food. Anatole has a plan, he will find a job. And, Anatole knows just where to locate the perfect job; he will go to the Duval Cheese Factory. Who knows more about cheese than mice? Into the cheese tasting room he went where he began tasting the cheese and leaving notes as to the taste. The next morning M'sieu Duval himself came into the cheese tasting room where everyone pondered the strange little notes and wondered who this Anatole might be. When M'sieu Duval tasted the Roquefort and found that Anatole's note that a little more orange peel was needed, big changes were at hand. Duval followed Anatole's suggestions, business began to flourish, and Anatole felt he was earning his cheese in a most honorable manner. Anatole's whole family were so proud of their respectable business-mouse. And, Gaston was most happy to be included in Anatole's secret work.

When I began teaching over two decades ago children LOVED Anatole, and they love him just as much today. My resident critics, fourth grade - Wynona OK - Elementary, eyed the cover of this anniversary edition, were impressed by the rendition of the Caldecott medal on the cover and settled in for listening. The class gave rapt attention as they always do when I am reading a book 'received for review.' They know their opinion is going to be added to the review. The students had high praise for the tale, 'oh no, it is not too young for us, but little kids will like it too.' They were delighted with Paul Galdone's illustrations. The class was impressed that Anatole was able to understand a problem, find a solution and better his life and that of his family and his best friend. They enjoyed the 'French words' dotting the narrative and were intrigued at the depicted street scenes.

Eve Titus, who dedicates her work to her own child, presents children with an enduring favorite. First published in 1956 the book has lost none of its charm or appeal for children in the K – 4 group. A read to for the younger set my 4th grade is able to take the book from the shelf and read it for themselves. Paul Galdone, illustrator extraordinaire, created the perfect mouse in Anatole. Black and white pen drawn illustrations are filled with evocative details, splashed with a little color of the French Flag; a dab of blue is added to several cheeses, furniture and trees while red highlights various clothing, rooftops or chimneys.

Anatole was a winner when introduced in 1956 and endures to today. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

My Buddy, Slug
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Alfred A Knopf
530 E 72nd NYC, NY 10021
0375833420 $15.95

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended … 5 stars

The narrative opens in the first person. 'It used to be Slug, Kevin and me – the unstoppable three.' Then when Kevin moved away it was just Slug and me. And Slug was everywhere 'I' was. Morning, noon and night, on the bus, in art class, at the library. You name it, if 'I' was there, there was Slug as well. And, 'I' found it was beginning to be too much. Finally it happened, 'I' told my mother exactly how 'I' felt. What 'I' didn't know was that Slug was there in the doorway. 'I' really wasn't trying to make him feel bad, 'I' just needed a little space. And 'I' got space all right. Slug wasn't around much anymore. When 'I' did see him Slug hardly spoke, and 'I' didn't like that any more than 'I' did when he was there all the time.

We've all had a friend who's special and does now and then, get on our nerves. Or horrors, maybe we are the one who just never knows when to stop. Wanting to spend too much time together is a problem that each of us faces sooner or later. For adults, we generally have learned how to deal with such friends in a way that will help us retain the friendship. Kids, by contrast, need to learn how to work out this important issue. Jarrett Krosoczka has given children an excellent tool in his work, 'My Buddy, Slug'. Without becoming preachy, writer Krosoczka recounts one boy's account of the friend who just never knew when to step back for a while.

When first I held up the book; my resident critics gave it a disbelieving, sidelong glance and voiced absolute dismay about 'A SLUG!' 'YOU'RE GOING TO READ A BOOK ABOUT A SLUG,' 'ISN'T A SLUG, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THOSE, SLIMY, YOU KNOW, THINGS,' was voiced delicately in primordial shriek.

I turned the first page and they, fourth grade, Wynona OK school, settled back to listen with as open a mind as they could muster. The class does take their job as critics seriously. Before too many pages had been turned; the class was inching forward on the rug, gazing raptly at the book and were obviously drawn into the tale.

When I finished; the kids agreed 'little kids will like it, but they won't really 'get' it.' Each of my students thought the book was a good choice for 'mature' fourth graders as well as the little kids in the target audience, 'because it helps us understand more about why our friends get tired of us when we are afraid to give them some space.'

My Buddy, Slug is a book sure to please the 'read to' crowd of 3 -7s. The book is sturdy, filled with brightly colored pictures and child pleasing setting. The work is a 'read with help' for the strong reading 7s and 8s, and is a 'read alone,' or 'I'll read to you' for the 9 – 10 year old set. When we choose a book to read to younger siblings or to the Kindergarten class we may be forgiven for choosing what some might view as 'too young' even though we 'really like this book.'

Once I had begun to read; the children forgot all their reservations about slug being a, gasp, slug. As I finished; the kids agreed a slug was perfect as a friend. Being 'mature' fourth graders my class particularly enjoyed all writer Krosoczka's long winded 'slug talk'sprinkled through the book.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for the personal reading list, and the school and home library shelf.

One Incredible Dog! Kizzy
Chris Williams & Judith Friedman
Moo Press/Keene Publishing
P.O. Box 54 Warwick, NY 10990
0976680556 $15.95

Informative Read …….. Highly Recommended …. 5 stars

Kizzy is a R. E. A. D. dog who lives in New York. Summer Brown is a reporter. Today Summer will do a story about Kizzy. R. E. A. D. dogs help people practice reading. Some people struggle when they read, usually they struggle because they are nervous. It is Kizzy's job to help them feel more secure. HE never laughs or makes fun when they toil over a word. The first stop of the day is the elementary school library. The children there know Kizzy and are happy to see him. Each child present has brought a book to read to Kizzy. Patting Kizzy's soft fur helps the children feel more secure as they struggle to read hard words like "tornado". When they gaze into Kizzy's eyes they know he is cheering them on.

Next stop is the home of the Taylor's. They are not children. Mrs. Taylor is learning to talk again after a stroke. It is Kizzy, and his Kizzy kisses, who is helping her learn to communicate again. A visit to the office of speech therapist Dr. Matthews finds Kizzy still hard at work. This time he aids Amber, she stutters. A visit to a home for teens who have found themselves in trouble with the law is one more stop on this busy day. Each time Kizzy visits the teenagers draw closer to him, practice reading and social skills, and begin to learn to take their place in the world where they will eventually live. The last visit of the day is to a school where children are learning to speak English as their second language.

My resident critics, 4th grade Wynona Elementary, OK, all eyed the book with Kizzy on the cover before settling in to listen. They take their job as 'apprentice critics' very seriously. They listened in rapt silence as the narrative began, and at the end agreed, 'I wish Kizzy would come to listen to ME read.'

As with other books in this Incredible Dog series, 'Lady' the Therapy Dog, and 'Boone' the Rescue Dog, Kizzy has an important story to tell. My students were very impressed that a little dog could do so much to aid people who struggle to read. The story of Kizzy and his job with those who must exert great effort to read was one that really touched a chord with my students who also have moments when they tussle over a word or phrase. The book provides a starting point for talking about reading, how hard it is to learn to read and comprehend what we have read, and how nice it is to read when we know no one will laugh if we miscall or misunderstand.

'Kizzy' the book is very well made, has to be to stand up to the near constant use it faces in my classroom. My copy of 'Boone' and my copy of 'Kizzy' are chosen almost daily by children for their free choice reading period. 'Boone' is forever marked, my new pup chewed one corner when I first received it, however, the story is so compelling, and the children all know my little Dachshund Guye is the culprit that they only chuckle and carry the book to a corner to read alone or read with a friend. The book, well read for most of two years, is in excellent condition despite so much use and a small 'chawed corner.' I expect this copy of Kizzy will be as sturdy.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. Two thumbs up per student from 4th grade.

A Kid's Guide to Southern California
Eric Brown & Richard Brown
Gulliver Books/Harcourt
1250 S Ave, San Diego CA 92101
0152004572 $7.00

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended ... 5 stars

Work includes information about 'What's it like there,' 'Getting There,' 'Getting Around,' 'Lets Get Started,' 'Native Americans,' 'Under Spanish and Mexican Rule,' 'statehood and Beyond,' and 'Lights, Camera, Action.' Shopping, The LA Zoo, and sites of interest are listed. La Brea Tar Pits, The LA County Museum of Art, Griffith Park, Disneyland and Knotts Berry Far, Universal and NBC Studio Tours, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Palm Springs and Death Valley are detailed. Sea World, Balboa Park, Shelter Point, Old Town and Cuyamaca State Park are featured. Car games, puzzles and more are all provided for the traveler planning a trip to Southern California.

