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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 4 April 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Brenda's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Geoffrey's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Larsen's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf Lori's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Marty's Bookshelf Maryan's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Susan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf RebeccasReads

Reviewer's Choice

Living in Maniototo
Janet Frame
Random House
9781741666069 AU$23.95

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Nothing in this story is what is seems. Mavis Furness, Mavis Barwell, Mavis Halleton, a woman who has buried two husbands (which, she believes, entitles her to special attention in neighbourly conversations at the bus-stop) is also Alice Thumb or Aurelia Lokinia, or Maui's sister...or, even, Violet Pansy Proudlock, ventriloquist. She tells us from the start that she is "twice removed from the real world". And, indeed, we would do well not to trust the stories she tells us, except that she tells them so well and so convincingly.

Like her creator, Janet Frame, Mavis is a New Zealander, a successful author, and a some-time inhabitant of mental hospitals. She teases us with details of her life, her likes, her dislikes, her beliefs and ideas, all of which could equally well be those of Janet Frame. She tells us about her marriages, her children, her friends, and, in particular, about the bizarre, totally unexpected inheritance of a house in America in which she had expected to be only a temporary house-sitter.

In the process of complying with the Will of the former owners of the house, neither of whom she had met, Mavis agrees to allow two couples to visit. Under the impulse of what she describes as 'Californian confession', each of Mavis's house-guests tells their life story - or, rather, a potted version, imagined and verbalized by Mavis herself in her alternative identity of Violet Pansy Proudlock, ventriloquist.

Throughout the book, Mavis's story-telling is imaginative, poetic, reflective, intelligent and gossipy. And, like the neighbours at the bus-stop, we pay due attention to her. But built into her tale, there is also a continuous reflection on (and of) the whole process of imaginative writing, on the boundaries between fact and fiction, on identity, on what is real, solid, reliable and what is not.

Janet Frame, who was once diagnosed as schizophrenic, perhaps knew better than most writers the unreliability of the boundaries between the world of physical and historical reality and the fluid, a-temporal world of the imagination. In this book, she played with this unreliability with considerable psychological insight and, ultimately, to great effect. Only occasionally do the meanderings of her story-teller, Mavis, become obscure or out of hand. Only occasionally does Mavis's ability to draw us into her world falter. So believable is she as a character, that we are drawn into her world, and trust her even as we disagree with some of her actions and views. So, when she pulls the rug from beneath our feet, we are totally unprepared.

Living in Maniototo is a strange, eccentric and often unpredictable book but in it Janet Frame imaginatively, interestingly and provocatively demonstrated just how unreliable our own judgement of others can be.

Janet Frame was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1924. She won numerous awards for her writing, including a CBE in 1983 for services to literature, a New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, and honorary foreign membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She died in Jan. 2004. A brief biography on Wikipedia outlines her life, her several involuntary and voluntary internments in mental hospitals, and her narrow escape (as a young woman) from a scheduled lobotomy.

Embrace Ultra-Ability! Wisdom, Insight & Motivation From the Blind Who Sees Far and Wide
Shirley Cheng
Dance With Your Heart Publishing
PO Box 146 Wappingers Falls, New York
9780615155227 $14.97

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Need words of wisdom, something profound? Prepare to be surprised at the insightfulness which comes from an unexpected place. Shirley Cheng's recommendations will motivate and impress you. Her thoughts will challenge you to question and rethink your assumptions, and she'll offer an elusive yet meaningful alternative order to the dubious skepticism you carry around.

Shirley will humble you as she displays her philosophy for a happy existence. Although she is blind, in a wheel-chair, suffers from severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, has limited mobility, and endures physical pain, she is positive. The cup is half full to her. Through her optimism and wise outlook, you will find hope. In spite of the fact that Shirley has suffered her whole twenty-four years of life, she describes herself as ultra-abled.

Shirley's positive outlooks, in spite of her physical disabilities, grace the pages of this book, as well as her other five and the ones she's contributed to. Each one inspires. Each sets examples of how to view our abilities and the world around us. Shirley also works hard for parental rights - something we're losing here in America. She asks you to please sign the Parental Rights in Children's Medical Care: Give Parents the

Right to Say No Petition:

Find zeal for life's quests and embrace your ultra-abilities. As you open your mind, you'll be challenged to be the best you can be, and reminded of life's enchantments. Recommended for anyone who needs a lift to the brighter side of life.

Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love
Cathy Day
Free Press
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416557104 $24.00

Dawn Papuga

Any time a woman writes a book about dating and relationships the market assumes it will be a trendy "how to" manual, a fluffy Chick Lit novel, or, worse yet, an insincere combination of the two genres. Most serious scholars wouldn't look twice at books in this category. For many serious critics and readers, the thought of a book about football and the agony of traversing the dating world couldn't possibly hold any literary value. For this reason, Cathy Day's memoir Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love, is not only unable to be easily categorized, it shakes up notions of where and how about social theory and commentary can take place.

Comeback Season chronicles Cathy Day's experience jumping back into the dating game over the course of the 2006 Indianapolis Colts season. A lover of both football and "locker room speeches," Day uses the tenacity of Peyton Manning and the Colts as an inspiration to make a genuine effort to overcome dating obstacles in her career, a new city renowned for dating difficulty for professional women, and her own patterns of unsuccessful partner choices. She bravely reveals her foray into the online dating world, and single-handedly fights a predatory scam dating service. At times Day's emotional admissions are all too painfully familiar to many professional women, but she manages to keep things in perspective with a sharp wit and outright laugh-out-loud humor. Day employs an imaginary female sports reporter to inject both self deprecating humor and social commentary, and it quickly becomes clear that the reporter embodies the traditional expectations that Day has to fight against throughout her dating season.

More importantly, Comeback Season is a commentary about the unexpected results of the feminist movement. It is now far more common for women to put off getting married out of high school or an undergrad program in order to pursue a career and education. This is, unquestionably, a success for the feminist movement, but it doesn't take into consideration the disparity between developing personal relationships and professional success that so many of those independent women, such as Day, face. When young girls were told that they can be whatever they wanted, all too often their attentions turned to career aspirations woefully devoid of female role models. Logically, then, those same young girls looked to male heroes to pattern their career paths after. Decades later it is no wonder that daughters of the early feminist movement are the ones left with the task of figuring out how to navigate between domestic desires and professional aspirations without crumbling under pressure to abandon one or the other. Couple this with the high personal and professional expectations of university English departments, and Day captures the complex lives of many female academics today.

From Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love:

…The ivory tower is full of single professional women, but in my experience, they very rarely talk about the similarity of their situations.

I was feeling mighty down the day of the exit interview. When Hattie asked me why I was leaving the college, I paused for a second and said, "Deep, soul-crushing loneliness."

For a second, I thought we both might start crying. Hattie looked deflated, like I'd knocked the wind out of her with those words. "I know what you mean," she offered. But then she recovered herself. She stood up from her chair, smoothed her blue skirt, and gave me a firm, businesslike handshake. "Good luck, Cathy." (109)

To dismiss Comeback Season as merely a dating memoir is a mistake. Too often "serious" social commentaries are expected to be dry, boring, emotionless, and full of jargon. Because Day writes with an accessible, often humorous, style and does so without masking the core issues of her journey behind opaque symbolism, the questions her experience raises will reach more women, and generate more constructive discussion about road blocks women face, but are ashamed to discuss for fear of being perceived as weak. After all, the problems that intelligent, professional women face aren't trapped inside the ivory tower. Cathy Day brings those issues to the streets in a way anyone can understand.

The Little Candy Breathing Dragons
Gloria Clark
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432715106 $12.95


What a delightful book to read with your kids…Nay-Nay and Maj are sweet sisters that love to help their neighbors. These little dragons are inseparable. They fill their day with fun-filled adventures of meeting new friends and helping others find their way. The lessons they learn - appreciating differences, understanding disabilities, assisting those in distress, and knowing exactly where home is - are core Christian values.

Clark does an exceptional job keeping high levels of excitement and creating new challenges throughout the story. The illustrations are amazing and truly follow the storyline. The occasional rhyme in the narrative, long paragraphs and mid-range vocabulary make this a challenging read for younger children. My girls loved the caring nature of the dragons and identified with the love shared between them. They have read the book numerous times always finding something new to discuss with each other.

College Admissions Together: It Takes A Family
Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman
Capital Books, Inc.
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166
9781933102542 $17.95

David Denman

Thank you for your consideration.

Along with this, I'm submitting an attached review of a distinctive book.

Doing College Admissions En Famille

I read with trepidation the request to review of what I inferred would be merely another book of hot tips about how to pry open the doors of selective colleges. Enough of those, I sighed. Thankfully, however, College Admissions Together by Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman is significantly different.

Aimed at parents, but clearly for the entire family, the book presents the journey through high school and the transition to college as a family matter to be shared. The authors allude delightfully in the subtitle to a work we are all aware of, whether or not we've read it. As they say, "It takes a family." Perhaps the family dynamics have to be reasonably good in order to follow the admonitions in the book, but any family which does will emerge stronger. In each chapter the embedded strategies are well interwoven with the discussion about college admission. One could almost approach the book as an extended interactional "game" designed to promote family harmony, with college admission being merely the topic that gives the exercise meaning!

The book brings to mind The Parents Guide by Don Dinkmeyer & Gary D. McKay, my favorite parental handbook. Steven Goodman and Andrea Leiman's book is somewhat like that -- with checklists, interpersonal exercises and provocative questions for discussion. While College Admissions Together is definitely a "how to" book, it is, happily, so much more. Ideally, the book would first be read by all the members of a family as a child enters the high school years, and then intermittently discussed over the next few years. That approach might help preempt later controversy related to family dynamics, fear of failure, peer group challenges, etc. These and similar issues are discussed succinctly and anecdotally in the book. Although such topics may seem only tangential to college admission, the authors remind us that adequately resolving them is crucial in adolescent development and thus germane to college admission. And, of course, to success in college.

The opening chapter, "A Safe Passage to Adulthood," acknowledges the inherent stress for families as young people progress, and includes the first of the book's novel exercises, this one to address family disagreements and conflicting preferences and opinions. The authors remind us that ideally parents give children roots and wings, and the essence of the book is about recognizing and constructively using the inevitable tension of relating with college bound adolescents. Subsequent chapters deal with potential domestic mine fields such as "Objectively Assessing Your Child," "Peer and Social Pressure," "Shifts in Family Control," "Establishing Realistic Expectations," "Enhancing Your Family's Communication" and "Family Member Responsibilities."

One could argue with a point here and there. For instance, shouldn't it be the aspiring adolescent who keeps track of application deadlines? One would like to think so, and to think of this competency as a test of readiness for college. We repeatedly assess academic preparation -- lest some child be left behind! Yet we overlook readiness. But perhaps the authors are being necessarily realistic: best not to entrust the adolescent with that crucial responsibility. Wisely, they advise parents, "You must keep careful track of admissions deadlines." (Emphasis mine.)

The book is tidy. Unlike other bloated volumes, College Admissions Together is a mere 174 pages. Easily skimmable in an evening. Yet it doesn't skimp on the essential details. The helpful chapter, "Key Aspects of College Applications" succinctly discusses where and when to apply, standardized tests, essays, financial aid and other related topics. In "The long Wait for Decisions" is the only discussion that I've ever seen in a college guide book regarding the emotional vulnerability of many young people at this time, including a cautionary few paragraphs about about the possibility of depression. The authors are thorough.

Incidentally, it is sobering to realize that according to a recent survey, 32% of American young people live in single parent families, most of them highly stressed with every day survival. (In Kansas it's 42%! No wonder a contemporary book title asks, "What's the matter with Kansas?") And since many children live in foster homes or with grandparents, uncles, aunts, or older siblings, far fewer than the remaining 68% live in two parent families. Sadly, those young people are unlikely to reap the benefits of the family interactions proposed in the book. Also, like most American youngsters, they are less likely to be in private schools or in SAT prep courses or have educational consultants or essay tutors. No doubt about it: there's no level playing field. But the disheartening statistics should not distract us from the value of this unique book. The model of cooperative effort presented in College Admission Together is superb. If I were to recommend only one book to parents of college bound young people it would be this one.

My friend Bill Coffin used to say regarding life, "It's about finding a transcendent purpose." For college counselors and college admissions officers, this yeasty book reminds us that there is one aspect of our college admissions work that is transcendent: the strengthening and enriching of the bonds of families. That -- and the writing of such a book as College Admissions Together -- is noble work.

Jesus Coyote
Harold Jaffe
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
9781933293554 $24.95 (hc) 9781933293639 $13.95 (pb)

Dustin LaValley

Following the success of 15 Serial Killers, Harold Jaffe brings to his readers a first rate, one-sit read with the docufiction Jesus Coyote. Based on the murders of the Manson cult, we are introduced to key figures such as Soul (Charles Manson), Kyle Sean Embry (Charles "Tex" Watson) and Jaroslav Hora (Roman Polanski) among many others, and witness details and stories from the aforementioned. Unlike the average novel, Jaffe's docufiction style provides witness testimonies, phone transcripts, interrogations, and press conferences. The violence is bloody and brutal; the author's voice is solid and smooth, reeling in the reader and keeping their eyes focused and their fingers turning the pages.

Jesus Coyote was the first novel of its kind for this reviewer, and although I was uncomfortable at first with its fashion, I found it easily comprehendible and a fun, exciting book.

How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now
James L. Kugel
Free Press
New York
9780743235860 $35.00

Fred Reiss

The Bible is the holiest of books for 2.1 billion Christians and 14 million Jews. More than 1.5 billion Muslims deem the holy Koran to be a continuation of the Old and New Testaments. Jewish tradition says that Moses, at God's direction, wrote the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, no later than about 1400 B.C.E. The authors of the books of the prophets and the various scrolls that make up the Writings composed them between 1400 B.C.E. and 450 B.C.E. Yet, James L. Kugel in his newest book, How to Read the Bible, would have us believe that the Bible is not divinely inspired and the books of the prophets are not even written by the authors who bear their names.

Kugel presents a well-written and comprehensive analysis of many biblical stories; covering nearly every book of the Bible and though highly footnoted, it is comprehensible to both scholar and layman alike. How to Read the Bible begins by drawing on the work of mid-nineteenth century German theologian, Julius Wellhausen, who proposed that the Pentateuch had more that one writer. After extensive linguistic analysis, Wellhausen concluded that there were at least four different authors. Author J consistently used the Hebrew letters that correspond to the English letters Y-H-V-H (Y is spelled in German with a J) for the name of God. Author E preferred another Hebrew name for God, Elohim. P's style showed that he wrote the sections that emphasized chronology and laws, and D wrote the Book of Deuteronomy.

In addition to using the word YHVH for God's name, author J calls Sinai God's mountain and stresses Southern Israel. In contrast, E uses Elohim (a word that means god or gods, lower case), calls Mt. Horeb God's mountain and highlights Northern Israel. Among other things, author P emphasizes Southern Israel and focuses on genealogy and laws. Finally, author D refers to God as YHVH and accentuates the centrality of prayer in Jerusalem. An unknown redactor, about 500 B.C.E., united all the material written by J, E, P, and D. This is why, according to Wellhausen's hypothesis, the Bible has two creation stories (Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 and 2:4 - 2:25), two stories of the flood (Genesis 6:5-8:22 and 6:9-8:19, the two accounts are intertwined), two versions of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-14 and Deuteronomy 5:6-18), and so on. Wellhausen's theory became known as the Documentary Hypothesis, which has survived scholarly scrutiny over the last 150 years, and is generally accepted by all but the most ardent literalists, such as Orthodox Jews and Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians.

Kugel insists that these anonymous authors, as well as those who wrote after the Israelites settled Canaan, drew on and adopted folklore known from the distant past, including both Jewish oral history, narratives that were common knowledge in the Middle/Near East and historical material preserved by both kings and priests. The biblical stories were written, he asserts, in order to explain the authors'/editors' present based on past events (etiological narratives) or to make specific points (schematic narratives).

These anonymous authors used etiological narratives to explain to their contemporaries, for example, why different groups of Semites spoke different languages (Tower of Babel), to explain why the Israelites (fathered by Jacob) and the Edomites (fathered by Esau) were closely related by often at war with each other, to explain why Rahab's (the prostitute who sheltered Joshua and his men when they spied on Jericho) relatives (foreigners) stilled lived in Canaan, and why the tribe of Jacob's eldest son, Reuben, produced no King (see Genesis 49:3-4). Likewise, they used schematic narratives to tell what happens if you disobey God's command (Adam and Eve, Lot's wife), murder (Cain and Abel), or display general wickedness (Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah). The authors, Kugel asserts, never intended to predict the future; this idea surfaces later with another group of editors.

According to Kugel, between 300 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., mostly unknown "ancient interpreters" construed biblical stories in ways the original authors never intended. They mistakenly read the Bible with four assumptions: (1) the Bible is essentially cryptic, (2) the Bible is a book of lessons aimed at readers in their own day, (3) the Bible contains no contradictions, and (4) the Bible was given by God. In addition, after the death of Jesus, early Christian interpreters, using typological narratives, that is, reinterpreting the Old Testament to predict future events, showed that many of its verses predicted Jesus as the Messiah. For example, based on assumption 3, why would God test Abraham when He knew the outcome in advance? To eliminate the contradiction, the interpreters made an analogy between Abraham and Job. They said that God knew the outcome, but He had to demonstrate to Satan Abraham's loyalty to God through a variety of tests. Based on assumption 2, the ancient interpreters changed the story of Dinah's rape and the subsequent revenge by her brothers to be as an admonition to the Jewish nation not to intermarry.

In addition, the ancient interpreters saw biblical characters as either all good or all bad. They considered Jacob "good" although he stole his brother's birthright and lied to his father. They saw King David as a "good" person, brushing aside his adultery and other wrong doings, but considered Balaam "bad," even though he spoke God's words and blessed the Israelites. They altered the original meaning of the Song of Songs from a love story between a man and woman to God's love for Israel.

Kugel, by his own admission, is a practicing Orthodox Jew; so one would expect him to fall squarely on the side of the ancient interpreters, the message that congregants and parishioners receive at sermons during Sabbath services. This is not the case. In each chapter, he gives the reader a balanced approach between the original authors, ancient interpreters and modern biblical scholarship, but he clearly sides with modern scholarship. In the chapter titled "Moses in Egypt," Kugel begins by faithfully retelling the narrative of Moses' exploits while living in the Pharaoh's palace. He then follows this with stories that arose from ancient interpreters, such as Josephus, Philo and book of Acts. From here he moves into biblical scholarship by digressing into the fascinating birth of Egyptology and telling the story of the discovery and translation of the Rosetta stone, the archeology revealing the authenticity of the Exodus, the 'Apiru, an enslaved people in Egypt and an analogy between the birth of Moses and the legend, written in cuneiform, of the birth of Sargon I of Agade.

Kugel did not write this book to make fundamentalists become atheists, or turn believers into disbelievers. From his own admission, he is well aware that the human mind has the capacity to compartmentalize science and religion. He also knows that over time religion assimilates scientific ideas. Neither the Copernican revolution, which contradicts biblical cosmology, nor the publication of the Origin of the Species, which powerfully explains the evolution of life on earth without God, brought an end to religion. Instead, Kugel wants his readers to come away with a greater appreciation for the Bible. He believes that by understanding what the ancient interpreters wrote, we will be able to peel away the newer and transient meanings found in the Bible and come to understand its books at a deeper level, the level of what the original authors were communicating to the reader, "How to serve God."

Unicorn Races
Stephen J. Brooks, Illustration: Linda Crockett
Purple Sky Publishing
P.O. Box 12013, Parkville, MO 64152
9780976901730 $16.95

Joyce P. Hale

I've always loved books on unicorns, fairies, etc. It gives me a place in which to retire, relax and lose my stress. Unicorn Races is a beautifully written book by Stephen J. Brooks, Unicorn Races impresses as soon as you pick it up, with the illustrations of Linda Crockett, and the design and publication. Then, of course, you read the story..... This grandmother read it aloud, enjoying the mystery, beauty and adventure. From the hidden glade, down and up around the path of the race, and back to the festivities with the elves and fairies. The main character, Abigail, is a lovely and regal princess. Truly, children will lose themselves in its magic.

"There in the window, in the moon's soft light, was a most magnificent unicorn of noble descent. 'I am here Your Highness,' said the unicorn, bowing his head."

The Chalice of Life
Karen Anne Webb
Dragon Moon Press
PO Box 1126, Norcross, GA 30091
1896944337 $19.95

Kim Rapier

Welcome to a universe where ancient and modern worlds collide. Where strangers are gathered together to go on a quest.

Karen Anne Webb's fantasy, THE CHALICE OF LIFE, is the first book in the Adventures of The Carotian Union series.

Seven individuals from five different races set out on a quest of the Lost Prince Eliander. Included in this group are a passionate Bard, a Lemurian thief, a priest, a shape shifter, a black Tigroid talking cat, a princess, a holy knight, and a shape shifter. All share one thing in common--the mark of the goddess Minissa.

Each of them is given tokens to help on the quest. They meet at a rendezvous point in the enchanted world of Tuhl. An ill dragon blocks a portal to their next destination. They must find the jeweled chalice of healing to cure the dragon before they can move on to their next mission. On the way they meet a human archaeologist who helps them on their quest. Throughout the journey they must learn to set their differences aside and work together. But this shouldn't be a problem for true heroes.

This book is sure to appeal to lovers of Tolkien. The author creates an interesting universe complete with different societies and belief systems. Each of the characters must work together in order to complete the first part of their mission. My favorite character, Habie, had a Tamora Pierce feel to her; feistiness and spunk. I wanted to read more about her.

The pacing picks up after the first one hundred pages. The author spends a lot of time describing the worlds, characters, societies, and belief systems. Though necessary, I felt this slowed down the story. Some of the philosophical discussions between the characters felt speech like and slowed down the action. I got confused with all the different characters as most of them sounded the same. Also some of the modern terms were jarring and took me out of an otherwise fascinating story.

This intriguing fantasy is sure to appeal to those who enjoy Tolkien. This story will not disappoint readers who like to discover different worlds and people.

The Truth, Because My Wife Said I Could Tell It
Alexander Roderick
Alex Max Publishing
5656 Jonesboro Road, Suite 111 #336, Lake City, GA 30260
9780979664304 $19.99

Makasha Dorsey, Reviewer

Alexander Roderick's "The Truth, Because My Wife Said I Could Tell It" is a refreshing, honest look at how men deal when they approach potential relationships.

Told from his perspective, "The Truth …" delves into the complexities of the male psyche while pointing out mistakes women make when they attempt to make men love them. He candidly calls out men by exposing the unwritten "code", reasons men are really snakes, and other common sense tactics that women often overlook.

The writing is humorous and may invoke feelings of happiness, anger, and the dreaded: wow, I fell for that. Men may lose a little of their game because Roderick has definitely published the cheat codes to assist women everywhere from falling prey to their premeditated, calculating wiles.

Now, instead of relying on information from girlfriends and sisters women finally have a handbook, written by a man, to help them avoid wasting time with losers, players, and cheaters. After reading "The Truth, Because My Wife Said I Could Tell It", women will view men in a totally new light - one where every man has an illuminated tattoo stating, "Let the Woman Beware", on his forehead.

No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!
Louise Lewis
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595429714 $18.95

Mark Nash

Louise Lewis' new book is those looking for main stream advice from everyday people on the meaning of life, and how to deal with the curve balls placed in our path along the way. Purposely void of pundits, commentators and Dr. Phil, Ms. Lewis brings us a variety of in-the-trenches perspectives on many issues, that trouble all of us at ne point or another. Written in a clear, methodical style, No Experts Needed is an easy book to put down and pick up, without losing the point.

Chapter titles are: A Book is Born, Spirit's First Words, The Conception and the Oprah Connection, The Answer Revealed, Deliver Us From, A Tropical Paradise, Teachers on our Path, Free Spirits All Around, Musical Souls, My Love Life Is a Zit, The "Tired of Dating" Club, How Would Daddy Answer?, To Be Blessed With Sisters, And Then There's Momma, Queen Mary Mates, Climbing the Family Tree, God Bless the Child, Bella Italia, Momma Cries Out, The Best Job in the World, Boy Meets Girl, A Man-Made Lake, A God-Given Blessing, Work Pals, G'day Mates, Ceerizini Pals, If We Never Meet Again, A Slice of a Dream, Gifts from Above, Canyon Bliss, Marty's Story, Mu Southern Crawl, I Promise...This Will Be My Last Trip, Ok, I Lied, Rejection City, Me? A Celebrity Stalker?, The Ripple Effect, The Neighborhood of 9/11, A Slice Is a Slice, Right?, Ask and Ye Shall Receive, The Last Ripple?, Katrina...A Terrible Lady, Now It's Your Turn, and an introduction.

No Expert's Needed is good book to use as a spiritual reference guide when you have those moments when live overwhelms you. The author's anecdotes in a multitude of different situations brought a smile or an ah-ha to my lips. Just when I didn't think I need an uplift from my life, reading this book reawoke in me my need to give in order to get. Plus give with pleasure and have no expectations in the favor being returned. This book is a breath of fresh air, one that you should keep close at hand, to keep your emotional life focused.

Three Novellas
Sandra Shwayder Sanchez
Wessex Collective
P.O. Box 1088, Nederland CO 80466-1088
9780979751608 $15.00

Mayra Calvani

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez continues to prove herself as a powerful voice in the serious, literary scene. Her latest book, a collection of three novellas, is a darkly compelling work filled with complex characters, vibrant images, and sparklingly insightful prose.

Each novella depicts the lives of various characters and their connections to one another. Sometimes the connections are because of family ties, sometimes because fate ironically brings their lives together. The novellas are about the journeys, either conscious or unconscious, that the characters take, while seemingly they roam aimlessly, lost in a vastness that's too large for them to figure out.

In The Last Long Walk of Noah Brown, we meet Noah, a kind, innocent soul in a world of evil. Though he's not aware of it, Noah is developmentally disabled. In other words, a person who is "too innocent for the guilty world." (29) Noah is the product of incest, a fact he learns from his mother later in life. He begins his journey in Annapolis in 1965 and we go through his ups and downs (a lot more downs than ups) all the way to New Orleans in 2007. During his journey he meets many people, some good, other evil. He learns and experiences many things, including the carnal love of a woman. He develops a close, warm relationship with his mother, whom he had always believed to be his sister. Most intriguing of all, Noah has an ambitious dream - to build an ark (he sees this as his destiny, having being named 'Noah') and save people and animals from a flood. And, in New Orleans, he finally lives to see his dream come true.

The Last Long Walk of Noah Brown is filled with vivid images, at times touching, at times dark. All throughout, however, there is a quiet atmosphere of sadness and doom, of helplessness. The story has the tone of a fable and some segments are dream-like and sparkle with beautiful, sensuous writing.

"Noah started walking to the water, watching its oily darkness, the soft sound of it lapping up against the sides of the boat. The moon glimmered on the water, a mother watching him, and he stared at it for hours mesmerized and soothed. Eventually he had to leave, go back home, he couldn't stay here forever, watching the moon's reflection on the water…unless… he did nothing that first night by the water. He returned every night and stared at the moon until it had grown from a silver crescent to a large full round moon and it was simply too lovely to leave so he looked for a way into the water, and finally jumped, shocked by the coldness of it, the breath knocked out of him and he let himself sink, stopped breathing even before he was completely under and passed out." (34-35)

Sanchez accomplishes a marvelous rhythm and cadence by combining short sentences with very long, run-on ones. At times her paragraphs are made up of only one long sentence, a la Garcia Marquez. Although this can be annoying with some writers, Sanchez seems to have a talent for it.

In The King and the Clockmaker, the author examines the origins of evil and the meaning of time. The story itself is a nightmarish dream, a dream the narrator consciously has in order to avoid the pain of loss, and the random, senseless violence of the real world. In this dream, which reads like a sinister fairytale, there are two main characters - the king and the clockmaker. The clockmaker builds the most magnificent clock for the king, who's always been obsessed with time. Afterwards, however, the king sears the clockmaker's eyes with molten iron. Thus begins their disturbing relationship, for the kind clockmaker is set on getting his revenge, and the terrible king, in some ill way, seeks his forgiveness. As they come to know each other, bonded by the infamous clock, truths emerge about the king, his childhood, and his gruesome nature. They become oddly dependant on one another until the king's demise. Afterwards the clockmaker's journey continues, a journey that takes him through many pathways.

This novella in particular is filled with complex metaphors and allegories, and some scenes shine with vivid, haunting imagery. More poignant segments include the king killing a bird, then impaling it to bury it; or another even more lingering, the king happily lying under the bleeding body of his servant, whom he has just stabbed to death, and afterwards needing three bronze tubs of fresh water to cleanse himself of all the blood.

Sanchez also uses elements of magical realism to add intricacy and symbolism to the writing, like in the scene where a woman is turned into a stone and later on, when someone splits the stone, the woman's heart is found inside it. She also gives forest animals preternatural attributes, as in the case of the buck and the mountain lion, thus adding to the magical realism effect.

The dream in this novella is an allegory of the perverse cruelty of the world, of "the accumulation of violence that is everywhere around us." (109) " However vast the expanse of time and space that surrounds us," reflects the narrator, "every soul entrapped in a human body is trapped in a cell with the poisonous snake of violence coiled in a corner ready to strike." (109)

In the last novella, The Vast Darkness, we meet Sara, a young student of anthropology who, temporarily, takes residence in the mountains to study the influence of isolated mountain living upon its residents. She soon becomes acquainted with Robert, a sinister young man who arouses fear in people and who enjoys manipulating them into committing 'evil' acts. In fact, he's like the devil himself, whispering words into the characters' ears, tempting, gently provoking, until murder and violence ensue. Without meaning to, Sara causes a man - a good man who's committed murder to avenge the crime committed against his young, innocent daughter - to go to prison. Afterwards, Robert softly coaxes this man to take revenge against Sara.

As with the other novellas, this one also deals with the concepts of evil and violence and how they are inherent in all of us, a theme that often surfaces in Sanchez's works. "I think God made us in his image and God has a mean streak a mile wide is what I think," (131) says Robert to Sara.

Dreams, often violent, are always an element used by this author to add insight and symbolism to the writing. Sanchez also enjoys including wild animals in the story, not only as tools for magical realism, but to somehow show the paradox of the beauty and brutality that is nature - another one of her recurrent themes.

Three Novellas isn't an easy read. For the average reader, it is a challenge. For the sophisticated booklover, it is a tasty morsel to be savored slowly and patiently in order to absorb all it has to offer. What stands out, above all, is the purity and splendor of the writing. Sanchez's works are rare delicacies.

Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill)
David Cay Johnson
The Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781591841913 $24.95

Peter Hupalo

Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense by David Cay Johnson will outrage the average American by showing how the super affluent publicly profess "free market" economics while covertly using government policy to insulate their companies from competition and pocket taxpayer dollars as subsidies.

Johnson explains that taxpayer subsidies steal from honest entrepreneurs to benefit the greedy who manipulate the government. He calls this "corporate socialism" and says: "Corporate socialism makes it possible for Wal-Mart to grab market share by undercutting the competition that did not get subsidies, while appearing to win because it was just more efficient."

Surprisingly, Johnson says a bigger recipient of direct corporate welfare than Wal-Mart (per company size) is Cabela's, the outdoor-sporting-goods store. Cabela's convinces local governments that its stores are "destinations" which will benefit the local economy by serving as tourist attractions (a claim Johnson smashes). Cabela's then seeks tax benefits and other compensation to build its stores.

Johnson writes: "The tribute Cabela's demanded from Hamburg [Pennsylvania] amounted to roughly $8,000 for each man, woman, and child in town." Johnson points out that between 2004 and 2006, Cabela's earned $223.4 million. During those years, it collected at least $293.7 million in subsidies, more than its reported profits. Meanwhile a family business selling fishing and hunting gear was driven out of business in Hamburg.

Success didn't go to the best competitor, but to the most skilled at getting government handouts. Johnson says it's morally unfair to use tax dollars paid by a small business to fund its rival, a larger corporation. Johnson says such subsidies are inefficient and place a drag on the American economy.

To explain how subsidy economics work, Johnson quotes Cabela's annual report: "Historically, we have been able to negotiate economic development arrangements relating to the construction of a number of our new destination retail stores, including free land, monetary grants and the recapture of incremental sales, property or other taxes through economic development bonds, with many local and state governments…"

Johnson tells us the consequences of America's economic policy favoring the exploitation of the middle class for the benefit of the super rich has very negative long-term economic consequences. For example, Johnson writes about how the Chinese got neodymium magnet research and manufacture moved out of the United States. These magnets are used in precision guided missiles. Johnson says that in the coming years, Americans could see 40 million jobs move overseas, because of the availability of low cost labor overseas and government policies designed to protect corporations, not American workers, nor even America's national security. Johnson says this could lead to an American economic plight that rivals the Great Depression. He asks us to contemplate a future where the great majority of Americans are reduced to "servant-level wages and jobs."

What about that hallmark of Americanism, pro sports? Unprofitable without subsidies, Johnson says. Of course, just taking other people's property is the simplest way for the politically powerful to enrich themselves at the expense of others.

Johnson explains how George W. Bush used eminent domain to seize land held by other Texans to build a new sports stadium and entertainment complex for his Texas Rangers investment. Taxpayers, via stadium bonds and an increase in the sales tax, paid for enriching Bush and his cronies. Bush's group got the right to purchase the stadium for less than one-third of the cost to build it. And, they got a rent-to-own deal, where every dollar paid in rent applied to the purchase price of the stadium. As Johnson observes, try getting that kind of rent-to-own deal from your local appliance store! These deals only occur because those negotiating for the government are really bought and paid for by the special interests negotiating on the other side.

Meanwhile, Texans were subjected to Enron's promotion of "market" electricity prices, which drove up electric energy prices by fifty percent in four years. Consumers will be shocked to learn how (in many states) they are now ripped off by electric companies. Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense explains that while the costs to produce electricity haven't increased significantly, policies now allow energy companies to artificially bid up the cost consumers must pay for their electricity.

Enron's new "market" economics went to work in other states, where Johnson tells us consumers in those states paid $48 billion more in average energy costs in 2007 than consumers in states which retained traditional regulated utility rates. Johnson says this change in how utilities are allowed to price is a major reason legendary investor Warren Buffett has invested in more utilities.

These changes in electricity pricing are the direct result of large corporations buying political influence and lobbying to benefit themselves at the expense of citizens. One of the biggest supporters of this new government policy of transferring wealth from citizens to energy companies is Vice President Dick Cheney. When confronted with how California energy prices were artificially driven up because many producers were intentionally offline, Cheney quipped, "You know what? You just don't understand economics."

Johnson tells us America's high health care and exorbitant drug costs also stem from government policies designed to benefit HMOs and drug companies and to help them maximize their profits by soaking American citizens.

I think every American who wants to understand America's present economic plight should read Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense by David Cay Johnson.

26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur
Florence Chatzigianis
9780979279621 $16.95

Shirley Roe

Seeing the countryside by foot is one of the most exhilarating, enriching and healthy ways to travel. Hikers and walkers will see scenery, historical sites and wildlife that auto travelers will never see. As an avid hiker, this book is one that I will treasure.

Author Florence Chatzigianis takes travelers on several half day hikes in the Cote d'Azur region of France. Her descriptions of the area, concise and accurate directions and detailed information will make hiking easy for anyone. Each hike is vividly described and accompanied by beautiful photos of the region. Difficulty, distance and hiking times are given to aid the traveler in his or her plans.

Glossy pages, complete with contact information, maps and even the small size of the book make this a huge asset to hikers considering France as their destination. The book is well laid out, easy to read and educational. The back of the book includes a list of local sporting goods stores for supplies as well as a list of tourist information offices. Pick up a copy, put it in your backpack and set off on an exciting journey in France as a well-informed hiker.

Highly recommended for hikers and travelers. Available through your local bookstore or from

Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion
Francisco J. Ayala
John Henry Press
9780309102315 $24.95

David Roemer

The following quote from Francisco J. Ayala shows people of faith in the 19th century were right to be concerned about the discovery of evolution and parents are right today to be concerned about what their children are being taught in biology classes:

Two major puzzles of human evolution remain. One puzzle is the genetic basis of the ape-to-human transformation…The other puzzle is the brain-to-mind transformation. We know that the 30 billion neurons in our brains communicate between themselves and with other nerve cells by chemical and electrical signals. How do these signals become transformed into perceptions, feelings, ideas, critical arguments, aesthetic emotions, and ethical and religious values? And how, out of this diversity of experiences, does a unitary reality emerge, the mind or self? The soul created by God, you might say, accounts for both transformations: ape to human and brain to mind. This religious answer may be satisfactory for believers, but it is not scientifically satisfactory. I still want to know how the anatomical and behavioral traits that differentiate us from apes emerge out of our genetic differences; I also want to know the biological correlates that account for mental experiences. (p. 10)

What Professor Ayala, a chief witness in the trial in Arkansas against creationism in 1981, calls the "brain-to-mind transformation" is usually described as the mind-body dichotomy or problem. The problem gives rise to a personal question touching on our experience of guilt and blame: What is the relationship between ourselves and our bodies? This question arises because we have the ability to transcend ourselves and become the subject of own knowledge. It also gives us an experience of God as the infinite abyss surrounding ourselves when we contemplate our own existence. That we have free will and conscious knowledge is an existential truth, not a scientific truth, coming from this transcendence.

Two other ways to express this transcendental knowledge is to say that we are rational animals and that we have souls. These statements are true because human beings are indefinabilties that become conscious of their own existence. A statement with more content is that human beings are embodied spirits. Anyone denying our immateriality can be confronted with the unanswerable existential questions: What is free will? What is conscious knowledge? What are ideas and other mental constructs?

Ayala mentions the mysteries existentialism invites us to inquire about, but he does not choose to ask existential questions. He asks only scientific questions: How do signals from nerve cells transform into ideas, the mind, and the self? He rejects existentialism and a transcendental level of knowledge, perhaps, because of a fear of mystery and a fear of the infinite. Or, he might derive satisfaction from the simplification that the scientific method can render the universe intelligible. In any case, his scientism is nothing but a superstition that places a barrier between himself and the incomprehensible and infinite One.

The "religious answer" to the question of whether human beings evolved from apes can be found in Humani generis by Pope Pius XII. This 1950 encyclical says that the evolution of human beings refers only to our bodies and that our souls are created by God. The pope also said that regardless of what evolutionary theories there are about polygenism, the Roman Catholic Church knows from the Bible that all human beings descended from Adam. That the whole man - body and soul - did not evolve from apes was considered by the Holy Father to be a scientific and existential truth knowable by reason alone.

Luckily for the Roman Catholic Church, recent research indicates Homo sapiens entered history in Africa, which means monogenism and the doctrine of original sin are safe. The pope's idea that evolution only applies to the bodies of human beings is supported by any textbook about evolution. Biology textbooks are concerned with science, not existentialism. Biology textbooks don't say, as does Ayala, that the existence of the human soul is a matter of religious belief.

The next quote shows that Ayala does not understand Christian existentialism and fundamental dogmas of the Christian faith:

Similarly, at the personal level of the individual, I can believe that I am Gods creature without denying that I developed from a single cell in my mother's womb by natural processes. (p. 175)

The Christian faith rejects any kind of dualism between the soul and body of human beings. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (three persons and one nature) and the Incarnation (one person and two natures) assumes the history of the universe is the same as the history of human beings. According to the doctrine of original sin, human beings inherit the guilt of Adam's and Eve's sin through sexual generation. The idea that when a human being is conceived a miracle is performed is not based on Christian beliefs. The birth and death of a human being are natural processes. In fundamental theology, unnatural processes are called miracles and miracles are historical signs that a prophet has been sent by God. The salvation of human beings and faith in revelation, being gifts from God, can be considered supernatural processes.

What this means is that Ayala should not be teaching children biology. He misrepresents what evolution says to deceive others or to deceive himself. If apes are spiritual beings it may be true that they have the potential to become human beings. However, the concept of potential is an existential concept, not a scientific concept. Lest there be any doubt from the title of the book that Ayala is a materialist and an atheist:

Pope Pius XII…acknowledged that biological evolution was compatible with the Christian faith, although he argued that Gods intervention was necessary for the creation of the human soul. (p. 164, emphasis added)

I do not believe that the mysteries of the mind are unfathomable; rather, they are puzzles that humans can solve with the methods of science and illuminate with philosophical analysis and reflection. (p. 115)

The reason God's "intervention" is necessary for the creation of human beings is that human beings are finite and finite beings need a cause. The spirituality of human beings means that human beings are unified with respect to themselves and are finite beings in the court of conscience and reason. Ayala thinks science can explicate the existential unity of human beings in terms of the electrical, chemical, and biological signals between neurons and thereby reveal that our transcendental existence is an illusion. If God exists, according to Ayala, all He did was create electrical, chemical, and biological signals.

As can be expected, Ayala argues that the theory of intelligent design (ID) is not a scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution. The latest explanation of ID is by Michael J. Behe (The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. Free Press: New York, 2007). Behe renders moot Ayala's point that ID is not science by not spending much time on the theory and presenting it in a humble and tentative way. He is not tentative about Darwinian evolution, saying it can destroy biological machinery, but can't build it up. Behe argues that the recently discovered mechanism for transporting cellular material in the tail of a single-celled organism (the website shows a film of this) is irreducibly complex and cant be explained by Darwinian evolution. To illustrate Darwinian destructiveness he cites sickle cell hemoglobin, an adaptation that protects against malaria. Behe likened the acceptance of Darwinian evolution by biologists with the belief of 19th century physicists that light travels, not in a vacuum, but in an invisible substance, highly rigid but having a low density, that permeates all of space.

Joke: Professor Behe, Professor Ayala, and Jean-Paul Sartre (atheisitic existentialist) were stranded on an island and were discussing the Big Bang. Behe said the Big Bang was created ex nihilo by an angel. Ayala said the Big Bang was a vacuum fluctuation. Sartre said there was no angel and no vacuum.

