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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 4 April 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Bursey's Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Duncan's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harold's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Hassler's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mayra's Bookshelf Murray's Bookshelf Palombi's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf Wheldon's Bookshelf


Reviewer's Choice

OverTime, a story of basketball, love lost and found, and redemption
Howie Thompson , author
J. J. Monahan, editor
AuthorHouse
1163 Liberty Dr., Suite 200, Bloomington, In. 47403
9781425998189 $19.85 www.authorhouse.com 888-519-5121

Alan W. King
Reviewer

Powerful. Masterful. Engaging. Howie Thompson's novel OverTime is his latest creation about a topic this veteran basketball coach and seasoned writer understands all too well. The author cleverly portrays his protagonist's struggles as he faces and overcomes his past demons in an attempt to turn his life around. Thompson skillfully draws upon his many years of coaching, counseling and mediation experience. The author has an innate ability to put the reader there in the moment with skillfully rendered dialogues and narration that allows the emotions involved to rely on the pace of the narrative. This surreal and engaging novel is a dramatic sports story filled with conflict, deceit and misplaced trust. It is also a story about lost love and a world few of us are seldom privy to or perhaps have never imagined.

The plot unfolds in a small mid-western town high school gymnasium during the final seventeen seconds of a basketball game. Coach Jones directs his players in what he believes will be the winning play and culmination of his twenty-five year coaching career. It will also be his nineteenth straight state high school Boys' class 4A title. Jones carefully lays-out a detailed play for his talented senior star and shooting guard, Trey 'Shooter' Parrish, who is now dripping with sweat. As the players gather around one last time, the aged and revered coach tells his team, "Men, you are the best group of players I have ever coached. Whatever happens now, I will never forget you. Thank you."

Trey Parrish becomes haunted by the memory of that fateful night at South Willow High School. As the story progresses, we soon learn how this one high school basketball game would become the turning point in this young boy's life, and the role it would continue to play in the years ahead.

Parrish is troubled and preoccupied by the memories of his past, and the lingering guilt he feels about his older brother whose dreams have been shattered. He also struggles with resentment towards an overbearing father whose former success as a basketball player and high school coach continues to create much strife and unsettling feelings between them. Perhaps, it is not surprising that Trey feels he will never measure-up. For example, in this early scene we see the tension build between father and son: "Listen, Trey, for years while you played for Coach Jones, neither you nor he would listen to me about the TEAM CONCEPT. It was always about you and getting you the ball - you, you, you, and you."

The author skillfully brings the reader into Trey 'Shooter' Parrish's world and creates multidimensional and believable characters as the plot moves along like a locomotive down a rickety old track -- only to be derailed when we least expect it. Thompson understands explicitly the need for pacing, and the rise and fall of various scenes are skillfully interwoven as he masterfully adjusts gears before turning or accelerating around the next corner.

Although I found Thompson's plot convincing for the most part, there were a few scenes that just did not seem to hold true. For example, in one scene we see Trey going to his local bank to withdraw an extremely large amount of cash from his ATM. Still, the author's novel is full of memorable, touching and gut wrenching scenes that will tug at most readers' heart, and leave one with mixed feelings. Moreover, perhaps, the ending will surely raise many unanswerable questions in the reader's mind too.

Trey 'Shooter' Parrish is fighting all the way and it is this resistance that gives this novel its special power. Whether you are a sports enthusiast or prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch, you will find Thompson's novel a memorable and worthwhile read.

Illuminati - 2012
Nishan A. Kumaraperu
CNR Enterprises Inc.
1917 N Douglas Street, Appleton WI 54914
9780615271767 $9.95 www.morningson.info (920) 428-2160

Alissa Thomas
Reviewer

What if everything you have been taught to trust and believe is a lie?

What if there is a secret government within our own that has been in place for centuries? What if that organization is using its money, power, and the fervent worship of their god to bring about the end of times? What if there was nothing you could do to stop it?

Author, Nishan Kumaraperu answers these questions and more in Illuminati - 2012 (204 pp., tpb, $9.95), a work of fiction that forces you to question if there is any truth to the story. Is it just a book of fiction; or is it something more? Kumaraperu is an accomplished writer and he has written articles for magazines and online journals, including being an expert author for Ezinearticles.com. This is his first foray at writing a book as an Author and he does not disappoint!

Illuminati - 2012 will take you into the very depths of human corruption and wickedness while it enlightens you to the true meaning of good versus evil and the power of faith that is in all of us. The main character, Ethan Swan is enormously seductive; a young man who is thrust into a surreal world of darkness, lies, and a horrifying truth. He is rage personified; the kindness inherent in all of us; a lost and forsaken soul; he is the 'light' that keeps us struggling day after day. He is a hero; a warrior; perhaps even a man simply fighting for his beliefs... He is all of these embodiments and yet, so much more.

Alissa Thomas says, "Nishan Kumaraperu will be a great and upcoming Author who combines imaginative elements interlaced with contemporary reality. He has a means of understanding the world through storytelling that brings together the improbable and the possible."

Mr. Kumaraperu has a fresh outlook on subject matter and current fiction that will affect you, disturb you, enrage you, amaze you, and keep you coming back for more. If you are a fan of Thrillers & Action/Adventure, Illuminati - 2012 will keep you just barely hanging onto the edge of your seat. In this day and age, the truth to this work of fiction will shock you and tear apart everything you think you already know!

'The only thing necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing' - Edmund Burke

The Consolation Prize
Barbara Elsborg
Loose ID
9781596327498 $TBA www.loose-id.com

Amy J. Ramsey, Reviewer
www.trinagon.blogspot.com

Descended from original vampires, Luka Varek is concealing the fact he is of the Trueblood Clan and has inherited their pureblood abilities the lesser vamps envy, which, long ago, lead to an uprising against the Truebloods, overthrowing them from the Vampire Council and forcing all Truebloods underground. One of the reasons that the Truebloods are resented by the lesser, tainted vampires was the fact that they are capable (among other things) of procreation. Vampires that are created are sterile, but Truebloods are born, therefore, able to reproduce, making infertile vampires fertile. This alone puts all Truebloods in danger, threatening their freedom and their lives.

Luka owns and operates a gay night club located in Yorkshire. There's rarely a dull moment, considering that the patrons are a mix of Vampires, Werewolves and Mortals. Luka believed he was being cleaver when he came up with the notion of opening the club, in prospects of adverting attentions of any female vampires, intent on making advances towards him; he even concocted a story about a gay lover. But, Luka had not foreseen that by creating this facade, it would lead to his abstinence; to make matters worse, his desire for sex and blood had increased, and even, at the thought of sex, his arm would mysteriously itch, which became insanely bothersome.

Chloe quit her job after being swindled out of a position she strived to obtain and was furious that her ex-boss had the audacity to award her a consolation prize. After returning home from a miserable evening, Chloe could care less about the rotten consolation prize. She attempted to throw away the envelope, not even looking inside, but the voices in her head had other plans, forcing her to open and read it. She was invited to attend a four day, all expense paid trip, to Sunset Spa. As Chloe noticed the address, she was shocked and dismayed; it was the place she lived in as a child, the one her family had died in.

Once again, her 6 1/2 sense doesn't give her a choice in the matter, forcing Chloe to return to her childhood past. It doesn't take long for her to realize that something peculiar is occurring at Sunset Spa. More questions arise when she stumbles across a gorgeous hunk of a man, Luka Varek, which appears to be unconscious, naked, and chained to a wall. Was she intruding on some type of eccentric sex game or was Luka the reason she was sent here? While in his unconscious presence, she feels an alluring connection towards him, a feeling that goes beyond his unclothed state. Chloe fears her 6 1/2 sense has mislead her into a situation with an outcome that may cost her dearly, with her life.

The Consolation Prize grasped me form the start, overwhelming me, until I finished the last page! Barbara Elsborg has envisioned vibrant characters, created an intriguing world, and brilliantly brought them all together with an engrossing plot that any reader, who is partial to vampires and paranormal romance, will definitely crave this story.

Barbara Elsborg lives in West Yorkshire in the north of England. She always wanted to be a spy, but having confessed to everyone without them even resorting to torture, she decided it was not for her. Vulcanology scorched her feet. A morbid fear of sharks put paid to marine biology. So instead, she spent several years successfully selling cyanide.

After dragging up two rotten, ungrateful children and frustrating her sexy, devoted, wonderful husband (who can now stop twisting her arm) she finally has time to conduct an affair with an electrifying plugged-in male, her laptop.

Her books feature quirky heroines and bad boys, and she hopes they are as much fun to read as they are to write.

The Adventures of a Blind & Physically Disabled Award-Winning Author
Shirley Cheng
Dance With Your Heart Publishing 2009
PO Box 146 Wappingers Falls, New York
9780615175157 $15.97 www.shirleycheng.com

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer
http://www.CFrancine.bizland.com

If you've not read Shirley Cheng yet, you're missing out on the chance to be inspired. Shirley has suffered much in her young life, but does not hold bitterness close to her heart. Instead, Shirley reaches out in an effort to help others. This book is Shirley's auto-biography and concentrates on her life since becoming published. She shares moments and never seems to tire when spreading positive messages. Though seemingly disabled and blind, Shirley is upbeat and determined. In her auto-biography she excitedly reveals her feelings, thoughts, and outlook about writing and the success it has brought her. She provides recommendations on how to view life's difficulties while sharing hers using a program called JAWS (R) which enables her to use a laptop computer.

Shirley Cheng is someone worth reading for many reasons. Her outlook on life inspires and reminds readers to inspect their own outlook. She's a tireless activist as well, advocating for parental rights in children's medical care and aide/caregiver monitoring and screening for students with special needs, and for disabled people in general.

The Sun's Special Blessing
Sandy Wasserman, author
Ann D. Koffsky, illustrator
Pitspopany Press
9781934440926 $17.95

Fern Sidman
Reviewer

Around the world Jewish day school and yeshiva classrooms are buzzing with excitement as children are being taught the special meaning and significance of Birkas HaChama (the blessing for the sun). On the eve of Passover on the Hebrew date of the 14th of Nissan, (April 8, 2009) the Jewish people will recite the blessing for the sun which is said only once every 28 years. Marking the exact time that Hashem created the sun during the six days of creation, Birkas Ha Chama has captured the imagination of both children and adults.

In this cogently written and beautifully illustrated book for children entitled, "The Sun's Special Blessing", author Sandy Wasserman takes her young readers along on an inspirational and sanguine journey with a class of third graders who learn profound lifetime lessons; namely that as much as things change with time, certain things always remain the same. Through the sensitive and creative lessons of their teacher, Mr. Jacobs, Adam, Talia and the other children gain a deeper appreciation for the world that they live in and the glory and majesty of Hashem.

When asked by Mr. Jacobs if anyone in the class has ever recited a brocha for the sun, no one raises their hand. As a recipient of the manifold benefits that the sun provides, young Adam queries, "Do we say the blessing because the sun gives heat and light, and helps plants to grow? That's a lot to bless G-d for. I'm happy when it's a sunny day." When Adam asks why we bless the sun once every 28 years, Mr. Jacobs replies that, "Hashem created the sun on the fourth day of Creation. Even though the sun is in the sky daily, it's only in the exact spot it was at Creation every twenty-eight years."

The inquisitive young minds yearn to delve deeper and Mr. Jacobs tells them of his experience reciting Birkas HaChama back in 1981 when he was their age and a student himself at that very school. As a class project at that time, Mr. Jacobs and his fellow classmates all brought in items from that period to place in a time capsule that they placed in the ground and which was to be unearthed 28 years later. Having remembered where it was buried, Mr. Jacobs distributes shovels and leads his students outside near the school flagpole. The children roar with excitement when they find out that whoever taps the time capsule first gets to keep what is included in it. Brimming with great interest and exuberance, each child takes his or her turn until they have located the buried capsule.

Talia is the lucky one who finds it and the children learn about a world that has thus far eluded them. Memorabilia from the early 1980s such as a Rubik's cube, a VHS movie tape, a New York Times photo of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, a magazine advertisement for an IBM-PC, cassette tapes of Uncle Moishy songs are among the items of a bygone era that they find. Filled with questions, Mr. Jacobs answers his students by giving them a brief history lesson on each item and the popular cultural trends of the time.

He then suggests that the class mark the special 2009 Birkas HaChama by dedicating time to learn about the history of the blessing, the Hebrew calendar and to collect items for their own 2009 time capsule to be buried and dug up in the year 2037. The children couldn't be more thrilled, as Mr. Jacobs chanted, "Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, Make of Creation. In Hebrew it's "Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Ma'aseh Bereishit." "We make blessing all the time, in the synagogue and at home, expressing our wonder at G-d's creation, " Mr. Jacobs reminded everyone and told the class that they would all recite the brocha together on Erev Pesach.

He asked the class to think about how 2009 will be remembered in Jewish and secular history and to select items to be placed in the polyethylene time capsule that reflect the religious, cultural and political norms of the time. The children scurry home and feverishly look for items to be placed in their own time capsule. Before going to bed that night, Talia said, "When I wake up I'm going to write a letter to include in the time capsule for this special year: "Shalom, dear students of the future..." She pictures the excitement of the students in the year 2037 as they also learn about Birkat HaChama and are equally amazed at the events of 2009.

This thoughtful book makes a great bedtime story for elementary aged children and an invaluable educational tool for day schools and yeshivos. No Jewish home or library should be without it !!

Your Wedding Astrologer: How to Plan a Marriage Made in the Heavens
Karen Christino
Adams Media
57 Littlefield St., Avon, MA 02322
9781598696301 $9.95

Marina Agassiz
Reviewer

This is a true Sun sign astrology book with advice for brides on wedding planning and relationships, so even a novice can appreciate it. Ms. Christino is thoroughly versed in her topic and the advice is practical, straightforward and fun. Budding astrologers will get a clear idea about the signs of the zodiac, their styles and needs.

I especially enjoyed the last section on choosing favorable wedding dates, which includes dates of the dreaded Mercury retrograde calamity time and eclipses through 2020.

The Rasner Effect
Mark Rosendorf
L & L Dreamspell
PO Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984.
9781603180849 $18.95

Molly Martin, Reviewer
http://www.angelfire.com/ok4/mollymartin

Mark Rosendorf's The Rasner Effect opens with chaos. Jake Scarberry listened to the panicked screams of civilians running for their lives all along the expressway. The explosion had caught them all unaware. When Jake awoke a week later it was to learn that his mercenary work had ended. Worst luck. Former special ops Jake had turned to mercenary activities when his military unit was disbanded. Across town Rick Rasner too awoke, he felt groggy and confused. Across the room sat a doctor, however, Rick was not in a hospital. A prototype microchip implanted in Rick's head is projected to manage his vicious, aggressive behavior, as a side affect memories of his past life are all but destroyed.

Seven years later Jake toils at a dead end job cleaning the messes in a frat house as a member of the witness protection program, and Rick is set to begin work as a therapist at the Brookhill Children's Psychiatric Residence. Jake remembers his former life and pines for it, Rick can remember little if anything of his prior to awakening in that room where a doctor sat.

The narrative weaves an interesting, convoluted tale which travels chapter by chapter featuring first Jake and his discontent and Rick and his work at the psychiatric facility. Interspersed is the remnant of the Duke Organization. This assassins group was begun by Jake's old special ops compadre Col Duke. Jennifer Duke has been searching for Rick from the fateful day the organization set off that vicious explosion that destroyed much of New York, and changed Rick's life so completely. When a Duke operative, computer expert Derrick, locates Rick the remnant of the organization regroups, treks to the facility and all hell breaks loose.

Filled with action, trepidation and anticipation from the opening lines; The Rasner Effect is a compelling read start to finish. Brutality, bridge explosion, loss of memory, diabolical director of a children's facility, a top secret military experiment, the witness protection program, growing bond between therapist and teen patient, a hostage situation, an abduction, death, carnage and a destructive fire which may or may not have destroyed the body of any one inside, debriefing with a pain in the neck General and return to the witness protection program all serve to forward the complex tale.

The Rasner Effect is a multifaceted psychological thriller peopled with convincing characters, packed with gritty, pithy discourse all set against a backdrop of trickery, maneuvering and danger. The outcome of this narrative may surprise readers, and will indisputably cause reader speculation re who really is the good guy, and who is not. Leaving the question of death or not, of one major figure in that devastating fire coupled with a certain understanding that another of the major players is left alive at the end of the book leads to conjecture whether or not a sequel may be in the future. I hope there is.

Tarantula Tide
Sharon Tregenza
Floris Books
15 Harrison Gardens, Edinburgh EH11 1SH UK
9780863156731 $8.62

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
www.peggytibbetts.net

Jack's summer holiday gets off to a rocky start when he tosses his cookies all over a biker dude's boots on the ferry ride to the most un-glamorous vacation spot on earth, the Shetland Islands far away in the North Sea.

"Who wants to go to Shetland anyway?" Jack grumbles to his Mum.

From the moment he makes his wobbly landing in chilly Lerwick, Jack's vacation is anything but dull. His next door neighbor Izzie has barely introduced herself when they find a rare Mexican red-kneed tarantula under the refrigerator in his cottage. To Jack's horror and amazement, she calmly picks up the spider and leads him to her super secret Izzie-zoo containing Bombina the Oriental fire-bellied toad and Karma the chameleon. Discovering how the exotic creatures came to live in a shed in Izzie's backyard takes these two fast friends on a trail that leads to dangerous smugglers. Along the way Jack also discovers that before he can truly get on with his life he must unlock the painful secret he brought with him.

From the ancient brochs, to the gorgeous wild ponies, to the enormous skuas, the raw splendor of the Shetland Islands comes alive in this mystery. Treganza brilliantly harnesses the charm of wonder of this magical setting and wraps it around an exciting adventure. Young readers will be easily drawn into solving the puzzle with Jack and Izzie.

Thief of Always
Kim Baldwin & Xenia Alexiou
Bold Strokes Books
PO Box 249, Valley Falls, NY 12185
160282049X $15.95 www.boldstrokesbooks.com

RLynne Salner
Reviewer

Thief of Always is the second book in the Elite Operatives Series. It's protagonist, Mishael Taylor, has been assigned the task of retrieving the Blue Star Diamond and returning it to its rightful owners, the Afghan government. Mishael has a timeline in which to do this, and to stop a major terrorist attack. The diamond is in the possession of Dutch countess Kristine Marie-Louis van der Jagt, who has just inherited it from her father. Kristine has also inherited her father dilapidated mansion and his debts.

Fast paced, full of excitement, sex, and humor, Thief of Always keeps its readers on the edge of their chairs. Mishael must dodge Afghan terrorists and Neo-Nazis while dealing with the sexual and romantic tension which is building with Kristine. Few are better than Baldwin and Alexiou at fleshing out their characters and giving descriptions that put readers in the midst of the scenes. Thief of Always is a great thriller which will keep readers looking for the next book in the series.

Polk Gulch
Blaine Dixon
Blurb, Inc
580 California Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94104
9781607431451 $36.95

Tami Brady
Reviewer

Polk Gulch is an area of San Francisco known for its gay bars and its 'lost children'. For several years, the author lived in this community with very little notice of what went on just a few blocks from his apartment. This changed in the spring of 1980, when a new gallery opened not far from his home. It is here that the author met Pat Carey who told him about the children, as young as 13, who slept on her floor each night. These lost children were the homeless, drug addicts, and prostitutes with no where else to go.

Polka Gulch is a photo documentary of this street, namely the people who lived and worked there in 1980. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is most definitely the case with the photographs in this book. Each face tells a story. Some are utterly heartbreaking. Others fill the spirit with hope. Words are inadequate. Perhaps it's better to let the pictures speak for themselves.


Bethany's Bookshelf

Mission Accomplished
Muriel P. Engelman
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595481101, $23.95, www.iuniverse.com

A nurse truly sees the worst of what war has to offer. "Mission Accomplished: Stop the Clock" is the story of registered nurse Muriel P. Engelman, who served in World War II and who reflects on her long life filled with experiences that will fascinate readers. Living through the Great Depression, she went to war in 1943 and experienced D-Day, seeing thousands of her countryman gunned down, injured, and killed. "Mission Accomplished" is a fine and highly recommended read.

Dieppe Crossing
Betty L. McLane-Iles
Xlibris
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436328968, $19.99

Being pulled up out of the water happened in more than one way for Jena Cohn. "Dieppe Crossing" follows the protagonist as she deals with the melancholy of her life until she's rescued by a Frenchwoman as she crosses the Atlantic. Jena's sudden friend brings a new element to her life as she reflects on history and how the world is today. A story of characters and humanity, "Dieppe Crossing" is a fine pick for literary fiction fans.

The Shadows of the Sea
Christine L. McKellar
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434348425, $14.49, www.authorhouse.com

Some people are simply born to live their lives out at sea. "The Shadows at the Sea" is another entry in Christine L. McKellar's MsAdventures at Sea series. Bored at land, she goes on another sea adventure meeting an entertaining and unique cast of characters. An exciting story of adventure and romance unfolds throughout her story, and "The Shadows at the Sea" is well worth the read for fans of the genre. Also in the 'MsAdventures at Sea' series from McKellar is "A Port of No Return" (0595383858, $15.95), giving readers more of the delightful same.

Norah's Children
Ann O'Farrell
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781605280240, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com

Why do families shatter into pieces? "Norah's Children" follows Mary Kelly as she comes into adulthood, raised by her aunt. Since her mother's tragic death when she was younger, her family has been fragmented; her siblings broke up, and her father abandoned her. Mary must ask many questions other than just "Why?" to get a truthful answer. "Norah's Children" is an inspirational story of an Irish family, and the will to stay together in spite of it all.

A Wife's Guide to In-Laws
Jenna D. Barry
Lulu
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780557025008, $21.95, www.lulu.com

He's still their little boy, you know. "A Wife's Guide to In-Laws: How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents" is a guide to dealing with one of the most feared and loathed parts of marriage - the in-laws. With wit and pizzazz, author Jenna Barry gives her advice through text and charming black-and-white cartoons illustrating her words. From the wedding night until the time to leave the natural world, "A Wife's Guide to In-Laws" is a must for anyone who wonders how their husband came from such seemingly antagonistic people.

Every Time, Any Place
L.D. Skinner
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158102, $12.95, www.vantagepress.com

It's hard to stand up for oneself when giving in means getting everything one could ask for. "Every Time, Any Place" is a story of arranged marriage and jealous lovers. Lysette didn't want an arranged marriage, but began to warm up to the idea when her suitor was her ideal man. Felicia has a fondness for Lysette's suitor and a hatred of Lysette; she uses black magic to send Lysette hurtling forward in time. Colwyn, the subject of the feud, finds himself split as he risks his life for love. "Every Time, Any Place" is a delightful blend of fantasy, historical fiction, and romance, highly recommended.

Susan Bethany
Reviewer


Bob's Bookshelf

The Bloody Triangle
Victor Kamenir
Zenith Press
400 First Ave. North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780760333518 $30.00

During the summer of 1941, a marshy area of the Ukraine witnessed a battle between over 2,000 tanks in a pivotal, early armor clash of World War II.

Victor Kamenir details the little known battle between Soviet and German forces that was a harbinger of things to come on the Eastern Front. A smaller force of German tanks, assault gun and tank destroyers challenged over 1,500 Soviet tanks in turret to turret battle and easily emerged victorious.

Told largely in the words of the men who were there, this informative history shed new light on how the Soviet tank units melted away under the merciless onslaught of their determined and well equipped adversary.

From the early planning stages, when German intelligence realized the Soviet command structure would more than likely be slow to respond to a rapidly changing tactical situation, to the final unsuccessful counteroffensive by the Russians, this book offers a complete picture of the entire event..

Kamenir's insightful analysis also compares and contrasts the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment utilized by both sides in the struggle.

Vintage L.A. Eats, Boutiques, Decor, Landmarks, Markets & More
Jennifer Brandt Taylor
Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061122781 $34.95

Combining vintage and modern color photography with plenty of insider's info, this book showcases the best vintage locations in Los Angeles. You'll be whisked from Melrose and Beverly Boulevard to the Fairfax district, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the East Side as you discover the "in" vintage sights and places to shop, eat, and just hang out.

Check the sidebars for "Inside Scoops" and "Q & A" sections for all sorts of interesting material, like the names of such favorite "haunts" as the Alpine Villages or The Formosa.

Granted, the book is a little pricey but if you'd like insights into enjoying the vintage lifestyle of L.A., this is probably the best resource available.

Introduction to Fire in California
David Carle
University of California Press
www.ucpress.edu
9780520255777 $18.95

This is certainly a handy little book that will help those living in potential brush or forest areas cope with a wildfire. The author not only discusses the basics of fire ecology and the effects of the conflagrations have on the environment and animals, but he also looks at the various firefighting agencies, land management and current wildlands policies with regards to fire.

Perhaps most important is the final chapter in this paperback that addresses fire safety planning, defensible space, and what to do during and after a fire.

Part of the California Natural History Guide series, this highly informative book includes 91 color photos and 15 maps.

The King of Swords
Nick Stone
HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780060897314 $25.99

The second novel in the Max Mingus series, "The King of Swords" finds the gutsy detective sergeant and his partner Joe Liston are called out to investigate a death at the Miami Primate Park. What they find is a badly decomposed corpse with a partly digested tarot card in its stomach. Further inquiries uncover the fact the dead man's family has also been slaughtered.

These bizarre discoveries set in motion an investigation that leads the police detectives to a sinister fortune-teller, her scheming pimp son, and then on to Miami's most feared criminal, Solomon Boukman.

Against a backdrop of black magic and police corruption, and a cast of truly unforgettable suspects, Max seeks the answers to some very troubling questions. For example, what is the significance of the tarot card, the King of Swords, he found inside the victim? And, perhaps more to the point, what makes those who have swallowed this particular tarot card go on a killing spree just before they die?

At over 500 pages, this is a lengthy read but it seems much shorter since the time flies by when you are immersed in the story. After the first fifty or sixty pages, you'll find yourself reluctant to put the book aside to take a break or do something else.

Hardly Knew Her
Laura Lippman
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061128875 www.lauralippman.com

Although she is perhaps best known for her mysteries, this collection of stories amply illustrates that Laura Lippman also has a knack for short fiction.

"Hardly Knew Her" contains 17 of the author's stories, including such award winning pieces like "One True Love", "The Crack Cocaine Diet", and "Shoeshine Man's Regrets".

You'll also discover a specially written novella, "Scratch a Woman", which appears here for the first time. At the center of this fascinating story is a high-priced call girl/madam who also happens to be a devoted soccer mom.

These poignant, occasionally humorous, stories contain so many twists and reversals that there's no sense trying to second-guess the author - just sit back and enjoy them!

Bob Walch
Reviewer


Buhle's Bookshelf

State Secrets
Vil S. Mirzayanov
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, -515, Parker, CO 81034
9781432725662, $29.95, www.outskirtspress.com

As time rolls on, war gets more and more gruesome through its weapons technology. "State Secrets: An Insider's Chronicle of The Russian Chemical Weapons Program" is a memoir of one of the leading chemists during the height of the Cold War. Developing chemical weapons, a deadly and nasty way of war, he came to realize that the cost to make these weapons was greater than they were worth. His appeals, however, were unheard. A story from the other side of the iron curtain, "State Secrets" offers a vivid picture of Soviet science and one man standing against the use of deadly toxins in war.

Saints in the City
Andie Andrews
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, -515, Parker, CO 81034
9781432711047, $19.95, www.outskirtspress.com

Heaven isn't as far away as one would think. "Saints in the City" tells the story of Helen Baldwin, the wife of a Baptist preacher. Finding herself in Jersey, she chooses to volunteer at a soup kitchen, but finds herself being pulled from her husband as she is enchanted by a Vietnam veteran. Her faith and desires and conflict, as Heaven seems so close yet so far. "Saints in the City" is a fine Christian novel of faith, love, and sainthood.

Race to the Sea
Dayton L. Alverson
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595486809, $32.95, www.iuniverse.com

Fishing has expanded and evolved over the past fifty years. "Race to the Sea: The Autobiography of a Marine Biologist" covers the life of Dayton Alverson, a man who has watched the fishing industry explode and has measured the impact of overfishing over the past fifty years. Tracking the development of marine science over the years, and the author's views and involvement, "Race to the Sea" is a vivid picture of marine biology and fishing in America over the past half century.

Fifty
Eric Pirogowicz
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781606963609, $12.99, www.tatepublishing.com

Half a century of life can only be the beginning. "Fifty: My One Year Journey" is author Eric Pirogowicz's reflections on becoming a bit more senior and hitting the half-century point in life. Covering the time from his fiftieth birthday to his fifty first, he tells a very human story where of coming to terms with passing a major milestone in life. "Fifty: My One Year Journey" is a unique picture of getting older, and highly recommended.

Devil's Interval
Nelson Canton
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595463954, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com

Having more money than one could ever need is a terrible burden that no one can imagine. "Devil's Interval" is a satirical novel exploring the world of the ridiculously wealthy, and Watt, who is a slap therapist. When one of his patients dies, he has to dodge the richest and most powerful people in the world along with the authorities as he bounces between the different economic classes and finds that the more different it seems, the more the same it really is. "Devil's Interval" is charmingly hilarious, and highly recommended reading.

Jumper
John Nemo
Privately Published
9781440427084, $14.95

If something is a secret, there are those who want it to be kept that way. "Jumper" is a sci-fi adventure following young Sal Polongetti as he tries to find out why his grandfather is so desperately estranged from his brother, and why this has been so for seventy years. A time jumper, Sal may find out why the family feud stands as he finds himself back in a time where liquor was illegal but the organized crime market was booming. "Jumper" is an intriguing mix of family drama, crime fiction, and sci-fi, sure to be something sweetly enjoyed by fans of each.

Willis M. Buhle
Reviewer


Burroughs' Bookshelf

You.Next()
Michael Finley & Honza Fedak
Privately Published
9781439205594, $15.95, www.youdotnext.com

Software is a tough industry, but if one wants to be a big player, one has to make a move. "You.next(): Move Your Software Development Career to the Leadership Track" is a guide to making the risky leap in the world of software development - the leap to attempt to gain rank and become a project leader. Stating that good leadership is like programming good software, Finley and Fedak draw upon their experience and hope to pass it to the reader. "You..Next ()" is a top pick for software developers who seek a higher advancement in their careers.

The Transform Diet
Brett Salisbury
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment Publicity Services (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9780595515691, $14.95, www.iuniverse.com

Transformation can be hard, but it can be done. "The Transform Diet: Transforming the World...One body at a time...starting with you..." is a diet manual from certified sports nutritionist Brett Salisbury. He tells his story of how, over the course of three months, he shed pounds and turned himself from chubby to cut. Laying out everything one needs to know to make a rapid transformation, "The Transform Diet" is the diet book that some may need to finally embrace a fitter body.

Einstein and Human Consciousness
Brad Buettner
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595521913, $20.95, www.iuniverse.com

How does Einstein's most famous work play into psychology? "Einstein and Human Consciousness: Eternity is an Instant" is a work exploring the relation of the Theory of Relativity and how it deals with the human nature and its perception of time and space. Taking Einstein's science and using it to examine the less exact nature of the human mind, Brad Buettner offers some innovative and fascinating ideas, sure to make readers think. "Einstein and the Human Consciousness" is highly recommended reading.

Life Cycles
Neil Killion
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434366030, $18.48, www.authourhouse.com

Are we really the same person we were twelve years ago? "Life Cycles: Take the Journey of a Lifetime...Your Own and Everyone Else's" offers author Neil Killion's idea that humanity has a tendency to live its life in simple, repeating twelve year cycles. Taking notes from the lives of many cases, Killion backs his potential idea up well with his ideas, and hopes to open new insight in one's own life. "Life Cycles" is an utterly fascinating read, highly recommended.

The Deck of Life
Richard J. Ferrara
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595480616, $15.95, www.iuniverse.com

A good player can turn a bad hand into a winning one. "The Deck of Life: Playing the Cards You're Dealt" is a guide for dealing with the resources life has given you to live a successful and fulfilling existence. Exploring genetic code and how much it impacts the life of people, he goes over several case studies. "The Deck of Life" offers a plethora of ideas concerning how to act in life when genetics hasn't been particularly kind. "The Deck of Life" is intriguing in practice, and highly recommended.

Mostly Rapscallions
P. J. Sullivan
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741444720, $15.95, www.infinitypublishing.com

History is filled with revered figures, but these revered figures are still human and carry their own quirks and flaws. "Mostly Rapscallions" takes a look at these historical figures - as well as other, far more infamous individuals - and reveals the dirt on them; they were human like everyone else, and often they were in no way saints. The stories range from President Andrew Jackson's plan to dominate the entire continent, to a tale of the most infamous serial killer in history. With a humor and honesty, "Mostly Rapscallions" is a riveting read that'll bring the world to better understand the humanity and cruelty of the world's most revered and hated figures.