Being a misplaced Californian; born in the Bay Area, raised in the South end of the San Joaquin Valley, and an often visitor to all areas California north, south, east and west I was pleased to find this book for review.

Most folks who do not know the state know only beach, beach, beach … that is what they see offered on TV. A Kid's Guide to Southern California sets the record straight right from page 1 … do bring a swim suit, but also include a coat. You will find use for both. I like the travel diary for children offered on the first few pages of the book. More pages as well as word search puzzles, scramble words, fill in fact sheets and the like for children are scattered through out the book. Little tidbits of fact, 'did you know' are offered here and there as pages of the work are read. Snow fall in San Diego, the San Andreas fault, trolleys, the freeway system, pictographs, California population, the propagation of boysenberries, the mission system, how to pronounce many Spanish words, the Magnolia standing in Old Plaza, Joshua Trees, Mt. Whitney, and rainfall in Death Valley are but a smattering of the tidbits provided. A nice outline map is included so kids can trace their route from home to Southern California is a good touch. Map symbols are explained. Tips on what to do should you get lost need to be read and discussed by child and parent several times before the date of departure, and again during the trip.

As a teacher I find the section on California's early history is very informative. I plan to use some of the information with my class here in Oklahoma as we wind down our year. The connection between Oklahoma and California has remained STRONG from before Dust Bowl Days. Places I have visited, Olvera Street, Chinatown, Ports of Call, Lax Union Station, Old Town San Diego, Main Street-Adventure Land-The Jungle Ride-Bear Country Jamboree-Disneyland, Buena Park only 10 minutes from Disneyland is Knotts Berry Farm: the nation's oldest amusement park where visitors pan for gold, take a train or stage coach ride and duck during the shoot out on Main Street, La Brea Tar Pits, Hollywood and Mann's Theatre, Magic Mountain nearly 300 acres of fun on Interstate 5 north of LA, are all mentioned and reading about them bring happy memories.

Groans as we do a little map reading sound often from my students, I suspect the road map of Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Fernando Valley is going to met with a great deal of interest. Another similar map of San Diego is offered as well. What a great read, and I'm well past being a kid!! I am a tad homesick, again!

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Power of One: condensed version
Bryce Courtenay
Delacorte Press: Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0385732546 $15.95 1-800-726-0600

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended …. 4 stars

The narrative opens in Northern Transvaal, South Africa. It is 1939. Tracing the experiences of Peekay, an English-speaking South African youngster beginning at age five to age eleven (the original version continues to age seventeen). Following his mother's nervous breakdown, the five-year-old Peekay is cared for by his Zulu nanny Mary Mandoma and his Grandfather on a farm in the province of Natal. He is sent to an Afrikaans boarding school, where--as the youngest of all the scholars, and the only English-speaking pupil --he is brutalized by the other boys. He is subjected to both physical and verbal abuse by The Judge, a senior boy called Jaapie Botha, and his cohorts the "stormtroopers". Adding to Peekay's misery, rather than offering comfort, Mevrou, the Afrikaans woman who runs the boarding house, stalks around waving her "sjambok" (cane stick). Granpa Chook one of Inkosi-Inkosikazi, the great Zulu medicine man 's 'magic chicken', and an independent spirit the shaman refers to as the "power of one" return to school with Peekay for second term. Grandpa Chook turns into Peekay's only friend at school. Mevrou allows Grandpa Chook to live in the kitchen where he eats cockroaches. Peekay does well at school, however it is safer to hide his intelligence. At the end of the school year the Judge kills Granpa Chook with a catapult. Aggrieved, Peekay longs to go home to Nanny. But Mevrou tells him that he is to meet his Granpa in the Eastern Transvaal town of Barberton. The tale continues with Doc a German music professor, in his 80s who befriends Peekay, Miss Bornstein young Jewish woman who teaches at the Barberton primary school and becomes a mentor to Peekay, and Hoppie Groenewald one of the guards on Peekay's Barberton train. Peekay learns to box, exacts retribution for Granpa Chook's death and faces becoming an adult with knowledge that he can do whatever he sets his mind to doing.

On the pages of The Power of One: condensed version, Writer Courtenay has produced a fast paced work peopled with larger than life characters. Many are inspirational, however many are most unlikeable. All are believable. The ones we like, we really like, the ones we find awful are truly terrible. Dialogue is hard hitting, gritty and at times difficult to read. Set against a backdrop of misery and wretchedness the tale rushes from one painful scene to the next. Then to help us relax a little we find ourselves reading a delightful moment in the life of Peekay. Writing is well done, moves right along and presents the reader a tantalizing peek into a world which most of us have had little awareness even existed.

Peekay is a spunky survivor who successfully makes it through an appalling interval of his life. During school vacations, Peekay meets various people, black and white who have great influence upon him and enlighten him to work hard in order to fulfill his dreams. The Power of One is a coming of age story of a young white child living during World War II and the hurdles he faces in South Africa. It is a time epidemic with racial discrimination and hatred. It is a book filled with inspiration, friendship, overcoming obstacles and self-discovery.

Excellent book for reading on a hot summer day. The Power of One: condensed version is a good addition to the personal reading shelf, home school or classroom library and book to pick up for a good rousing read.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. I was sent a hard back copy by publisher for the review.

The Mentoring Mom
Jackie Kendall
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 12065 birmingham AL 35202
1596690054 $12.99

Inspirational Read …….. Recommended …. 4 stars

This work of 271 pages includes twelve chapters, and an Appendix with booklist. Chapter offerings include suggestions for parents on the nuts and bolts of how to mentor children with examples and specific how-to covered in the chapter titled 'The Mark of the Mentoring Mom.' Life principles including love for God and familial caring are included in the chapter 'Stamp the Image of Love for God.' 'Stamp the Image of a Praying Woman' offers hints for making time for prayer in all situations. With simple questions and suggestions 'Stamp the Image of Loving God's Word' leads the reader into how to instill and develop the love for reading God's word. 'Stamp the Image of Emotional Health,' 'Stamp the Image of Loving People to Christ,' 'Stamp the Image of Your Heart's Passion,' continue the instruction with examples taken from the writers own child rearing, suggestions and questions to aid readers toward making a better impact upon their own child rearing practices. 'Stamp the Image of a Noble Life Purpose' leads the reader into an understanding that being a wife and mother is a noble life purpose. The reader is led to understanding that something as simple as slipping a note into a lunch bag or jumping rope can and do make a huge impact on the lives we hope to influence. 'Stamp the Image of Teachability' is a chapter I found especially interesting. I am both parent and a classroom teacher. 'Stamp the Image of Your Perseverance', 'Stamp the Image of Reckless Abandon to God', 'Stamp the Image of an Adapting Spouse' round out the work with more suggestions, examples and questions for life living.

I found the Mentoring Mom to be a highly readable, informative book. I liked the life examples offered by the author in which she lists specific trials, situations and highlights from her own life experience. As both parent and classroom teacher I am inclined to rely more heavily on those who have been 'in the trenches' so to speak to those who offer suggestions about what might work at first glance, but have nothing to substantiate the notion. Some of the teaching we try with our own kids will work for them, and for others. And some of the teaching we attempt, especially the ideas that seem so good when on paper, or on the surface of our mind fizzle and backfire. I find a writer who can mention successes and note the near misses and total ones too, to be more credible than ones who blithely put forward much rosy and no thorn. Mentoring kids is darn hard work.

This is a work to keep close at hand during those child rearing years. the Mentoring Mom is a book to be turned to often as parents face the day to day struggle, confusion and struggle that is so much a part of raising a family. The writer leads the reader into understanding that raising kids is a big job, is not an insurmountable job and is a job to be savored.