As to the reason why Darwinian evolution is a gift to religion, Ayala says:

Indeed, a major burden was removed from the shoulders of believers when convincing evidence was advanced that the design of organisms need not be attributed to the immediate agency of the Creator, but rather is an outcome of natural processes. (p. 159)

Believers are sure that the eternal rewards of the next world will more than compensate for the suffering and injustices of this world. Nor is there any burden on those trying to decide whether or not the Creator has communicated himself to mankind through the Bible, the Koran, or the scriptures of the Eastern religions. Indeed, someone making what is the most important decision in every person's life will be led to make a positive decision for God by the possibility that God makes us suffer in order to help us develop character, just like good parents are not overprotective of their children.

David Hume, who Ayala quoted in full, said a good and omnipotent God would not let human beings suffer. Since people suffer, the reasoning goes, God is not omnipotent and good.

As to God's goodness, this reasoning is fallacious because we should let our fellow man suffer, even if we have the power to prevent it, if a higher good is thereby achieved. Physicians, for example, will not prescribe morphine in many cases because of the higher good of preventing addiction to the drug. It is true that we don't know what higher good God serves by giving us our freedom in this evolutionary world. However, we cannot conclude from our lack of knowledge that there is no higher good and that God is not good.

As to God's omnipotence, this reasoning is fallacious because God is not a finite being. If God was a finite being, it would be some kind of spirit without a body and its existence would not make our own finite existence intelligible.

I am licensed by the State of New York to teach biology to children and would tell them evolution applies only to the bodies of Homo sapiens. Either I am wrong or Ayala is.

Nexus: A Neo Novel
Deborah Morrison and Arvind Singh
Manor House Publishing
9780978107000 $14.95

Scott North

Nexus offers an engaging and insightful journey of an odd mix of people drawn together to a spiritual retreat to overcome personal pain. This book will please readers of spiritual, new age, inspirational, self-help and visionary fiction books. It weaves insights within the narrative like The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and The Peaceful Warrior series by Dan Millman. While editing errors occurred in the first printing, those shortcomings have been removed in the second printing.

Starting with a dramatic suicide scene through intimate details of the struggle of Logan Andrews with depression and despair, we are brought on a journey of inner struggle and personal transformation. The reader is transported to a spiritual retreat learns where the experiences of people at the retreat provide illuminating life lessons. The tone of book creates an authentic journey that is both exploratory and insightful. The overriding theme in Nexus is mystical in its nature, narrating experiences of deeper connection felt with one another and all of life. This is poignantly highlighted in key passages, including Logan's empathy for a dying fish in Chapter 6.

The authors, Deborah Morrison and Arvind Singh, draw upon their experiences in their practice as therapists and as relaxation educators. Their interest in spirituality, healing and personal transformation and empowerment is reflected in the co-authored book. It is rare to find a collaborative novel with a coherent and succinct voice, yet the authors of Nexus have succeeded on both counts.

As you follow Logan and the journey of other characters, you question your own attitudes to life. Logan follows his dream that guides him to the retreat in search of finding his inner peace. Logan is not presented as a perfect human being with heroic qualities, rather he is an anti-hero figure, who is a troubled individual filled with fears. This creates realism to his character that is often missing in many self-help books without this depth.

This is a different kind of book and it is worth reading on many levels. It starts off by revealing the problem faced by each individual, then it shows their capacity to transform their life. When you read Nexus, the wisdom resonates deeply within you, not always consciously but at a soulful level. Anyone interested in an insightful, original story would want to read this book.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Dear First Lady
Dwight Young & Margaret Johnson
National Geographic Society
1145 - 17th Street, NW. Washington, DC 20036-4688
9781426200878, $25.00

The wives of American presidents have been impressively diverse in personality and their interpretations of the role of 'First Lady' of the nation. Now for the first time in our political history we have a former First Lady actively seeking to become president in her own right -- which would make her husband, a former president, our unprecedented 'First Gentleman'. "Dear First Lady: Letters To The White House From The Collections Of The Library Of Congress & National Archives" is the collaborative work of Dwight Young (Senior Communications Associate, national Trust for Historic Preservation) and Margaret Johnson (researcher, editor, and author of four previous titles for the National Geographic Society). Profusely illustrated with historic photos and full-size facsimiles of the original correspondences, readers are treated to an informative, intimate 'window' into the lives and concerns of these women and the people who wrote them letters that range from the amusing, to the tragic, to the heartwarming. From British artist John Trumbull informing Martha Washington that is he sending her an engraving of one of his portraits of her husband (which engraving still hangs in Mount Vernon today), to Queen Victoria offering consolation to Mary Todd Lincoln, to a girl with a pen pal in India asking Jacqueline Kennedy if she can accompany the first lady on a trip to that country, to Laura Bush writing a letter to the children of American after 9/11 to reassure them that people love and care about them and are looking out for their safety, "Letters To The White House" is a compendium of bits of heretofore obscure White House history that spans two hundred years. Simply stated, every school and community library should have on their shelves for the benefit of their students and patrons a copy of "Letters To The White House.

Landscapes Of Minnesota
John Fraser Hart & Susy Svatek Ziegler
Minnesota Historical Society Press
345 Kellogg Boulevard, West, St. Paul, MN 55102-1906
9780873515917, $24.95 1-800-647-7827

The geography of a land is as important as its climate in determining the kind of ecosystems it will support, the growth patterns of the human populace and their activities, the sort of lives and livelihoods that will be fostered. To understand a state's history, it is always useful to understand its geography. The collaborative work of John Fraser Hart (Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota) and Susy Svatek Ziegler (Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota), "Landscapes Of Minnesota" is a comprehensive survey of this upper Midwest state's geography, including its impact upon the people, the land, and the Minnesota economy. The informed and informative text is enhanced for the reader with the added inclusion of 110 color photographs, 100 maps, 30 graphs, 10 line drawings, tables, extensive notes, a glossary, and an index. Also available in a hardcover edition (9780873516112, $34.95), "Landscapes Of Minnesota" is a work of impressive scholarship and ideal as a textbook. While highly recommended for personal, academic and community library reference collections, "Landscapes of Minnesota" would also serve as an ideal template and example for similar studies of other states.

My Heart It Is Delicious
Biloine W. Young
Afton Historical Society Press
PO Box 100, Afton, MN 55001
9781890434762, $35.00 1-800-436-8443

All that is necessary to address the ills of our world is for men and women of good intention to become involved. "My Heart It Is Delicious: Setting the Course for Cross-Cultural Health Care" is the story and history of the Center for International Health and a small group of Minnesota citizens who felt the need to form the American Refugee Committee of Minneapolis respond to an international health crisis in the form of starving and sick refugees on the war-torn Thai-Cambodian border in 1979 by sending a small medical team to their assistance. During the ensuing three decades a great many lessons were learned, including the necessity to adapt western medicine to southeast Asian cultures so that when non-English-speaking refugees came to American they could hope for improved health care. A compilation of illustrative stories, "My Heart It Is Delicious" is profusely illustrated throughout with both black-and-white as well as color photography, enhancing the text and the reader's appreciation for what has been accomplished against seemingly insurmountable odds. A heartwarming account of the good that can be done, the changes that can be made, the successes represented by shattered lives made whole again, and the never ending need for men and women of good conscience like Dr. Patricia Walker (directory of the Center for International health in St. Paul), "My Heart It Is Delicious" is very encouraging and occasionally inspiring reading.

Tiny Toes
Kelly K. Damron
Twin Peas LLC
PO Box 50486, Phoenix, AZ 85076
9780979374302, $14.95

There is a drive within the genetic code of human beings that can be as urgent as the need for food, water, or sleep. It is the urge to procreate. When Kelly Damron and her husband tried to have children in 2001 she had to deal with the problem of infertility. She was finally able to conceive only to have her twin daughters born prematurely in 2004. Then after their troubled birth, Kelly found herself experiencing postpartum depression. She went on to join the march of Dimes as an active volunteer in 2006 and became the co-chair of the Family Teams Committee for the March for Babies (formerly known as WalkAmerica). She was the Mission Family presenter for the March of Dimes WalkAmerica event on May 17, 2007, and has become involved with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, assisting in their Marketing and Events Committees. In "Tiny Toes: A Couple's Journey Through Infertility, Prematurity, And Depression" Kelly candidly records her personal story, drawing upon both her experience and subsequent hard-won expertise. Now the mother of two happy and healthy little girls, Kelly has written "Tiny Toes" for the benefit of the thousands of others who every year must deal with what she's had to cope with -- infertility and premature births, and sometimes a combination of both. Strongly recommended reading, especially for the one in eight couples encountering infertility and the 12.5% of women whose babies are born prematurely, "Tiny Toes" is as informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Thinking Out Loud on Paper: The Student Daybook as a Toll to Foster Learning
Lil Brannon, Sally Griffin, Karen Haag, Tony Iannone, Cynthia Urbanski and Shana Woodward
361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912
9780325012292 $18.00

"Thinking Out Loud on Paper: The Student Daybook as a Tool to Foster Learning" offers a program that will help learners build lasting connections between reflection and application.
In other words, the idea here is make a connection between in-school content and out-of-school life as well as link what was taught last week with what is happening now.

Not to be confused with a daily planner that organizes time, this daybook helps organize thoughts. It is not just a place to jot down ideas, but a place where real learning happens.

Offering ready-to-use lessons that will help you get started, you'll find strategies for helping students get started with daybooks and ideas for how to sustain the process through meaningful instruction. "Theory Connection Boxes", broken out by grade level, connect the theory behind the daybook concept to effective classroom practices. Abundant examples from real daybooks show you what kind of results you can expect to achieve.

The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun & Profit
Jill Conner Browne
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9780743278362 $22.95

According to Jill Conner Browne, every parent needs to cultivate his or her own version of The Look, and this is something you absolutely must acquire before you have children.

In her new book, "The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun & Profit", Browne not only explains how to cultivate The Look but she also shares plenty of other insights and proffers advice on how to navigate through the tempestuous seas of child rearing. (Note: You raise corn; you rear children!)

Whether she is tackling such parenting essentials as breast-feeding, toilet training and the Tooth Fairy or more nitty-gritty subjects like discipline, cussing, manners (good and bad) and the dreaded sex talk, Browne's vast accumulation of knowledge will enlighten and delight the new parent as much as the "old pro".

The tips you'll discover here aren't found in more traditional parenting books. For example, the author makes it clear that when dealing with picky eaters "a good mother is always adept at subterfuge". When you scan Browne's list of things you wouldn't think you would have to tell kids not to do, you'll realize that although it's humorous, the things she mentions are also absolutely correct.

All of this parenting wisdom (and wit) wouldn't really be complete without a slight detour into the kitchen for a food break. So naturally Browne shares a few of her kid-friendly recipes. You'll discover how to whip-up some "Alpha Mom Stuff in a Pumpkin", "Beta Moms' Fabulous Beanie Sammiches" and "Carrots a Kid Could Love".

The Sweet Potato Queen series of books have been immensely popular. The author's hilarious, plain-talking, idiosyncratic primers on subjects like wedding planning and divorce, cooking and financial planning, and her field guide to men had her readers grinning and giggling from start to finish. It was just a matter of time before Her Royal Highness unleashed her acerbic pen on this subject.

Also, Browne does make it clear from the very outset that that her title is meant to be funny. Setting the record straight she says, "Anyone who's ever had a kid or even known one knows that the experience is neither fun nor profitable."

Nameless Night
G.M. Ford
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780060874421 $23.95

This first stand-alone novel from G.M. Ford is an explosive thriller the author's many fans won't want to miss.

Found near death in a railroad car and speech impaired, Paul Hardy has spent seven years in a home for disabled adults. In all that time he has never spoken a word. Then, after a car accident, he awakens in the hospital as a new man. Now, with only a vaguely remembered phrase to guide him, Hardy leaves the hospital and begins a cross-country trip to uncover his real identity.

As the search begins Hardy becomes the focus of an army of pursuers who don't want him to discover who he really is and why he was left for dead in the rail car.

The author of six highly well-received Leo Waterman novels, Oregon resident G.M. Ford has created a masterful thriller that will keep the reader guessing right up to the final page.

The Abyssinian Proof
Jenny White
W.W. Norton & Co.
500 Fifth Ave., New York, New York 10110
9780393062052 $23.95

If Kamil Pasha, a magistrate who presides over Istanbul's Lower Beyoglu and the Old City, doesn't have enough problems on his hands with refugees arriving from the war torn Balkan provinces, he now has been instructed to investigate the thefts of a number of valuable objects from the city's churches, mosques and synagogues.

In "The Abyssinian Proof", the second novel in her Kamil Pasha series, Jenny White pits her protagonist not only against a ring of clever antiquities thieves but she also places him at the center of a volatile situation concerning one of the stolen reliquaries. A missing, rather nondescript, silver box reputedly contains a relic of unparalleled power and significance, the Proof of God. The retrieval of the box sparks a brutal struggle between those who are sworn to protect it and those who will stop at nothing to gain its explosive contents.

As Kamil uncovers the secrets of the sect sworn to guard the reliquary and its mysteries he not only endangers his own life but the magistrate jeopardizes his most cherished beliefs about his family and past.

White's debut, "The Sultan's Seal", was selected as a Booklist Top Ten Historical and Top Ten First Novel and was named a finalist for the Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award. This second multi-layered thriller is as intriguing as its predecessor and features the same painstaking historical detail that made "The Sultan's Seal" such a fascinating read.

Bob Walch

Brenda's Bookshelf

On, Off
Colleen McCullough
Harper Collins, London
0007231660 $7.99

On, Off is set in the town of Holloman, Connecticut and opens with the gruesome discovery of human body parts in the fridge of a neuroscience research centre, known as the "Hug". Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico begins questioning each of the Hug's employees in turn as more and more headless bodies, all 16-year-old girls, turn up in different places. The text is littered with scientific jargon which I found a little irritating as it slowed the pace somewhat and a romance between Delmonico and a Hug employee seems a little shallow and obligatory. That said, On, Off is an enjoyable and easy read and the reader is kept guessing right until the end.

A Quiet Vendetta
Roger Jon Ellory
Orion, London
0752860607 $20.00

A Quiet Vendetta is a different matter altogether. Although not complex in plot, the subject matter is far more serious and digs deep into the protagonist's life and thoughts. Catherine Ducane, daughter of a Louisiana governor disappears. Ernesto Perez, the so-called kidnapper, hands himself over to police and requests that Inspector Ray Hartman hear out his life story. Perez spends hours talking to Hartman about his life as a hitman for the Italian mob in the USA and openly admits to the murders of 19 people. Despite an exhaustive police search Catherine Ducane remains elusive. Several characters are well developed and the text is dense with information to guide the reader. The ending provides a superb twist and is particularly well executed by author Roger Jon Ellory. I recommend A Quiet Vendetta as an excellent read.

Brenda Daniels

Buhle's Bookshelf

Outlaws & Desperados
Ann Lacy and Anne Valley-Fox, editors
Sunstone Press
PO Box 2321, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-2321
9780865346338, $34.95

Outlaws & Desperados: A New Mexico Federal Writers' Project Book is an anthology of vignette essays, biographical sketches, and fascinating true tales about outlaws and desperados of the New Mexico Territory in the American West. Colorful figures featured include Black Jack Ketchum, the Apache Kid, Curly Bill, Devil Dick, Billy the Kid, the Dalton Brothers, and much more. They robbed stagecoaches, trains, prospectors, and settlers; their often murderous exploits were feared by many and glamorized by a few. Between 1936 and 1940, field workers in the Federal Writers' Project (part of the government-funded Works Progress Administration, or WPA) collected and wrote down numerous testimonies to provide an authentic account of outlaws in New Mexico. Now the original documents are published for the first time. A candid portrayal of New Mexico's unruly condition, as plagued by banditry and retaliatory hangings, as invaluable a primary source today as it was over six decades ago. Highly recommended especially for college and university libraries.

Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary
Ray E. Boomhower
Indiana University Press
601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797
9780253350893, $21.95 1-800-842-6796

On April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. came to Indiana to campaign for the Indiana Democratic presidential primary. En route, Kennedy learned that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and had died. Despite the Indianapolis police department's warning that they could not guarantee his safety, Kennedy chose to address an outdoor rally amid the city's African American community. Kennedy delivered one of history's great speeches, breaking the news of King's death and stressing the need for compassion amid violence. Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary commemorates the fortieth anniversary of Kennedy's passionate speech, and examines the characters and events of the 1968 primary, in which Kennedy rose from underdog to victor. A fascinating close study of a great leader's power to console and inspire.

Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America
George Franklin Feldman
Alan C. Hood & Company, Inc.
PO Box 775, Chambersburg, PA 17201-0775
9780911469332, $20.00 1-888-844-9433

Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America is an in-depth, scholarly study of the more gruesome practices of native peoples of North America (and European colonists). Dispelling the veil of modern sanitization and revisionist history, Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America scrutinizes cruel and unusual punishment or aggression among the Iroquois, Anasazi, Comanche, Apache, Chippewa, Nootka, Kwakiutl, and other tribes, as well as the impact of white scalp hunters. Though decidedly not for the faint of heart, Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America is not a lurid true-crime tell-all, but rather a solid a work of scholarship and anthropology, grounded firmly in archaeological evidence. A singularly important addition to Native American history reference shelves, as it covers on a topic all too often avoided by other, more squeamish texts.

The Natural World of Lewis and Clark
David A. Dalton
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826217660, $29.95 1-800-828-1894

Printed on high quality paper and interspersed with full color photography, The Natural World of Lewis and Clark is an amazing interpretation of Lewis and Clark's famous exploratory expedition to the New World from a modern point of view. The latest cutting edge advances such as DNA research, understanding of proteins, and new laboratory techniques are applied to the expedition's observations in plain terms. Readily accessible to readers of all backgrounds, The Natural World of Lewis and Clark includes in-depth discussion of flora and fauna species mentioned in the expedition's writings, as well as comments on the expedition's interactions with Native Americans. A bibliography and index round out this thoughtful and welcome fresh perspective on one of the greatest voyages of discovery in American history.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf
John M. Hill
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9780802093295, $40.00 1-800-565-9523

Written by John M. Hill (professor of the English department, U.S. Naval Academy), The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf is a literary study of the classic Old English epic poem. Scrutinizing Beowulf as a social drama with palpable forward narrative momentum, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf views a rhythm in the poem's numerous scenes of arrival and departure. Suggesting that such scenes are socially dramatic and crucial to understanding the poem's structure, density, and flow, The Narrative Pulse of Beowulf supports its position in part through comparing Beowulf to other epics such as The Odyssey and The Illiad. "Beowulf's move to call out the dragon and fight him alone, as we have seen, has been motivated by concern for the safety of his retainers as much as by a hero's turning of grief into martial rage and a hope for the luck of singular combats such as those he undertook and survived in the past. His is not a simple mood or a simple motive: in the course of his account, what I have called his apologia, he explains his decision in effect to his retainers in such a way as to minimize any sense they might have that he thinks little of them." A welcome contribution to literary studies shelves, especially recommended for college and university libraries.

American Sports, 1970
Tod Papageorge
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10001
9781597110501, $50.00,

Founded in 1952 by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Barbara Morgan, Minor White, Beaumont Newhall, and Nancy Newhall, Apeture (a non-profit foundation dedicated to advancing photography in all of its forms and formats) has been a premier publisher in the field of photography and photographic studies. Their newest coffee table compendium showcases the black-and-white photographic skills of Tod Papageorge in "American Sports, 1970: Or How We Spend The War In Vietnam". A compilation of photographs taken over the course of 1970 while American men and women were fighting and dying in the jungles of Vietnam, the American homefront was plunged into political chaos, campus violence, and a rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for the war. At the same time, Americans were attending their usual rounds of sporting events and it is these that were captured by the photographic lens of Tod Papageorge. In a time of political turbulence and social unrest, nothing was to stand between the fans and their favorite pastimes. "American Sports, 1970" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library American 20th Century Photographic Studies" reference collections.

Wild Birds
Rosalie Winard
Welcome Books
6 West 18 Street, New York, NY 10011
9781599620343, $39.95, 1-800-733-3000

Birds have been a favorite subject for painters and photographers for as long as their have been canvases and cameras. "Wild Birds Of The American Wetlands" is a coffee table photography book published to accompany a planned touring exhibition which is scheduled to debut at the Utah Museum of Natural History (November 1, 2008 - March 2009) and then tour nationally. A visually impressive collection of black-and-white photographs of wetland and marshland birds taken by Rosalie Windard as she traveled the country from Florida, to California, to Louisiana, to North Dakota, by foot, canoe, airboat, and ATV. The individual images run the gamut from meditative and abstract to energetic and literal. Each photograph translates and transforms an avian image into a work of conceptual art. Enhanced with an informed foreword by Temple Grandin and an informative essay by Terry Tempest Williams, "Wild Birds" is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library Photography and Wildlife reference collections.

Smoke Firing
Jane Perryman
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812240894, $49.95, 1-800-537-5487

The practice of firing clay and ceramic pots are as old as human civilization itself. A truly ancient technique which is still carried out today, the use of fire to turn raw clay into durable ceramic and decorating it with smoke designs has been adapted and adopted by present day artists to create truly memorable works of enduring art. "Smoke Firing: Contemporary Artists And Approaches" by internationally recognized ceramicist and smoke firing expert Jane Perryman provides an informative and illustrated survey of smoke firing techniques using bonfires, diverse containers, earth pits, saggars, and kilns. Of special note is the unique chapter on how smoke firing can be employed as an educational tool in group settings such as workshops. Illustratively featuring works by twenty-nine artists drawn from seventeen countries, "Smoke Firing" is a seminal, articulate, scholarly, deftly organized and superbly presented descriptive history and commentary which is especially recommended for personal, professional, academic, art school, and community library reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

A Legacy Of Art
Carol Lowrey
Hudson Hills Press
PO Box 205, 74-2 Union Street, Manchester, VT 05254
9780615154992, $60.00,

In the study of western art, the influence of artist's clubs, groups, associations, and organizations is often overlooked and under appreciated. Founded in 1906, the National Arts Club (located on the south side of New York's Gramercy Park) showcased the paintings and sculptures of its members during the late nineteenth and early- to mid-twentieth century. "A Legacy Of Art" is an illustrated catalog providing a kind of tour of the collection, along with biographical information and anecdotal stories for some of the more notable of the club members. Featuring a letter from the club's board of directors, a list of abbreviations, and a roster of 'Artist Life Members of the National Club: Painter and Sculpture Class', readers are treated next to an informed and informative introduction by Carol Lowrey, a 'Catalogue of Selected Paintings and Sculptures by Artist Life Members' which provides the majority of the illustrated text. Concluding with an appendix (Checklist of Work by Artist Life members, Painter and Sculptor Class) and a selected bibliography, "A Legacy Of Art" admirably serves as an historical overview and survey of this remarkable and enduring institution with each individual artist given his or her dates and places of birth and death, and each painting it's title, medium, dimensions, signature placement, and 'Diploma Presentation' date. "A Legacy Of Art" truly lives up to its title and is a strongly recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library American Art History reference collections and reading lists.

Segolene Le Men
Abbeville Press
137 Varick Street, Suite 504, New York, NY 10019-1105
9780789209771, $135.00 1-800-343-4499

Gustave Courbet was one of the acknowledged founders of the realist style of painting. His 19th century legacy is represented in an enormous body of work. His ideas and iconoclastic paintings served to influence the course of European art from the Impressionists to the Modernists, and continues to encourage new generations of painters to challenge and stretch the artistic and social boundaries of contemporary art. Now a seminal compendium of his work has been compiled and made available for personal, professional, academic, and community Art History collections. "Courbet" is a four-hundred page showcase for 309 flawlessly reproduced, full-color reproductions and the first truly definitive study of the man who almost singlehandedly redefined and redirected the course of western art. Compiled, organized, edited, and enhanced with an informed and informative essay by Segolene Le Men on Gustave Courbet and his work, "Courbet" is a fitting memorial and testament to one of the world's most influential and accomplished artists.

Let's Get Real About Money
Eric Tyson
FT Press
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96h Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780132341615, $19.99 1-800-428-5331

Written by syndicated columnist and best-selling financial author Eric Tyson, Let's Get Real About Money: Profit from the Habits of the Best Personal Finance Managers is a no-nonsense guide to putting a personal financial action plan tailored to one's needs and goals. Starting off with simple personal finance quizzes ideal for evaluating ones' money savvy, chapters address how to get motivated, how to assess and overcome negative money beliefs and practices, basic net worth calculation, money issues involved in relationships/marriage/divorce, why people tend to have trouble saving enough and when one might be saving too much, right and wrong reasons to borrow money, investing and insurance plans, when to hire financial help, and much more. A broad-ranging guide packed cover to cover with "must-know" information for everyone financially responsible for themselves and others, Let's Get Real About Money deserves the absolute highest recommendation as a crucial survival aid in today's modern world.

Six Degrees
Mark Lynas
National Geographic Books
1145 - 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-4688
9781426202131, $26.00

Journalist and environmental activist Mark Lynas presents Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, a resounding wake-up call about the very real threat of global warming. The evidence is incontrovertible that the world is getting warmer, from the snows disappearing from Mt. Kilimanjaro to the dramatic rockfalls of the previously icebound Matterhorn boulders. Even a few more degrees of climate change could result in nations being eradicated due to rising floodwaters or increased desertification. Yet Six Degrees is far more than an alarm-ringer book; Lynas emphasizes how catastrophe can be avoided, though there may be less than ten years to do so. The key lies in not relying on any one alternative to fossil fuels, but rather drawing upon them all - wind power, solar power, recycling, public transportation, energy conservation, fuel efficience, simply adopting a less consumer-oriented lifestyle, and more. "An outdated view still prevails that a low-carbon lifestyle requires immense personal suffering and sacrifice. In my view, nothing could be farther from the truth. All the evidence shows that people who do not drive, do not fly on planes, do shop locally, do grow their own food, and do get to know other members of their community have a much higher quality of life than their compatriots who remain addicted to high-fossil-fuel-consuming lifestyles." Of particular interest is a look at biofuels that reveals their ineffectiveness in reducing global carbon emissions, not only because of the laborious expense in refining biofuel, but also because using food products to create fuel makes food scarcer and drives up its cost. A deeply needed, resounding call for collective global improvement before it's too late.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

The Heir
Paul Robertson
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Avenue South Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764204692 $13.99

Melvin Boyer ruthless, underhanded and a very powerful man has been murdered after changing his will to leave his entire estate to his oldest son Jason only leaving provision for his wife and second son Eric. Jason is taken totally by surprise and doesn't want it. It was originally to go to Melvin's foundation but Jason can't understand why his father changed his will. Jason sets out to destroy what his father built against the wishes of his dad's lawyer, his wife and his brother. The only one it seems to be on his side is Nathan Kern the head of his father's foundation. He claims he had Melvin change his will because he didn't want all that power. Of course destroying it all won't be easy as the roots run deep and the money hungry politicians and business partners are crawling out of the walls. Than the bodies begin to stack up as more murders take place and all fingers point to Jason, so he sets out to find the real killer. Even his wife who has turned greedy turns against him and sues for divorce demanding the house they just bought and 20 million dollars. The corruption and greed run deep than his wife is murdered…….

Jason finds himself on the run not knowing who to trust, still questioning since he was a little boy as to why he is here, what's the point and now the added question why did his father leave him everything? While running Jason knows he has to get back to Nathan as he seems to have all the answers…….

What an awesome read this political suspense will have you spellbound. Just who is behind all the murders and does Jason find the answers to his questions only time will tell. Author Paul Robertson has done an amazing job in this his first novel. The underscore teaching from God is amazing! At first you may wonder if God is involved but believe this reviewer God is all over this novel! Believe me don't miss "The Heir" as it is destined to be one of the great reads and Paul Robertson is definitely a new writer to watch!

Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear: Bargain Hunters Mysteries No. 2
Sharon Dunn
Multnomah a division of Random House Inc
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781590526903 $12.99

The Bargain Hunters Network or BHN for short consists of Ginger, Suzanne, Kindra and Arleta who seem to find a mystery wherever they go and this time is no exception!

They're off to Calamity, Nevada for the Inventor's Expo where Ginger's husband Earl hopes to be discovered. The girls want to hit the outlet mall and the world's largest garage sale.

From day one nothing but trouble seems to be in the cards for our gals, they're luggage was delayed so Earl stays behind to wait for it. At the Wind- Up hotel the air conditioning doesn't work and rooms have been overbooked due to the Squirrel Lover's convention and a greedy hotel owner. The owner changes things on the girls first Earl's table is cancelled at the expo due to someone willing to pay more for it and instead of the two rooms originally reserved they are only given one for the five of them. Disgruntled employees seem to be everywhere seems the owner is good at making promises he never keeps. Kindra falls for the good looking man in the bear suit who turns out to be the owner's son but is as unhappy as everyone else. The clerk turns out to be the second ex-wife and the first is also staying at the hotel along with the current girlfriend and Ginger seems to have a cyberstalker from the BHN blog.

Than the mascot for the Squirrel Lover's convention and Ginger's cat disappear. The squirrel turns up dead in the mouth of the dead hotel owner who is wearing the bear suit!
Ginger and Earl are suspects by the two female detectives who are just as funny as our BHN team. Ginger threatened the hotel owner right before he died and poor Earl seems to be guilty by association. But than it seems as everyone at the hotel are on the suspect list. The girls wonder will there be any bargain hunting on this trip than Ginger disappears…

Laughter will fill your heart as you read "Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear" as the author Sharon Dunn leaves you in stitches from the first page with her amazing sense of humor and totally awesome characters. But don't be surprised if you learn a thing or two along the way as God has a teaching as well between the pages!

Ruby Among Us
Tina Ann Forkner
WaterBrook Press a division of Random House
12265 Oracle drive, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400073580 $9.99

Lucy DiCamillo is desperate to unlock her past a past that her grandmother holds the very key to. It seems to have been a life long quest since the day she was eight years old and her mother Ruby died from an asthma attack. First she has always blamed herself for Ruby's death as her mother had sent her for her inhaler and Lucy took too long to get it for her, she seems to have forgotten all memories of her mother and being raised by her grandmother Kitty in Ruby's house who seems to want to keep the past a secret.

Lucy has been sheltered by Kitty being home schooled and into books, music and art just as her mother was until she started attending the university being younger than the other students and never having friends except Kitty she struggles to fit in. Than one day she has an asthma attack in class and Suzanne and Max come to her aid and the three become fast friends. Suzanne is married with an adopted little girl and Max is a youth pastor and Lucy and he begin to date. With their encouragement she begins to pressure Kitty even more about the secrets that Kitty has been hiding.

Slowly like peeling an onion the barriers start coming down and Lucy learns her grandfather Blake is still married to her grandmother and the reasons why Kitty feels she cannot go back to him. But Lucy can't understand any of this she feels her grandmother has cheated her out of knowing her family to protect herself. She finds out that nice Dr Larimer who treated her and Ruby both for their asthma was actually a childhood friend of her mother's and later they were sweethearts. Is it possible that Dr Larimer could be her father or some other man Kitty doesn't want her to know about? She learns of God's faith a faith that was a strong part of her family.

Lucy knows she must go to Frances-DiCamillo her family's home to fill in the missing pieces wanting the memories back so badly but will her grandmother give her consent and can she possibly convince Kitty to go with her only time will tell……

This book is absolutely amazing! In this her debut novel author Tina Ann Forkner has done an outstanding job of capturing the very essence of her characters as they become alive and jump off the very page and become a part of your own life! You'll laugh, you'll cry as your emotions come alive. She writes as one who is well established and this is only the beginning definitely a new comer to watch for a long time to come.

Cheri Clay

Christy's Bookshelf

Dragonfly in Amber
Diana Gabaldon
Dell Publishing
0385335970 $15.00

The second installment in the Outlander series is just as much a rollicking adventure as the first, albeit this one is told in flashbacks from time traveler Claire Beauchamp's memory. The first of the book may be confusing to readers, as the end of Outlander left Claire with Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser in the 1740s, yet the beginning of this book finds Claire in Scotland in 1968, where she has returned with her daughter Brianna, intending to tell Brianna who her true biological father is. Frank, Claire's present-day husband, is dead and Claire hopes to learn what happened to Jamie some 200 years earlier. She asks historian Roger Wakefield to help with her search and relates to Brianna and Roger her history with Jamie, laird of Lallybroch.

Claire picks up her story when she and Jamie escape to France, where Jamie is to be interpreter for Prince Charles. Aware history shows that the bonnie prince's failed attempt to reclaim the English throne caused massive devastation to the clans of Scotland at the battle of Culloden, Claire and Jamie are intent on thwarting Prince Charles' efforts to accumulate the funds necessary to stage such a war. While in Paris, Claire and Jamie enjoy a lifestyle of luxury, but it seems that no matter what they do, they cannot stop the tide of history, and the battle takes place. But beforehand, Jamie is forced to kill his uncle Dougal, who tries to murder Claire. Knowing he must face punishment for killing his chieftain, Jamie tells Claire she must go back to the future, as it is his intent to die on the battlefield of Culloden. Claire goes back, but she takes a part of Jamie with her: his unborn child.

This series is a fascinating read, filled with historical facts, interesting information about medicines from the 18th century, nonstop action and nail-biting suspense. Claire and Jamie's committed love for one another shines through the book and adds hot spice to a galvanizing read.

Diana Gabaldon
Bantam Dell
9780385335997 $15.00

The third in the Outlander series finds time traveler Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser in the twentieth century, making preparations to travel back in time to the eighteenth century to find the love of her life, Highlander James Fraser. Claire has learned from historian Roger Wakefield that Jamie did not die at Culloden, as she has thought for twenty years. Claire is anxious to return to Jamie, though reluctant to leave Brianna, her daughter. Brianna, however, senses her mother's need to be with her biological father and encourages her to go.

Claire steps through the stones and finds Jamie living in Edinburgh, where he is a printer known as A. Malcolm who prints seditious material, and a smuggler known as Roy James. Claire is relieved to find their love as strong and passionate as ever, but this love will be tried in the days ahead, as she finds out that Jamie is now married to the woman who tried to kill Claire twenty years earlier, with two stepchildren. If that isn't bad enough, Jamie has an illegitimate son.

During a smuggling operation, Jamie's nephew Ian is kidnapped by pirates and Jamie and Claire begin a grueling journey to find young Ian and return him to Lallybroch. Their travels take them across the ocean to the West Indies, and on to America. Through their trials and tribulations, their love continues to grow, and this time, Claire is determined never to leave Jamie.

Once more Gabaldon provides her readers with a fast-paced, exciting adventure wrapped around one of the best romances written, with plenty of historical information provided regarding the eighteenth century, from the Scottish uprising at Culloden to smuggling operations, voodoo in the West Indies, and best of all, medical facts of the time period.

Christy Tillery French

Daniel's Bookshelf

Speaks the Nightbird
Robert McCammon
Pocket Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416552505 $16.00 1-800-456-6798

I have read all of Robert McCammon's previous novels, and he began writing again with a different genre. I chose this novel to continue reading his work, and I am glad I did. He wrote this novel into two separate novels, and recently he combined these novels into one with this edition. I considered his earlier work some of the best in horror and Science Fiction. This book is the first in a longer planned historical fiction series. Speaks the Nightbird depicts a period of over 300 years ago.

The story begins immediately with vivid scenes rich in atmosphere in the historic American Colonial period, and keeps the reader interested and engaged. The time is 1699 with a traveling Magistrate Isaac Woodward and his city clerk, Matthew Corbett, are on their way to a small town named Fount Royal located in the Carolinas. Their purpose is to put a woman named Rachael Howarth to trial for witchcraft and then to execute her for crimes of cursing a town with unexplainable events. Matthew Corbett emerges as an intelligent and worthy adversary for the people of the town who are dead set on the woman's extermination. His inquisitive nature helps him in the questioning and exploring of the facts. It is his effort that helps to unravel the hidden secrets of the truth in this town. This is a first rate mystery, totally entertaining for the reader. McCammon's descriptive prose shows another case for his efforts as a world-class storyteller.

Without revealing too much plot detail, McCammon does a masterful style of setting the feel of the period and description of people, and their clothing along with dialogue. He word imagery projects the events and his choice of passages which helps the reader feel like he is seeing the views of a very early time in America's history. His plot makes good use of his strong character Matthew learning from each new discovery. The story drives through from the first time the magistrate and city clerk begin on their journey until the end by McCammon's storytelling keeping the reader page turning to be captured by a tale that will continue on with each new installment of the series.

The Queen of Bedlam
Robert McCammon
Pocket Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416551119 $16.00 1-800-456-6798

Robert McCammon continues with his second installment of this historical fiction series novel, where I was anxious to find out where this story continues after Speaks the Nightbird. He is a master storyteller, and he proved that with many fine novels in his previous horror genres and fiction.

Matthew Corbett has left the town of Fount Royal, and now lives in 1702 New York City. He has a similar job, only he now works in an office with the Magistrate Nathaniel Powers. This book delves into as story about a serial killer brutally killing three people. The young city clerk is lured into forensic clues, and he investigates with his observant detective powers. Matthew is inflamed for justice and the truth of the twist that ties the killer into all the murders of the town. The key to unmasking the killer leads the clerk to seek the reason for what is behind these murders.

Robert McCammon writes a very good follow-up in his epic historical series, and keeps the reader hungry and devouring all the written pages with quick page turning. The author moves to a smashing climax with a tour de-force. His young hero Matthew character is not left unscathed or unaffected by the events that form him into a stronger character by his quest for seeking retribution and justice. McCammon makes that clear by what ever answers Matthew seeks and the eventual truths which he must face in the end. This book just recently has been selected by the International Thriller Writers as a nominee in the Best Paperback Original for 2008. The winners of three categories which also included Best Novel and Best First Novel, will be announced at Thrillerfest 2008 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City on July 12th. It was selected from over five hundred titles. Robert McCammon's next book in the series, Mr. Slaughter, is due out perhaps later in 2008 or 2009.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The Good Liar
Laura Caldwell
9780778325017 $6.99

Two pairs of old friends anchor Laura Caldwell's thriller The Good Liar. Thirty-something Kate, despondent after her divorce, is introduced by her friend Liza to Michael Waller, who's smart and fit and fifty-five and almost too good to be true. Kate winds up marrying Michael before she notices anything disquieting about his personality or habits: his secrecy about his job, his occasional jumpiness, his over-familiarity with Liza, with whom he was allegedly only slightly acquainted before she fixed the newlyweds up. Caldwell tells her story from multiple perspectives, mostly in the third person. We learn, before Kate does, the truth about Michael's relationship with Liza and about his job: he's an operative with a pro-American counterintelligence unit, the Trust, and he's sworn to secrecy about his missions as well as the very existence of the organization. We also meet the book's bad guy, Michael's long-time friend Roger Leiland, the Trust's new honcho and the fourth member of the book's quartet of principals. Roger has developed a lust for power and isn't about to let friendship stand in the way of his acquiring it. Kate, ignorant of these truths, is living in a very different world from the rest of the characters. This is reflected on the page: the chapters told from Kate's perspective are written in the first person. We get to watch as she slowly comes to suspect that her husband is not what he seems. We already know what she wants to know, but it's still fun to watch her put the clues together.

The Good Liar is a really good read. The plot is tight. The prose is transparent and the chapters short. Caldwell doesn't leave us hanging at the end of every chapter quite as successfully as, say, Ken Follett does: it is possible to put the book down, that is, but you won't want to if you don't have to. I love the book's spy stuff--secret drops and faux personas and the operatives' uber-competence. What prevents the book from being as successful as it might be is Caldwell's villain, who is too unrelentingly evil to be quite credible: Roger wants power because Roger wants power. The personal loss and character flaws feeding that monomania don't amount to sufficient motivation.

But I quite enjoyed the book. I'll definitely be reading more from Caldwell.

Admit One
Emmett James
Fizzypop Productions
c/o Wheatmark,
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, Arizona 85705
97811587369131 $17.95

Emmett James was born in 1972 in South London, where he grew up watching a lot of movies with his family at the local theater. He was seduced by the cinema, eventually studied acting, and moved to Hollywood in the early 90's to try to make it as an actor. He did make it, finally, becoming a successful working actor if not a household name, most significantly landing a small part in the biggest movie of all time, Titanic. James tells the story of his life in Admit One in chapters that are named after and loosely organized around movies--films that influenced him during the period described or whose plots mirrored his own experiences, or films he appeared in. But while the pictures he selects for each chapter heading provide a framework for James's book, it's not really about the movies.

Nor is Admit One, as the above summary might suggest, an insipid story about a boy who pursued and finally achieved his dream. The author is too acerbic to have written such a book. Here he is early on, for example, describing Croydon, the borough of London in which he grew up:

"The streets were lined with filth, the people were bitter and miserable and a fantastic night out meant a large kebab rather than the regular size, which of course went hand-in-hand proportionally with the amount you would subsequently vomit later that evening."

And again:

"Unfortunately, it was that type of town, inhabited by those types of people, living that type of crap life."

James's familial relationships meet with similar criticisms. His mother had a "permanent melancholy demeanor." His maternal grandparents were an overbearing couple whose home "was always rich with the smell of old people," a smell that "left a thick, pungent coating in the fibers of your clothes.... They were," he says, "much less benign in the days of my mother's childhood." Of his brother he writes:

"My older brother was a weaselly boy named Cymon (pronounced Simon, just spelled wanky to give him some added torment in school), and for as long as memory serves we have loathed one another."

It's unfortunate that the author's experiences weren't more positive-- though this is not the sort of book that leaves you feeling sorry for him. On the other hand, it's quite refreshing to see such candor on the page.

Admit One is divided into two parts. The first concerns the author's childhood in England. It has universal appeal but will probably be enjoyed particularly by readers who grew up around the same time, and who will remember BMX bikes and Star Wars tie-in merchandise as fondly as does the author. In the second half James moves to America to make his way in Hollywood. This part of the book is less personal, yet it's interesting for its depiction of the life of a struggling actor. Also fascinating is the behind-the-scenes story of his work on Titanic: whatever you're thinking that might entail, you're wrong. Coming away from the book I'm not entirely sure that I like the author. But that's a testament to his honesty. He's not only not afraid to look stupid, but he reveals some quite unflattering truths about himself--from an ill-conceived instance of, well, something approaching stalking (in tights!), to his willingness to participate in activities both legally and morally sketchy. (He's also due for a whomping from Steven Seagal, whom he sucker punches in an open letter at the beginning of the book.)

