Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 4 April 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andy's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Cassandra's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Lois' Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Divide by Zero
Sheila Deeth Publishing
B0090NFH56, $2.99

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

Divide by Zero by Sheila Deeth offers a unique perspective on community. Like a human patchwork quilt, this dramatic family novel provides intimate glimpses into the minds of dozens of characters. Some are sweet and submissive, like Mary. Others obsess over with "not being their fathers" (abusers), and end up fighting genetics their entire lives, like Peter. And yet others are innocent children, like the autistic girl Amelia, who appears in the last third of the book. Of all the characters, my favorite was the white cat, Garnet. Mystical and fundamental to the plot(s), she was quite endearing.

As a writer, I have never undertaken presenting so many points of view in one story. I marveled at how well Ms. Deeth told each distinctly different story with such authenticity.

There were moments of pure poetry within the pages. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

When speaking about a classroom, she wrote:

Sounds washed the room like paint brushes in water, muted with background blue, giving shade but no texture.

Here's a passage from the autistic girl's mind:

Amelia stretched her arms to feel the touch of air and drifting cobwebs, bark-dust singing, butterfly wings. Red sunshine warmed the lids of her closed eyes as she started to spin. Her feet scuffed earth, where stones or skeletons of leaves slipped into socks and caught between her toes. She moved as fast as thought while the air, pine-scented, grew earthy and cloudy, scratching in her throat till she fell down.

Like ripples in a pond, as events unfold - mundane or horrific - they propagate and touch every individual in unique and extraordinary ways.

This is not a book you will zoom through. It's not a page turner, or high action suspense. I actually read it slowly, over the course of several months. Beware, you may be lulled into a false sense of security by the vignettes that show each character undergoing his or her unique trials. But I guarantee you will never forget the characters or the horrific act that takes place very near the end of the story, and the spider web of connectivity that draws all characters into the human fabric of the tale.

42 Rules of Sensible Investing (2nd Edition): A Practical, Entertaining and Educational Guidebook for Personal Investment Strategies
Leon Shirman
Super Star Press
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210
Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607731122, $19.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

The author of this book, Leon Shirman, earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990. He turned his attention to investing in 1987, after a market crash that year. In 2002 Shirman founded his investment fund, Etalon Investments, where he is the Managing Partner, as well as a major shareholder.

The financial markets seem to be on a perpetual roller coaster and the author acknowledges this in the preface of this book. He says "Stock markets declines happened before and will happen in the future. They are a natural part of the market cycle." He also reassures the reader that the long-term investing philosophy taught in this book will work no matter how the market gyrates up and down.

I started reading this book at the end rather than at the beginning because the author includes a comprehensive Appendix that includes a glossary of terms. If you are unfamiliar with investing this is a good place to start. This is a great book for newbie investors, like myself, to learn the basics and enough advanced material to help more seasoned investors make better decisions.

Some of the information I found particularly helpful was the pros and cons of using a fund rather than self investing, why management fees vary and how this effects the performance of a portfolio or fund, only buy what you know. don't buy stocks in companies or in an industry that you don't understand and why tracking insider trading is important.

The book concludes with a bibliography, internet resources and the glossary. I believe this book contains so much information that it can easily take the place of a dozen other books on the same topic.

Abbott J. Keller, CAFE, Chief Investment Office of Kestrel Investment Management Corporation says "This book condenses enough wisdom into these 42 straightforward rules to save investors years of learning through costly experiences" and I couldn't agree with him more!

The Hypnotism Delusion
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 1440
New York, NY 10010-3675
9781934209387, $25.00

G. Richard Bozarth

The Hypnotism Delusion is unique for a Harwood book: it has no significant content about religionism and it doesn't have a militant Ecrasez l'infame! attitude even though its goal is to prove that there is no such thing as hypnotism and never has been. Harwood, a prolific Freethought writer who was born in Australia and now lives in Canada, is uniquely qualified to write this book. He was once a believer in hypnotism and he spent decades working in traveling stage hypnotism shows. He knows all about how fraudulent hypnotism is.