John Burroughs
Reviewer


Bursey's Bookshelf

The Last Novel
David Markson
Counterpoint [was Shoemaker & Hoard]
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781593761431 $14.40 www.counterpointpress.com 510/704-0230

The underappreciated US writer Gilbert Sorrentino wrote:

"The critic is either subsumed in his criticism, the latter becoming, relentlessly and imperceptibly, a kind of natural effusion of the collective intelligence; or he is forever identified as "the one who said that…" and reviled for such rank stupidity. Either way, he is denied his reality, becoming in the first instance a public idea that everybody held all the time, and in the second, an idiot whose pronouncements are contemptible when they are not hilarious."

David Markson in his latest work agrees with Sorrentino as he instructs and test reviewers, and other readers. "Novelist's personal genre. In which part of the experiment is to continue keeping him offstage to the greatest extent possible - while compelling the attentive reader to perhaps catch his breath when things achieve an ending nonetheless." Aware of how pompous that may sound, and how difficult the task is, Markson immediately follows with: "Conclusions are the weak point of most authors. George Eliot said." "The Last Novel" is constituted of notes and quotations, which seem random, but they reveal their depth through repetition and elaboration. Certain threads - painting ("If more than ten percent of the population likes a painting it should be burned. Said Shaw."), music ("That scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! Tchaikovsky's diary says."), and art ("People who actually believe that Christo's tangerine-colored bedsheets fluttering about in New York's Central Park had something even remotely to do with art.") - are of intense interest to the Novelist.

However, a thread that is more consuming combines his loneliness ("Nobody comes. Nobody calls.") with the deaths of historical figures ("Karl Marx died sitting at his desk. Antonin Artaud, sitting up at the foot of his bed.") and friends. Personal remarks by Novelist stand out because they're touching - "Dialing the deceased, in the likelihood that no one would have yet disconnected their answering machines - and contemplating their voices one eerie final time" - or for their sheer ludicrousness: "The presumably apocryphal tale about a production of Othello by touring actors in the nineteenth-century American West - near the last lines of which a cowboy in the audience shot Iago dead on the spot."

"The Last Novel" is the capstone to "Reader's Block" (1996), "This Is Not a Novel" (2001) and "Vanishing Point" (2004). Like those novels, it can be read on its own. The narrator remarks: "Wondering if there is any viable way to convince critics never to use the word tetralogy without also adding that each volume can be readily read by itself?" Markson's long career - which one hopes the title does not indicate is winding up - has given him the experience to devise a DIY review that removes his novel from the hands of Sorrentino's idiot.

Novelist is "Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke. All of which obviously means that this is the last book Novelist is going to write." Liberty "gives Novelist carte blanche to do anything here he damned well pleases." What will be the reaction? "Listen, I bought your latest book. But I quit after about six pages. That's all there is, those little things?" Those who receive his novels free and are paid to review them are even more obtuse. "Reviewers who protest that Novelist has lately appeared to be writing the same book over and over. Like their grandly perspicacious uncles - who groused that Monet had done those damnable water lilies nine dozen times already also."

Those who are less well-read have responded to the veracity of "those little things," and Markson rebuts them sharply: "Reviewers who have accused Novelist of inventing some of his anecdotes and/or quotations - without the elemental responsibility to do the checking that would verify every one of them." That's a just charge that can't be refuted.

"For no reason whatsoever, Novelist has just flung his cat out one of his four-flights-up front windows." This is startling, as well as puzzling. A few pages later all is revealed: "Novelist does not own a cat, and thus most certainly could not have thrown one out a window." (Not quite; not having his own cat doesn't preclude Novelist from throwing some other cat out a window.) "Nonetheless he would lay odds that more than one hopscotching reviewer will be reading carelessly enough here to never notice these two sentences and announce that he did so." That's a neat trick to get a reviewer re-reading - or more precisely, reading in the first place. (Yet Markson himself has been lured by the tendency to read quickly. As he said in an interview with Bookslut in 2005, "all those intellectual bits and pieces in my later books, I've had to do a lot of browsing to hunt them out. At times it's almost gotten me into a habit of skimming instead of seriously reading. It's something I have to fight, repeatedly.")

"Taking no more account of the wind that comes out of their mouths than that which they expel from their lower parts. Leonardo described his response to critics as." Despite this quotation, Markson might have appreciated Catherine Texier's opinion in the "New York Times" that "The Last Novel" is a "tour de force" that "manages to keep us enthralled… and even moved to tears at the end." By the close we are more conscious of Novelist's deepening crisis, and to the emotional resonance of the work. Novelist talks of his economic state, his isolation, the lack of recognition, and the unhappy results of a bone scan. We are brought, with elegance and style, with dry wit and orneriness, to elegy.

But what do I know? In "Vanishing Point" Markson smartly updated a biblical characterization: "Now Barrabas was a book reviewer."

Fish, Soap and Bonds
Larry Fondation
Raw Dog Screaming Press
[no address or telephone number on web]
9781933293370 $13.95 http://www.rawdogscreaming.com

A late chapter in this novel about homeless people set in Los Angeles, titled "Sticks," lists things they regularly encounter: baseball bats, match sticks, toothpicks, swizzle sticks. We're as familiar with them as they are, but it's less likely we're going to know intimately the batons and night sticks that appear in their lives to devastating effect.

Necessarily selective, the Los Angeles that Larry Fondation shows focuses on the ground level. Misfortune has wrecked the three main characters - Bonds and Fish, both men, and Soap, Fish's girlfriend - and thrown them from the class they once shared with us to a life spent in doorways, alleys, filthy rooms, and bars. Not a lot of time is spent on their past: it rises up like a ghost when one or the other feels compelled to tell the others what they once were like, stories that could begin, "Once upon a time..."

"Fish, Soap and Bonds" is written in prose that has a jazzy feel. The narrative voice sounds ragged at times, smooth at others, breathless occasionally due to events, and street-smart but not condescending (to characters or readers). Dialogue feels true to the characters, a sign of hard imaginative work, not tape-recorder fidelity. At times there are news reports and quotations from source books, as well as passages dealing with Los Angeles, that provide a sociological bird's-eye view. Grand sweeps of history (the genocide in Rwanda that Fish is deeply upset by, earthquakes which wreck communities and kill people) and miniscule details (temp jobs and rabies), frantic activity and quiet moments, are balanced in such a way that what happens next is not predictable. This parallels the chaotic, strife-ridden environment Fish, Soap and Bonds inhabit, each living an Odyssey life in an Iliad world. Their search for a home amidst the falling batons and the coldness shown them by almost everyone--only rare donors and the Hispanic community treat them with charity, or respect--is filled with anticipated and unexpected dangers.

Perhaps inevitably, from a thematic point of view, Fish, Soap and Bonds go to Hollywood:

"The American tourists, like the studios themselves, have long since fled Hollywood for Studio City and Burbank, protected and ensconced, for now at least, until lower labour and productions costs chase this industry, like so many others, to other lands. But who knows. It's America in the nineties. Alan Greenspan's in charge and they may succeed in driving wages down so far here in LA that they can stay. Please don't go to the Third World; just wait, and we'll bring it to you. It's 1994 in California."

The three enter the land of myths with few illusions. As Paul West wrote in the first volume of "Sheer Fiction", "Myth is the agent of stability, fiction the agent of change." Hollywood is a myth-making land; Fondation wants his novel to be an agent of change. Fish, Soap and Bonds drink quite a bit, and commit theft from time to time. They're not like a friend of theirs who says, "I poke my dirty needle--oh, so subtly and swiftly--only into the skin of those who give me money." They are not former inmates of mental wards who have been turned out onto the streets. A change in personal, local and national economies have brought them down. Now they do anything to gain any job, even the most short-term, so that for a few days they can sleep in a clean bed after a shower. Little more is asked for, or seen by them as within their reach.

Fondation has structured his novel so that he has a chance to show different aspects of his characters without boring us by describing the psychology behind their behaviour. They aren't nice or good, nor are they cruel. They exhibit rage, they lose control, and they stand by each other. They remember what life was once like. They're like us. They look inward, and I believe that when Fondation writes those passages he's doing two things: he's saying that we should try to see the person behind the street person who approaches us and, on the stylistic level, he's rejecting the demands for more plot and drive, and less introspection, that people usually require of a short novel.

John Cowper Powys wrote, in a book titled "In Defence of Sensuality", the following: "There ought to be in every nation a great public cenotaph to The Unknown Poor Man; for, since what we call our commercial civilisation connives at poverty, implies poverty, pays for itself with poverty, your poor man, employed or unemployed, does as much as any great industrial magnate to keep the machine going. [...]" Fondation has provided the latest literary cenotaph. It's rougher-edged than many, truly contemporary in style, with a nod to US writers from the early decades of the 20th century. This novel has made me search for his earlier books, "Angry Nights" (1994) and "Common Criminals" (2002).

The Braindead Megaphone: Essays
George Saunders
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Putnam,
345 Hudson St FL 14, New York, NY 10014
9781594482564 $14.00 http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/riverhead/index.html

In a serendipitous moment, someone sent me an e-mail quoting from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's recent non-fiction book, "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable":

"Note that art, because of its dependence on word of mouth, is extremely prone to these cumulative-advantage effects... Our opinions about artistic merit are the result of arbitrary contagion even more than our political ideas are. One person writes a book review; another person reads it and writes a commentary that uses the same arguments. Soon you have several hundred reviews that actually sum up in their contents no more than two or three because there is so much overlap..."

George Saunders' latest book, a collection of reportage and satirical pieces that first appeared in popular magazines like "The New Yorker" and "GQ", has received kudos from other popular magazines and newspapers ("Entertainment Weekly", "Vanity Fair", and "The Boston Globe") for his wit and intelligence, and has appeared on the David Letterman and Stephen Colbert shows. Thomas Pynchon calls Saunders "graceful, dark," and Zadie Smith declares that "Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny." Saunders does not match the blurbs, and this book does not warrant the extravagant media praise. He's not Twain, and his prose isn't going to last. The praise raises the questions posed by Curtis White in "The Middle Mind" (2003), a critique of cultural studies and much else: "Since when do we have to put up with ethical diatribes from columnists for GQ? Is that where all the decent folk have gone?" However, Saunders is very good in a small clutch of essays.

Let's get the misfires out of the way first. They are: "Thank You, Esther Forbes" (a dull piece on an inspiring teacher - a moratorium of at least four decades on this topic would be welcome), "A Brief Study of the British" (an unfunny riff on the ignorance someone from the US displays about the UK), "Nostalgia" (a laboured piece about how sex and violence were regarded 'back in the day'), "Proclamation" (based on Iranian laws about the importation of foreign words), "Woof: A Plea of Sorts" (interior thoughts of a dog - also deserving a moratorium), "Thought Experiment" (advocating acceptance over non-judgement, a worthwhile concept, but not written with much verve), and "The Perfect Gerbil" (about Donald Barthelme's story "The School," and here I admit to a bias against Barthelme).

Some pieces rise a bit above the poorest: "A Survey of the Literature" ("fluid-nations," like People Reluctant To Kill For An Abstraction, replacing such a thing as the United States, which is amusing, though familiar), "Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra" (Saunders' literary awakening at the age of twenty-three thanks to "Slaughterhouse Five", which has fine closing paragraphs about war), "Ask the Optimist!" (a demented version of an advice column), and closing the book, "Manifesto: A Press Release from PRKA" (in which a group claims responsibility for not committing violence).

There are four substantial and provocative pieces. "The Braindead Megaphone" is critical of both George W. Bush's administration for essentially shouting above everyone else, pressing its opinions into the soft tissue of brains in the United States and in various other countries, as well as the lapdog media outlets who, despite half-hearted displays of regret, annoyance, and anger (authentic in too few quarters), in the end eagerly chose imbedding over detachment, likely because they, too, had quickly come to believe the "fear-based rhetoric" and excessive jingoism post-September 11 that they reported on and spoke themselves. This combination of shouting and hectoring on the part of the State and the Press "degraded" the "national discourse" to the point where not only could little else be heard, but what was said was spiritually and intellectually empty:

"Megaphone Guy, it seemed, had gone a little braindead. Or part of him had. What had gone dead was the curious part that should have been helping us decide about the morality and intelligence of invasion... Where was our sense of agonized wondering, of real doubt? We got... a lot of discussion of tactics... and strategy... but not much about the essential morality of invasion. (We did not hear, for example, 'Well, Ted, as Gandhi once said, "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"')"

Looking into the future, Saunders predicts that when "the next attack comes, the subsequent swing to the Stalinesque will be even more extreme, having, as it will, the additional oomph of retrospective repentance of what will then be perceived as a period (i.e., now) of relapse to softness and terror-encouraging open discourse." If the media can possibly get more supine, it will (as "Flat Earth News" by Nick Davies shows). Saunders continues: "But if we define the Megaphone as "the composite of the hundreds of voices we hear each day that come to us from people we don't know, via high-tech sources", it's clear that a significant and ascendant component of that voice has become bottom-dwelling, shrill, incurious, ranting, and agenda-driven." (Emphasis left in.) At the close of this admirable essay Saunders, in his soft way, urges people to question everything and rebut the indefensible so that the megaphone gets turned down.

The travel essay "The New Mecca" describes what is happening in Dubai, that new mecca of consumerism, with countless 'pleasure palaces' going up. "If America was looking for a pluralistic, tax-free, laissez-faire, diverse, inclusive, tolerant, no-holds-barred, daringly capitalist country to serve as a shining City on the Hill for the entire Middle East, we should have left Iraq alone and sponsored a National Peaceful Tourist Excursion to Dubai and spent our ninety quadrillion Iraq War dollars there." The rest of the essay sets out to puncture that impression. "Dubai is, in essence, capitalism on steroids," goes one criticism. "Even the poorest, most overworked laborer"--who has surrendered his passport and must work two years with little compensation as he pays back the government for getting him there--"considers himself lucky--he is making more, much more, than he would be back home." Instead of complaining, they "model a level of stoic noble determination that makes the Ayn Rand in you think, Good, good for you, sir, best of luck in your professional endeavors!" At a dinner, Saunders asks why Al Qaeda doesn't target this haven for capitalism. He's told that Dubai "is like Switzerland during World War II-- a place needed by everyone... And in Dubai," carries on one dinner partner, "Al Qaeda has millions of dollars in independent, Dubai-based banks, which don't always adhere to the international banking regulations that would require a bank to document the source of the income." Saunders is later told contradictory information. He's a satirist, not an investigative reporter, so his question remains unanswered.

"The Great Divider" is a walk among those with border concerns. In talking to border guards, Mennonites, Mexicans, Minutemen, the Texas Militia, and others, some of Saunders' satirical flourishes collide, in a fruitful way, with Mexican immigrants (and those who want to be) and men and women who would shoot anyone illegally crossing the border. The naivete he displays, which I suspect is put on a bit, helps opens up those he meets.

"Last December, I got an e-mail from my editor at GQ. A fifteen-year-old boy in Nepal had supposedly been meditating for the past seven months without any food or water. Would I like to look into this?" So begins "Buddha Boy," and here Saunders' Buddhism come out most clearly. He journeys to the tree that serves as home for the boy and as a temple for those who worship him. Saunders is there to see if the boy is being fed. He waits through the night with his hosts, undergoing hypnogogic images as he struggles to stay awake and warm. He's better dressed than the boy he's checking up on who is wearing a "thin sleeveless garment." "I feel, to gravely understate it, the monumental distance between his abilities and mine." There's true engagement here, and in the other three essays that are the strongest.

One would be hard-pressed to find an essay stemming from the wish to believe in something spiritual in the writings of Mark Twain, whose "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" prompted Saunders to write an introduction to it that rounds out the collection (a general survey of moderate interest). The comparison to Twain, and the hosannahs about Saunders' voice, are disproportionate to what is presented here. For some, his type of satire will be more gum than teeth. Saunders has a notable fiction record, including three short story collections ("CivilWarLand in Bad Decline", 1996; "Pastoralia", 2000; "In Persuasion Nation", 2006) a children's book, and the novella "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil" (2005). These might be better places to start for one wanting to experience his full writing range, but "The Braindead Megaphone" is recommended for its four strongest essays.

Time At War
Nicholas Mosley
Dalkey Archive Press
University of Illinois
1805 S. Wright Street, MC-011, Champaign, IL 61820
9781564784568 $12.95 http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/ 217/244-5700

Nicholas Mosley was born in 1923, and his latest novel, "Look At the Dark", came out in the UK in 2005. He is the son of Sir Oswald Mosley who was imprisoned for his fascist beliefs during the Second World War. While his son fought those pressed into service by Mussolini and Hitler, he and his father maintained a correspondence that is drawn on in this war memoir. Mosley has spent much of his life repudiating his father, and in these pages we are urged to see a young man sympathetically engaged, out of love, with his father's troubling, and troublesome, philosophy. The letters are a precursor of the break that came later.

"Time At War" (2006) tells of Mosley's Italian war experience - limited partly due to the time he entered the army, and partly due to injuries and illness suffered during his service - and at one point he writes:

"I ended my letter [to his sister] by saying 'I find it hard to believe it was I that did all those peculiar things!' and then as if in an attempt at explanation - 'I have yet to meet a man who fought well because he believes in the cause for which he is fighting… it is always pride that incites and succeeds in war.'"

War tales have become increasingly popular since the mass media has both created and reflected an aging populace's opinion that veterans, the best generation, fought solely to defend what's called 'our way of life.' Apart from leaving out what civilians endure during wartime, such talk leaves out the bulk of a soldier's training: to remain alive while killing other people - be they enemy combatants or civilians. There's nothing noble or high-minded about that.

Given a gun and trained to be victorious in warfare, Mosley manages to avoid most of the harder lessons until, on a disastrous day against the enemy, he "discovered shame… But would not one day some act of restitution be demanded of me?" Not as soon as he anticipated, or that would enliven this book. We get pages about opera and Italian art, or Mosley telling liberated Italians who praise him that, actually, he's in favour of Mussolini (a humourous remark that echoes his father). He and a friend sneak into the Vatican and enjoy "Michelangelo's ceiling before the Swiss Guards arrived to escort [them] out." As he says, "One of the main attractions of war is surely that it offers chances to try out one's own brand of anarchy - protected from the social disapproval and penalties that would be incurred in peace." Of course. One thinks of Abu Ghraib almost immediately.

Certainly another positive factor of war is the bonding that occurs during training. "I had a friend called Pollock who became something of the squad butt. When we were standing to attention the sergeant would stand very close to him and yell - 'Pollock! Spell it with a P do you? You sack of shit!'" Good-natured ribbing like that improves morale, but better yet are the times when the men "played records on a wind-up gramophone; we danced ballroom or exotic dances; some of us got hold of women's clothes. There is a tradition in armies for this sort of thing on the fringes of war - presumably as a reaction or counterbalance to the brutally macho business of killing; perhaps psychologically as a form of bonding." This leads into a letter to a friend: "And we have riotous games of football during recreational training, when it is their sole objective to trip me up [Mosley is a commanding officer] and sit on me whether I have the ball or not. Which I enjoy because some of them are rather attrac. [Mosley's abbreviation]"

Anarchy, pride, and a love for one's fellow soldiers, are some of the reasons Mosley offers for enjoying the military life. Fighting for democracy doesn't enter into it. Generally, and unless forced, people join the military because they can't find employment, they have a taste for violence, or they see themselves as patriotic; their conduct when they reach the front lines can stem from ignorance, xenophobia, and a desire to find discipline and purpose by blindly following morally and ethically bankrupt orders. ("If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied," runs a Kipling epigraph that's popular once again.) These spurs to prick the sides of a soldier's intent don't interest Mosley, off as he is on a boys-will-be-cross-dressed-boys adventure, though he's ready to expound on mankind's abiding regard for war. "Humans are at home in war (though they seldom admit this). They feel they know what they have to do."

For the ones who survived, it's at least true that they knew enough to get through; whether they're better after coming through is a messier issue Mosley can't be bothered to discuss here.

On the stylistic level, "Time At War" stumbles. Mosley has the annoying habit of ending paragraphs with questions, and this comes across not as investigative but as rhetorical. War engenders enough rhetoric without him adding to it; more importantly, rhetoric is an enemy of creative thought. In an interview available at Dalkey's site, he says about one of his novels:

"But the feeling was - if I was going to try to write something different from the old narrative tragic/romantic novel… not only the form of the book, but the form of each sentence had to be in a different style… So the sentences, yes, had to be a model of the whole, and what the whole was trying to do."

If that is uniformly true of the mature writer's style, then a reader is shown no mercy with sentences like: "The 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles was part of The Irish Brigade, along with the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers and the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers." There's no improving that sort of dire sentence, and nothing memorable in descriptions of troop movements.

When Mosley speaks of his father's incarceration, he refers to Oswald being held "without charge for an indefinite period under the hurriedly cobbled-up Regulation 18B(1a)," where he is soon joined by Mosley's stepmother, Diana (nee Mitford). The December-January 2008 issue of "Bookforum" carried a review of correspondence between the Mitford sisters, with this reference to Diana and Oswald: "They married secretly at Goebbels's apartment in Munich in 1936, with Hitler in attendance. So devoted to him and fanatic about his cause was she that she was interned (at the request of Nancy [Mitford], who described her as a danger to society)" under the same general regulation as her husband "for the duration of the war." There is a constant struggle between son and father. The view military men had of the elder Mosley forced Nicholas to confront that. "But would not one day some act of restitution be demanded of me?" he had asked. That day did come, and he handled himself well, according to the account given here.. However, that's not an adequate reason to read "Time At War", and definitely not worth writing it. This egocentric celebration of war's impulses and actions is another insufferable veteran's tale that's barely livened up by family scandal and garnished meagre philosophical musings.

O Street
Corrina Wycoff
OV Books
3629 N. Hoyne, Chicago, IL 60618
9780976717720 $17.95 http://www.dzancbooks.org/OVBooks/OVfront.html

This collection of interlinked stories could easily be considered a novel. Beth Dinard (also called Lizzie and Elizabeth), the main character of "O Street", is a creation put through the trials an author often comes up with for women: a horrible mother, gang rape for money or drugs, the tips of her ears torn off, poverty, 'uncles' who come and go, prostitution, her own pregnancy followed by terrible health care, and a series of jobs that don't provide enough money to get through a month. Well, all right, the ear tearing is a bit different. When I say that Corrina Wycoff contrives these things, it's not that they don't happen in real life (as we call what we pretend to share); more to the point, they have their own reality as texture, character development, incident, plot development. One needn't look outside the book, itself a real object, to say: that smacks of reality to me.

The above list doesn't give away the plot, since once settled in with the sparse prose style we know we're not going to be wandering off the highway of gritty realism in which these things are familiar landmarks. Lesbianism is arrived at not through biology but through the abuse Beth received at an early age. Its actual arrival is in fact not presented. Since Beth's life is presented non-chronologically, there are gaps and emissions which a reader can fill in herself.

Angela had Beth when she was in her teens. The unnamed father wants nothing to do with either. Mentally ill--for instance, believing Rosalind Carter, Jimmy Carter's wife, speaks to her from television screens--Angela quotes poetry freely, and has a quick mind that can be tartly humourous. That's a pretty good skill set for a heroin junkie who didn't finish high school. This mental agility is not explained; a reader is meant to accept it, discarding whatever one knows or thinks about junkies with mental problems. One wonders why this strange combination isn't made more of by Wycoff. Angela has a monstrous ego and a lot of energy, certainly compared to Beth, and perhaps too much about her would unbalance the book. For the most part she's off-stage, but often imminent.

Unlike her mother, Beth finishes school, and then makes her escape. She has a poor self-image, largely as a result of the abuse meted out to her by her mother, schoolmates, and lovers. "When Beth talked to her breathless, happy friends, she sometimes saw her own words suspended over her head, as if she were assuming a role in a comic strip." Angela's reach, however, is long and powerful, as is the reach of most mothers where their daughters are concerned. She fakes out her daughter cruelly in the first pages, and just like that, as if she had been a lioness casually swatting her cub, she renders Beth destitute. The motivation for why Beth doesn't ask for help from her lover, Rachel, isn't entirely convincing for someone who is codependent, but Wycoff has set this up to tell a particular story. What Beth experienced as a child was bad, and it doesn't prepare her for the losses she is meant to experience, regularly, through the rest of her life.

With so much left up to faith on our part, then, we can see that gritty realist writing is, as always, a con job, like the shell game in "O Street" which Beth watches. (This section is the most sustained and sharply written. More work along this line would be welcome.) On a web blog run by her editor, Wycoff says that "motherhood journals and anthologies frequently rejected my work for being 'too dark,'" but she didn't think that the darkest stories had been told. "After all, I wasn't even writing about mothers in our nation's worst poverty. We Oregon moms were the lucky ones: We were in school."

That puts the finger on what's not quite right here. While bad things mount up, and one can sympathize with Beth and, to a lesser extent, her mother, there's the impression that things ought to be much, much worse. "O Street" is, in Wycoff's words, "a 'rags to a few less rags' story. The main character, who's fictional, is one of the lucky ones, too." While in the book--that is, in that car at night going down that narrow road surrounded by scrubland--good fortune seems scarce, but once you're outside it the emotional connection to the driving force is broken. It doesn't help that the language is not memorable. A well-phrased and startlingly insightful phrase might be beyond Beth or Angela, but one or two of the other characters--slender as they are--might have been used for this.

However, that's not Wycoff's interest, and it would go against the down-and-out nature of the book. On that score, Corrina Wycoff deserves credit for representing something of the dire social conditions women in the US find themselves in. There's nothing uplifting about the situations Beth faces, and one leaves O Street convinced that her story would continue in a steadfastly miserable fashion. Whether she'd survive is an open question.

Jeff Bursey
Reviewer


Carson's Bookshelf

Witness
Bill Blais
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595471904, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com

One wrong move, and you're suddenly charged with saving a world not your own. "Witness" is the first book of the series known as 'All Prophets and Liars'. Rick and Stephen hate each other; and when fighting over a girl, they somehow find themselves tossed into a world of magic and wizardry. Having to put aside their differences to survive, they must save this world to save themselves - so they can kill each other when they get back. "Witness" is exciting, original, and witty writing, sure to please fantasy fans.

Collision of Angels
Michael Carver
michael@ahighercall.net
Booksurge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439209424, $20.99, www.booksurge.com

Faith still matters in today's politics, but how much? "Collisions of Angels" is a Christian fiction novel following Tony Campbell and his father-in-law Silas Jackson as they make a run for the position of most powerful man in the world - President of the United States. Fearing that America's politics have turned their back on God, the two run on the platform of faith, and discuss both faith and politics heavily. "Collisions of Angels" is a pious novel, sure to please Christians looking for a new story to sink their teeth into.

Luggage By Kroger
Gary Taylor
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595530304, $22.95, www.iuniverse.com

Sometimes, pursuit of the opposite sex makes men do strange things. "Luggage by Kroger: A True Crime Memoir" is author Gary Taylor's memoir of his adventures with a woman whose actions were not exactly of the legal variety. A former newspaper reporter who got involved with a notorious criminal attorney, Gary Taylor tells a riveting true story, one that reads like a high-octane crime thriller, of a man who was as law abiding as they come, and how his lust began to threaten his family. "Luggage by Kroger" is fascinating, highly recommended reading.

Finding Grace on a Less Traveled Road
R. Elliot Willis MD
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440111280, $27.95, www.iuniverse.com

It's a long ladder to climb up from scrounging for food just to survive. "Finding Grace on a Less Traveled Road" is a memoir and biography from well-known cancer doctor R. Elliot Willis. From his time of a child with a huge amount of siblings, he tells his story of how he worked his way up from low income neighborhoods to become a highly successful physician and cancer doctor. Hoping to inspire others in rough situations to rise above, "Finding Grace on a Less Traveled Road" is poignant and highly recommended.

Ether
Robert Darlington
Xlibris
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436327527, $15.99, www.xlibris.com

A man who uses the spoken word as his instrument, "Ether" is a chapbook of poetry from Robert Darlington, who has been doing poetry and lyrics for over three decades. Drawing from his favorite published poems and several never before released anywhere, "Ether" taps into the life of a man who loves what he does; the result is a fine book of verse. "Winter Elegy": Crows gather on frozen grass./My tears pour into the sky./When have I ever felt my heart/sting with winter's cold as//it does now? Alone on the bay,/a small boat struggles with churning/waves. Who can know when the/next breath will never arrive?

Michael J. Carson
Reviewer


Christy's Bookshelf

Curse of the Spellmans
Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416532415 $25.00 www.simonandschuster.com

Izzy Spellman works for her parents' private investigative service, where family members are acting strangely. Izzy's brother, David, a lawyer, has resorted to staying home, watching TV in his pajamas and eating junk food. Her father, Albert, is sneaking out of the house at all hours, returning with wet hair, while her mom, Olivia, is sneaking out of the house in early-morning hours and wreaking havoc on a motorbike. Her sister, Rae, runs over SFPD Inspector Henry Stone, her one and only friend. When a good-looking man moves in next door to her parents, Izzy intends to make him ex-boyfriend number 11. The two begin dating, but Izzy is intrigued by the man's common name, John Brown, and that he keeps a room in his apartment locked. Izzy decides to investigate Brown and becomes suspicious that she can't find out any real information concerning him. She manages to convince herself he's up to no good and begins following him and breaking into his apartment, which lands her in jail four different times, although she claims two don't count.

The Spellmans are a hoot, and although this is considered a mystery, it's actually more about the characters and their interactions. This is a fast read, with short chapters, written from Izzy's point of view. The Stone and Spellman Show Episodes are hilarious and the footnotes are ingenious, as is the Appendix. A refreshing take on the mystery genre, and a book guaranteed to bring plenty of laughs.

Death's Witness
Paul Batista
Sourcebooks Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567-4410
9781402206658 $24.95 www.sourcebooks.com

Former Heisman winner turned lawyer Tom Perini is shot at close range while jogging in Central Park. Perini had been part of the defense team for Congressman Danny Fonseca, who is being tried on charges of bribery. Perini's wife Julie is questioned by FBI agent John McGlynn, who leaves Julie with the impression that he is not willing to put much effort into finding her husband's killer. Julie decides to use her skills as a journalist to begin her own investigation into her husband's death and starts with his case files. Subsequently, Perini's client Selig Klein, an alleged mobster, is gunned down, and Julie is sure the two murders are connected and that somehow McGlynn is involved. When the FBI subpoenas her husband's files, hinting they believe he was involved with money laundering, Julie implores Tom's defense partner Vincent Sorrentino to help her stop McGlynn from ruining her husband's reputation. What the two discover is not only shocking but may be the only way to save the lives of Julie and her daughter.

Death's Witness is the debut novel for Paul Batista, criminal defense attorney and media pundit. The mystery, although easily solved, is filled with twist and turns, and Batista entertains the reader with an onslaught of red herrings to consider. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, this is overall a good read.

Real Country: from the Fast Track to Appalachia
Leslie Brunetsky
Mill City Press
212 3rd Avenue North Suite 570, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781934937488 $13.95 www.millcitypublishing.com

Life partners Leslie and Hope lived a busy life near Washington DC, working long hours and spending much of their commuting time stuck in traffic. Leslie had always dreamed of living in the mountains so the two decided to find property on a mountain and build a log cabin there once Leslie retired. After much research, they settled on the Appalachian region in North Carolina and spent the next five years counting the days. Once Leslie retired, they moved to a temporary house while their own log cabin was being built, and Leslie began sending epistles to family and friends updating them on the progress of their dream home and their transition to living in the Bible Belt surrounded by Republicans.

The two, unused to Southern speak, struggle to understand what is being said to them while trying to acclimate to a more leisurely lifestyle. Nicknaming themselves the Two Stooges Construction Company, they are challenged with trying to figure out how to put furniture together and put up a mailbox while dealing with mice that have taken up residence in their attic. On top of which, their new home seems jinxed, with a washing machine that won't stop dancing and an oven that quits in the middle of baking.

Real Country is based on the real-life experiences of two Northern women trying to blend into the Appalachian way of life and be accepted by its populace. The author's witty style will bring plenty of laughs via her characters' reactions to a totally unfamiliar culture and its divergent perspectives relating to most aspects of life, including religion, politics, and social dynamics. Highly recommended.

Stranger in Paradise
Jackie Griffey
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594147531 $25.95

Raised by her Aunt Sophie, Laura Carroll lived a sheltered life until her aunt's death, at which time, Laura is shocked to learn her aunt's will stipulates that Laura must take an exotic vacation for a minimum of two weeks After much debate, Laura decides to go to Isla Verde, a tiny island off Puerto Rico. There, she meets Esteban, a man she is attracted to who does not speak English. The two manage to overcome this barrier using hand signals and speaking the few foreign words they know. In a short time, they realize they are in love but Esteban receives a mysterious message and signals to Laura he must go but will return. When Laura's stay is up, she has not heard from him and returns home, determined to get over her love for Esteban. Circumstances take her to Hawaii, where she meets a man she recognizes from Isla Verde and finds her life in danger due to her relationship with Esteban.