If nothing else, James is by no means a run-of-the-mill guy. Having been given this glimpse into his history and character, it will be interesting to watch his career unfold on screen.

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Lee Goldberg
New American Library
9780451222800 $6.99

Adrian Monk is up there with Lieutenant Columbo as one of my favorite television characters of all time. Like Columbo, Monk is a quirky detective whose irritating eccentricities contribute to his efficacy at sniffing out wrongdoers. While Columbo hides his acumen behind feigned incompetence, Monk's genius for solving crimes is a byproduct of his nearly crippling obsessive compulsive disorder. Monk is a tortured soul who can solve any crime except the one that matters most, the murder of his wife Trudy. Her death exacerbated his OCD tendencies, so that he functions in the world only with difficulty, and only with the help of an assistant. But his obsessiveness makes Monk a better detective. Because he is peculiarly sensitive to disorder, he notices things that other investigators miss. Monk's solution of a crime is his way of reestablishing some order in a universe that is, for him, heart-breakingly out of order.

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants is the fourth installment in Lee Goldberg's series of tie-in novels. (See my reviews of Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, and Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu.) As the title suggests, Monk and his current assistant--Natalie Teeger, the narrator of the series--run into Monk's first assistant, Sharona, who gave Monk his life back after Trudy died by helping him become functional again. And then she left him, without saying goodbye, to get back together with her nogoodnik husband. Sharona's reintroduction into the series is interesting because it allows Goldberg to explore Monk's relationships with both Sharona and Natalie. Sharona also pulls Monk, however unwillingly, into the book's principal investigation: her husband has been arrested for murder.

"'What he did was unforgiveable,' Monk said. 'Luring you away to New Jersey with his smooth talk and false promises, forcing you to abandon the people who needed you most, plunging them into the impenetrable darkness and despair that lies in the pitiful depths of their tormented souls.'

"Monk noticed us both staring at him and then hastily added, 'And Trevor murdered someone, which is also very bad.'"

While working on the case other crimes vie for Monk's attention, one of which--a bizarre murder on a nude beach--proves to be more than just a distraction.

I love this series. Sure, Monk is an unrealistic character, and some of his feats prove a little harder to swallow than others. (The book opens, for example, with Monk solving a murder at a kids' soccer game. The murderer, a caricature of a too-competitive soccer coach, betrays his guilt with the pattern of steps in his victory dance.) But they're good light mysteries, and more intricate than you'd expect. (This one, in fact, was so intricate that it became a little confusing at the end.) What makes the books shine, however, is Monk's dialogue, which is spot on and often hilarious.

"As we filed in, the old lady dabbed her fingers in the bowl of holy water at the doorway and crossed herself and kissed her fingers afterward.

"Monk gasped and motioned to me for a wipe. I gave it to him and he held it out to the woman.

"'Take this,' Monk said. 'Quick.'

"'What for?' she said.

"'The water, of course,' he said. 'Didn't you see all the people who stuck their filthy hands in it?'

"'It's okay, young man,' she said. 'It's blessed.'

"'But it isn't disinfected,' Monk said.

"'God has cleansed it,' she said.

"'You're old and your resistance to infection is weak,' Monk said. 'You should gargle immediately with a strong mouthwash before the deadly germs you slathered on your lips invade your aged body.'"

My advice: suspend your disbelief and enjoy the escapist fun.

Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim
Tom Corwin
Doubleday/Flying Dolphin Press
9780385523400 $14.95

Tom Corwin's Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim is the quickest of reads, a hundred odd pages, half of them full-page illustrations, the other half light on text. It's a sort of fable. The eponymous Mr. Fooster goes for a series of walks in what feels like a dream. Strange things happen to him that don't quite make sense, in the way of dreams. He befriends a giant bug, for example, and blows a big bubble that turns into a drivable car. Along the way he ponders questions like Why is yawning contagious? and How come you never see baby pigeons? The moral of the story is banal: basically, one shouldn't lose one's open-mindedness or sense of wonder lest one become rigid and miss out on life's bounty. Unless I'm missing something. Perhaps I'm just too old and embittered to appreciate the book. Probably in final form (I read an advance copy) it will be a pretty book: you can see the quality of the illustrations and hear selections of the text at the book's accompanying web site. But while the short text is trying to be meaningful, to me it seems not deep, but merely precious.

Killer Weekend
Ridley Pearson
G.P. Putnam
9780399154072 $24.95 336 pages

Walt Fleming is a small-town sheriff, but Quantico-trained and unusually competent. We're given to understand this in the prologue to Killer Weekend, when Walt pieces together clues anyone else might have overlooked and saves the life of Liz Shaler, the Attorney General of New York State, who maintains a second home in Idaho's Sun Valley. Eight years later Shaler is set to announce her candidacy for the presidency at a conference at the Sun Valley Inn. The event would be a logistical nightmare for Walt and his staff under the best of conditions. But he has reason to believe that Shaler is being targeted by an assassin who will make his move when she makes her announcement.

Pearson tells his story from Walt's perspective as well as the assassin's. Milav Trevalian is himself supremely competent at his job. One admires, despite the nature of the task, his painstaking preparations for the kill. Interestingly, he turns out to be a relatively likable character, both because of his professionalism and because, despite his resume, he shows moments of humanity. Indeed, his humanity turns out to be his Achilles heel.

Unfortunately, Trevalian's motivation is never explored. We never learn why Shaler is in his crosshairs or what the stakes are for him personally. There are other loose ends. Walt's brother is dead, for example, and Pearson hints at deeper issues connected with his death, but we're never told the story. Finally, the book's prologue--in which Walt saves Shaler's life for the first time--makes promises that are never fulfilled. Pearson puts the proverbial gun on the mantle in act one when he describes the means by which that night's intruder enters Shaler's home. Readers expecting that gun to go off by the book's end, however, will wait in vain.

Pearson's principal characters, both good guys and bad, are interesting enough to make us want to read on. The story becomes more complex the deeper into the book we get. The writing doesn't distract from the plot. And the short chapters go by fast enough. Killer Weekend never quite becomes an edge-of-your-seat thriller. But it's a near miss.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Timmy's in the Well
Jon Provost and Laurie Jacobson
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826197 $26.95

For seven seasons viewers were treated to the adventures of Timmy and Lassie on the CBS network. The shows were wholesome entertainment with a message at the end for other kids to learn from. Provost starred as Timmy for all seven seasons. "Timmy's in the Well" is Provost's telling of his time in and out of the entertainment world. A veteran actor from the age of 2, he tells about his life from the beginning through the Lassie show and its aftermath. He talks about his choice to leave the show and his life afterwards. Provost compares his to former actor Tommy Rettig who played Jeff before him on the show. Rettig's existence was much different after Lassie than Provost's. Provost to make his points after Lassie, also uses his fellow kid actors to reinforce different aspects after a show ends. Some of them are Paul Petersen, Stan Livingston, Angela Cartwright, and Bill Mumy who shares a trait with Provost. I will let readers find that one out. Provost's book is a very positive account of one child actor who turned out okay unlike so many other child actors. I think part of that was due to the strong family unit Provost has had all through his life. That's not to say that he has not done some negative things. He has, but because he has had a strong sense of family he was able to steer his life in the right direction. One thing I found very interesting was that it was his sister who competed for the role of "Gidget" against Sally Field. We know who won that one. I also liked that (Laurie Jacobson) his present wife comments about many different things as well. "Timmy's in the Well" is a positive message to any present kid actor. "You can make or break your life after stardom; it's your choice how you do it."

Beyond Lois Lane
Larry Thomas Ward
Nicholas Lawrence Books
932 Clover Avenue, Canon City CO 81212
9780972946612 $24.95 1-800-574-7438

For so many of us who have watched an episode or two of the classic "Superman" TV show we knew that Noel Neil was Lois Lane but what we didn't know was that she was also in so many movies throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Now Larry Thomas Ward relives her career through pictures and words. He also shows that she was in the Christopher Reeve "Superman" film and the most recent one as well in the opening sequence. The book is a lavish coffee table book no fan of "Superman" movies and TV shows can afford to miss. Unlike most books this is one you can only purchase at conventions where Neil is appearing.

The Daughter-in-Law Rules
Sally Shields
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432718374 $14.95

Sally Shields has written a long overdue fresh resource for newlyweds to calm things with the new in-laws and overcome the hurdles they all face. This book is in the box information that is lighthearted and fun to read for anyone who wants to know about relationships and how they work. Unlike the two ditsy women who wrote the book "The Rules" and its sequel, these really work.

Jalal Ghavami
1094 New DeHaven Street Suite 100, West Conshohocken, Pa 19428-2713
0741440814 $9.95 1 877 BUYBOOK

I have to admit I have no clue what this book of poetry is about. Usually I can figure out something. This time I got nothing at all from it. Ghavami puts words together but for me there is no meaning behind them. It is a longer version that tries to be some kind of haiku or something. In all my years I have never seen poems like this. The author is on a plane I could never figure out. Maybe other readers will have much better luck.

The Best of Hometown Heroes Florida
Thomas Routzong & Steven Skelley
Sunny Harbor Publishing
P O Box 580318, Rockledge, Fl 32956
9780979965814 $20.00

The authors tell the remarkable stories of ten Floridians who have overcome great odds to help others. A policeman who was very close to death who somehow survived and turned his life to God to help others, an author who was an inspiration for others, a teacher who was the driving force behind so many who became successful in their chosen professions, these are just a few of the people the authors reveal. The book is a powerful positive account of what everyday people can do to make such a difference in others' lives. This would be a great series of state-by-state books about common people doing the same kind of uplifting things to help others.

The Student From Zombie Island
Michael J Moorehead Illustrated by Katy Parks
Little Five Star
Five Star Publications
P O Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589850729 $15.95

Bust em Up Bill is a student entering a new school. Before he sets foot into the classroom the rumors about him fly from other kids. There are so many different ones that are being told. They all have one thing in common. They are all wrong. It is not until the last page that the reader finds out the truth. The author shows how misleading gossip can be, and the effect it can have on people's lives.

Regina's Closet Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal
Diana M. Raab
Beaufort Books
New York
9780825305757 $25.95 www.FASSPR.COM

Raab's book functions on three levels. The first is a study of why her grandmother whom she was very close to, committed suicide, her grandmother's account of eastern Europe and how the country of Poland was constantly being overrun, and Raab's relationship with her parents and grandparents. One of the most interesting parts of this work is the diary pieces from Raab's grandmother. They show why so many in the area of Eastern Europe left to come to America or what is now Israel.

Tic Talk Living With Tourette Syndrome
Dylan Peters
Little Five Star
Five Star Publications
P O Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698
9781589850514 $14.95

Nine-year-old Dylan Peters who has Tourette Syndrome has written a positive book to show others that you can live with this condition. He explains that the syndrome is a malfunction of his brain but it can be controlled and he tells about some of the things that are a cause. He also tries to show that he, like others who have this affliction, are not that much different from everyone else.

Banana Tail
Mark McKenna
9780972768115 $4.95

A monkey thinks that because he ate too many bananas, he has turned his tail yellow. He ponders and worries with his friend that because his tail is yellow there is something wrong with him. At the end of the book he learns the truth about his yellow tail. The author has a positive message for kids about being yourself no matter what others may think.

Manic A Memoir
Terri Cheney
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061430237 $24.95

Terri Cheney had everything anyone could ever want She represented some of the biggest names in entertainment for the very prestigious law firm she was a part of, an income where she would not ever have to worry and just everything going her way. But her world came tumbling down very quickly when she began to realize that her mood swings were so massive. She tells firsthand what happened to her as she went deeper into the manic depressed world. One moment she is happy and flying kites, and the next she is a holy terror. The book is a harrowing account of one person's journey through a frightening disease.

Gary Roen

Geoffrey's Bookshelf

The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas
Penguin Books
Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0140449264, $14.00

Master Of The Chapter-Ending Hook

If the hey-hey-ho-ho-western-culture's-got-to-go crowd ever succeeds, they'll have to ban THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO because it positively breathes the West down to its Christian, Eurocentric heart. It deals with themes like suffering, vengeance, and forgiveness; has settings like the catacombs in Rome where Christians once hid from their persecutors; and gives us a character, Edmond Dantes, who resurrects as Cristo.

Although it's more than a thousand pages, Alexandre Dumas doesn't wait until page 200 to get the story going. He hooks the reader first chapter, and by the third chapter, has laid out the major conflicts and plot points.

Hook is the mot juste, too. Dumas is the master par excellence of the chapter-ending hook, a device that makes pages flip by in a flash. Also making this monster book move quickly are his long sprightly sections of character-revealing, plot-moving dialogue.

Dumas impresses with the breadth of his knowledge and the scope of his interests, even if he routinely hired assistants to do his research.

Though beautifully plotted, the book has one major flaw, the Count's dumping of Mercedes for a much younger woman, and his one-paragraph explanation for doing so. It seems a disappointing payoff after Dumas gives us one of the greatest setups in all literature, Dantes's wrongful imprisonment on the island prison of the Chateau d'If. The memory of his beloved Mercedes helped him endure 18 years in solitary confinement.

The Day of the Locust
Nathanael West
Signet Classic
Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451523482, $6.95

Potent And Penetrating

I read Nathanael West's potent and penetrating THE DAY OF THE LOCUST every year, and do so for the finely limbed characters, for the spot-on dialogue, and for the blood-and-feathers cock fight.

Rooster pugilism stands, of course, as the perfect symbol for the actions of the eclectic coterie of suitors (including Homer Simpson) vying and brawling for the chance to bed Faye Greener, the aspiring starlet.

So, too, does Todd Hackett's painting, the "Burning of Los Angeles" stand as a symbol. Todd is West, and Todd's painting is West's book, which burns the phony facade off Hollywood forever.

Props should always be given to the writer who can craft each character's dialogue in a distinct voice. Hemingway, West's contemporary, couldn't do it; all his characters sound alike, men interchangeable with women. However, one could read a snatch of West's dialogue and identify any one of the more than half dozen grotesques that people this memorable tale.

One constructive criticism: maybe the book ends too abruptly, or perhaps the ending seems too abrupt because West doesn't properly set up the last scene. Somewhere prior West should have mentioned the movie premier.

Geoffrey Smagacz

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Sex Club
L. J. Sellers
Spellbinder Press
P.O. Box 23904, Eugene, OR 97402
9780979518202 $8.50

"The Sex Club" is not the book one expects from the title, nor from the opening sentence, for that matter: "You can put your clothes back on, then we'll talk some more." The words are spoken by Kera Kollmorgan, a registered nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Eugene, Oregon, to a young girl of perhaps 14 years of age, who has come for treatment of an STD. The only thing more startling to the reader than the fact that a middle school student is sexually active is that she is only one of a group of similar barely-teenaged kids, churchgoing members of a bible study group who have all ostensibly taken vows of celibacy, in the 'club.' Almost immediately after this encounter, a pipe bomb goes off, damaging the building and causing severe injuries to one patient. Things only get worse when the young girl's dead body is discovered the following day in a dumpster. And it appears that the bomber, dismayed that the clinic is still functioning, is not done with them, and Kera soon finds herself a target of the antiabortionist as well.

The dead girl had sent a personal e-mail to Kera shortly after her clinic visit and, when Kera is contacted by another young girl the next day near the school where the girls were both students, she "took that as a sign that both girls had wanted or needed something from her personally. On the surface, they had sought her advice. But had they also wanted her permission? Forgiveness? Maybe they didn't even know. But they had drawn her in, and now she felt compelled to follow through." The daughter of "hippies before it was popular to be hippies," she has always been committed to causes, spending five years in Rwanda before coming back home. She has lost a son to the war in Iraq, where her husband is now serving and where he has indicated he is going to stay--her dedication to her work and to the women who sought help at her clinic has become her whole life.

Handling the bombing case for the cops initially is Detective Wade Jackson, later assigned to the young girl's homicide. He is himself the single father of a fourteen-year-old girl who had been a friend of the dead girl, separated from his alcoholic wife, with obvious conflicts on the case. The investigation turns out to have political implications, further complicating his job.

The author, a resident of Eugene, Oregon and, among other things, a political activist [no surprise there], has written a well-plotted, suspenseful tale with two very human and engaging protagonists, with a pulse-pounding ending. It would appear that a second book featuring Detective Jackson is on the horizon, and it should be another winner.

Primal Threat
Earl Emerson
Ballantine Books
c/o Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345492999 $25.00 800-726-0600

Nadine Newcastle was only the latest in a seemingly endless stream of casual romances for Zak Polanski. An accident victim whom he had rescued after a car crash, their fling had lasted for only a few months. It is the end of August as Zak and four friends are mountain biking in the Cascade Mountains of Northwest Washington State. Three of the men, including Zak, are firefighters. The area had been in a drought for months, to the extent that all the backwoods in the State had been declared off-limits to motor vehicles, hikers, bikers and riders on horseback. Deciding that they're "not going to have a campfire, none of us smokes, and bicycles don't throw off sparks," they determine to take their planned exercise weekend, notwithstanding the ban. "The part Zak liked best was that there would be no cell phones, no GPS finders, and except for their bikes no appurtenances of the modern age. For one weekend they would be largely independent of modern amenities, knights errant jousting with one another on the climbs, racing down the miles-long descents at breakneck speeds, roaming a section of the Northwest where they were unlikely to see another human being for at least three days." Uh-oh.

Wealthy, aimless 20-year-old William Potter III ["Scooter"], five of his best friends and the girlfriend of one of them, all of whom had attended the same private schools and were raised in the same atmosphere of luxury, "stuck in a netherworld between reckless brats and self-satisfied billionaires," have also decided to go into the mountains, but in a Porsche, Land Rover, Jeep and truck, with lesser motives: to see if they can find Zak and his fellow cyclists, to get payback for Zak having dated Nadine after she had dumped Scooter. The convergence of the two groups, when it comes, needless to say has disastrous consequences, veering totally out of control.

Earl Emerson is the author of 11 books in the Thomas Black series and several standalones, of which this is the latest. The author here makes palpable the magnificent scenery and the grandeur of the mountains, and he tells a tale describing the consequences of fear and panic when they take one over. This reader learned more about serious cycling and wildfires than I'd ever known, all of it fascinating [the former] and horrifying [the latter]. I had two minor complaints: The plot seemed to get a little unreal at about the midway point, although the suspense generated soon overcame that; and occasionally there were phrases I found awkward which pulled me out of the story briefly, e.g., one character was "more confused than an orphan at a family reunion." But these are small quibbles. "Primal Threat" was an absorbing and suspenseful tale, and the book is recommended.

Nameless Night
G. M. Ford
WM. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737
9780060874421 $23.95

G. M. Ford's first standalone novel, after his two wonderful series featuring Frank Corso and Leo Waterman, opens with a startling scenario: The man known as Paul Hardy had been found near death in a railroad car, patched up as well as possible, his injuries so severe that he is described in the first pages as follows: "…he smiled, or maybe grimaced. With all that scar tissue on his face, it was hard to tell. Looked like somebody had crushed the front of his skull with a crowbar or something, pushed everything back so far it was both a wonder he was alive and a mercy he wasn't tuned to the same channel as the rest of humanity." He had been put in a group home for the adult disabled, almost completely unresponsive. Even his name is unknown - "Paul Hardy" was picked for him at random. Now, seven years later and probably in his mid-thirties, he is the victim of a horrific car accident.

The resulting surgeries [paid for by the anguished driver who had caused the incident] have completely altered his appearance and much more, to the extent that, as one of his doctors says, "this is a brand-new person, somebody who never existed before… six months from now, not even his own mother would recognize this guy." His already crushed face and skull have been radically changed well beyond plastic surgery. The person who had been called Paul Hardy is now a thinking, aware and questioning man with the tiniest fragment of a memory of his life before the past seven years, and determined to find out what that life was, and who he is. He embarks on a search for the answers to those questions, with unimagined and unimaginable consequences. That pursuit gives rise to a novel that is as well-written and suspenseful as anything that this author has previously written, and that is saying quite a lot.

The scenario that plays out after the scene described above seemed to me at first to be like something straight out of George Orwell, only to find that prescient soul's name invoked soon after. But of course Orwell's day didn't have current technology available nor a post-911 era to justify its ubiquitous use. And in no time at all, as the author's storytelling skills quiet assert themselves, this riveting tale, all about "memory" and "reality," has the reader completely in its grip. I loved the book, and it is highly recommended.

Friend of the Devil
Peter Robinson
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollinsPublishers
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060544379 $24.95 800-242-7737

Two weeks after she has been on loan from the Western Area HQ Eastvale police station to the Spring Hill police station in the Eastern Area, Annie Cabbot is assigned the murder investigation of a woman found in her wheelchair at the edge of a cliff, with her throat slit. At first appearing to be about 40 years old, she is soon found to have been only 28, a quadriplegic who had been a resident in a care home nearby to the murder site. At the same time, Inspector Alan Banks, Annie's one-time lover, is investigating the brutal rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Eastvale. The investigations of the two cases are juxtaposed in alternating sections, with the lines at times conjoining.

Further inquiries in the "Wheelchair Murder," as it is dubbed by the press, result in the realization that the dead woman was involved in an infamous case six years earlier [and the subject of an earlier book], with which Cabbot and Banks were deeply involved, and the case immediately becomes much more complex. An underlying theme is "the secrets and burdens people carry around with them," and their memories.

All the favorite elements of this wonderful series are present here: The terrific writing, evocative descriptions of the English landscape and cityscape, Banks' indulging in his regular pint or glass of wine [general over-indulgence in alcohol palpable throughout], the marvelous backdrop of music by Bill Evans, Coltrane and Monk, among others. What is different in this newest series entry is the emphasis on the character and personality of Annie Cabbot. Although Banks is the usual protagonist, and an always fascinating one he is, allowing Annie to take her equal place at center stage here only adds one more dimension to this always excellent series.

Memories are Murder
Lou Allin
Napoleon Publishing/RendezVous Press
178 Willowdale Ave., Toronto, Canada M2N 4Y8
9781894917339 $14.95 877-730-9052

This is the fifth and apparently final book in the Belle Palmer series, which takes place in the nickel-mining community of Sudbury, Ontario, where Belle is a real estate agent. No sooner does she unexpectedly reconnect with an old heartthrob, Gary Myers [the school valedictorian with whom she went to the prom, or the "grad dance" as it's apparently called in Canada], than his body is discovered in an isolated area, apparently the victim of an accidental drowning. His partner of several years, a murder-mystery author disconcertingly nicknamed "Mutt," joins Belle in going over the research the zoologist was doing, and some disquieting clues present themselves.

After a burglary at the house where Gary had been staying and some suspicious findings from his wilderness studies, it appears that there is more to his death than at first met the eye, and Belle becomes the target of someone who wishes her ill. The question is whether it is connected with an environmental report she made that could put someone is jail, or if it is related to her investigation into Gary's death.

"Cute" names abound in the book [something upon which the author comments]: Belle hires an assistant with a gambling habit nicknamed "Yoyo" - for Yolanda - whose mother is named Coco - both a bit quirky but charming. The book exudes a wonderful sense of place - I could see the beauty of the lakes and feel the sting of the early season insects that swarm periodically and with great intensity, as well as the flora and fauna of the forests of the North, in the process learning the names of more growing things than I knew existed. A very pleasant read.

The Marathon Murders
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-135, Tucson, AZ 85749-9399
9780979916700 $14.95 520-609-2070

Greg McKenzie, retired Lieutenant Colonel where he was an agent with the OSI [Office of Special Investigations], is contacted by a former colleague from the Air Force and asked to investigate a matter for his girlfriend, one Kelli Kane. Greg and his wife, Jill, live in Nashville, TN, where they opened a P.I. agency about seventh months ago. Kelli herself has a background that includes working undercover for some Federal Agency, whether CIA or otherwise is unclear. It seems that her great-great-grandfather had been accused of embezzlement when a large sum of money went missing from the company for which he worked as assistant treasurer, Marathon Motor Works, ultimately resulting in its declaring bankruptcy. Her grandfather, now 84 and in a nursing home, has been contacted by the job foreman for a company renovating the building which had housed that company ninety years ago, telling him that some papers had been found, hidden in a wall, attached to which was a handwritten note indicating that the papers were to be turned over to the District Attorney's office. The job foreman, a man named Bradley, was to have brought the papers to Kelli's grandfather, but never kept his appointment. Greg and his wife are asked to find Bradley and the papers which they believe will exonerate her relative and clear the family name.

It is not long before Bradley's body is found, and his house is discovered to have been ransacked, as is Kelli's grandfather's house. And of course the papers that might solve the mystery of the missing money are nowhere to be found. Complicating matters is the fact that as the investigation progresses it appears that the old man had a propensity for alienating a wide range of people, as had Bradley himself, and his being targeted may have had nothing to do with the Marathon investigation, but simply a matter of vandalism. But then another body is discovered.

Marathon Motor Works was a real company, and in fact it produced the only car completely built in the South. Nashville and its environs are lovingly described by the author, who has given us a very good mystery, well-written and suspenseful, and one I enjoyed a great deal.

Say Goodbye
E. J. Rand
Deadly Ink Press
P.O. Box 6235, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 973-663-4334
9780978744212 $12.95

From a great opening sentence: "If Norman Lyons had known he was going to die that morning, he would have worn different clothes," the reader soon meets Gary Kemmerman, neighbor to the aforementioned Mr. Lyons. Gary and Norman had spoken for a few minutes that same morning, not long before the latter's car crashed in a fatal "accident," having been run off the road by another vehicle on a wintry morning in New Jersey. Gary has retired from his practice as a crisis consultant after the death of his beloved wife from cancer nearly a year ago--he left his practice in order to be with her during her final months, and is still mourning her deeply.

Gary is reluctantly pulled back into the world of the living when Norman's widow begs him to look into her husband's death, firmly convinced he has been murdered. He is assisted in this effort by another neighbor, a homicide lieutenant. What follows is another murder, an attempted murder, arson, and an attack on a witness, and that's only through the first half of the book. Other characters in the tale include a cold-blooded killer with a fondness for Disney songs, and a beautiful young woman who witnessed Norman's "accident" and causes Gary to deal with the question of whether he can finally put his demons - or his ghosts - to rest and fall in love again.

The narrative is tense and the book is very fast reading, and I liked the cast of characters. Despite the fact that at times I felt the writing was uneven and a bit melodramatic, it soon became much surer as the story continued and the suspense built up, to the point where I couldn't put the book down. This appears to be the first in an anticipated series featuring Gary Kemmerman, and I will look forward to the next entry.

Pushing Up Daisies
Rosemary Harris
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312369675 $23.95 646-307-5560

The sub-title of Rosemary Harris' debut novel is A Dirty Business Mystery: Paula Holliday is a gardener in the town of Springfield, Connecticut. The owner of her own small landscaping business, after less than four years in town she succeeds in getting the job of restoring the garden at the home of one of the most prestigious families in town when its last known surviving member dies. The house had been built in the 1830's on a lush piece of property. On her first day on the job, Paula unearths a skull apparently belonging to a newborn baby, buried in the garden. She muses that "everything pointed to its being evidence of someone's old secret, as opposed to someone's new crime." It soon appears, however, that it is tied in to the mysterious disappearance of a young Mexican woman some thirty years prior.

Having recently broken up with her boyfriend, Paula describes herself as a "single woman, thirties, no kids, no cats." She spends much of her down time at the Paradise Diner, the social hub of the town, owned by Paula's friend, "Babe," quite a character all by herself - former backup singer for a metal band and the mother of twin sons, now grown, named Dylan and Daltry.

When someone locks Paula in the greenhouse of the mansion, soon followed by a stabbing which results in the arrest of one of Paula's friends, she tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. Hidden secrets are ultimately revealed. As Paula says, "It is a nice town. It's like the garden, though: everything looks beautiful from a distance. It's only when you look closely that you see the snakes."

The novel is replete with gardening information. This reader knows next to nothing about gardening and its nomenclature, and at times felt on flower and plant overload, which tended to slow down the plot for me. Nonetheless, the novel was a fun read. Paula is an original and interesting protagonist, and the author's sly humor is much in evidence.

Delicate Chaos
Jeff Buick
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016, 212-725-8811/800-481-9191
9781843960389 $7.99

The novel opens with a scene of alternating beauty and brutality - peaceful Kenyan forest, herds of elephants, zebras and wildebeests, and the rangers who are entrusted with their safety, immediately followed by the rifle fire of poachers intent on taking the elephants' tusks, firing with equal abandon on both man and beast and achieving the death of both. The action then switches abruptly to Washington, D.C., depicting the two worlds of the protagonist, 37-year-old Leona Hewitt, founder of Save Them, a non-profit organization based in the U.S. dedicated equally to saving the African wildlife in the 700 square miles allocated for the purpose by the local government, employing 27 well-armed and -trained park rangers in the process, and to improving the life of the local population, building water wells, schools and a clinic.

Her invaluable assistant is Mike Anderson, a 45-year-old ex-cop [handsome, intelligent, divorced - something of which he needs to keep reminding himself - and trying to control his drinking], who handles the distribution in Africa of the huge amounts of money raised by the foundation. The African end of the organization is headed by Kubala Kantu. After the scene described above, after three elephants have perished, one ranger killed and another badly wounded, to Leona's question of "Why does it have to be like this? Why is there always death?" Kubala can only answer: "TIA…This is Africa. This is the way things are." By the end of the tale, each of the three will be in peril, placed there by disparate scenarios, each motivated by greed.

The following day Leona returns home, where she is Director of Corporate Acquisitions and Accounts for DC Trust. A big promotion is offered to her, and her first assignment is to oversee, and ultimately approve, a structural change in a publicly-traded utility company mining and generating electrical power with coal, one of her company's biggest clients. The question of environmental ethics becomes paramount, and complicates Leona's ability to do the job expected of her and, with many millions of dollars at stake, ultimately, her life.

The environmental discussions offered are thorough without being preachy, the corporate, financial, environmental and even political aspects all get equal time from the author. Leona, vulnerable despite her success, is a commanding presence as the protagonist. This is the fifth novel by Jeff Buick and, with equal parts tension-filled suspense, taut plotting, an unredeemingly awful killer, and a shocking [if somewhat implausible] ending, the whole adds up to a most satisfying read.

Standing Still
Kelly Simmons
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 800-223-2336
9780743289726 $23.00

The first thing that should be said about this book is that it is the most impressive debut novel I have read in a long time. Kelly Simmons' writing is riveting, the prose and the story captivating. In the opening pages, Claire Cooper, alone in the house while her husband is away on one of his constant business trips, hears sounds she cannot identify coming from the one of the upstairs bedrooms where her three children, four, five and seven years old, lie sleeping. When she enters one of the bedrooms, she is horrified to see an intruder with her daughter in his arms. Her instinct is what nearly any mother's would be: she tells him "Take me. Take me instead." And he does exactly that. The reader feels her anguish during the ensuing days, as her nightmare plays out. She spends the following week tied to a bed in a motel, her abductor her only companion. She refers to him throughout as simply "Him."

Claire is now a reporter for a local station, having worked all over the globe before her marriage to Sam, who co-owns a successful p.r./marketing business. Her history is, as she describes it, one of leaving without saying goodbye, whether it is a string of lovers or therapists. She suffers from an acute panic disorder, frequently all but disabling, and her Xanax bottle is never far away. Reflecting on her past before her marriage, she says: "I believed I was in control. I didn't see that I was wasting my youth and grace, doling it out as if it would regenerate. I didn't know at twenty what I knew at forty: that powers of seduction slow to a trickle. Until one day you go into the city in a perfect-fitting pair of jeans, get your hair highlighted, and when you walk back to your car no one's head turns. No, I didn't know I was perishable. But once I figured it out, the world conspired to move up my expiration date. It swatted at me daily with small swords - floods and heights and confined spaces and shadows and creaking floors. Things no one else saw. The pathetic world according to Claire."

Interspersed between scenes before and after the kidnapping are reflections of past days, going back to Claire's childhood, as captured in photos she remembers. But Sam and Claire, it appears, both have secrets. The book is all about, to quote the author again, "the things you don't see coming." Kelly Simmons has a completely fresh voice, and has written a novel of breathtaking originality. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Crusader Gold
David Gibbins
Bantam Dell
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243939 $6.99

Every author gets his style from reading other writers. Gibbins follows the proven structure of Clive Cussler. Cussler starts with an historic incident and builds a modern action/adventure from it. So does Gibbins. Cussler has a strong technical organization, NUMA, backing his team of heroes. Gibbins has IMU. Cussler has a team of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino. Gibbins has Jack Howard and Costas Kazantzakis. Where Gibbins surpasses Cussler is in the accuracy of the archeology and history and the feasibility of the action. Gibbins is more for the thinking reader.

In the waters outside of Istanbul, Jack Howard is excavating for Crusader relics. He is hoping to find the menorah looted by the Romans when they sacked Jerusalem. In Hereford Cathedral, a layout of the Mappa Mundi is found with an added inscription about Harald Sigurdson, a map of Vinland and a menorah rune. Jack starts on a lethal quest that could change the future of the modern world and brings the wrath of an international group of killers.

Gibbins brings a needed addition to the historical action adventure genre with 'Crusader Gold.' 'Crusader Gold' fills the niche between light all action storytelling and strong historical possibility. The believability of the story adds to its strength. Anyone who has enjoyed historical action adventures will be pleased with the sound storytelling of Gibbins. 'Crusader Gold' is a must read for anyone who enjoys this genre.

After the Dinosaurs, The Age of Mammals
Donald R. Prothero
Indiana University Press
601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797
9780253347336 $39.95

'The Age of Mammals' is not a thorough story about the unique creatures that became the dominate forms of life on earth today. It is a book about the geography of the last 65 million years. It is a text about the climate changes, land mass changes and finally the extinction, migration and lineage of the plants and animals that eventually developed into the world today. It is an outline that works at attempting to explain the flow of this last great period in the history of the world.

The text starts with an explanation of methods and techniques for dating fossils and geological strata. Individual sections have an introduction with key scientists and their work in the period of time covered in the section. A summary of what is known and still unknown about the climate in the period and epochs follows with a synopsis of the changing life populating the epochs. Each epoch is further broken down by what is happening in the individual regions of the world. The strongest fossil records for the Cenozoic have been recorded in North America, which makes this region's history the most complete.

Prothero tries to summarize the gaps and unknowns of the Cenozoic with the best scientific theories. His scientific strengths and weaknesses show through but he does his best to keep a balanced narrative. 'The Age of Mammals' is a perfect outline to correlate and place historical facts and ideas in context. It is a key timeline for anyone with an interest in the subject and a great companion for anyone trying to understand how the geography of the modern world came into being. 'The Age of Mammals' greatest strength might be in the powerful correlation and understanding of the interaction of climate with the life on earth. It is a great reference guide for the Cenozoic but it can a dry read for a non-student in the field.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

His Dark Materials, 3 volumes
Philip Pullman
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

The Golden Compass
0440238137 $6.99

The Subtle Knife
0345413369 $5.99

The Amber Spyglass
0679879269 $19.95

According to the Cincinnati Inquirer, "Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century." Smithsonian Magazine declares that this trilogy "confirms Pullman's inclusion in the company of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien." Unfortunately I can neither affirm nor refute those evaluations. While I am an avid science fiction appreciator, I utterly detest fantasy. I have never attempted to read Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, and seriously doubt that I could force myself to do so. Does that mean that my ability to read Pullman's entire 1,000+ pages should be interpreted as a kind of recommendation? Perhaps. Certainly I was not bored, and I found the central character appealing and cared what happened to her. The big downside is that the often-foreshadowed climax, in which Lyra becomes the new Eve, Mary becomes the new tempter, "Mrs Coulter" gets an appropriate comeuppance, and the Republic of Heaven is established, never happens. As for the utterly capricious plot twist that made it impossible for Romeo and Juliet to live happily ever after: Mr. Pullman, what were you thinking?

Of the three dozen reviews of the first volume I read, not one made any mention of its alleged anti-Catholic perspective (although reviews of the trilogy did so) that has the Vatican and its quislings trying to have Pullman's masterpiece removed from libraries, as well as attempting to prevent Catholics from seeing the movie version. Apparently Pope Ratzinazi has learned nothing from Cardinal Spellman's ill-fated attempt to prevent Catholics from seeing the movie Baby Doll, thereby adding millions of dollars to the movie's ticket sales. While His Dark Materials indeed portrays the "Magisterium" that is the trilogy's equivalent of the Vatican as the evil all ex-Catholics recognize their former brainwashing tyranny to be, I would have expected the loudest screams of outrage to be triggered by Pullman's naming his female antagonist after the most evil woman in America. As the Regent who has displaced the dying "Authority," also known as "God," told her, "You are a cesspit of moral filth." Perhaps the sentence that a peripheral character, "sensed in her a nature as close to that of a scorpion as he had ever encountered," explains Pullman's choice for her name. As far as I am aware, the American "Mrs. Coulter" has been sufficiently prudent to remain silent.

Even though the Magisterium is a Vatican analogue, it is difficult to see why passages such as the following triggered so much paranoia: "It suits the Magisterium to allow all kinds of different agencies to flourish. They can play them off against one another; if one succeeds, they can pretend to have been supporting it all along, and if it fails, they can pretend it was a renegade outfit which has never been properly licensed." Certainly that is a description of how the Catholic Church has operated throughout history. And the observation that, "Every philosophical research establishment … had to include on its staff a representative of the Magisterium, to act as a censor and suppress the news of any heretical discoveries," is common knowledge even among Catholics. Far stronger descriptions of Catholic perfidy are published every day in mainstream newspapers, and even the diatribes of Ian Paisley have been shrugged off with a disclaimer such as, "Consider the source." As for the Magisterium president/pope's declaration that, "It was sometimes necessary to kill people, for example, and it was so much less troubling for the assassin if he could do so in a state of grace," either a reader already knows that the Catholic Church will stop at nothing, including de-sinning murder and genocide, to maintain its absolute power, or he cannot be told.

The scene in the realm of the dead was interesting reading. A ghost who had died centuries earlier as a martyr denounced the Magisterium for deluding her that, "Heaven was a place of joy and glory…. Because the land of the dead isn't a place of reward or a place of punishment. It's a place of nothing." And an incurable masochist, despite having spent centuries in the realm of intolerable boredom, insists that, "This is Heaven, truly…. My companions and I of the true faith will remain here in this blessed paradise, and spend eternity singing the praises of the Almighty." Are the Vatican oligarchs terrified that, when readers recognize Pullman's afterlife fantasy as a product of the human imagination, it might occur to them that the Catholic afterlife fantasy is also a product of the human imagination? How paranoid is that?

The trilogy's ultimate message is that the Magisterium is trying to turn the human race into zombis, mindless automatons incapable of questioning Church dogma, analogous to Stepford wives, by preventing them from absorbing Knowledge. As a witch on the side of progress declares, "the rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." Another character states that, "The Authority considers that conscious beings of every kind have become dangerously independent." And another explains that, "Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit." NEWSFLASH: That is not exactly a secret. The RC church not only has never denied imposing mind-slavery by book-burning, censorship and terror; it has justified it by boasting that even centuries of prohibiting bibles from being translated into languages the masses could read was necessary in order to protect its mindslaves from the thoughtcrime of interpreting biblical passages in a manner that did not conform to what the Church wants the ignoranti to believe.

His Dark Materials is fantasy, and consequently incorporates such fantasy creations as alternate universes, including a realm of the dead. There are also concepts from folklore and mythology, such as daemons, specters, harpies, Lilliputian fairy-folk who fly on the backs of dragonflies, ghosts, witches, and angels, including the Authority. The Authority was the first angel to evolve from the primeval dark matter of Knowledge and delude its younger siblings that it was their Creator and God. There are also younger angels who presaged Toussaint L'Ouverture by instigating the first slave rebellion against the Authority's totalitarian dictatorship. As a human ally of the rebel angels who, undaunted by their first failure and currently organizing what will be the final rebellion, explains, "We intend to be free citizens of the Republic of Heaven." Could the recognition - in a fantasy novel! - that God is a tyrant, and a rebellion against his tyranny was inevitable democratic evolution, be what has so upset the Vatican Reichsfuhrers? If so, are they unaware that John Milton took essentially the same position in Paradise Lost? Can we now expect to see Milton removed from Catholic libraries?

So has the Catholic Church now adopted Scientology as its role model, trying to exterminate even the most insignificant modicum of dissent or independent thought, in effect using a sledgehammer to swat a fly? Certainly no other explanation for its pathological terror of even the mildest criticism comes to mind. Trying to suppress a book containing totally innocuous common knowledge, far from concealing the Vatican's status as a totalitarian oligarchy that looks back on the Inquisition as the Good Old Days, in fact draws attention to it. Anyone with a functioning human brain would be able to see that. But no one has ever accused propagandists who preach that one plus one plus one equals one of having functioning human brains.

I have never seen a commentary on The Holocaust that denounced its author as a militant Nazi-hater who failed to show proper respect to that nice Mr Hitler. I have never seen an evaluation of Roots that denounced Alex Haley as a militant slavery-hater who utilized the medium of fiction to induce his readers to adopt his own intolerant attitude toward a long cherished institution. Yet brainwashed god addicts (there's another kind?) are denouncing Philip Pullman for drawing attention to the evil of religion and its imaginary figurehead, "God," even though he is as much a humanitarian depicting absolute evil for what it is as the authors of The Holocaust and Roots. Apparently, denouncing evil is only hatemongering when nontheists do it.