The reader is offered suggestions for letting others and God do some leading in our own lives, an important quote I especially liked was added "Parents of good kids take too much credit and parents of struggling kids take too much blame" is offered. While I didn't have the quote when my own children were teens, the notion was well entrenched and carried me through those years with a minimum of upset.

the Mentoring Mom will be a welcome addition to parental personal reading list, the therapist shelf, school and public library and for all who hope to make a positive difference in the lives of another. the Mentoring Mom is a book to be read in entirety and then kept close at hand for study during times of particular need or situation.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles
Robert Beers
Writers Exchange E-Publishing
PO Box 372 Atherton, Queensland, Australia, QLD 4883
No ISBN $39.50 E-book

Entertaining Read …….. Recommended … 5 stars

The narrative opens with a letter to the Wizard Milward from his old associate Alten Baldrisson Grisham's Librarian. Milward was notified that war is underway, Adam continues to fulfill dwarfish prophecy, earth quake and a state of siege by the Ortian army are proving bothersome to those living in Grisham. The reader is carried forward with old acquaintances and new. The Emperor, Duke Bilardi, Bardoc and Captain Bilardi all play important roles. Adam and Ethan decide to leave Grisham and before long meet another group in the tunnels beneath the city. Neely, Flynn, Circumstance a half elf and adopted son of Ethan and Adam's twin Charity make up the second group. Charity is amazed to learn Adam will soon become a father. Both groups agree Duke Bilardi is a strong contender for the title of Most Evil Personage in Grisham. The Empire has been ripped into individual fiefdoms, Inquisitors practicing dark arts of torture abound and McCabe is on the loose. McCabe, former petty thief now a conduit for a shadow creature… a Seeker is a force to reckon with. Gilgafed the Sorcerer begs Milward for help in dealing with McCabe. Gilgafed is loath to admit that McCabe is on the loose due to his foolishness. Adam finds that while his magical abilities are improving they do need a bit of fine tuning now and again. The story roars on with travel by vortex, on foot and aboard Drinaugh the dragon. Adam appears to defeat McCabe, however the stench of rot proves that is not the case. Adam must use all his power to assure the safety of the known world.

On the pages of The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles writer Beers weaves an interwoven account against a imaginative framework of multiple narratives and innovative, exceptional characters including humans, dragons, machines, elves and wizards. All come hurdling from Beers fertile imagination to offer the reader a most exciting read.

Writer Beers presents readers a lavishly drawn anecdote pumped up with all the deceitfulness, hubbub and machination fantasy lovers enjoy the most. The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles is a finely-written yarn filled with supposable, meticulously wrought characters striding purposefully through the chronicle. The reader is carried along on a stimulating trek as author Beers deftly presents propensity, enigmatic scenarios and puissant wonderment, consternation and tumult necessary to hold the reader fully engrossed. Credible, often abrasive dialogue pulls the reader into the narrative from the opening paragraph and holds reader attention right to the last lines where we find Adam enjoying new found respect.

The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles is filled with the spirit, dialogue and character of fantasy settings known and loved by young and old alike. Ingenious author Robert Lee Beers has constructed a fascinating domain infused with both base and charitable, blameless and depraved, loveable and detestable characters the reader is sure to find engaging. Teeming with strife fittingly resolved in this masterfully engineered suspense filled narrative; The Wells End Chronicles Book 2: Whispers of War paints a razor sharp, focused account of destiny, cupidity and perseverance. Effect dialog, well-drawn scenarios and characters to love and hate the book is an enjoyable read.

Meant for pleasure reading, The Patriarch of Pestilence: Book 3 of the Wells End Chronicles target audience of young adults will find the book has all the ingredients they wish for in a good fantasy work. Fine book to enjoy by the fire place on a long winter evening or in the porch swing during a hot summer afternoon.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin

Richard's Bookshelf

Pinksta & The Polka Dotted Pinstriped Pants Wearing Princess
Sy Alexander
Proud 2-B Me Publishing
3653 Flakes Mill Rd., PMB 188F, Decatur, GA 30034
0965572625 $ 9.99

Fun Family Reading

Pinksta Parker moves from reality to fantasy as she opens her secret diary to the reader. This is a charming imaginative tale told through an amazing combination of tongue twisting vocabulary and fast moving action that tells of Pinsta's adventures with Princess Polka in their journey to the Land of Pink Power.

Frustrated by a band of Popeyed Pepper Punkers, Pinsta and Princess Polka are given power by the Leopardess of Pink Pride to of free the village girls to attend school to gain knowledge and personal growth.

As Pinksta desperately seeks the approval of her father the story moves from fantasy to actuality. These tongue twisting sentences amuse the young and carry a challenge to older girls for the pursuit of empowerment.

"Pink Pinksta and The Polka Dotted Pinstriped Pants Wearing Princess" is a great resource tool for elementary classroom teachers. The book is filled with practical easy to use learning activities, games, and quizzes. These games and the extensive glossary of associated words make this a book that will encourage and develop the vocabulary of young readers. The book is pure enjoyment for parents, grandparents, and kids alike. Reading the tongue twisters together will combine laughter, and learning for a fun filled family reading time.

Your Healing Journey Through Grief
Stanley Cornils
Robert D. Reed Publisher
P O Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
1931741174 $ 19.95

"Your Healing Journey Through Grief" is written in hopes of helping people find better ways of dealing with grief and to help them understand that what they are experiencing is normal, that is it okay to cry, and to experience confusion and anger.

Conils, is a retired minister. After years of observing and counseling grieving, hurting families, he has developed a series of Grief recovery Seminars. This book is the culmination his many efforts to help struggling people through the trauma of losing loved, whether by death or divorce.

The book is a tool to help the grieving learn how to survive loss. Stanley believes a survivor can go on to lead a fulfilling life. He has organized the in a way to help the reader translate the knowledge gained into workable, constructive action steps to help work through a normal grieving process.. Cornils has provided a list of support groups and a complete bibliography of other books and resources..

I found this book a comfort in my own personal, recent journey through grief, after the loss of a family member through unexpected tragedy. I plan to share the book with other in the family members to help them through their mourning and the recovery process.

The book "Your Healing Journey Through Grief" is an excellent guide for individual readers and for support group facilitators. I highly recommend this practical helpful resource on the process of grieving.

Fergus, the Soccer Playing Colt
Dan A. Peterson
Raven Publishing Inc.
P.O. Box 2866, Norris, Montanta
0971416176, $ 9.00

Unique Juvenile Fiction, Engaging and Humorous

This is the story of Fergus, an acrobatic palomino colt. Full of Action, adventure, and suspense the young reader will quickly get involved in the story. Fergus has a flare for playing soccer. Bobby Simpson and Ramon Aguilar, friends, work together to train Fergus to play soccer at the Simpson horse farm. Everyone in town soon gathers along the fence to watch Fergus and his amazing antics.

Fergus gained national attention and went on a 14 city tour promoting soccer in some of America's largest stadiums. While running on a Florida beach, Fergus was stolen and mistreated. A chain of events follows that keeps the reader in suspense until the final exciting dramatic climax.

Dan Peterson is a gifted communicator able to capture and hold the attention of the young reader. His story has conflict, suspense, and adventure. Don writes in a heart warming style that transmits a desire in the reader to emanate his strength of character.

Peterson writes intuitively and stimulates the creative imagination of young and old alike. Pen and ink drawings by Ryan S. Weber and Lois Hermanos illustrate the narrative adding another dimension to the story of "Fergus", the incredible soccer playing colt.

Joan Bochmann
Raven Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 2866, Norris, Montana 59745
0971416184, $ 10.00

Fast Moving, Gripping, Uplifting

Matt Reed, a veteran, returns to his home in Wyoming after two years in Viet Nam. During his absence, Matt's mother died of cancer, and his father heavily mortgaged the family ranch for money to pay medical bills. His father tragically took his own life. Matt was confronted with foreclosure on a $ 100,000 mortgage, due within six months.

"Absaroka" an Indian term describes the area bordering the Reed ranch and the home of the Crow Indians. Conflict and interaction of the townspeople, the ranchers, and the Crow Indians make this an exciting fast moving contemporary Western drama.

Bochmann's characters are genuine, and believable. They range from corrupt, unprincipled, and feisty to heroes and heroines that create empathy, admiration, and warmth. The pen and ink illustrations drawn by Pat Lehmkuhl subtlety, and vividly enhance the narrative.

Joan is rich in imagination and a gifted communicator. She uses intrigue, romance, environmental issues, post traumatic stress syndrome, Indian rights, and interpersonal issues to impact the reader with her important and timely message. The many surprise twists capture and hold the reader's attention right up to the dramatic ending.

I found "Absaroka" gripping, fast paced, and stirring. Raven Publishing has produced another frontrunner.