Jackie Griffey delivers a sweet romance touched with a bit of mystery and topped off with thrilling adventure. The chemistry between Laura and Esteban is nicely portrayed, and the reader will root for the two lovers to find a way to be together. The story moves along at a nice pace, allowing the reader to experience the exotic locale and fall in love with the very likeable characters.

Strangers in Death
J. D. Robb
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group
New York, New York
9780399154706 $25.95

Lt. Eve Dallas of the New York Police and Security Department is called to the scene of a murder where it appears philanthropist Thomas Anders died during a kinky sexual encounter. Evidence suggests the victim was sedated at the time of his demise and a lapse in the security system's recordings signifies this was not an accidental death. Eve quickly hones in on a suspect but can find nothing to connect the killer to Anders at the time he died. But this doesn't stop the lieutenant, who uses everyone at her disposal, including husband billionaire Roarke, as she meticulously unravels the mystery being Anders's death.

This series attracts many fans, and for a good reason. Robb's writing is tight, flows well, and she offers characters her fans have grown to love. The mystery is a good one, with plenty of twists and turns, and, as always, Eve Dallas's intense personality and mindset pull the reader along with her as she seeks to resolve a mystery she takes personally.

The Darkest Evening of the Year
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books/Random House
9780553804829 $7.99 www.randomhouse.com

Amy Redwing, former victim of an abusive relationship, devotes her life to running a rescue organization for golden retrievers, where she searches for the perfect forever home for the abandoned ones and seeks treatment and rehabilitation for the abused and neglected ones. When Amy and her boyfriend, architect Brian McCarthy attempt to rescue a golden named Nickie, they find themselves in the middle of a domestic dispute. Amy senses a connection to Nickie and decides to keep her, unknowing that a chain of events are occurring which will lead Amy and Brian back to traumatic events of their past lives and into extreme danger, and that Nickie may be the only one to save them.

Koontz has been described as a master storyteller and this reviewer agrees. His love for dogs shines through with this book and enhances the story. The plot moves at a fast pace, with plenty of evil characters to entertain thrill-seekers, buffeted by Amy and Brian's love for one another and for dogs. Excellent book.

The Forbidden: Three Novels of French Love
David Rehak
Angel Dust Publishing/Lulu.com
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC, 27560, USA
9781847992642 $16.70 http://www.lulu.com

The Forbidden contains three erotic novellas centering on interesting, albeit anomalous, topics. In the first story, a conservative poet falls in love with a prostitute and must choose between what he feels in his heart versus his mind. The second centers on two young girlfriends who head to Paris, where circumstances separate them physically but cannot intervene between their mental and emotional connection to one another. The third features two sisters raised in a convent who look alike but choose opposites directions in regards to lifestyle and mindset.

Rehak's writing will hold the reader enthralled as he weaves his magic with words and an easy, flowing narrative that is easy to follow and enjoy. This author is not afraid to step outside the box in regards to plot and characters. His propensity to take the reader in one direction, only to deliver an unexpected twist, is unique and very well done. The erotic scenes are well written and enhance each story, although some readers may be startled by some scenes; for example, the realistic depictions inside a brothel. The characters are nicely developed, and the plots original and fresh. A real treat.

The Husband
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
9780553804799 $27.00 www.bantamdell.com

Mitchell Rafferty's happy living a middle-class life. He owns his own landscaping company and is deeply in love with his wife Holly. Mitch is somewhat amazed everything seems so normal for him, considering the way he and his four siblings were raised by his nontraditional parents. But his world tilts off balance with one phone call, the man on the other end of the line telling him he has his wife and she will be killed unless Mitch can raise two million dollars within 70 hours. Mitch knows he can't go to the cops because the kidnappers seem to know his every move, so turns to his older brother Anson. Anson assures Mitch he can get the money, but Mitch's world crumbles when Anson betrays him. From that point on, Mitch is on his own and will do whatever it takes to return Holly safely to him.

From page one, the book is packed with suspension and action, keeping the reader riveted to the story and rooting for Mitch to overcome obstacle after obstacle as he tries to find a way to save Holly. As always, characterization is excellent; no one does evil characters better than Koontz, nor the sweet romance between a good man and woman. Consider this another great book by the master of fiction.

The Rasner Effect
Mark Rosendorf
L&L Dreamspell
9781603180849 $18.95 www.lldreamspell.com

Two men, one connected to a terrorist group called the Duke Organization and the other hired to obliterate it, survive a bridge explosion while battling one another. Seven years later, Rick Rasner, an unwitting participant in a secret military experiment, has no memory of his life prior to the explosion. Jake Scarberry, living a mundane, unsatisfactory existence under the witness protection program, misses the excitement of his past life. Rick takes a job as a counselor at a children's psychiatric residence where he connects with one of the patients, 15-year-old Clara Blue, whose volatile temperament keeps her in trouble with the sadistic director. Scarberry resides in a college town, working low-paying jobs and trying to stay out of trouble. Both men, feeling out of place and adrift, are unaware the Duke Organization is about to resurface, which will bring them full circle to their past adversarial positions, each intent on the destruction of the other.

Rosendorf delivers plenty of nail-biting suspense along with chillingly evil characters and a thrilling plot as two opposing forces clash and re-clash in a battle to the death. Is this good versus evil or evil versus evil? The reader will have to make that decision while enjoying a galvanizing psychological suspense.

The Surest Poison
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-135, Tucson, AZ 85749-9399
9780979916786 $15.95 www.nightshadowspress.com

Former police chief turned private investigator Sid Chance is hired by a businessman who's being sued for a chemical spill on a piece of property he owns. People in the surrounding area have been suffering from physical disorders and the water supply has been polluted. The businessman, however, claims the spill was left by a former company that occupied that parcel. With the help of his good friend, business owner and computer whiz Jaz LeMieux, Sid tries to find the owners of an auto parts rehab business that operated at that location for several years, but everyone seems to have disappeared, including former employees. And the few employees he does manage to unearth either die suspiciously or are too terrified to speak to him. As Sid doggedly pursues the case, he is threatened to back off, but when he doesn't comply, finds his life in mortal danger.

The pairing of Sid and Jaz makes for a dynamic investigative team. Both have their own unique talents and skills to bring to the table, and their chemistry as a team is appealing. Campbell delivers a tough-to-solve mystery, with plenty of red herrings and enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning pages.

Christy Tillery French
Reviewer


Clark's Bookshelf

Afternoon Tea
J. R. LaGreca
Xlibris Corporation
9781425791124 $29.99

Jody Riva La Greca's inspiration for writing Afternoon Tea is her passion for the Victorian Age. She says, "human nature is timeless, and reveals the same dimension of emotion and intrigue in any era".

Her novel is about love, struggle, and differences of the haves and have-nots in society taking place in the year 1895. The setting is beautifully detailed in and around New England's picturesque towns. The plights of the characters were difficult at the turn of the century and you are enthralled by the descriptive prose laying them bare.

Lawrence Gray, 83, visits the grave of his beloved wife Emily, where he places red roses every Sunday even though she had died 40 years before. A neighbor, Meg Bailey, continuously watches him from her kitchen window and is intrigued by his devotion. Fanny Brund, the town historian, invites Meg to her home for tea and goes back to 1895 where she seeks the truth about Emily Gray's untimely death. She looks to uncover a secret that may change Meg's life.

Descriptions of a debutante ball, a devious 'red lady', and an old-fashioned wedding are all beautifully depicted. This was an interesting historical time when medicine was quite primitive and "tinctures" were mysterious potions which magically healed.

La Greca brilliantly develops her characters to be graceful and elegant when manners were boundless, dress was significantly important, and the adventures of all classes were intriguing. The struggles of the poor are tremendous and the lives of the rich are full of imagery.

This could be a modern day portrayal relating to challenges of success and the rewards of unwavering devotional love. Even though this is a by-gone era, the book enchants you from beginning to end. The author laces a romantic triangle that will tug at your heart with a surprise ending. J. R. LaGreca has captured the Victorian Era exquisitely, like a fine painting or a glass of aged wine.

J. R. La Greca also is an award-winning poet and ends her book with A Grain of Sand, a poem dedicated to her sister.

A must read for the amorous romantic.

Because I Said So
Dawn Meehan
Guideposts Books
9780824947477 $14.99

In May, 2006, Dawn Meehan auctioned on Ebay "a dirty old baseball" and it sold for $1,125.00! It was the humorous stories about her children the bidders really liked.

Dawn started a blog in June, 2007, to earn money while staying at home with her children. She auctioned Pokemon cards on Ebay that somehow mysteriously appeared in her grocery cart. Her wild daily experiences with 6 children spread through the net like "a virus." She received 94,000 'hits' a day from around the world on her blog. She became so popular, her readers pressed her to write a book, thus Because I Said So came to print.

Dawn feels books did not prepare her for the many chaotic experiences she would face while rearing children. She says it usually took four hours to shop for food with her children. On one occasion, she found her account had no money. There was also another incident of embarrassment when fire trucks and police cars showed up at her house because her child had locked her out when she emptied the trash.

Meehan admits that, "before kids", she pictured the "idyllic world" and raising the "perfect child", but then you have your own. No one told her duties would be chauffeur, the Tooth Fairy, or children would become "budding artists" and would take two years to remove markers from walls.. Having kids' means you no longer have your own hobbies, it means, "play house, dress up, and pretend you work in a restaurant". Then, there's camping. "Food, Gas and Lodging next Exit"…, does not always mean "there is food, gas or lodging at the next exit." Meehan suggests, if you camp, locate the "nearest emergency facility."

Dawn says, her children have taught her well. "Parenting is definitely a profession with on-the-job training" and "if you are going to raise children, a sense of humor is an absolute must." She reminds parents they are not alone. Being a parent is rewarding and fun amidst all the struggles faced every day.

Because I Said So, gives encouragement to all moms and dads on coping with their own chaotic episodes, whether they have one child or several. This book is recommended for fun, laughter, with a touch of sanity.

Soul Survivor
Bruce and Andrea Leininger with Ken Gross
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group USA
9780446509336 $24.99

Writing about reincarnation brings the skeptics out of the woodwork and many people in Western culture say, "I don't believe". The Judeo-Christian ethic does not believe in coming back in the form of another person. Bruce Leininger, a Human Relations executive, and his wife, discussed their two-year-old son James' nightmares and bizarre conduct. Soul Survivor, will be released in June 2009 dispelling some of the doubts that Bruce had about the phenomenal behavior of his son. Ken Gross provides a great assist in conveying their story.

Since their son was a lot different than most two-year-olds, Bruce and Andrea Leininger sought the help of Carol Bowman, renowned author, who wrote books about vivid past lives of her children. The Leininger's needed a better way to contend with the mysterious recollections by their son with his screaming in the night as his plane dove into the ocean in flames. "Little man" James would describe his life as a fighter pilot and how he died when he was unable to get out of the cockpit of his Corsair, which had been hit by enemy aircraft in the battle for Iwo Jima.

Bruce and Andrea were unable to rationalize James' behavior. They could not explain his vast knowledge of airplanes, crew members, or recollection of actual events which had taken place during the life of James M. Huston Jr. At the age of four, James was able to name crew members who had died before him and states he met them in heaven before his birth as James Leininger. "He was a four-year-old, and he was saying things that made his parent's skin crawl," according to Ken Gross.

Bruce became a first-rate detective in the ensuing years, uncovering actual people who swore that his son James III was indeed James Jr. after many years had gone by. Bruce met with surviving crew mates, the sister of James Jr., and had his little son speak with her. Astonishingly, they had conversations which started in the 1940's, and continued as if it were yesterday. There was noticeable sibling bonding as the two of them exchanged words of affection, even though they were 80 years apart!

James will turn 11 this year and the nightmares are gone, but many of the memories linger on. Reading this book may not change beliefs in reincarnation, but may cause wonder for the skeptic. Soul Survivor is strongly recommended.

Clark Isaacs
Reviewer


Daniel's Bookshelf

Hold Tight
Harlan Coben
Published by New American Library
A Division of the Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451226501 $9.99 www.penguin.com 1-800-847-5515

I selected this book because I have been following this author Harlan Coben with his suspense mystery novels for a decade now. His last book The Woods was a good entertaining read. I like the novels he has written to date because they have been excellent page turners. This one dealt with being a psychological terror more than gratuitous violence which makes the normal terrifying. This thriller contains that parental fear dealing with psychopaths, drug dealers, and sketchy friends along with corrupt police officers.

This book premise of spying on computers to track problems with a parent's son to keep an eye on him due to a recent suicide of a friend brings suspense to a taut thriller. It draws the family to mayhem and violence, that could destroy all they hold dear. The software reveals all the sites that son has visited and the problems connected with it. In his fore note his has pointed out that all the technology in the book is real, and all the software along with equipment described are readily available to the the general public. So the real and now are possibly believable threats to make the storyline even more realistic. As usual I refuse to disclose plot devices or storyline to spoil the books cat and mouse maze turns. I prefer to give the reader enough to intrigue them into reading the book.

I believe Harlan has written an interesting timely novel with all the fears of the Internet, and problems that display the good things of this tool of resources along with the seedy side. The unlawful people who prey on unsuspected victims, and then naive innocent young people who get hood-winked into their evil schemes and agenda They don't realize the not all people have their good intentions at heart. They need people having the virtues of trust and support. He uses this idea and unravels an intricate suspenseful story that illustrates that the notions of let the user beware. The hidden faces behind the computer screen, that cover out the evilness to accomplish their own agendas with their treachery. I do look forward to his latest novel Long Lost available now in hard cover. I know he will have an engaging novel that mirrors his past efforts and earned him an Edgar award to place him in the master suspense writer of the here and now.

Terminal Freeze
Lincoln Child
Published by Doubleday
A Division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway 20th Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385515511 $24.95 www.doubleday.com 262-782-9000

I have followed this author Lincoln Child from this first joint book Relic with Douglas Preston, and not too long ago finished his solo effort Deep Storm. I found his previous novel an engaging suspense novel in a claustrophobic atmospheric setting. It took me only a few seconds to make the decision to purchase the book, and now I can continue to alert other readers to watch for his work.

This is an intricate fast paced novel with an ancient frozen beast found in a glacial ice cave. It is an enormous animal and encased in solid ice. The beast is no regular specimen as they will find out. Despite warnings the creature will be cut, from the ice, thawed, and this event will be revealed live on television. The local Native American village and some scientific have concerns as this "docudrama" plows forward to make one more horrifying discovery. The creature may be an ancient killing machine, and authorities may be premature in believing its dead. Without revealing too much more, this story moves along a quick clip. Amongst the stunning Arctic landscape, a terrifying mythic ancient creature, and a realm of chaotic fear is now released in this thriller adventure.

I first met Lincoln Child at a neighboring bookshop doing an author event. I enjoyed all his books done with Douglas Preston with the first one entitled Relic, and introducing the fascinating main character Pendergast along with other interesting characters that came into various novels. I enjoy his joint novels and his solo efforts like Terminal Freeze. His settings along with adventure help enable the thriller which encompasses mystery, and suspense. His characters come alive in situations that place them at risk or seeking the unknown. I look forward to his joint book Cemetery Dance coming out this year, and know Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child will enthrall me to delve into a good yarn.

Daniel Allen
Reviewer


Debra's Bookshelf

A World I Never Made
James LePore
The Story Plant
The Aronica-Miller Publishing Project
P.O. Box 4331, Stamford, CT 06907
9780981608723 $24.95

James LePore's debut novel A World I Never Made starts well. Upon arriving in Paris in January, 2004, to visit his daughter, Pat Nolan discovers that she has killed herself and he's required to identify her body. He makes a positive ID, but the body lying in the morgue isn't hers. She's faked her death for some reason, and Pat sets out to find her and find out why she took such an extreme step. The narrative jumps between Pat's story in the narrative present and Megan's story, which begins about a year earlier. Megan has been living it up in Europe for years on the bankrolls of her wealthy lovers. It's that lifestyle, coupled with her post-9/11 interest in terrorism, that's gotten her into her current predicament.

While the book's two storylines remain separate, the book reads well. But in the last fifty-odd pages the stories coalesce as the various parties searching for Megan close in. I found this concluding section of the book confusing, the various secondary characters blending together, the action a bit hard to follow. In the end I'm not quite sure how Pat managed to track Megan down. She allegedly left a trail for him to follow, but it wasn't a particularly clear one. There is also a romantic side story which would have worked well except that the relationship's development is improbably fast. In short, the book has a good premise and it reads well for much of the story, but for me, at least, it falls apart in its last quarter.

The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns
Elizabeth Leiknes
Bancroft Press
1890862622 $21.95

When she was 11 years old, Lucy Burns swore she'd do anything if her sister recovered from a coma. Thirty-one years later Lucy is 29 and she's doing it, the "anything" that was her part of the bargain she'd struck. It turns out that her prayers were answered by a party other than the one she'd expected. Now she's a "facilitator," guiding deserving souls to their afterlives in the fiery depths of...her basement. Well, not quite, but the door to her cellar is a portal to hell. Lucy anesthetizes her prey with mind control techniques that are a perk of her position--as are her ineffable beauty and agelessness.

The Sinful Life is a fun, light read, but not as tightly constructed as it might be. For example, the recurring references in the book to two movies dueling for attention in the novel--one about Hitler, the other Jesus Christ--don't seem to have a purpose (other than the good vs. evil parallel). Likewise, the Snow White car wash Lucy frequents doesn't seem to fit well in the story; nor do the snippets from a story being written by Lucy's love interest. Stepping back from the novel, then, one has reservations about its coherence, but the book is by no means a chore to get through, and Lucy turns out to be a more nuanced character than one supposes going into the story.

A.D. 62: Pompeii
Rebecca East
iUniverse
9780595268825 $16.95

Miranda, the protagonist of Rebecca East's A.D. 62: Pompeii, is a graduate student studying classical archaeology at Harvard. It turns out that her knowledge of ancient cultures and her relatively small size make her the ideal candidate for a time travel experiment being conducted by unnamed researchers. The science behind the experiment and the particulars of its financing are never spelled out, but our heroine is due to earn a hefty sum as a guinea pig. The plan is for
her to be sent back roughly 2000 years to ancient Rome, though the scientists won't be able to pinpoint precisely either her location upon arrival or the exact date. She is to live among the natives for a few days, attracting as little attention as possible, and then return to the 21st century by activating the transmitter that's embedded in her upper arm.

Unfortunately, things don't go as neatly as planned. Miranda lands in the middle of the Mediterranean--fortunately near a fishing boat--in 61 A.D., during Nero's reign. Eventually, after a series of unpleasant experiences, she finds herself in Pompeii, working as a slave in a wealthy household in the shadow of Vesuvius--18 years before the mountain is due to bury the city in ash. And the transmitter in her arm proves to be a less than reliable escape route.

I have two quibbles with East's novel. The first is minor, and is addressed by the author to an extent when she introduces Miranda as a "walking encyclopedia": I find it hard to believe that a graduate student, however many years of Latin under her belt, or indeed any modern Latinist would be able to communicate as effectively as Miranda does upon first arriving among real-life Romans. My second complaint, more substantial but easily fixed, is that the author very often
repeats information in the book that we've already heard. But a good editor would, I think, make quick work of excising the redundant passages.

Apart from these quibbles, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The world into which Miranda is thrust is well-imagined. Background information about the ancient world is woven deftly into the story, so that the book never (or perhaps only once) reads like it's trying to teach us something. The plot, too, is very believable (once you accept the notion of time travel, of course): send a 21st-century woman back to Nero's Rome and it's plausible that she would have this kind of experience, that she would encounter just such problems while trying to assimilate. I was pleased, too, that the book does not suffer from the stilted language that is so common with historical fiction.

In short, I really enjoyed this novel, far more than I expected to. The book is self-published through iUniverse. Here's hoping that the author will find a wider readership for this story through a traditional publisher.

The Silent Man
Alex Berenson
Putnam
9780399155383 $25.95

The Silent Man is the third installment in Alex Berenson's series featuring CIA agent John Wells. I have not read the first two books in the series -- The Faithful Spy and The Ghost War -- but although it was clear while reading that I was missing some back story, not having read the earlier books did not impede my understanding of this one. The book has a strong beginning that will keep readers interested: The driver of a tractor intentionally collides with a tanker truck
carrying 8000 gallons of gasoline. Meanwhile, a certain Grigory Farzadov, a sympathetic bear of a man, is forced by Muslim extremists to steal material from the Russian nuclear facility where he works as a guard. The two incidents are early steps in a plot to manufacture and detonate a nuclear bomb on American soil. John Wells, of course, is the man who won't let that happen, though he actually doesn't become aware of the threat until we're more than 200 pages into the
story. In the first half of the book Wells is instead pursuing a private vendetta and worrying about his relationship with his fiancee, Jennifer Exley.

My reaction to The Silent Man is mixed. When Berenson is writing about the bad guys, his book is very good: his characters are compelling and three-dimensional, and we can identify with them despite that they're up to no good. When reading these sections, the book cruises along. Unfortunately, the story slows to a crawl during the sections that focus on John Wells and Exley. Wells himself--at least in this outing--is not an interesting character; neither is Exley, though she
doesn't have a big role in the book. And the good guys' efforts to thwart the extremists' plot somehow aren't very exciting. I certainly didn't want Farzadov and his minders to succeed with their plans, then, but I wouldn't have cared in the slightest if Wells met his end
while combatting them.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer
http://www.book-blog.com


Duncan's Bookshelf

Wish You Well
David Baldacci
Warner Books, Inc
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0446527165 $20.00

Baldacci spins a tale of Louisa May Cardinal, "a precocious twelve-year-old girl living in the hectic New York City of 1940.' with her parents and her timid brother Oz. Life for 'Lou' changes when her father dies in an accident and her mother remains in a coma. Lou and Oz and their mother move to the high mountains in Virginia, where Lou's grandmother has farmed in a small valley near the coal mines.

Lou gains her first real friend ('Diamond') who leads her to a decrepit broken well. Diamond tells her she should only make a serious wish and leave an item that is dear to her. Lou's brother Oz wishes his mother would come out of her coma. He leaves his precious teddy-bear.
Wish you Well tells a tale of rural life, a tale of Oz's belief that his mother will wake from her coma. It is a tale of unforgettable personalities working to survive in a rustic land where a large corporation wants to rape and level a mountain. Baldacci entertains with a charming story of Lou's growth into young adulthood and the lives of her friends in the mountains and mines. Driving along the ridges in Branson, Missouri I saw a parallel to the coal mining in Virginia. I saw Man's indomitable drive to remake his world. And I knew 'Lou' would not approve.

Art of War
Sun Tzu
Thomas Cleary, translator
Shambhala Dragon Edition
300 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115
0877734526 $12.95

Written over two thousand years ago, Art of War presents the words of Master Sun Tzu, a warrior philosopher. A manual for managers and administrators, the Art of War is a book of strategy that applies to "competition and conflict" within organizations. The book is used by modern leaders as a guide to achieving "unassailable strength through understanding of the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict." (Thomas Cleary, in the 'Preface').
No amount of training and education can prepare a manager for the massive conflict that occurred in the 1981 teacher negotiations that resulted in 35 strikes. Twenty five years later I studied Master Sun's 'proverbs' for avoiding conflict. I see the Master telling me to 'see' the global nature of the conflict, gather intelligence, and know the ground that the School Board will cover to achieve success. Then, with clarity, I know for a certainty that I was an 'Innocent' in the woods in 1981.

In those years we hung onto our own proverbs, 'It will be over,' and 'Only when they are ready will it be over.' And this proverb: 'When one side sees an advantage, then there will be movement.' At the time, the 'local' expert advised me on the strategies used by Alinski; strategies that urged the strikers to use rumor and innuendo to divide the school board. We came to believe we had no leverage to urge an end to Minnesota's longest teacher strike. Indeed, we had no leverage. Our people suffered for three months and six days (October 4, 1981 to January 10, 1982).

(Iron Lake Burning tells the inside story of this strike. See Amazon)

The Art of War emphasizes the importance of deception. As the Tao Te Ching says, "One with great skill appears ineffective." Cleary notes in the Preface, "Confucius said that it is a disgrace to be rich and honored in an unjust state, and he himself nearly died for his independence. According to the classics, loyalty does not mean blind obedience to an individual or state, but includes the duty of conscientious protest." Master Sun said, "Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness."

As 'local' school board leaders, we exist in a political realm. The state has tied our hands in negotiations; we have one foot in the alligator's mouth by seeking 'peaceful' relations with our employees. To be stern is to be ineffective, we believe. That is our error. It is a glaring error. It leads to larger settlements than the school board can afford. In the end, our compliant leadership helps the state avoid the necessity of adequately funding our schools.

Marty Duncan
Reviewer


Gary's Bookshelf

Grammar for Grownups
Beth Adubato
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432711375 $11.95 www.outskirtspress.com

Finally there is a book to address a situation that has been out of control for a long time. Everyday someone in the country breaks the laws of language and has no clue they've done so. Guilty are both children and adults The worst offenders I've heard were on soap operas, newscasts by anchors and reporters, sportscasters, most TV shows, and many movies. Those of us who know what errors have been made cringe when we hear someone utter them. The author who is working on her doctorate in criminal justice, has written a simple to follow approach for everyone to learn how to speak English properly. She gives rules for certain words on when to use them and how to remember the rule that applies. This is a book that should be required reading for students in all schools and colleges of this country. Business should also require everyone in the company to read and learn how to appropriately speak this country's number one language.

Loitering With Intent
Stuart Woods
Putnam
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155789 $25.95 www.penguin.com

Woods has another great novel with this one that is another Stone Barrington adventure. This time it starts off simply. Stone goes to Key West in search of a man to sign some legal papers. Stone and his best friend Dino fly down to the Keys thinking it will be a day or so. What happens is not at all trouble-free. The story gets complicated as readers turn pages to the end. This is another great Woods thriller.

Undercover Nazi
David Gletty
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
97819344439356 $24.95 www.undercovernazi.com www.legacypublishing.org 407 647 3787

Ever wonder how the F.B.I infiltrates extremist groups in the country? David Gletty tells all in this book that reveals that, and how he got involved. It also shows how the press exposed him. The book flows like a novel but all of it is true. These groups are all over the country and have millions of members hooked on their causes of hate. What we learn is that we need people like Gletty to break up these groups because their agendas are counter to what this nation stands for.

The 8th Confession
James Patterson and Maxine Puerto
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316018760 $27.95 www.HatchetteBookGroupUSA.com

Detective Lindsay Boxer has two cases of murder. One is give no attention by the department and she is told to pull off that one and work on the other one that involves glamorous millionaires who mingle at the party of the year. She devotes her time to both cases as she and her partner follow the clues. The other members of her group "The Women's Murder Club" help her work by providing information. The story is once again a nail biting suspenseful read that packs a wallop at the end. This is the only one of the series to be released this year. Fans will love the twists and turns in the character's personal lives take as well.

What I Did For Love
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061351501 $25.95 www.harpercollins.com

The press and how it can ruin a person's life is part of this fine novel that races along with delightful characters and situations. Two actors of a hit TV show finish the run and begin to move on in their lives but something draws them together again.. The author has written a novel that goes behind the scenes of Hollywood and shows what really happens when a hit show comes to an end. She also has well defined characters who are caught up in a world of deception. The story moves along briskly to the surprise ending.

Castaways
Brian Keene
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843960891 $7.99 www.dorchesterpub.com

What if the contestants on a show like "Survivor" were stalked and killed one by one by something sinister on the island? That is part of the plot for this great novel of horror that is a fast paced chiller thriller by a master of the genre. The characters of the participants of the game show are believable. Good horror writers these days are hard to find because there is so much out there that is not well written or too silly. Keene is one to put on anyone's reading list.

On Angels Wings Softball
Denise McCorkle
Illustrated by Victor Guise
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432731021 $17.95 www.outskirtspress.com

What do angels do for fun? According to Denise McCorkle and Victor Guise they play softball, visits with animals and have picnics, go swimming and just have a great time doing lots of things. The artwork adds to the pace of the story with its wonderful drawings and colors. The author and artist have told a story that is simple and fun reading for all ages.

Gettysburg the Graphic Novel
Written and illustrated by C. M Buzzer
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061561764 $16.99 www.harpercollinschildrens.com

For many who do not know about Gettysburg this is a fine way to learn history. The author has done a terrific job bringing to life the War Between the States and the meaning of the battle of Gettysburg. Readers of all ages can learn a lot from this graphic novel.

Because I Said So…and Other Tales from A Less-Than-Perfect Parent
Dawn Meehan
Guideposts
16 East 34th Street, New York, New York 10016
9780824947477 $14.99 www.guideposts.com

The author tells interesting everyday witty stories about her six kids and her husband. She tells about trips to the market with the kids, sporting events, keeping the house clean and many other simple things. She makes readers laugh with her amusing style. The interesting thing is that her book started out as a blog that received a million hits in a month. This is a fun expose of daily things we can all relate to.

What Lincoln Said
Sarah L. Thomson
Illustrated by James E. Ransomed
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060848194 $17.99 www.harpercollinschildrens.com

This is a kid's book that takes readers through one of our greatest president's life and shows why he is so well respected. The author and award-winning artist combine their talents to give a fresh perspective to show Lincoln.

Gary Roen
Reviewer


Gloria's Bookshelf

Six Seconds
Rick Mofina
MIRA Books
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326120 $6.99 www.MIRABooks.com 416-445-5860

Corporal Daniel Graham, of the RCMP Major Crimes Unit's South District in Calgary, Canada, becomes involved in a search for additional victims, or perhaps survivors, of what seems to have been a wilderness accident after the body of a young boy is discovered floating in the river in Alberta. Further investigation uncovers the fact that the boy is the son of "an oddball reporter who believed in conspiracies." Graham [who at the time was at a personal crossroads in his own life resulting from the death of his pregnant wife in a car accident for which he holds himself to blame] is unable to find any trace of the reporter himself..

Maggie Conlin is the mother of a nine-year-old boy who has gone missing, apparently the victim of what is believed to be parental abduction by his father, a trucker who was behaving erratically ever since returning, traumatized, from a contract job driving convoys in Iraq.

Samara Ingram is a young woman whose adored husband and young son have been murdered in a horrific attack on all three in their home in Iraq, and whose life and psyche have been destroyed. She is now bent on revenge.

These otherwise ordinary people have all suffered great personal loss, and now become central players in a tale of tragedy played out on a much larger scale, and on an international stage.

From an intriguing beginning, the reader is led across the world and to American locales as varied as Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, and Lone Tree County, Montana, the site of a highly anticipated papal visit. The frighteningly real and scarily possible scenario pulled this reader along until, before I realized it, well over 300 pages had flown by. The action races along at a breakneck pace through the final 100 pages counting down to the time period of the title, and to the heart-pounding conclusion. The book is all about loss, grief, hope, and the possibility of redemption, and it is highly recommended. I have enjoyed all this author's books to date, and am delighted to learn that his new series, featuring reporter Jack Gannon, will make its debut in October, 2009.

Boca Knights
Steven M. Forman
Forge, 175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765316387 $24.95 www.tor-forge.com 212-388-0100

Eddie Perlmutter was always a street brawler, a "puny Jewish kid from the upscale suburb of Brookline," Massachusetts, and from the time he was very young he wanted to be a cop. It is not too surprising, therefore, when he becomes first a boxer and then a cop, professions not high on his parents' list of ambitions for their only child. As a boxer he was fierce: twenty-one Golden Gloves bouts, no defeats, three championships in two different weight divisions; as a cop he only wanted 'good things for good people and bad things for bad people,' in the process receiving two Police Department Medals of Honor, two medals for valor, three medals for merit, and a Mayor's Commendation.

When he retires with arthritis and his pension from the Boston P.D., he is "a fifty-five-year-old, unemployed widower with the long term prospects of a moth around a bright light." At the suggestion of one of his best friends, he takes a job at a country club in Boca Raton primarily handling security. He is told "Boca is great. It's just not perfect . . . Boca is unique. You'll see." And indeed he does. But who would expect serious crime there? Eddie, however, finds exactly that, or perhaps it finds him.

The story of Eddie's forebears in the Ukraine Peninsula is a fascinating one, some of which the reader learns in the book's first pages, but which Eddie himself learns only in his middle age. It seems he shares many of the traits of his grandfather, who was a hero and fearless.

There is much in this book about the choices one makes in life, some of them good, others not so much. The author displays a wonderful and offbeat humor and sense of irony, as well as a love of alliteration. The protagonist is a totally original and somewhat whacky character, and a true mensch. I must admit that I at first found it a bit off-putting when Eddie occasionally has conversations with a body part, one which I think it prudent not to identify, but that just became one more endearing part of his personality. It could be the shared Russian-Jewish heritage, but this reader was totally captivated by the novel and its protagonist, and I hope that Eddie Perlmutter returns in future books. I loved this one, and it is highly recommended.

A Darker Domain
Val McDermid
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061688980 $15.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

The "darker domain" of the title is the world of the coal miner. The author comes by her knowledge of that world almost genetically, as both of her grandfathers were coal miners.