The Case Against Jesus
Burton H. Wolfe
World Audience Publishers
303 Park Avenue, #1440, New York, NY 100100-3657
9781934209554 $20.00

Robert Price wrote that, "the gospel story of Jesus matches the pattern of the Mythic Hero Archetype in every detail, with nothing left over." 1 From there he concluded that a historical Jesus probably never existed. He later backed away from that conclusion, and decided that the evidence for and against a historical Jesus is too close to call. 2

Earl Doherty presents the most convincing arguments to date for a purely mythical Jesus, and the nonexistence of an insignificant Jewish preacher onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted, and whose name would not have survived if Paul of Tarsus had not arbitrarily chosen him from the dozen or more recently-crucified messiahs to become the figurehead of Paul's newly invented pagan religion.3 But like all proponents of the "no such person" hypothesis, Doherty made no attempt to explain the unflattering depiction of Jesus by propagandists trying to portray him as their ultimate hero. For example, the gospel authors acknowledged that he proclaimed a War of Independence - and lost - and that Jesus' claim to be a healer triggered the response, "Heal yourself." And five centuries of Christian apologists, using descriptions such as, "not even of honest human shape," endorsed Josephus's description of Jesus as a hunchbacked dwarf. A biographer who ignores such counter arguments in the hope that they will go away thereby acknowledges that he cannot rebut them.

Burton Wolfe similarly argues that Jesus was not a real person from history. But whereas Doherty recognized that a majority of biblical scholars believe there was a historical nobody, whom Paul turned into a somebody, behind the executed-rebel story, he did not suggest that anyone who disagreed with him must be an incompetent brain amputee. While I managed to persuade Mr Wolfe to delete such allegations from his book as my price for helping him with the editing, his ongoing e-zine continues to leave no doubt that he agrees with the fatuous oaf who once told me to stop embarrassing myself by agreeing with the majority rather than with him.

Wolfe has many unrealistic beliefs. His book is far less coherent and logical than Doherty's. If Doherty could not change many minds on the issue of Jesus' historicity, Wolfe certainly will not do so. But Wolfe believes that his book so totally disproves Christianity that it alone can wipe out the religion of the Western world. Newsflash: While Wolfe gets much right, the places where he is not merely wrong but indefensibly wrong will assuredly prevent anyone from taking his book seriously.

For example, his determination to believe that Isaiah prophesied a virgin birth, and refusal to be told that only the Greek mistranslation of Isaiah contains such a prophesy, is incomprehensible. He stubbornly defended his position that persons unknown for reasons unknown falsified surviving post-Septuagint Hebrew manuscripts, changing bethuwlah to almah, by claiming that, in the absence of any early manuscripts, it is impossible to prove him wrong. An analogous argument would be for me to claim that the original hero of Iliad was Lancelot, and persons unknown changed it to Achilles. By Wolfe's reasoning, no one could prove that wrong either.

Basically, Wolfe utilizes the same kind of circular reasoning as theologians, "proving" that there was never a Jesus of history by starting from the assumption that there was never a Jesus of history. How else does one explain his pretentious, immoderate, vindictive condemnation of scholars of the eminence of R. Joseph Hoffman and the 200 members of the Jesus Seminar for even investigating an issue Wolfe considers closed?4 As for Wolfe's contempt for all "scholars" and "historians" (words he likes to enclose in quotation marks), and his boast that he is an "investigative journalist" and therefore more qualified to examine evidence than persons with graduate degrees in documentary analysis, I predict that the day will come when he recognizes the reduction (he refused to delete it all) of such pompous arrogance from The Case Against Jesus before publication as a significant contribution to his credibility.

So much for the down side. In Wolfe's favor is that he gets almost as much right as he gets wrong. For a well-meaning amateur who has never seen the inside of a graduate school, that is quite an achievement. Certainly his book is not the unmitigated drivel turned out by John Allegro or Roman Piso. But Wolfe has an inflated, one might even say fatuously inflated, opinion of how good it is, including the delusion that he actually proves Jesus' nonexistence, a task Earl Doherty came far closer to accomplishing. Doherty concluded that his arguments for a mythical Jesus outweighed the contrary evidence. Wolfe refuses to recognize that there is any contrary evidence. "There are none so blind…."

Wolfe makes some common mistakes, such as confusing Suetonius's reference to Chrestus ("the Righteous") with Christus ("the Anointed"), unaware that Chrestus was a preacher of Judaism who had no connection whatsoever with the Christians or their posthumous figurehead. The Christians did not come into disfavor in Rome until the reign of Nero, whereas the followers of Chrestus were expelled by Claudius. Wolfe even declares that there were no Christians during Nero's Imperium, and justifies that mushroom fantasy by declaring that Tacitus's reference to the "notoriously depraved Christians," who set fire to Rome and were appropriately punished, really meant "messianists," in other words orthodox Jews who preached a not-yet-born Messiah.

He buys the rationalization that the Jews banned the eating of pork out of awareness that inadequately cooked pork can cause trichinosis, whereas the ban actually stemmed from the fact that gentiles ate pork sacramentally as the body of the sow goddess, and anything the gentiles did became taboo for Jews. And he states as fact that the Christian gospels were originally composed in Hebrew, despite clear evidence that the author of Matthew could not read Hebrew, and the author of John made skillful use of the distinction between the Greek words, philos and agape, that does not exist in Hebrew.

Wolfe also makes mistakes that as far as I am aware are unique. His conviction that "Chrestus" was a reference to Jesus causes him to conclude, ad hoc, that the sentence in Suetonius was a forgery. Wolfe not only maintains that Jesus was not a real person from history (with which a large number of scholars agree), and that the Twelve Apostles were literary creations by the author of the first gospel (with which all competent scholars agree); he is the first person I have encountered who argues that Paul of Tarsus was not a real person from history. As for his trying to win Brownie points by disputing the validity of translations of proper names and titles, hairsplitting is too charitable a term in light of the way he desperately tries to use such trivia to make something out of nothing. He even asks how Jesus and Joseph can be sons of David, blissfully unaware that the Hebrew word for "son" also means "descendant," and that the word for "father" also means "ancestor."

Burton Wolfe is the author of a handful of books, including Lucifer's Dictionary of the American Language,5 an amateurish Devil's Dictionary clone that, unlike Ambrose Bierce's masterpiece, tries to entertain without simultaneously informing, and The Devil's Avenger, a biography of San Francisco's Church of Satan founder Anton LaVay, that so provoked the Christian thought police that they intimidated the original publisher into withdrawing it and burning all copies.6

I am not sorry I helped Mr Wolfe redesign The Case Against Jesus into a format that could be published. He makes some valid points. And while his book makes no useful contribution to curing humankind of the god delusion (or the Jesus-the-god delusion), neither does it do any harm., since Wolfe's acknowledgment that he is not a scholar should deter believers from citing him as an archetype of the dogmatism they like to attribute to nontheists who are scholars. As an undergraduate honors essay it would probably earn its author a B+, or as a Master's thesis a C+. But if I had read it first, I would not have offered my help. To paraphrase a nursery rhyme: When he is right, he is very, very right; and when he is wrong he is unteachable.7

1 Deconstructing Jesus, p. 250.

2 The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.

3 The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ?

4 Burton Wolfe's Internet Rag.

5 2006 ppb, 140 pp, $15.00, ISBN 978-1419619748.

6 An updated edition (the original was published during LaVay's lifetime) from a new publisher is in preparation.

7 Alternative explanation: On three separate occasions I corrected the opening paragraphs of each chapter to the un-indented format demanded by all book publishers, and explained in great detail why this was necessary, and each time Mr Wolfe indicated that he understood my explanation and agreed that I was right. Yet within hours he undid my corrections and reverted to his own amateur format. While a stubborn conviction that he knows better than every book publisher on earth is the Occam's razor explanation, the possibility of memory lapses should not be ruled out.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

When Faith Moves Mountains/Cuando La Fe Mueve Montanas
Francis Alys and Cuauhtemoc Medina
Distributed Art Publishers/DAP
New York
8475066399 $29.95 800-338-2665

In 2002, 500 Peruvian volunteers, mostly students at the University of Lime, gathered in a long line by a giant sand dune on the outskirts of Lima. In the period after the end of the lengthy, troublesome autocracy of Peru's leader Fujimora, the tensions caused by his regime continued to unsettle Peruvian society. Many continued to feel anger over the violence and coercion of the Maoist Shining Path radical group. The largely-ignored poor were looking for answers to their conditions. Rival groups clashed in the streets of the major cities. And lawlessness was threatening to further fray Peru's historically-precarious social fabric.

In this atmosphere, the artist-activist Francis Alys got the idea for a large-scale community project--namely the moving of the mountain of sand. This impractical project was intended to be not only symbolic of the power of persons working together toward a goal, but also a model of a physically challenging activity to release pent-up angers and thwarted hopes and reorient these toward something productive. Alys' idea attracted much attention, and accomplishing its symbolic aim and immediate purposes. As the sand dune and the hundreds of volunteers moving it but a few inches around its edges were visible from the impoverished shanty towns set up by rural Peruvians fleeing Shining Path, the project's message was absorbed by this dislocated, restive population especially seeking new ideas, activities, and directions.

The planning, execution, and the intentions and hopes entailed in the impractical, encouraging outsized project are covered in the varied content of interviews with the project leaders, remarks by many of the student participants, and commentary by other activists and artists involved in different ways giving different perspectives. The many photographs and illustrations from topological drawings of the sand dune, the long line of volunteers at work, and faces of individuals convey the varied psychological, political, and social aspects of the imaginative project. A collage-like format represents the anomalies and multiple aspirations of this unique project with aspects of performance art and social ritual.

A Seed of Modernism - The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-1953
Will South et al
Heyday Books
Berkeley, CA
9781597140768 $24.95

Modeled after the Art Students League of New York City, the Art Students League of Los Angeles soon became "an organized artist group affecting the cultural life of this city." Its influence extended as well throughout southern California and much of the Southwest. By the second and third decades of the 1900s, it was the center of a self-conscious regional movement to break out of the dominating mold of Califoria Impressionism by experimenting with new styles and subjects. The many color illustrations fall into or show influences of surrealism, cubism, fauvism, art deco, synchronism, collage, and graphics. Some of the art work is mainly naturalistic portraits, figures, and outdoor scenes with only limited modernist inflection or experimentation.

Japanese-American artists had a distinctive part in the League's broad approach to art and its identity. The interest in Japanese-Americans--known at the time as Issei--in participating in the field of art as they were in other fields such as business out of their desire to assimilate and be successful also played an important role in the longevity of the League.

The Japanese membership had its appreciable effects by their numbers, continuity, and activism. Despite these substantial factors, they did not bring an Oriental, Asian leaning or coloration to the League. In reviewing a 1929 exhibition of 24 Japanese artists and students, a critic observed that "while our [native-born] painters turn to Africa and the Orient for new stimulus, the Japanese look entirely to the western world." Except for a couple with subtle points, one cannot pick out the art works done by the Japanese student members. Even art works of the WWII detention camps and other aspects of West Coast Japanese experiences in the U.S. are done with a composition, style, coloring, etc., indistinguishable from ones of Euro-American artists treating the same subjects. The same holds for patriotic posters by Japanese student artists.

In the years following World War II, the Art Students League gradually went out of existence due to changing demographics, business activity, and social trends in Los Angeles. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the League had been a beacon ahead of its time with its openness and initiatives toward new styles, new genres, and new sorts of artists. It died out not because of obsolescence, but because the art scene of southern California and the Southwest as well as of other art centers throughout the country came to reflect the League's outlook and practices regarding modern-day art. The distinctive identity and role of the League had come to be widely embraced.

New Orleans 1867
Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal by Gary A. Van Zante.
London and New York
9781858942100 $75.00

Guy A. Van Zante is presently Curator of Architecture and Design at MIT. For eight years up until 2002, he was curator of Southeastern Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. He's working on two book projects of historic New Orleans architecture. Van Zante's background, including regional roots and high-level, visible academic positions, makes him the ideal author for this work. He describes his project, "This book is about a city ad its aspirations, and a photographer and his ambitions, and how they cam together to create a powerful image of city building to a world audience." The photographer Lilienthal was German born. Though prominent in his day, he is largely unknown today. When he died in 1894 with no successors, his most significant photographic work--namely the 150 or so New Orleans photographs recorded here--became lost to the public. They turned up--of all places--in 1906 among the family heirlooms of Napoleon III in Arenenberg, Switzerland, where the Emperor lived as a boy. The collection eventually came to be exhibited in New Orleans in 2000. It is virtually priceless since there are no known negatives and only one duplicate print.

Though the first book covering this major historical find, Van Zante's book is definitive in that cannot be surpassed in expertise nor in scope and thoroughness. Unfailingly through the book's architectonic structure and its labyrinth of pertinent and frequently colorful details, Van Zante remains an authoritative director. With curatorial respect for the importance and uniqueness of the material and confidence in its power to speak for itself (no doubt from his authoritativeness), Van Zante only minimally engages in other than assuring that the book's structure best serves the photographs and respective commentary and controlling the flow of myriad detail into the structure. Most of the detail provides background for individual photos culled from "stories of travelers, journalists, and diarists." Each one of Lilienthal's photographs is shown with adjacent relevant period writings. Well-chosen passages from these varied source documents are skillfully and knowledgeably woven together to note specifics of the respective photograph and give it context. So ones learns not only about particular locations at the time, but also much about New Orleans social history, especially commerce, civic groups, and public buildings.

Van Zante begins a Postscript dated August 2007 to the prepared Preface, "New Orleans has been shaped by disaster perhaps more than any other major American city." Disasters followed by extensive reconstruction of areas of the city include not only the destruction from the Civil War prompting Lilienthal's historic photographs, but also floods, hurricanes, fires, and epidemics. The latest flood caused by the hurricane Katrina was a disaster of epic proportion rivaling and perhaps surpassing the damage from the Civil War. Van Zante compares the questions and challenges of reconstruction, revitalization, and continuity facing New Orleans today with those facing the city in the wake of the Civil War; thus deepening attachment to the photographs by suggesting that after Katrina they are not only unique, irreplaceable historical artifacts, but also sources of guidance and encouragement on how New Orleans has overcome previous disasters. Van Zante uses part of the August 2007 postscript also to note which parts of the city seen in the photographs were affected by Katrina and which parts were not touched.

Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America, 1521-1821
Kelly Donahue-Wallace.
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826334596 $29.95 800-240-7737

This learned tour through the three centuries of Latin American art and architecture, reflecting the teaching style of the author who teaches art history at a Texas university, "include[s] fewer objects and monuments than found in the typical broad survey" so that the fewer chosen can be given greater discussion to the reader's benefit. Donahue-Wallace wanted to avoid the common "laundry list" leaving readers to memorize innumerable titles, dates, and artists without really learning much about the art. Still mainly a survey covering centuries of a variety of art, with Donahue-Wallace putting the works their social context, it easily surpasses the usual introductory survey, for example, in implanting knowledge of the subject.

The three centuries from 1521 to 1821 were the long period of Spanish colonial domination of practically all of Latin America (notably excluding Brazil not included in this work). The overarching social context was Spanish colonial rule. As the author's chronological tour makes clear, there was a clearly noticeable evolution of art and architecture in this period even though it all evidences the impress of the European masters and their culture.

The viceregal art began with the earliest Spanish Catholic missions. What limited art there was was primitive. The missions were simple as well, with little embellishment beyond archways, folk art religious figures, and murals. With the growth of cities and intermixing of populations as Spanish rule took root throughout Latin America. art and architecture became correspondingly more complex and sophisticated. Churches and municipal buildings were built on the grand scale. Especially impressive were the altarscreens, "also known as an altarpiece; and ornamental construction behind the altar, usually bearing painted or sculpted images of religious themes" (from the Glossary).

Paintings especially rivaled those of France and England of the period for their level of accomplishment. Spaniards, Native Americans, and mixed race artists were all involved in art that was a testament to the Spanish colonial presence and affirmation of its control and administration. Aristocrats from Spain and businessmen who grew wealthy from the imposed Spanish economic system for exploiting the riches of the colonies used architecture and art to signify their high status. With her approach seeing the works within their social context, Donahue-Wallace regularly discusses the origins, subjects, and symbolisms of the art works.

The outstanding survey of Spanish colonial art in all parts of Latin America is heavily illustrated with 104 black-and-white illustrations accompanying the text and 32 color plates grouped together. This colonial art shaping Latin American art and culture long after Spanish rule ended in the early 1800s--and continuing to shape it--is seen today not only in museums, but also in the churches and buildings of many city plazas throughout Latin America from Mexico to Argentina and Chile.

Cult Watches - The World's Enduring Classics
Michael Balfour
New York

Balfour highlights 30 of the world's leading watches with half a dozen or so color photographs so clear details of the watch faces can be seen and with essays on each watch's history and individuals who have played a role in its becoming a leading watch. "Leading" means watches which are expensive, but which also stand out for their design and craftsmanship and are desired by wealthy individuals around the world who have an appreciation for high quality and modern fashion design. Balfour is a prominent observer of the field of leading watches who besides doing frequent lectures and broadcasts, has written for GQ and Newsweek International. He is also the main watch-industry correspondent for the Financial Times.

In addition to highlighting the 30 watches, the handsome book contains considerable secondary material of interest to collectors at all levels; including newcomers to this glamorous field involving auctions and investment purchases as well as retail sales. In the Introduction, Balfour cites several watchmakers such as Alain Silberstein who necessarily, but regrettably were left out of the limit of 30 watches. While not receiving the full treatment of the highlighted watches, worthwhile information is given on these (i. e., they are not simply mentioned). In the section "Collecting and investing" of the Introduction, Balfour describes categories of watches such as sports watches, military watches, and car watches. Of an appearance and production quality of a coffee-table art or fashion book, "Cult Watches" has enough basic and authoritative content to be a primer and reference as well.

Some of the watchmakers are household names; while others are recondite to all but the most active and experienced collectors. Cartier, Rolex, and Bulova are known by most. Breguer, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Tissot are not generally familiar. Balfour gives all of the chosen 30 watches, familiar or unfamiliar, equal treatment on the basis of his expertise and enthusiasm for this popular fashion field. Anyone attracted to it will enjoy and learn from the book.

Motoring - The Highway Experience in America
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle
U. of Georgia Press
Athens, GA
9780820330280 $34.95

Between 1994 and 2004, Jakle and Sculle coauthored five other books on the automobile and aspects of American culture. These were on gas stations, motels, roadside restaurants, parking as land usage, and roadside signs. In this newest book. they do not focus on a similar specific subject related to Americans attachment to automobiles. Rather, the theme of this work is the relatively amorphous highway experience they call "motoring"; a concept they "define as that experience by which drivers, machines, and highways become integrally linked. Content such as roadside scenery and objects, design of highways as conducing to dream fulfillment, and the growth of ubiquitous convenience stores connected to gas stations with plentiful associated illustrations evince that the authors drew on their previous books--so that this is something of a synthesis of them, "Motoring," however, has a limited critical dimension not found in the earlier works. "As the wisdom of America's passionate embrace of automobility has come into serious question" in light of urban sprawl, environmental deterioration, energy waste, and class and racial issues surfacing in recent years, "reassessing how American became so dependent on automobiles seems more important than ever." To the extent they engage in criticism, Jakle and Sculle mostly point out excesses and heedlessness and occasionally silliness rather than engage in a fundamental critique of the automobile in the culture.

The book's eclectic content is also brought into the perspective of visual culture, a relatively new field which is being applied to many aspects of American culture. "The pleasure trip, as with all forms of auto trip taking, also came to privilege human visuality." Highways were planned so that at least in some parts they passed by scenic areas; and about the mid 1900s, funds for roadside landscaping were included in many highway appropriations. In other places, however, roadsides inevitably became highly-commercialized with the great numbers of Americans and their families traveling by car. "The commercial roadside evolved as a linear array of conveniently accessed places, positioned and designed specifically to entice." No matter what the roadside sights, motoring changed the pace of the visual experience to "a rapid kaleidoscope seeing of things overwhelming slower, more studied apprehension."

The changes in visual experience, psychology of boundaries, motives for involvement, social life, and expectations Jakle and Sculle link to the automobile compare with similar changes linked to the computer becoming central in the society. While the open road has not lost all of its romance, the notion that it offers an escape from the routines of daily life and a way to new horizons seems outdated, as the authors imply. Just ask anyone stuck in rush hour traffic.

Henry Berry

Kaye's Bookshelf

What to Do When You Become the Boss - How New Managers Become Successful Managers
Bob Selden
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker CO
9781432714284 $24.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Do you know all the "ins" and "outs" of managing? Make a success of your career as a manager. This is your complete "How to" for managing your boss, your people, yourself. You will refer to this book again and again as you progress through your career.

"You will discover how to:

-Become an effective leader, recognized throughout the organization

-Distribute your time appropriately between the three essential managerial role elements of leading, managing and operating

-Manage your boss - one of the most important of your work relationships

-Select your new boss - if you happen to be changing roles or organizations

-Manage the performance of your team including setting and maintaining standards, coaching, motivating and appraising performance

-Select the best person for the job with a process that is 4 times more effective than traditional selection processes

-Delegate, make more effective decisions, run motivating team meetings - there are even chapters on "How to manage your emails" and "How to build your image"

"The messages in this best selling book have shown thousands of managers, particularly new managers, a better way of managing. Find out for yourself."

What To Do When You Become the Boss is an excellent book for new managers with little or no managing experience. It is well organized, well edited and written in an entertaining manner.

Its strongest feature is that it has been written by a qualified man, Bob Selden, an international management consultant who currently coaches at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Australian Graduate School of Management, Sydney, Australia.

If you're in management, this may be a helpful book for you.

New Prescription for Childhood Obesity - Fight Childhood Obesity with Antioxidants & Phytonutrients
Billy C. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D.
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595453436, $17.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"About one in three American children is either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a crisis robbing youth of health and energy, and even causing children to die prematurely. Obesity among children, which is likely to carry over to adulthood, is also linked to a greater risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, early heart disease, and high blood pressure.

"New Prescription for Childhood Obesity provides an innovative approach to fighting childhood obesity. The traditional method for weight loss and fat reduction has been to eat less and exercise more, but this does not work over the long haul. To lose weight and keep it off requires addressing the root cause of the problem: insulin resistance and the low-grade silent inflammation that is triggered by many factors, including foods and environmental causes such as pesticides, industrial pollutants, and toxins.

"Now parents have an opportunity to change their child's eating and physical activity habits even before a weight problem develops. Complete with recipes to get you on the right track, this essential guide provides specific and simple strategies, techniques, and skills that will enable children to eat the right amount of food appropriate for their level of physical activity without dieting."

This is an excellent book, and we could all benefit, not just our children, from Dr. Johnson's theories, information and eating/exercise program. There certainly is a need in this country for information and guidance to help us fight our obesity issue. This is a well written, organized and edited book, and if your child has a weight problem, you might want to read and consider Dr. Johnson's program.

Halfmoon Confidential
Edward Fotheringill, Inc.
9781601454300 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Alexander Lessing, an aging, disgruntled philosophy professor in search of some sense of self, retreats to his idyllic farm in the mountain village of Halfmoon, Vermont. What he find there is not what he expected. Incongruous presences, harboring the forces of good and evil, haunt Halfmoon and its environs, imposing on the simple folk that live there psychological and ethical impasses that call out for nothing less than spiritual resolution."

I can't really say that I understood this story but I did enjoy Ed's writing style, his characters, the metaphysical aspects and his gift for description. Allow to share the first two paragraphs of Chapter 1 with you:

"High on a wooded hillside in Halfmoon, Vermont, in a dense grove of tall white poplars, a bald eagle majestically sits atop the highest of the poplar crowns. It slowly rotates its regal, white head, surveying the earthly realm with prescient circumspection. The large, predatory bird would be considered an incongruous presence, for it is calculated to be endangered in these parts. But incongruous presences haunt Halfmoon and its environs. Shortly, they will make themselves known. And it will seem as if the forces of nature had converged on the innocent like a macabre maelstrom of unwarranted strife.

"The bright yellow irises of the bald eagle's eyes shine in recognition of a human form moving about in a clearing below. The weathered aviator cocks its head, its curved, yellow bill pointing toward the red western sky like a cipher of doom. In a moment's flash, the bird opens its solid brown-feathered chest and spreads its mighty wings to a full span of seven feet. In this ominous posture, summoning ancient presences of prehistoric wanderings, it witnesses the human form with some distant and mysterious recollection of pity."

Halfmoon Confidential is the third and final novel in Edward Fotheringill's Wisdom Trilogy - the other two being Lanterns in the Mist (my most favorite) and Darkness Withdrawn OR The Eclipse of Nietzsche's Shadow. If you enjoy metaphysical fiction, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Kaye Trout

Larsen's Bookshelf

What Made Us Who We Are Today: World War II Oral History
Mary Timpe Robsman, Ed.D.
Terra Sancta Press, Inc.
7777 North Wickham Road #12-313, Melbourne, Florida 32940-7976
9780965346740 $19.95

It saddens me to realize there will never again be an opportunity to interview a World War I veteran. Their time has past, but their stories touched us so as we read personal narratives of that era.

Ernie Pyle interviewed hundreds of youthful survivors of the fighting in Europe and the Pacific, getting to the gut of their experiences with simple words and uncommon understanding. As with Pyle, many did not survive the war to add the luster of experience and time to consider. The fifty or more surviving veterans, interviewed so insightfully by Mary Robsman in the years 2001-2002, are among the last to have experienced Pearl Harbor, D-Day or Nagasaki.

Their stories have been honed by time, with the patina of sweat in memory, if not on the brow, the comradeship often ripped apart by sudden death or ghastly wounding, or transfers now is slipping away. Theirs has been a sixty year stay of the inevitable, nonrenewable death sentence.

Cheers for Mary Robsman and her curiosity about her own youth during the "Big War," when she was a young child in Galena, Illinois. Cheers for taking the "bull by the horns" and conducting interviews so that we may better understand them, ourselves and our world. Cheers also for persevering on the difficult trail of bringing the words to print and to the publisher for taking the time to help put it all together so that I could add this fine memoir of the Nineteen-Forties to my collection.

The fifty-three vignettes are arranged in chapters honoring six United States holidays: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Patriots' Day, American Gold Star Mother's Day and Veteran's Day.

This fine book provides a great view of the Big War on the battlefields and at home.

Wisconsin's Early French Habitants
Jo Bartels Alderson and Kate Alderson Rennert
Heritage Books, Inc.
65 East Main Street, Westminster, Maryland 21157-5026
9780788408953 $23.50 800-876-6103

A fine new view of the often overlooked early North American history covering the French exploration and settlement of South Central Canada and the North Central United States.

The preface contains a short history of the pre-French inhabitants of the area and includes several maps. The next 76 pages are a genealogical short course from Jacques Cartier searching for the Northwest Passage to Asia in 1534 to J. J. Astor's sale of the American Fur Company in 1834. 300 hundred years of French activity in what is now Ontario, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

There are some honest little bios about some of the well known explorers like Champlain, De Lute and LaSalle.

The next section is a genealogical gem of family histories of many of the inhabitants, following French names in early Wisconsin taken from "The Old French Cemetery in Prairie du Chien," "First Settlers in Green Bay" and "Before the War of 1812, Principal Families in Green Bay."

This book is a real jewel!

A History of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry and Cavalry in the Civil War
Michael J. Martin
Savas Beatie LLC
521 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3400, New York, NY 10175
1932714189 $34.95 610-853-9131

Like the settler of old, Michael Martin is clearing new land and sowing new fields. This book is the first serious study of a Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment. He has picked a difficult regiment to write about as the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment was, for more than two years, the 4th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.

The 4th Cavalry was organized as an Infantry regiment at Camp Utley in Racine Wisconsin and mustered into U. S. service on July 2, 1861. Leaving the State on July 15th, they proceeded to Baltimore, Maryland, where they went into camp at the Relay House on August 5th. They remained there until early November when the regiment was transferred back to Baltimore.

In late February 1862, the regiment was transferred to Newport News, Virginia. On March 6, 1862, they embarked to join the "Army of the Gulf." The regiment arrived at Ship's Island below New Orleans on March 12, 1862, engaging in combat at Ft. Jackson & St. Phillip. The Fourth Regiment landed in New Orleans on May 1, 1862.

They were assigned to active service, taking part in an expedition on the Mississippi against Vicksburg in May and another in June 1862. This regiment occupied Baton Rouge, Louisiana a little later in the year.

The regiment was engaged in successful expeditions during the year and in May 1863 were collected to fight at Port Hudson, Louisiana from May 21 to its capture on July 8, 1863.

This was the last service of the Wisconsin Fourth Infantry Regiment. On September 1, 1863, the regiment was ordered by the War Department to be equipped as a cavalry regiment.

Thereafter the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry was actively and constantly engaged in scouting, picketing and accompanying various expeditions at various points in Louisiana and Mississippi until June 1865, when, with other troops, the regiment was transferred to Texas near the Rio Grande River. Companies of the regiment were detached to guard different points along the river and the command remained in service until June 14, 1866.

Not only was the Fourth Wisconsin Infantry/Cavalry Regiment the longest serving volunteer Wisconsin regiment, fittingly the last surviving Wisconsin veteran served in this regiment. Lansing A. Wilcox of Cadott, (Eagle Point) enlisted in Company F of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry at age 17 in February 17, 1864, mustered out May 28, 1866, and died September 30, 1951 at age 105.

There is a complete alphabetical regimental roster of the more than 1200 men who served in the regiment. There are copious notes, many photographs and a very good index.

Martin depended on here-to-for unused diaries and letters as his main sources and succeeds very well in his ground breaking regimental history. There are several minor errors, such as calling Company G the Hudson County Guards, which should read Hudson City Guards. There is no Hudson County in Wisconsin (see page 4). These errors are correctable in a second edition and do not spoil a fine effort.

This book shows the eight years of research Martin put in on this project. It is an exciting read and should be on the shelf of every Wisconsin library.

Richard N. Larsen

Liana's Bookshelf

Shizue Tomoda
Booksurge Publishing
9781419677670 $15.99

Shizue Tomoda, born in Japan, was educated in both Japan and the USA. 'Sachiko' is her second book.

This story is set both in Japan and the USA. It is about a teenage Japanese girl, Sachiko, who fights against odds to travel to USA and find herself. Her parents object to her leaving Japan but Sachiko is determined to go away. She flies to America and finds herself in a completely unfamiliar environment. How will she cope with her new life? Will she be able to survive away from her family? How long will she stay in America?

The heroine is a courageous female that seeks her place in the world as well as love. Her journey in life is full of surprises and the plot helps to reveal and discuss important issues such as women's independence, racism, politics and love. Sachiko's involvement with a German student changes her life for good. The author examines love through a microscope and tries to analyze the way male and female partners think about this issue. It is interesting to note what the author mentions about relationships. For example, she says that possessiveness can 'ruin a relationship' (p.154). The story is full of the author's ideas on a variety of topics that may motivate the readers think about. Above all, this book is a cultural journey into the Japanese lifestyle and culture and extremely educational as well as entertaining. The story is written in a sensitive way, from a woman's point of view, and will make readers feel attached to Sachiko and her adventures in life. Packed with interesting details about Japanese and American lifestyles this book is moving, entertaining and a real page-turner! The perfect read for those who wish to discover the similarities to different civilizations around the world. Get the book from

We Are All One: A call to spiritual uprising
J.M. Harrison
9781419674051 $13.99

Very Highly Recommended

J.M. Harrison is the founder of the Dubon Centre, along with Wendy Harrison and Sharon Jeffries. Learn more about it at

This book is a spiritual journey into consciousness that will help readers gain awareness of the world around them and explore their inner self. The author addresses the issue of death on page 36, which is a very important topic for everyone, and introduces readers to the concept or reincarnation. The aim of this book is to help the reader to gain spiritual evolution so that they can learn how to approach spiritual truth. 'Knowing oneself is important' says the author who then highlights that 'all things return to their source' (see page 59).

There are many essential issues mentioned in this book. For example, on page 80, the author states that 'if you own nothing, then nothing owns you", while Chapter 8 is a very significant chapter as it refers to God and religion. He even addresses the issue of healing that is getting quite popular nowadays. To sum up, the author urges readers to seek themselves in order to find their inner self. This book is a difficult read and it is not for everyone. However, if all the people could read it and understand it, the world would be a better place and wars would stop. What's the point of fighting (and getting killed) for one's religion if all religions come from and end up to the same source? The concept of oneness the author tries to make readers understand is very important and this vision of his should be made known to the wider public.
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Charlie Bird: The Best Bird Ever
Linda Bird
Outskirts Press Inc.,
10940 S.Parker Road-515, Parker CO 80134
9781432704896 $12.95

Very Highly Recommended

Linda Bird, having had a career in health care, wrote this book inspired by her pet parrot Charlie Bird. More at

Charlie Bird is a lively illustrated book for young children that tells readers the adventures of Charlie Bird, a pet parrot. It shows the kids how a caged bird lives and what happens one day he is set free. Charlie Bird is an enjoyable story that can motivate kids to love and take care of their pets. There are colored illustrations throughout the story and the letter size is comfortable enough for the kids to read aloud. The author uses humor in her descriptions of Charlie's activities, thus making this story an entertaining read suitable for both pre- school and school age kids. Get this book from or Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

Free Mind, Free Body: How To Use Your Mind To Achieve More than Ever Before! A New Thought-Provoking and Mind-Expanding Perspective…
D.R. Boisse
Publishing Inc.
P.O.Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602640344 $14.95

D.R.Boisse has dedicated himself to motivating, empowering and instructing people while they work toward being their best. Read more about him at and at

This book is a helpful guide on how to succeed in life by finding happiness. The key is to free yourself and then you can have unlimited happiness. Based on positive thinking, this book is undoubtedly the most useful guide I have ever come across in years!

The author addresses many essential issues throughout his book. For example, he talks about fears and particularly he illustrates the fear of flying. It is very interesting to read and see the explanations he offers, and the solutions to any fear problem that may arise. He urges readers to free themselves in order to find happiness in life. To do that they need to free themselves from negative feelings that can create stress. He highlights that everyone has got the power to change things. He states: 'You can feel great any time you want to' (see page 115). There are practical tips in the book on how to enjoy life and be phobia-free. The most important element I think is the replacement theory he mentions, that is, to replace negative behavior with positive one. He also tells how to use your unconscious abilities in order to do anything you wish and offers tips on how to achieve that.

This book is absorbing and highly interesting and can be read in one sitting. It is written in a simple and clear conversational style that it is easy to understand. It caters to everyone who wishes to educate themselves or solve their inner problems such as phobias and stress. This is the best ever book I have read in years as it is helpful and exciting to the very end. The author encourages people to "do things that make you feel good" and this is the main point of the whole issue described here.

Get this book from

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lori's Bookshelf

Deadly Vision
Rick R. Reed
Quest Books
9781932300963 $16.50

Cass D'Angelo lives a regular life in small town, Ohio, with her seven-year-old son, Max. She works at a popular diner and has little unusual going on in her life except, initially, the lack of a girlfriend. Her whole life changes, however, after being struck on the head during a storm. When she wakes up in the hospital, she discovers that she's acquired psychic powers, specifically the ability to visualize the grisly deaths of local girls who have recently begun disappearing.

The killers are an insane, but handsome, psychopath and his smitten and spectacularly confused girlfriend. We find out very quickly that they worship a devil-like entity, "The Beast," and when they discover that Cass has directed the police to unearth one of their victims, they go after her and her family.

Like Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly character, Cass D'Angelo is a psychic character who's fascinating to read about. She's thoughtful, smart, and capable. Unlike Harris's character, who travels around to use her gift, Cass is mostly happy and settled in her Ohio home and committed to family, friends, and her community. That makes her deadly visions and horror over the sick murders even more palpable. Everyone is at risk, even her own son.

Reed gives us alternate chapters from the perspective of the twisted killer's girlfriend and of our increasingly-stressed heroine. His secondary characters, particularly Cass's mother and Cass's journalist girlfriend, are lively, interesting, and essential. His use of tone, pacing, and atmosphere is masterful. A natural born storyteller, this author does an excellent job showing Cass's increasing panic in the face of the killers' single-minded murderous intent. With every page, the reader's tension level rises until the wild climax. At times graphic, always descriptive, and endlessly suspenseful, this novel takes you on a rocky ride through horror and anxiety. Will the killers be thwarted? Will Cass live to see another vision? Will she lose the one she loves the most?

Highly recommended for all who enjoy heart-pounding suspense, horror, and good old-fashioned fright within an expertly constructed narrative.

House Of Clouds
KI Thompson
Bold Strokes Books
9781933110943 $15.95

Yankee actress Jordan Colfax and her brother have been raised by her widower father in the North. She's a forward-thinking woman, as modern as she could be in the 1860s. She's got the kind of spunk that Louisa May Alcott's Jo March possessed, so it's no surprise when she takes on the role of undercover spy for the Pinkerton agency.

Laura St. Clair, raised in Virginia, comes from an entirely different world than Jordan. She's been raised on a plantation worked by slaves, her father is an advisor to Jefferson Davis, and she has little choice in the strait-laced life her parents have planned for her. Her brother, Ransom, knows Jordan's brother, Tyler, from West Point, where both young men are cadets, and the two women meet through them. Laura is initially appalled by Jordan's liberal attitudes and freewheeling ways. She immediately judges the young actress to be no better than a harlot. Jordan is appalled by Laura's Confederate sympathies and southern belle status. The dawning attraction between the two comes as a surprise to both.

Laura's coming of age and coming into her own begins with the death of her brother in his first battle and continues because of her association with Jordan. But when Jordan is arrested for spying, all hell breaks loose. How can these two women remain friends, much less lovers, with so much culture, history, and societal difference between them?

Though essentially a love story, the novel very effectively takes on the issues of the mid-to-late 19th Century: slavery, race, culture, class, property, states' rights, relationships between men and women, and the taboos surrounding same-sex love. This epic saga moves along with great energy and clocks in at a delicious 377 pages. The author writes with surety and accomplishment, never allowing the historical events to take over the story. An engaging plot and lively characters keep this dynamic story right on track and full of unexpected twists and turns. Highly recommended for all romance readers, lovers of historical fiction, and anyone who enjoys a fascinating story ably told.

Self-Massage for Athletes
Rich Poley
Two Hand Press
9780977608607 $19.95

Self-massage is older than recorded history and is one of the most useful things any athlete (or non-athlete) can do to relieve sore muscles, reduce the chance of injury, and improve fitness, health, and mood. Yet until now, I don't ever recall seeing a book that focused on the topic.

Rich Poley breaks this illustrated handbook into 3 sections: Why Every Athlete Needs Massage, Learning Self-Massage, and Going Deeper: Getting More from Your Massage. He's included notes, references, and an index. He focuses on seven simple strokes (gliding, squeezing, squeezing/rolling, pressing, pressing/rolling, drumming, and rock and rolling), and he's filled the book with interesting facts and information about massage routines, how and when to use massage, acupressure, trigger points, and more.

Using simple and easy-to-understand instructions, the author has provided a terrific resource for athletes, coaches, and non-athletes as well. Highly recommended.

Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power & Practice of Story
Christina Baldwin
New World Library
9781577316039, $14.95

"Every person is born into life as a blank page - and every person leaves life as a full book" (p. xi). This sentiment from the preface of Christina Baldwin's new book sums up the overall theme of this wonderful look at the power, creativity, and uses of story.

Broken into ten chapters, this book is chock-full of amazing insights. Nearly every page contains at least one nugget of wisdom. Baldwin focuses on how story connects us, the art of storycatching, why we make stories, creating a story of the self, and finding our place in the order of things. Along the way, she addresses healing, the spiritual, power in organizations, personal growth and power, and ever so much more.

This book speaks to the heart and soul of what makes us human: the ability to tell stories, both orally and in writing, and to share wisdom, make sense of our lives, and move through our time on earth with meaning. "Story is a search for community that allows us to share, build, and learn from each other… We choose whether we want to live in hopefulness or despair. Storycatchers choose hopefulness, knowing that story has the power to change our lives" (p. 236).

The writing here is lyrical and sure, her prose evocative. She's annotated it and included a reading group guide. Baldwin writes with a deep knowledge and wisdom most of us can only dream of being able to describe, and she does it with the grace of an angel. This is a book that should become a classic. Highly recommended to readers, writers, thinkers, and dreamers everywhere.

Lori L. Lake

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Seat on the Aisle, Please!
Elizabeth Kavaler, M.D.
Copernicus Books
c/o Springer Science + Business Media
233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
9780387955094, $27.50

Written by expert urologist Elizabeth Kavaler, M.D., A Seat on the Aisle, Please! The Essential Guide to Urinary Tract Problems in Women is a straightforward yet sympathetic discussion of women's urinary tract disorders, including chronic urinary tract infections, different types of incontinence, pelvic floor prolapse, and interstitial cystitis. For too long, too many doctors have paid inadequate attention to pelvic discomfort, relegating it as a natural consequence of aging or even viewing patient complaints as evidence of psychological malfunction. Written for patients and medical practitioners alike, A Seat on the Aisle, Please! explains these diseases in plain terms, with black-and-white medical diagrams as needed. Patients and their loved ones will find the candid pros and cons of various treatment options especially helpful. Highly recommended.

Do You Get The Feeling?
Celia Rabberg
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781425987794, $71.99, 1-800-280-7715

Just as there is a verbal language, so there is a nonverbal language of emotions and feelings. Being able to read and articulate feelings is as critical to a successful and satisfying personal or professional relationship as being able to 'talk things out'. A licensed clinical social worker, Celia Rabberg draws upon her many years of experience and expertise in "Do You Get The Feeling?: A Handbook To Facilitate Emotional Awareness And Communication" to identify and illustrate 150 ways of expressing oneself. Each of the individual emotional qualities cited and ranging from responsible, to antisocial, to awkward, to desperate, to peaceful, to lonely, are represented with a one-page entry in the form of free verse poetry. A unique compilation, "Do You Get The Feeling?" is an especially recommended supplemental reference for ESL teachers, counselors, clinicians, caregivers, and drama teachers working with children, students, and adults in helping them to identify, understand, and articulate the vast spectrum of human feelings.