Life at the End of a Dirt Road
By Chuck Nelson
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 470403
1425922112, $ 13.95, 257 pages

Growing Up In Rural America

This is Chuck Nelson's story of growing up in Siskiyou Country in California. He has captured a unique time and place in American history in his book "Life at The End of a Dirt Road." The "Nelson Ranch" a 1700 acre cattle ranch located on the remnants of an ancient debris avalanche midway between majestic Mount Shasta and the city of Yreka.

These childhood memories are told through the eyes of a boy as he has eloquently narrates this heartwarming story. Chuck combines humor, nostalgia, and poignancy in these stories from his boyhood to give "city kids" a glimpse into another world, another time, and another way of life. The narrative is greatly enhanced through the use of a generous sampling of Chuck's award winning nature photography. Chuck's uses word pictures as powerful and dramatic as his photography.

Full of antidotes describing growing up, his instructive, entertaining stories are thematic. Milking cows, gathering eggs, and decapitating future fryers, were all a part of the daily chores assigned to the Nelson boys.

The drudgery turns to adventure as Nelson's masterfully crafts humor into his tales of herding cattle, shearing sheep, mending fences, and irrigating the pastures.

This is a story of family sacrifice, of personal goals, growth, happiness, and heartache. Pages from the family album endear Chuck and his family to the reader. Nelson skillfully articulates his personal feelings, lessons from life, and his deep appreciation for nature as he reflects on his experiences.

This is a book for those parents and grandparents that grew up in rural America during the 40's and 50's. It is a book to pass along to your children and grandchildren. It is for everyone who loves "Americana." This is a book that should be in every city, county, and school library in California.

The Fat Lady Never Sings
Steve Reilly
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595394678, $ 18.95, 228 pages

High School Sports in Derby, Connecticut

In Derby, the smallest city in the state of Connecticut, with a population of approximately 12,000 High School sports was the life of the town. Three young players felt personally responsible for the loss when the football team lost a winning streak of 28 games. This is their story, a story. It is the story of how they went on to become winners building another team, a baseball team.

Author, Steve Reilly writes with the insight and savvy of a seasoned coach and with the tenderness of a new parent. This amazing book is packed with stories of courage, success, and failure on the practice field and at game time at the park.

Reilly, skillfully, captures the attitudes and feelings of these young sportsmen, their discipline, their ego, their loyalty, and their team spirit. He relates the incidents in a moving way that makes his narrative take come to life. The story details three years of the Derby High School baseball. It tells of building a team from a shaky beginning to a winning team, qualified to participate in the state tournament. The interaction of the coaches with the team is an inspiration. Individual players are motivated to achieve their full potential.

I was moved by Reilly's words to the team after a particularly difficult loss. Addressing, Ben and the team, he said, "If life, like baseball, Ben, all boils down to effort, you have nothing to be ashamed of and a lot to look forward to. Whatever goal you have in life…just focus on it and don't let anything or anybody get in the way of what you want to accomplish."

This is superb sports writing and should be available in every high school coach's office as a an example of the true meaning of sportsmanship

Richard R. Blake

South's Bookshelf

Heart Shaped Box
Joe Hill
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061147931 $24.95

Do you believe in ghosts? Hold on for the spine tingling adventure you will discover in the Heart Shaped Box. There should be a warning label attached stating "Once started, demands to be finished."

I am not going to give away spoilers in this review, as you will want to read this highly recommended thriller. This is a fascinating psychological ghost story which is packed with thrills and chills. Joe Hill has produced a work that is so vivid and comes to life, an extremely visual novel.

Judas Coyne is an aging rock star; he collects bizarre and macabre artifacts which include a used hangman's noose, rare books on witchcraft, a snuff film, and artwork by a serial killer. When his assistant approaches him with the discovery of a ghost being auctioned off of the internet, Judas decides to place the highest bid in order to acquire this for his collection. The suit arrives a few days later via UPS in a heart shaped box. Unknowingly, the suit used to belong to an old preacher, Craddock McDermott. This haunting is it for meddling with the spirits? Or just by chance, or is it more sinister like a curse?

Heart Shaped Box is Joe Hill's debut novel, and proves he is an excellent addition to the horror genre with his own style and voice. Hill is also the son of Stephen King, which should come as no surprise. His plot is strong throughout; he has executed excellent believable character development. This is a masterpiece thriller; I literally read this from cover to cover in one day, I just could not put it down. This story is packed, it is spine tingling, intriguing, enticing, and is fascinating. This book, in my opinion had no faults. I think the concept and the writing as a whole can have no blemish thrown its way.

This is a MUST READ! I cannot wait for the next one.

Murder Off the Books
Evelyn David
Echelon Press Publishing
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
1590805224 $12.99

A definite 5 star whodunit

Do you enjoy a mystery with suspense and a touch of humor? What about a loveable hound? And how do you like your murder mysteries? With a Whiskey Chaser? If so Murder Off the Books is for you, it has it all. This is the first in the Sullivan Investigation Mysteries, and with this writing duet, hopefully many more to follow.

Mac Sullivan is a private eye, and a former DC cop who frequently visits his friend funeral home in order to pick up whatever vehicle is available at the time so he can conduct his stake outs with his loveable Irish wolfhound Whiskey. Mac has used vehicles ranging from a hearse to a pest control van which seems to be used frequently by him. Rachel Brenner is 42 and is recently divorced, she meets Mac Sullivan while he is staking out her house and following her to her new position at a funeral home. Mac and his sidekick Whiskey are looking for Rachel's brother, Dan who is a suspect in the embezzlement of money and the murder of his boss. Rachel joins forces with the attractive Mac Sullivan and his loveable assistant to help prove her brothers innocence. Of course to add a little fun Mac wolfhound Whiskey hates cats and as luck would have it Rachel has a cat who also hates dogs.

Rachel finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation when her brother comes up missing and is a primary suspect in his bosses murder. Rachel finds herself being able to manage and cope in ways in which she never expected, but before the end of the investigation, Rachel is finding herself in conflict with not only the killers but also with Mac Sullivan. Will Mac Sullivan find the half million that is missing? Will Rachel's brother Dan be cleared? Or did Dan take the money and kill his boss?

Murder Off the Books has fast paced action, a strong plot throughout; it provides witty believable and memorable characters. And it contains a loveable Irish wolfhound named Whiskey that has a taste for fast-food. This is such an exciting and fun book and the first in the series, I'll be sure to pick up each one to follow in this series.

This read combines suspense, mystery, and humor and is packed with twist & turns, as well as plenty of surprises along the way. It is a real page turner and demands to be completed. I highly recommend this for everyone, a must read, I honestly can wait for the next one. So if you want a whodunit that contains non-stop action and humor look no further.

Bicycle Shop Murder
Robert Burton Robinson
Diggory Press, Inc.
Goodyear, Arizona
1846856116 $11.99

Are you looking for adventure, romance and murder? Bicycle Shop Murder has all of that. This is the first in the Greg Tenorly mystery series.

The book begins with the death of Sam Spokane, the bicycle shop owner, later in the book it is revealed that he only has a few months to live due to a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer, so why would someone want him dead now?

The setting is Coreyville, Texas, a small town where everyone knows everybody. Greg Tenorly is a divorced music teacher, leads the choir at church, and is a marriage counselor, it all starts when a beautiful red head by the name of Cynthia Blockerman, vice president at First State Bank comes to see Greg. Cynthia is in her late 20 and is married to Troy Blockerman, she has come to see Greg as her marriage is in trouble, her husband drinks a lot, is abusive and she finds herself in a loveless marriage. Troy normal routine is coming home from work, drinking beer and watching TV until he passes out in the living room. Cynthia usually sleeps in the marital bed alone, which is completely fine with her as she is afraid of Troy especially when he has been drinking.

As the story continues, Greg Tenorly finds himself being called up for jury selection and is then picked and called upon to be a juror in the murder trial of Sam Spokane. Little does Greg know what troubles lay ahead for him? The troubles all begin when one Buford Bellowin a high powered attorney in Dallas wants the black man accused of murdering Sam Spokane found innocent. Greg and Cynthia are thrown together and both their lives are in danger, there have already been several other murders relating to the murder trial, a witness for the prosecution has had a terrible accident and died, one of the jurors is murdered, and the wife of the bicycle shop is murdered. Who is committing these murders and why? Who will be the next target?