One story line arises out of the national miners' strike in the UK, coincidentally something I, living in the US and not familiar with that struggle, had just seen brought to creative life in the current theatrical staging of Billy Elliot. At the height of the hardships and tensions engendered by the lingering strike, Mick Prentice, for reasons best known to himself, leaves his wife and children alone and ostracized in their community, giving his family "instant pariah status." Nine months into the strike, he was one of six men who "disappeared [apparently] . . . to Nottingham to join the blacklegs," i.e., strikebreakers. Mick's daughter Michelle ("Misha") Gibson files a missing persons report with Karen Pirie, DI and head of the Cold Case Review Team of the Fife Constabulary in Scotland. Though her mother had received money from time to time, postmarked from Nottingham but with no return address on the envelopes, a search following a present family crisis has made Misha aware of the fact that her father has well and truly disappeared. She tells Karen: "Take it from me, Inspector. He's not where he's supposed to be. He never was. And I need him found."

Karen describes herself as "a wee fat woman crammed into a Marks and Spencer suit, mid-brown hair needing a visit to the hairdresser, might be pretty if you could see the definition of her bones under the flesh," and "always a sucker for anything that made people shake their heads in bemused disbelief. Long shots were what got her juices flowing." And so she takes on the challenge of tracking down Mick Prentice.

The second story line deals with Annabel ("Bel") Richmond, an ambitious freelance reporter who by chance stumbles across startling new evidence in another old case: the kidnapping of the daughter and grandson of a rich and powerful "captain of industry." The daughter was killed during a botched ransom payoff, the kidnappers never found. When Bel approaches the man, he decides to end his long inaccessibility and to use agents of both the media and the police for his own ends to find his grandson, as well as the person(s) responsible for the events that daily continue to haunt his life. Those agents are Bel herself, to whom he promises sole access, and DI Karen Pirie (to a point).

As Karen states, "Cold cases .. . . They'd break your heart. Like lovers, they tantalized with promises that this time it would be different. It would start out fresh and exciting, you'd try to ignore those little niggles that you felt sure would disappear as you got to understand things better. Then suddenly it would be going nowhere. Wheels spinning in a gravel pit. And before you knew it, it was over. Back to square one."

This is the story of two such cases, and two remarkable and dedicated young women, each searching for the truth in their separate investigations, in which each anticipates great professional rewards for a successful outcome. The book proceeds in non-linear fashion, as flashbacks and changes of scene from Tuscany to Edinburgh to mining towns as were lead the reader forward through a maze. The characters are well-drawn, and I particularly liked one with the charming name of River Wilde, the daughter, she explains, of "hippy parents." The author does a masterful job limning these disparate tales, up until the very end, which was, I am dismayed to state, a disappointment to this reader. Nonetheless, Ms. McDermid's many fans will, I think, enjoy the book.

The Surest Poison
Chester Campbell
Night Shadows Press
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-135, Tucson, AZ 85749-9399,
9780979916793 $26.95 (hc) 9780979916786 $15.95 (pb) www.NightShadowsPress.com

Sid Chance is a former member of the Army Special Forces in Vietnam and a former National Parks ranger for eighteen years, as well as a small town police chief for ten, forced out of office when falsely charged with bribery. Never finding who had set out to destroy him, he has taken refuge for the past three years in a rustic cabin [read "no electricity or running water"] fifty miles east of Nashville. As the book opens he finds himself wondering "if he'd made the right decision in leaving. Going back to the type of work he had pursued for more than three decades left him exposed to the same flawed humanity that had chased him up here in the first place." But he is coaxed out of his hermit-like existence by his old friend Jasmine ("Jaz") LeMieux, who has recommended him to a corporate attorney and his client who is facing major financial disaster unless he can be cleared in a chemical pollution case. Sid is hired to find the company which had owned the property previously which, they are convinced, is the true culprit.

Jaz is quite a character, literally and figuratively. She "had the looks and the brains to be whatever she wanted, and she had the money and the contacts to pull it off." Her c.v. include having been a professional boxer, member of the Security Police with the Air Force, cop, board chairman of a major company, and during the course of the book is applying for a p.i. license, the better to enable her to work with Sid, finding she "couldn't resist the lure of the chase." A second story line evolves when Jaz' employees, a couple in their late seventies, plead with Jaz to help when their grandson and his nine-year-old son are threatened. When Sid assists in this effort, it means he must, with misgivings, return for the first time to the small town he had left in disgrace nearly four years earlier.

The author smoothly blends the two investigations being worked on by Sid and Jaz, which is accomplished with a little help from his friends, which include his poker-playing pals, the "Five Felons," comprised of a Metro police sergeant, a retired newspaper crime writer, a former Criminal Court Judge, and a local homicide detective, charmingly named "Bart Masterson." The reader is treated to a good old-fashioned detective story -- and that is intended as very high praise -- with swear words at a minimum, any violence not of the graphic variety, instead a more subtle but no less lethal kind, interspersed with ominous threats, some vague and some pointed.

The title comes from a line by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which "named such things as alcohol and strychnine but concluded: 'the surest poison is time.'" Mr. Campbell has written another terrific novel, one that is recommended.

Judas Kiss
J.T. Ellison
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326298 $6.99 www.MIRABooks.com 416-445-5860

On a day in early Spring in Nashville, Tennessee, in a brief prologue the reader "sees" Corinne Wolff, lovely, athletic, 26-year-old mother of a beautiful little toddler and seven months pregnant, being bludgeoned to death by a raging killer, apparently her husband, the reader is led to believe. The question of whether that is the correct assumption, however, is not soon resolved. A police investigation is launched, headed by homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, during the course of which some startling evidence is discovered, with enormous and very personal and professional consequences for Taylor, as well as calling into question the seemingly perfect life of the victim I couldn't help but agree with Taylor, of whom the author says: "It took a lot to shock her. This qualified." And in the background a malevolent presence hovers.

Taylor has a complex back story: She is thirty-five years old, nearly six feet tall, engaged to Dr. John Baldwin, Acting Director of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. She has been on the force for 13 years, the last five in homicide, during which she has had her throat slashed by a suspect, been kidnapped on what was supposed to be her wedding day; and has had to arrest her own father, who had been into money laundering and human trafficking. Plus she has had to shoot her former lover to save her own life.

A key element of the plot is a top-secret covert organization whose very existence and purpose seems less than credible. But as the plot heats up a willing suspension of disbelief becomes easier as the tale inexorably drew me in with some startling twists and turns building up the suspense along two different avenues. [The parallel story line deals with a killer being hunted by Taylor's fiance, that murderer in turn doing some hunting of his own.]

Some of Taylor's lines fall with a thud, e.g., "She twisted the top and drank deep, washing the taste of murder out of her mouth;" on seeing a beautiful sunset above the skyline of Nashville, "It was gorgeous and filled her, making her feel whole and drowsy." She speaks of a copycat killer "who masqueraded in other killers' emotional garments," and of a "stupid confidential informant" who got her "in a world of hurt," etc. In the end, however, it was the author's story-telling ability that won me over. This is the third novel by Ms. Ellison, though it is the first read by this reviewer - it almost certainly won't be the last. [Her next one featuring Taylor Jackson, "Edge of Black," is due out in September.]

Friend of the Devil
Peter Robinson
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060544386 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com 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, his allowing Annie to take her equal place at center stage here only adds one more dimension to this always excellent series.

Shadows of Lancaster County
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House
990 Owen Loop No., Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736924474 $13.99 www.harvesthousepublishers.com 541-343-0123

Five youngsters, nearly or recently out of high school, become enmeshed in a tragedy and its aftermath one evening when among them they have start setting off fireworks, break out the beer, and become amorous; a fire breaks out in a nearby farmhouse, killing the inhabitants, an Amish couple and their infant son. Anna Bailey, 17 years old; her brother Bobby, 19 years old; Anna's best friend, Haley Wynn, and her boyfriend, Doug - - all are convicted on charges ranging from reckless endangerment to involuntary manslaughter to public drunkenness, with the oldest, 21-year-old Reed Thornton, with whom Anna had fallen in love, and who was badly burned in the fire, being sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation. The others, as juveniles, receive lighter sentences, and all are roundly condemned in the community and the media as drunken murdering revelers.

The book begins eleven years later. Anna Bailey is now living in California, where she fled four years after the fire, when she receives a desperate call from her sister-in-law, Lydia, who pleads with Anna to help her: Bobby has disappeared, and Lydia believes that only Anna's knowledge of her brother, "how he thought, how his mind worked," as well as her high-tech skills as a skip tracer, can help her find him. Anna immediately goes to Pennsylvania. Her ensuing investigation turns up evidence that Bobby and Doug had uncovered proof of illegalities in the lab where they worked; Bobby is now missing, and shortly afterwards Doug's dead body is discovered, and the police are searching for Bobby as a 'person of interest.' Both young men, as well as Reed, had years before become interns in the same lab, which works with DNA research and gene therapy, but Reed is now working in Washington, D.C. as a medical ethicist working in the field of DNA

Anna is a young woman sustained by her faith, ever-present but not dwelled upon, despite the challenges facing her when she must again confront the event that changed her life, and the danger she faces as her search continues. The book gives the reader insight into the lives of the Amish, going beyond what most people know about the sect, the closeness of the families and of the larger Amish community. The tale is at once suspenseful and touching, and the conclusion is hugely satisfying. With today's headlines of expanded stem cell research and the related field of gene therapy thereby effected, it is also quite timely, and is recommended.

Never Tell a Lie
Hallie Ephron
Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St, NY, NY 10022
9780061567155 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

Ivy Rose, thirty-three years old and 'massively pregnant,' and her husband, David, are holding a yard sale, hoping to rid themselves of all the 'stuff' that had belonged to the former owner of their house in the town where they grew up. Ivy has had three miscarriages, and now, with only several weeks to go in her pregnancy, she is still somewhat fearful and superstitious. In the midst of the frenzy of the yard sale, a young woman approaches Ivy and tells her that they went to high school together, and doesn't Ivy remember her? The woman, Mindy, has changed so much that Ivy nearly doesn't, but then recalls the girl everyone variously called "the leech," someone who "offered herself up like a human sacrifice. She was weird. . . odd and intense. Needy." And in this respect she apparently hasn't changed much. To make matters even more strange, Mindy tells Ivy that she herself is due to give birth on November 25th, just three weeks hence, and the same date on which Ivy's baby is due to be born.

This uncomfortable re-introduction to a girl she had only slightly known so many years ago takes a horrifying turn, however, when Mindy later seems to have disappeared, and no one appears to have seen her after she went into the house with David, who did recognize Mindy from their high school days and offered to give Mindy a 'tour' of the old place, where Mindy says she played often as a little girl, and where her mother used to work as a cleaning woman. What is more, when the police arrive a few days later, after Mindy has been reported missing, and question everyone they can track down who was at the yard sale, there is no one who can say they saw Mindy again after she entered the house with David, who becomes the chief suspect, although some suspicion falls on Ivy as well.

So begins a tale fraught with psychological suspense, as Ivy begins to distrust David after he is caught in one lie after another. As one character says, "Secrets can be toxic. The truth is rarely as dreadful or as terrifying as what one imagines." And Ivy begins to wonder the extent of the secrets her husband, who she has loved 'unconditionally' since they were seventeen years old, is still keeping. There are several truly terrifying scenes as well as several reminiscent of the old "Gaslight" movie [originally "Angel Street"], itself a masterpiece of psychological suspense. The author brings this tension-filled book to a conclusion that is at once believable and not too neatly tied up, just enough so to be realistic. An exciting, and recommended, read.

Blue Smoke and Murder
Elizabeth Lowell
Avon
c/o Harper Collins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10222
9780060829865 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

St. Kilda Consulting has been described by the author as 'a multinational company whose purpose is to help people when governments can't - or won't - get the job done." In Elizabeth Lowell's books, St. Kilda is hired by the good guys. This novel brings in what might be described as St. Kilda's evil twin, headed by someone referred to only as "Score," the identity of whose client is not revealed.

When Jill Breck, a river guide who describes herself as "a river bum, following the seasons down Western rivers, teaching kayaking and rafting and wilderness survival skills," saves the life of her client's 16-year-old son while running the Colorado River, she earns the deep gratitude of that client. Nothing unusual there, but this client is Joe Faroe, one of the guys who heads up St. Kilda's. So when Jill's life is threatened, she takes Joe up on his offer of 'any time, any where' and asks for his help. That help is provided, among other ways, by assigning Zach Balfour to protect Jill and find out who wants her dead, if, that is, he, she or they cannot otherwise obtain twelve paintings which may - or may not - have been painted by a now-dead painter whose work has become increasingly popular and unbelievably valuable, selling for amounts in seven figures.

Jill's aunt, who had been in possession of the paintings and saw them as Jill's heritage, was burned to death on her ranch in Arizona, the beauty of which is well-drawn in the author's evocative prose. I had been unaware of the influence in that part of the country of the Mormon church, but that, as well as fascinating glimpses of the worlds of art and art fraud, are among the things brought to the attention of the reader so vividly here. As Zach tells Jill, "Art is like everything else. It's worth what someone's willing to pay for it. Period. In order to make people pay more, much more, auctioneers and experts churn out a lot of blue smoke. The painting being flogged doesn't change from once decade to the next. Only the volume and quality of blue smoke varies. And the price of the art . . . In art, context is everything."

I have to admit that the references to "Zack and Jill" gave me pause, but only briefly. The sexual undercurrent present does not diminish the suspense, which builds steadily. Zach describes Jill as "one intriguing woman. Strong without being butch, smart without strutting about it, and determined. The kind of woman who walked next to her man, made homes and babies, and settled the West." A very enjoyable read, and one which is recommended.

Death Walked In
Carolyn Hart
Avon
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060724146 $7.99 800-242-7737 www.harpercollins.com

The newest entry in the popular Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart returns the reader to Broward's Rock, described as the "loveliest of the South Carolina sea islands," and indeed the writer makes the town sound charming as its flora and fauna are lovingly described. The focal point of the action is the historic ante-bellum Franklin House which Annie and Max Darling are refurbishing. As the tale opens, Max is en route to the old house when he receives a call from a frightened-sounding woman seeking his help. Max runs Confidential Commissions, described as an agency devoted to assisting problems in solving problems. Insistent that it is not a detective agency, and having had a particularly nasty experience the last time he heeded a similar cry for help, he instructs his secretary to tell the woman to call the police. When the woman's dead body is discovered by Annie, his wife, shortly afterwards, he is overwhelmed with, as Annie describes it, "a good man's concern that he'd walked by on the other side of the road, leaving a helpless woman in jeopardy."

Though he might not have been able to prevent her death, Annie and Max determine to find the murderer. There seems to be a connection between the murder and the theft of some very valuable coins from the home of the dead woman's employer, the esteemed Grant family, only a few days prior. The convoluted relations between the various family members are exposed as the investigation continues, and another murder occurs. The killer appears to be "a shadowy figure who seemed to be able to move unseen leaving death behind."

The Darlings are as dogged as one might hope in their efforts to uncover the identity of the thief and the murderer [are they one and the same?]. Along the way we again meet two of the series' most delightful characters: Agatha, the elegant black cat who resides in the bookstore Annie owns, Death on Demand, described as the finest mystery bookstore north of Miami, and Dorothy L, the fluffy white cat owned by Max, named after arguably two of the best practitioners of the art of the small-town mystery, in whose footsteps this author wonderfully follows. [In debating which cat is smarter than the other, Max states "Depends on which reader you ask."] A delightful, suspenseful read.

Beat the Reaper
Josh Bazell
Little, Brown & Co.
c/o Hachette, 237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316032223 $24.99 www.HachetteBookGroup.com 800-759-0190

Dr. Peter Brown, ne Pietro Brnwa [pronounced "Browna"], has become a doctor thanks to the Witness Protection Program in which he was placed seven years before the story opens. [His nickname, "Bearclaw," has its own backstory, at which one could never even begin to guess.] The "Reaper" of the title is, of course, death, the moment of which is referred to as ReaperTime. Pietro bears rather unusual tattoos, at least in combination: a snake staff on one shoulder, a Star of David on the other.

The pivotal moment of Pietro's teenage years was when he found his grandparents, who had raised him, brutally murdered in their New Jersey home in an apparent robbery. The author goes into Poetrp's grandparents' own teenage years as the tale has been told to him, as survivors of the Holocaust and the "last truly decent people on earth." He becomes best friends with a young man, nicknamed "Skinflick" [no attempt will here be made to explain that one either], whose father is a prominent man in the mafia, and in his junior year in high school Peter becomes a hit man at his behest. The novel juxtaposes scenes from this period in his life with current scenes, after Pietro becomes "Peter," completes a premed program at Bryn Mawr, receives his MD, and is now a pill-popping intern in Internal Medicine in a NY hospital. [In point of fact, the author is himself a CA medical resident.] When Peter is recognized by a new patient, who fears for his life not by virtue of his quite serious physical condition but from what he fears will be Peter's reaction to being recognized as a mafia killer, and threatens to expose his present whereabouts to the mob, Peter must try to keep him alive despite his survival instincts, much less his proclivities.

"Beat the Reaper" is an action-packed novel, with sporadic scenes of casual and startling violence. And beneath the banter there's a lot of serious stuff going on, some of which stayed with this reader, including things as diverse as aspects of the Holocaust and hospital procedures one never hears about, and which I fervently hoped derived from the author's obviously fertile imagination. It is a fast, very funny, and nerve-tingling read, and is highly recommended. [The author's website is www.beatthereaper.com.]

Gloria Feit
Reviewer


Gorden's Bookshelf

Heat Lightning
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Published by the Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155277 $26.95

John Sandford has a new hardboiled detective series that is just as good as his previous Prey series. Virgil Flowers is a hard-loving, tenacious investigator who, even if he doesn't want to, seems to get into life and death shootouts. In this installment in the Flowers saga, you don't get the deliciously complex detective reasoning of Dark of the Moon. In place, you get more action and a slightly more complex mystery.

Men are being executed and displayed on war memorials with lemons forced into their mouths. The first murder is done in New Ulm, a small town in Virgil Flowers assignment zone. Virgil becomes the lead investigator in a statewide manhunt when the next murder takes place across the state in Stillwater. The first thing Flowers must find out is if these murders are the work of a crazed killer or the mark of a professional assassin with a message. As the killings accelerate, Flowers is run to exhaustion as he is forced to travel from one end of the state to the other following the crimes. The mystery becomes even more complex when Virgil discovers links to the last days of the Vietnam War.

Heat Lightning doesn't have the focused step by step investigation of the first Flower's story. It substitutes in action and a telling jab at the politics of law enforcement today. Heat Lightning is a great action detective tale that is fun to read and has effective commentary about what can happen when politics becomes more important than law enforcement.

Protect and Defend
Vince Flynn
Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416505037 $9.99

Flynn's Mitch Rapp is the CIA's version of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry. Flynn writes an illusion of the world that is close enough to reality that the reader can lose themselves in the fantasy of the violent retribution of the Rapp character. He hits a sweet spot in the human psyche that can only be found in fantasy and wishes.

Israel destroys an Iranian nuclear processing plant. The Iranian president Amatullah calls for blood, not just Israeli but American. He uses an out-of-control Hezbollah terrorist Mukhtar to carry out his plans. CIA director Irene Kennedy is setup by Amatullah and Mitch Rapp has just twenty-four hours to stop a full scale war.

Protect and Defend is the quintessential Dirty Harry verses the terrorists of the world. The action and blood is non-stop. But surprisingly the villains are so villainous that the reader is not repulsed by the action. Revenge can be sweet in fiction and seeing the terrorists terrorized, maimed and killed serves a visceral need in the frustration of average people who see bad things happen and feel no one is doing anything about them. Protect and Defend is not great literature but escapism where escapism is needed. It is a fun read and recommend for the action junkie. Just don't let yourself be deluded into thinking Mitch Rapp or Dirty Harry could actually exist.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
www.paulbunyan.net/users/gsirvio/content.html


Harold's Bookshelf

Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About
Bertrand Cesvet
FT Press
1 Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
9780137145508 $22.99

Whether you call it "word of mouth", "buzz", "trusted voice", or "conversational capital" the ability to get people to talk about your product can be the single biggest factor in the success of your business. You can have the best product, organization, or service available but if people are not aware of it then they will not be using it. And if they were not telling others about it then you are losing a lot of potential revenue. It's that simple. And that is what this book is about…. how people determine what they will talk about, what they will say, and why they will share their experience.

Although it is predominantly a book about understanding why people talk about something it does not have much information on specific techniques. The authors include several examples where people sharing their experience made a tremendous difference in a product as well as explanations of why it worked. The book is very informative and helpful in understanding why things happened but you are still left to sort out how to apply that information to your situation. This will take some creative thinking and application on the part of the reader.

The most critical part of the book is understanding the need to move the way we think from being the provider of a product or service to being the provider of a complete consumer experience. If the experience is positive then people tend to talk about it. If it is just another purchase then you are just another provider among many others.

The Engines of Conversational Capital section was probably the most valuable section for me. I found it particularly interesting and in my opinion it is right on target. Although in many ways it is not new information it is presented well and in a manner that allows an average reader to understand what is going on and how conversational capital has been created in various situations. Conversational Capital is highly recommended for those who want to market their product or service in a manner that creates clients who come to you instead of having to chase them down and convince them of your value.

Quicken Willmaker Plus 2009
Shae Irving, editor
Nolo
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413309027 $69.99

This is one of the most thorough consumer offerings for preparing your own will or basic trust. It includes the software to actually create a will or trust document that will serve the needs of most people. The book includes a discussion of what a will can and cannot do, how a trust helps and when it is not a good idea, how to get wills and trusts to work together for your best interest. But wills and trusts are just aspect of good estate planning and the book discusses the use of a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive as well as providing the forms to create either or both.

Areas covered in detail include how to leave your property to whomever you wish, how to select an executor, and the difference between a living will and a living trust. Additional information not found in a lot of other books includes the problems and pitfalls of domestic partnerships, tenancy ownership, community property, common law marriages and other items that may apply to your situation. The software is very easy to use, installed without any problems and painlessly produced a quality document using a basic interview technique. You simply answer the questions and the program produces the document based on what you want to accomplish. With over five hundred pages it obviously goes over all the more common situations to customize your will or trust to your needs. Quicken Willmaker Plus 2009 is highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand wills and basic trusts and perhaps create their own.

Nonprofit Meetings, Minutes & Records
Attorney Anthony Mancuso
Nolo
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413308921 $39.99

If you are starting a non-profit, are in charge of the paperwork, or have to chair a meeting or any of the other numerous activities then you will appreciate Nonprofit Meetings, Minutes & Records (How to Run Your Nonprofit Corporation So You Don't Run Into Trouble). Written at a very basic level the authors explain not only what needs to be done but why it needs to be done and how to go about it. So many small non-profits don't follow the laws well and when a problem comes up find themselves with multiple legal problems. This book helps prevent most of those most common situations.

If you are looking for a book about various legal aspects of the nonprofit world then this is not the book for you. The niche that this book fills is providing the instructions and paperwork for common tasks that are of a recurring nature. These include things like how to call a meeting so that it meets legal requirements, how to get a board of directors member proxy on a vote, things to consider when writing or amending by-laws, how to find competent legal counsel, and the myriad other day-to-day things of operating a nonprofit.

I have personally been involved with many nonprofits over the years and can say that doing these things the way they should be done right from the beginning is critical. If they are not done right then resolutions can be overturned, officers removed, and individuals sued. Nonprofit Meetings, Minutes & Records (How to Run Your Nonprofit Corporation So You Don't Run Into Trouble) should be the required minimal reading for anyone involved in nonprofit organizations at this level and is well worth the cost of the book just to have the forms in one convenient place and ready to use.

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus
Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg
Zondervan Publishing
5300 Patterson SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310284222 $21.99

For a deeper understanding of the teachings of Jesus it is important to understand the culture, political, and ethnic context of the area where he lived and taught. That is the primary purpose of this book, to bring to modern Christians an understanding of the world as Jesus experienced it and how that knowledge can deepen your understanding of Jesus' ministry.

The authors do an excellent job of teaching the reader how the people of the time would have understood Jesus' teachings. Whether they are discussing the daily life, training, feasts, clothing or any number of other factors they explain the significance of each, why it was important, how it affected the perception of the people and how it applies to us today when correctly understood in their context.

This is a very interesting book and required reading for those who want to increase their understanding of the culture of the people of Christ's time. "Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus" is highly recommended.

Beginning OpenOffice 3
Andy Channelle
Apress
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 219, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781430215905 $39.99

Beginning OpenOffice 3 walks the reader through using the most common features of OpenOffice, arguably one of the most powerful and complete office suite available. And best of all, it is free! Many companies and individuals are discovering it for the first time as they deal with the need to exchange files with others who are using the newest version of Microsoft Office. Given the choice of upgrading all their systems to the newest version or simply downloading OpenOffice 3, many are examining it as a viable option. OpenOffice 3 can open and edit files created with the newest version of Word and save them in a format the Microsoft Office can open and use.

This brings us to the purpose of this book. How do you find out how to use the features to achieve the results you want? One of the best things about this book is the approach the author uses. The entire book is project oriented so you learn by creating projects and solving problems in a real world scenario. The book covers all the different software components - word processing, spreadsheet, database, illustration, and presentation software. The author does an excellent job of focusing on and detailing the most common needs of a typical office. You can literally start from no knowledge of office suite software at all and learn how to become a proficient user in relatively short order.

The chapter on the word processing module starts from the very basics of opening a file or creating a new one. From there the author leads the reader through formatting, creating and using templates, paragraph styles and other common needs. Then he moves the reader through creating a newsletter, inserting graphics, word wrap, changing styles in a page and other advanced topics. This section ends with understanding how to automatically create footnotes, endnotes, table of contents and style sheets.

The section on the spreadsheet module covers creating a spreadsheet, adding formulas, linking formulas to other cells, and multiple other common tasks. In addition it covers creating charts and graphs and making them easy to understand. The chapters on the presentation and illustration programs are much shorter but the programs are much less complex by design. Presentation software needs to be able to create a slide show, change slides on a predetermined time scale, and add bulleted points and other basic actions needed to provide a solid presentation. The illustration module also is designed to create or edit items for inclusion in newsletters or other publishing needs. It is basically somewhat more powerful than paint but much less than Adobe or similar illustration packages.

The database module is covered well with enough detail to learn how to use it but not so much as to get the reader lost in multiple foreign key linking and the like. The author does a very good job of explaining the use of multiple tables and linking them for efficient database creation. He also covers the creation of input forms, queries, and reports and other functional requirements of database management.

Once you have a basic understanding of the different modules the second section of the book involves putting them all together to share content by building a web page with a database, ability to input information over the web and create queries and reports via the web browser.

The writing is concise while still being detailed enough to provide highly functional information. Using it I was able to create a complete web based database for the processing of financial information for grant requests for a local foundation. Granted I already had an extensive understanding of most of these areas but it was quick and easy to build it based on information supplied in the book.

Beginning OpenOffice 3 is highly recommended to anyone interested in learning how to use this powerful office suite.

Harold McFarland
Reviewer


Harwood's Bookshelf

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
Eckhart Tolle
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St, NY 10014
0525948023 $24.95

George W. Bush is living proof that a functioning human brain is not necessary in order to become President of the United States. And Oprah Winfrey is living proof that a functioning human brain is not necessary in order to become a billionaire. Until recently Winfrey's most obscene crime against the American people was her invention of the fatuous buffoon Dr Phil. Now she has topped even that atrocity. Her endorsement of Eckhart Tolle is the ultimate proof that America needs Oprah like a bull need tits.

Fundamentalist Christians have condemned A New Earth on the ground that it contradicts what is in their sectarian bible. Guess what? It also contradicts what is in Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows. But for some reason no five-year-olds have seen fit to criticize it for contradicting their fantasy novels. Also, no spokesman for tolerant Christian sects has criticized it for declaring that all religions are equally valid guides to righteousness and salvation (the latter a strictly religious concept with no parallel in the real world). The denunciations come from hatemongers of the Christian Taliban who believe that all persons outside of their cult are going to be tortured with flamethrowers for eternity in an underworld Auschwitz that can only be described as a sadist's wet dream. In contrast, rationalists who recognize Tolle as what the British politely call a wanker have taken the position that acknowledging his existence would grant him an unwarranted dignity.

So why am I reviewing his masturbation fantasy? The answer is that his sales figures, thanks primarily to Oprah, have made him a significant source of disinformation to the mindless masses who lack the education to recognize his drivel for what it is. Someone has to warn them, and I hereby volunteer.

Consider the following gem of wisdom (p. 115-116): "The ego loves its resentment of reality. What is reality? Whatever is. Buddha called it tatata - the suchness of life, which is no more than the suchness of this moment. Opposition toward that suchness is one of the main features of the ego. It creates the negativity that the ego thrives on, the unhappiness that it loves. In this way, you make yourself and others suffer and don't even know that you are doing it."

Now consider the following: "Behaviorally stated objectives, in contradistinction to behaviorism, include only those things that contribute to the development of human beings who are articulate, who use language wisely and with feeling, who appreciate the linguistic and literary efforts of others, and for whom life will be better because of their awareness of the potential for good or evil of their mother tongue."

Which of those paragraphs is more profound, logical, and informative than the other? That might be a difficult question for a professor of education, a professor of theology, a practitioner of "How did that make you feel?" psychobabble, or Oprah Winfrey and the consumers of her daily mind pablum. To anyone with a functioning human brain, the status of both as meaningless drivel should be self-evident.

The second quotation was the opening of an essay I wrote for a professor of education.(1) Since he was well aware that I regarded him as a brain amputee, he gave me a punitive mark of C in the hope that I could be intimidated into taking him seriously. He clearly failed to recognize that I had set out to prove that he was the poster boy for a Faculty of Incompetence by writing nonsense that only a Professor of Incompetence could fail to recognize as a hoax.

And that raises the question of why Eckhart Tolle wrote an analogous piece of meaningless drivel. Since his address listed on the dust jacket was not Bellevue or some other funny farm, I have to assume that he did not believe his randomly distributed words actually said something. The Ockham's razor explanation therefore is that he intentionally wrote fatuous platitudes in full awareness that, as H. L. Mencken observed, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Certainly he did not underestimate the intelligence of Oprah Winfrey. He expected her to mistake his hoax for profound wisdom, and she did not disappoint him.

The quoted paragraph from Tolle's book was not more appropriate for my purpose than any other. Any randomly chosen paragraph from his 330 pages could have been used to make the same point. Like L. Ron Hubbard, Tolle recognized what the truly stupid would swallow, and targeted them accordingly. A New Earth should have been named Brain Fricasseeing for Dummies.

Angels and Demons
Dan Brown
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
0743486226 $16.00

Dan Brown is quite adequate as hack writers go, falling somewhere below Harold Robbins but above Ian Fleming. He owes a great debt to Vatican paranoia, since without the enormous free publicity the organized crime syndicate known as the Catholic Church gave him, his books would have gone nowhere. Unlike the Left Behind books that carried the practice of pandering to ignorance to hitherto unimagined dimensions, Brown at least tried to get his facts right. Unfortunately his lack of even an undergraduate degree in any scientific discipline involving documentary or evidential analysis prevented him from recognizing the difference between logical extrapolation and undisciplined speculation.

Nonetheless, Brown's ability to tell a coherent, suspenseful story kept me reading, despite periodical shudders at his inability to recognize the difference between religious propaganda and facts of history. His intended market, being as brainwashed by the prostitute media as Brown himself, could not be expected to recognize throwaway delusions that did not detract from the continuity of his narrative. Among notable inaccuracies are the following:

Brown's delusion: There are one billion Catholics.

Reality: There are barely one billion Christians, only 60 percent of them Catholic.

Delusion: The disciple Peter was crucified in Rome.

Reality: Peter never visited Rome in his life, and died either in Babylon or Jerusalem.

Delusion: The Arabic Shaitan was the source of the English word Satan.

Reality: Satan is a Hebrew word in common usage long before Mohammad and Ali invented their Shaitanic religion.

Delusion: Modern Satanism evolved from the religion of the Shia Assassins.

Reality: Satanism, as a thorough investigation by the FBI has established, does not exist - and never has existed. (Would anybody ally himself with the guaranteed losing side?) Satanism is a delusion propagated by fundamentalists and gullible evangelicals.

Delusion: "SCIENCE AND RELIGION ARE NOT AT ODDS" (p. 70).

Reality: No element of religion is compatible with present-day knowledge.

Delusion: The Vatican archives contain "even unpublished books of the Holy Bible" (p. 177).

Reality: "Holy Bible" is an eye-of-the-beholder concept. Many books regarded as biblical in the early Christian era were rejected when the official canon was compiled. That the Vatican contains specific rejected books that survive nowhere else is not implausible, but Brown's wording regarding such books is further evidence of his gullible ignorance.

Delusion: "Christ" (p. 298).

Reality: While some scholars disagree, "Jesus" was probably a real person. Calling him "Christ" is an affirmation that he was the fairy tale character he imagined himself to be. A character in a novel may legitimately call Jesus "Christ." An omniscient narrator may not.