Amorous Woman
Donna George Storey
Neon/The Orion Publishing Group
5 Upper Saint Martin's Lane, London, WC2H 9EA, U.K.
9781905619177, $7.95,

The difference between pornography and erotic literature is the literary quality of the writing, how the subject matter of human sexuality is treated as simple (and simple minded) lust, or as a complex showcase of desire and behavior. Clearly, by this standard, "Amorous Woman" by Donna George Storey is a work of elegant eroticism as she deftly tells the story of an American woman's love affair with Japan that drew its inspiration from a 17th century classic tale of Japanese 'pleasure quarters' by Ihara Saikaku (whose work was banned by the Japanese government during World War II as a danger to public morality). "Amorous Woman" is a deftly penned tale that also provides the reader with a very special perspective on elements of Japanese culture that is related with a blend of humor, social critique, and literary skill that is impressive from beginning to end. "Amorous Woman" is a well-crafted work of erotic literature that can be confidently recommended to an adult and sophisticated readership.

Twelve Months Of Knitting
Joanne Yordanou
Potter Craft
c/o Clarkson Potter Publishers
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307351630, $22.50, 1-800-726-0600

Knitting is one of those productive and recreational pastimes that can be indulged in all year long. "Twelve Months Of Knitting" showcases 36 needlecraft projects developed and presented by knitting expert and knitting design creator Joanne Yordanou. Organized to provide three do-it-yourself knitting projects (one each for the novice, the intermediate level, and the experienced knitter) for each month of the year, "Twelve Months Of Knitting" offers seasonal project patterns that range from sweaters, to bikinis, from accessories to wardrobe enhancers, from shawl to wrist warmers, and from cottage table settings to flower power felted bags. Superbly illustrated throughout with diagrams and full color photography, each project is complete with all of the information and step-by-step directions required for the successful accomplishment of the featured garment. An impressive compendium of 'user friendly' knitting projects, "Twelve Months Of Knitting" is an enthusiastically recommended addition to both personal and community needlecraft instructional reference collections

Margaret Lane

Marty's Bookshelf

Skeleton Man
Tony Hillerman
HarperTorch Publishers
10 East 53rd St. NY, NY 10022-5299
9780060563462 $7.99

A young Hopi (Billy Tuve) tries to pawn a diamond he accepted in trade. The diamond is a blue-cut bauble worth $20,000 and the stone sets off alarms in Washington. The diamond implicates Billy in a murder/robbery.

Officer Jim Chee (Navajo Tribal Police) feels compelled to help a County Deputy prove that Billy tells the truth: he did receive the diamond from a Skeleton Man at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Chee and Deputy Sheriff Cowboy Dashee (with Chee's fiance Bernie Manuelito) give us an adventure on the slippery slopes of the Grand Canyon. They are searching for Skeleton Man when late fall rains threaten to create a killer flash flood inside Skeleton Man's canyon.

Hillerman gives us insight into the lives of Navajo and Hopi residents of the Four Corners world. We see, once again, the humanity of Officer Jim Chee and are delighted that he may get married to Bernie Manuelito. (Sorry. No hints. Read the book).

The Fallen Man
Tony Hillerman
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St. NY, NY 10022-5299
0061092886 $6.99

Climbers on Ship Rock (Navajo Reservation) find the bones of a climber who died on a nearly invisible ledge. Was he left to die, abandoned by a fellow climber? Navajo Policeman Jim Chee ponders the possibilities. A week later, someone tries to kill a witness to this eleven-year-old mystery.

Winter is coming on. Chee's boss (Capt. Largo) wants Chee to concentrate on cattle rustling. The retired Lt. Leaphorn has been hired to discover more details about the Fallen Man. A witness is murdered. Jim Chee is shot twice at close range.

The characters have doubts about their own capabilities; the mystery is solved and the cattle rustler is caught. The mystery of the Fallen Man is resolved with a tragedy that seems inevitable but may have been an easy resolution for the author. Fallen Man is easy to read; an entertaining story; and Hillerman knows how to illustrate subtle differences between White and Native American cultures. (And we see romance on the distant horizon for Jim Chee).

Dark Watch
Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul
Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin)
375 Hudson St New York, NY 10014
0425205592 $16.95

T'is fun; t'is a blast to discover Cussler has invented, created and designed an "unbeatable hero of the high seas -- Juan Cabrillo." Aboard the tramp steamer Oregon, with the best technology and a dedicated crew of former Navy Seals (and computer geeks) Cabrillo and friends work to rid the seas of pirates and villains.

Ships are disappearing. A Japanese shipping consortium hires Cabrillo's team to destroy the pirates. The Oregon becomes a target. After repelling an attack Cabrillo's people 'rescue' a shipping container only to find it filled with dead Chinese …immigrants who paid 'snakes' for a trip to 'Gold Mountain.' Cabrillo discovers the Chinese are being turned into slaves at a gold mine; western bankers are trying to produce massive amounts of gold in a conspiracy that destroys the hapless Chinese.

An engrossing adventure story …great to see the good guys win one for the disadvantaged and betrayed. No, it's not Dirk Pitt (R). You will, I bet, enjoy Dark Watch.

Marty Duncan

Maryan's Bookshelf

The Enchanted Moccasins and Other Native American Legends
Henry R. Schoolcraft, editor
31 East 2nd Street Mineola, NY 11501-3852
9780486460147 $8.95

The author is thought to be the first man to study how the Indians (western) lived. Here's a collection of fairy tales and legends that were handed from generation to generation as spoken stories by the earliest Americans. Read them aloud or encourage your kids to dig in on their own. A mischief maker of a giant, Manabozho provides an amusing cautionary tale of consequences. The lovely story of Osseo, Son of the Evening Star may inspire story telling at your own hearth. The Dover edition, like many of their books, is abridged and adapted from an original historical volume. Every story is worth reading.

Make Your Own Paper Snowflakes
Peggy Edwards
9780486450469 $5.95

Typical of my favorite Dover titles, this book encourages hands-on crafting. Filled with removable patterns to make almost three-dozen lovely, lacy paper snowflakes, it's a perfect gift for any older child or any adult who likes cut and paste play. This book sparks nostalgia and creativity and I found it a wonderful way to tone down noisy times with middle school girls and set them to quieter tasks. The book offers a short blurb about the science of snowflake formation as well as a page of snow quotes like, "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." (Voltaire) Now, where else are your kids going to bump into Voltaire on a Saturday afternoon?

The Scrapbooker's Full-Color Treasure Chest CD Rom and Book (439 royalty-free designs)
9780486995564 $19.95

One of the first Dover books that captured me was one of 19th century Christmas clip art like original Santa advertising illustrations. This is that kind of book. Printed on one side of the pages only, so you can cut and paste, with real scissors and glue, to your heart's content. You'll not find these drawings hanging on racks at every scrapbooking store in the country. They'll help you give your craft projects original flare and vintage flavor. I found them easy-to cut out - plenty of white space for turning curves. The colors don't run like inkjet colors are apt to. The paper is heavy and glossy. If you're into digital scrapping - the CD will work perfectly for you. Topics include baby showers, birthdays (including sweet 16) friendship and many more.

Butterfly Arts and Crafts Fun Kit (clip art, stickers, coloring, stencils and more)
9780486460017 $24.95

Spring, summer, fall or winter these butterflies, in my estimation, will sparkle up a gloomy day or a bluesy mood. And if you're feeling fine and the sun is out, an hour with this set will fit like a glove. I found a CD-Rom in the box that I wasn't expecting. It's packed with almost 400 color butterfly illustrations. This set is sort of a composite of typical Dover craft books. They have, for ages, offered stained glass coloring books on many topics. There's one in here. Stickers abound. I enjoyed the glitter stickers because the colors are bright and true and the glitter doesn't fall all over. I have no criticism of this box of creative playthings. Don't give it to a little child - stick with about age 8 and up. The projects require patience and thought. If you need a gift for a senior friend or relative - I highly recommend this one. I found it soothing and relaxing - took me back to times when crayons and construction papers were all the rage.

Glitter Rainbows (a sticker book)
Anna Pomaska
9780486462080 $1.50

For an affordable $1.50 you can have this tiny tome filled with beautiful rainbows. They have brilliant color and a nice texture - I think no two are alike. I used them on a mirror for my granddaughter's dresser top. They'll stick to almost anything that is smooth, and, with some care, can be repositioned once or twice if need be. Dover has a lot of these tiny booklets full of stickers or coloring pages or other little treasures. This company is worth checking out if you have kids. Actually - even if you don't, you'll find plenty of unusual books on unusual topics.

Maryan Pelland

Molly's Bookshelf

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

Child Pleasing Read ~~~ Recommended ~~~ 5 stars

The Review The tale is offered in the first person wherein the reader finds the little boy talking about his friends. 'It used to be Slug, Kevin and me - the unstoppable three.' Before long Kevin moves leaving only Slug and the little boy telling the story. '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.' Of course, the inevitable happened. When the narrator could not take anymore total togetherness; he handled the situation in predictable, child like fashion.

'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.' The narrator really wasn't trying to make Slug feel bad, it was just that the little boy needed a some time to himself. And he got time to himself 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.'

I suppose we have each had a friend who is out of the ordinary. We have had a friend who does now and then, get on our nerves. Or, maybe it is we who is the one who just never knows when to stop, when to go home, or when to do something with another friend. Wanting to spend too much time together is a problem that each of us will likely face sooner or later.

Adults, generally have learned how to deal with clinging friends in such a way that will help us retain the friendship and allow us some time for ourselves, or other friends. On the other hand, kids often do not know how to handle such a situation, need to learn how to work out this important issue, and if not careful lose a friend they would like to keep simply because the best friend forever gets to be too much.

Writer Jarrett Krosoczka provides children an excellent tool in his work, My Buddy, Slug. Without becoming preachy, or insistent, Krosoczka tells of one child's situation with a friend who just never knew when to hang back for a while.

When first I held up the book; my resident critics gave it an incredulous, horrified oblique glance and voiced unconditional consternation A SLUG! ' YOU'RE GOING TO READ A BOOK ABOUT A SLUG', 'A SLUG IS, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THOSE, SLIMY, YOU KNOW, THINGS's, was voiced gracefully in primordial screech.

I turned to the first page and they, fourth grade, Wynona OK school, settled back to listen with as much open mind as they could gather together. The class does/did face their job as critics gravely. It did not take long before; the class was leaning forward, gazing raptly at the book and were noticeably drawn into the tale.

As I closed the book; the kids agreed little kids will like it, but they won't really 'get' it. Each of my 4th grade 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. And the little kids need to learn this too.'

I got my chance to put to the test whether or not the little kids might get it or not. My first grade this year did not view the slug with the same dismay as had their older counterparts, they just thought he was cute. And, I'm please to say, that while they do not have the vocabulary to completely express what they are feeling or thinking, they also understood that a friend who is too much there gets to be too much. The first graders as well were able to verbalize the need for themselves to explain to friends, or, to be the friend who does, now and then, allow their friends time with others and time for themselves.

My Buddy, Slug is a volume certain to please the read to crowd ages 3 -7. The edition is well-built, packed with brightly colored illustrations and child pleasing setting. The work is a read with help for the strong reading 7s and 8s, and is a read alone, or an I'll read to you for the 9 - 10 year old set

Once I had begun to read the narrative; the 4th graders lost all reservations about slug being a, gasp, slug. The first graders never had any such problems. As I finished reading; the kids, 4th and 1st alike, 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. My first graders this year enjoy it as much.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for the personal reading list, and the school and home library shelf. My Buddy, Slug is a definite hit in my classroom.

Annie Was Warned
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers
9780375815676 $15.95

Child centered read ~~~ recommended ~~~ 4 STARS

Annie was told not to go out to the creepy old Montgomery mansion. EVERYONE knows there is something about that old house. But, c'mon now, she WAS born on Halloween, wasn't she. Annie is not afraid of creepy old places, and she isn't scared of haunted places. Or creepy old houses full of bats and spiders. BESIDES ALL THAT, her friend did dare her to go.

So, on Halloween night, of course, Annie sneaks out and heads for the dark and foreboding manse. Ooops, what was that at the back of her neck? And, was that a bat flying by? Empty, dark streets and howling wind can cause even the bravest girl to have a little feeling of the jitters, even if she was born on Halloween. Oh no, she hears whispers as she climbs the stairs leading to the front door. Trembling a little she stops for a minute, and then she opens the door.

My resident critics, fifteen first graders, hurried to the rug for reading time. Thirty bright eyes found the cover of Annie Was Warned compelling. Six year olds tend to enjoy spooky and icky, creepy and scary.

Writer Krosoczka offers a good straight on narrative just right for reading aloud. Vocabulary is just spooky enough to appeal to my resident critics. Short and snappy text is suitably spine-chilling. With each turn of the page a new, thrilling moment is encountered.

Spooky illustrations set against a black background, portray this spirited little girl's daunting expedition along the dark, empty street in the howling wind. The full double-page paintings are shown using multi-directional strokes, are accomplished with murky shades forming great spooky shadows; together they produce a ghostly Halloween night atmosphere. They gave us something to talk about for consideration when we do our art work.

Writer/Illustrator Krosoczka uses his talent to create slighting intimidating houses and glaring street lights which seem to almost engulf the trepidatious Annie. From the monstrous, creepy manse with its entry stairway appearing to ascend forever upward to the cobwebby, negative print hand-lettering set on dark ground which grows larger whenever frightening questions are asked, Krosoczka builds the suspense.

The last page folds out, offering an unsuspected surprise. Writer Krosoczka's Annie Was Warned is a suitably scary tale meant to be enjoyed any time and especially at Halloween.

My resident critics and I enjoyed the reading. Annie Was Warned gave us discussion starters about listening to rumors, and 'everybody knows' type statements. It gave us the chance to talk about seeking answers and trying to find out what is really happening, perhaps there is a friend just beyond the moment we are in who is just waiting for us. We talked about why Annie felt so afraid, the children were able to verbalize that her fears had as much to do with her own preconceptions as with either the hour or the 'forbidding' night. We discussed how letting others do our thinking may prevent us making our own good choices, may cause us to think in error, and may cause us to miss the chance for meeting a new friend. We discussed how gossip and rumor may hurt, be in error and is just plain not the best as opposed to perhaps seeking answers, letting our own choices guide us and doing thinking for ourselves.

Annie Was Warned is a book we continue to enjoy despite Halloween been long behind us this school year. Happy to recommend. Annie Was Warned is a read to for the 4 - 8 set, for the older readers in part because the first reading may be frightening, it is a read with help for the 7-8s and a read alone for the 9-10s. The book is a good choice for the personal reading shelf of children and for the home, school, classroom and public library list.

Oscar Otter (I Can Read Book 1)
Nathaniel Benchley (Author), Arnold Lobel (Illustrator)
9780064440257 $3.99

child pleasing read ~~~ highly recommended ~~~ 5 stars

As otters go; Oscar Otter is a most mischievous young fellow. Sliding on his snow slide Oscar suddenly bumps into a beaver. Oscar decides he will build the world's longest otter slide. Oscar's long suffering Dad suggests that maybe the world's longest slide might not be the best idea.

Oscar set out despite the warning to build that l - o - n - g slide. Otter travels far up in the mountains where no one can bother him there and begins working. And he does it. In the process Oscar sees new places way up in those mountains and he has an unexpected and thrilling adventure which teaches him an important life lesson. He builds his very own slide, and it is likely the longest otter slide in the world all right.

Oscar is ready to test his slide. But what he doesn't know can cause him so much trouble; Oscar doesn't know he is in danger. His adversary, the fox, is watching him.

Oscar leaps onto the slide and is followed closely by the fox. But what the fox doesn't know is that someone is watching him.

Down the slide flies Oscar, and the fox, and a bobcat, and a moose who thinks it is a parade and a wolf who just wants lunch. And on they speed until suddenly a log whumps down on the slide.

My resident critics enjoy listening to the narrative found on the pages of Oscar Otter. I have enjoyed reading the book to classes of little people from the time it first appeared as part of the I Can Read books offered for children's classroom subscription book buying. Written in 1966 Oscar Otter has been a classroom staple for generations of little readers.

The story line revolves around a child otter who makes some poor choices regarding his love of sliding down into the pond. Oscar's decision to ignore his Dad's counsel and undertake a foray into the mountains to make a really big slide might have ended in total disaster. However Oscar keeps his wits about him and gets some help from a resourceful beaver.

Illustrations are vintage Arnold Lobel, who was a renowned author/illustrator in his own right. Lobel's critter illustrations are always excellent, full of vitality and highly motivating for children.

I like the format of the book very much. Images are profuse, follow the narrative, do not overwhelm it with too much activity or too much brilliant color. My resident critics pronounce the illustrations as just right.

My first graders listened with absorbed attention as I read the tale the first time. They worried that Oscar was going to become lunch. And they laughed to realize that for the most part; each one in turn is being stalked by something behind him.

I like the opportunity for discussion presented in the book. There are valuable lessons to be gleaned from the story; when parents, teachers or other adults counsel children regarding danger there is a reason for the counsel. Be quick-witted when confronted with a challenge is an additional big lesson children gain from the narrative.

Follow up readings during the school year find the children as engrossed, however they are no longer worried that Oscar will be eaten, and join in the reading as children do by 'saying' the story along with the reader. Oscar Otter is often chosen for free time reading, and for taking into the hall to be read in a DEAR office for pleasure.

Nathaniel Benchley is a well respected name in children's writing. Coming from a family of writers, author Benchley was born 1915, in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a noted American actor, critic, humorist and writer, Robert Benchley. His son, Peter Benchley, 1940, was a novelist as well. Nathaniel Benchley died in 1981. Children in my classes. have long been fascinated to realize that Nathaniel Benchley was the father of the man who wrote Jaws.

The State of California, Dept of Education, has placed Oscar Otter on their recommended 'level 1' readers list.

Thirty thumbs up from Osage County, Oklahoma first grade in Mrs. Ms class. Oscar Otter is a sure child pleaser for ages 3 - 8. Happy to recommend for the personal reading list of children, for home, school, classroom and public library shelves.

Giddy Up Cowgirl
Jarrett Krosoczka
Viking Juvenile
9780670060504 $15.99

Child HAPPY READ ~~~ recommended ~~~ 4 stars

Mama tells her daughter to Giddy Up. With so much to do it is going to be a busy day. Mama's little gap toothed Cowgirl is single-minded in her efforts to be helpful. A high-spirited little girl who makes up with a super big imagination what she lacks in prowess; Cowgirl tends to have problems now and then. With her 10-pint hat set firmly in place, and filled with enthusiasm she and her plush armadillo are always ready to help.

So, she sings to make up for the broken car radio, locates Mama's missing wallet, she is entrusted with the grocery list at the store, and wants to help by mailing mom's letters. When she needs help she asks a biker dude for aid, she joins in filling the shopping basket and offers to help carry the bags of groceries, she helps take dirty clothes into the cleaner's for Mama and she hurries to open the car door for Mama.

A down cast little Cowgirl is deflated when she drops the clothes needing cleaning, realizes she forgot she must never speak to strangers, loses the list to a gust of wind and then puts all the wrong stuff in the basket, and drops the envelopes all over the sidewalk.

Mama restores confidence in her dejected assistant: Your momma loves you because you always try

Cowgirl talks the talk with lots of lingo such as Saddle up, Ol' Jim and Yippeee Yi Yeeee. Yippee Yi Yo She is truly a cowgirl.

My resident critics settled in for reading on the rug with expectant expressions brightening their faces. The cover of Giddy Up Cowgirl caught the attention of fourteen little people immediately. Declarations of Yee Haw and Tarnation soon had the kids giggling with delight as I read.

Mercer Mayer's Little Critter and his exuberant trying to help Mama came to mind immediately while reading Giddy Up Cowgirl. The kids agree both Little Critter and Cowgirl are a whole lot like me, sometimes I drop things too.

I liked the opportunity for discussion offered as I closed the book at the end of the reading; the kids talked about some of their own mishaps, and we talked about why little people might have problems now and then and that Mamas do continue to love them in spite of it all.

The kids agree; it is good to keep trying and not give up. Because we get better at doing stuff, if we keep trying.

Giddy Up Cowgirl is quickly becoming a class favorite in Mrs. M's room, Osage County, Oklahoma. The book is chosen for free time reading and for taking to read during DEAR time as we Drop Everything And Read.

Author/Illustrator Krosoczka's images used to exemplify what was taking place in the narrative receive twenty eight thumbs up. The kids expressed interest in how he had created his illustrations. They like the textured appearance using dark and light colors.

I do tend to like more low key illustrations, however I too like the images used by Author/Illustrator Krosoczka; while they are full of color and activity and fun, they do not overwhelm the narrative or the children as they follow the tale being read.

Writer Krosoczka has done a first-rate job in portraying situations that both children and adults will understand, relate to and find amusing. The bubbly heroine with her colorful lingo, enthusiasm and predictable childhood upsets is a treat.

Child pleasing vocabulary, a narrative peppered with cowgirl drawl and illustrations that add humor and tenderness to the tale have been used to create a nice addition to the classroom library. Giddy Up Cowgirl is a good choice for the personal reading shelf of little people, as well as the classroom, school and public library catalog. Happy to recommend.

Jarrett Krosoczka
Dragonfly Books
9780553111729 $6.99

"On Wednesday morning, Josh had a notion. Josh having an idea is not anything new. But this time, it is a notion not like any he has had before. It is a very BIG notion. A very BROWN notion. A very BIG, BROWN, BAG notion..."

While in his bedroom Josh cut holes in a big paper bag. The holes are for his eyes and mouth, he puts the bag over his head and sets out down the stairs for breakfast. His family was a tad surprised.

After breakfast and still wearing his paper bag, Josh leaves for a busy day working at school and taking part in his soccer practice. The adults in his life, parents, teacher, the bus driver, and especially his soccer coach are less than satisfied when they see Josh and bag covered head

All day he hears, 'You can't eat breakfast with a paper bag on your head!' 'You crazy kid! You can't go to school like that!' 'How do you plan to play like that?' and so it goes.

On the other hand, and to the astonishment of the adults, Josh has a pretty successful day. He eats breakfast with little difficulty, gives his book report, in fact he even scores three goals during his soccer game.

At last during dinner, his little sister asks the question all have been wondering: 'Why are you wearing a bag, Josh?'

My resident critics eyed the cover of Baghead with interest. As a teacher of many years' experience; one look at the cover and I was certain what we were going to learn about the boy in the bag.

Jarrett Krosoczka's uncomplicated, amiably entertaining account connects with children from the outset. I like the vivid, expressive illustrations. Individual sketches delivered in broad, layered brush strokes accompany short sentences presented in a childlike script.

Using various colors and font styles set to accompany the current page intrigues children as they follow the narrative. Curiosity piqued by the cover, carries into the reading.

We have now read the tale several times, and it is chosen by little people for free time reading or for taking into a DEAR office for reading during our Drop Everything and Read time.

Fifteen first graders exclaimed in one voice, 'I knew it,' when Josh answered his sister's question

Because I tried to cut my own hair.

Next morning his sister comes up with a very COOL idea per my resident critics. She has a mega hold gel plan and it works just fine. Josh looks pretty cool and happy too with his spiky hair standing up.

I knew we needed this book for our classroom library the moment I saw the cover, so far this year two of our students have come to school with new hair cuts, not of their own making, but worrisome to them none the less as they contemplated life with the new 'do.

One boy didn't want to go against our school no hat rule, on the other hand, his buzz had him very upset. The little girl in the pretty new blunt cut felt shy to remove her 'hoodie'.

We are learning empathy in our first grade. It didn't take long as fourteen classmates praised and exclaimed over how nice the new do looks before the hoodie or the hat disappeared into a back pack.

Writer Krosoczka has provided an excellent tool for classroom use. Every teacher I know or have ever known has had students come to school wanting to disappear into the cupboard, or wishing they had a paper bag in which to hide. Baghead is going to be one of the books I read on the first day of school from now until I no longer am teaching. It will be joining, Stand Back Said The Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze , which I have used for years to prepare children for the inevitable sneeze, which rattles the windows, and is part and parcel of Mrs. M.

Baghead received 30 thumbs up from Osage County first grade, Mrs. Martin's class. The book is a good choice for the home, classroom, school and public library list. It is a nice addition to children's pleasure reading collections. Happy to recommend.

Harry and the Lady Next Door (An I Can Read Picture Book)
Gene Zion
Margaret Bloy Graham
Harpercollins Children's Books
9780694013067 $3.99

Child Pleasing Read ~~~ Highly Recommended ~~~ 5 stars

Poor Harry. Everything was going so well, until a new lady moved next door. Harry likes ladies, no problem there. But this new lady is an opera singer. And she has moved into the house right next to Harry's. And, she practices. She practices all day long. She sings loud and she sings high. Really, really high. And she sings really, really loud.

The lady next door can sing louder than screaming cats, and the peanut vendor's whistle. She can even sing louder than a fire engine siren. Poor Harry, that singing hurts his ears. Harry does not like the tone. The tone is just too high and it is just too loud.

Harry is determined to silence the lady next door. He bites the piano leg, he howls, he herds cows. Maybe if the lady hears the lovely L-O-W sounds cows make she will begin to sing the same low tones. That doesn't work. He brings a band, the tuba makes a lovely low sound. Nothing works. At last he steals the lady's music only to discover that the lady does not need the music, she keeps right on singing.

At last the lady wins a contest and is offered an opportunity to study opera far, far away. Harry and his family go with the lady to say goodbye when she sets off in a big ship. As her ship sets sail, Harry can hear her singing. And then the ship's foghorn sounds. Harry was ecstatic, he thought it to be the most beautiful good-bye song he had ever heard!

Harry and the Lady Next Door (An I Can Read Picture Book) is another in our collection of 'Harry' books. Fifteen pairs of bright eyes fill with delight as my resident critics hurry to get ready for 'reading on the rug.' Harry and the Lady Next Door has been staple in my K-1 classroom from the first weeks when I began teaching in California some twenty years ago. The children loved it then, they love it now.

As a teacher, I particularly like the Harry books because the narrative presents Harry in a ticklish situation he works to solve, illustrations are low key and child friendly, no fussy over detailed or too bright images, in addition to a vocabulary aimed at beginning reader/listeners.

Pictures are full of activity without being over drawn or excessively detailed. Images are created using straight forward, high-spirited strokes. Milieu are calm and indistinct with ample white space on the page. Children's eyes are drawn immediately to Harry and his endeavors.

Children follow the narrative through listening and images, the book works well for discussion after the reading is finished; as well as for reading again as children tell the story to themselves from the illustrations.

Harry and the Lady Next Door finds our beloved white dog with the black spots Harry, up to his ears in misery. My resident critics follow the tale with rapt attention, even though we have read the story before and they know what is coming their attention does not waver as they crowd close and 'talk' the story with me. Each scheme Harry comes up to get the lady to stop singing so high and so loud is met with peals of giggles. The kids are charmed by the witty antics of this endearing dog.

I like the discussions which ensue as the children have become more articulate and able to verbalize that Harry's actions are not motivated from naughtiness, or a mean spirit, rather he is trying to first persuade the lady to just stop, and then after he realizes that lower tones do not hurt his ears, to change her mode of singing. He herds the cows and the band toward the lady's house in his effort to show her that lower tones are nicer than high, shrill ones.

Harry and the Lady Next Door gives the class the opportunity to discuss how and why BIG loud voices in the classrooms can cause us problems just as the lady and her shrill, loud voice caused problems for Harry.

Thirty thumbs up from 15 bright eyed first graders in Osage County, Oklahoma. Harry and the Lady Next Door is a good choice for children's pleasure reading, as well as belonging on the classroom reading shelf, the school and public library list and for homeschoolers reading offerings. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446579650 $23.99

The ghost of a young girl shows up in Laurel's bedroom in the middle of the night. When she follows it to the window she sees the body of her 13-year old daughter's best friend, Molly floating face down in her swimming pool. Of course that would turn anyone's life upside down. But Laurel Hawthorne isn't just anyone. She's a professional quilt designer who has created an orderly life with her video game designer husband, David, among the meticulous homes and gardens of their Victorianna subdivision. There is no room in their lives for this tragedy.

Yet Laurel is haunted, not only by the dead girl but also by her daughter Shelby's reaction, and her friend Bet who was staying over at the time. Bet Clemmons is Laurel's do-gooder project, a young girl she has rescued from dregs of society in the washed up little mining town of DeLop, which represents all that is unholy in her life. As a trained artist, Laurel knows there's something wrong with this picture. But up till now her whole life has been about burying secrets, not digging them up.

In order to get to the bottom of this inconvenient mystery, Laurel calls on her estranged sister Thalia. The polar opposite of Laurel, Thalia is a flamboyant actress and the keeper of secrets. Laurel knows she can get Thalia to do the dirty work. What she doesn't know is what that will cost her in the end.

Joshilyn Jackson's vivid characters and spellbinding prose - you can almost hear the drawl and smell the earthiness - weave a tale as intricate and fascinating as one of Laurel's quilts. Jackson takes readers on a journey past the facades of flower gardens, swimming pools, and Wal-Mart, through the crumbling asphalt and broken dreams of lives in the rural South, to uncover the mystery of "The Girl Who Stopped Swimming".

Just Be You
Ann Louise Ramsey
Crown Peak Publications
PO Box 317, New Castle, CO 81647
9780964566354 $19.95

Once again Ann Ramsey creates her own distinctive brand of magical realism through digital imaging in Just Be You. Honey the Cocker Spaniel is the star of this quest for self esteem. She is surrounded by ducks. So naturally she tries very hard to be a duck. One day she looks in the mirror and sees someone very different. She begins to explore what makes her unique.

Ramsey weaves the story into the enchanting illustrations with her trademark poetic charm and grace. The result is a timeless fable for all ages.

Readers young and old alike will delight as Honey leaps off the page and grabs hold of their hearts. What a face! What a range of emotions! What an actress! Honey definitely has a future on the big screen. Join in this adorable pup's crusade. Prepare to fall in love. I hope this is the start of many more Honey adventures to come.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Trust in the Lord
Deen Kemsley
Sweetwater Books
2373 W. 700 S., Springfield, Utah 84663
9781599551142 $ 14.99

Refreshing Reflections on the Cross

"Trust in the Lord" is written for those hungry to contemplate and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and His great love, to see fullness replace emptiness and harmony replace loneliness. Deen Kemsley captures the heart of Christ's own thoughts as he reflects and shares intimate experiences of his own spiritual journey.

Deem invites the reader to become familiar with the Savior at the cross to receive a new vision of who Jesus is. He writes from his own experiences and the experiences of others to illustrate the underlying foundation of the Christian faith as the undeserved, limitless miracle of God's love demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary. He shows how this love produces joy in times of difficulty, affliction, and frustration. These moving illustrations draw the reader into an eager search for a fresh encounter with the Lord Jesus.

I recognized a need for personal to revival, and recognized my own helplessness, without the redemption provided through Christ's death on the cross. I am eager to experience an enrichment of God's presence in my life as he works to reestablish wholeness in my life.

Deem Kemsley's writing resonates with uplifting encouragement, inspiring challenge, and amazing insight. The book challenges the readers to a fresh genuineness in for their search to fulfill their deepest, truest potential.

Ephesians Finding True Love
Sarah L. Howell
AMG Publishers
6865 Shallowford, Chattanooga, TN
9780899571119 $12.99

Relevant Scriptural Guide for Today's Generation

Sarah L. Howell has written "Ephesians: Finding True Love" for today's generation. It is written with the purpose of increasing the reader awareness and knowledge God's love. It is the story of God's pursuit for those willing to accept his offer of unconditional love.

These contemporary stories and illustrations are drawn from the lives of real people from the generation of today's youth. Sarah has incorporated a unique approach for creating interest. She uses familiar popular movies as a backdrop for each week's lesson as she introduces Biblical truths with movie trivia questions and movie mania insights as discussion starters.

Her thought provoking questions and the accompanying narrative are designed for individual study or for group use. The study is designed to be used over a six week period. The lessons are formatted in five daily segments to be completed each week. The lessons contain a verse of the week, a brief commentary, questions for consideration or discussion, and a thoughtful prayer.

Background material from both Old Testament and New Testament passages reinforce the Ephesians passage being studied as well as opening up another level of understanding.

Sarah has a gift for introducing personal application from the scripture passages through her narrative, the Biblical exercises, and the thought provoking questions suggested for study, reflection and contemplation.

"Ephesians - Finding True Love" is meant to be a scriptural guide for today's younger woman and will appeal primarily to that audience, however, the practical illustrations and study material can easily be modified for use by any serious young person looking for Biblical truths from the book of Ephesians. This is an vital, timely, and significant study for present-day young adults.

The Chic Entrepreneur
Elizabeth W. Gordon
Robert D. Reed Publisher
PO Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759042 $12.95

A Proven Method for Moving Your Business Forward

"The Chic Entrepreneur" is a step by step guide for developing an effective successful company. Elizabeth Gordon offers invaluable advice on attaining success in business. She presents a proven formula for building individual and financial independence through professionalism, integrity, and hard work coupled with a unique value to the market, a strategic plan.

The book is user friendly and eye appealing. The format is designed with the reader in mind. The practical principles are presented in case studies using illustrations which detail the processes for setting up new companies. These case studies introduce parallel start up approaches. People like Don and Donna exemplify the right and wrong approaches to starting out in their new businesses. Elizabeth also presents persuasive assessments of well known dynamic businesses like Google, Nordstrom, and Whole Foods.

I especially appreciated the thought provoking questions and exercises for determining and implementing the action steps which accompany the chapter. Man insights and tips are presented as side bars for special emphasis throughout the narrative to reinforce the techniques and success qualities essential for building a fast growing profitable business.

Elizabeth Gordon brings fresh perspectives and a proven formula for successful entrepreneurship. She has a passion for helping others succeed. Her own successes in business, economics, and marketing qualify well qualified, trustworthy, and authoritative in writing this book. The last chapter titled "The Chic Message" contains a "Flourishing Business Methodology" chart which is worth the price of the book.

"The Chick Entrepreneur" is entertaining, absorbing and practicable.

Discipleship Manual
David Arnold
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781591859185 $11.99

An Important Guidebook on Nurturing and Making Disciples

David Arnold's "Discipleship Manual" is an invaluable tool for training and developing. Nurturing and mentoring Christian disciples preparing them for entering the heat of battle on the front lines of spiritual warfare.

David's methods tried and proven approach provides effective leadership principles, and God given precepts impart a plan for spiritual growth which introduces action steps for becoming true and committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

Biblically based, sound in doctrine, these guidelines are the result of experiential truth. David builds a solid foundation to help the reader understand true discipleship. He emphasizes the importance of processing and assimilating the material in order to help others grow, and mature as followers of Christ. These principles are easily adapted for use in mentoring situations, in small group training, or in new believer's classes. The book is well researched. Detailed notes on the sources used in each chapter are available at the end of the book for addition study and reference.

David uses illustrations and heartwarming short stories from contemporary life to bring home spiritual truths. The study questions at the end of each chapter thought provoking, stimulating, and inspiring. I especially enjoyed the quotes, and nuggets of wisdom which were insightful, powerful, and inspiring.

David Arnold is a gifted communicator, articulate, and expressive. He writes with conviction, clarity, and vision. "Discipleship Manual" is a timely and important book for the layman, the clergy, for Christian leadership, and for new believers who desire to obey the call to become followers of Christ, true disciples.

Success for the Second in Command
Billy Hornsby
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781591859222 $14.99

A Call to Excellence as Second in Command

Billy Hornsby has excelled in leadership in many forms. His writing is based on the lessons he learned in his life journey. His book "Success for the Second in Command" also draws from examples found in scripture and from stories of contemporary leaders in industry and the church who have served in roles as "second in command." Important lessons are drawn from the life of Joseph and the role he played in God's plan in the history of the nation Israel.

Billy's formula for success for the second in command include excellence and integrity, forgiveness instead of retaliation, point of view, and an understanding of leadership culture are all a part of Billy's formula for success. Other important ingredients include networking, leverage, and influence both within and outside your organization. Hornsby explains how the reader can recognize and sharpen their credentials, character traits, and leadership skills.

The format of the book is intended for reader ease in integrating and applying the leadership strategies under consideration. I found the questions, charts, and other visual illustrations helpful. These all reinforced and enhanced the narrative.

Hornsby conveys life skills coaching for personal success as well as the tips and keys to success for the second in command. The chapter titled "Finding Value in What You Do" was meaningful and helpful to me personally. I also enjoyed the chapter "Insights from the Second Chariot." Billy presented leadership insights with a management insights and related these to relational insights.

"Success for the Second in Command" should be read by corporate vice presidents, associate pastors, and by those in any subordinate leadership role, in industry, business, or in the administration of the ministry of the church. Billy Hornsby has written an important and timely guidebook which is destined to become a classic on how to become successful as a subordinate leader.

The End-Time Daughters of the King
Monica M. Tomtania
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604773873 $17.99

A Call to Revival, Restoration and Healing

Monica Tomtania writes from her own life experiences in her new book "The End-Time Daughters of the King." Her message is powerful and prophetic. Monica skillfully interprets the scriptures as she relates a testimony of inner change and of her response to the voice of the Holy Spirit. She inspires the reader to be attentive, to listen, and to join her as she fervently prays for revival and restoration among women today.

Monica writes with clarity and purpose. She displays the heart of a minister in an attitude of servant leadership. She counsels women today to become torchbearers and igniters like the Biblical examples of Rebecca, Jockebed, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Abigail, Mary and Anna.

Monica emphasizes that New Testament women like Priscilla, Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe are all examples of what the Holy Spirit is planning for end time women who are willing to become vessels willing to pay the price of refining fire, and cleansing, which produces holiness and seals the God's covenant.

I felt that the many thought provoking "Quotable Quotes" laid the foundation for understanding Tomtania's revelation. I appreciated the summary statements throughout and the new insights I learned from the lives of Biblical leaders who have gone through God's refining fire.

Growing into Christian maturity, experiencing transformation, and healing, are all available to the reader, and are the natural results of obedience to the word of God.

Monica invites the reader to go with her into the King's presence to experience intimate communication, and the revelation in His message of redemption and love. She gives examples from Scripture of some who had time alone with God in His presence. Monica explains the importance of the relationship of prayer to accessing God's presence. She described this as a rendezvous with His Majesty the King of the Universe.

"The End-Time Daughters of the King" is significant and timely a clarion call to women to respond to the opportunity to be equipped in preparation for spiritual battle today. The time is short!

From God's Hands to My Hands
Dr. Ronald B. Lumpkin
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604771213 $13.99

Principles for Releasing God's Richness

Dr. Ronald B. Lumpkin writes from the premise that every believer is entitled to abundant life and presents a guide to spiritual and financial healing in his book "From God's Hands to My Hands."

Lumpkin shows the reader the steps to take and the conditions to be met to be redeemed from the curse of poverty allowing God to unleash a His kind of faith. He then goes on to share teachings on the Biblical basis for tithes and offerings and the resultant blessings that can be expected when these conditions are met.

If you are like me you will find the concept of "vision casting" exciting and challenging. I was also blessed to realize that "exercising the imagination" can be a powerful tool for demonstrating power in my life as a Christian. Dr. Lumpkin discusses the importance of forgiveness and how this impacts blessing. He explained the sequence of asking and receiving, binding and loosing.

The chapter on prayer and fasting was also very helpful. Dr. Lumpkin introduced important insights into how fasting creates spiritual and financial blessing. He explained various types of fasting and also shared a personal testimony of his own fasting experiences.

The book's content and subject matter are well organized with a natural flow of information. Dr. Lumpkin's writing is Biblically based, rich in illustration with related scriptural references. The chapters include a list of cautions and a "to do list" directly related to the material within the chapter. A simple suggested format for a family budget is included as a resource tool.

Dr. Lumpkin provides solid teaching on how to release the power of the Word enabling the reader to prosper spiritually, emotionally, and physically. This is a resource for reference, for review, for assimilation, and for application. It is a guidebook which points the way to a life of love, joy, and peace.

"From God's Hands to My Hands" is more than a "rags to riches" formula for financial success. It is a life map for abundant living. This is a book written for the reader who is enthusiastic about following after the heart of God.

No Small Miracles
Norris Burkes
Integrity Publishers
5250 Virginia Way, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781591454250 $16.99

Absorbing Stories of Life Changing Miracles

Hospital Chaplain and syndicated columnist Norris Burkes is a gifted story teller and has compiled a gripping selection of personal experiences from his ministry as a hospital chaplain in his book "No Small Miracles." From the very first page I found myself engaged in the imminent crisis of the Intensive Care Unit and the trauma of the Emergency Room.

Burkes captures the painful struggle of a parent finding God in the ER, the ICU, the pediatric department, or the cancer ward. Norris writes with insight that draws the reader into the presence of the Lord in the hospital setting. Each story has a spiritual application, is personal and heart felt. The stories sometimes reflect doubts, unbelief and anger directed at God. Family members often have to release a loved one, to accept God's best. This may mean their own inner healing as they recognize the bountiful mercies and benefits of the gift of His grace.

I particularly appreciated Burke's simple honesty and vulnerability as he shared of his personal involvement with the patient, their families, and the hospital staff. Norris shows an understanding of the unique differences of a family's reaction in times of crisis.

I enjoyed his candid approach as he exposed his helplessness and his human weaknesses in the chapter "Miracles on the Home Front." As a Navy veteran I identified with many of the experiences he related in the chapter "Miracles in Uniform."

The pathos, suffering, and grief experienced by these "kids of courage" and "parents in pain," will linger in my mind long after I close the covers of the book. I will long remember, with tear filled eyes, the moving drama of these quiet heroes. Your heart, too, will go out to these parents in their unwavering love, in their joy and sorrow as miracles of healing take place, some physical, some miracles of heartfelt change as they face the need to release a loved one, and to surrender themselves to a loving God. "No Small Miracles" is heartwarming, soul searching, sometimes humorous and certain to have an emotional impact on the reader.

My Funny Dad, Harry
Karen Arlettaz Zemek
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. # 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432714178 $12.95

A Tribute to Harry, A Man of Integrity

Karen Arlettaz Zemek pays tribute to her father Harry Arlettaz in her book "My Funny Dad, Harry." This biographical memoir is filled with short funny stories and poignant memories about life with Harry, his family, and his cats. Harry was well-known as a man of integrity, discipline, with a generous spirit. He was a skilled craftsman, and dedicated these talents to serving others.