Greg and Cynthia are starting to piece together the murders and who is committing them, they think maybe a hit man or maybe 2 different hit men, after driving to Dallas to see Buford. On the way back to Coreyville, they discover they are wanted for murder, and they have a killer after them, things are going from bad to worse. Will they be murder victims or will they be found guilty of murder? You will want to find out the answer to all these questions.

Although the book has a few errors and typos, it is very well written. The characters are believable and common people that you fell as if you know them. Bicycle Shop Murder†has enough action and intrigue to keep you turning the pages. Robert Burton Robinson has done a wonderful job of bringing murder, mayhem and romance all into one book. I am anxiously awaiting the next one in the series.

Terry South

Sullivan's Bookshelf

United States v. George W. Bush et al.
Elizabeth de la Vega
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
1583227563 $14.95 1-800-596-7437

De la Vega, a retired Assistant U.S. Attorney, uses her over two decades of courtroom prosecutorial trial experience, employing a plethora of well researched, fully corroborated, thoroughly indisputable facts concerning the build up to the Iraq War to bring about, before a make-believe grand jury, a convincing, though imaginary, indictment of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. against President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Many of the facts employed are well known. What isn't so plain, however, is the time sequences such administration officials put forth their contentions about Saddam and Iraq. When these matters, plus the intelligence agency's disagreement over various investigations and findings are revealed, the administration's certainties about what Iraq had, was about to have, or intended to have as threats to the U.S. just don't materialize. What emerges, not unlike the case against Enron, is that though few outright lies were told, many half-truths, misrepresentations, deceptions, deliberate concealments, and false pretenses were rampant.

"After analyzing this evidence," writes the author in the Introduction, "in light of the applicable law, I've determined that we already have more than enough information to allow a reasonable person to conclude that the President conducted a wide-ranging effort to deceive the American people and Congress into supporting a war against Iraq. In other words, in legal terms, there is probable cause to believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Powell violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States, Probable cause is the standard of proof required for a grand jury to return an indictment. Consequently, we have more than sufficient evidence to warrant indictment of the President and his advisers."

Elizabeth de la Vega hails from Massachusetts but now lives in Northern California. She retired from the federal government in 2004. Besides this book, she has written for various national magazines, THE NATION and MOTHER JONES among them. Her writing has also appeared in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES and CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR.

Highly recommended!

No Two Alike Human Nature and Human Individuality
Judith Rich Harris
W.W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
0393059480 $26.95 1-800-233-4830

Author of the controversial THE NATURE ASSUMPTION, Harris has, once again, taken on the academic establishment. This time, it's to find out what makes humans different from one another in their personality and behavior. And the book's title states, no two are alike, not even identical twins.

Certainly genes play a sizeable role in all these personality and behavioral differences. But something else is at play because, after all, identical twins have the same genes. Yet such twins are unique from each other. And though much of the difference has been attributed, a la Dr. Benjamin Spock and others, over the years, to parenting and the home environment, the author puts those theories to rest.

Harris takes on the establishment in all the sciences related to this topic. She shows how well-known and accepted scientists, among them Frank Sulloway, who wrote a well accepted book on the importance of 'birth order' on personality, and the famous Sigmund Freud, could both be and are wrong in their conclusions. And she shoots them all down mainly for improper research or for limited testing of this situation.

She makes this study about personality and behavior similar to that of a mystery story. Therefore, it would be unfair to Harris to tell the reader in advance who or what could be the guilty culprit or culprits. Suffice to say, she spends a goodly portion of this volume showing the incorrect answers and just why they're wrong. Then she logically rounds up the real reasons. She'll hold your interest with the mystery story and with her writing style. And she makes it all abundantly clear.

This is all the more miraculous because Harris is confined to a wheelchair and is basically homebound. Yet she employs the internet, specifically e-mails, to dig and delve, across the world, into the intricate labyrinth of details on what makes all humans unalike.

Highly recommended.

Come on In! Charles Bukowski New Poems
edited by JohnMartin
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060577053 $27.50 1-800-242-7737

This is Bukowski's eighth, if this reviewer counted correctly, posthumous volume of poems. Talk about leaving your widow a legacy! Old Charlie's long gone, since 1994 to be precise, but he keeps on giving: poems pleasurable to read.

The present book is the third of Bukowski's that this reviewer has perused. He's loved them all. They're nitty, they're gritty. Each tells, without rhyme, but in vivid detail, the dark underside of life. And most will bring a smile or a smirk to the reader's face. A few will evoke outright guffaws.

All strike this reader as based on a reality lived through and through. Mostly, of course, being Bukowski, there's plenty of booze, babes, and bets at the race track in a good number of them. This particular book, too, may just be this beloved poet's slimmest and yet his best.

To wit:

"good morning, how are you?
$650,000 home, swimming pool, tennis court,
suana, 4 late-model cars, a starlet wife;
he was blond, young, broad-shouldered, great
smile, great sense of humor.
He was an investor, said his starlet wife,
But he always seems to be at home.

One afternoon
While he was playing tennis with his friends
Two plainclothes cops
Walked up
Handcuffed him
Took him

It was in the papers the next day: he was a
Hit man wanted for killing over fifty

What bothered the neighbors most was not who would
move in next
Had he found time to do it?"

The rest of the book is as good or better. Even
people who aren't poetry lovers, men included, will
enjoy this volume! Recommended highly.

Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life
Alan Deutschman
0060886897 $26.95

Today, change is necessary. It's unavoidable. And it's ongoing. No one escapes the need to change. Yet many of the people who most need to change refuse to or avoid it to their own detriment.

In three specific categories of humans: heart patients, criminals, and U.S. workers, the author, primarily a business writer, shows how these people resist change even when not changing costs them their lives, their freedom, or the end of their jobs and livelihoods.

The first category is filled with many cited examples. But most noteworthy is that of Vice President Richard Cheney who's suffered numerous heart attacks (more than this reviewer was aware of) and hasn't always followed his doctor's advice to change, leading to more attacks.

In the second category, Deutschman talks about how most criminal rehabilitation plans and programs throughout the U.S have failed to keep former prisoners of the criminal justice system from returning to prison. Yet one program, the Delancey Street project in the San Francisco area, has had remarkable success in keeping former criminals from ending up back in jail. It's all done through change.

Lastly, the author discusses a General Motors auto plant in California where workers were totally disgruntled, resulting in their extremely poor job performance. Management was unable to change the employees' bad work habits, which would have benefited workers and management. Then the Toyota car people moved into that facility and though they really didn't want to rehire the unhappy, previous GM employees, the new firm was forced to. But with a new slant on changing the workers, Toyota managed to do so. Now labor and mangement are happy and working well together.

In each segment of the book, success at getting people to accept change came by way of allowing the person involved his or her dignity and by bestowing upon that person hope about the future.

The author began rambling around on his topic of change in the last quarter of the book, giving it a slightly 'padded' feel. The subject, however, of 'change or die,' for which Deutschman apologized, because it injects an element of fear into the formula to get people to change, which doesn't work anyway, is broad enough for more pinpointed discussions specifically addressed to other people who also need to change.

"Change or Die," writes Detschman in his Introduction, "is a short book about a simple idea. Whether it's the average guy who has struggled with a stressful life for so many decades that he has become seriously ill, or the heroin addict who commits felony after felony, or managers, salespeople, and laborers who try to make it through unnerving shifts in their business, or virtually anyone who comes up against unexpected challenges and opportunities, people can change the deep-rooted patterns of how they think, feel, and act."

Alan Deutschman and his spouse reside in Georgia. The author of two earlier volumes, A TALE OF TWO VALLEYS and THE SECOND COMING OF STEVE JOBS, Deutschman routinely writes for the business publication Fast Company.


Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Vinnie's Head
Marc Lecard
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312360215 $23.95

It always is a bit disconcerting to read a book blurb comparing a new author to Hemingway or Fitzgerald or some other literary icon. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this novel upon reading that it is "quickly drawing comparisons to the best of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard." Some promise. But one that is largely met.

There's really no point to recounting the plot—it's too weird and unbelievable (in a good way). The characters are equally unbelievable, which carries the story forward and backward. It is merely very entertaining. And that's a promise kept. Highly recommended.