This is the third version of this book. The first version, The Superconscious World, was ghostwritten by Harwood for Peter Reveen, the stage hypnotist who employed him at the time. He was a true believer when he wrote it. Being a ghostwriter was not satisfactory, so the second version, Hypnotism Then And Now, came out as "by Peter Reveen as told to William Harwood". He no longer believed in hypnotism by then, but had to avoid making that fact clear because the book was being sold at Reveen's shows. Now, finally, here is the third version, a 100% Harwood book even if it rarely has the Harwood bite that his fans are accustomed to enjoying.

The history of hypnotism is very interesting. The idea of being in a controlled mental state goes back to the most ancient days, when a possessing supernatural entity was thought to be controlling the affected person. Hypnotism as it is understood today - a psychic power that enables a hypnotist to put a person in a mental state that gives the hypnotist control over the person - starts with Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) and his hypothesis of animal magnetism. What Mesmer actually discovered was that people are capable of suggestibility (some a lot more than others) and that when a person who has a talent for suggestibility surrenders his or her autonomy to the authority of the hypnotist, a certain degree of control is possible, though it is not psychic control; it's the kind of control a charismatic leader has over willing followers - that is, it's voluntary even if it seems involuntary to an outside observer. This is why a hypnotist can never order a subject to do something the subject is absolutely unwilling to do, but can order the subject to do something he or she wants to do yet would not do without the pretense of being psychically controlled. Needless to say, the person who is the ideal subject is a person who believes hypnotism is real.

Mesmerism evolved into hypnotism when it was realized that the same effects could be achieved without the magnets Mesmer used. If hypnotism had then been used only for entertainment, it would have been as harmless as pie-in-the-face comedy skits. That didn't happen. The psychiaquacks seized hypnotism and it wasn't long before abuses and highly lucrative scams became problems that still go on today. Harwood is fair when he points out that suggestion therapy conducted by ethical people has proven to be very useful and ought to continue to be used to help people when it can.

One of the first modern, media-driven hypnotism scams was past-life regression. This lunacy kicked off when Morey Bernstein published The Search For Bridey Murphy in 1956 and made so much fame and money that lots of psychiquack con-artists were eager to get their share of that big, fat, juicy pie. It still goes on even though the original hoax was exposed. Another scam called "forensic hypnotism" has been similarly successful and has been responsible for innocent people in prison when it has been used to "solve" rapes or child sexual abuse cases. Memories "recovered" during hypnotism are bogus. Memories "enhanced" by hypnotism are bogus. Harwood cites experiments that have proven these facts and cases of innocent victims being accused and convicted of crimes they did not commit based on "evidence" discovered by hypnotism. What happens is that memory, which is naturally malleable, becomes more malleable when people in a state of heightened suggestibility are responding to the leadership of authorities they trust. False memories are easily implanted by these "forensic hypnotists".

If the hoaxes are exposed, why does the belief in hypnotism persist? Harwood quite rightly blames the media, which makes more money perpetuating bullshit like hypnotism than it makes by debunking it. As Harwood points out on p. 99, "Giving extensive coverage to sensationalized nonsense and little or no coverage to rebuttals of that nonsense, makes the media morally culpable for the public's continued belief in dozens of theories and superstitions that have been fully refuted by competent research." The truth is out there, but it won't be found in entertainment shows that exploit bullshit beliefs (such as The X-Files) or in "documentaries" about hypnotism recovering memories of child sexual abuse or past-lives or alien abduction.

The Hypnotism Delusion is important because it exposes one of the ways psychiaquacks and other con-artists exploit the general public's media-nurtured gullibility. It's not a typical Harwood book, but should be in the library of every Harwood fan - and of every person who cares about the quality of the culture we live in.

Revelation: Book One of the Revelation Trilogy
M. J. Mancini
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
147920806X, $14.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

Irene S. Roth

Revelation is a story that resembles Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. If you enjoyed that book you will certainly love this intriguing page turner too. It is a book about murder, betrayal, intrigue, and the holy church.