Cat lovers will enjoy the stories of Harry's cats: Blackie, Bootsie, and Diamond Jim, Razzle "Frazzle Dazzle, Fluff, Puff, Timi, Striper, Softie, and Sweet Thing. Harry built a unique "Kitty Motel," complete with a swinging door for easy access. Neighborhood strays took advantage of Harry's tender care and concern for his needy furry friends. Karen's humorous descriptions of the antics of these feline creatures will bring a smile to your face, a chuckle to the surface and a tug at your heart.

In Harry's later years, he maintained a spirit of independence. Even though he recognized his limitations he never complained. Harry downplayed his own physical limitations as he did not want to burden others with his needs.

Karen understands and communicates the reality of the physical impairments of growing old. Her own optimism and humor come through as she describes Harry's plight and the corresponding sacrifice she made to accommodate Harry's desire to live independently. I admire Karen's dedication, devotion and sacrifice in caring for her father, Harry.

Never "preachy", always positive, Karen wove a tapestry of God's love and grace throughout Harry's story. As a separate addendum she has included an invitation that will help the reader to find and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the motivation for, and the secret behind Harry's life.

I identified with Harry as I read of the years of accumulation of tools, magazines, and every conceivable collectible. I was confronted with the need to take a look at the clutter in my life, the unfinished projects, and the sentimental "stuff" I have accumulated.

"My Funny Dad, Harry" is an enjoyable, amusing memoir of a tender hearted man dedicated to serving others. Karen's writing is articulate, humorous, and heartwarming.

Satan's Release and His Final Defeat
Ray Lynne
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604772463 $10.99

End Times Revelation, the Defeat of Satan

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Evangelist Ray Lyne writes with passion and with depth in his book "Satan's Release and His Final Defeat." It is Lyne's purpose in writing this book to alert readers of Satan's deceptive ways and to set them free from his dominion.

Lyne examines the books of Revelation and Daniel for establishing the back ground for the material included in his narrative. His point of view on these end times prophecies is completely different from the orthodox teaching usually addressed by man scholars. Evangelist Lyne addresses the issues left unanswered in these earlier interpretations. He challenges the reader to re examine the way we look at the book of Revelation as well as the way the church is organized and operates.

Lyne looks at Matthew, chapter twenty-four as the key to opening and understanding the scriptures. In this passage we see the unfolding drama of Satan's release and ultimate defeat. He traces the history of the church and notes the Catholic domination throughout the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and right up to the age of enlightenment during the Reformation.

I gained new insights into the symbols in Revelation and the differences of figurative and literal teaching on end times. Ray's perception of the rise and fall of the antichrist, on the timeline of fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies, and on the current events in light of Biblical prophecy go against much of traditional evangelical teaching. In light of the confusion among Christians today on these issues, Ray Lyne gives the reader some new concepts for serious consideration.

Lyne counters the view of the futurist. He introduces teaching on the mark of the beast, the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life which are worthy of note, instructive and thought provoking.

"Satan's Release and Final Defeat" takes a different slant on Bible prophecy.

Ray Lyne's point of view is helpful but controversial, challenging and confrontational. Lyne writes intelligibility and with fervor.

The Writer Within You
Charles Jacobs
Caros Books
16 Pinecrest Drive, Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677
9780979363603 $19.95

Writing for Publication During Your Retirement Years

In his book "The Writer Within You" award winning author Charles Jacobs provides the reader with a step by step guide to writing and publishing during the retirement years. This is a "hands on" how to book which covers everything from how to building confidence as a new writer right through to the process of revising, editing, and writing a book proposal.

I personally benefited from the chapters on writing fiction and the ways it is similar to writing non-fiction and the important elements to be considered when writing either or both. I also gleaned a lot of good strategy in the material dealing with writing personal stories and memoirs

Jacobs provided excellent information on trends in communication being used today: writing for e-zines, using blogs, and print on demand publishing. These up dates make this a timely important resource with a broad base of technical and traditional information for a variety of writing experiences.

The chapter sidebars included feature "Word's of Wisdom" compiled from well known authors, editors, agents, and publishers. These tips are an important and valuable motivational source for both beginning and seasoned writers.

Jacob's writing is well thought out, dynamically developed and well structured. Charles delights in helping new writers accomplish their personal passions as they fulfill their dream and become published authors. I plan to keep my personal copy handy for frequent referral as I sharpen my own writing skills.

Charles Jacob's introduces the basics building blocks for developing the writing craft, as well as the progression and elements that go into publishing. "The Writer Within You" is instructive, broad, and inspirational. This is an excellent resource for every writer.

Richard R. Blake

Sullivan's Bookshelf

The Courtier and the Heretic Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World
Matthew Stewart
W.W. Norton & Company
0393058980 $25.95

Here are the interwoven biographies of two famous philosophers: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the Courtier from the Duchy of Hanover (today part of Germany), and Baruch (or Bento) de Spinoza, the Heretic, a Jew whose ancestors had been ejected from Spain before moving to Holland where he was born and live out his life. Their stories revolve around a meeting between the two men of thought in 1676 at Spinoza's home in The Hague, Holland.

The contrast between the two thinkers couldn't be more striking: Leibniz, younger of the two (age 30 at the time of their meeting) a Protestant Christian with a lifelong goal of reuniting European Christians, both Protestants and Roman Catholics, was involved with other fields of study besides philosophy. In mathematics, for example, Leibniz developed calculus. Unbeknownst to him, Sir Isaac Newton had done the same thing ten years earlier without having told fellow mathematicians. When he learned that Leibniz was making the claim on calculus, Newton let the world know that he'd been first.

A beneficiary of patronage from the Elector of Hanover (a Duke and royal rule of his principality), Leibniz was always ambitious for advancement in his position within the court, higher pay, academic honors, and lots of travel. He was shameless in asking, cajoling, or begging his patron, or others, for everything desired.

Leibniz' philosophy, what with his ideas about monads (which this reviewer had difficulty grasping) and some of his other concepts, is too arcane for most layman to understand. Yet much of his other writing makes perfect sense.

Spinoza, on the other hand, was a little clearer in his work. This man was also a loaner. He did not seek money or honors, either. And he never had the patronage of any royal figure. Spinoza hardly traveled at all. Moreover, he always had two strikes against him: he was a Jew, albeit nonpracticing, and considered a heretic. In 17th Century Europe, this could not only make one unpopular, but possibly get one burned at the stake or put to death in some other frightful manner.

Yet, it was to Spinoza (then age 44) that Leibniz went to see, to question, and to learn from. The man from Hanover almost succumbed to Spinoza's heretical philosophy that God was Nature. But then Leibniz, perhaps initially in fear, disavowed that philosophy and became the arch enemy of and talked ill of poor Spinoza and of his works.

Other philosophers, of more recent vintage, have wondered aloud if Leibniz was merely taking a safe stance away from Spinoza and his unacceptable-to-the-public philosophy, but in reality harbored as his own the older philosopher's ideas. This view is hardly likely considering all the anti-Spinoza philosophy positions that Leibniz took through his years. And he had a long life in which to remark about his ideas.

Leibniz outlived Spinoza by almost four decades. Most of that was spent in Hanover, where the royal patron ruled. And Leibniz was constantly trying, desperately, to get out of that little town (about 10,000 population) and travel to the capitals of the world: Paris, London, Berlin.

Spinoza died poor and young at 44. He was much derided at his end. Yet, as the years passed, his stock as a philosopher rose. John Locke. A philosopher alive at this time, is thought to have stood on Spinoza's philosophical shoulders, so to speak, and continued with the nonbelieving ways of The Hague's long gone philosopher. Locke also would go on to affect those men who wrote the U.S. Constitution. Spinoza came later to be considered one of the early lights of Enlightenment.

The book touches on the somewhat hard to understand philosophies of both men. But that occurs only in small sections. It's not off-putting to readers and can easily be skipped over without taking much away from these worthy philosophers' lives.

The author sums up his duo subjects thusly: "Like all good philosophers, Leibniz and Spinoza must eventually come to a rest somewhere outside history. The two men who met in 1676 in fact represented a pair of radically different philosophical personality types that have always been part of the human experience. Spinoza speaks for those who believe that happiness and virtue are possible with nothing more than what we have in our hands. Leibniz stands for those convinced that happiness and virtue depend on something that lies beyond. Spinoza counsels calm attention to our own deepest good. Leibniz expresses that irrepressible longing to see our god works reflected back to us in the praise of others. Spinoza affirms the totality of things such as it is. Leibniz is that part of us that ceaselessly strives to make us something more than what we are. [….]"

Matthew Stewart, the author, has an Oxford Ph.D. Living in New York; he's now retired though still a contemplative'. His earlier books are: Monturiold's Dream: The Extraordinary Story of the Submarine Inventor Who Wanted to Save the World, and the Truth about Everything: An Irreverent History of Philosophy with Illustrations.


The Unknown American Revolution The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America
Gary B. Nash
0670034207 $27.95

Herein is the previously untold, unvarnished, unpolitically correct underside of the American Revolution. The story is told from the common man and woman's point of view. It also highlights how it all affected the marginalized people throughout the early history of this nation: the poor and downtrodden, the females, the African American slaves and freeborn, and the Native Americans. It isn't a pretty picture.

This volume follows in the footsteps of that fine tradition of writing and teaching history from 'average person's' point of view rather than from the 'great man's' perspective. Howard Zinn's 'PEOPLE'S HISTORY' is an exemplar of this 'bottom up' technique.

All school children, including this reviewer when much younger, were taught the country's beginning saga. It all fit together nicely in neat little pieces. The battles, the troop movements, and the political strategies appeared to be well thought out, carefully planned, and thoroughly executed. Also everyone involved was brave, self-sacrificing, and altruistic. Moreover, all participants were civilized, fair, and honest in their dealing and behaviors.

Alas, none of that is true. What is, isn't nice to look at. In fact, it's downright appalling and unbelievably ugly. Little went as planned. Few colonists were willing to serve without coercion, and many people didn't support the cause. More often than not, individuals not only didn't participate in the revolution but took full and unfair advantage of those who were giving their all and more for the cause. But his is getting ahead of the story.

Not much is learned in history classes, even today, about what really irritated the colonists so much that led up to the armed conflict. Yes, the poor treatment of American colonists through the stamp act, tax on tea, and what have you is briefly mentioned in standard history textbooks. But the details have been left out.

Today, people think the war broke out after the so-called 'shot heard round the world', or the 'Boston Massacre,' or the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Some may know that brave and brazen citizens took part, as early as 1773, in the Boston Tea Party. But the story of the re4volution actually begins much earlier than all those events.

During the 1760's the mother country, Great Britain, through its royal governors, imposed many onerous conditions on the colonists. More than a few of them lost their property and possessions. Unsurprisingly, those situations were met with protests and rebellions, some quite sizeable. But few people entertained the notion of completely breaking away from Britain and King George III. It would be others, notably Thomas Paine plus an unselected group of other well known revolutionary figures who would put freedom from king and country front and center in the colonists' arguments.

"The pages that follow," writes the author, "mostly view the American Revolution through the eyes of those not in positions of power and privilege, though the iconic founding fathers are assuredly part of the story. In reality, those in the nether strata of colonial society and those outside, 'respectable' society were most of the people of revolutionary America. Without their ideas, dreams, and blood sacrifices, the American Revolution would never have occurred, would never have followed the course that we can now comprehend, and would never have reverberated around the world among oppressed people down to the present day. Disinterring these long-forgotten figures from history's cemetery, along with their aspirations and demands, along with the events and dramatic moments in which they figured so importantly, is offered as an antidote to the art of forgetting."

Poor General George Washington, though this book isn't about him except in an off-stage sort of way, comes across, for the years of turmoil and heartache suffered and endured during the Revolutionary War, as an even more remarkable character than students have been led to believe. The nation's military leader got little or no cooperation from the Continental Congress, particularly with army pay, uniforms, and equipment needed to fight the enemy. Even the citizenry didn't cooperate by enlisting in the Army when it so desperately needed men. And many who did join deserted.

But it's the sad stories of the unempowered individuals involved that will bring tears and anger to this tome's readers. Women went unrecognized for all their help, zeal, and sacrifice. The British and the Americans used slaves and the freeborn as pawns in the conflict. Both were enticed into one or the other Army. Promises of freedom and money were made. Numerous slaves did run away from their masters to enlist. Yet few benefited. Many died from combat injuries and from illness. At war's end, each side allowed freedom for some, but a large number were forced to resume their former roles as slaves.

Native Americans were given a raw deal, too. They had to choose sides to serve or, at minimum, vow to be neutral with. Great rewards for cooperation were offered, too. Mainly, however, they were assured that the white man would not breech land borders set down in treaties with the British King or with the various colonies. Yet even before hostilities ended, these promises were broken time and time again.

And the wealthy and elite Americans, anytime they could, took the little guy to the cleaners. And that was often. Merchants would hold back desperately needed merchandise to drive prices up and bring in higher profits. Naturally, uprisings over that practice occurred. One spectacular such event occurred when thousands of women, wives and mothers for the most part, went after a flour merchant who had refused to sell them the vital-baking material except at exorbitant prices. The indignant and desperate women rose up, en masse, broke into that man's warehouses, liberated the stored flour, and sold the hoarded commodity at regular prices amongst themselves and to others, and gave the merchant all the money taken in, which he refused to accept.

There are many such cases report on in this book of commoners facing up to authorities and to the wealthy. Sometimes the little man won, other times he lost. But the average citizen would not be stepped on. Few history books tell about these confrontations. This volume does.

Gary B. Nash is a UCLA history professor. Moreover, he has been the president of the Organization of American Historians. His dozen other books include Landmarks of the American Revolution, Race and Revolution, and Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726.

This well written tome is highly recommended.

Mayflower A Story of Courage, Community, and War,
Nathaniel Philbrick
0670037605 $29.95

Here's the story of the Pilgrims who came to America. They arrived in 1620 from England after a brief stay in Leiden, Holland where they had moved seeking refuge from religious persecution. But it wasn't to be the haven they had hoped for.

England had become hostile to the Pilgrims, also called 'Separatists,' earlier because they had broken away from another pious religious group, name the Puritans. They, in turn, had been a reform movement from the then established Church of England, the Anglican. And that denomination had grown after English King Henry VIII, earlier in England's history, had broken with the Roman Catholic Church.

These Pilgrims were naive and taken advantage of at every step. Finally, as life for them in Holland began to take on a harsher tone, the small sect decided to try to find a safer home in America. Finding a ship and the financial wherewithal to make this trip was a discouraging experience. Eventually, investors, though of a rather dubious sort, were found to back the Pilgrims in their relocation to the New World. But the religious group had to promise to give back what the investors had advanced and much more. It proved a bad bargain.

Their ship, the Mayflower, was small and barely seaworthy. And the trip was difficult. Many of the Pilgrims who had initially planned on coming over weren't able to, for one reason or another. Consequently, of the passengers and crew of over 100 persons who sailed together, only 41 were Pilgrims. The rest, whom the Pilgrims called 'Strangers', had been sent to fill the unoccupied space on the ship. But they all managed to get along, though tensely. Several died from illnesses on the voyage.

The adults had signed an agreement known historically as the Mayflower Compact shortly before they landed. It stipulated how they should act toward one another and what each was responsible for.

When they arrived, they couldn't find the area they wanted to land on. After much searching from the sea and then on shore, they settled for the site of present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Miles Standish was with the Pilgrims' as their hired military man in charge of defense. A bold sort of fellow, he was short in stature. Behind his back, the Pilgrims referred to him as 'Captain Shrimp.' But he did his job well.

The newly arrived were immediately wary of Indians because of stories they'd heard. But he Pilgrims found few Native Americans. The biggest problem for the Englishman that first year, and for years to come, was having enough food to eat. These religious folks even went so far as to rob some of the local Native American food supplies found buried underground.

The Native Americans, the local Wampanoag tribe, when they showed up, were by and large friendly with the Pilgrims, who knew very well that the Indians had reasons to be upset. But for the Pilgrims and for the Native Americans, whose sachem, or leader, was Massasoit, the two people's, despite occasional minor difficulties, remained friendly for over half a century.

During those years, various others came over to the New World from England. Initially, it was additional Pilgrims. But more and more Puritans came over, too. They, also, settled in Plymouth Colony or started other communities in the New England area.

The offspring of the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Native Americans would eventually get into major hostilities. It culminated in bloody conflict, King Philip's War, in 1675. The royal title of 'King' had been bestowed derisively upon the Native American leader Philip because of his regal bearing and pompous manners.

A popular Native American leader though not as wise or friendly to the Pilgrims as his father, Massasoit, had been Philip was the Wampanoags' chosen leader. When war broke out, it soon embroiled many tribes and several New England communities. Some Native Americans joined the English side.

The King Philip War story dominates the tome. The author writes about it that he follows the exploits of two men; "Plymouth Governor William Bradford and Benjamin Church, a carpenter turned Indian fighter who maternal grandfather had sailed on the Mayflower. Bradford and Church could not have been more different - one pious and stalwart, the other was audacious and proud…"

The fighting was barbaric. Women and children were killed. Head of Indians and of Englishmen were cut off (shades of the modern Iraq war!) Homes and communities were burned. Both sides had numerous casualties. The result was the denuding of most of the Indians from New England. This was brought about not only from war deaths but also from the many who were captured and sent as slaves to the Caribbean. King Philip with great effort was eventually hunted down and killed. The war ended in 1676, just 14 months after it began. The English won. But they suffered financially for years to come.

"My initial impression of the period," writes Philbrick in his Preface, "was bounded by two conflicting preconceptions: the time-honored tradition of how the Pilgrims came to symbolize all that is good about America and now equally familiar modern tale of how the evil Europeans annihilated the innocent Native Americans. I soon learned that the real-life Indians and English of the seventeenth century were too smart, too generous, too greedy, too brave - in short, too human - to behave so predictably.

"Without Massasoit's help, the Pilgrims would never have survived the first year, and they remained steadfast supporters of the sachem to the very end. For his part, Massasoit realized almost from the start that his own fortunes were linked to those of the English. In this respect, there is a surprising amount of truth in the tired, threadbare story of the First Thanksgiving."

Nathaniel Philbrick, who resides on Nantucket Island, has previously written a book that won the National Book Award: In the Heart of the Sea. He's also penned Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition, 1838-1842, which won a Naval History prize.

Highly Recommended!

God Is Not Great How Religion Poisons Everything
Christopher Hitchens
Twelve Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
0446579807 $24.99

Hitchens the self-proclaimed contrarian, has once again, filled that role admirably. Though he himself has obviously been a nonbeliever for many years, at least since his early school days, he, nevertheless, states beliefs, or should one say non-beliefs, contrary to mainstream America.

Indeed, he shows in this volume, example after example, of how religion has 'poisoned everything' in all cultures, social settings, and human interactions: whether they be church and state, governments, monarchies, relations between different religions, sex, wars, or what have you. He shows inconsistencies in the Bible's Old Testament and the New Testament, citing Bible scholars. Hitchens also illustrates the connection and, in fact, derivation of Christianity from Judaism and Islam from both.

Actually, Hitchens covers little new ground in his basic premises that previous writers, which the author alludes to, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett, have convincingly put forth concerning the absence of a god and that religion is dangerous to mankind. But this read has something the others lack: a reasoned verbal defense against the religious peoples' counter-argument that if secularism is so much better than religion, why were the Nazis, the Stalinists, and many notorious others such killers of mankind? That true fact has been difficult for nonbelievers to refute.

Hitchens, however, has examined that argument and made the case that those totalitarian regimes, though godless, were, in point of fact, religions under different guises. For instance, Germans under the Nazis and the Soviet Union in Communism admittedly didn't have a divine deity to pray to. But the people were required (or else!) to worship their leaders: Hitler or Stalin. And all laws (doctrine?) in those nations came from on high, or from the top down, not unlike religions. Put another way, all the organizational structure and architecture of those regimes were similar to religious hierarchies.

The author is well educated and erudite. That shows through on every page of this read. Hitchens' rhetorical style, though, might prove too British-like for some American readers. Helping the book along is the author's humor. It, though arcane, occasionally makes an appearance.

"There still remain," writes the author to indicate his positions on religion, "four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking."

Christopher Hitchens has written several books, among them Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, Why Orwell Matters, and Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man': A Biography. He is also a Vanity Fair magazine contributing editor. This Brit has recently become a U.S. citizen.


The Global Class War How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Jeff Faux
John Wiley & Sons, Inc
9780471697619 $27.95

Thanks to the globalization of trade, the rich, the upper class, in all countries of the world are gaining and the poor, the lower class, are losing. The same is true in the United States. Outsourcing, off shoring, and importing are taking U.S. jobs away, especially good paying ones, even in the professions. Membership is way down in labor unions. And workers are being squeezed, unmercifully, to make pay concessions, to pay all, or a bigger share, of their health insurance premium, and as to pensions - good luck, workers, with your 401 (k)s!

The U.S. balance of trade is totally out of whack, too. It's in a terrible (and getting worse) deficit spiral that cannot be sustained for any length of time. Moreover, the record-breaking debt, caused by annual record-setting budget deficits, has, long ago, made the country a net borrower instead of a lender. America owes money, lots of it, to the rest of the world. When those IOUs will called in is anyone's guess, maybe tomorrow, perhaps not long after. In short, the U.S. and its people are in an economic mess.

Well, not everyone in the country is hurting financially. The wealthy, business class and investors are prospering as never before. They're getting their products made at cheap labor rates overseas, and selling those items back in the U.S. for high prices. Profits abound! And this is a group composed of both Republicans and Democrats. The so-called elite, or upper crust, is getting windfall profits. The little guy is no longer working at an auto plant making $25.00 per hour, but at a fast-food restaurant at minimum wage.

Supposedly, to buck up the U.S. economy, the idea was to increase this country's trade by enlisting trading partners, or other nations, to work with and amongst each other to increase exports to offset the disproportionate amount of imports. So, a trade arrangement was signed entitled NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement. It is with three nations: the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The last two mentioned had their own problems they were hoping to solve, also. Each of the three country's citizens, according to government leaders and such U.S. stalwarts as Alan Greenspan who enlisted Rush Limbaugh to promote it over the air waves, was going to prosper because of the deal.

Well, it's not worked out well for the trio of countries. Interestingly, it was a Democrat, President Clinton, who promoted, pushed for, and signed NAFTA into law. And he was merely furthering something that Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, both Republicans, wanted. So neither party has clean hands.

NAFTA has actually made things worse for the little person in all three countries, especially Mexico, which is in fact a third world nation. Instead of getting more good jobs for Mexicans and raising their low wages and improving working conditions, the trade agreement has done the opposite. How else can the influx of Mexican Illegals streaming into the U.S. be explained?

The author does propose that NAFTA, if administered correctly, could work. He firmly believes that various regional economic groups, such as the three countries mentioned, could make a more effective effort to help each other. But the bugaboo in the ointment is that the U.S. has such a terrible balance of payments. All efforts to fix that problem bode ill for the U.S. and its NAFTA trading partners. But if everyone pitches in to help the others, it might bode for, at least, a softer landing.

Perhaps first and foremost needed to make NAFTA work better would be for the U.S. and Canada to provide economic development funds for Mexican entrepreneurs. Also, that country must make a concerted effort to overcome its crime and corruption, clean up its environment, and tax its wealthy elite to benefit the country.

If things aren't worked out, and soon, the U.S. will not be number one in the world for much longer. Already it's way behind other nations in education, health care, safety nets, etc.

The author writes, "[…] I have found that the morphing of national elites into a global governing class explained the politics of the new global economy better than the standard interpretations offered by the media punditry. Certainly, the bipartisan embrace of NAFTA by American elites could be adequately understood in no other way: not in the familiar drama of Republicans versus Democrats, nor in the traditional trade politics of industry rivalry, nor by Yankee imperialism or the pursuit of some clear notion of the national interest - and certainly not in the simple-minded mantra of 'free trade' that saturated the newsprint and airwaves. As Jorge Castaneda, who later became Mexico's foreign secretary, observed, NAFTA was 'an accord among magnates and potentates: an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."

"The politics of the global economy are currently the equivalent of a one-party system, dominated by a virtual network this book calls the Party of Davos, after the now famous meeting place in Switzerland where the world's political and economic elite have their annual 'convention.' The platform of the Party of Davos is simple: enhance the bargaining position of corporate capital in the global economy. In the absence of global government, the transnational investor class represented by Davos depends on support from the elites running the major nation-states of the world, the U.S. superpower being the most important."

Jeff Faux began the Economic Policy Institute. He is now contributing editor at the American prospect magazine.

This shocking book is highly recommended. (Heart patients, please take your medicine before reading this volume!)

Jim Sullivan

Susan's Bookshelf

The Elephant's Secret Sense - The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa
Caitlin O'Connell
Free Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743284417 $24.00

One would expect that a book written by a research associate at Stanford University on elephant communication would be boring and pedantic, but not so with Caitlin O'Connell. The daughter of a doctor, whose earliest memories found her carrying her father's medical bag in hopes that he would use his tools to examine her ears, grew up to study the enormous ears and hearing systems that encompass the elephant from head to toe. Her studies led her in a quest to help the Namibian farmers, who had been resettled from South Africa during apartheid, by using sound to protect their farms from hungry elephants.

Besides revealing her overarching compassion for all living things, her writing style combines the suspense of a mystery writer with the lyrical prose of a travel writer. In her book, she chronicles her adventures and misadventures as she strives to understand how elephants communicate with each other within their African environment.

In the Caprivi, violent death is as much a part of the landscape as the capricious nature of rain. Nobody knows when it will come or how much to expect, but in the end it always comes. Death can snatch people away without warning - for example, a leopard stealing into a hut leaving a faceless victim, a croc seizing a laundress off the riverbank, or an elephant using its powerful knuckle to smash the ribs of a hapless person lost in the forest. A lone male buffalo may crush his victim with the iron-hard boss of its horns; when wounded, it can unnervingly circle back to kill the intruding hunter with a surprise attack. And a neighbor may disappear simply for being from the wrong tribe, or from the cold sweat of the ever-present malarial fever, or even from an unexpected twist in the night, silencing the cries of an infant.

As O'Connell traveled between two settings in Africa, one in the wild with elephants, lions, rhinos, crocodiles, and elands, and one in the villages of Namibia with unfamiliar residents, corrupt officials, and compassionate reserve stewards; and various educational institutions in the US, O'Connell shows the reader the contrasts she experiences between the different cultures.

At the end of our three-year contract, when it came time to leave the Caprivi, I was stricken yet freed. Which way did I feel? Which way should I go? How could I tease apart these feelings? I had exhausted myself with indecision. I had never experienced such a funk before, and yet I never felt more alive.

How is it that I had come to grieve for this land, for the animals, and for these people? How did I let it consume me? How could I put things in perspective? After leaving and gaining some distance, would I ever be able to return? I wanted desperately to help, yet my visions for the inevitability of failure paralyzed me. In the end, had I really helped these people? Had I made a difference? Or was I walking away with the rewards, leaving them to carry on, still in need, and perhaps painfully more aware of the First World's riches?

Including pictures of many of the elephants she studied, O'Connell shows how a researcher can quickly become attached to the animal's personalities almost to the point of anthropomorphism, but she maintains the balance necessary to study the wild animals without interfering too much in their environment.

After reading this book, one will undoubtedly want to read more about preserving the last wild herds in Africa and supporting O'Connell and her husband, Tim Rodwell in promoting elephant conservation and scientific understanding around the world. For those interested in science and ecology, this very readable book also serves as an inspiration to the next generation of researchers.

Caitlin O'Connell is a research associate at Stanford University, in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. Her discoveries have been published and reported in various periodicals, including Science, Science News, Natural History, National Geographic, The Economist, and Discover. She has appeared on National Geographic, the BBC, PBS/Nature, and the Discovery Channel. O'Connell lives in San Diego, where she and her husband direct the nonprofit organization Utopia Scientific.

Cherry Blossoms in Twilight - Memories of a Japanese Girl
Yaeko Sugama Weldon and Linda E. Austin
Illustrated by Yaeko Sugama Weldon
Moonbridge Publications
701 Simmons Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63122
9780977232314 $12.95

Since many of my Japanese friends married American servicemen, I looked forward to reading Cherry Blossoms in Twilight - Memories of a Japanese Girl by Yaeko Sugama Weldon and her daughter, Linda E. Austin. To my delight, it reminded me of the "Little House" books except that rather than being written about 19th century rural America, this book was written about 20th century Japan in a small town near Tokyo with the profile of Mt. Fuji in the distance.

This gentle book shows how children entertained themselves before the advent of mass media - playing outside, catching snails and tadpoles, using flowers and seeds for pretend play, daring each other to take scary adventures such as fetching something from the graveyard or icehouse where others hid in order to scare them. Illustrations and photographs by the authors added to the interest as Weldon and Austin described holidays and festivals such as Boys' Day, Girls' Day and Tsukimi (Full Moon Viewing in September).

Not all of Yaeko's life was happy as she described sibling rivalry, hunger during the Depression, and hiding in air-raid shelters during the war, although these events inspire the reader by showing how overcoming the struggles helped Yaeko become stronger. After reading this book, I now understand why many Japanese women married American men during the U.S. occupation as many of the Japanese men had died in the war.

Children studying other cultures could identify with Yaeko as they read about her life and adventures, while the Glossary and Index of Japanese terms might motivate them to learn some Japanese conversational language. Also in the appendices are some delightful children's songs in both Japanese and English and photographs of Japan during the 1950s. This is a well-designed and edited little book that will educate and entertain both elementary and middle school students.

About the authors: Yaeko Sugama was born in Japan in 1925. She grew up in the small town of Tokorozawa, near Tokyo, and there experienced the Depression years and World War II. Some years after the war, she met an American serviceman and eventually married him. Her husband then brought her to the United States in 1958 where they settled in Joliet, Illinois, and raised two daughters, Linda and Kathleen. After a divorce and brief second marriage, Ms. Sugama Weldon moved to Madison, Alabama, for a number of years. She currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

Linda Emiko Austin was born in Chicago in 1959. She was raised on the outskirts of Joliet, Illinois, and schooled in nearby Plainfield. She has many fond memories of visiting Chicago's "Japantown" along North Clark Street as a child, especially the old Star Market grocery and J. Toguri Mercantile, where the scent of incense and the feel of an old-time era of Japan gave her a fascinating window into her Japanese heritage. Linda currently lives with her husband and two daughters in St. Louis, Missouri, with her mother nearby.

A Mirror Garden, A Memoir
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Zara Houshmand
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307266132 $25.95

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Zara Houshmand's book, A Mirror Garden, A Memoir, dispels the media's worn-out image of Iran as only about enriched uranium. Farmanfarmaian and Houshmand create an image of Iran for the reader that envelops a complex country through the eyes of Farmanfarmaian weaving together images like a distinctive Persian rug or tapestry filled with all the bright colors and some very dark ones that exemplify Farmanfarmaian's long life.

Farmanfarmaian begins by showing herself lying on blankets looking at the ceiling where "lines of gold and black traced nightingales and roses on wooden panels of cobalt blue, the color of the night sky" while she listened to her grandmother tell stories. Always aware of color and light, her narrative leads the reader through the ups and downs of life to her emerging as an artist in Iran where women were supposed to be confined to the home, cooking and cleaning for their families and raising their children.

Farmanfarmaian's complex life evolves as she grows up amid wealth inherited from her grandfather who traded along the Silk Road. Although she lived a privileged life, she still experienced pain and struggle with the loss of two sisters, one who died from tuberculosis and the other from appendicitis.

Always relating through an artist's eye, even her grief is rendered beautifully. Visiting her sister, Iran, dying with tuberculosis, Farmanfarmaian and her nephew, Bahram as chaperone, ride their bicycles on weekends to visit Iran "pumping uphill all the way but still pleasant through the dappled shade of the sycamores watered by rushing streams on each side of the road. Then another half-hour of really steep climbing in the suddenly cool air, panting up narrow lanes where slender poplars lined up against the mud walls, and rocky outcrops of the mountain pressed into every gap. Listening to the river, invisible a hundred meters below in the ravine, the rushing sound echoed in the windy rustle of leaves." Her sensuous words carry the reader along throughout the memoir.

After Iran died, Farmanfarmaian's grief was boundless. "At Abdolabad that summer, I haunted the two special rocks where Iran and I had sat so often. I remembered the silky feel of her hair as I wove it in braids. I remembered the nights we had sat there, the moonlight casting shadows on the rocks and washing the plains below, the lilt of her voice as she recited poems to me, the poems she was learning as a student at college. The red-winged locusts buzzed at my feet, the grasshoppers bounded away unmolested. There was no reason now to catch them, no one to present them to proudly, all tied up in a stocking. I watched the wind toss the dangling rags that hung from the nasr tree. They looked forlorn, unanswered and pointless. There was no vow I could make that would bring her back to me. I sat on the rocks and cried, my tears drying in the wind with a tiny chill almost as fast as their trails could run down my face."

In spite of these tragedies, schooling for girls in Iran seemed to lack seriousness as Farmanfarmaian remembers childhood pranks where she and her friends often had to stand long hours on one foot facing the wall for punishment while trying not to giggle.

Although living a privileged life, she maintains a self-effacing attitude untouched by arrogance, and even though affluent, she also addresses the needs of the less fortunate, readily acknowledging that "I knew I wasn't going to solve the world's problems." Without sounding boastful, Farmanfarmaian shows how she helps to provide housing and food to those she meets on her life's journey.

Not only showing the family and friends that she loves, but also her passionate love for her country, Farmanfarmaian tells about traveling to their summer home during a time when life moved much slower than it does today. After graduation, she emigrated to New York with her fiance, and her brother, Hassan, and a friend acting as chaperones toward a dream to someday live in Paris. A difficult marriage did not prevent her from pursuing her artistic interests and she soon found herself abandoned in New York with her daughter, Nima.

Eventually she divorced and moved back to Iran and married Abol Farmanfarmaian, an oil dealer and engineer who became her champion and the love of her life. Just as her love for her sister, Iran, her love for her country, Iran, shows as she begins acquiring relics from the past that had been neglected or were about to be destroyed due to progress and modernization.

The disruption after the 1979 revolution to depose the monarchy forced the Farmanfarmaians to return to New York, and resulted in changes in Iran where familiar places were no longer accessible and cultural artifacts and sites were either destroyed or hidden. The new bureaucracy confiscated Farmanfarmaian's home and her art.

In New York Farmanfarmaian continues making installations she learned to create while living in Iran using tiny slivers of cut glass and mirrors, or creating paintings behind glass. Finally, she receives an invitation to show her work in Paris. Then later she has a show in New York. After the death of her beloved Abol, she moves back to Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini dies. She starts to reclaim her art that she had left behind in Iran. Although now in her eighties, she continues to design installations and stays active preparing her collections for another show in Iran.

Sprinkled among the pages of A Mirror Garden, A Memoir celebrating Iranian culture and its people are pictures of Farmanfarmaian, her family, her friends, her art, and artifacts from Iran. One thing I think would add to a future edition would be a map of Iran showing the location of the many cities and towns she has visited in her long and productive life.

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, revised edition
John Powers
Snow Lion Publications
PO Box 6483, Ithaca, NY 14851
9781559392822 $22.95

With the current crisis in Tibet, John Powers' book, Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism - Revised Edition offers a timely chronicle of Tibetan history, geography, culture, religion, politics and Buddhist Orders. Powers admits in the preface "the scope of this book is broad … it still only scratches the surface of this ancient and rich culture." Yes, its hefty 591 pages encompass a broad scope, including beautiful descriptions and details on the uniqueness of the Tibetan people and four appendices and indexes.

Not solely a religious discourse, Powers explains how Tibetan's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has also served as their political leader in a "priest-patron" relationship since the fifth Dalai Lama united the country in the 17th century. Although rich in peaceful traditions, the Tibetans lacked defensive arms and strategy against the superior weaponry that the post-World War II Chinese brought to their borders in 1949. "On January 1, 1950, the New Year's broadcast from Beijing announced that in the coming year the People's Liberation Army would liberate Tibet from foreign imperialists and reintegrate it with the motherland," even though it had never been "integrated" in the past.

According to Powers, "It soon became clear that the foreign invaders and their ideology were incompatible with Tibetan culture." The Dalai Lama tried negotiation with the Chinese but "[b]y 1955, the process of collectivization was underway…Chinese troops began confiscating arms, property, livestock, and possessions, and then they created communes. The people who were being forced into the new system resisted these moves. The Chinese answer was to use violence to force Tibetans into the golden age that awaited them….By 1959 the situation in Tibet was grim….At four o'clock on March 17, the Chinese began lobbing mortar shells in the area around [the Dalai Lama's summer palace] with the stated purpose of 'freeing' the Dalai Lama" from the people surrounding his residence who were trying to protect him. "Late that night he and his party … slipped out undetected and began the long journey in exile to India."

But before relating these tragic events, Powers provides well-documented research showing why Tibetans exemplify values of nonviolence, peace, compassion, and love for their enemies based on their religious and cultural traditions. Much like the black South Africans, these gentle people suffer at the hands of invaders, and much like boycotts of companies doing business in South Africa, this reader plans to boycott companies doing business in China and lobby Congress to disinvest in Chinese businesses until China agrees to cease its aggressive actions toward Tibet.

John Powers received an M.A. in Indian Philosophy from McMaster University and a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Virginia. A specialist in Indo-Tibetan philosophy and meditation theory, he has published widely on Buddhist thought and practice. He teaches at the Center for Asian Societies and Histories at the Australian National University.

In Search of the Menopause Ranch
Deborah Vaughn
Pisquale Productions
PO Box 3080, Sedona, AZ 86340
9780978723309 $17.95

Although an idyllic setting encompasses the Menopause Ranch, life is less than idyllic for the characters who have been transported there by their spirit guides, Belladonna Morose and her associate, Mea Culpeppa. The guides' mission is to help each well-drawn character, accompanied by some baggage from her past, recognize how to change herself in order to regain her Zest, the goal she had before she entered adolescence. I identified easily with the characters as they become acquainted with each other and learned about themselves through spirit guides taken from Greek mythology. Vaughn draws her characterizations from real life and they could just as easily be our neighbors, family or friends as she shows their quirky natures and vulnerabilities.

Kimberly, the main character, narrates her experience as a forty-five year old just starting pre-menopause. She is sarcastic, creative, compassionate, and capable of cleaning up other people's messes. She meets Norma, a child of alcoholic parents, former nun, who runs an antique store near Las Vegas. And Toby, an African-American dancer who gives it to you straight, adding humor to the events of each day at the ranch. They also encounter Beth, a counselor at a mental health center who glides right past a nervous breakdown because there's too much work for her to stop and take time to care for herself. A little more negativity comes from Jean, a rigid, judgmental business woman and born-again Christian who, while she finds the revelations at Menopause Ranch distressing, can't wait to get back to her business.

The only confusing element in the book was the way Vaughn changed the point of view from Kimberly telling her story in the first person, to Belladonna and Mea who engaged in conversations about the characters when they weren't present, but this was a minor distraction that seemed as if it might have been intentional to show that the spirit guides were aware of everything at once, while the guests at the ranch could only see the events from their own perspective.

In their experiences at Menopause Ranch, the women are challenged to transform a life-interfering experience like menopause into a life-challenging opportunity for growth. Included are well-researched facts about drugs, remedies, and attitudes toward menopause. As I read "In Search of Menopause Ranch," I laughed, I cried, I felt angry, and I felt inspired. I identified with the characters and thought about what I am doing with the rest of my life. Not just for women, even men should read this novel; mid-life crises happen to us all.

Deborah Vaughn attributes her straight-talking honesty to her Indiana roots. Her life as an aspiring actress on Broadway, a minion in the corporate jungle, and loving wife for twenty-three years has been an instructive detour. It was on a road trip with her sister where "In Search of the Menopause Ranch" was born with the message that every journey in life is unique and special, just like every woman. Parts of the journey may be unplanned and a bit bumpy, but by mid-life we have the skills, the talent and the guts to pave our own way.

Susan M. Andrus

Terrilyn's Bookshelf

Dead Over Heels
MaryJanice Davidson
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425219416 $14.00

Three stories: "Undead and Wed: A Honeymoon Story", "Survivors", and "Speed Dating: Werewolf Style" complete this collection.

Davidson always lets readers know when the novella takes place in terms of the full-length novels of the same characters. "Undead and Wed" takes place after the events of Undead and Uneasy where Betsy, the Vampire Queen marries her "vain" (sic) squeeze, Sinclair. In this story, we see Betsy and Sinclair on their honeymoon in New York City. Betsy's best friend, Jessica, and Jessica's boyfriend, Detective Nick follow them there and they all become involved in a case involving a rogue vampire who is killing young children.

"Survivors" is a story from her Fred the Mermaid series, coming after Swimming Without a Net. Con "Bad Baby" Conlinson is a survivalist TV star. The only problem is, he has no survival skills. After being stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he is rescued by Fred, but then spurns her advances by sending her away after she arranges for him to be rescued by humans.

"Speed Dating" takes place after Undead and Uneasy when the Betsy and Derik the Bane characters meet up. Single werewolf Cain has decided to get married before her 30th birthday, in just a few weeks. She enlists her best friend, Saul, to set her up with eligible werewolves. The problem is, he chooses the least acceptable specimens.

The collection of short stories is amusing, though nothing earth-shattering is revealed about any of the characters from any of the series.

Alamo Wars
Ray Villareal
Pinata Books
452 Cullen Performance Hall, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558855137 $10.95

Ray Villareal packs several important themes into his young adult novel including immigration, bullying, parent/teacher relationships, and bilingualism.

Long serving beloved English and theatre teacher, Miss Mac, dies in the classroom and her colleagues decide to honor her by naming the school auditorium after her. To make the dedication celebration special, the teachers decide to have the seventh graders perform a recently discovered, long-lost play Miss Mac has written, Thirteen Days to Glory: The Battle of the Alamo. The play turns out to be a racist, narrow historical perspective of the Alamo, which, in a Hispanic community (both legal and otherwise), does not go over well.

New bilingual teacher Sandy Martinez; Izzy Pena; his best friend, Golden Gloves boxer Marco Diaz; and Marco's girlfriend, undocumented immigrant Raquel, battle bullies Billy Ray Cansler and his gang while they also battle the ingrained racist attitudes of the community.