Daddy's Girl
Lisa Scottoline
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060833149 $25.95 800-242-7737

Natalie Greco leads a quiet life, teaching law courses at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (as does the author), submerged in the boisterous milieu of her family, feeling insecure with the lack of response of her students in a seminar on truth and justice as illustrated in literature—and then all hell breaks loose, turning her life topsy-turvy.

She joins another faculty member in visiting a county prison one day, where she is nearly raped and is exposed to a prison riot and two murders, one of them a corrections officer whom she tries to save with CPR. As the CO takes his last breaths, he gives Nat a message for his wife. From this pont more complications arise than one can keep track of, including being framed for the murder of a state trooper, Nat taking it on the lam, an attempt on her life, trying to exonerate herself, and a whole assortment of other difficulties.

The novel is well-crafted, leading the reader to unanticipated situations—and an even more unexpected conclusion. Nat faces a host of formidable challenges keeping the reader in complete suspense.

Nerve Damage
Peter Abrahams
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0061137979 $24.95 800-242-7737

Roy Valois, a 47-year-old Vermont sculptor and part-time amateur hockey player, has just completed his masterpiece, something he has entitled "Delia," the name of the wife he adored who had died nearly fifteen years ago in a helicopter crash while working in Venezuela. She had been a few months pregnant at the time, making the tragedy even worse. Roy had never gotten over his loss, although he begins to feel that with the completion of this piece, he may begin to move forward with his life, perhaps with Jen, the woman he has been seeing and for whom he cares. Just when he contemplates marrying Jen, he gets a terrifying medical diagnosis, w hich leads him to speculation and curiosity about the obituary which he is told probably exists in a newspaper's computers, as is commonly done, especially likely in the case of an artist who has achieved some degree of fame. When he manages to hack into the paper's obits, he finds something puzzling: Delia, who had a Ph.D. in economics from Georgetown and had worked at the Hobbes Institute, a think tank specializing in third-world economic problems, is described in the obit as having been employed by the United Nations. He tries to clear up what he sees as a simple mistake, but gets all the more confused when that doesn't appear to be the case at all: her former colleagues deny ever knowing her, the building that housed the think tank ostensibly is and has for decades been the office of another organization entirely and Roy cannot find any records that the Hobbes Institute had ever actually existed. He begins to doubt that he ever really knew anything about the woman he'd been married to and loved for years, what work she actually did, and the facts surrounding her death. He determines that in the time he has left, he must find the answers to these questions. Given the awful way in which the book opens for its protagonist, one cannot see any way in which it can end well for him. It's not like anything he finds out can make things better, change his prognosis. Nonetheless, the author maintains and steadily builds the suspense, in a well-written and engrossing tale.

Peter Abrahams, the author of numerous earlier novels, has given us a psychological thriller entirely gripping, creating layer upon layer of intrigue and unlikely events that perhaps are not that unlikely after all, and still manages a final twist.

The Naming of the Dead
Ian Rankin
Little Brown & Co.
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0316057576 $24.99 800-759-0190

The G8 Summit Meeting in Scotland during July, 2005, provides the background for this latest—and perhaps penultimate---Rebus novel (Ian Rankin has been quoted as having started on the last but promising not to kill off the dour detective). The setting allows the author to sound off on a variety of political topics: third world debt, arms sales to these needy nations, poverty at home, big business vs. funds and programs for the impoverished. Additionally, Rankin's knowledge of contemporary music—the combos, albums and songs of the past couple of decades--threads its way throughout. And in the middle of the G8 conference are the London underground and bus bombings and the Live8 concert.

Days before the world leaders are to arrive, on Friday, July 1st, while at Gleneagles, site of the meeting, being briefed on the overwhelmingly tight security, Siobhan (Shiv) Clark , Rebus' Sergeant, wanders off to the woods where local residents hang mementos of their dear departed on tree branches. There she finds a patch cut from a jacket worn by the victim of an unsolved murder (a bouncer at one of gangster Ger Rafferty's clubs, thus bring Rebus' arch enemy into play). SOCO and forensics soon find two additional mementos of unsolved murders. Are they related? Clarke is given until the following Tuesday to work the situation as head of the inquiry, with Rebus assisting providing a role reversal of sorts and setting the stage for his usual insu bordination.

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, a popular MP falls to his death from a rampart on the castle. Is it an accident, suicide, murder? Rebus draws the case. Complicating the time line, Shiv's parents are attending the protests, and her mother gets hit in the face and taken to the hospital. Believing this may have been an act of police brutality, she wastes a lot of her limited time looking for the culprit.

Needless to say, all these factors contribute to a tightly woven tale in the usual Rankin style which somehow drifts to a somewhat unsatisfactory and unfulfilling conclusion. However, Rebus, being Rebus, provides us with hope that he'll never give up. And, frankly, we hope that Rankin won't either. Highly recommended.

The Naming of the Dead
Ian Rankin
Little Brown & Co.
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0316057576 $24.99 800-759-0190

The G8 Summit Meeting in Scotland during July, 2005, provides the background for this latest—and perhaps penultimate---Rebus novel (Ian Rankin has been quoted as having started on the last but promising not to kill off the dour detective). The setting allows the author to sound off on a variety of political topics: third world debt, arms sales to these needy nations, poverty at home, big business vs. funds and programs for the impoverished. Additionally, Rankin's knowledge of contemporary music—the combos, albums and songs of the past couple of decades--threads its way throughout. And in the middle of the G8 conference are the London underground and bus bombings and the Live8 concert.

Days before the world leaders are to arrive, on Friday, July 1st, while at Gleneagles, site of the meeting, being briefed on the overwhelmingly tight security, Siobhan (Shiv) Clark , Rebus' Sergeant, wanders off to the woods where local residents hang mementos of their dear departed on tree branches. There she finds a patch cut from a jacket worn by the victim of an unsolved murder (a bouncer at one of gangster Ger Rafferty's clubs, thus bring Rebus' arch enemy into play). SOCO and forensics soon find two additional mementos of unsolved murders. Are they related? Clarke is given until the following Tuesday to work the situation as head of the inquiry, with Rebus assisting providing a role reversal of sorts and setting the stage for his usual insubordination.

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, a popular MP falls to his death from a rampart on the castle. Is it an accident, suicide, murder? Rebus draws the case. Complicating the time line, Shiv's parents are attending the protests, and her mother gets hit in the face and taken to the hospital. Believing this may have been an act of police brutality, she wastes a lot of her limited time looking for the culprit.

Needless to say, all these factors contribute to a tightly woven tale in the usual Rankin style which somehow drifts to a somewhat unsatisfactory and unfulfilling conclusion. However, Rebus, being Rebus, provides us with hope that he'll never give up. And, frankly, we hope that Rankin won't either. Highly recommended.

Death Comes for the Fat Man
Reginald Hill
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060820829 $24.95 800-242-7737

The Fat Man—Andy Dalziel—spends this novel in a coma amid various reveries which give his colleague, Peter Pascoe, the limelight. Andy and Peter were victims of an explosion set off by terrorists and Peter, who was behind the Fat Man, was shielded from the force of the blast. Andy was not so lucky.

After recuperating, Pascoe is obsessed with finding out what happened. In part he is stimulated in his efforts by the irrational belief that such endeavors would keep Andy alive. The culprits are a group called The Templars, named after the first of the Crusaders. Their victims are Muslims who escape conviction in the courts.

In his investigation, Pascoe is, to some extent, hampered by the British spy service in which, he is convinced, there is a mole supporting The Templars. The plot is complex, and is only relieved by asides to the humor of the Fat Man as recalled by Pascoe or in the brief episodes depicting his reveries as he lies comatose. Pascoe uses Andy's condition to help him unravel some of the plot, enabling Pascoe to move forward. Then come the surprises and an explosive conclusion. Highly recommended.

Con Ed
Matthew Klein
Warner Books
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0446579556 $23.99 800-759-0190

First off, the title: while the New York electric utility plays a minor role fairly deep in the novel, there is a double entendre involved. The plot involves a confidence game, thus "Con." "Ed" must refer to education, since there are all kinds of lessons and observations strewn throughout this amusing tale.

Kip Largo is an ex-con who served time in Federal prison for securities fraud. He was a highly successful entrepreneur who sold a deck of cards with 'prompts' on each card as a "diet aid" to fatties through nighttime infomercials. In an effort to expand his efforts he formulated a Ponzi scheme, raising more and more money to sponsor the commercials, using new proceeds to pay off old investors until, of course, time ran out. On his release, he is determined to stay clean. He starts a legitimate web business selling vitamins, netting a few dollars a day, the proceeds showing on a ping pong ball on his computer scree n, while he worked in a cleaning store for $10 an hour plus tips. He asks: "Did you ever tip in a cleaning store?"