Michael Gabriel Raphael is a devoted husband and father, enjoying a peaceful and fulfilling life. Then one day, one moment later, he is thrown into an abyss of frustration, torture, and suffering the likes of which is very hard to fathom. Accidents do happen, of course. But few accidents change the course of one's whole life like this one did for Michael.

Michael's estranged daughter is abducted by the Cavalieri di Satana (Knights of Satan), a society of devil worshipers. The Cavalieri plans to possibly kill his daughter in a ritual to prevent the second coming of Christ. Michael is told by Nicholas Nevsky, a religious theologian from Rila Monastery in Bulgaria that his daughter is the Holy Vessel Jesus Christ. There is no apparent coincidence between Michael's last name and that of the Archangel Raphael. Is Michael's daughter who they think she is?

Revelation is a unique intellectual thriller. It is violent, torturous, intriguing, and downright scary. The reader will be transported into this dark world of the Cavalieri. It is a nasty place indeed. How could such a good man end up there? How can he make it out?

This book is the first in a series of three novels in the Revelation Trilogy. M. J. Marcini was an only child. He was forced to use his imagination to entertain himself. Now, drawing from his wealth of creativity which permeates his writing, Mancini has become one of the most identifiable and intriguing authors.

Blood Ivory
Stienke, farmer, and Ingrham
Timber Creek Press
9780984882083, $16.99

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

This is the fourth exciting well-written tale about the Black Eagle Force by bestselling and award winning authors Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer. Doran Ingrham joined them in writing this book. It is an adventure story filled with action. The authors describe the battles and exploits of a unique battle force in fascinating detail that draw readers into the clashes. The US Posse Comitatus act of 1878 limits the power of the federal government to use military forces for law enforcement. Accordingly, according to this novel, President Ronald Reagan had a secret civilian ultra rapid deployment black ops strike force organization established that was independent of the military for plausible deniability. This is the Black Eagle Force. They protect the country. The president made sure that the Force had the best trained creme de la creme men and women, special ops personnel from all military branches, and the most up to date equipment, far better than any other organization. Their motto is Semper Paro Bellum, Latin for Always Ready for War. The men and women in this Force are usually tall, muscular, handsome, capable, and sure of themselves. They are uniquely close to one another and, as brothers and sisters, frequently josh with each other. Two of the sons of the US president are members of the Force.

There are two main plots in this tale, two situations that require the expert assistance of the BEF. One concerns the kidnapping of a US senator and his daughter while they are on a safari in Africa by men who brutally murder elephants for their ivory tusks. They chance upon the senator and his daughter and see an opportunity to rack in many dollars. The second plot is the hijacking of the world's largest cruise ship. Among its 5,000 passengers are the two sons of the US president and their wives who are on a honeymoon trip. Are these Somali pirates or are they Al Qaeda? Why did they hijack the ship? The president is outraged and is determined to wipe out the Somali pirates once and for all. Readers will react as they finish this action-packed drama: "Wow! When will the next book come out?"

Call of the Lost Ages: A Study of the Indus Valley Script
Subhajit Ganguly
Vasto Publishing House
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477504543, $3.99

Jerry Anderson

After deciphering ancient scripts like the Sumerian cuneiform or the hieroglyphs, we were able to gain considerable insights into these civilizations. Being able to read such ancient scripts is sometimes the only way of learning about ancient cultures, in depth. For example, we knew almost nothing regarding the ancient Egyptians before we could read their inscriptions. The Sumerian cuneiform, on the other hand, went a long way to ensure our knowledge about the ancient Near East.

However, all ancient scripts have not yet been deciphered. This limits our knowledge of our ancient history. The Indus Valley script, belonging to the western half of the Indian Subcontinent, is one such yet unread ancient script. Many attempts have been made by eminent scholars and epigraphists like Asko Parpola, Iravatham Mahadevan, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, etc., to decipher the script belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization, but none of these attempts has been successful. Thus very important part of the ancient world history remains hidden to us.