Villareal sprinkles Spanglish throughout the novel, giving it a true mixed-heritage feeling. Most short phrases don't need translating, and by the time paragraphs are being written in Spanish, the reader no longer needs a translation. The undocumented worker angle sometimes takes a backseat to bullying and parent pandering for the bulk of the novel, and though the end of the novel is somewhat corny, Villareal does come back to the theme, what is an illegal immigrant?

The attitude veteran teacher Mrs. Frymire spouts "There are times when we have to do things we don't necessarily agree with. Things that might not seem right or just. But we do them for the greater good . . . . You have to understand how things work around here. Leave it alone. Don't say anything. Just go along with it, okay?" (76-77) is echoed throughout the novel in relation to teachers pandering to parents who are important to their program as well as the argument for English-only education. Villareal also does a good job showing how sometimes children parrot their parents' ideas and bad habits without really considering all sides of the situation.

By the end of the novel, students, parents, and teachers learn that there can be more than one truth, more than one point of view. It is a good lesson for the reader to learn as well.

The Outlaw Demon Wails
Kim Harrison
Harper Collins
Ten East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060788704 $24.95

Fans of Kim Harrison's demon-hunting, vampire-teasing, werewolf-befriending witch Rachel Morgan will be ecstatic over the sixth installment in the series, The Outlaw Demon Wails.

Morgan is back in Cincinnati having become the first alpha of David's werewolf pack (despite being a witch), and she is eager to track down the killer of her vampire boyfriend, Kisten. In a fast-paced narrative full of action and twists, Morgan has to outwit Al (the demon she has escaped from several times) while saving her nemesis Trent Kalamack from the ever-after and balancing the delicate relationship she has with her bi-sexual vamp roommate, Ivy.

Harrison does a wonderful job growing her characters while staying true to them. She brings back former characters to provide depth to the plot. Harrison teases her fans by revealing shocking truths from each character's past which will eventually lead to cliff-hangers that will need to be addressed in subsequent titles. Harrison adroitly manipulates the reader back to Kisten's death, making it a psychologically intricate part of this book's plot while setting it up to be the main emphasis of the seventh installment. Transitions between plots and subplots are so smooth readers are only able to detect it has occurred after it has happened!

This novel is hard to put down, and will make Morgan fans eager for the next installment.

Terrilyn Fleming

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584967 $24.95 800-421-3976

This novel is the fourth in the John McIntire Mysteries series, all of which take place in a small town in Michigan during the 1950's. McIntire returned there with his English bride after many years away serving in the army. He is the town constable. In this episode, a farmer is shot in the head while on his tractor mowing hay. The man's family had moved there only a few months before, certainly not long enough to have made any enemies (or even friends).

The victim, however, was not a stranger to the area. During World War II he was incarcerated a few miles away in a Civilian Public Service camp for rebellious conscientious objectors. So there are suspects from the past as well as the present. The farmer was a tough taskmaster, driving his children from dawn on, and McIntire suspects his eldest boys as well.

As in past entries in the series, McIntire is low-key and drives the sheriff to push forward on the investigation, reluctantly. The investigation becomes befuddled by the unusual family - a 350-pound wife, an eight-year-old daughter functioning well beyond her years and full of secrets, a younger brother, and two older brothers with reasons to hate the father. The book is well-plotted and carefully constructed to keep the reader engrossed right up to the end.


Thomas Holland
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743280013 $25.00 800-223-2336

During the Vietnam War, five high-ranking South Vietnam officers, an American Master Sergeant in charge of a large supply depot and a mysterious American formed a brotherhood to steal all sorts of supplies and send them to the north in exchange for free passage of contraband drugs across the Laotian border. The supply NCO finally "chickened out" on an extraordinary request and "disappeared." First listed as Missing in Action, his case was later reviewed and changed to "presumed Killed in Action."

Many years later the Asians have relocated to the United States and started successful businesses. Meanwhile a body is recovered and Dr. Kel McKelvey, forensic anthropologist in charge of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory, gets the task of determining whether the remains are those of the supply NCO. At the same time a series of murders takes place on or near various Army bases, bringing in Chief Warrant Officer Tom "Shuck" Deveroux as the CID investigator.

The two men combine to run down clues and facts to bring about a conclusion both as to murders as well as the identity of the remains, which appear to be linked. It is an ex citing, well-constructed chase, leading to a most unexpected denouement. Switching from the 1970s to more than a decade later, back and forth, keeps the reader enthralled. An excellent read.

The Killing Ground
Jack Higgins
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780399153808 $25.95

Jack Higgins has written another thriller with the customary cast of characters - General Ferguson Major Roper, Sean Dillon, the Salters, and Major Greta Novikova. The dual plot involves the kidnapping to Baghdad of a 13-year-old girl by her grandfather. and a Russian plot to assassinate Ferguson and Harry Salter. The girl is the daughter of an apostate Bedouin living in London with his prominent and talented surgeon wife. Sean Dillon discovers the father on his return from the Middle East (he was attempting to retrieve his daughter) and makes a trade - he will rescue the girl in exchange for information on terrorists.

After a failed attempt to get the girl back from Iraq, she is moved to another Mideast country under the care of her cousin - an accomplished assassin known as the Hammer of God-- to whom she is intended when she becomes of age, and three armed soldiers. Now the task becomes more complicated.

An exciting tale told with Higgins' usual excellent writing and plotting, the novel is fast and arousing reading. Highly recommended.

Lady Killer
Lisa Scottoline
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060833206 $25.95 800-242-7737

A teenage indiscretion comes back to haunt Mary DiNunzio in her first appearance after the author took a four-book hiatus for the character. She is now the rainmaker for her law firm, but gets sidetracked when a high school classmate consults her about an abusive live-in "connected" boyfriend. Mary suggests disappearing for a while or getting an order of protection, either of which is impractical.

The woman then disappears on her birthday and all of South Philadelphia fears she has been murdered by the boyfriend. The police and FBI do little to unravel the mystery and it leaves only Mary to be a superhero, if that's possible.

The flavor of the novel is replete with South Philadelphia and its Italian-American population. But more important to the plot are Mary's efforts to find the missing woman, as well as learning something about herself and her "community" - the neighborhood in which she grew up. It is a well-told, engaging tale.

A Person of Interest
Susan Choi
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780670078468 $24.95

This novel presents me with a dilemma. I found it slow reading and perplexing, yet all the reviews I have read were laudatory. I found the plot and characters confusing, yet reviewers praised the novel in the highest terms. In fact, I didn't find the story or the characters interesting, and in many ways illogical. How could that be?

The premise is a relatively simple one. Professor Lee comes to the United States from Asia in his late 20's, goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in mathematics, becomes a professor, gains tenure. So far so good. Where he goes wrong is having an affair with the wife of a fellow graduate student, who later marries and divorces him after they have a daughter. He goes on living alone with little or no interaction with the community or fellow workers. A bomb kills a star professor in the next office, and Lee later becomes a person of interest to FBI investigators, with resultant publicity and its effect on his reputation on and off campus.

The novel apparently is a psychological study of Lee. But as it plods on, all kinds of extraneous information is foisted on the reader. While it had redeeming qualities and fairly good writing, I found it boring and poorly conceived. Others didn't. C'est la vie.

Michele Martinez
W. M. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060899028 $23.95 800-242-7737

Melanie Vargas makes her fourth appearance in this novel, this time as the chief assistant in her role as an U.S. Assistant Attorney in New York City. As its predecessors, Notorious is highly readable, well-plotted and swift reading. And it starts off with a bang - literally. Melanie is heading up the prosecution team in a murder trial, with a much-loved rap star as the defendant. While standing in front the court house in Foley Square after speaking with defense counsel, she witnesses his murder when he enters his car and it explodes.

No novel in the series is without all sorts of complications, and this one is no exception. To begin with, who is responsible for defense counsel's murder? The defendant? His new counsel, who was sort of the former attorney's partner? Then there is the question of intimidation (or even possible elimination) of witnesses. And, of course, no plot is complete without danger posed to the protagonist. Or without a potential love interest.

As in previous entries in the series, the basic cast of characters remains familiar, even Melanie's "former" love, an FBI agent she has "spurned." This leads to some "schmaltzy" reactions on Melanie's part which in a way reflect badly on her character and really have nothing to do with the plot; one assumes they are put there to humanize her. Nevertheless, the book is on a par with its predecessors, and is recommended.

Ken Bruen
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312341428 $23.95 212-674-5151 646-307-5560

Jack Taylor has gone through a lot in his native Galway, Ireland, causing distress to many as well as himself in the previous five books in the series. In the current novel, he continues to suffer, especially since he maintains his sobriety and contemplates leaving Ireland altogether for the United States.

But first he has to solve some killings and bring justice to the killers. While he wanders around seeking clues, we are treated to the dark corners of Galway and insight into the development of the city and its people. The author's ability to let us look into Taylor's psyche is unique, as is his writing and descriptions. The book is definitely different, but is highly recommended.

7th Heaven
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316017701 $27.99 800-759-0190

Two themes run through this latest in this - the seventh - in the Women's Murder Cub series. First are a series of murder-robbery-arsons for which there are no clues except a Latin inscription each time in a book. And then there is the disappearance of the son of a former governor of California as to which there are also no clues.

Clueless but intense, Sgt. Lindsay Boxer and her partner pursue both cases. When a tip leads them to a young prostitute with whom the young man was last seen, they get a "confession" from her about his death. The girl is brought to trial by ADA Yuki Castellano, another member of "the Club."

As with previous entries in the series, the writing is fluid, plotting tight and developing step-by-step to the conclusion. It is a very enjoyable, fast-moving read.

Now You See Him

Eli Gottlieb
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061284649 $22.95 800-242-7737

A twisted saga of two families in the small upstate New York town of Monarch revolves around Rob Castor, who became sort of a cult figure when he wrote a book of stories about what supposedly was his home town. Nick Framingham grew up with Rob - they lived across the street from each other - and they were the best of friends.

While Rob left Monarch for New York City, Nick remained living in town, marrying his college sweetheart and fathering two boys. When Rob's meteoric rise to fame begins to sputter, he becomes despondent as he tries to cope with writer's block. Further driving him to the edge is his breakup with and new-found success of his writer-girlfriend. He murders her and returns to Monarch, sought by authorities as a fugitive.

Nick reels from the tragedy of his boyhood friend, whom he idolized. Searching the past for clues as to how their idyllic life could deteriorate in such fashion, Nick begins to re-evaluate his own life, his marriage, memories of Rob and the relationship of the two families. In a contorted psychological analysis, Nick discovers a family secret that pushes him over the brink. The novel is a deep exploration of what moves people to act as they do. Astonishing revelations unfold to an unanticipated conclusion. Written with deep insights, full of pathos, the novel is recommended.

Of All Sad Words
Bill Crider
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312348106 $23.95 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

The easy going Sheriff, Dan Rhodes, of Blacklin County, TX, has to fight not only crime and murder in the sparsely populated county, but also the humor of his deputies and the harping of the commissioners. Somehow, he manages to deal with all of it with grace and good humor.

The commissioners challenge his idea for a Citizen's Sheriff's Academy, but in the end the students help him. When a mobile home explodes, it exposes what appears to be murder and a crime wave. Then there's the problem of developing a web page for the Sheriff's office, citizens who are lonely and call for help from non-existent animals, and flying saucers.

All told in an entertaining manner, the daily activities of the Sheriff move forward, even in the face of physical danger. And in addition, the hero of a mystery by two neophyte authors who also attended the academy is patterned on him. A quick and jolly read, and recommended.

The Vagabond Virgins
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584613 $24.95 800-421-3976

The novel is set during 1979, shortly before elections in Mexico. Appearances by the Holy Virgin have taken place in various parts of Baja California, urging defeat of the dominant PRI party. A few days before the Sunday voting, a beautiful lady - Lourdes Shuler-- appears in Alvaro Hickey's office, asking him to help find her sister.

Their adventures are endless in trailing what turns out to be the various appearances of the Virgin, in reality the apparition of Lourdes' sister Lupe. As they progress, he is torn with doubts - is Lourdes the Virgin? What is the true story behind her efforts? Who killed their father? What is the source of eight gold bars Lourdes was carrying when they met?

In the end, the entire Hickey family is involved in this, the firth in the series chronicling the history of Southern California in the form of private eye stories about the family. It is an exciting tale, full of danger and disappointments. Of course, defeat of the PRI will have to wait for a future volume, since it did not take place in 1979, but later on. Meanwhile, the violence and corruption in the Mexican border area is depicted with graphic detail. It is well written, and recommended.

Brian Freeman
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312363277 $24.95, 212-674-5151, 646-307-5560

Right off the bat, in a prologue, we're introduced to a vicious villain. We are left wondering whether this clue usurps the mystery. Of course, Mr. Freeman is too shrewd an author to do that. So, the reader is left wondering what it's all about, right up to the end. And that lets the reader wander while wondering about a whole series of murders.

The novel takes place in Duluth, where there's plenty of snow and icy storms, frozen lakes and generally uncomfortable climatic conditions. The thriller begins with detective Maggie Bei waking up from a dream to discover her husband shot, lying dead in his downstairs office. Obviously, she becomes a suspect. Her partner (and superior), Lt. Jonathan Stride, doesn't buy it but, of course, he is recused from the case and another detective, who is convinced of her guilt, heads the investigation. Meanwhile, Stride, and his live-in P.I. girlfriend, Serena Dial, become involved in parallel mysteries, as well as a ten-year-old murder that remains unsolved.

Not only are there a series of murders occupying Stride and Serena, but there is a blackmailer and rapist at large as well. Also uncovered is a sex club, which may or may not bear on the various cases. Enough tension to keep the reader interested? You bet, right up to a terror-filled (and completely unexpected) climax. Full of psychological suspense, the book should be read, and is recommended.

Judas Horse
April Smith
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9781400042050 $23.95 800-726-0600

Ana Grey is an FBI Special Agent in Los Angeles, just returned to duty after several months following a shooting incident in which she killed a detective. Cleared of any wrongdoing, she is asked to take on an undercover assignment infiltrating a terrorist cell after the remains of the agent formerly working the case were found.

The story takes her to special training at Quantico, and then into the field, where she performs quite well. The objective is to find out the leader's plans. He is a former FBI agent turned renegade. The descriptions of the psychology of an undercover agent, the problems and subterfuges, are graphic and telling.

The twists and turns in the plot are sometimes confusing, although they make perfect sense after it all comes together. But the plot thickens. In the end Ana is given short shrift, or is she moved aside to come back another day? It is a well-told story, even with the confusing conclusion, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Wizard's Bridge
Karen McCullough
ImaJinn Books
P.O. Box 545, Canon City, CO 81215-0545
9780975965306, $13.75

I loved the way the book started out by describing the bridge. "In the early afternoon sunshine, the bridge shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow." It was a great way to start the story and it drew me right in. Who built the mysterious bridge and why would someone want to risk walking across it? "Alsa couldn't discern what the substance of the bridge truly was, or even if there were any real matter to it." It would take great courage and determination to make it across.

Alsa is on a mission to get a wizard's help for her village. The wizard lives on the other side of the wonderful rainbow bridge. Alsa no sooner crosses the bridge than she has to deal with the ornery dragon that guards the wizard's castle. Being a dragon nut I always enjoy dragons in a story. This one is a character as dragons usually are.

The wizard meets with Alsa and agrees to help her learn magic, but she must do something for him in return. Once she agrees to his terms, her training begins, but it's not what she thought it would be. She complains a lot, but the wizard ignores her.

The young woman discovers the Wizard Korlen is hiding his true appearance from her, but at certain times she can see what he really looks like. She starts to develop feelings for him, but can't see that he's doing the same.

When the time comes for her to return to the village and help her people, can she do it then return to the castle and continue her studies? Or will pride and arrogance cloud her judgment and ruin her life?

Wizard's Bridge is a delightful mix of fantasy and romance. It's a book no fantasy lover should miss.

A Question of Fire, Witch's Journey and Shadow of a Doubt are some of Karen McCullough's other books.

Poison Pen
Sheila Lowe
Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451223692, $6.99

Claudia Rose attends the funeral of former friend, Lindsey Alexander, a scheming, manipulative creature with few friends, but many enemies. The police have decided that Lindsey's death was a suicide, but Lindsay's partner doesn't agree. The strange note found by the police looks like a suicide note, but handwriting expert Claudia is not so sure.

To see if Lindsey wrote the note, Claudia must compare it to other handwriting samples of Lindsey's. It's not an easy task considering the note's printed and Lindsay wrote mostly in cursive.

Claudia's discovery of child abuse in Lindsey's past makes her more sympathetic to finding out whether her former friend killed herself. Someone brutally attacks the client who's hired her to analyze Lindsey's note and Claudia knows that she has no choice but to uncover the truth.

When she meets the detective in charge of the case, Claudia finds herself drawn to him. Before long there's an intense romantic involvement between the two.

More evidence involving people in high places complicates the investigation. Claudia's continued snooping around soon puts her in more danger than she bargained for. The race is on to solve the case and there's no guarantee that Claudia won't be the next victim.

The author is an expert on handwriting analysis and gives the reader needed insight into the profession. It's a well written, engrossing tale. Adding romance to the mix only increased its charm. There's no mediocrity to this book it's a winner!

The next book in the Claudia Rose series Written in Blood will be out in September of 2009. Sheila Lowe's other books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis.

Murder New York Style
Randy Kandel, Editor
L & L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
9781603180320, $18.95

This is a collection of twenty-one short mystery stories having to do with New York City. Each story is by a different author and makes for a quick and interesting read with its wide variation of story settings and characters. I have never been to New York City, but was intrigued with the glimpse it gave into city life.

What do a young girl, a bully and Edgar Allen Poe have in common? You'll have to read the story, Strike Zone by Terrie Farley Moran to find out. Or how about Mister Right by Ronnie Klaskin, where a woman makes a list of what kind of guy she wants and he suddenly appears in her life.

Every story in the anthology is unique and entertaining. It's an impressive array of talent. If you like mysteries, I think you'll like this book, I did.

The Blood King
Gail Z. Martin
Willow Road, Nottingham, NG7 2WS, UK
9781844165315, $7.99

Prince Martris Drayke and friends have escaped from his evil brother King Jared. They've taken refuge in the kingdom of Principality, where King Staden gives them all his protection for saving his daughter. Jared, as you may remember, murdered his family and seized the throne of Margolan. Only Prince Martris survived the brutal attack.

Now thanks to Jared, the peasants are starving and a once prosperous kingdom is going downhill fast. It's decided that the prince must return to Margolan and rid the kingdom of his brother and his evil adviser, the fire mage, Foor Arontala. This will be no easy task and Martris, or Tris, as he's called by his friends, has to undergo rigorous and dangerous training by the powerful group known as the Sisterhood. He must develop his mage powers to their full potential. Time is short and Tris must return before the night of the Hawthorn Moon to stop Foor Arontala from resurrecting the evil Obsidian King. If the fire mage succeeds in bringing the Obsidian King back all is lost and evil will rule the land.

A traitor among the Sisterhood almost costs Tris his life. Will he learn how to use his powers in time to stop his brother? The Sisterhood warns Tris that he must be careful not to let the Obsidian King take control of him and his powers. It's a daunting task the prince has set for himself and it will take every ounce of courage and talent he owns to succeed.

The Blood King is the riveting sequel to The Summoner. It entertained and kept me spellbound to the end. When I turned the last page I couldn't help but wish for more.

Shadow Waltz: A Marjorie McClelland Mystery
Amy Patricia Meade
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738712499 $13.95

It's 1935 and a young woman approaches amateur detective duo Marjorie McClelland and fiance, Creighton Ashcroft. She seeks their aid in finding her husband who's disappeared. The woman has notified the police, but they aren't interested in helping her. That changes when Marjorie and Creighton follow a lead to an abandoned house where they find the mutilated body of the man's mistress.

The man's convicted of the woman's murder, but something doesn't feel right to Marjorie. Will she let it go or rush in to try to find the truth? Creighton has his hands full to say the least. Marjorie is a stubborn and independent woman who's used to having her way. This sets the stage for some humorous scenes. Who else would get their foot stuck in a toilet while trying to solve a case?

Creighton's need to protect her may force him to assist Marjorie. Is he willing to help her out, or will Marjorie have to find the answers herself? The pair has a wedding to plan. How much do they really want to find the killer?

Shadow Waltz combines romantic suspense with wit and humor. It's a great read for a rainy day or any other.

Other titles in the series include: Million Dollar Baby and Ghost of a Chance.

Victoria Kennedy


Irene Watson, Editor

Jungle King Secrets: A Libido-Liberating Lifestyle For Superior Sexual Satisfaction
Paul Adcock
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690491, $22.95, 2008

Reviewed by Henry Wheeler

In the beginning of the book, it states "The author wrote this book with the reader's best interest in mind." And that it is. Not knowing what this book is really about I was pleasantly surprised and, at the same time, found it extremely informative. Adcock presents a to-the-point and thorough explanation of the causes of impotency and how to prevent it. At the same time he creates a pleasurable experience.

There are many concepts in the book I have never heard of. For example, research show that one ejaculation consists of nutritional loss equivalent to "two pieces of New York steak, 10 eggs, six oranges, two lemons, and an enormous amount of energy." Adcock further explains that if there aren't enough nutrients in the body, it drains organs, glands, and muscles in order to replace the lost nutrients. He encourages healthy eating as well as adding supplements to the diet.

Adcock, through thorough research, has found that foods such as seeds and nuts are considered to be super-foods and could protect prostate enlargement due to trapping DHT. He further explains how "sexual spices" work, such as ginger that is considered to be an aphrodisiac and cayenne pepper which acts as a sexual stimulant by increasing genital blood flow. He also explains that a supplement such as arginine is often referred to as "nature's Viagra" because it converts into an erectile neurotransmitter nitric oxide. Adcock also explains other supplements that enhance health, therefore enhancing sexual pleasure. These include such things as CoQ10, garlic, bioflavonoids, vitamins C, D, and E, and so on. I don't think he missed any. For each supplement he includes a brief explanation of the properties and why there are essential to a man's health.

"Jungle King Secrets" is full of information, most of it I wasn't aware of. Knowing an unhealthy environment could cause sexual issues, I never considered that industrial chemicals such as pesticides, plastics, sodium lauryl sulfates, parabens and even synthetic colors can be detrimental to my sexual performance. Checking my own cabinet I found the shampoo I was using had sodium laural sulfates in it and according to Adcock this is a cheap way of creating suds. I also noticed paraben in the skin lotion I use.

I'm overwhelmed at all the information that Adock presents. There is so much more in "Jungle King Secrets" than I presented in this review. However, what I'm sharing with you are the important highlights that came to my mind. I can see that a healthy body is very essential and the key element in creating a healthy and enjoyable sex life.

I commend Paul Adcock on writing this wonderful book. It took a lot of guts to present the information in the way he did and I admire that. Men's health and issues are finally coming to the surface and an information highway is being formed. Adcock is certainly a forerunner and I applaud him. I encourage men to consider their own health and buy "Jungle King Secrets," not only with the intent of having a better sex life, but a more healthy body. According to Adcock, a healthy body is needed to have a healthy sex life.

Death of a Gentle Lady: A Hamish MacBeth Mystery
M. C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446582605, $23.99, February, 2008

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

The old castle precariously perched at the edge of a Scottish cliff grabs you from the beginning, right from the book jacket. And right from the very first page, you are drawn into the story, as the characters seem real and you are there in the Scottish Highlands.

Hamish MacBeth, the red-haired local Constable, lives in the police station with his dog and cat. There is never a dull moment in the quaint little village, as murders and mysteries abound and Hamish is right in the middle of it all.

And as Hamish and others try hard to figure out "whodunnit," you really do not know until he does. It is all so intriguing, and the old "folly" castle that is way too close to the cliffs is fascinating.

Hamish is a bachelor, and his romantic pursuits are surprising and sometimes quite funny. When he gets upset, his Scottish burr becomes pronounced, and it is charming.

Because Hamish is so bright, people wonder why he doesn't want promotions, or to leave his police station home. But he loves it and the community, and in addition to his cat and dog, he also has some sheep and chickens.

There are many interesting characters in the book, and it is very surprising when the murderer is finally revealed. You just cannot figure it out ahead of time, and thus are kept intrigued all the way through the book.

M. C. Beaton has done a great job of pulling you right into the delightful Scottish countryside, and you feel these people and Scottish towns are real. "Death of a Gentle Lady" is one of a series of Hamish MacBeth mysteries. You will want to read more of them.

From Japan With Love: 1946-1948
Mary A. (Kiddie) Ruggieri
Portsmouth Publishing
1000 Fourth Street, Suite 785, San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 457-9382,,
9780979875717, $24.95, January 1, 2008

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"From Japan With Love" is a wonderful memoir illustrating what life was like in Post-War Japan through the eyes of Mary Ruggieri, a member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The story of the era is told through a composition of journal entries, personal letters to friends and family, and photographs. Throughout the book there are also boxes explaining some of the historical figures, places and events of the time period.

Tech sergeant Ruggieri's journey began in October of 1946 when she boarded the Army Transport Admiral Sims headed for Yokohama, Japan. The luxury of the trip with "maid service and swell meals" was a far cry from what was to await her and her shipmates when they arrived in the distant land. When they pulled into the harbor they saw the destruction and devastation that the country had suffered at the hands of war in the form of sunken ships and the impoverished manner in which the native people were dressed. Their living quarters for their occupation in Japan were Quonset huts which were void of any luxuries. Each woman had '8'9' of space into which to place a cot, a foot locker, and a wall locker." While the accommodations were less than welcoming, the American GIs that were stationed there made up for it by treating the women like royalty with barrages of parties and assistance. One of these GI's the author became especially fond of and started dating.

Ruggieri's time spent in Japan was definitely not all work. On the weekends she had the opportunity to take some incredible trips and see some amazing sights. While the travel to and from these destinations was not always the most pleasant journey, the experiences that she had more than made up for any hardships along the way. The book contains over 400 photographs which definitely enhance the story that she tells. There are pictures of the Quonset huts, Japanese people, the hotels they stayed at on their trips, Mount Fuji, and plenty of the author herself and other members of the WAC. Even though Ruggieri is very skilled at writing descriptive passages, the multitudes of pictures really provide you with a complete picture of everything that happened.

To have saved all of these letters, journals and pictures from over sixty-years ago and to be able to compile them to create a book as complete as "From Japan With Love" is incredible. The memoir is well-written, thought-provoking, and insightful. Her writing is so descriptive that you truly feel like you are there with her and her humor and straightforwardness will definitely keep you entertained. "From Japan With Love" is an excellent book and I highly recommend it!

Julia Harper
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446619172, $6.99, January 2008

Reviewed by Sandie Kirkland

FBI Special Agent John MacKinnon thought it would be a routine bank robbery investigation, one like he'd done dozens of times in his career. But from the moment he watched the surveillance tape and saw Turner Hastings, town librarian and part-time bank employee, rifle through the bank president's safety deposit box minutes after the robbers left, he realized it wouldn't be routine. What was it about Turner? She seemed quiet and unassuming. That is, she seemed that way until you saw the secret smile dancing around her lips while she went about her theft as a longtime cat burglar.

This starts the action in Julia Harper's book, "HOT." The action follows the investigation and the growing relationship between John and Turner. What is Turner's motive? Is it a desire to get back at Calvin, the bank president, for firing her uncle four years ago, leading to his death? Did she take the job just to case the bank's operations? Was she the mastermind who hired the robbers, or were they just an excuse for her to make good on a secret plan? Why does John start craving the sound of Turner's voice as they talk on the phone several times a day? Why doesn't he arrest her the minute he can? What is it about this woman that makes him bend the rigid rules he's always lived by?

Harper's book is a compelling page-turner. The action is fast and furious and the characters' actions are just enough off-kilter that the reader keeps on, hoping to find out their motives. The tone is light, even comedic at times. When MacKinnon and Turner get together, the romance scenes are steamy with graphic sex. Readers will enjoy the ride and find the ending satisfying. "HOT" is recommended for those readers who enjoy a great yarn mixed with a love story.

The Connected and Committed Leader
Laura Lopez
Living Leadership Press
P.O. Box 30259, Houston, TX 77249-0259
9780979867316, $25.95, April 2008

Reviewed by Lisa Heidle

In "The Connected and Committed Leader," Laura Lopez, a fifteen-year veteran with The Coca-Cola Company as a Marketing Vice President, pulls from her experience as a mother to impart important leadership lessons from home that allowed her to get better results at work.

Ms. Lopez has created a leadership guide that exemplifies the abilities working parents bring to the table and has tapped into the importance of not only using the knowledge gained in the workforce, but experience from all areas of life to help people be more effective supervisors. The author explains, "I saw how parenting was the ultimate leadership experience because it epitomized the tenuous line we all tow as leaders - how to influence and guide behavior without resorting to command and control." The skills that Ms. Lopez has gained while parenting are offered as Essential Leadership Insights: Believe and Let Go, Be Curious and See Everyone, Be Humble and Keep Your Ego in Check are just a few of the ideas she proposes in "The Connected and Committed Leader."

Ms. Lopez's unique concept, using skills learned through parenting in the workplace, proposes a new perspective to an old argument: Do emotions and personal connections belong in the world of business? The author addresses both sides of the debate. "I came from a generation of both men and women who learned that hearts did not have a place in business. Showing any emotion was a sign of weakness; there was no place for it in the board room." The counterpoint, "Business is extremely up front and personal. People do business with people they like. People relate to and want to help other people they enjoy. People build trust with others who don't let them down. Business is very personal," offers a more modern and timely view on the discussion. With global competition at levels never before seen, offering more of yourself in a business relationship might be the very thing that sets you apart from others in your field.

It is easy to see how many people could misconstrue the message Laura Lopez is trying to impart: allowing the heart to enter the door. Anyone who has sat next to a co-worker who droned on and on about the argument they had with their boyfriend or how much they hate the boss will be reluctant to the idea of sharing more in the workplace. "The Connected and Committed Leader" does not advocate gossip or inappropriate work discussions. The book is about inserting the human equation into the work place and allowing it to replace the rigid, unyielding cognitive rules that have become standard in the world of business. Ms. Lopez says it best when she explains the importance of inspiring others through proper intimacy and finding common ground with colleagues, "With connection comes trust. With connection comes hope. With connection comes confidence. With connection comes security to take risks. With connections comes growth. And with connection comes freedom to be ourselves."

Two Guys Read the Obituaries
Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Brandon, OR 97411
(541) 347-9882,
9781931741798, $14.95, 2006

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan

This book, "Two Guys Read the Obituaries," is a memoir of sorts. Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill take on the task of looking at life through the study of obituaries. The authors selected certain well-read newspapers and perused them each day in order to examine the lives of those who recently died. They were especially interested in those with a particular appeal personally to themselves, such as sports figures, actors, writers and people around their own ages.

Nearly every journalist starts their career with the obituary section. They soon learn that, indeed, there are messages to be found within the few words that summarize a person's life. Here is a book that explains what can be discovered as the reader considers the death of someone they may or may not know.

Hill and Chandler are professional writers and friends from childhood. Hill is a playwright, advertising copywriter and creative director. Chandler is the author of twelve books dealing with personal growth and business success.

Their first book together was "Two Guys Read Moby-Dick," as they claimed to be the only two people who read the entire book and shared their feelings with the reader. They put into words whatever came to their minds.

Continuing in that same style, they read the obituary pages for one year, putting their thoughts and impressions in writing. Along the way, they began to discover certain consistencies. They found that piano players tend to outlive drummers and where we go after we die.

The result of their research is a laugh-out-loud book that charms and amuses the reader, while at the same time, makes you think about the topic yourself. And this book will forever change the way you read obituaries.

I found "Two Guys Read the Obituaries" witty and fun to read. It's a nice break from a hectic day when one wants to sit back and relax without having to delve into more serious subjects. Can Chandler and Hill continue to enchant readers with another "Two Guys" book? I certainly hope so.

Walk to Freedom: A Historic Journey
Javed Mohammed
Rumi Bookstore
4050B Peralta Blvd., Fremont, CA 94536
(510) 744-3692,
9780970126122, $12.99, 2006

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

The book's character, Omar Ghazi, is a grandfather living in California. He was born in India in the late 1920s. It was a time of strife, struggle and conflict, as India eventually gained independence from Britain in 1947, and the partition of Pakistan and India into Hindu and Muslin enclaves. Ten million people made a mass exodus, and over a million people lost their lives.

Omar Ghazi wants his grandchildren to know family history, and he tells them the story of his journey across three continents. Since they have a good life in California, they have many questions about his early life, travels, getting to England under difficult circumstances, and then back to his homeland.

We Americans do not really know much about life in his homeland, really, except there still seems to be so much violence, struggle and strife over there. Perhaps there always will be. But this story is really a personal fictional narrative of one man's life, family and journey, as he wishes his grandchildren to learn, remember it and pass it along.

Omar learned much living and working in England. It broadened his horizons, and he shared what he learned with his people when he returned home. "Walk to Freedom" has 112 pages, and someone with an interest in that part of the world and time period, may wish to read this book.

Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?: And What to Do About It
James Downton, Jr., PhD, aka Dr. Bob, The Happiness Coach
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
(541) 347-9882,
9781934759028, $11.95, 2008

Reviewed by Gina Holland for RebeccaReads

You go to the store, and you pick up this self-help book. What will this one do for me you ask yourself? Self-help books usually give us advice; they make us feel a little better every time we read something that applies to us. "Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?" is one of those books. Dr. Bob's book of self-help keeps you reading to find out if there are more answers for you and more ways to help yourself. The author of this book shows the humorous and honest side of therapy sessions along with great ideas to help you get through trying times. Telling the story as Dr. Bob, The Happiness Coach, was an added plus. Also, the way that the story is formatted makes it all very interesting as well. It is written more like a play would be written, letting us know who is saying what and why.

In my opinion, this book will be helpful to teenagers and adults. Upon reading this book, I found some unique and exciting ways to deal with my personal issues as well. I could relate to a lot of things in "Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?" I have often had problems with feeling like I am on guilt trips and with emotional fears. The book showed me ways in which to be able to understand how to use certain techniques to help myself. There were some very good ideas in which I was able to practice, and they worked! The ideas and imaginations, of certain famous movie stars coming to life to talk to the patients, were excellent! It surely motivated the patients to strive harder to fix their problems. Dr. Bob also focused on helping people to learn not to look at everything in a negative light, and to put their thoughts more into positive light, so that life can bring more positive things and not so much negative.

I implore you to find this book, "Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?" and to read it all the way through, and to see how satisfying and completely helpful it can be. It's not often an author puts humor into self-help books, and in this case, it worked out very well. Dr. Bob teaches you confidence, different ways of bringing more positive into your life, and he brings back the joy into reading as well.

Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life
Karen H. Sherman, PhD
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690514, $15.95, 2008

Reviewed by Lisa Heidle

"Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" offers insight into the cyclic emotional and behavioral patterns so many people encounter. Dr. Karen Sherman's step-by-step guide gives readers the opportunity to explore their pasts, govern their present and embody their future.

Dr. Sherman has been a therapist for twenty years, conducts workshops, and speaks regularly around the country. In "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice," she uses not only her knowledge and education to delve into the world of habitual and reactionary dysfunction, but offers first-hand experience in unhealthy emotional responses and how she used the tools included in the book to break old habits and create a life of mindful choice. "There is, I discovered, a way to approach life so that you feel a sense of being prepared, of being ready, of being grounded. This self-confident approach is generated from within. It comes from being in touch, being connected, with your self. Through this self-awareness, you will be able to deal with whatever comes your way."

Dr. Sherman addresses the issue of fear when facing change and why so many people stay mired in prosaic and uninspired lives. "Another benefit of not making changes is that you feel like you are in control - you know the outcome. Your risk factor is minimized. Furthermore, functioning in this manner releases you from your responsibility. If you're not all you can be, you can easily blame it on your past - something that happened to you, or something you didn't get."

What sets "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" apart from many self-help manuals is Sherman's awareness that people are a sum of their life experiences. Wanting to forget an abusive childhood or a traumatic encounter does not make the memory just go away. "Many people are not comfortable with the negative or painful feelings and go to great lengths trying not to feel them. Often there are attempts at using different distractions - anything from keeping busy all the time to using alcohol or drugs. The end result is a disconnection from oneself." Learning to acknowledge the impact of the experience by being aware of old patterns, noticing the physical reactions in the body and observing your own behavior will allow a person to actively make changes and begin to build a more rewarding life.

Due to the fallible nature of human beings, unhealthy patterns are repeated from one generation to the next with pain and dysfunction handed down like family heirlooms. As adults, we many times unconsciously make the decision to hold onto these past pains and regrets. "You can never take away the past. The past is still something that has happened to you. And you cannot change your past. But what you have changed, what you have taken control over is how much of a slave you have been to your past." In "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life," Dr. Karen Sherman offers a guidebook of choices that can help lead the reader to a happier, more fulfilled life that reflects the person within.

Heal Yourself: Mind Body Spirit
Marcia Kamph, D.C. M.S.
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Brandon, Oregon 97411
(541) 347-9882,
1931741476, $11.95, 2005

Reviewed by Phyllis Kruciak

For the individual who is sick of being sick, "Heal Yourself: Mind Body Spirit" is an excellent resource! Dr. Kamph takes you to the basics of the mind/body connection. She introduces the book with insights provided from a chiropractic and nutritionist standpoint. Learning early how factors such as nutrition, stress and toxicity affect an individual's overall health, one is clearly able to navigate through Dr. Kamph's advice to understand healthcare in a fundamental way

Chapter two of the book illustrates the "General Adaptation Syndrome" which posits that there are three stages to a body's reaction to a negative stimulus. Stage one is alarm, two is adaptation, and three is exhaustion. The reader is introduced to the stimuli outlined as emotional, dietary, physical and environmental then given basic information toward effective management. This framework provides the basis for understanding the way the body functions as a reactionary device. Understanding this allows and person to then dive into what stresses are presented and how to counteract the outcomes.

The reader is then introduced to the basic body systems and cells. Dr. Kamph simplifies these systems by analyzing how they function, reporting what they do and addressing common issues with which we bombard them. The beauty of her style is that she presents them very thoroughly yet easy to "digest," so to speak. The reader is given the information in fun, short and to-the-point analyses, which allow the lay person to understand without feeling lost in jargon. The book is filled with fun illustrations and personal stories that relate to these areas and make the knowledge real in terms of our daily lives and functions.

After a basic understanding, we are introduced to ways to detoxify and help reverse the negative effects of the stressors the body has already encountered. We are told of the need to begin with a "clean colon and liver" and how to proceed from there. Water is essential and this book even gives great tips about what types of water (or more appropriately sources and filtering) truly help to achieve the goal. We learn how to supplement and exactly what vitamins and minerals do. We then learn of the components of a good diet to maintain health, even down to how to store and cook our food. We are presented with an "emergency kit" of holistic products that can serve to stem our day to day issues. The book concludes with a chapter on "the power of thought," and the role of the mind in the entire process. Dr Kamph emphasizes the need for all components to work in union to achieve the goal.

Overall the book does a great job of education and suggestion to help heal, and maintain a positive course of holistic health. Readers will find themselves enlightened and entertained simultaneously by "Heal Yourself: Mind Body Spirit."

Murder Was a Stranger
Peggy Swager
WhooDoo Mysteries
c/o Treble Heart Books
1284 Overlook Dr., Sierra Vista, AZ 85635-5512
9781932695540, $11.95, 2007

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

The main character of the book is Kate Summers, a policewoman, divorced mother of two, with a Jack Russell Terrier named Cookie. Cookie has an attitude and a polka-dot ear, which stands up. Cookie is modeled after the author's own Cookie.

Cookie adds a little warmth, humor and cuteness to the book, which really is lukewarm in holding my attention. The writer's style seems plodding, steadily forward with the plot, but not very interesting at times. The book is written in the first person (Kate), and sounds almost like a diary. It seems everything starts with "I this, and I that," which gets almost annoying sometimes. The author really should learn to avoid all those sentences starting with "I" and learn to set the scene in a much more interesting fashion.

Kate's next-door neighbor is constantly on call to babysit her children, any time of the day or night, whenever she needs him. (That is not believable!)

Kate spends the entire book investigating who killed an older woman who lived in a mansion. Since nobody seemed to like the woman (Ethel), Kate has a lot of suspects to interview.

Ethel seemed to be harsh, critical and abrasive toward everyone, including her own brother, Ed. Why Ethel destroyed Ed's plans for marriage and happiness is unknown, except to herself. It turns out that Ethel has some skeletons in her closet. Some of the relationships turn out to be quite different than what they seemed to be.

The cause of death appears to be poison, but repeated tests turn up no concrete evidence, and Kate keeps pursuing every little detail and motive. Along the way, Kate tries to keep her personal feelings apart from her involvement with some of the suspects, but it is difficult. Kate begins to suspect that the murderer is someone she cares about--which still could be several people--and she tries to maintain professionalism in her investigations.

Kate also begins to wonder if some crimes "should" remain unsolved because the murderer may be an otherwise "good" person in the community. And she thinks if every person who did something wrong was arrested, the jails would be full to overflowing and the streets would be bare of people. So, in "Murder Was a Stranger," Kate is having a bit of a moral dilemma, and goes jogging to clear her thinking on how to proceed. Kate eventually figures everything out, and it is personally difficult for her. But she is a mother and a conscientious policewoman, and you just know she will cope.

Send Yourself Roses
Kathleen Turner, in collaboration with Gloria Feldt
Springboard Press
Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780446581127, $24.99, 2008

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

In "Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles", author Kathleen Turner writes an interesting book about her life, stage roles, movies and activism. There are eight pages of photos, also. Ms. Turner goes into great detail about her roles, the productions, co-actors, etc. There are a few anecdotes about famous people, including Michael Douglas. She also tells how she became so angry with Sen. Strom Thurmond for addressing her as "little lady," and "little lady, honey," that someone had to grab her arm and restrain her from socking him! One can just picture the elderly, southern gentleman from the deep-south, face-to-face with the strong feminist woman--each with widely differing viewpoints.