Allegation: "Papal autopsies are prohibited by Vatican Law" (p. 324).

Reality: I strongly suspect that Brown is guessing. When the Vatican ignored the front-page demand by Italy's newspapers to autopsy Pope John Paul I, to put an end to rumors of foul play, world reaction was that Vatican stubbornness, probably based on fear of proving that the death was suicide, was behind the refusal. It seems incredible that, if such a law existed, neither the Vatican nor the media would have mentioned it.(1)

Delusion: "It's a seraphim" (p. 338).

Reality: Judaism's seven planetary gods were seraphim (plural). The singular was seraph.

Delusion: "Nero's fire" (p. 363).

Reality: Long after Nero's death and vilification, Tacitus was satisfied that the fire had been set by the "notoriously depraved Christians" whom Nero executed. He did state that alternate theories, that the fire was an accident, or that it had been lit at Nero's orders, "each had its supporters."

Delusion: "Upon this rock I will build my church? They were the words spoken by Jesus when he chose Peter as his first apostle" (p. 480).

Reality: Siricius, one of five co-equal regional popes, created the papacy in 384 CE by unilaterally declaring the popes of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria his subordinates. The quoted passage was interpolated into Matthew (16:18) during Siricius's reign to legitimize his usurpation with the Big Lie that the papacy had been instituted by Jesus.

But while Brown's factual errors discomforted me, I have no problem with his un-falsifiable speculations about historical events, since such speculations were necessary for the furtherance of his story. And his inclusion of the science fiction concept of antimatter created and stored in a lab likewise violated no accepted norms of speculative fiction (although the suggestion that educated persons had never heard of antimatter was naive, to say the least). Without such "what if?" concepts there could have been no story, just as the absence of "what if?" concepts would have meant that there could have been no Star Trek. And that would be intolerable.

But while Brown gullibly accepts propaganda of a non-theological nature, he is, despite calling himself a Christian on his website (danbrown.com), no believer in religious fairy tales. After referring to Christianity's annexation of the sun-god's birthday as Jesus' birthday, the sun's corona as the Christian halo, Aztec god-eating as the Christian Eucharist, Quetzalcoatl's self-sacrifice to atone for the sins of his people as Jesus' similar self-sacrifice, and the image of Zeus with his long white beard as the image of Christianity's Big Daddy, his investigator Langdon explains (p. 243), "Conquering religions … often adopt existing holidays to make conversion less shocking…. It helps people acclimatize to the new faith…. They simply substitute a different god."

Probably it was not Brown's unprovable speculations, some of them objectively falsifiable,(2) that aroused the Vatican's ire. More likely it was the information that he got right, primarily that Christianity is an amalgam of 5,000-year-old myths with only the names of the gods changed to protect the dog-collared parasites who fleece the ignoranti. I sometimes suspect that, every time Vatican theofascists attempt to rewrite history, they actually believe their own lies.

The sad ending was that the theofascist slave state that reached the peak of its power when its secular Grand Inquisitor was a German named Adolf Something was not nuked from the face of the earth. But since the story is set in the present rather than a speculated future, turning Vatican City into a hole in the ground was not one of the author's options.(3)

The denouement skillfully wraps up all loose ends and eliminates any lingering suspicion that Brown was willing to attribute an event of vanishingly small probability to divine intervention. But having his ultimate bad guy see the creation of a mini-big-bang in a laboratory, replicating Genesis's something-from-nothing myth, as proof of the existence of God rather than further proof that the God hypothesis is unnecessary: Credibility Gap!

Let me elaborate on my earlier conclusion. After finishing the book, I still rate Brown below Harold Robbins, but far, far above Ian Fleming.

1 see In God's Name: An Investigation of the Murder of John Paul I, by David Yallop. Yallop presents a convincing case that the Vatican covered up the real cause of John Paul's death, possibly including covering up the result of an autopsy. He identified six individuals who had a motive for arranging the pope's murder. But his determination, despite his failure to find a smoking gun, to conclude that the cause of death was murder, prevented him from recognizing that suicide would also have triggered a cover-up.

2 The Da Vinci Code was dependent for its plausibility on the pretence that Jesus had descendants who outlived him. But in or about 107 CE, leadership of Jesus' dynastic cult, the Nazirites, passed to persons who were not his blood relatives. That could not have happened if he had any living descendants.

3 For all its bluster, the Vatican could only express its displeasure verbally. It did not put a fatwa on Brown or otherwise arrange to cause him physical harm. Try to imagine the consequences if, instead of four cardinals and the Vatican, the target of Brown's anti-tyranny fanatics had been four imams and Mecca.

Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science
Robert L. Park
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
9780691133553 $24.95

If any book could convince me that the writer must have been paid by the word, it is Robert Park's Superstition. Park's avowed purpose was to spell out the prevalence of contrary-to-fact beliefs and the evidence falsifying them. After three whole chapters of anecdotal material that had little if any relevance to that purpose, he finally got around to offering some meaningful evidence on page 78.

Despite being a nontheist, Park offers no evidence against the validity of religion per se. As a physicist rather than a historian or logician, offering arguments outside of his field of expertise would have been reckless, as he is apparently aware. The only element of religion he finally gets around to debunking is the efficacy of prayer.

On March 30, 2006, the result was published of the American Heart Journal's study of the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer. Park reports (p. 78) that, "The conclusion of the study was that prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people undergoing heart surgery. It will probably be the last major study of the power of intercessory prayer…. There was no difference in the recovery of those who were prayed for and those who were not."

Park touches on such issues as the soul, afterlife, reincarnation, past-life regression, alternative medicine, the oxymoron of a benevolent god who murdered 2,000 people with a tsunami, and the placebo effect. Yet despite getting everything right he says nothing useful that can be used to educate the masses out of their belief in nonsense. Since he already has a Ph.D., why he would bother writing a long undergraduate essay is incomprehensible. Perhaps he was trying to write an autobiography and this is what came out?

NOT recommended.

Biblical Revisions and Para-Biblical Visions
Mordecai Roshwald
World Audience Publishers
303 Park Ave South, Suite 1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781935444008 $20.00

Mordecai Roshwald's Biblical Revelations has much in common with my The Beloved Disciple. Each is a product of the author's imagination passed off as a transcription of a newly acquired source. I began The Beloved Disciple with a Preface that offered a fictitious origin of the book's content, followed by the text, and ended with an Afterword explaining that I had in fact made it up. Roshwald begins with an acknowledgment that his parody is his own creation. If he had followed my pattern, reaction to his opening verse, "In the beginning man created God," might have ranged from outrage to, "Who does he think he is kidding?" By pulling the rug out from under his scam before he even began, he instead is more likely to evoke the reaction, "Ho hum."

Roshwald writes (p. 11), "The basic idea of viewing God as being created by man, instead of the obvious inverse relationship, may be considered as sacrilegious, paradoxical, or modern, or perhaps as combining all these characteristics." That explanation of Roshwald's motives might have carried a lot of weight - at the end of the book. Up front, they defeat his whole purpose.

The same criticism applies to his Latter-Day Sermon of Jesus (pp. 165-168). The chapter opening might have hit Christians where they live - if they first read it as an allegedly newly discovered document. Consider:

"I am speaking to you, which call yourselves Christians and feign to follow my teaching. Ye have done it for many ages - some in the innocence of your souls, others in the wickedness of your hearts. I am speaking to the sheep which have gone astray, but foremost I am lifting my voice unto the evil shepherds which have led the sheep into desolate pastures."

The recognition, "Yes, that is something Jesus might have said," would not have been obliterated by learning at the back of the book that the words are Roshwald's invention. Instead, such a possibility will be given no consideration whatsoever.

For all the effort Roshwald put into his parody bible, he wasted some obvious opportunities. For example, he quotes an alleged alternative version of Samuel, "When the spirit of sadness was upon Saul, David took a harp and played and the cloud of despair lifted from Saul's brow." Compare that with an actual translation of 1 Samuel 16:22-23 (The Fully Translated Bible, Booksurge, 2007), "Whenever the disposition the gods had inflicted overwhelmed Saul, David strummed a lyre and entertained him with his hand, so that Saul was relieved and refreshed and the mean disposition departed from him." Since Dr Roshwald's qualifications rule out the possibility that he is unaware that David progressed from Saul's boy toy to the lover of Saul's son, I can only wonder if he suppressed that information intentionally.

The same applies to the passage (p. 31), "Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul." The FTB translation reads, "Yahuwnathan and David contracted together, for he loved him as his own breath" (18:3). "Yahuwnathan, Shauwl's son, was utterly enraptured by David" (19:2). "They kissed each other and wept with each other until David ejaculated" (20:41).

Similarly, Roshwald reports (p. 33) that David "cut off the skirt of Saul's robe." Again, I am unwilling to accuse Roshwald of not knowing that "cut off his skirt" was a common Hebrew euphemism for "tupped his wife." If he was going to write a parody that would anger Christians anyway, why not expose what the bible passages really meant?

Roshwald's alternative account of Jesus' birth (p. 103) ignores the virgin birth. Was it omitted because Roshwald, not being braindead, knows that no such event ever happened? Or was it because he is aware that the virgin birth passages were very late interpolations that were not part of the original Matthew or Luke? Either way, he could surely have found a way to insert that information into his pretend gospel. Why undertake such a project in the first place if educating believers was not a priority?

Biblical Revisions is extremely well written, and the author's competence to question Christian mythology comes through loud and clear. Despite that, any good he might have achieved was destroyed by his failure to imply that his book consisted of genuine translations of genuine documents, and only after the reader had reacted to the text, then admit that it was a product of his imagination.

I Am Hutterite
Mary-Ann Kirkby
Polka Dot Press
2117 6th Ave West, Prince Albert, SK, S6V 5K7, Canada
9780978340513 CAN $21.95

Mary-Ann Kirkby is living proof that you can take the Hutterite out of the nineteenth century, but you can't take the nineteenth century out of the Hutterite. Forty years after her parents rescued her from a mind-slavery cult that is a cross between a Soviet collective farm and a concentration camp, she still has not outgrown the slave mentality into which she was brainwashed in her first ten years, and accuses persons who recognize the Hutterite perversion as sick, sick, sick, of "harsh and misinformed opinions" (p. 193).

Like all Anabaptist cults, Hutterites are communists, and are not permitted to own even a private bank account. But while the gods of such Anabaptists as the Amish are slow learners who still believe that the most advanced form of transportation is the horse and cart, Hutterites are allowed to drive - but not own - automobiles. But long after even Catholic nuns have adopted modern clothing, Hutterites continue to wear costumes that scream, "I'm a refugee from a funny farm." Not only does Kirkby see nothing wrong with that. She looks back on her time in one of her cult's prison farms as the good old days. And despite forty years of living in the real world, she still maintains, in the present tense, "I am Hutterite."

Anyone who wonders what kind of a mindset could make breeding slaves of pseudo-Mormon polygamy communes, or Muslim women who wear full-body tents, defend their "right" to be treated as property, should read this book. It demonstrates in spades that even escapees from nineteenth-century mind-prisons are still Manchurian Candidates.

Available only from the publisher. Even Amazon will not touch this dreck.

William Harwood
Reviewer


Hassler's Bookshelf

River Beds
Gail Langer Karwoski, author
Connie McLennan, illustrator
Sylvan Dell Publishing
976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Suite 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9780977742349 $16.95, www.sylvandellpublishing.com

Grab your imagination, a coat and a paddle and travel to the ten major rivers of the world in River Beds! Youngsters will delight as they learn about the restful sleeping habits of the mammals native to these ten rivers. Children will enjoy an imaginary boat ride down each river as they discover how different animals get ready for bedtime. Stunning and realistic pictures by illustrator, Connie McLennan, engage readers with extraordinary details of what different mammals look like in their peaceful and private habitats. Author, Gail Langer Karwoski has magically transformed science and research information into soothing storybook text that glides across each page. River Beds is a restful and peaceful adventure that will leave audiences searching for their favorite sleeping den. Educational activities compliment this storybook with a "For Creative Minds" section and "River Map Activity" for geography lessons. Children and adults will enjoy honing their map reading skills when they are asked to locate mammals and rivers on the colorful maps included. Readers will burrow under their covers with River Beds as they curl up on soft pillows to enjoy this creative and educational storybook.

Little Skink's Tail
Janet Halfmann, author
Laurie Allen Klein, illustrator
Sylvan Dell Publishing
976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Suite 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
9780976882381 $15.95 www.sylvandellpublishing.com

Little Skink eludes danger from a hungry crow and makes a narrow escape with the snap of her tail in this entertaining picture book. Happy to be alive, this little lizard is sad without her blue tail until she decides to find a new one. Readers will love walking through the woods with Little Skink as she hunts for a new tail. In Little Skink's Tail, children will eagerly want to imagine trying on different animal tails with Little Skink as they help her find the perfect tail-replacement! Author, Janet Halfmann's lively text, and Illustrator, Laurie Allen Klein's rich and realistic pictures bring this story to life. Imaginative and educational, children and adults will enjoy the "Creative Minds" section where they can learn about animal footprints and why animals have tails. Readers of all ages will enjoy Little Skink's Tail and the lessons of why animals need their tails and how much they rely on them to survive.

Sara Hassler
Reviewer


Henry's Bookshelf

Famous Interiors - The Originals
Holland Vandertol and Cornelia van Gelder
Terra Lannoo Publishers
Netherlands
9789058979865 $65.00

The noted Dutch photographer Holland Vandertol displays interiors of residences of 14 prominent individuals in this "anthology of personal interiors." These individuals are termed "The Originals" because of their accomplishments in various fields; which accomplishments have given them the wealth, the experience, and the taste for designing imaginative, distinctive interiors mostly on their own.

The interiors are not meant to be showcases. The interiors were selected by Vandertol because their designers "do not participate in the servile pursuit of fashion crazes; they follow their own tastes." The interiors developed over time from an original concept, making them "'richer', as more and more layers of significance are added, featuring acquisitions that embody memories and narratives." The Originals rarely discard furnishings or objects. In such development, furnishings and objects are added in keeping with the original concept. If something is removed, it is stored on the possibility it will be put back in some day.

Except for the actor Dennis Hopper, most of the individuals are not well-known outside of their fields. Hopper's residence featured is in Venice Beach, CA. James Drake is an American interior designer who has done work for Madonna and Mayor Bloomberg. Peter van Hattum and Harold Simmons owning a house in the Hamptons are respectively a former musical star and architect. About half of the individuals have residences in the U. S.; although some were born in other countries. The other half live in Italy, Germany, South Africa, Indonesia, and the Netherlands. Locations aren't important however. The style is broadly international--eclectic international making use of high-quality materials, worldclass art (e. g., Chuck Close, Jeff Koons), luxurious though approachable fabrics, seductive or exotic and sometimes quirky shapes, use of color, and aesthetic or functional arrangements. Vandertol captures all of this in his photographs.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Landmarks, Legacies, Expectations
James Kwesi Anquandah, editor
Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and Michel R. Doortmont, assistant editors
Sub-Saharan Publishers
Ghana
9789988647735 $54.95

The proceedings of the International Conference on Historic Slave Route Held at Accra, Ghana on 30 August-2 September, 2004 are now available to all with the publication of this book. The proceedings are reproduced in full from opening remarks by an academic and government official from Ghana thru a closing statement by this book's editor followed by a closing declaration. Book publication of proceedings like this one is ordinarily limited to printing of the papers given at it. Opening and closing remarks--usually little more than formalities of greeting and closure--and other remarks outside the papers such as welcome address and keynote address found here are seen as and ordinarily are extraneous. With this Conference however, such remarks are welcome in that they not only relate the context for the papers, but offer some material on its content. The positions and backgrounds of the speakers of this material outside the papers are also of interest in illustrating the worldwide and varied interest in the subject. One such speaker making a statement is Madam Elizabeth Moundo, Resident Director of the UNESCO offices in Accra, Ghana.

There are 23 papers connected to varying degrees on what is often referred to as the "slave route." The term is used loosely to prompt and embrace a considerable breadth of topics; but all in general are rooted in or tend toward material aspects of African slavery. Historical perspectives, for instance, are based on or involve economic topics down to particular export and import items; as in the paper "Changing Commodity Composition of Imports into West Africa, 1650-1850" following both statistically and narratively the interrelation of the market in slaves and in other goods. Other papers add considerably more substance to topics which often receive little more than mention; as in the paper "African Resistance to the transatlantic Slave Trade" which tells how certain tribes and villages had a organized defense system including early warning, hiding in caves with provisions to last for many days and weapons including poison arrows. "African Resistance to Slavers and Myths for Diaspora Unity" is a paper expanding even more on this topic of resistance.

Life in particular villages and areas of Africa during the roughly two centuries of the slave trade amplify this facet of this large subject and still evolving subject found in historic tribal and individual documents and latter-day memoirs and novels. To get the broader picture on the slave trade, the area covered moves much beyond the coastal European and African towns that were slave embarkation points and the peripheries of these to inland areas. For instance, the topography of the savanna is referred to in a paper of how the destruction of indigenous African markets went hand in hand with the growth of slave trade. This and numerous other such unexpected references give depth of the general topic of the slave route by treating mostly its material aspects. All the essays deal with African topics except two which look into legacies of the slave trade in Brazil and Surinam.

Spanning two centuries--roughly 1650 to 1850--and the continents of Europe and North and South America while focusing on Africa, the essays hold something new for any interested reader. Falling outside of the conventional American academic framework while nonetheless mirroring it in defining subjects, presenting research, and pursuing lines of inquiry, the essays open up new dimensions in the evolving topic of the African slave trade.

Kurosawa's Dog
Dennis Hinrichsen
Oberlin College Press
Oberlin, OH
9780932440347 $15.95

In Hinrichsen's fifth collection of poems, he relates the soul drifting among different layers of being; "As if at any moment two good fabrics [different kinds of cloths hanging on a clothesline in the breeze]/might lie one above the other/in a shimmering array/or sunlight and color and consciousness...." [from Amish Linen] Though in The Sound-of-One-Hand-Clapping Shouting, the poet can mention Buddha, Jesus, God, Christ, and Mohammed (and Whitman), the concept and the effects are essentially Buddhist. The soul--the poet--is not torn between the different, various layers of being; there is no agony or confusion. Nor is there any sense of loss or incompleteness. Nor are the impressions or imagery dreamlike, as in surrealism. As in Buddhism, the state is one of awareness heightened so as to sense and notice the various layers one is amid blended with a passivity infused by the joy of being open (like Buddha or Whitman) to the bounty of other presences.

In On Purgatorio I, Hinrichsen notices, "tiny windows in the fields. And sometimes it [mercy] simply hovered in the seven times twenty panes of glass." His observance of dabs of sunlight in a field is the source of his meditation on "utter selflessness--one thing passing into another across the distance..." which leads to "the frank, religious sense of cleansing, nursing." The broken lines and irregular spacing of phrases in many of the poems connote the heightened, widened awareness inspiring the poems.

Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru
Margaret A. Jackson
U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826343659 $45.00 800-249-7737 unmpress.com

"The Moche of the North Coast of Peru (ca. A.D. 100-800) provide an excellent example of an ancient American culture that developed an elaborate, systematized pictorial code." Jackson, a fellow associated with Stanford University, uses the latest research, methodological tools, and ideas in pre-Columbian pictography to extensively explore this "example" of the fascinating type of pictorial language. While not going so far as to proffer new or revolutionary perspectives, the book records and pictures a wealth of recent archaeological finds. With this, Jackson also explains and analyzes details of these and relates such details to aspects of the Moche culture. The work is thus a fresh look at this major, highly-developed pre-Columbian South American culture.

The Moche preceded both the Incas of mountainous Peru and the Aztecs of Central America. Jackson's study is so broad and intricate that it implicitly presents a picture of the major native civilizations of Central and South America. The Moche did not exert influence on these later civilizations from conquest or expansion. Rather, the Moche represent one of the earliest highly-developed pictorial languages related to the particular type of native cultures that grew in the southern Americas. That similarities among these cultures, some quite distant from one another and separated by centuries, are not explained by conquest or expansion or migration opens up intriguing questions about roots, attributes, circumstances, and histories of the different civilizations.

The archaeological finds are mostly ceramics. The author concentrates on these while at times referring to other artifacts. The complex pictures of the ceramics are not decorative (as with Greek vases for the most part even though many of the pictures represent mythical figures), but is instead a means of communication. The Moche "ritual-use ceramics [along with] monumental arts, in the form of imposing architecture [e. g., pyramids] with oversized murals and friezes...played critical parts in the society's communicative strategy." One evidence of the integral relationship between the Moche pictorial language and the culture is changes the language underwent as the culture underwent fundamental changes for unknown reasons. The identification between the language and the culture ebbed away as the pictorializations became "increasingly repetitive, geometric, and abstract" as Moche culture moved into what is known as its Chimu phase about 800AD.

Jackson's absorbing and rewarding study gives a good foundation in Native American studies which carries beyond its particular topic. While the material is scholarly, meticulous, and scientific in parts, the related more anthropological and occasional sociological-like material meet the interests of general readers.

Atlas of Early Michigan's Forests, Grasslands, and Wetlands - An Interpretation of the 1816-1856 General Land Office Surveys
Dennis A. Albert and Patrick J. Comer, Cartography by Helen Enander
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138317 $29.95 www.msupress.msu.edu

"A major purpose of this atlas is to provide current Michigan residents with a sense of place--as sense of the landscape in which they now live. Since this "landscape...is increasingly isolated from its ecological history," this sense of place related to its appearance is waning. The authors help to make up for this, however, by citing surviving areas in Michigan where residents can go to see what the landscape of their locale looked like before it was depleted by development.

These areas of surviving landscape are cited in a section coming before the maps. One would read the map having the place where one lived--or any other place in Michigan one was curious about; find what the landscape was like using the legend on the front or back gatefold (i. e., jacket flap; and then look at the pictures and read the descriptive text in the section. The legend having thirty different colors recognizes as many types of landscape or mixed types within the broader headings of water or wetlands and under uplands, open, woodland or savanna, and forest. Landscapes damaged by fire, beaver flooding, or windthrow are also recognized.

The 103 maps of parts of Michigan are modern-day maps with major highways, many secondary roads, cities and towns noted. The "early Michigan" landscape superimposed on these, so to speak, is from General Land Offices surveys done between 1816 and 1856 by the U.S. government in anticipation of land sales and settlement. Full-page in this folio-size atlas, the maps are quite detailed. They could be use to travel throughout Michigan though their purpose is representation of the early Michigan landscape (meaning types of vegetation for the most part).

Secondary uses for the atlas, in the hope of the authors, are as a "tool for conservationists" and aid to historians in answering questions about settlement patterns. Regarding this latter interest for example, the General Land Office surveys likely account for the slow growth of the city if Detroit to the south. For they describe this land "as a broad and uninviting patchwork of swamps and wet prairies." What roads there were were impassable for parts of the year, and mosquitoes were rife in the swamplands.

This well-done, smartly and economically organized, atlas is a model for ones that should be done for any state where 19th-century or any early-date surveys of landscape and vegetation are available. It is useful and interesting in a range of ways; and it documents much historical environment material from different sources.

An Everglades Providence - Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century
Jack E. Davis
U. of Georgia Press
Athens, GA
9780820330716 $34.95 www.ugapress.org

The year 1947 turned out to be a midpoint in the environmental activism of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, not the culmination some expected. In this year, President Truman dedicated the Everglades National Park. Stoneman's environmental classic The Everglades: River of Grass was also published. But as anyone living today knows, the Everglades was not preserved for all time. In 1947, Douglas still had 50 years of life ahead of her. She died in 1998 at the age of 108. During the second half of her life, she continued to work tirelessly to build on her earlier, partial successes in preserving the Everglades and playing a lead in environmentalism.

Though not as well-known or celebrated as John Muir or Rachel Carson even by environmentalists, Douglas was a central figure in reformulating the public's perspective on the environment as she focused particularly on the preservation of the Everglades. "More than any other single writer or activist, [she] embodied the American environmental century--that period from the closing of the frontier to the end of the twentieth century during which environmental concerns rose to the fore in American politics and society." (from the Foreword by Paul S. Sutter)

Davis's voluminous biography takes in the full scope of Douglas's life from shaky marriage, noted author of stories and novels, prominent forebears and influence of her father who was cofounder of the Miami Herald, and feminist leader, to the environmental activism and projects she was involved in, especially the recognition of the place of the Everglades in Florida's and the U.S.'s environmental heritage and its preservation for which she is most remembered. At appropriate spots in the straightforward chronological biography, Davis goes into the legal problems of the man Douglas was briefly married to, her work on the homefront in World War II, the path of her literary career, and specifics of environmental legislation. The author also relates scientific information as appropriate for readers to understand these topics and concomitantly appreciate Douglas's knowledge of environmentalism and her activist approach focusing on issues and pressing for their resolution.

In this first biography on this pioneering environmentalist--which for most readers will be an introductory biography--Davis, as was his aim, gets in all the biographical material as gleaned from references in notes running more than 125 pages. As all this in a lifespan of over 100 years is presented on the same par, as more or less indiscriminate, unevaluated information, there is little perspective or drama. The tactics of the Florida developer Broward, Douglas's work on legislation in Washington, critical points in saving the Everglades, Douglas's feminist activism, and the many other subjects are treated mostly as varied aspects of her life and work. Despite Davis's diffident, though highly informed stance as author, Douglas's unique achievements shine through.

CUBA - Singing with Bright Tears
Virginia Beahan, photographs
With essays by John Lee Anderson and Pico Iyer
Pond Press
Brooklyn, NY
9780976195559 $50.00 www.pondpress.com

Beahan's photographs capture the sense and the appearance of emptiness in Cuba. As the noted travel essayist Pico Iyer sees it, "The real seduction of Cuba...lies precisely in that kind of impromptu makeshift quality, and in the fact that it feels so deserted: the whole island has the ramshackle glamour of an abandoned stage set." This is not to say there isn't some color, some vitality, some distinctiveness. But as Iyer suggests and Beahan's photographs convey, this is all surface. There's no depth, no momentum. Even the murals and pictures of important and noted public figures in Cuba's history and culture such as Castro seem hollow and vaguely forlorn, as if wanly hoping someone would look at them.

Most of Beahan's photographs do not have people in them. But they're not nature photographs. For reminders of people are strewn throughout them and in some photos, are the subject. The photograph Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) of a rocky shore and haze-filled seascape has at its right side a walkway and ladder dropping into the water. A rooftop pigeon coop has a drawing of a bird on the large circular water container and a tilted large woven basket--links to an unpictured person's hobby of raising pigeons. The several photos of billboards have slogans and other writings, but no one reading them.

The photographs are highly skilled. They have to be to fix such poise of emptiness. The skill is not only rooted in Beahan's eye. If it were, her photographs would amount to little more than symbolism (as instructive and worthy as this can be). More germane to the exceptional quality of the photographs is Beahan's artful though understated sense of composition. In realistic photos such as these, this can be unrealized by the viewer. This sense is not related only or even primarily to what is within the frame overall, but reaches to specific colors and forms within the general content. Beahan's photo "Tourist cabins at Playa Giron, 2004," for instance, with its flat-roofed, rectangular lighter blue cabins against a slate sky and facing out on an empty yard and a leafless tree could be a modernist-type art photograph with its contrasts of colors and forms. Facing photographs with the single title "North coast, Gibara, 2007" looking out to sea at dusk with deep blue colors could be taken as somewhat experimental and abstract for the amorphous rock formations in the foreground and the luminosity throughout the photo. Such effects come only from advanced skill in development.

Beahan clearly did not simply gambol around Cuba clicking her camera on everything that caught her fancy. Combining knowledge of subject directing her what to keep her eyes open for, sensibility, and technical skill, one sees photographs that hold Cuba's state of suspension in the final years of Castro's rule while also displaying high accomplishment sheerly as photography.

The Boomer's Guide to Lightweight Backpacking - New Gear for Old People
Carol Corbridge
Frank Amato Publications
Portland, OR
9781571884428 $18.95 www.amatobooks.com

Corbridge's manual is aimed at persons aged, say, mid thirties or forties and older who enjoy somewhat strenuous and challenging backpacking--i. e., ones who want to be careful about not injuring themselves while enjoying the outdoors. Corbridge herself is 57, and describes herself as "nonathletic." Backpacking since a teenager, only in the past 10 years has she been "hitting the trail pretty hard." Over the past year, she's spent about 60 nights on the trail in camping trips of five or six nights.

The equipment Corbridge recommends will help the backpacker enjoy an outdoors venture of a few days. It's not for someone going off to mountain climb or trek in extreme terrains such as Arctic or jungle areas. It is though for camping excursions where one will be on one's own in the wilderness. Thus Corbridge takes a comprehensive approach including first aid items, food, and dependable and proven gear considering exposure to the elements. Her standard is the best gear from her own experience and outdoor lore from other experienced backpackers, not cost. She's not telling you how to save money or cut corners, but how to enjoy backpacking--which depends on proper, reliable equipment--and be safe at the same time. Where she simply names particular basic equipment for ones wanting to avoid the earlier chapters explaining the gear and reasons for recommending it, she gives the cost of this at about $1,000.00. Fully equipping oneself with all the basic, specialized, and optional gear she covers by categories such as shelter, cooking, and food would cost a good deal more.

The guidebook is good to read not only for its discussions of gear along with identifications of the quality gear but also for tips one can pick up in passing. Discussing cooking and eating supplies for instance, she mentions she likes a "long-handled titanium spoon" for use in cooking oatmeal carried in plastic containers because these have some give for packing in a full backpack. She prefers tall plastic cups to insulated ones because they give off a better feeling of warmth. Socks are stuffed into the cups when they are in the pack.

Oscar Wilde - Salome, The Canterville Ghost, The Picture of Dorian Gray & More, Graphic Classics Volume Sixteen
Tom Pomplum, editors
Eureka Productions
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
9780978791964 $11.95 www.graphicclassics.com

Besides the works of the subtitle, Lord Saville's Crime is another work illustrated plus one page from Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The works are like graphic novels in black-and-white by topnotch illustrators with impressive credits. Stephen Silver, for example, has done work for Warner Brothers, Disney, and Nickelodeon. Lisa Weber, for Cricket Magazine and Children's Television Workshop; and she's got a series of young readers books called The Sisters coming out soon. Stan Shaw has illustrated for magazines, websites, and TV networks. Some of the illustrators have had art work in previous editions of Graphic Classics.

The testament of the skill of the artists in this field of illustrated literature is that their work holds up over the 30 or so pages of the different Oscar Wilde works. They use all of the dramatic and visual techniques of this popular contemporary illustration--different size frames, shifts in perspective from detail to panorama, shifts in type styles, etc. They obviously worked hand-in-hand with the ones (presumably a writer or editor) who credited as adapting the Wilde story. So the four illustrated and adapted stories are instructive for other illustrators and artists and entertaining for all.

Underground Together - The Art and Life of Harvey Dinnerstein
Introduction by Roman Frey and Wendi Norris
Essays by Pete Hamill and Gabriel P. Weisberg
Chronicle Books
San Francisco, CA
9780811862325 $50.00 www.chroniclebooks.com

In his late seventies, New York--or more specifically, Brooklyn--artist Harvey Dinnerstein has resisted the calls of modernism with its succession of styles, commercialism, and careerism involving courting of celebrity. As the art critic Gabriel Weisberg puts it in his essay, "[D]etermined not to become distracted by the continued ascendancy of modernism...Dinnerstein's inherent toughness led him to recommit to traditions of the past that he revered in order to express his perceptions of contemporary life." The tradition the artist revered especially is humanism; as expressed in Renaissance masters of portrait for example. One way Dinnerstein has kept in this tradition throughout his long career going back to World War II, as Weisberg points out, is by "his dedication to working with the model." This goes beyond the model in the studio (although this can be a source of the paintings) to include Dinnerstein's multicultural Brooklyn neighbors, Brooklyn as a bustling community, and social and political moments such as the Vietnam War era reflected in Brooklyn.

In Pete Hamill's essay, he explains what Weisberg sees as Dinnerstein's traditionalism and aversion to modernism by, "One reason Dinnerstein rejected the siren song of fashionable modernism was very simple: he loved to draw." Though Dinnerstein's work is not simplistic in execution, elements, or conceptualization of subjects, it does patently retain drawing's virtues of simplicity--namely, directness of representation, fidelity, and clarity of expression. Dinnerstein wants you to see his subjects--i. e., the varied individuals he paints--the way he sees them. With him, this is not propaganda, indoctrination, or sentimentality. For he first of all wants you to see them as human beings, and hopefully at least have appreciation for them as such. This is really about as far as the artist goes; although he does express some general socialistic/humanitarian points of view.