One day he is approached by a beautiful woman married to a Las Vegas casino owner, suggesting that he scam her husband out of $20 million. This starts a web of intrigue. After initially rejecting her, Kip's son tells him he has a gambling debt to the Russian mafia and his life has been threatened. In an effort to gain funds to free his son, Kip plans a complicated con and the fun begins. Con Ed is an enjoyable read.

The Missing
Chris Mooney
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0743463803 $25.00 800-223-2336

As a young girl, Darby McCormick is the witness to three brutal murders, one a young woman in the woods and, shortly thereafter, Darby's two best friends. The body of a man thought to be the murderer, suspected of being a serial killer and abductor of women, is discovered, an apparent suicide. Now grown up, Darby is a crime scene investigator looking for another serial abductor of women and girls.

The plot is entwined between Darby's past and present, and unfolds in many unexpected ways. It is ingeniously constructed and well-written, with a surprising conclusion. The author's last effort, Remembering Sarah, was nominated for an Edgar.

Sun Storm
Asa Larsson
Translated by Marlaine Delargy
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0385340788 $12.00 800-726-0600

The debut novel was originally acclaimed when first published in Sweden, and has since seen a second featuring Rebecka Martinson in The Blood Spilt. Now a tax attorney in Stockholm, Rebecka is called back to her native town in the bleak northern part of the country by a friend, the sister of a charismatic young preacher brutally slain in his church, who soon becomes a suspect in the murder.

Intertwined with the development of the mystery of the murder are flashbacks of Rebecka's past as a member of the church and her relationship with the principals. It is a compelling tale, and won Sweden's Best Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2004, as well as the country's Best First Crime Novel of 2003.

The plot involves religious fanaticism, prejudice and hypocrisy. Rebecka's efforts to exonerate her friend and uncover the reasons for the murder lead her to an arduous and dangerous journey. The novel, in an excellent translation, lives up to the expectations raised by the awards. Film rights have been optioned and foreign rights sold in seven nations. Highly recommended.

An Alex Delaware Novel
Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0345452631 $26.95 800-726-0600

What's a guy supposed to do? Protect a patient's psychological well-being or tell the truth? Tanya Bigelow was first brought to Alex Delaware by her well-respected foster mother when the child was seven. He treated her successfully at that time, and then again a few years later, when her symptoms reappeared. Now nineteen, she approaches the doctor with a problem.

The foster mother, Patty Bigelow, on her death bed gave Tanya an enigmatic message. She said she was guilty of a crime years before, and urged Tanya to seek Delaware's help on the theory he would enlist Milo Sturgis' assistance. The characters are all somehow related. Milo, a homicide detective and close Delaware friend, also is the partner of Patty's supervisor, Rick Silverman, in the ER where she was a nurse. No one can conceive that the selfless and hard-working nurse could be guilty of anything.

Alex and Milo backtrack Patty's past life discovering all kinds of clues. Eventually, the L.A. homicide squad enters the picture. Together they uncover various secrets of the past and present leading to the dangers facing Tanya which her dying foster mother was attempting to warn her about. Needless to say, this is another superb, suspenseful Alex Delaware novel.

Relentless Pursuit
Kevin Flynn
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014,
039915406X $25.95 800-847-5515

This book is a non-fiction case study of two brutal murders, the indictment and conviction of the murderer and the impact on the work and lives of the prosecutor, detectives and family of the victims. .It was written more than a decade after the fact, indicating its effect on the author, the homicide prosecutor. It is instructive, informative and insightful.

The case involved the brutal murders of a black woman and her daughter by the woman's one-time lover by whom she had a son (she had several other children by two other men). The elder victim and the murderer were scheduled to appear in court the next day in Washington, D.C., for a hearing on child support for his son. In the past he strongly objected to paying child support as mandated by the courts and was heard to threaten violence against the victim, as well as the specific method of killing.

The novel relates to the relentless pursuit of evidence in what amounted to a circumstantial case, along with the effects of these efforts on the lives of the various participants. It is a gripping tale, well-told, although in a few instances repetition of facts might have been edited out (unless it was felt the repetition was warranted). While the bulk of the book is devoted to the prosecutor's presentation of the case, and the problems encountered in the course of the trial, short shrift is given to the defense attorney's side (although great praise is offered to the female lawyer, a leading defense attorney in the nation's capital). Nevertheless, the narrative flows smoothly, and justice is done.

Secret Sins
Kate Charles
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
1590583566 $24.95

In an intricately written story revolving around the people in Curate Callie Anson's life, their relationships and foibles, things get complicated. There is the murder of a jogger, disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, the intrusion of her homosexual brother into her life, not to mention the love lives of various persons, including Callie.

As each story unfolds, more and more is revealed concerning each individual's hopes, dreams or insecurities (or transgressions). It is a tale well told and the loose ends tied together. Callie is a year away from becoming a priest, and presumably has more adventures ahead in this series.

Amen Corner
Rick Shefchik
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East 1st Ave., Scotsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
1590584112 $24.95

It is Masters Week in Augusta and the plot is all about the tournament and someone who has a grudge against the golf club. Sam Skarda, on leave as a Minneapolis detective after having been shot, has been invited to participate in the Masters as an amateur after having won the U.S. Publinx Championship. As it turns out, he doesn't make the cut, but becomes involved in a busman's holiday.

One murder after another takes place, all seeming to be linked with proponents of admitting women to membership at the all-male Augusta National. Cries for suspension or postponement of the Masters are ignored by tradition-bound officials—the tournament must go on despite the protests and murders. Sam is invited to conduct a private investigation to find the killer to ward off interruptions by the police. Suspects center on the members, but of course, there are employees and others to consider. Meanwhile, the culprit continues his ways.

This is the author's first published novel, and reflects a more experienced writing hand. It is well-written, tightly plotted and well worth reading.

The Green Mill Murder
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590582403 $24.95 800-421-3976

The fifth of 16 (and counting) Phryne Fisher mysteries, of which the publisher has issued nine (and hopefully counting), finds the irrepressible and delightful free spirit dancing at the Green Mill while the last two contestants in a marathon are near a painful conclusion. Actually, one of the two, the male, comes to an unseemly end by being stabbed to death. No one sees the murder act, the knife disappears, and Phryne is again faced with a mystery. Actually, more than one.

Her dancing partner's mother engages Phryne to find or prove the death of another son who returned from World War I shell-shocked. He couldn't stand the noise and commotion of Melbourne and left for quieter environs in the Australian Alps, far away from the big city. This gives the talented Phryne the opportunity to use her aviation talents, flying off to find the missing son and more adventure and adding to her love conquests.

This is another charming novel, soon to be supplemented by another: PPP is publishing Blood and Circuses come July.

Magic City
James W. Hall
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312271794 $24.95 646-307-5560

Thorn—is it his given or family name?—doesn't look for trouble, but it comes to him in droves anyway. It has its genesis in 1964 with the Cassius Clay (before he was Ali) vs. Sonny Liston championship fight. Seated in the third row were a number of well-known people, some of whom later participated in the murder of eight Cubans. A photograph showing the spectators is put on display at a gallery many years later, setting off the subsequent events which lead to much mayhem and murder.

It is this photograph that stirs up the plot, the participants in which want to destroy any copies. The son of the murdered family wants to see a copy to identify the killers. Thorn is thrust into this situation when it is discovered that his girlfriend's father has a copy. All this against a backdrop of Miami, its anti-Castro Cuban population, the CIA and assorted side issues.

The action is fast-paced, the writing quick, the conclusion explosive. Recommended.

Elementary, My Dear Watkins
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop No., Eugene, OR 97402
0736914870 $12.99 541-343-0123

Well, Jo Tulip and Danny Watkins finally found true love in the previous novel in the series, only to find themselves separated at the beginning of this new entry. Danny is in Paris on a three-month internship on a magazine, and Jo is recuperating from her injuries sustained in the preceding novel. But even in separation, each continues to suffer trials and tribulations.