Her father's diplomatic service abroad widened her horizons from an early age, and his sudden death while she was still a teenager impacted her life greatly. Like her father, she believes in public service, giving something back, and activism; standing up for causes she believes in. Living in other countries with very differing cultures, Ms. Turner learned diplomacy right from childhood.

Those of us who have lived and traveled in other countries understand how Americans are perceived and treated in other parts of the world. We also understand, like Ms. Turner, how very educational and broadening this can be.

Ms. Turner's grandfather gave her a phrase that she has used throughout her life: "Well, you just have to, don't you?" It has become a motto and standard for her life, and gets her through some difficult times.

When she developed Rheumatoid Arthritis, life became almost unbearable, with the pain, swelling and loss of mobility for some time. Finding the right medication and treatment for the Rheumatoid Arthritis was not easy, nor quick. She also had to face her serious drinking problem, and later separation from her husband of many years. As a mother of one child, a young daughter, Ms. Turner also must juggle her time and responsibilities to give her child enough attention and nurturing.

A tragic fire at one of her husband's properties killed over 80 people and devastated him. She had to support him, deal with the press hounding them, and try to shield and protect her child at the same time. It was a time of just doing what she had to do, as her grandfather taught her.

Living in New York City, she enjoys doing her own shopping, walking around town, eating at her favorite restaurants, and the friendliness of the people toward her. She enjoys being told she is a "regular person."

Ms. Turner has a healthy ego, a strong belief in her self, firm beliefs and opinions, and does not hesitate to voice them. She also has learned to reward herself when a play or movie ends, with massages and personal pampering, and will take adequate time off to recoup before starting another project. Rewarding your self and being good to yourself are things everyone should do. Sometimes it's the littlest things that make us smile and brighten our spirits, as Ms. Turner learned long ago.

Readers learn from "Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles" that Kathleen Turner knows herself well, does what she must (remembering her grandfather's advice), and life goes forward for her, always. She has learned to reward and treat herself when she needs it. And she does, indeed, send herself roses.

The Lighthouse Keeper
Luisa Buehler
Echelon Press
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590805640, $13.99, 2007

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

In "The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death", author Luisa Buehler has written a thrilling 287-page, action-packed murder mystery set on a Canadian Island. The first fascinating mystery discovery appears right on the first page, and you are pulled into it right away.

Grace Marsden, the main character, has joined friends, along with her brother Marty, in an island cottage for a vacation. It is off-season, the weather is turning colder, and they set out to explore Christian Island's old lighthouse. They begin to uncover some of the island's deep, dark secrets, long-buried history, and then the first murder occurs. As they continue to delve into ancestral history on the island, they discover an old graveyard set in a circular pattern, old bones, underground tunnels, hidden treasure, and another murder. Not all of the island's natives are friendly, as they are considered "cottagers," and they are not sure whom to trust.

The island's native police chief, Danny King, is a rather mysterious fellow, and they're never quite sure whether to trust him or not. Grace has a condition she calls "OCD," and along with her "sightings" of lights, voices in her head, and ritualistic behavior at times, she sees and does some very strange, surprising things.

As things heat up, the seven people in the cottage begin to suspect each other of being possible murderers, and they are in increasing danger of being murdered themselves. To add to all the mysterious goings-on, there is also the ghost of an old lighthouse keeper. The island natives also believe they see him, so Grace really doesn't think she is "crazy," when she does.

Old island markers, called inukshuks and inusuits, add to the mysteries, as they seem to point the way, but also are meant to confuse anyone who can't decipher their mysterious codes. It is enough to send cold shivers down your spine just reading about them. There are mysterious markings in the old graveyard, a hidden underground room, and Grace gets lost in the tunnels and doesn't know whom to trust to help get her out, who may be trying to kill her, whose voices she hears in the tunnels, and she is not sure how to interpret the old markings. It is all very spooky, frightening and thrilling.

Grace's life is in danger again when she is buried in packed snow, and she is sure someone is trying to kill her. Later, she is trapped in a fire, with no way out. But she has a "sighting," and finds a way where there was apparently none before. She keeps seeing mysterious lights in her times of peril, but has no idea who is trying to kill her. There is intense danger, mystery and intrigue right to the end of the book.

The book is thrilling and fantastic reading all the way through. It would make a wonderful movie, and one can just picture the Native American actor Graham Greene playing island policeman Danny King! This reader/reviewer gives author Luisa Buehler and "The Lighthouse Keeper" two thumbs up, five stars (the best), and my highest recommendation!

The Vibrational Universe
Kenneth James Michael MacLean
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690088, $18.95, 2006

Reviewed by Phyllis Kruciak

Consciously creating your life is made simple in "The Vibrational Universe: Harnessing the Power of Thought to Consciously Create Your Life" MacLean begins his study of the "universal operating system" by supplying thorough background and practical proof. He defines this system by providing detailed analysis of the laws of physics, with a concentration on energy and its flow. MacLean helps the reader to see exactly how we all create, everyday, the things we experience simply by bringing these things into our focus. As individuals all at the core of our own energy fields, we learn our connection to the universe and are given emotions as our guidance system. MacLean, maps the emotional scale beginning in "apathy" and ending in "serenity/bliss." Using the diagrams provided, one can see clearly how we are connected and what type of energy is produced based on our emotions. MacLean also gives great examples of how to move through emotions and help others to do so, to achieve positive ends.

The book then moves into the laws of attraction and allowing, describing exactly how they function and the individual's role in harnessing creative energy. All the while providing context, MacLean focuses on the individual as "sovereign" and personally responsible for outcomes. The reader is given tools to change negative thought patterns, and to freely and easily begin, in the moment, the new life that is desired.

Systematically, all excuses and obstacles are removed from one's ability to consciously create. Simultaneously the reader is empowered with information and fulfilled in the expectations of having the abilities necessary to take charge and operate fully and positively in the world. The reader is shown how we function collectively and how to manipulate our energy toward the greatest good. Most importantly, MacLean effectively overcomes how we perceive our world and the limiting beliefs which have served our negative energy, thus far.

To describe this book as a "self help" book would be an understatement of massive proportions! Since reading this book, I understand my role in my happiness and how to approach it. By making solid decisions and staying positive I have seen the results the book predicts. "The Vibrational Universe" is intended for an audience who simply wishes to be happy and free in life. The whole of society can benefit from the useful information and tools outlined in this work. The only prerequisites are a desire to change and a willingness to be empowered.

Then We Came to the End: A Novel
Joshua Ferris
Back Bay Books
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316016391, $13.99, 2008

Reviewed by Robin Witte

"Then We Came to the End" explores the relationships of people trying to keep above the increasing boredom of a high-powered world of marketing along the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. The reader is immediately swept into this chaotic office environment and introduced to employees and employers in a sporadic fashion as the plot twists and turns through time; there is no linear progression of people or events as this tale unfolds. Through the unique perspective of a collective "we," Joshua Ferris illustrates how universal office life is across the country. The people he portrays can be in any office in any city and prototypes of these people are everywhere as this office is a paradigm of trends around the country. Many of these employees are from the same mold and seem almost interchangeable with each other as they state "[most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals; one or two people loved everyone and everything." The reader follows the lives of these employees as they deal with strange coworkers, the kidnapping of a daughter, divorce, and unexpected pregnancy. We see these employees navigate through a less than wholesome office environment as major layoffs are occurring.

This work of fiction can be a bit tedious as the story jumps from one time period to another. Ferris chooses to reveal plot points in a slightly confusing manner exemplified in the character of Tom who, very early on, loses his job but keeps being pulled into the story as previous time periods are being described. The reader finds that past events are being described as if they are happening in the present. Are you confused yet?

The collective perspective of all the employees at once does drive home the essence of this monochromatic and universal office life, but in doing so, it does not allow the reader to empathize with the interchangeable protagonist. By creating this strange perspective, Joshua Ferris makes a clear statement about office life at the expense of understanding the employees themselves. The reader can never begin to understand the individuals in this work because we never see them as individuals, but as units of a whole that happen to act differently at times. An employee, Jeannine becomes the focus of the collective when she deals with the loss of her child in a strange manner. The reader, however, only sees the reaction of the collective and can only understand Jeannine through reactions of that collective.

In spite of some issues with this work, Joshua Ferris paints this mundane portrait in such a satirical and humorous way that the reader can't help but laugh, and relate to, many of the plot twists and descriptions. "Then We Came to the End" is an intriguing look into the fictional world of office life and Joshua Ferris does an excellent job of portraying this harrowing life. Readers can fully relate to the antics of employees and laugh at the dead-on descriptions of offices across the country.

The Altar Boys: A Novel
John M. Poswall
Jullunder Press
c/o Golden Temple Publishing Co.
1001G Street, Suite 301, Sacramento, CA 95814
9780972999250, $14.95, February 2008

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

I am from India, and am a legal thriller fanatic to the core. In this world of fictional lawyers like Perry Mason (Erle Stanley Gardner) in books and Ally McBeal on television, I was desperately in search of a lawyer, a fictional lawyer hailing from India. And yippee, John Poswall's "The Altar Boys" is the perfect answer to my desperate search. Call my investigation jingoistic or me a patrio-chauvinist, but there is something special in reading about an Indian lawyer in an American courtroom. And, Poswall has done something in legal thriller writing with the creation of lawyer JJ Singh Rai, equivalent to what HRF Keating did to police procedurals with the creation of Inspector Ghote. As the author puts it when times required "Rai could use his best Punjabi accent and mimic the Peter Sellers character (the hapless Indian extra actor in Hollywood) of "The Party."

"The Altar Boys" is Poswall's second work; the first was another law story, "Lawyers: The Class of '69." I had read the same--but it was not a thriller per se--and it was one more for evoking nostalgia, "remembrances of things past," etc. The said novel, I believe, catered more to the taste of readers having a background in law. Among the four or five main protagonists of "The Class of '69," was JJ Singh Rai. But in this new work, Singh Rai is the unquestioned hero. He is now one of the best lawyers of America and has taken on some big shots in his career. But the passion for more has fueled Rai's ambition, and this time round, Rai bites something more than which he can chew. The defendant in this case is Mr. Almighty, God Almighty.

Law and religion is a deadly combination. And for those who have seen Spencer Tracy and Frederick March battle it out as Clarence Darrow and William Brady respectively in Jerome Lawrence's "Inherit the Wind," you would know what I mean. When the parents of two altar boys seek Rai's help about an alleged molestation by the church priest, Rai sees this as the ultimate challenge. Why not make God himself the de facto defendant, while the priest would be the de jure defendant. And more than proving himself worthy of another challenge, Rai also wants to prove his mettle before his daughter, a law student.

What follows is superb action, courtroom action at its scintillating best. The author is right at home adding more and more spice to the drama. As the blurb rightly puts it--"The Altar Boys" is the book that sets the new standard for courtroom drama. Absolutely enjoyed the book--reverently enjoyed it.

No Control: Dangerous Seduction
Shannon K. Butcher
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446618663, $6.99, February, 2008

Reviewed by Gina Holland

Caleb Stone, pure man, pure operative, pure romantic. Lana Hancock, pure woman, pure victim, purely kind. Caleb met Lana when he was working undercover for Covert Delta Force. He worked as an operative on the inside of a very dangerous and sadistic terrorist group. Lana was a victim, an innocent, and this group tortured her. All of her friends that she worked with were tortured and killed. Lana was beaten until she could barely move. Almost every bone in her body was broken. Her face was badly bruised and swollen from those repeated beatings. Caleb, not wanting to give away his identity, stood by and did nothing as Lana and her friends were beaten and killed. When he took all he could take, he stepped in, pretending to want to hurt Lana himself, all because in his heart, he really wanted to save her. He and his comrades had killed the entire terrorist group, The Swarm, or so they thought. So Caleb knew it was time to get Lana to safety.

Caleb sat at Lana's side, in the hospital, until she was recovered. Lana was told she would never walk again, and this sickened Caleb. Months later Lana would prove everyone wrong, and not only did she walk again, but she also became someone very important and very special in the world. While Lana was tortured, her right to have children was also taken. She could never have children of her own. So, she ran a center, just for the children. When she got back from her ordeal, her then fiancee left her for someone else. He broke off the engagement as Lana figured he didn't want her to make him look bad as he was in the public eye.

Caleb got a phone call, from his boss, a man named Colonel Monroe. Monroe ordered Caleb to follow Lana around and keep her safe. There was some chatter going around that all of the members of The Swarm were not all dead. And that they may be coming after Lana, since she was the only survivor. Lana's head was covered up while she was captured, however, unknown to The Swarm, she had a hole in it from which she could see certain things. She had seen the face of one terrorist. This would cause her great pain once again.

Caleb and Lana get closer and closer, and Caleb is falling in love with Lana. He wants to keep her safe. Lana has a very difficult time accepting Caleb because of what he did, watching while she was tortured. Caleb did what he had to do. And he regrets not being able to help the others. Can he make Lana understand and get into her heart? As Lana and Caleb's story heats up, Butcher's view of the love, hate relationship comes to life. It is truly a romantic love story. Caleb is a big man with a big heart and he doesn't give up on Lana, no matter how many times she pushes him away. She lies to him about one person she has seen, that she knows, from those horrible days, but she wants to keep everyone safe so she doesn't say a word. But when things start getting out of control, especially with the children from the center being in danger, Lana starts to wonder if she has done the right thing. This is a must read novel, the best I have read in quite a long time. If you enjoy romance along with a small amount of intrigue, this is the book for you. "No Control" is a great book for adults.

Silver Dreams
Sondra Rice Newman
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Brandon, OR 97411
(541) 347-9882,
9781931741569, $24.95, 2006

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

Leigh Meredith was dumped by her boyfriend on Christmas Eve. Her prestigious and highly-paid job at an advertising agency became stressful and unfulfilling. The glamour of living in New York City had faded, and she felt living there was increasingly dangerous.

Leigh was ready for a change. She quit her job, liquidated everything, climbed into her little Miata and headed south, with no real destination or plan in mind. And so she began the journey into her new life.

Landing in a small Virginia horse-country community, Leigh discovers that a simpler life, a modest walk-up apartment, with a new job that pays not much more than minimum wage, and a totally different life from the big city are just what she needs.

Love comes gradually into Leigh's new life when she discovers a skinny, mistreated, injured dapple gray horse named Silver Dreams and buys him for $500. Silver Dreams needs her, and Leigh needs him. They develop an unbreakable bond of love as she nurses him into a beautiful new life.

Mucking out stalls and caring for animals on an older widow's horse farm is a far cry from New York City living, but Leigh feels happier and freer than ever. The friendships she forms are with very different types of people, often country-rough, but true. Bibs McBride, the horse boarding farm owner who introduces Leigh to Silver Dreams, becomes a dear friend and confidant.

Discovering that Silver Dreams has racing blood, as well as great beauty, Leigh finds Whit, a pro who can train him. Both Whit and Leigh have been hurt in the past, are leery of relationships and love, and have their ups-and-downs while training Silver Dreams for racing. Leigh discovers that Whit has a drinking problem and tries to understand what is behind his sometimes distant attitude. For quite some time, she does not understand him at all. But Whit is a pro horse trainer, and she trusts his knowledge and expertise. With great love, care and training, Silver Dreams becomes the true champion he was meant to be.

Leigh has found new friends in her new life, faces different kinds of challenges than she was used to, and learns what real love and happiness are, at last. Sondra Rice Newman based "Silver Dreams" on a dapple gray horse she spotted at a fairground in Arizona. She loves horses, knows them, and her imagination produced "Silver Dreams." It is a nice, warm love story, and pleasant reading.

The Winter Rose
Jennifer Donnelly
77 West 66th St., New York, NY 10023-6298
9781401301033, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan

The 20th century was just beginning. It was a time of male dominance in many careers, especially the field of medicine. Nurses were women, but female doctors were few and far between.

India Selwyn Jones graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women and she takes on a job with a male doctor. It's not long before she realizes the man is a butcher and cares little for the ills of women, particularly those who are poor and pregnant. India, however, is very idealistic and her dream is to one day have her own clinic that caters to those who cannot afford good medical care.

Her family doesn't understand her goals. They are wealthy and aristocratic and still hold to the belief that a woman should be standing beside a man and helping him with his career. Indeed, India is engaged to marry a man who has high political aspirations and her mother supports his wish to have India on his arm. It would look good for his career and, at the same time, provide the money he so desperately needs. Her mother has promised him a substantial dowry if he marries her daughter and puts an end to the ridiculous notion of being a doctor.

In the meantime, India meets Sid Malone. He's handsome, strong, charismatic and a romantic figure. He's also London's most notorious gangster. His reputation precedes him and India is determined to avoid his offered help to start a clinic.

Yet, she finds herself drawn to him and he is drawn to her. Their constant bickering is merely a cover-up for their true feelings, which both are trying desperately to ignore and stifle. India's fiance holds to a platform of ridding London of the criminal element and goes after Sid. Unfortunately, India seems to always be at the wrong place at the wrong time and it results in the two of them being thrown together once again.

"The Winter Rose" is a sequel to "The Tea Rose," Jennifer Donnelly's first novel, but the book manages to stand on its own. Beautifully written, the book transports the reader back to a time when men were men and women were trying to break out of the stereotype those same men put them in.

The book also educates the reader on the history of London at the turn of the century, when the city was undergoing many changes.

"The Winter Rose" is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Some readers may be intimidated by the size -- after all, it is 700 pages -- but the smooth writing style keeps the book flowing. Before you know it, you've reached the end and wonder what will happen next. Obviously, Ms. Donnelly plans a sequel and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Wildflowers: The First Story in the Orphan Train Trilogy
Robert Noonan
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595426836, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"Wildflowers," the first of three books in the "Orphan Train Trilogy," is set in the small mill town of Alton and begins in the year 1898. It is a difficult era in which it is a necessity for young children to work in the mills in order for their families to survive. The story centers round eleven-year-old, Hillary Cook and her mother Laura. Hillary's father Jeremiah had passed away five years earlier in a construction accident and now Hillary and her mother are on their own. Laura's best friend Kate is very close to the Cook family and treats Hillary like a child of her own. Circumstances throughout the book draw them closer and as the book goes on Hillary needs to count on Kate more than ever.

Hillary works long twelve-hour days at the Alton Textile Mill, where abuse runs rampant. Not only are young children operating dangerous machinery, but the mill owner Frank Dragus feels that he can take advantage of the young girls in his employ, as he frequently has girls of his choice sent to his office.

Her only chance to be a kid is on Sunday which is Hillary's only day off. After church, Hillary and her two best friends Vera and Iris play outside exploring the fields and cemeteries, watching for wildlife, and just having fun. The three create a special group and dub themselves as "wildflowers." Hillary and her friends always are on the lookout for orphan trains and strain to catch any glimpse of the children inside the passenger cars. Orphan trains were an integral part of this time period transporting the parentless children from out east to the Midwest to place these children with families. Sometimes the orphans ended up in loving families and other times they were just considered laborers where they would work in exchange for room and board.

"Wildflowers" is a historical novel, that although fiction, accurately depicts the events of that era. Noonan's expertly-written story draws you in to a time long ago and exposes you to the injustices that were common, particularly those involving children. The plot draws you in and although somewhat predictable in spots still holds your interest. The main characters are well-developed and you truly begin to take an interest in their well-being. I look forward to reading the two remaining books in the trilogy.

Bridie's Daughter: The Second Story in the Orphan Train Trilogy
Robert Noonan
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595436293, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"Bridie's Daughter" is the second of three books in Robert Noonan's "Orphan Train Trilogy." This book begins on June 8th, 1899, in an orphanage in New York City where the children are preparing to ride an orphan train to the Midwest in the hopes that they will be chosen for adoption. Fourteen-year-old Catherine was one of the orphans on this train and she was drawn to, and grew close to, three other orphans that were around the same age as her: Monica, Brian, and Jason. At the train's first stop in Newberry, Illinois, Catherine, Brian and Monica were adopted by people waiting at the station. Catherine was adopted by Bridie MacDonald, a well-to-do woman who had never married, and Brian was adopted by Tom and Margaret Holmgren who were friends of Bridie. The people of Newberry had difficulty in accepting them as most thought that they were bastard children and shunned them. Despite that hurdle, Catherine settled into her new life well and grew closer and closer to Brian.

At first when I began reading this book none of the characters names were familiar and I thought that it was going to be a stand-alone book with the only tie-in to the previous novel being the orphan trains. However, I was incorrect in that assumption as the links began appearing when I least expected them. This novel contained a lot more surprises than the first book in the trilogy and I read it from cover to cover in one day because I could not wait to find out was going to happen next.

"Bridie's Daughter" is a definite page turner and skillfully written. The novel is very thought-provoking in that it really makes you think about the orphan trains of our past and the lives of the children who rode them. The author himself is a member of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America and his knowledge of the history of this time period provides for a very realistic work of fiction. I am eager to begin reading the third and final book in the trilogy "Secrets."

Coping with Crisis: A Counselor's Guide to the Restabilization Process
Jim Burtles
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor MI 48105
9781932690415, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber

How could a police chaplain, school counselor, or hospital mental health staff member effectively help their people cope with a recent traumatic event? Are there any simple, workable, user-friendly approaches in place that might work? Jim Burtles has spelled out a useable technique in his book "Coping with Crisis: A Counselor's Guide to the Restabilization Process," which is written in fairly non-technical language. In this short, 94-page manuscript, Burtles outlines a reasonably uncomplicated, step-by-step syllabus that will aid the helping professional in moving their people toward working through the trauma, improving their skills in dealing with the various problems and rebuilding their confidence in coping with diverse crises.

Burtles points out the five common reactions people have to severe crisis. These reactions are a discovery of one's fear, excitement, capability and chaos, as well as a discovery of their experience of the unknown. After working through the five emotional discoveries he points out that if people are not assisted in coping with these reactions, then there is greater possibility of either a delayed physical exit or delayed mental exit from the agency to which they belong.

Once Burtles has worked through these reactions and their normal consequences, he spends a large portion of the book laying out his four-stage 'Restabilization Plan': Recap, Review, Repair and Reinforce. Then he explains how to employ this process in either a one-on-one or group counseling setting. His plan is to limit the process to four sessions, of no longer than an hour each, which is best implemented within 24 to 72 hours after the traumatic event. This sense of urgency is important because the individual or body of people have probably been propelled by the emergency situation into some cognitive dissonance which places barriers to rational thinking. This may well result in an 'Activity Collapse' or a reduced ability to act, think, or respond to life effectively.

The author has filled the book, "Coping with Crisis," with several pieces of other helpful material. He uses illustrative scenarios depicting how 'Restabilization' may look. He expresses as well what skills are essential for a counselor. Burtles also describes a useful tool he calls 'The Dark Serpent Dilemma' that is intended to aid the traumatized person in their decision making process. Finally, he gives a brief comparison between his 'Restabilization Process' and 'Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.'

I picked up this book because as a police chaplain I have pondered what ways I might be able to help our department if a serious calamity were to hit. "Coping with Crisis: A Counselor's Guide to the Restabilization Process" has given me a practicable set of tools to help various people recover from a painful incident, and facilitate the restoration of their ability to cope with crisis.

Dead Bang: An Art Hardin Mystery
Robert E. Bailey
M. Evans & Company, Inc.
c/o The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Avenue Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
(800) 462-6420,
9781590771099, $21.95, 2007

Reviewed by R. J. Brown

From a Mob hit thirty years ago on the outskirts of Detroit to a fight over a piece of luggage at an airport carousel, "Dead Bang" lopes around the Wolverine State, leaving a trail of bullets, fires, loose cash, kidnappings and bodies.

This is the third Art Hardin Mystery, so there's some catching-up to do, although "Dead Bang" ably stands alone, like the proverbial last man.

I really enjoyed meeting Art and Wendy, longtime married PIs, with their own separate companies and an amusing and familiar repartee. Both being of a certain age, they have history, and in Art's case, something he was working on as a young man, suddenly comes back to bite him.

Art is at a meet with Mark Behler, a local news anchor who's outspokenly anti-gun on his shows and says he has a lead into that long ago Mob hit. When a middle-aged woman comes in and starts shooting, Art, being a concealed weapons carrier and a firm believer in the Second Amendment, shoots back, accurately. Mark rushes to the woman's side with his tape recorder still going. Just as she expires, she says something which makes him very uneasy, and leads him to convince Art to help him legally get a gun, under the guise of showing his TV audience just how easy it is. Turns out it isn't easy, which frustrates the newsman to no end.

Later, when Wendy is driving Art to the airport to pick up Karen Smith, someone Art had been hired to protect a few years back, and whom they had kind of adopted (and whom we might have met in either "Private Heat" or "Dying Embers") returns from a Caribbean vacation towing her latest lover, a comedian of Middle Eastern extract, and a suitcase of lovely new undies. Then Art and lover Manny fight over the bag and it rips open. It's packed with used American money -- the chase is on.

Sometimes it's Art and Wendy doing the chasing, and sometimes it's the bad guys with their arsenal and cell of back-up thugs. All the time "Dead Bang" is fast, lively and surprisingly informative and ingenious. I especially enjoyed the insights into Detroit's past and present, the married with older children focus, and the different perspective that one FBI agent, raised in Egypt and America, brings to the mix.

"Dead Bang" has some things to say about good guys and bad and terrorism, about the sorry state of a once-great industrial region, about gun ownership and misuse, and living long enough to gain some maturity. It also has some great punch-lines.

If you like your mysteries peppered with the bizarre and hilarious, with side dishes of history, then "Dead Bang" is a dead-on read for you!

Secrets: The Third Story in the Orphan Train Trilogy
Robert Noonan
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595436286, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"Secrets" is the final book in the "Orphan Train Trilogy" by Robert Noonan. This book, which begins in the year 1900, continues exploring the lives of the children who had arrived in Newberry, Illinois on the orphan train. Alternating settings between Newberry and Galena, Illinois we also get to see what has become of Hillary, Kate, John, and Biff whose background we learned of in the first book in the trilogy, "Wildflowers."

This third book is entitled "Secrets" and indeed almost every person in the book has a secret that only they or a couple of other people know about. Hillary has the secret about what happened to her in the mill in Frank Dragus' office. Kate is hiding what happened on the day when they left Alton, Delaware for the last time to join John who was forced to flee after being accused of a murder that he did not commit. Hillary misses her two closest friends in Alton but she cannot tell them where she is in order to protect her family from the man that is trying to avenge his brother's death. However, unbeknownst to Kate and John she enlists the help of another orphan, Pina, in getting letters to her friends. This action compromises their secret though and puts them in danger once again.

It was interesting to read this trilogy and to think about how orphan trains were truly a part of American history from 1854 to 1929. I honestly do not remember learning about orphan trains in history class and I am grateful for these books for teaching me about them. I had no idea that this was the fate for so many children in that era.

Although "Secrets" did not have as many surprises as the second story "Bridie's Daughter," I enjoyed reading how all of the lives of the orphans and their adoptive families intertwined. Noonan does a good job of linking everyone together and forming relationships among them. Most of the loose ends throughout the trilogy are now tied up but I do believe that there is definitely room for a sequel.

Jenny Paschall
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
(541) 347-9885,
9781931741804, $22.95, 2007

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

Who or what is Stefi? When she constantly shows up at 42-year-old Sue's workouts in the gym in London, practically forces friendship on her and subtly (and not so subtly) encourages big changes in Sue's life, one wonders.

Stefi doesn't give her phone number or address, and seems to live on tortilla chips and wine. Stefi dresses and acts like a 70s hippie, is supposedly 24-years-old, but also has insights and wisdom to give Sue. Stefi first appears in Sue's life after Matt, her boyfriend of several years breaks up with her.

Sue's next love interest is a doctor, who was also her gynecologist. They have fun for a while, but he is a cheapskate, and the way Sue dumps him is incredibly funny. Stefi encourages Sue to change jobs, and embark on a journey to India, where Sue meets an old school friend, has new job opportunities, and discovers that life in India is far different than anything she has experienced before.

The old friend, Jake, becomes Sue's next love interest, and also her guide to the ways to get along in India. Jake became very rich at an early age, and had enough money to live the rest of his life without working again, if he wishes. Jake wants to marry Sue, although he is at least 5 inches shorter than she is, and her mother makes all kinds of snide remarks about it. Sue's mother is twice widowed and never seems to have a nice word to say to Sue. She is extremely harsh and mean-mouthed, hates sex, and never hesitates to say so. Stefi doesn't like Sue's mother or Jake. In fact, strangely, Stefi doesn't like any of Sue's love interests except Matt.

Stefi is supposed to join Sue on her trip to India, but at the last minute she says something came up, and she will join her later. So, Sue embarks on her journey to and in India alone until she meets Jake. The teeming masses, heat, humidity, lack of adequate plumbing and sanitation, plus the diseases and poverty change Sue's outlook on life. Volunteering at a hospital for sick and dying people, one of whom Sue becomes close to, opens her eyes to life. When one young woman whom she attends in the hospital becomes snarling and angry when dying, because of all her lost opportunities, Sue realizes what a good life she really has.

Along the way, in India, Sue has encounters with two funny pigs, yaks, a tour bus with bald tires, and sees the Taj Mahal and other beautiful sights, as well as the slums, poverty, and overpopulation. Sue also faces danger as a taxi driver drives in the opposite direction from where she wants to go, and then tries to assault her. Sue literally has to run for her life.

Sue's production work on a documentary proves her skills and abilities, and consequently she receives even better work opportunities. She also makes more money than she ever had before in her life. When Sue is back in London, with a better job, she has Stefi redecorate her apartment with much brighter colors and fabrics from India. When Jake becomes difficult upon their breakup and refuses to give her plant back, Sue retaliates by swiping his Indian bedspread. It becomes the focal point of her newly redecorated bedroom. Sue realizes that Stefi is her best friend ever, and the end of the book is surprising when Matt re-enters her life and Stefi is revealed for what she really is.

Jenny Paschall has written a book with humor, frank language, sexuality, and glimpses into life in London and India. "Stefi" is an intense, interesting read.

The Blue Star: A Novel
Tony Earley
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316199070, $23.99, March 10, 2008

Reviewed by Audrey Larson

The title of the book, "The Blue Star" refers to the window hanging of a star during WWII, indicating a member of the household was serving the military or had died in the war.

Jim Glass is a high-school-aged boy growing up in North Carolina early in the WWII years. His three uncles have given him a car, which he names "The Major." His uncle paints the name on the side of the car, under the window. With gas rationing during WWII, Jim doesn't get to drive the car much. The car is a one-seater with a rumble seat in the trunk.

In 1918, during WWI, Jim's uncle Zeno was engaged to Nancy, who broke their engagement because she was ashamed that Zeno would not enlist to serve in the war. It turned out to be a bad decision, as she later married unwisely, had one daughter, Chrissie, and had to move back to the area when her husband robbed a bank and ran away from the law and his wife and daughter.

Nancy and her daughter, Chrissie, had a difficult life, and Jim and Chrissie went to the same high school. Jim fell in love with Chrissie, but she was "promised" to the son of her grandparents" employer, and she feared if she broke off with him, her grandparents, mother and she would all suffer.

The intensity of the teenagers' feelings is apparent throughout the book. Jim has three uncles, and his uncle Zeno obviously has never stopped caring for Nancy over the years, despite her long marriage to the absentee husband.

Jim loves Chrissie, and tries to win her even though she says she will have to marry Bucky. But she obviously does not love Bucky. There is much play-acting back and forth, pretending to be an old couple in an abandoned farmhouse, jealousy on Jim's part, and eventually Chrissie does come to love Jim.

When Bucky dies in the war and Nancy's long-absent husband dies, things look promising for both uncle Zeno and Jim. But then, after Jim's high-school graduation, he enlists in the army, and he will be sent to fight in WWII. It is a bittersweet time, as the book ends; just as Jim and Chrissie declare their love for one another, Jim heads off to the unknown during WWII.

Jim Glass was featured in an earlier book by Tony Earley, "Jim the Boy." This book, "The Blue Star," is a continuation from that earlier age of Jim.

The Valley of Death
Gwynne Huntington Wales
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln NE 68512
9780595418893, $23.95, 2007

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"The Valley of Death" begins in the namesake valley in Northeast Iraq in November of 2002. CIA agent Jan Vandermeer, protecting his true identity by using the call sign of "Aardvark" is positioned in the valley with instructions to be on the lookout for Iraqi Army Activity. After three days he spots a group of six Iraqi men entering the secluded area on some sort of mission. As he sits and watches them, he ponders as to why there is no sign of any wildlife or insects in the area. It dawns on him that it could be the water in the lake that is the issue. Insects and animals need water to survive. He wonders if maybe the water could be contaminated in some way and makes a mental note to take a sample back with him to have it analyzed. His question is answered when he watches as one of the Iraqi men goes over to the lake and gets a drink of the water. Within minutes the man is dead.

It is discovered that within the lake is a canister of VX nerve gas. One end of the canister is rusted thus accounting for the seepage into the lake. However the amount that escaped was only minimal and there is a large quantity of deadly gas remaining inside the canister. With high-tech surveillance the CIA monitors the Iraqi's removal of the gas and makes the decision to trail the canister in hopes of determining who the recipient is going to be before they try to intercept it. What follows is a suspenseful two-week tracking operation through the Middle East interjected with a little bit of romance when Aardvark is paired up with another agent, "Sophia," with whom he becomes intimately close.

"The Valley of Death" is a phenomenally written debut novel. The author biography states that Wales is "a former U.S. Navy pilot with operational experience in the eastern Mediterranean" and "also a retired international lawyer who practiced in Brussels, Ankara, and New York." His prior work experience definitely must have had a hand in providing him with the knowledge necessary to write such a detailed and convincing international thriller.

The work is well-organized and the maps provided in the center are very helpful in following the route of the tracking mission. Although the book is quite lengthy, over 400 pages, the pages just fly by with the many twists and turns along the way. It is very hard to put down until you know exactly where the canister is headed and what the end result is going to be. I highly recommend "The Valley of Death" to anyone who enjoys engaging, thought-provoking thrillers!

Walking Between Worlds: Belonging to None
Ann Andrews
Reality Press
PO Box 91, Foresthill, CA 95631
(530) 367-5389,
9780979175039, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Kam Aures

"Walking Between Worlds: Belonging to None" written by Ann Andrews is the story of her son Jason, an Indigo Child who had been abducted by aliens on multiple occasions. For the first twelve years of Jason's life his parents had always attributed his unusual behavior and memories to anything other than what was really happening because they simply refused to believe that it was due to extraterrestrial activity. There were some truly strange events that did occur. One of the first shared in the book happened on Jason's fourth birthday in 1987. It was nighttime and all of a sudden there was a loud banging at the door and the house seemed like it started shaking. Jason then started saying all kinds of mathematic and algebraic equations out loud. Jason's father Paul called the police, but when they arrived they found no footprints outside, nor did they find any explanations for the things that had happened. The book is filled with different types of strange occurrences similar to this example.

The phenomenon of alien abduction often is said to run in families and that is the case with this family. Through Jason's experiences, Ann realized that she herself had also been abducted and her memories started to come back. This helped her to accept the facts as to what had happened to her son and what his origins were. It was interesting to read their stories and see that there really are no other rational explanations for some of the events that had happened throughout their lives.

"Walking Between Worlds: Belonging to None" definitely draws you in and will hold your attention from the very beginning until the last page is turned. The pictures and drawings throughout the book also really add to the reader's experience of learning and understanding what is happening. The story was very interesting and unique to read. However, the font used in the book was not very easy on the eyes and I found I had to take frequent breaks while reading it. Despite this minor flaw, I think that anyone interested in the subject matter of extraterrestrials will enjoy this book.

Walking Man: A Modern Missions Experience in Latin America
Narciso Zamora
The Quilldriver
PO Box 573, Clarksville AR 72830
9780979163906, $12.99, 2008

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber

Many mission books focus on theory and how-to. Some focus on missions from an Anglo-centric perspective. That's what makes Narciso Zamora's book, "Walking Man," so unique. The book is a story of his life's work as a Christian from Peru, planting churches in Peru, Chile and Ecuador. It's written for a generally broad readership, but especially those interested in mission work in South America, as well as those interested in the Church's life in that region of the world. The book can be found in a Spanish edition (the original text) as well as English.

Zamora begins his tale from his impoverished, non-Christian upbringing in Chugar Peru, running away in his adolescence, conversion to the Christian faith, and the unfolding development of his maturation as a Christian leader and church planter. In "Walking Man" Zamora is upfront about his life, so the book is full of his earlier mistakes and some of their immediate and long-term consequences. He tells his story in the sometimes disjointed fashion that the reader might hear if she were sitting with him over lunch in a cafe. There is a real humanness about the way Zamora has written the book, a personable recounting of his struggles within the various churches and his family.

The reader may be put off at points in the book, especially with regard to the energy of author's actions. But most of the difficulty is simply a result of the cultural differences between the Peruvian and American view of life and the world. For example, the North American reader, who has probably two cars and has to travel 20 miles to the bank or grocery store, might be taken aback by the primitive nature of Zamora's travels. He walked most places, having no other form of transportation, thus the reason for the title of the book, "Walking Man."

One of the pleasures I had was in reading of his journey to places in Peru where I had recently been in 2007. Yet more importantly, in "Walking Man," I found a deep satisfaction in hearing Zamora rehearse the story of his commitment to Christ even through all the adversities.

Wild Jinx (Warner Forever)
Sandra Hill
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446616539, $6.99

Reviewed by Lynn Bee

Ninety-two-year-old Tante Lulu is ready to make a hope chest for Tee John LeDeux. She's had a vision and knows he will be getting married soon. He's a cop with the police department in Fontaine, Louisiana. He has a reputation as a womanizer and he is definitely not ready to settle down. She's a bayou healer and notorious buttinski. She believes in that bolt of lightning that's going to make John settle down.

Celine Arseneux had a one-night stand with sexy John LeDeux six years ago. She regrets it -- except for her son Etienne. Celine is a reporter and a good one.

Celine and John meet again at a sex club called The Playpen, run by the Dixie Mafia. Both are undercover. And both are caught in a raid, along with TV mogul Ed Warner, evangelist Leroy Evington, and the wife of a prominent congressman.

This fascinating premise is then dropped, as the characters move to Black Bayou to hunt for pirate treasure left by Jean Lafitte. The treasure hunting is interesting, but I did not find it as intriguing as the sex club story.

Celine has never told John about their son. Her grandfather has helped her raise the boy and hates the LeDeux family.

Sparks fly as Celine and John take part in the treasure hunt. Their passion is rekindled. John returns to testify at the Playpen trial near the end of the story. But I did not feel the story lines blended all that well.

Sandra Hill has written several stories about the Cajun LeDeux family, and has left the door open for future installments. I just hope she maintains her focus more clearly in future books. "Wild Jinx" was less than compelling for me.

You're a Medical What!?!
Sara Burns
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759004, $14.95, 2008

Reviewed by Lynn Bee

Sara Burns has spent 29 years as a medical transcriptionist and is writing to share her expertise. Much of her advice as a home-based independent contractor will be helpful to those in other professions as well. Her experiences taking her show on the road --spending a year living and working in Kauai -- may well inspire home-based workers in many fields.

Burns wrote "You're a Medical What!?!: A Lighthearted Peek into the World of a Medical Transcriptionist" for three distinct audiences. She says that experienced medical transcriptionists will smile and share in her reminiscences.

She hopes to give newbies a clear picture of what they are up against. While sharing some very good advice, she admits that the field is in constant change and acknowledges that many areas of the profession have changed drastically since her earlier stints in hospitals and clinics.

She also aims to inform the curious about the duties and importance of MTs. While the cover promises spicy anecdotes, the text is general and often repetitive. "Discover which famous person was a flirtatious rascal in the recovery room," teases the back cover. This item is at the tail end of the book and no names are named.

The author does provide some solid guidance about those television ads that promise you a life of ease and great financial gains when you take their class to earn a degree in her field. She is adamant: it just doesn't happen that way.

Burns has an impressive work history and obviously loves her chosen field, but I would not recommend "You're a Medical What!?!" to the casual reader.

Border Wedding
Amanda Scott
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hatchette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780446197984, $6.99

Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan

When Sir Walter (Wat) Scott's cattle are stolen, he decides to get them back. He gathers his men and rides out to round them up, only to be ambushed by those who took them to begin with. They are held captive by Sir Iagan Murray, Baron of Elishaw, and sentenced to hang. However, Murray's wife finds Wat to be a possible husband for their eldest daughter, who is beyond the typical age of marriage.

Murray offers to spare Wat and his men if he will marry Margaret (Meg). At first, he refuses, until he realizes a young boy had followed them and will be the first to hang. He agrees and thus begins the story of what turns out to be a deep and satisfying love for Wat and Meg.

The year is 1388 and the setting is the borderlands between Scotland and England. The area is a zone controlled by factions who are mainly Scots, yet many have a bit of English blood in them. As England attempts to overtake the lands, families must decide which side to support. It's a time when men are in control and women are subservient, following orders from their husbands, brothers and fathers. Yet, Meg was raised to be headstrong and Wat finds himself often flabbergasted and enraged by her stubbornness.

Neither one of them has much experience dealing with the opposite sex. Meg knows she needs to do as she's told, but her own personality keeps getting in the way. Wat soon begins to realize that here is a person he can actually talk intelligently with and she becomes the focus of his thoughts whenever they are apart. No matter how much she frustrates him, he still wants to please her and hates it when his anger gets the best of him.

The young couple finds themselves falling deeply in love with each other. Soon, there isn't anything they won't do to protect the other or to make the other happy. It's a wonderful story, full of adventure and history. Amanda Scott is obviously very well-versed on life in the 14th century of Europe and she brings her knowledge to the page. She understands the language spoken, how people lived during that era and the tensions that ran rampant in a time of war and dividing factions.

I found this novel particularly intriguing due to the fact that my own ancestors came from this area of the world. I recognized some of the names mentioned as those my family dealt with in history. Scott has written an excellent story for both the romance reader and the history buff, bringing out the personalities of the characters to make it an enjoyable read. "Border Wedding" is a part of a series by this author, with each book strong enough to stand on its own. I'm anxious to read others by Scott in the future.

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

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