Despite not enlisting in the mainstream of modernism, Dinnerstein has not remained unaffected by modernism. With his paintings of African-American women, Muslim men, Hispanics, subway riders, musicians, recent immigrants, and street people in varieties of plain cloth carrying variously-shaped and variously-sized pouches and with bits of different accouterments, he's more attuned to the society of modernism and its cultural encounters and mixtures than most. While the individuals with their naturalness and psychological realism are always the gravity of the paintings, the garb, accessories, headwear, personal possessions, and such beyond the figures are as surely a semiotics of modernism and also postmodernism as other modernist and postmodern artists strain for and often lose sight of in their work.

Nashville - The Occupied City, 1862-1863
Walter T. Durham
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
9781572336339 $45.00 www.utpress.org

The Union capture of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River at Dover, Tennessee, left the city of Nashville wide open to Union occupation. The city had never gotten around to building military defenses although they had been planned and budgeted. The city's residents couldn't believe that Confederate troops were moving through the city in a repositioning that was a retreat from the area and not taking up positions to defend the city. Union troops moved in at their leisure from Edgeville, the town directly across the Cumberland from Nashville.

Nashville was a Union prize not only because of its military value in being on a major navigable river in the western front of the Civil War and having the size and facilities to serve as a supply depot for forces throughout this front, but also because it was, like other cities throughout the South, a prominent symbol of the Confederate cause. The population of Tennessee's capital Knoxville was almost evenly divided between Union and Confederate sympathizers before the War began. Nashville's population, however, had been practically entirely pro-Confederate even before the War.

As the first major Confederate city to come under Union occupation, Nashville was a test case for other important cities which would come under occupation with the advances of Union forces in the last phases of the Civil War and into Reconstruction. But the occupation of Nashville was also unique in that it occurred while the war was still being waged and the ultimate victor was still in doubt.

Though Union forces had a grip on the city, the grip was tenuous. They might be pushed out at some future point; they might withdraw with the defeat of Union forces elsewhere; and they would surely withdraw with the defeat of the North by the Confederacy. This ambivalence based on the unpredictabilites of the strategic and ultimate military turns made for an ambivalence in the population of Nashville. Among this population were varying degrees of cooperation, resignation, resistance, and defiance. Some residents urged acceptance of the Union occupation; while others made symbolic acts of defiance, and were put under guard for doing so; while still others engaged in sabotage. Confederate cavalry forces remained active in ways that could be seen as harassment or as probes for a Confederate plan to retake the city. No one knew.

Durham handles all of the dimensions of the Federal occupation of Nashville in the period from February 1862 to June 1863. The necessarily central, historical figure at the center of this is Andrew Johnson; who became Lincoln's vice president for his second term for his notable role as "military governor of Nashville" beginning in March 1863. The study of occupied Nashville cannot be separated from the study of Johnson as military governor.

Durham--author of 18 books on different Civil War topics--wrote with the modest aim of adding to "the smaller body of Civil War literature that treats the impact of the war on people other than combat soldiers and places other than battlefields." But Civil War, Southern, and social historians and others will recognize that his topic while treated by him as limited in scope and secondary in interest to the military conflict is of keen interest because of its originality, research, and picture it presents. Durham lays down all of the right kinds of facts to understand the situation of the occupation of Nashville and the significant and sometimes crucial issues it involves; which issues underlied the Civil War, continued through Reconstruction, and have not yet been completely played out in American history. Such readers will also want to turn to the author's companion work "Reluctant Partners - Nashville and the Union, 1863-1865" picking up where this one leaves off, to include the large-scale Confederate effort to regain the city.

Odyssey
The Photographs of Linda Connor
Chronicle Books
San Francisco, CA
9780811865012 $50.00 www.chroniclebooks.com

Linda Connor perfected her method of developing photographs from glass negatives and contact print from her connection with the Lick Observatory in California through the photographer Jerry Burchand, her instructor when she was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late 1960s. This was the way the Observatory developed its photographs--astrophotographs--of stars and other celestial phenomena when it went into operation upon its completion in 1888. Both the celestial, cosmological, subject matter and also the way the older type of photography captured the light of the heavens attracted Connor to this method. Starting in 1980 and through to today, she has used the method she perfected for her own unique photographs from travels in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The 142 photographs are not travel photography despite the obvious foreignness of their content. The content of a Connor photograph is not a subject per se. The content is instead an occasion, so to speak, for the actual subject Connor is aiming for--which is light, the light cast through the universe, the light of the stars and the galaxies, and the light falling on the content of the photographs, which is the same light always and everywhere.

"What links Chartres cathedral to the bedrock chapels of Cappadocia in Turkey to the neolithic caves in New Mexico...[is] how light is received from the heavens," William Fox writes in his essay "In Fields of Light" preceding the two interviews. He ends the essay with the note that light as captured in Connor's photographs is "an elegant manifestation of how humans construct the sacred."

Connor's photographs go beyond religion to the sacred so that terms such as spirituality seem only so much fluff and faith or belief seem afterthoughts. The large majority of the photographs show Buddhas, parts of mosques, shaven-headed monks, sculptures, veiled Islamic women, the banks of the Ganges, a scared cow, and the like which are associated with Asian religions and spirituality; and which have been pictured before by mostly Western travelers and photographers to record their spiritual quest or as something like spiritual proselytization. Connor's photographs are distinctive from such common ones, however, for the austere, eternal light in them. To turn to Fox's essay again for apropos remarks, "[T]here are doorways and windows and occuli through which light from above is brought into a sacred interior...as it was when pre-technological peoples calibrated where sunlight would fall on the solstice when they were laying out a stone ring."

There's a touch which connotes that the photographs are not of subjects as this is ordinarily understood: They have no captions with them; the captions, or titles, are in a list at the back of the book. As Connor discusses in one of the interviews, captions would interfere with the intent of the photographs; which is mainly bringing the viewer into contact with the sacred. Connor intends for viewers to "suspend their analytic logic [to] shift to a visual realm" so they can experience the "indescribable," the essence of the sacred. This is like vision where as Paul Valery put it, "To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees."

Reluctant Partners - Nashville and the Union, 1863-1865
Walter T. Durham
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN
978157233631X $45.00 www.utpress.org

The two biggest events during the years covered by Durham in this second of his two-volume study of the Federal occupation of the Confederate state Tennessee's capital of Nashville are the arrival of Grant to set up headquarters and the Union general Thomas's crushing defeat of the Confederate army under General Hood in an effort to retake the city. Grant had been made commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, in effect commander of all Union forces on the western front. Departments of Ohio, the Cumberland, and Tennessee were among those under Grant's command. His setting up headquarters in Nashville not only emphasized the Union control of this important southern political, cultural, and commercial city, but also symbolized the Union's confidence that it was on the road to victory in the Civil War. The Confederate attempt to retake Nashville indicated its recognition of the importance of the city both symbolically and strategically for the western theater of war.

Throughout most of this period of the occupation, Andrew Johnson (Lincoln's future vice president and a major architect of Reconstruction following the War) continued to be the city's military governor responsible for all sorts of affairs. Appointing by president Lincoln to this position within a few weeks of the occupation in February 1862, Johnson was responsible for decisions concerning payment to residents for supplies taken by the military, operation of the city as a major supply depot for Union forces throughout the region, establishing churches and schools for blacks, reestablishing political offices and bodies, overseeing government contracts with local businesspersons, and all manner of accommodations with residents while at the same time exerting the authority of the Federal government to transform Nashville from a hotbed of Confederate sympathies and activities to a bastion and matrix of Union values and goals.

As in the first volume, Durham adds a new preface in which he mostly reviews research appearing after the book's original publication in a limited-printing edition in 1987. None of the new research diminishes any of the research Durham did for the content or perspective of his book. Instead, the later research and writings are added to the author's own extensive research including many unpublished documents recorded in the bibliography and frequent footnotes.

In covering the movement of western Civil War armies, the friction between Southern culture and Northern occupation, and effects on urban social and commercial life under the circumstances, Durham's two-volume study of Nashville including this second volume both moves onto new, enlightening ground in Civil War studies and adds shadings and volume to more familiar, much-covered topics.

Water - Poems
Robert VanderMolen
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138461 $14.95 www.msupress.msu.edu

VanderMolen's technique is like that of panning in movies. Except it is not so noticeable because in the poetry it seems so natural. One might not pick it up at first because lots of poetry is not readily apprehensible to begin with. But one could glide over the poet's technique because it resembles thinking or looking at--taking in--the world; which seems so natural. The words and lines resembling thinking is like remembering; the looking, like curiosity or more substantively, like becoming situated.

Despite the panning--conscious technique or natural reflex--the impression is not one of fracturing or fragmenting. It's more a circling of something, like a group of birds circling tree branches for the best place to alight; although in the poems, the landing spot, the subject sometimes does not come into view. The reward of the poem is following or finding something coming into focus. It's the process, like the flow of water, that's the sensation--nothing mental particularly.

This Side of Early
Naomi Ayala
Curbstone Press
Willimantic, CT
9781931896467 $13.95 www.curbstone.org

Ayala tweaks common situations with selective imagery and wraps around inner feelings or states; which feelings or states may be imagined (but not imaginary). As in "A Man Buys a Box of Cupcakes," the man is not just buying a box of cupcakes, but, "Above the Leukemia jug/his hands flutter to the mad/order of the unkempt,/stop to feel for another bill--/folded into tiny parts, like a poem/or despair--and/muttering something about hope, he slips it in...." Or in "Visit," where the poet is "five miracles away/from true happiness...[and has] already learned to cry." Foreign words dropped in (e. g., "abuelo [grandmother] took me from her") tweak the circumstances even more. Many of the words are Spanish, and some are Asian associated with spirituality. Such words are not meant to challenge or mystify, as some poets do to give depth to a poem. Alaya does not mean to take the risk of losing the reader. With her, the foreign words are used to give extent to the poems so they democratically, multiculturally embrace a wide diversity of people and circumstances.

Henry Berry
Reviewer


Karyn's Bookshelf

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story about Edna Lewis
Robbin Gourley, author and illustrator
Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618158362, $16.00

Chefs like the late Edna Lewis knew where their food came from.

But today, not all children realize food isn't grown in a store and doesn't start out in plastic wrap.
In her tribute to Lewis, a renowned African American restaurateur and cookbook writer, author Robbin Gourley accomplishes more than quaintly looking at how food was gathered and prepared in a bygone era.

Used well, perhaps in conjunction with a cooking class, "Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie," might prompt young readers to push their parents toward today's farmers markets, roadside stands and other outlets where fresh food still reigns.

The mouthwatering story follows a rural African American family as it gathers food throughout the growing season and then enjoys it all winter.

There are wild berries and greens to forage, sassafras roots to dig, nuts and honey to collect and cherries, peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, corn, beans, grapes and apples to pick. By the time snow flies the larder is stuffed - and so is the family with luscious treats like apple pie.

The earth-toned, watercolor illustrations are a lovely accompaniment. So are the five Lewis recipes that are included, for things like corn pudding and apple crisp.

A yummy tribute, with historical and modern day importance.

Foo, the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond
Belle Yang, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763636159, $16.99

Bold color will draw readers into "Foo, the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond," where they will find a memorable story to boot.

The wonderfully animated, brilliantly hued gouache illustrations feature the Foo, a lily pad green frog, his friend Sue-Lin, a brick red salamander, and friend Mao-Mao, a deep purple mudpuppy. Along come, as well, a gray and purple elephant, a white heron with various colored markings and a green sea turtle with mosaic-like red, yellow and green designs. Blue waterways jut up against earthen areas that range from salmon to purple to shades of green.

The story follows the three friends, who early on were the same size. That shifts as Foo grows much larger. Eventually that goes to his head and as he tries to puff himself to the size of an elephant to defend his claim of being the biggest animal in the world, the air he sucked in suddenly makes him rise into the sky.

As he sails over land and sea on an unexpected adventure, Foo's ego is deflated as he realizes how huge of a place the earth is. When he ultimately comes back down he's greeted by his two friends, who love him for who he is despite his dejection at now feeling tiny and insignificant.

A beautifully illustrated story, with a good message about unconditional love and appreciating the life we're handed, insignificant as we might sometimes feel.

The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems
Michael J. Rosen, author
Stan Fellows, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763630492 $17.99

Two-dozen common American birds share the stage in this beautifully illustrated look at their lives across the four seasons. "The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems," relies on short, lyrical stanzas that begin with the Eastern Bluebird's first call in April and meander through the Chimney Swift's summer nightfall twittering, to the young Robin's meal of poison ivy berries in the fall, to a House Sparrow's hunkering down on a snow-covered branch in the depth of winter. Each page features a different bird, with inset details about each written in small, lightly scripted letters. Illustratively, the colors are striking. There's an earthiness to the settings the birds live in and many of them blend into that. But others are brilliantly colored - the red robin, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Belted Kingfisher, to name some of the brightest. There are also bright pink flowers, red berries and orange autumn leaves, all presented in lovely watercolor and pencil. A really pretty book, with sparse but alluring text, that would be enjoyed by seasoned bird watchers and novices alike.

Bob and Belle La Follette: Partners in Politics
Bob Kann
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State St., Madison, WI 53706
9780870204074 $12.95

A giant of late 19th and early 20th Century Wisconsin politics and his educated, eloquent wife are the latest focus of the Badger Biographies series for young readers

As with the eight other titles released since 2005 by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, "Bob and Belle La Follette: Partners in Politics," is geared for fourth-grade readers who are studying state history. This time Kann, who previously penned a biography for the series about Settlement Cookbook author Lizzie Kander, looks at the relationship between former senator, Congressman and governor Bob La Follette and his wife Belle, the first woman to graduate from the UW-Madison Law School.

The book hones in on the fact that, though she couldn't vote and had limited rights as a married woman, the intelligent Belle La Follette supported her husband far beyond her expected upkeep of home and children. Her oldest daughter was a year old when Belle enrolled in law school in 1883 and graduated two years later. While she never practiced law in a courtroom, Belle La Follette wrote legal briefs for her husband, who was an attorney and Dane County district attorney before achieving higher public office.

In subsequent years Belle was also Bob's campaign manager, wrote speeches and challenged his stances when she didn't agree with them.

The book also looks at Bob La Follette's run for U.S. president as a candidate for the Progressive Party that he founded, his work on child labor and workers' rights laws and his opposition to World War I.

Kann nicely counters all of the political history with vignettes about the couple's life with four children on their Maple Bluff farm.

As with other Badger Biographies titles, "Bob and Belle La Follette," includes a classroom-friendly appendix with a timeline, glossary, discussion questions and a list of additional print and web resources.

A well-written, easily digested primer on an important family.

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life
Martin Sandler
Walker Books for Young Readers/Bloomsbury Publishing USA
175 Fifth Ave., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010
9780802796660, $19.99

Early in "Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life," author Martin Sandler discusses how Abraham Lincoln used photography to cast his public image.

He mussed his hair to look like a man of the people and in photos with Civil War generals added a stovepipe hat to his 6-foot-four-inch frame, in order to look more imposing.

But the 96-page book, that tracks Lincoln from childhood to his days as an Illinois attorney to his 1865 funeral, is by no means limited to Abe's personal crafting of his persona. In fact, that is the focus of exactly one page.

In fact, the photo-filled book takes a much more sweeping scope, beginning with a look at how photography had just been introduced as Lincoln began his political career in the 1840s.

In addition to portraits of Lincoln himself, Sandler includes many other photos of theday that lend context to the thoroughly readable, nicely written and laid out text.

Various pages look at Lincoln's stance on slavery, at his presidential campaigns, at his most famous speeches, at his family and at his assassination.

But there are also more general photos of the Civil War, of settlers in covered wagons, of slave families and of frontier courthouses like the one Lincoln practiced in early in his career, that help illustrate life during his tenure.

There is an early photo of the interior of the U.S. House of Representatives and self-portraits of the early photographers who captured images of dead soldiers and enslaved African Americans, deeply affecting Americans' views on issues and events of the times in a way that had not before occurred.

Some of Sandler's photos, like the blurry, hugely enlarged one discovered in 1952 of Lincoln on the day of his Gettysburg Address, may appeal more to photography enthusiasts than to general readers.

Lay readers might be more interested in the dozen or so photo spreads of Union and Confederate soldiers, dead and alive, some as young as 10 years old, in what was the first American war to be photographed.

The title might have reflected that the book is as much about the work of great photographers of the day, including Mathew Brady, who took many of the best-known portraits of Lincoln and the Civil War era, as it is about Lincoln himself.

More reflection from the photographers about who and what they were shooting, what they thought of Lincoln and the war and their take on emerging technology might have been fascinating. But that would have sent the book down a different path that might not have had as much broad reader appeal.

In this, the heavily-hyped 200th anniversary of the president's birth, "Lincoln Through the Lens," is naturally about the man, not the messenger.

It joins many other Lincoln birthday-inspired books that this year are offering one more look at Abe.

Few of the birthday-related releases, including Sandler's, present photos and information that wasn't already part of the well-trod public realm. But Sandler's presentation is attractive and his musings clearly and succinctly offered, making for a book that adults, teens and some older children will appreciate and gleam from.

Karyn Saemann
Reviewer


Kaye's Bookshelf

Working with Troubled Children
James M. Kauffman & Frederick J. Brigham
Full Court Press
Verona, Wisconsin
1578616786 $19.00 www.attainmentcompany.com

"A commonsense book for parents and teachers alike, with ideas that can be easily implemented anywhere. The authors identify three, key elements for success in working with troubled children: early identification of behavioral problems, scientifically sound instruction in responding to these behaviors, and the ability to predict or anticipate behavioral problems before they occur."

The authors, James M. Kauffman and Frederick J. Brigham, are highly qualified to write about behavioral disorders. They have presented "Working with Troubled Children" in a simple, straightforward manner. The book is well organized, informative and well edited. If you're interested in this problem, you may find the book of interest.

Katka - a novella
Stephen Meier
www.booksurge.com
9781439216330 $12.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"Katka by Stephen Meier is a rough, uneasy novel of avarice, love, and deception gone very wrong. When Gavin and Katka join with Simona to scam buyers of mail order brides in the Czech Republic, Gavin set events into motion with disastrous results. Gavin talks Katka, his girlfriend, into selling herself to a buyer and then taking his money and running, but things get twisted and Katka disappears with the client. Left with Simona, Gavin decides to carry on and make some real money. As Gavin's success increases, his guilt and doubt also rise, and he begins to worry this world has taken more than he's willing to give. He finds himself thinking of Katka, the life they could have had, and the life he consigned her to, and wonders if he can undo the biggest mistake of his life. Written with grit and masterful prose, Katka is a literary punch in the stomach that takes your breath away, and leaves you with unforgettable images and even more unforgettable characters."

Actually, Stephen Meir's novella leaves you with many questions: (1) Is this story fiction or a cathartic memoir?; (2) Was Katka really so innocent?; (3) Was Gavin really so naive?; (4) Could there really have been a different ending?

Gavin went to the Czech Republic and partied hard with beautiful women. Katka found her way to America, along with other beautiful Czech women, to pleasure men. The business of sex...mail order brides or white slave trade.

As for Stephen Meier's writing style, it is somewhat unusual with no chapters or paragraph indentations. There are a few grammatical mistakes, but in general, Meier's story works and will keep you turning the pages.

Kaye Trout
Reviewer


Liana's Bookshelf

The Bouncing Boy
ILIA
Create Space
9781440460883 $7.98 www.createspace.com

Very Highly Recommended

ILIA aka Leigh-Ann Lemire, is the author of the modern day fairy tales: A Christmas Fairy Tale, Ti Ana and The Giant. She has also written poetry and is a co-author of the Cat Chat Book. Visit her at www.winsometales.com

www.art-by-ilia.com

www.help-2-succeed.com

The Bouncing Boy is the heartbreaking story about a boy that is lonely and loveless. This story focuses on the unprivileged people who feel that way. The author explores the inner self of a person who becomes an outcast because of the people's attitude towards him. The residents of his small community ridicule him just because he is different. The author manages skillfully to touch the readers' heart with this sensitive issue.

The story of the Bouncing Boy, though sad and desperate at first, turns out to be a story of triumph and forgiveness. The author depicts artfully the moral psychology of a narrow-minded community all too well. Their behavior could be common nowadays, thus this story applies to everyone, let alone school bullies. Human beings can become quite cruel and merciless at times and that is the fact the author highlights in this book. There is also a solution to the problem: showing compassion and kindness is the key to happiness.

The Bouncing Boy is undoubtedly a story that deserves the readers' attention. It caters to everyone in the family, not just the young ones. Get this book from www.winsometales.com

What is Your Self-worth?: A Woman's Guide to Validation
Cheryl Saban, Ph.D.
Hay House, Inc.
9781401923952 $24.95 www.hayhouse.com

Very Highly Recommended

Dr. Cheryl Saban, a Ph.D. holder in psychology, is a writer and social commentator. She is involved in charitable endeavors, one of which is www.50ways.org.

Learn more about her and her work at www.whatisyourselfworth.com

What is Your Self-worth? Is a useful guide that encourages women to break free from cultural pressure and enjoy their life. The book focuses on all the important issues that affect a woman's life, and offers step by step guidance and solutions. It is in the form of a practical workbook that includes both theory and practice. The questionnaire included in each chapter facilitates the process of learning, while the style is simple enough to follow. Written in a highly professional way, it is enhanced with quotes from women around the globe.

The foreword of this book is exceptionally interesting. I enjoyed reading Jehan Sadat's and Shimon Peres's statements about women. Reading this book a woman can't help considering her own validation issues and may discover that she is not as free as she had thought. Pressure comes not only from the family but from cultural taboos and religions that place a lot of restrictions to a woman's life. It is oppressive to think that in our fast changing world many women all over the world still live in the past suffering degradation in every aspect of their life. This book offers advice on how a woman can gain self-esteem despite societal restrictions. It teaches women's rights and it is a precious guidebook for every woman on earth. Get from www.whatisyourselfworth.com

Dirkle Smat and the Viking Shield
Lynn D. Garthwaite
Castle Keep Press
an imprint of James A. Rock & Co., Publishers
9781596636507 $9.95 www.rockpublishing.com

Dirkle Smat and the Viking Shield is a wonderful chapter book (eight chapters) about a gang of young kids who have an exciting adventure. Dirkle and brother Quid Smat along with their friends, discover a Viking shield. The whole story spins around their efforts to locate and dig out the shield. For this difficult task they need to use a new invention, a special submarine.

The author offers readers a lively story enhanced by a skillful description of characters and places. Characters sound quite truthful and real and the plot unfolds gradually to the last chapter, when the discovery takes place.

The beautiful illustrations created by Craig Howarth are in black and white and greatly enhance the storyline. At the end of the book readers can find extra pages that will enable them to form their own explores' club. It is a carefully designed storybook aimed at readers 5-10 who love mystery, adventure and science. The story has cultural value and it is highly recommended for school age kids. Get it from www.rockpublishing.com

Liana Metal, Reviewer
http://LiaMetal.tripod.com


Logan's Bookshelf

German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass
Antonio S. Thompson
Diversion Press
diversionpress@yahoo.com
9781935290001, $24.95, www.diversionpress.com

It's rarely spoken, but the United States kept prisoners of war like any other country. "German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass: Housing German Prisoners of War in Kentucky, 1942-1946" is a look at how the United States kept their prisoners of war that they captured in Europe and sent back to American soil for safekeeping in Kentucky. Written by a native Kentuckian fascinated with this relatively unknown piece of American history, "German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass" presents data on the subject in an entertaining way. Highly recommended for World War II history buffs.

The Flame Within
Eric Noss
iUniverse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595505715, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com

The shadow of one's brother is always hard to emerge from. "The Flame Within" is the first book of the Keeper's Garden fantasy trilogy. Spirit Knight Aralon Mittel is charged with ending the civil war that consumes his home country. But it all seems so difficult to pull off, as everyone expects Aralon to be his brother, who has gone missing and is viewed as the greatest hero the world ever knew. "The Flame Within" is a fantasy novel of expectations, political intrigue, and rising above it all in honor.

Hanging Onto Sanity
Rod Brixius
Privately Published
9781607257424, $12.95

Early mental hospitals were little more than containment facilities. "Hanging Onto Sanity: As State Hospital Staff" is a look at how early mental institutions were handled. There were those who worked at these hospitals who truly cared, but there was only so much they could do when the state could care less. A first person account of how mental facilities changed over a three decade period, and filled with intriguing stories ranging from affairs to clockophiles, "Hanging Onto Sanity" is a must for those who want to best understand the history of mental institutions and be entertained as they learn.

Chronicles of a Nomad
A.A. Alvarez
Alvarez Publishing
info@aaalvarez.com
9789609309189, $15.00

It's hard to find a country to call home. "Chronicles of a Nomad: Memoirs of an Immigrant" tells the story of Carlos Rodriguez, as he travels the world to find a place he can truly call home. Born in Venezuela, he leaves for the United States, eventually finds himself in Greece, and realizes that home is a place that exists only in our hearts, not necessarily in our countries. Witty and wise, "Chronicles of a Nomad" is a fine story of some people who could classify their nationality as citizen of the world.

Carl Logan
Reviewer


Margaret's Bookshelf

Tarantula Tide
Sharon Tregenza
Floris Books
laura@florisbooks.co.uk
9780863156731, $8.67

When one expects Vikings and barbarians and simply finds civilization, you'd expect to be underwhelmed. "Tarantula Tide" follows Jack as he finds himself vacationing in Shetland, a land with a history far more interesting than its present. When he meets Izzie, his vacation suddenly turns strange, as Jack's own private secrets may soon come to light. "Tarantula Tide" is a unique children's fantasy, sure to please young adult readers.

Beyond Diet and Exercise
Daisy Merey
Privately Published
9780976105519, $24.95, www.weightlossbymerey.com

If it was just calories burned being greater than calories consumed, it'd be so much simpler. "Beyond Diet and Exercise: A Comprehensive Guide for Weight Loss and Health" is a look at the lesser discussed elements of weight loss, covering the causes of obesity, the effects of supplements, drugs, dealing with real and fake hunger, and how the mind can be the most powerful tool in weight loss. Intriguing and potentially very useful, "Beyond Diet and Exercise" is a must for those who need every edge they can get in the battle against obesity.

The Family Bones
Kimberly Raiser
Delving Press
c/o Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd -515, Parker, CO 80134
9780615246253, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com

Sometimes things aren't talked about for a reason. "The Family Bones" is the story of Astral, Pennsylvania, a town so small that there is almost nothing known about it whatsoever. The Weaver family, following inheritance, go to this small town, and find that while nothing was known about the town, it was not because nothing ever happened there. Intrigue about the town and the Weavers' ancestors build a story that's quite the page turner, making "The Family Bones" a pleasing read.

Under the Ulu Tree
Marina Kuran
Booksurge
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439211052, $22.49, www.booksurge.com

What if, a hypothetical question that is constantly asked and is constantly debated throughout. "Under the Ulu Tree" is a story set amid a series of hypothetical questions, as it goes through and attempts to answer them through an exploration of science fiction and fantasy, following numerous characters as they deal with these ever-changing possibilities. "Under the Ulu Tree" is thought-provoking and entertaining reading, highly recommended.

Margaret Lane
Reviewer


Mayra's Bookshelf

Nothing Stops Noah
Shari Lyle-Soffe
Illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier
Guardian Angel Publishing
Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781935137191 $10.95 www.guardianangelpublishing.com

Nothing Stops Noah is an adorable children's book that young children will enjoy reading again and again.

Noah is a little but very determined boy. He wants to buy his mom a gift, but he doesn't have any money. So he decides to call his grandpa, who owns a pet shop. Grandpa offers him a job: Noah must count the rawhide bones (no problem, since he can count to ten!) and feed the pets in their cages. Nothing too difficult… that is, until something goes wrong and the pet shop turns into havoc as the mice, puppies, kittens and other pets get free. But no adversity stops Noah - in fact, nothing stops Noah! Clever boy that he is, he comes up with various ways to restore order and earn his money.

Having reviewed all books by this author, I must say this one is different than her earlier works. In this book, the text is much shorter and as a consequence there's an illustration in every page, whereas before the stories were longer with less artwork. In this book, the prose is very tight, making each word count. The illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier are wacky and amusing, perfectly complementing the story, and ones that children will take pleasure in looking at for a long time. Though whimsical, the book carries an important message, empowering youngsters to act with purpose toward their goals. Nothing Stops Noah is a winner!

Tucker's Tale: The Story of a Rescue Dog
Christopher Walsh
Illustrated by Vanda Lavar
Guardian Angel Publishing
Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781935137214 $10.95 www.guardianangelpublishing.com

I love dog books, but I love charity dog books even more.

Author Christopher Walsh and illustrator Vanda Lavar have combined their talents to work on a children's picture book based on the true story of a rescue dog and how he finally finds happiness in a caring home. All proceeds from the book will be donated to dog rescues across the country.

Tucker's Tale: The Story of a Rescue Dog is narrated from the point of view of Tucker, a Cocker Spaniel who at first is quite unhappy living with a mean lady who keeps him in a cellar and hardly ever brings him food.

"Tucker stretched out in his crate. He shivered to the chilly Fall morning in the dampness of the cellar. The Woman upstairs moved around before dawn but didn't bring him his breakfast. He was very hungry this morning. I hope she didn't forget my breakfast, he thought. She forgot many times before."

Fortunately, Tucker is discovered by a rescuer and, after staying temporarily in several homes, he finally finds the warm, loving home he's always wanted.

Tucker's tale is sad, but it is also uplifting, and will touch the hearts of children and adults alike. You better have a handkerchief at hand when you finish reading this book! My eleven-year old daughter read it and was engrossed by the story and artwork. The illustrations are lovely, almost ethereal, and deftly capture the essence and the angelic quality of these very special dogs. Simply put, it is a tale that will go straight to your heart.

A Talent for Quiet
Written and illustrated by Kim Chatel
Guardian Angel Publishing
Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA
9781935137566 $10.95 http://www.GuardianAngelPublishing.com

Reanie has lived alone with her mother for a long time. Now she has a step father, Bill, and all has changed. His shoulders take the whole kitchen, and his kind voice and laughter are so loud… she can't help being afraid.

Though he tries to be friendly to her, her shyness always make her withdraw. Until one day Bill invites her to go to the river on a photo safari. A photographer, he is deft and skillful with the camera. He encourages her to take pictures and even gives her a camera. Excited, Reanie discovers a whole new world as her new father teaches her about photography and the talent for quiet - a quality all good photographers must have.

Together, they take pictures of a goose, a spider, a turtle, a crawfish, a muskrat, a monarch butterfly, and finally what they were waiting for: a lovely blue heron. Reanie not only learns and ins and outs of a camera, but also the kind nature of her step father, making this a story of discovery on two levels.

This is a warm, simple story with a quiet tone that matches its title. The photographs are beautiful and will stimulate young minds. At the end of the book there's a glossary, interesting facts about photography, and tips on how to take great pictures. This would make a wonderful gift for those children who love photography and taking pictures, as well as to those who have a new step parent. Highly recommended.

Only Mortals Can be Heroes: A True Story about Drug Addiction
David J. Weaver
Atlas Books
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
0977091600 $23.95 1(800)247-6553

This book is the true story of Adam, a teenage boy who fell to drugs when he was only twelve years old.

Told from the point of view of Adam himself, this is an important, frightening account of how young people and their families can be destroyed both emotionally and physically because of drug addiction.

Most of all, the story is about the power of drugs and the way they take control over someone's will.

Even though my resolve to change my life was firm, at some level deep in my being sensed a weakness, as if the conscious part of me were being overtaken by a sinister subconscious force.

Adam first started taking drugs during the seventh and eighth grades. By the time he was twelve, he was already smoking marijuana and drinking beer. This, of course, let to stronger drugs soon enough, and by the time Adam was in his freshman year of high school, he was already experimenting with LSD, Ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, Ritalin, crystal meth, speed balls, pain pills, downers, uppers, and "everything-in-between".

With friends around for support, I would do whatever drug was put in front of me. Nothing frightened me.

What is really scary about this book is seeing all Adam does in order to support his addiction: lying, stealing, getting himself almost beaten to death, and going to jail. Yet nothing stops him; nothing is stronger than his desire for drugs no matter what his mind and his heart tell him to do.

When you're an addict, every waking moment and half your sleeping moments are occupied with just one thought - how I can get money for dope.

Everything else loses its importance: families, moms and dads, brother and sisters, best friends; everything becomes meaningless except the driving desire for the next high.

Another aspect of this story that is disturbing is the fact that Adam has a loving, caring family, step parents and a brother that love him, making the reader wonder, what has made this kid fall into drugs? Try not fitting with your peers and falling into the wrong crowds.

I found the writing well suited for this book. It projects the voice of our teenage addict, at times with a certain subtle callousness that will leave readers cold. Though the book is from the point of view of Adam, it is in fact written by his father. The tale takes the reader from the beginning of Adam's addiction to the time he reaches his late teens and is put into a hospital. The author leaves us with a glimmer of hope at the end.

Only Mortals Can Be Heroes is a real story that offers an important message to teenagers. I would make this book required reading at schools for the secondary and high school levels. It is also important reading for parents of teenage kids. The phrase, "Do you know where your kid is right now?" is not so well known for nothing.