Jo is confronted with the more serious of the problems. It seems someone wants to kill her. Danny only has to cope with the pressure of his job and ominous signs reaching him about Jo. The plot stems from an inheritance that is due Jo if she is married, but falls to the wayside if she is single at the time of her death. The balance of power in the family's business shifts depending on the outcome. Danny only faces interference in his internship and the possibility that he will lose it when he decides to return to the States to help Jo.

Since this is the final book of the Smart Chick series, a lot is covered to reach the conclusion. As in previous volumes, the story flows with assorted twists, adventure and religion. Faith and ingenuity combine to solve the questions of who is trying to kill Jo and why, do Jo and Danny finally get together, and does he fulfill his professional dreams. Read on and find out.

Alibi Man
Tami Hoag
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0553802011 $26.00 800-726-0600

The Alibi Club consists of a group of rich, spoiled polo-playing Palm Beach-ites who provide cover stories for each other for their transgressions. One of them is the ex-fiancee of Elena Estes, against whom she testified in a rape-assault trial years before, in which her foster father, a rich powerful defense attorney representing the defendant in the case, made a monkey out of her in securing an acquittal.

Against this backdrop, Elena discovers the alligator-mutilated body of Irina, a co-worker at the horse farm at which both were working. Elena is recovering from two traumatic experiences: first, the death of her partner, when she was a narcotics detective, blame for which is cast upon her; second, a near fatal "accident" in which she was dragged for some distance under a drug dealer's SUV, skinning and maiming her. She takes the death of Irina, a vivacious, young, fun-loving Russian immigrant, personally and begins investigating.

Complicating the plot is the fact that the lead detective is someone with whom Elena just ended a love relationship. The lead suspect is the ex-fiance whom Elena dubs the Alibi Man. Adding to the plot complexity is a Russian Mafia boss, claiming to be Irina's uncle, who seeks revenge, and Elena's foster father, who once again represents the ex-fiance.

A suspenseful tale, with a surprise ending, the author once again has constructed a hard-hitting story with interesting characters and a thrilling plot. The descriptions of Palm Beach society, the lives of the privileged few, contrasted with the simple life of horse caregivers, and Elena's efforts to lead a quiet life versus her past and present, create a telling portrait.

Soul Patch
A Moe Prager Mystery
Reed Farrel Coleman
Bleak House Books
923 Wlliamson St., Madison, WI 53703, 800-258-5830
1932557415 $24.95 (hb) 1932557350 $14.95 (sc)

This novel is the fourth in the series whose protagonist is Moe Prager, a former New York City cop, prematurely retired due to injury, who misses the life. In this installment, he becomes involved with the past—friends and co-workers in the Coney Island precinct where he broke in. Now partners with his older brother in a chain of wine stores, he still keeps his hopes alive as a sometime private investigator.

At the opening of the latest wine shop, his long-time friend, the chief of detectives, hands Moe a tape, setting off a chain of events resulting in a series of murders and unwanted revelations. It all began many years before, under the boardwalk in the shadow of the now-defunct parachute jump.

Like its predecessors, this book is good and entertaining reading, the character development solid, the writing terse and graphic. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Nothing but Trouble
Michael McGarrity
New American Library, 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0451412281, $7.99, 384 pages

An old acquaintance shows up asking for a favor and Kevin Kerney, the Police Chief of Santa Fe, New Mexico accepts a job offer as technical adviser for a movie. Kevin travels to the Bootheel of Southwestern New Mexico where he finds himself involved in the murder investigation of a Federal agent.

Meanwhile, his wife Sara involves herself in an investigation of her own and leaves their son Patrick with Kerney. Sara's investigation leads to events that will change the couple's lives and the reader's left wondering how it will all turn out.

I've read all of McGarrity's books in his Kevin Kerney series and have enjoyed every one of them. This book is no exception. It's a good read and I can't wait for the next installment. Mr. McGarrity writes great mysteries.

Some of the other books in the series are: Tularosa, Mexican Hat, Serpent's Gate, Hermit's Peak, The Judas Judge, Under the Color of Law, The Big Gamble, Everyone Dies and Slow Kill.

Deadly Advice
Roberta Isleib
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014
0425214745, $6.99, 272 pages

Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a recently divorced psychologist comes home to find that her neighbor, Madeline, has committed suicide. Rebecca feels guilty for not paying more attention to the dead woman and takes in the deceased's cat Spencer.

Madeline's mother convinces Dr. Butterman that her daughter's death might not be a suicide. Rebecca starts to check around and finds out that Madeline had been using a dating service. There were several men visiting the deceased at various times before her death, were they men she was dating or members of her family?

Detective Jack Meigs is on the case. He insists it's just a suicide and tells Rebecca to keep her nose out of it. She wonders if he's following her and if he really believes Madeline's death is a suicide.

The deeper she digs the more Rebecca discovers about the dead woman and her family's secrets. She soon finds herself in over her head and headed for trouble.

The author kept me guessing right up to the end. I enjoyed the book and look forward to future sequels. Roberta Isleib's other books are: Six Strokes Under, A Buried Lie, Putt to Death, Fairway to Heaven and Final Fore.

Prelude to a Change of Mind
Robert Stikmanz
Dalton Publishing,
P.O. Box 242, Austin, TX 78767
097407036X, $13.95,168 pages

Prepare yourself; this book is different. It's an adventure filled with tiny furry humanlike creatures we call elves. Meg Christmas wakes up from a fevered illness to find her room full of these odd little beings that have appeared out of thin air to heal her and save her life. A strange little man, part dwarf, elf and human, called Jack keeps Meg company. Meg seems both repelled and fascinated with Jack and his strange antics.

It soon becomes clear that Meg's visitors have come for more reasons than one and she discovers her destiny is to save a world and possibly the universe itself.

The story is full of erotic overtones as it delves into strange worlds and their connections to our own. It reminded me of fairy tales and old beatnik poetry combined with a political message, like something I might have read in the late 60's or early 70's. It's a mind-bending read.

Disturbing the Dead
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590583787, $24.95

Chapter one begins, "He wanted the skull." That grabbed my attention right away. Of course I had to find out who wanted the skull and why, but more importantly whose skull was it? The mystery deepens when police find more human remains. Captain Tom Bridger of the local police is looking into it and begins to uncover information about his late father that shocks and angers him. He vows to uncover the truth no matter what the cost.

Rachel Goddard the new veterinarian in town is running from her past. She decides to help a troubled young woman and finds out that she's in over her head. Tom Bridger must find out the secrets that lie hidden behind the bones as he struggles to protect Rachel and bring justice to the dead.

Sandra Parshall skillfully blends romance and mystery in a book that will have you hoping there's a sequel. I highly recommend this book. The author has also written The Heat of the Moon.

Stone Butterfly
James D. Doss
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
0312340540, $24.95

Are you up for another good mystery starring Charlie Moon and his feisty Aunt Daisy? James Doss didn't disappoint me, but then he never does. He's an author that can tell a good yarn with the best of them.

The story begins with Daisy relating a horrific dream to Charlie. Daisy's description of the dream is graphic and poor Charlie almost loses his appetite. (If you're familiar with Charlie at all you know he eats a mountain of food and is always hungry. The food he eats would put most of us in the cardiac intensive care unit, but not Charlie who happens to be slender and seven feet tall.)

When the dream becomes a gruesome reality, Charlie and his aunt find themselves involved in trying to help an old friend from the past. Will they be able to help their friend, or is it already too late? Charlie puts his own life at risk to help solve the murder of an elderly man. Will he succeed or fall prey to the killer himself?

Charlie has retired from being a Ute tribal police officer and is a full-time rancher, part-time tribal investigator. He's a good-natured fellow and finds amusement in almost everything. Daisy is a cantankerous and sly old woman. Whenever Doss does a flashback to her younger years, I always want him to tell me if she was always this way or if age, aches and pain have formed her into what she is. One is never sure of Daisy's age, but sometimes I think she was in her little canyon in Colorado when the Spanish Conquistadors first arrived in the South West. The tribal elder is always getting herself in trouble and true to form she pushes the button in Stone Butterfly

Don't pass up your chance to read a great mystery with many little twists and turns. I loved the book and highly recommend it to all lovers of mystery.

Other books by James Doss are: The Shaman Sings, The Shaman Laughs, The Shaman's Bones, The Shaman's Game, The Night Visitor, Grandmother Spider, White Shell Woman, Dead Soul, The Witch's Tongue, and Shadow Man.

Victoria Kennedy

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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