Mayra Calvani
Reviewer


Murray's Bookshelf

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship
Longman Tremper III and Enns, Peter, editors
IVP Academic
c/o InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 605151426
9780830817832 $50.00

Biblical scholarship is fast becoming a major academic industry. It is difficult sometimes to keep up with the amount of new material, new theories, new interpretations, and new exegetical methods that are being developed by contemporary biblical scholars. Thus having access to recent contemporary scholarship on the biblical canon in a dictionary format is extremely helpful to professors, graduate students, upper level undergraduate students, and informed members of the public with an interest in remaining au courant with the best of recent thinking on biblical issues. IVP Academic Press is publishing such a series of dictionaries on the entire biblical canon in a number of volumes. The seventh volume in IVP Academic Press's critically acclaimed series, edited by Tremper Longman III (Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA; author of An Introduction to the Old Testament and several biblical commentaries) and Peter Enns (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; author of Inspiration and Incarnation and a commentary on Exodus), has recently been published. It is a series whose every volume is worth waiting for and worth owning. Given the intense academic disputes over the theological interpretation of the biblical canon, it is important to have a publication that emphasizes objective scholarship rather than ideological interpretation.

The seventh volume examines the Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings sections of the Hebrew Bible; however, one should know that the editors discuss 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the volume on the Historical Books and Daniel will be treated in the volume on the Prophets. In this volume, every article is signed by an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible scholar. All articles are alphabetically arranged. This dictionary examines each biblical book in a full length article that imitates contemporary biblical commentary patterns by offering a description of the book, providing a literary analysis, identifying its Ancient Near Eastern context, discussing its theological message, and looking at its history of interpretation. Additional dictionary articles discuss major biblical characters (Naomi, Ahasuerus, etc.), new contemporary scholarly methods (e.g. intertextuality, etc.) and exegetical tools (editorial criticism, textual criticism, etc.) as well as important theological themes (e.g. concept of afterlife, messiah, chaos and death, etc). An up to date bibliography that lists the most important contemporary and historical critical scholarship is included after each article. In addition, one may find also a How to Use This Dictionary section, a Scriptural Index, and a Subject Index. It is written in a scholarly but accessible style that an informed general reader could understand even if the dictionary's primary intended audience remains scholars, graduate students, and upper level undergraduates. Very highly recommended.

NGOs in the Global Era: A Distinctive Role in International Development
Gordon D. French Cumming
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
9781403945242 $74.95

Globalization has internationalized serious human problems as well as financial success. In response to the numerous social issues (e.g. poverty, healthcare, education, etc.), the philanthropic sector (also known as the non-profit sector) has seen an explosion in the number of NGOs and mission creep in goals and objectives. Serious academic research on the effects of globalization on the philanthropic sector and that sector's response is still in its infancy. Professor Gordon D. Cumming, Ph.D.'s new book constitutes an excellent contribution to filling in this gap. Cumming's recent book studies the changing relationships in France between government and the philanthropic sector and proposes that a resource dependence theory explains these new developments.

The author utilizes three main methods to obtain and interpret data on French development nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). A review of primary sources such as annual reports, financial statements, NGO issue campaign literature, NGO internet websites and archives (particularly from the largest French NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontières [MSF] (http://www.msf.org/), Comite Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Developpement [CCFD] (http://www.ccfd.asso.fr) and Medecins du Monde [cf. http://www.medecinsdumonde.org/], as well as professional directories represents one half of the first method; a literature review of peer-reviewed journals and newspaper accounts constitutes the other half. The second method is comprised of a series of about forty interviews with participants in NGO activity as well as stakeholders. The third method presents a case study analysis of a civil society project in Cameroon.

The author's tightly constructed argument unfolds in nine chapters. The first chapter is introductory and describes new developments in international NGOs, the scholarly literature, as well as the book's methodology. The remaining seven chapters concentrate on various aspects of French development NGOs in particular with a conclusion in Chapter 10 that discusses the unique role that French NGOs can play in a newly globalized philanthropic sector. In particular, the theory of resource dependence [RD] is used to explain specifically how and why French NGOs have changed their relationship with the French state and business sector as well as their own goals and objectives.

In his examination of the French NGO sector, the author is careful to include a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of differing viewpoints and competing theories before presenting his own. The book is very well researched, highly organized with an argument logically constructed. Its primary audience includes academicians, students, and practitioners of public policy, French studies, NGOs, and development issues. However it is also accessible to the informed general reader who has an interest in international affairs and public policy. Highly recommended.

Pius Charles Murray
Reviewer


Palombi's Bookshelf

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385340991 $22.00

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel set in post-World War II England. It centers on Juliet Ashton, a writer who is on her first book tour as the novel opens. We learn that she is best known for her humorous war-time newspaper column which was recently compiled into a successful book. We quickly observe from her correspondence that she has a sharp wit, a love of books… and a desire to take her writing in an entirely new post-war direction.

Soon, however, Juliet receives a letter from a stranger in Guernsey who chanced to find her address in a used book. And so begins a correspondence not only with this man, but gradually with more and more Guernsey Islanders, particularly the members of their oddly-named book club. As the circle of correspondence widens, vivid details of life on a German-occupied channel island are revealed… and Juliet finds herself with one more war story that she longs to tell.

Epistolary novels, novels told entirely through letters, are often disjointed and difficult to read. But the authors of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society have created something marvelous… an epistolary page-turner. After the initial awkwardness of reading letters from a fictional stranger to and about other fictional strangers, readers will find themselves seamlessly slip from awkwardness to fascinated enthusiasm for the characters and the stories that they tell.

Through letters, a sweeping and poignant tale unfolds of war, fear, loss, love, and hope. This book's pages are filled with fascinating characters, classic British wit and touching tales, all told with an optimism that is rare in literary fiction set in any post-war era. A bygone time comes vividly to life in this highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable novel. And through it all, one singularly clear theme develops… the power of books to sustain their readers in good times and in bad.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been criticized by some for a slight naivete, particularly in its love story line. Interestingly, all of Juliet's Mr. Wrong scenarios are vividly developed, while her love connection with Mr. Right is unsatisfyingly under-developed. However, most readers will readily forgive this flaw in the midst of this beguiling story filled with richly crafted story lines and highly sympathetic characters.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a first novel, begun by Mary Ann Shaffer. When she fell ill, her niece, Annie Barrows (author of the Ivy and Bean children's series) assisted in its completion. How fortunate for the reading world that she did. Ms. Shaffer passed away in February 2008, five months before The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society's release.

Mommy Loves Her Baby/Daddy Loves His Baby
Tara Jaye Morrow
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Harper Collins
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019
9780060290771 $7.99

How much do Mommy and Daddy love their baby? Readers will find out in this beautifully illustrated flip picture book by Tara Jaye Morrow. Each page introduces a different animal, which opens the door for learning the names of animals as well as making lots of fun animal sounds that small children think are a hoot! Little ones love the flip style of this book: finish with the Mommy story, flip the book over and begin anew with Daddy. Children adore the big colorful pages and sing-song rhymes in this modern children's classic.

Jennifer Palombi
Reviewer


Paul's Bookshelf

Omega
Jack McDevitt
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441010466 $23.95 http://www.penguin.com

Set a couple of centuries from now, after mankind has begun to explore the galaxy, this novel is about deadly clouds of energy called omegas. Their purpose seems to be to wipe out any civilization they encounter. A cloud is heading for Earth, but it won't arrive for another 900 years. While research continues into what makes omegas tick, it's a problem for future humans. It becomes an immediate crisis when a survey ship reports that the cloud has turned, and is heading for a previously unexplored system. It just happens to contain a thriving, pre-industrial civilization, and the cloud will arrive in a few months.

In many years of diligent searching, mankind has found a number of dead civilizations, but only two living ones, neither of whom are interested in Contact with anyone. Saving this civilization suddenly becomes Top Priority. An exploration ship already in the area is able to sneak on to the surface, and the personnel plants many audio and video pickups, beaming language to a ship full of linguists, already in transit. Their ship, in bad need of an overhaul, is pressed into service too early, and breaks down before reaching the planet. A supply ship is able to join the exploration ship, and an attempt is made to fool with the planet's weather, hiding the cities under thick clouds. All attempts to stop the cloud, or alter its course, fail.

For the humans already in orbit, how do they tell the inhabitants that they must immediately flee their cities? Who do they tell? Will their warnings be heeded? How do they do it without violating the Noninterference Directive?

As usual with McDevitt, this story is first-rate from beginning to end. It has good characters, and few, if any, wasted words. It does a fine job of holding the attention of the reader.

Neurolink
M.M. Buckner
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441011888 $6.99 http://www.penguin.com

Two hundred years from now, Earth has become a toxic wasteland. Everyone lives in domes. Global warming has pushed the temperate climates farther north, rendering the area around the equator uninhabitable. Corporations called coms have takien over, ruling billions of protes, or "protected persons" (actually, little better than slaves).

Dominic Jedes is about to become president of ZahlenBank, the only institution more powerful than the coms. He isn't just the son of Richter Jedes, the bank's founder, he is an exact genetic copy of his father. He directs the bank to give two thousand protes their freedom, trappin them in a rusting, malfunctioning submarine at the bottom of the ocean. They are supposed to die, but they don't. They broadcast an untraceable and continuous message over the Net, encouraging others to join them. The free protes get thousands of takers.

Every minute that the message is broadcast, ZahlenBank's financial condition is damaged. Dominic is forced to go to the sub, and somehow shut off that message. For someone who has spent his life in filtered air, and with the finest in designer medicines in his bloodstream, when Dominic enters the sub, he feels like he has descended into hell. It's hot, stinking, packed with people, and the oxygen-generating system is on the verge of collapse. People are constantly putting up walls everywhere, so any attempt to reach the bridge quickly becomes impossible. Within minutes, Dominic feels like he has contracted some major disease. When he first reaches the sub, Dominic wants to reach the bridge, expose the sub's location, have everyone arrested, and get back to cleanliness as soon as possible. The longer he remains on the sub, the more sympathy he has for these people, and the more he wants to help them, instead of turning them in.

This is a strong, well done piece of writing. It has good characters, good society building, and an interesting story. The reader will not go wrong with this novel.

7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century
Andrew F. Krepinevich
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553805390 $27.00 http://www.bantamdell.com

Looking at the changing face of war in the 21st Century, this book looks at several deadly scenarios that will threaten America's, and the world's, security in the near future.

A large part of the world's oil tankers have to travel through two geographic choke points: the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the Persian Gulf. What would happen to the price of oil, and the world economy, if one was closed because a supertanker was sunk in the most inconvenient spot, and the other was closed because Iran decided to flex its political muscle?

Muslim terrorists set off several black-market nuclear weapons in US cities. Beset with internal strife, China decides to take back Taiwan, once and for all. They also send diesel submarines all over the world, to cause lots of economic trouble for any country who considers doing something about it. The Pakistani government collapses, and some of its nuclear weapons find their way into the hands of the more fundamentalist members of the military. There's one about America dealing with a major cyberattack, and one about what will happen after America withdraws from Iraq (faster than it intended). Remember bird flu, from a couple of years ago? Well, it's back, mutated into a form that can be easily transmitted from person to person. Shopping malls and other public places are deserted, hospitals are flooded with the sick and dying, America doesn't have nearly enough retroviral drugs even for emergency personnel, and it takes time to make more. To make
things worse, the White House has just gotten word of a human flood of 8 million sick Latin Americans, desperate to reach America. They are scheduled to reach the US-Mexican border in a couple of days.

This is avery sobering, and utterly fascinating, look at what the future may hold. It's not an attempt to predict the future, but to show the sort of things that senior planners at the Pentagon are, or had better be, thinking about. Highly recommended.

Mammoth, John Varley
Ace Books
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
0441012817 $23.95 http://www.penguin.com

Multi-billionaire Howard Christian is an eccentric sort who likes to actually play with his toys. His latest obsession is to clone a woolly mammoth. During an expedition in northern Canada, an intact, but mummified mammoth is found. Huddled in the mammoth's fur is a Stone Age man approximately 12,000 years old...wearing a wristwatch.

Matthew Wright, science prodigy, is brought in to figure out what is in the metal suitcase clutched in the Stone Age man's arms. It's some sort of time machine, involving what look like many glass marbles. One day, Matt gets it to work, and takes himself, Susan Wright, who is taking care of a herd of elephants involved in the cloning plan, the elephants, and a Santa Monica warehouse, about 12,000 years in the past. After several days in the past, Matt gets the time machine to work again, and brings himself and Susan back to the present, along with a herd of half a dozen mastodons that happened to be nearby at the time. A baby mastodon, nicknamed Little Fuzzy, and Big Mama, his mother, are the only survivors when they appear in the middle of L.A. traffic.

Five years later, Little Fuzzy is the star of a multi-media extravaganza of a circus in Oregon. Susan is still his handler, because Little Fuzzy won't work with anyone else. She comes up with the idea of kidnapping Fuzzy, and freeing him in the wilds of northern Canada, where he could have something resembling a normal life. But Howard Christian is not about to let that happen.

Does any circus, no matter how progressive, automatically equal mistreating of animals? That's one of the questions explored in this fine piece of storytelling. It is more than just a really good time travel story, and it's well worth reading.

Accelerando
Charles Stross
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441012841 $24.95 http://www.penguin.com

Set in the near future, these related stories are about an Earth where technology has run rampant, and humanity's inability to keep up.

Computing power, and artificial intelligence, have passed the limits of human intellect. Nanotechnology is everywhere, reprogramming and replicating at will. Posthumans, with all sorts of biological implants, have rendered people extinct. Corporations have become alive and sentient. New resource allocation algorithms, collectively called Economics 2.0, have replaced capitalism and communism.

This book is about three generations of the same family. Manfred is a freelance broker in intelligence amplification technology in a world where everyone must be 30 seconds ahead of everyone else. Years later, his teenage daughter, Amber, signs up as an indentured astronaut on the first exploration ship heading to Jupiter. It is to get away from a domineering mother who insists that Amber have a "normal" life on Earth. Her son, Sirhan, finds his destiny intertwined with all of humanity. Along the way, most of the planets in the solar system are systematically taken apart by various sorts of mini-robots and nanomachines. There is also a multi-year journey to a specific brown dwarf star a long way away. Building a ship with sufficient life support for people, and propelling it at any reasonable portion of the speed of light is not possible. Therefore, the "passengers" have been uploaded into a nanocomputer the size of a Coke can, and that is sent to the stars.

I thoroughly loved this novel. Cyberpunk fans will also love it. It does a fine job at the near future speculation, it's cool, it's high tech, and it's got a good story. What else does a reader need?

CUSP
Robert A. Metzger
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0441012418 $24.95 http://www.penguin.com

Set in the near future, one day, the Sun throws off a solar flare of record-setting proportions. The Sun actually moves a million kilometers farther away from the Earth, because the solar flare is really a giant jet engine.

Meantime, on Earth, two planet-spanning rings come out of the ground. Many kilometers high and wide, one ring circles the Earth at the Equator, while the North-South ring cuts through eastern North America. Earth's climate is drastically altered, governments fall and millions die. The rings spout huge jet engines, which occasionally test fire. Who could be behind this, and where are the Sun and Earth going?

The destination might be the Sun's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri. The first unmanned probe to the system shows an amazing sight: over 200 planets orbiting the star, all at approximately the same distance from the star. Is it possible for the Sun to protect the Earth from space junk during the journey? The answer might have something to do with who is living in an artificial habitat inside the Martian moon, Phobos, which returns to Earth and lands in Alabama. Perhaps the asteroid that hit Earth 65 million years ago, and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, was not exactly a random cosmic event. Also, CUSP is the newest thing in supercomputers, which gets a chance to interface with the ultimate supercomputer - the human mind.

I hated to reach the end of this book. It has a really interesting story, and enough mind-blowing ideas for half a dozen novels. This is what great science fiction is all about.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
Jack Campbell
Ace Books
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
0441014186 $6.99 http://www.penguin.com

The century-long war between the Alliance and the Syndic (Syndicated) Worlds has been going very badly for the Alliance. Now the Alliance fleet is badly outnumbered, and stuck deep in Syndic territory. But the Alliance has a reluctant ace up their sleeves named John Geary.

"Black Jack" Geary was famed for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war. He was thought dead, but was revived after a century in survival hibernation. He is totally disgusted with the absolute hero worship that has grown up around him during the century that he was in hibernation. He becomes the reluctant commander of the fleet when the former commander is murdered during "negotiations" with the Syndics.

In their present condition, any sustained battle with the Syndics would be a disaster for the Alliance. Geary takes the fleet into a nearby wormhole to another star system. They are able to replenish their supplies at a Syndic base before the Syndics show up. Mankind does not have faster-than-light travel (or communications); the most frustrating thing for Geary is having to deal with the communications delay. Geary takes the fleet into another star system by wormhole, not taking the route that would get them back to Alliance space the fastest. The Alliance has a couple of weeks before the Syndic arrival, so Geary drills the fleet on flying in formation and basic tactics. Some of the ship commanders are not happy with what they consider constant retreats; for them, the Alliance tactical plan can be reduced to one word: Attack!

First of a series, this book is really good. The characters, especially Geary, are real people, and not just square-jawed stereotypes. It has action, it has believability, it has a good story and the reader will not go wrong with this one.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer
http://www.deadtreesreview.com


Richard's Bookshelf

The Rented Veil: The High Cost of Worship
Darryl Odom
Darryl Odom with Your Writing Partner
12195 Hwy 92 # 114, Woodstock, GA 30188
9781607250999 $14.95

Tithing - Misuses, Abuses, and Misunderstandings

As with many new ideas or paradigm shifts I was cautious and resistant when I begin to read Darryl Odom's book "The Rented Veil, the High Cost of Worship." Odom recognizes that there are those who will take exception to some of the issues discussed in his book. He introduces a new paradigm in tithing, a concept contrary to traditional, conventional, and sometimes dogmatic teaching on the subject.

Odom reminds the reader that tithing is not a debt we pay for blessing received. He defines scriptural tithing as the third sacrament, of people of faith, after baptism and communion. He concludes, "No doubt we must commit ourselves to the feast of the tithe by giving (not paying)…" Odom propounds that you giving should be God directed, should be made a matter of prayer and should recognize a savings plan as a precondition to tithing.

I discovered an unexpected sense of freedom as Odom offended me, stirred me up, and pushed me beyond my limited perceptions helping me to think outside the box to consider tithing as a sacrament opening to intimate and interactive worship.

The book includes nine helpful, practical steps to financial success based on sound Biblical teaching. "The Rented Veil" is a book for faith people everywhere, regardless of denominational affiliation, ethnicity, age, or economic status. Darryl Odom raises some profound questions for thinking Christians. Odom's writing is refreshing, stimulating, timely, and insightful.

Refined in the Furnace of Affliction
John McCulloch
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432737856 $14.95

Finding Strength through the Fire of Affliction

LTJG John McCulloch awoke as a Filipino orderly urgently called his name, "Mister MCulloch, wake up…you have an urgent message at the Message Center."

John's emotions ran the gambit as he excitedly read the telegram, "You are the father of a baby boy…" fear gripped him as he continued "…however, there is something wrong and he is not expected to live. Please come home immediately."

"Refined in the Furnace of Affliction" is written to encourage readers who are going through trials to find their strength in God. This is John McCulloch's story, an autobiographical memoir demonstrating how devastating and heartbreaking circumstances can become opportunities for building a stronger character and a deeper faith.

Baby Johnny was the victim of a head injury at birth which resulted in hydrocephalus. Dr. John Adams, neurosurgeon, of the University of the California Medical School in San Francisco, performed surgery to alleviate the pressure causing the trouble. After two more surgeries, over the next few months, the Hydrocephalus crisis was successfully resolved. However, the pressure had damaged Johnny's optic nerve. He was legally blind before his second birthday.

I personally was drawn into John's story because of parallels in my own life. I served in the U. S. Navy in the mid fifties, was married in 1956 and raised a family of four children over the same period as John and Sylvia were having these same experiences. Their family photo album was a walk down memory lane for me and reinforced my sense of personal interaction with the McCullock family through John's writing.

John talks about his spiritual journey as it deepened during the hassles and difficulties during Johnny's early schooling. I experienced a father's pride as John told about Johnny's success in high school. Johnny became a member of the National Honor Society and was privileged to be the senior class speaker at his graduation.

Siblings, Bruce and Beverly, share their own stories. They tell of how their emotional and spiritual development were impacted by Johnny's blindness

Another blow came to the family when Johnny, at age 28, was struck by a vehicle and thrown 60 feet. The accident resulted in a traumatic brain injury. At the time the book was written Johnny was fifty years old and has been living in nursing care facilities since his accident.

In early March of 2000, it was discovered that Sylvia had ALS. Church and family members ministered to John and Sylvia with their prayer, comfort, and other support. During the month of April the following spring Sylvia went to be with her Lord.

This is not a book about blindness, hydrocephalus, or Lou Gehrig's disease but is the story of a family responding to these afflictions with positive results.

McCulloch writes with fervor and candidness. He communicates a love for his family, and gives testimony of the positive message of a living Christ who sustains and strengthens people of faith in their every need.

"Refined in the Furnace of Affliction" is the story of how John McCulloch and his family met and faced personal hardships and difficulties. It is a positive story of faith, perseverance, and testing.

What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life
Brian Zahnd
Christian Life, A Strang Company
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599797267 $14.99

Finding Hope In Crisis Times

"What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life" supplies a model for renewal in the dark days when tragedy hits and in the tumultuous and frenzied times we face today. The book is based on truths drawn from the life of David which reveal the pattern he established in response to the disaster he and his troops found in Ziklag, after returning home from battle.

The Biblical account found in the book of I Samuel, chapter 30. The account relates how, during their absence, Ziklag had been ransacked, plundered, and wives and children kidnapped. As a result of the pillage, David's men were threatening to stone him.

Zahnd puts forward a plan for discovering hope in time of personal trials and tribulations. He provides the reader with ten practical principles for discovering recovery while facing financial crisis, shattered relationships, career setbacks, and the challenge of other personal or family issues.

Zahnd's writing is encouraging, exciting, and timely. It is relevant for individuals who are being faced with personal disappointment or disaster. It is and important book for Christian leaders, and pastors. The book also provides sound advice for financial consultants and family counselors to pass along to their clients.

This edition of "What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life" is compact, jam-packed with words of encouragement, and is ideal for giving to friends and family members who are feeling stress, and in search of answers to find ways tackle life's challenges.

So Long, Status Quo
Susy Flory
Beacon Hill Press
P O Box 419527, Kansas City, MO 64141
9780834124387 $13.99

Adventures in Changing Your World

In "So Long, Status Quo" Susy Flory writes to inspire the reader to probe deeper into spiritual truths as well as to interact with others about issues of faith.

The subtitle of her book states: "What I learned from Women Who Changed the World." Susy talks about the way she was challenged through the hardships and obstacles each of the nine women profiled in the book met a need specific to their day, world, and unique talents, concerns, and station in life. Each chapter speaks of the heroism of one woman, who singularly led in an effort to impact change injustices or unfair conditions in her world.

Flory illustrates their cause by writing of an experience from her life in which she attempted to emulate a similar service, one that took her out of her comfort zone, impacted her life, and met the needs of others. At the close of each chapter she includes suggestions and resources for similar action steps the reader may want to take.

Susy introduced me to the words of Annie Dillard. "Writing is sacred, a holy mission to translate truth into nouns and pronouns." What an interesting concept. She also shared thoughts on writing from Jane Austen, "You can wield words and ink and paper like weapons to fight injustice and perhaps even change the world."

Susy maintains a writing style distinctly her own. Funny, entertaining, and motivational, she writes with candor. I appreciated her vulnerability and transparency. Her writing is inspiring, transcending, and demonstrates a well practiced discipline in the craft of writing.
Susie writes with candor, making herself vulnerable. Her writing is entertaining, transcending, and demonstrates a disciplined approach to the craft of writing.

Although, "So Long, Status Quo" is primarily a book written for and about women, the challenge and inspiration is not limited by gender or age. Anyone can adapt the lessons Susie learned. They can be adjusted to fit our circumstances, locale, and individual gifts. Flory invites the reader to step out in a new adventure, drawing on the indwelling power of Christ to change the world.

Next Level Parenting
Dr. Rich Rogers
Destiny Image, Inc.
Christian Life, A Strang Company
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599794730 $14.99

Guidelines for Parents into Parenting the Way God Designed It

Today we live in a world in which our children are confronted with opposing philosophies, and are being assailed from all sides. Dr. Rich Rogers offers advice on parenting which focuses on both the physical and spiritual realm

in his book "Next Level Parenting."

While parents are being lulled into complacency, Satan is raging a battle for their children through the media, secular humanist philosophies, the internet, and contemporary music. "Next Level Parenting" is a wake up call to Christian parents of the danger of spiritual warfare. It is crucial for parents to take action steps to win the battle for their children. God is ready to stand with the reader, to protect the souls of their children and to provide the spiritual weapons needed for spiritual combat.

Roger's introduces a six step pattern for parenting based on scriptural principles revealing God's approach and His purposes.

Dr. Rich's writing is practical, and encouraging, calling for a deeper level of commitment. He uses an interactive teaching approach which asks probing questions and uses relevant illustrations which teach fundamental truths. H includes point by point action steps which draw the reader into an interactive learning experience.

Dr. Rich Roger's message is aimed at parents, is an excellent resource for Christian educators, pastors, and church leaders. Roger writes with clarity, is credible, genuine in his concern, and encouraging in his counsel. "Next Level Parenting" takes parenting to an exciting new level of parenting the way God designed it.

Choosing to Wait: A Guide to Inspiring Abstinence
Laura B. Gallier
Destiny Image Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427400 $16.99

Equipping Parents to Instill Abstinence in Their Children

Laura B. Gallier provides sensitive Godly coaching for instilling sexual purity in your children in her book "Choosing to Wait: A Guide to Inspiring Abstinence."

Gallier's focus is on training that will furnish parents with the tools to inspire sexual abstinence by cultivating and instilling personal convictions to maintain sexual purity. The study includes three steps which build on each other: Preparation, application, and motivation. These topics center on establishing a Biblical understanding of the purposes and sacredness of sex within marriage and the affects of sexual sin.

Each chapter contains thought provoking questions for self reflection. The application section provides a "Parent-Child Discussion Starter" and discussion road maps. These serve as spring boards for discussing sex and abstinence.

Appalling statistics about America's high school students and youth appear throughout the book. Gallier's demonstrates an understanding of the teen psyche, their natural instincts, and the temptations they face.

Chapter titles are clear and describe the actual content of the chapter. This feature adds to the value of the book for later reference or review. I found the "Steps to Inspiring Convictions" beneficial as they also provide principles for developing other important spiritual disciplines.

In a companion book for especially for teens entitled "Why Wait? The Naked Truth About Sex and Abstinence" Laura paves the way in an approach which encourages parent-teen dialog. Parent and teen will benefit from having their own specific material to read, study, and apply.

"Choosing to Wait: A Guide to Inspiring Abstinence" provides answers for parents, teachers, and all who love and want to protect the children in their lives. The book is Biblically sound, relevant, and timely. Putting into practice the proactive plan for inspiring abstinence in your children will be an investment in their future and in your future peace of mind.

It's the End of the World as We Know It
Jim Fletcher
Christian Life
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781499794723 $14.99

A Casual Profound Informative Biblical Look the End of the World

Sensitive to questions and needs of today's new generation of spiritually hungry, questioning young adults, Jim Fletcher uses humor with a combination of pop culture to introduce the reader to Old Testament Biblical prophecies fulfilled in New Testament days, in recent history and even today. "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" recognizes that we are living in troubled times while offering hope to the reader.

Fletcher describes how "men and women today are living in a quiet foreboding, while searching for meaning and answers to their personal pain and distress. The book leads the reader into an expectancy and anticipation of the soon return of the Lord.

Fletcher talks about the way liberal scholars manipulate others in their mission to demoralize the Christian faith. He provides evidence that the Bible does reveal the existence of the God of the Universe. He clearly validates this hypothesis by using Biblical prophecy. He goes on to explain how prophecy reveals the answers to enjoying life as Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled in these end-times. In speaking on the topic of coincidences, Fletcher shows conclusively that Bible prophecies are real, and that there are no coincidences.

Fletcher told of conversations with Israel's leaders and officials, in which the spoke of their reactions to the prophecies of Ezekiel and Isaiah. They authenticated the relevance of fulfilled Biblical prophecy and current events.

Fletcher reviewed the impact of other Jewish leaders prominently involved in Israel's history over the last sixty years of history.

Fletcher maintains that "one's world view is dominated by what he or she thinks about the Bible." He writes with humor and intelligibility engaging the reader in interactive thought provoking concepts and questions for consideration. His unique approach of comparing ideas propagated through pop culture in light of Biblical Prophecy make this a book with a new and refreshing approach to the subjects of apologetics and eschatology.

Where Did the Prophets Go?
James Noll
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432737696 $10.95

Convincing Evidence That Prophets Exist Today

Popular Biblical Teaching today contends that prophets stopped existing after the time of the New Testament. In His book "Where Did the Prophets Go? Proof That Prophets Exist Today" Dr. James Noll offers evidence including scripture, which show that prophets continue to minister among us today. He explores the core teaching of these two main schools of thought and their basis. The book is introduces and illustrates the role of prophets today compared to Old Testament times.

Each chapter is filled with helpful information. I especially appreciated the information presented in the background material on the lives of the prophets. He detailed their characteristics, told of their anointing, gave insight into their prayer life, and talked about the mystery surrounding these well known prophets.

He also highlighted important facet of the inter testament period, outlined the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus and set forth the examples of Jesus as a prophet.

Noll focused on the five-fold ministry of the church and the function of prophecy within the church today. He explained the four levels of prophecy: prophetic culture, the gift of prophecy, prophetic people, and the office of the prophet/prophetess. The reader is warned of false prophets is provided with guidelines for testing the authenticity of professed prophets.

Noll offers a scriptural defense for his conclusions. He talks about his own personal experiences with prophecy. His thesis is plausible, well researched, and Biblically documented. Noll provides tables, bibliography, and resources which add to the worth of the book as a reference guide for ministers, Bible teachers, and serious students. "Where Did the Prophets Go?" is well-timed and makes the church aware of the importance of listening for God's communication through His contemporary, modern day prophets.

Hearts of Stone
Kate
Authorhouse
1663 Liberty Street, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN47403
9781438929118 $9.00

Dreams and Warnings from the Angels of God

In her book "Hearts of Stone" Kate delivers the message of her dreams, a message suppressed by the media for years. Her dreams contain a warning to the peoples of the world. A world filled with evil, selfishness and greed. Kate warns of judgment to come. She relates dreams of abject poverty, of tortuous suffering, devastating earthquakes, and of cities being destroyed. She warned of an AIDS epidemic before it hit.

The book is filled with profound questions for readers to consider. Kate offers perceptive words for those seeking truth, for finding peace, and for giving and receiving forgiveness. She talks about endurance and confidence and of her dreams of a world religion, untainted and pure.

Often, Kate had foreknowledge of a celebrity's tragedy or a family death which has been fulfilled in two weeks. Kate talks about dreams of nuclear power plants everywhere falling, a catastrophe which leaves multitudes of children without parents.

Kate's dreams frequently come as messages conveyed through angels. Kate warns that the time is at hand when Jesus' parables will be fulfilled. We are fast approaching the time of harvest and judgment. Her dreams of Iraq, of the dangers of governments, and of the devastation of war all go unheeded even though she makes them known to government officials, informs the press, and other investigative organizations. Kate tells of threats on her life because of revealing the allegations and substance of her dreams.

"Hearts of Stone" is Kate's bold declaration that her dreams originate from God, and are sent through angels. Skeptics will not find this a book easy to accept. However, Kate's message will bring support and encouragement to others, who like Kate, recognize the message of warning and the dangers of being ignored and going unheeded by world leaders and those in places of influence. "Hearts of Stone" is the medium which has allowed Kate to get her message to the general public.

Richard R. Blake
Reviewer


Sullivan's Bookshelf

Making You Case The Art of Persuading Judges
Antonio Scalia and Bryan A. Garner
Thomson/West
9780314184719 $29.95

Here are the two authors' 255 rules for arguing your case in front of a judge. Many of the admonitions are specifically targeted at those facing appellate courts or the Supreme Court of the United States. Therefore, this volume is primarily addressed to lawyers and new jurists.

If the reader is a layperson, however, and is inadvertently perusing this book, he or she might gain an insight into why lawyers charge such high fees. There are so many details for counsel to master prior to and in court proceedings, everything from what color suit to wear in court, to personal files on the judges proclivities, to avoiding the use of verbal contractions in briefs, that vast amounts of time is consumed merely to follow only a majority of these rules.

The 'rules' are grouped under separate headings: "General Principles of Argumentation," such as "Know your case"; "Legal Reasoning," as in "Think syllogistically"; "Briefing," for instance "Outline your brief; and "Oral Argument." as to "Appreciate the importance of oral argument, and know your objectives."

The book is replete with sayings and adages from famous individuals and well-known jurists. All are witty and/or extremely pithy (e.g., "You will not be stopped from arguing if you wear a race-track suit or sport a rainbow necktie. You will just create a first impression that you have strayed in at the wrong bar.") - Hon. Robert H. Jackson.

For the most part, the two authors agree. When they don't, each writes his own opinion, which is very fair-minded. With that thought still in mind, Justice Scalia, a sitting associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, allows lesser known, but also extremely competent, particularly in the area of legal writing, co-author, Bryan A. Garner, to have equal billing on the book.

Antonin Scalia served on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia prior to his present position. This obviously leant more fodder for his observations on legal briefs he's seen in and out of court. He has also written an earlier book, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law.

Brian A. Garner has penned a couple books for the legal profession prior to this one: Garner's Modern American Usage and The Elements of Legal Style. Moreover, he is the editor in chief of Black's Law dictionary.

Recommended for lawyers (at least for this reviewer's legal counsel.)

Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter
Rick Shenkman
Basic Books
9780465077717 $25.00

To the question in the title, the short answer is: VERY!

The longer answer delves into the fact that during elections, Americans would rather believe in myths instead of facts. They would rather follow what they believe about their political party than what the facts show. This, of course, explains why many citizens vote against their own best interests as pointed out in Thomas Franks' book, What's the Matter with Kansas?. Moreover, Americans just don't know much about civics.

The author looks into the shifting away from newspaper reading to scanning online news. Worse yet, getting political information on TV's Jon Stewart Show or the Colbert Report. Regardless of the news source used, by itself, it's just not in depth enough to make a careful, factual decision about which candidate to vote for.

For years, including now, no politician dares tell the 'People,' another myth, that they are stupid. But, it's certainly on every politician's mind. Woe be to the one that even hints at it.

Americans are just not capable when it comes to civics. The author writes, "Schooling by itself is not the answer. More than half of all Americans now have some college education. Yet they are no more knowledgeable about civics than Americans a half-century ago, when fewer than half of all citizens even graduated from high school (six in ten in 1940 never even got past the eighth grade). What's needed is specifically an emphasis on civics. Studies show that people who know civics are less easily manipulated by politicians."

Rick Shenkman, the author, is a New York Times investigative reporter for which he's won awards. He is also the founder and editor of the History News Network website at George Mason University. Besides appearing on TV (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News), he has written other books, too, including Presidential Ambition and Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History. A resident of Seattle, he has a personal blog concerning the 2008 election. (http://howstupidblog.com)

An easy, quick, interesting read, this volume is recommended.

The Limits of Power The American Exceptionalism (The American Empire Project)
Andrew J. Bacevich
Metropolitan Books (an imprint of Henry Holt and Company)
9780805088151 $24.00

The U. S. has from day one of its founding considered itself special, as the sacred 'city on a hill,' among all nations. This concept is called 'exceptionalism.' Consequently, America has always done things differently. That's why it is so blessed, being the most economically successful, politically astute, militarily powerful, and the guiding light to the rest of the globe. But the U. S. no longer can consider itself exceptional, if it really ever was. Worse, it is leaning toward empire.

Writes the author, "...the ideology of national security, American exceptionalism in its most baleful form, poses an insurmountable obstacle to sound policy. When American power was ascendant, the United States could pretend to interpret history's purpose or God's will. Today, it can no longer afford to indulge in such conceits."

The term 'freedom' implies that the U.S. should set an example. That's true in economics, politics, and military matters. Sad to say, but the U.S. has become or is becoming bankrupt in all these areas, hi short, the nation has overdone it. This country is no longer what it thought it was. And the power once held or considered to have been held is ebbing rapidly. Thus, the U.S. is limited, as are all nations. America, though it may still seem powerful, isn't. The endless war in Iraq, the country's current economic mess, and its divisive political scene lend themselves as prime examples of Bacevich's point of view.

The leading predictor of this outcome for the U.S., and for other nations, has been the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, "a pastor, teacher, activist, theologian, and prolific author and a towering presence in American intellectual life from the 1930s through the 1960s." The author, to make his positions clear, quotes frequently from Niebuhr throughout this volume. For instance, Niebuhr is quoted in this book to say, "One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun."

Andrew J. Bacevich, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and author of this book, dedicates it to his 'killed-in-action-in-Iraq son, 1st Lt. Andrew John Bacevich, U.S. Army, 1979 to 2007. The author is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. This is his fifth book. He has also published in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Recommended.

*Citing from the book: "The American Empire Project is a response to the changes that have occurred in America's strategic thinking as well as in its military and economic posture. Empire, long considered an offence against America's democratic heritage, now threatens to define the relationship between our country and the rest of the world. The American Empire Project publishes books that question this development, examine the origins of U.S. imperial aspirations, analyze their ramifications at home and abroad, and discuss alternatives to this dangerous trend."

Such tomes as Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky, The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, and Crusade, by James Carroll have been written under the rubric of the American Empire Project.

Jim Sullivan
Reviewer


Theodore's Bookshelf

Nemesis
Jo Nesbo
Don Bartlett, Translator
HarperCollins, 10 E.. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061655500 $25.99 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

There have been seven Harry Hole novels, but this is only the second to be published in the United States (the first was "The Redbreast"). Both demonstrate the author's uncanny ability to continually lead the reader astray with one false conclusion after another before disclosing, in a final twist, a most unexpected denouement.

In the present novel, these principles apply to two separate story lines. One involves a bank robbery in which a woman is shot in the head. The other finds a woman with whom Harry had a short affair shot in her bed the day after Harry had dinner at her home (but he can't remember a thing about the evening). In fact, there are clues implicating him in the deed and in fact, the cover asks the question: "How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect?"

The translation by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian flows smoothly. The novel was a number one best-seller in Norway, spending 39 weeks on the best seller list. Past novels from this author saw Bangkok and Australia as settings. Nesbo is now writing the next Harry Hole novel which will take him to Hong Kong, so Harry certainly gets around. It should be well worth waiting for, if the past is prologue. Highly recommended.

Shanghai Moon
S.J. Rozan
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312245566 $24.95 www.minotaurbooks.com 646-307-5560

It's been a long drought, the Biblical lean seven years, but this new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith novel is certainly worth the wait. It all takes place in New York City, mainly in Chinatown, but its genesis is in Shanghai, just before and during World War Two. A little-known fact is that the Chinese seaport was one of the few places which would accept Jews fleeing from the Nazis during the late 1930's, provided they could get out of Europe in the first place.

Eighteen-year-old Rosalie Gilder and her brother Paul were among the lucky ones. In a secret compartment in their luggage were the family jewels. On the ship, Rosalie befriends a cultured Chinese gentleman, and the relationship develops to the point where they are married some years later. To commemorate the marriage, they have a jeweler join an heirloom piece of jade from the groom's family, with diamonds from the bride's mother's necklace, creating the Shanghai Moon which Rosalie always wore around her neck.

Following the war and the end of the Civil War, chaos and turmoil were commonplace, and few possessions that were not sold to buy food and necessities during the war remained. Rosalie's jewels were buried in the grounds outside the villa in which they lived, and in the final days before the Red Army occupied Shanghai the house was invaded and she was shot. Now the jewels have been found during an excavation and become property of the state. A Chinese official, however, absconds with the jewels and flees to the United States, purportedly with the Shanghai Moon which no one has seen since Rosalie's death. Lydia Chin is retained to find the thief, and Bill Smith, from whom she has been estranged, joins in her effort. It becomes their task to not only locate the thief, who commits two murders, but the jewels as well.

The early years are told in a series of letters from Rosalie to her mother. Descriptions of Shanghai and life there are gripping, and the writing, including Chinese and Yiddish expressions, authentic. The novel is equal to Rozan's best, filled with interesting characters, an intricate plot and an unusual background. Hopefully, seven lean years will be followed by seven fat; this series is one of the best to be found anywhere.

Highly recommended.

Lethal Legacy
Linda Fairstein
Doubleday
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385523998 $26.00 www.doubleday.com 800-726-0600

The latest murder mystery in the Linda Fairstein series featuring New York City institutions is set in the New York Public Library. Like the previous novels in the series, it is based on meticulous research and supplies the reader with not only a top-notch murder mystery, but little-known facts about the location. Many New Yorkers know that the landmark building on 42nd Street is built on what was once a reservoir that supplied the city with fresh water. But probably few are aware that miles and miles of racks containing millions of books occupy the area below the adjacent Bryant Park where people loll or eat lunch in the summer or ice skate in the winter.

Be that as it may, ADA Alex Cooper and her favorite detectives, Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman, have to learn all about the 42nd Street library when they initially check out an assault of a woman, Tina Barr, in the basement apartment of a 90th Street brownstone. The following day, another woman, the personal maid of Minerva Hunt, daughter of one Library trustee and sister of another, is found dead in the same apartment. Tina was formerly an employee of the Library and has worked for a couple of the Trustees. The investigation takes the intrepid trio all through the building, learning all kinds of interesting history, and all about rare maps and books, their creation and theft, along the way as the investigation progresses until the peril-filled and exciting finish.

Aside from the deep and fascinating research, Ms. Fairstein's smooth style and expert legal knowledge are constantly displayed throughout the novel. Also on display is her love for New York City, its streets and avenues, restaurants and other assets, lovingly described as only a New Yorker could. It's a good thing there are lots of other landmarks available for future entries in the series. While the original Yankee Stadium and [formerly-known-as] Shea Stadium are no longer with us, the new ballfields are just about to open, and there are still City Hall, Gracie Mansion, the Statue of Liberty and hundreds of other potential sites to work on. Indeed something to which we can look forward.

Highly recommended.

Lady Killer
Lisa Scottoline
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060833213 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com 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.

Eclipse
Richard North Patterson
Henry Holt
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780805087727 $26.00 www.henryholt.com 646-307-5151

The geopolitics of oil and impoverished, underdeveloped nations, coupled with the rights and needs of the downtrodden populations of these countries, provide a fundamental story. Luandia is portrayed as an African nation awash in black gold and corrupted by the riches it brings, governed by a sadistic, psycho dictator.

Bobby Okari, a Mandela-like leader of a movement to use some of the oil wealth to improve the lot of his people, is arrested on trumped up charges of murder and sedition. Many years before, Damon Pierce, a successful human rights attorney in San Francisco, became friends with Okari and his wife, Marissa, in Berkeley. She calls Damon for his help and he does two things: he files a suit against the American oil company which has the oil concession, and then flies to Luandia to defend Bobby.

The ensuing law trial and attempts at saving Bobby from death provide for a penetrating look at all aspects of corruption: political and military, greed, and other aspects of the world-wide petroleum industry and its effect on people and governments throughout the world. Written with a tautness that is compelling, the novel is the latest in a series of novels by the author on various controversial topics, including abortion rights, the gun lobby, capital punishment, and race and religion in presidential politics. Recommended.

Atomic Lobster
Tim Dorsey
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060829704 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

The lovable psychopath, Serge A. Storm, appears for the 10th time, along with his larger-than-life sidekick, Coleman, in this typically [for this author] comical and absurd tale. Along the way we are treated to amusing sidelights, ending in a cruise from Tampa involving smuggling.

The novel includes the customary cast of unusual characters, including a serial killer, a timid husband and his mixed-up wife, a boozed-up and doped-up bottle blond strip-teaser and four elderly matrons who provide comic relief. The author's comments on cruise ships are not only funny but accurate and telling.

If you've never read one of the books in this series, start here. You will not be disappointed, as we promised in our review of "Hurricane Punch" [the book preceding this one, released last year in paperback].

The Redbreast
Jo Nesbo
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061134005 $14.99 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

During World War II, Norway was occupied by the Nazi army, and the head of the government lent his name to the English language synonymous with traitor - Quisling. About 400 Norwegian youths volunteered to fight with the Germans on the Eastern front against the Russians. Most of them did not survive the war. But those that did and returned to Norway were branded traitors and sentenced to years in prison.

It is against this challenging backdrop that the author has created a superb mystery novel equal to the best of the Scandinavian writers. He introduces Harry Hole, an irreverent, alcoholic detective on a par with Harry Bosch and his contemporaries. The story moves from events during the war to present times and back and forth. A series of murders takes place in Oslo, and little by little Harry follows the leads subtly provided, ignoring the powers that be who tell him to ignore his intuition and "be a good boy."

The roots of the story are gleaned from the author's own background - his father served in the Leningrad siege and his mother in the resistance. The novel was first published in Norway in 1997 and won the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel and later voted the best Norwegian crime novel ever written. It is the author's second book [his third, "Nemesis," has just been released in hardcover] and we look forward to many more. Highly recommended.

The Dark Tide
Andrew Gross
Harper
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061143434 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737

A couple of million here, a couple of million there, before you know it, it adds up to a lot of loot. In this novel, in fact, Charles Friedman, who runs a hedge fund, managed to lose a billion dollars trading. And the consequences lead to his trying to cover up the losses from some very dangerous people who stop at nothing, including murder.

Then one day, when he rides into Grand Central Station to his office, a bomb goes off on his train and fire spreads all over. When he doesn't show up at work, he is presumed dead. But is he? Meanwhile, a hit-and-run death near his home in Greenwich, CT, intrigues a police detective. And threats against Friedman's wife bring him into contact with the cop.

From there events progress in a fairly straightforward manner, leading to a pretty obvious conclusion. That observation isn't particularly negative, in any sense. The book is well-paced and logical. All one has to do is follow the hidden secrets from beginning to end. The only question unanswered and unexplained is how a billion dollars can be lost before steps are taken to prevent massive losses, or just how Friedman's cover-up really works. Otherwise, a good read, and recommended. [And those things are perhaps, these days -- bearing in mind that this book came out in hardcover about a year ago -- not so far a stretch, and practically prescient!]

Bright Futures
Stuart M. Kaminsky
Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765318282 $23.95 www.tor-forge.com 212-388-0100

Lew Fonesca, who landed in Sarasota after his wife was killed in an auto accident in Chicago, continues his insecure life as a process server to eke out an existence wondering if life is worth it. He is good at finding people, and somehow manages to keep up with his unusual therapy, the price of which is a cup of coffee and some biscotti biscuits, in which he may (or may not) be making progress.

The series is imaginative in the sense that the characters are unusual and there are many amusing asides, keeping the reader constantly smiling. And the descriptions of the Sarasota area add real flavor.

In this caper, Lew, assisted by his buddy Ames, take on a case of proving or disproving a murder charge against a high school student. Although not a private eye, he is implored by a couple of the accused's fellow students to find the person who is guilty of the murder of a despicable rich man.

While the novel starts off stressing Lew's ennui, as it progresses we find him growing and accepting the fact that life may be worth living. It's a good thing, because then we can look forward to a seventh novel in the series.

Recommended.

Death Was in the Picture
Linda L. Richards
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312383398 $24.95 www.minotaurbooks.com 646-307-5560

Set in glamorous Hollywood deep in the Great Depression Era, just after the 1929 crash, this old-fashioned detective novel is the second featuring PI Dexter Theroux and his secretary-Girl Friday, Katherine (Kitty) Pangborn. Initially, Dex is retained to follow and observe a movie star. The target is arrested for the murder of a woman at the party at which Dex is observing him.

And in a twist, Dex drops the original client and now represents the movie star who hires him to find the real murderer. There are vivid descriptions of life during the Depression years, with shortages of money and food, as well as observations and background on the movie industry.

The author includes a couple of things this reader never knew, i.e., Los Angeles had a subway system in 1931, and while the infamous Hays Office was established with the help of the studios, it was ignored until strong-arm tactics forced compliance. The plot is well-told and -written, and lovers of the genre will not be disappointed.

Runner
Thomas Perry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780151015283 $25.00 www.hmhbooks.com 617-351-5003

It's been five years since Jane McKinnon [nee Whitefield] last saved a runner, sedately living the life of a woman married to a Buffalo, NY surgeon and volunteering at the hospital.. Then in the midst of a gala fund-raising affair she was supervising at the hospital, everything changed after a young pregnant girl approached her for help, and then an explosion rocked the hospital.

Quickly determining that the explosion was meant to have the hospital evacuated so the girl could be abducted, Jane immediately took steps to remove the girl to a safe location, and we are treated to a lesson in changing a person's identity, securing one's safety, and all other kinds of precautions necessary to safeguard a runner. And the dangers of not following Jane's warnings that could lead to the chasers finding the runner.

The plot is written with the usual thrilling touches inherent in the series. The novel is tightly written and suspenseful. Jane is an enchanting and memorable character, skilled in what she does. Can she really retire? That is the question.

Recommended.

Run Into Trouble
Alan Cook
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
9781438923505 $14.49 www.authorhouse.com 888-519-5121

The year is 1969, the Vietnam War is in full blast and a large, privately held California defense contractor offers a million-dollar prize to a group of runners to traverse the state from the Mexican border to San Francisco. Among the runners are Drake and Melody, paired as a team. They, many years before, had worked as some kind of government agents in England.

Along the 500-mile route, we are treated not only to a scenic description of the California coast, but to a series of incidents of an increasingly violent nature.

At the beginning, there is an accident caused by a pickup truck banging into the cab in which Drake is riding to the starting point of the race, severely injuring him to the point that he can hardly run. But perseverance and ingenuity prevail, and Drake and Melody continue running up the coast and discovering more events affecting the race, prompting the pair to apply their past training to try to figure out what is happening.

Who would ever have thought that a race featuring a marathon distance every day could provide the basis for the kind of intrigue included throughout the plot, which combines a Cold War setting and subversive conspiracy? Not to mention the various tricks inherent in running a foot race. Somehow, it all comes together in a good read, one which is recommended.

Night and Day
Robert B. Parker
Putnam
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155413 $25.95 www.us.penguingroup.com 800-847-5515

Sex plays a prominent role in the various themes running though this latest

Jesse Stone novel. Jesse, the Chief of Police of Paradise, Massachusetts, is confronted with three situations, not to mention his own personal mystery concerning his feelings for his ex-wife. He has to analyze and solve each of them in his own way.

First of all, there is the matter of the school principal who gathers all the girls in the locker room to inspect their underclothing, leading to a parental uproar. The principal is married to the managing partner of Boston's largest law firm, with political connections, so Jesse is hamstrung in his efforts to take any action against her. Then there is the wife-swapping swingers club, an activity that breaks no laws. However, the child of one of the couples informs Jesse of the effect on her and her brother, asking him to help her in some way.

Then there is the voyeur who calls himself the Night Hawk (no relation to Hawk of the Spenser series, thankfully) Soon, peeping in people's windows isn't a sufficient thrill and he begins invading homes and forcing women to undress so he can photograph them. The peeping began at night but the escalation starts in the day, giving rise to the title of the book.

Written in Parker's terse style of short sentences and chapters, with the usual smart-witted language, the book is a joy to read. And each solution to a problem is ingeniously worthy of a shrewd Chief, no less a very talented author. Jesse comes up with an original and fitting plan for each of his problems. As usual, the sparkling dialogue of the master keeps the reader engaged and amused. Highly recommended.

A Beautiful Place to Die
Malla Nunn
Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416586203 $25.00 www.simonsays.com 800-223-2336

It is 1952, the dawn of the apartheid era. In a little northern South African town an Afrikaner police captain is found dead with one bullet wound in the head and another in his back, face down in the river bordering with Mozambique. Detective Sergeant Emanuel Cooper is quickly dispatched to solve the murder. The Captain ruled the town and his family owned many of the businesses and much land there. His word was law and set the moral tone for whites and blacks and "coloreds."

Still recovering from wounds suffered during the war, Cooper is a troubled but very gifted investigator. He quickly recognizes that something is wrong in the town, but there are few clues and little in the way of help in his solitary effort, especially because of the separate worlds of Boers, blacks and mixed races as the new apartheid laws grab hold. Complicating matters more so is competition from the infamous Security Branch, determined to pin the murder on a Communist conspiracy.

As Cooper becomes more involved, crossing the racial barriers, the case takes on a more personal meaning and he realizes the deep implications to the people and the town. The characterizations are vivid and the plot unusual for a murder mystery. Apparently, the novel is the beginning of a new series by a talented author. The follow-up will be eagerly awaited. Highly recommended.

Murder in the Rue de Paradis

Cara Black
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475423 $13.00 www.sohopress.com 212-260-1900

The real question is which is more interesting: The intricate unfolding of this Aimee Leduc mystery or the detailed and authentic descriptions of Paris. Each aspect, in its way, combined, makes for a compelling story.

Just as Aimee reconnects with her on-again-off-again boyfriend in a meaningful way, he is murdered. In attempting to discover the identity of the perpetrator, Aimee becomes involved in a wider conspiracy involving the Moslem population of Paris, including Kurds and Turks, Iranians and a religious Jihad.

The plot is fashioned in such a way as to keep the reader completely in suspense, while taking one through the streets and quays in a backdrop so detailed that the Seine can be smelled. Highly recommended. [It should perhaps be noted that the author's newest book in the series, "Murder in the Latin Quarter," has just been released in hardcover.]

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye
C. J. Box
Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312365721 $24.95 www.minotaurbooks.com 646-307-5560

Nine months after they adopted a little girl, Jack and Melissa McGuane learn that the adoption process had been incomplete. It appears that the biological father never signed off. Then the latter and his father, a Federal circuit court judge, show up one Sunday and claim the baby is theirs, giving the couple three weeks to turn the "daughter" over to them.

The novel traces the emotions and efforts over the next 21 days as the pressure of the fateful day nears. Aided by friends, especially a police detective, they attempt to find out why the judge wants the baby since it appears neither his son nor his wife has any interest in it.

This is a well-told narrative, with twists to wrench the reader's heart. More important, the conclusion is so unexpected and evil that few, if any, will anticipate it. The plot certainly is suspenseful, and the book is recommended.

A Darker Place
Jack Higgins
G.P. Putnam Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155505 $26.95 800-847-5515 www.us.penguingroup.com

The characters in this long-running series are so familiar it might seem impossible to come up with a fresh approach. But Jack Higgins seems to do it effortlessly, even though in this novel they are relegated to a relatively passive role. All the action is left to two new protagonists, leaving General Ferguson, Sean Dillon, the Salters and Lady Starling to sort of supporting roles. Only Major Roper is active in his usual cybernetic detective mode.

A world famous novelist, Alexander Kurbsky, who served with distinction as an officer in Afghanistan and Chechnya, son of a GRU Colonel, is brought to the Kremlin and offered a deal for the release of his sister from a Siberian Gulag (he thought her dead for many years) for serving the Motherland by infiltrating the highest levels of British intelligence. The ruse is he offers to defect, and Ferguson and the others take Kurbsky in with open arms, completely unaware of the plot.

But the best laid plans go askew, and Higgins is able to introduce two new members of the cast in the form of Kurbsky and his friend Yuri Bounine, who was his second-in-command in Afghanistan and Chechnya, as Alex learns certain facts and develops a new moral attitude. All leading to a thrilling conclusion.

Highly recommended.

The Renegades
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950950 $26.95 800-847-5515 www.penguin.com

The obvious relationship between drugs and police corruption provides the plot for this follow-up novel to last year's popular "L.A. Outlaws," which introduced Sheriff's Deputy Charlie Hood. Charlie has just put away a corrupt cop, which provides for minimal love interest when he and the assistant district attorney become attracted to each other while awaiting the start of the trial.

Meanwhile, Charlie continues riding in his patrol car and one night his partner is gunned down execution style. While the idea is distasteful to Charlie, he is recruited by Internal Affairs to find the killer. In his investigation, any number of questions arise about his partner and the reserve deputy with whom he usually rode. As the 'good cop,' Charlie begins to see bad cops raking in unaccounted for cash.

Parker's descriptions of the characters and atmosphere are acute and graphic, especially his depiction of pit bull fights and the opulence and sang froid of drug traffickers. The novel demonstrates Mr. Parker's ability to create inventive new plots while using established characters, and is recommended.

Theodore Feit
Reviewer


Victoria's Bookshelf

The Girl With Braided Hair
Margaret Coel
Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780425223277 $7.99

In this latest installment of Coel's, a woman's skeleton is discovered on the Arapaho Reservation. The body, or what's left of it, has been there a long time and the case is cold. Members of the Arapaho Tribe enlist the aid of the Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley and his close friend, Vicky Holden. They're asked to find the woman's identity so the tribe can put
her to rest, but Vicky wants to do more. She wants to bring the woman's killer to justice.

Vicky's a lawyer. Her partner and lover, a Lakota named Adam, disagree over her involvement in solving the murder. The coroner estimates the year of death to be 1973, during the American Indian Movement and there's reason to believe there's a connection between the bones and AIM. It becomes obvious that the murderer's still around when someone leaves a note for Vicky telling her to "Stop."

But as usual nothing keeps Vicky and Father John from barreling ahead despite the danger and the odds of solving the case as the body count climbs.

Even though I recommend starting at the beginning and reading all of Coel's books in the series, each book in the series stands alone. The books are enjoyable, so if you like this story, go back and read them all. Some of the other titles in the series include: The Eagle Catcher, The
Lost Bird, Eye Of The Wolf, The Thunder Keeper and The Story Teller. This is the thirteenth in the Wind River Reservation Mysteries. For more information go to: http://www.margaretcoel.com/

Size 2 for Life
Ashley Marriott & Marc L. Paulson
Stance Publications
Newport Beach, CA 92663
9780982104743 $21.99 www.stancepublications.com

This book is a blueprint for successful weight loss and fitness. The author's lay out everything you need to do to succeed and it's easy to read and understand. Diet is discussed and exercises shown. It's not a plan for those who want an easy fix, because there isn't one. We're only kidding ourselves if we believe there is.

Do I expect to be a size two? No, but if I follow the plan faithfully I should be slim for my build. I'm big boned and as a real size two I'd look like I was anorexic. Size two isn't realistic for everyone, who cares if you're slender, but not a real size two? You'll feel good about
yourself and look wonderful. Wouldn't it be great to fit into those skinny jeans again? I'm going to give it a try; after all I have a lot to lose.

Victoria Kennedy
Reviewer


Wheldon's Bookshelf

The God I Don't Understand
Christopher J.H. Wright
Zondervan
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
97803102754566 $19.99

Summary: A theological book that successfully wrestles with the Biblical issues that many place in the too-hard basket.

This book is one for those who enjoy wrestling with theology. Whereas many books use such a title as a teaser to merely put forward the easy answers to life's hard questions, Wright genuinely grapples with the issues presented in this book and invites the reader to join with him as he works his way through them.

Wright is the International Director of the Langham Partnership international, he is the chair of the Lausanne Committee's Theology Working Group and chair of the Theological Resource Panel of TEAR Fund. His work comes out of many years studying and teaching theology, and it is encased within that theological and intellectual standing.

In saying that, it is not written in an inaccessible fashion. If you have ever had the joy of studying philosophy within a university setting, you will understand what I mean when I say some philosophical writing is incomprehensible to the lay person. Wright is not in that basket, but he is in the intellectual basket, and you may need to adjust your reading speed and take notes as you go as he sometimes makes several very important arguments on the one page as evidence for a single point he is making.

The book addresses four of the harder issues found within the Bible. The first is the mystery, offence and defeat of evil. Personally I was not particularly taken with his argument, but these chapters were filled with such a breadth of understanding on the topic, that it was more than worthwhile reading to gain a number of valuable insights. Wright then very successfully addresses the issue of Israel's invasion and destruction of the Caananites. He clearly describes the alternative interpretations and then argues for the Bible's description and justification of the events.

Next up is the Cross. This is a very well constructed theological explanation of what happened to Jesus on the Cross, why it was necessary, what exactly happened, and the consequences. Then finally, Wright addresses the end of the world. This is where he is at his most successful, putting forth a thoroughly Biblical interpretation of what will happen at the end of the world. He dispels a number of myths and encourages the reader to move past the modern-day hype and understand what God is actually saying in the Bible.

This book was written for discussion in small groups and additional resources are available online. I would encourage the reader, however, if planning on reading it as a chapter study, to first read it as a complete whole, for it is by doing this that the deep faith of the writer and the whole of his argument, expressed through all of the different issues, is fully revealed.

Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage
Mark Gungor
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416536055 $24.00

Summary: A funny, personal and very helpful book that helps you to understand how to incorporate both conflict and happiness into a successful, satisfying marriage.

This book is based upon Mark Gungor's highly successful seminar, Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage. However, it is best to get one thing straight to begin with: Mark is a very funny guy, but, as he admits, this book is not at all about laughing your way to a better marriage. It encourages laughter, and he has a good time laughing about various issues, but if you thought this was going to be a philosophy based upon laughter, then you've been a little misled by the title.

That aside, it is a terrific book. We have a pre-marriage course that runs at our church and I've already offered it to the people who run it to have a read. Gungor takes the myths of marriage and explains why they are just that, myths. However, he loves marriage, he revels in its possibilities, and encourages the reader to do just the same. Whereas some books take what is negative about marriages and leaves you with a feeling that marriage is not all it is hyped up to be, and should be avoided at all costs, Gungor takes the negative and explains why God created such negatives and opposites in order to make successful marriages.

He does so in a laid back style of writing, as though he were sitting at a bar joking with his friends about their marriages and how they can get them back on track. Not that there aren't serious bits, and not that there isn't good theory to back it up, it is just his approach and his humour are what set this book apart from the many books on marriage available at the bookstore.

It covers in some depth how men and women are created differently; how they think and act differently, and how this must be understood in order to communicate successfully and enjoy each other's company within a marriage. He lingers a little on sex, again outlining the different ways in which males and females tend to approach sex and how, if this difference is understood, sex can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

Finally, Gungor looks at how to have healthy arguments and how the imposed necessity of divorce is a myth perpetuated by modern society, whereas couples who stay together, tend to succeed even through their times of pain.

All in all, a great read, taking the negatives of marriage, explaining them in the context of gender differences, and coming out the other end with a wonderfully positive outlook towards marriage and life itself.

The Fight Of Your Life
Jeffrey Dean, editor
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781601421104 $13.99

Summary: A hard-hitting, no holds-barred description of the modern teen's life and how parents are needed more than ever.

This book is a wake-up call. Jeffrey Dean wrote it so that parents can understand the difficult world that their teens may have to face everyday, and through this understanding, they will be motivated to help their teens to survive.

Reading Dean's book it made we wonder if there was anything new under the sun. And then I sat down at my computer and I realised that there is one thing that has changed the world irrevocably. The computer and the internet are new to this generation of teenagers, with their immediate access to all sorts of experiences and communication. The speed at which things are experienced, and the two dimensional, inhuman way in which they are experienced, is completely different. So it is not the experiences in themselves that have changed, but the way in which they are experienced.

Looking back at my study of 20th century history, I remember studying the 1920s and discovering how prevalent and accessible were drug use, drink abuse and pornography, among other social problems. I had grown up thinking that the sixties was the generation of excess and illicit drugs and music etc., but no, it was no worse or better than the 1920s. Then the 1980's came along, and then the 1990's, and each generation through that they were worse, or better, depending on how they looked at it, than the previous generation. But in fact, every generation has been just the same. There is nothing new under the sun; people forget how the Romans were so similar to the people of today. However, the Romans didn't have the internet, and this is where there is a difference.

Nothing in this book shocks me, and there is nothing revealed in the book that wasn't discussed by my friends before I was ten years old. However, teenagers nowadays have both a sadness and an intensity about them that we didn't experience as greatly. The difference is that the internet is forcing them into an intense, deeply personal isolation, in tiny little rooms with flickering screens, just as Orwell had predicted.

Sex is no longer interesting, it has become scary. Because teens are spending more time online and less with their friends outside of the classroom, there is less chance to express their feelings and work through the issues and so they are building up inside them like volcanoes looking for a release valve. Drugs have been with humanity throughout the cultures almost since the beginning of time, but now there are such pressures on young people that it is more difficult to cope with the influences of drugs or with alcohol or sex.

The world, for many children, has become so pressurised that they need an escape route and the consequences of choosing the wrong route are both sad and tragic.

Dean argues that parents can make an immediate and positive impact, by helping their teens understand and define their world, and by being there for them all the time, both when things are good and when things are ugly.

He explains in explicit detail the pressures teens are under and why parents are needed and are so important in their lives. He writes like a teen, and gives his answers as a teen would. It makes for compelling and disturbing reading. However, just be aware that although what he advocates has worked for many teens and their parents, it may not necessarily work for yours. There are some generalisations in this book that you may well to be wary of. It may be a good idea, therefore, to also read and discuss some literature on psychological and sociological best practice before leaping in with too much gusto.

The book makes for powerful and necessary reading in today's society. It may be the fight of your teen's life, but remember, one shoe does not fit all, and there are many excellent ways of helping your teen depending on where they are at, depending on their genetic and environmental influences, and perhaps it would also be worthwhile to just check if there are any mental health issues that might be best handled by a professional before leaping in, boots and all.

Wheldon Curzon-Hobson
Reviewer


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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