The author attempts a detailed and unbiased study of the Indus Valley script. In order to do so, he approaches the subject from various quarters that include a thorough investigation of reasons for decline of the civilization, a possible continuation of civilization, a possible source of the civilization predating its span, etc. He takes into account the recent findings by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to chart the relation of its decline with the decline of the ancient River, Saraswati.

The Indus script seems to be related to the Brahmi script and its variants. The author provides a complete list of the Indus signs in relation to their respective Brahmi relatives. A symbiotic relation between the various ancient cultures is discussed in the book. The whole work seems to be based upon sound logic and it draws its strength from the complete rejection of any assumption in the process. The author has a unique way of building upon facts, brick by brick, to build the complete monument. Subhajit Ganguly is a physicist known for his formulation of zero-postulation. He is also the author of 'Abstraction In Theory - Laws of Physical Transaction'.

Opportunity: Optimizing Life's Chances
Donald Morris
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, New York, 14228-2197
9781591024026, $28.99,

Karen Pirnot

In "Opportunity: Optimizing Life's Chances", Donald Morris has written a scholarly work about how the ordinary person misses multiple opportunities for advancement or knowledge simply because he or she cannot recognize the true signs of opportunity. The opportunity model is first explained. The elements of opportunity include: time constraint in which opportunities exist, the sacrifice the person will need to make in order to take advantage of the opportunity, the risks involved in the opportunity, the catalyst or trigger and lastly, the possibility of regret or remorse for having taken the opportunity - or not. All of these factors are then set in the framework of the person's overall view of his or his world. The explanations in general are intended to assist the reader in recognizing what the author calls "high-end opportunities." These are opportunities which alter the present and shape the future. The author further contends that if one is trained to recognize opportunities in a timely fashion, one can then recognize rich and productive opportunities while dismissing the trivial, short-lived opportunity which does not move the individual forward.

I think the parts I valued most in the book were the boxed quotes of familiar philosophers throughout the ages. Another important section deals with self-control and self-regulation as a critical component of recognizing and taking advantage of opportunity. There is another section on 'Stumbling Blocks, Pit Falls and Blind Spots' which may assist those who have repeatedly come upon defeat when attempting to move forward. In that section, the author says that being able to predict the behavior of others may assist the individual to predict the success of any given opportunity. This is a scholarly book which would be useful in classes of business, social sciences and philosophy.

Double Mayhem: Seeing is Not Believing - A Seekers Mystery
Sam Berretti
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781480291485, $13.99

Kaye Trout

Quoting from the back cover:

"They say for every person in the world there is a twin. For Doris Watson, that simple wisdom becomes a nightmare reality that threatens her and the ones she's come to love. An ex-military engineer who leads a quiet life as an appliance designer, she is recruited to perform one uncomplicated task: take a handoff of secret plans from a Chinese agent who believes she is someone else. She accepts the assignment and the only person she can blame is herself. She opened the door. She said yes. Her lonely existence is shattered as headstrong men cross her path. Dangerous men with dangerous needs. Suddenly embroiled in mob killings, espionage, and policy investigations, she has become a billion-dollar target of sadistic crooks, the FBI, the NSA, and her psychotic look-alike. It is up to her to protect herself and the mysterious child who has been thrust into her life. No one is who they appear to be. No one is telling the truth, because the truth can make you dead. Forced to use all of her training and wits, she must find a way to survive.

"Some days you just shouldn't answer the door."

Thoroughly, action-packed, convoluted, intricate, personal, realistic, sensitive, contemporary.

Double Mayhem, Sam Berretti's first novel, is an absolute winner...not missing a beat from the first paragraph...flowing, weaving, tantalizing to the finish. Berretti is a gifted, consummate writer with a refined sense for balancing character, plot and description. The novel is well edited, and I'm certain you will not be disappointed.

Andy's Bookshelf

Creating A World On Paper
Sue Rainey
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781558499799, $49.95,

Harry Fenn (1845 Surrey - 1911) was an English-born American illustrator, landscape painter, etcher, and engraver. Fenn started as a wood engraver, but soon turned to pencil drawings. In 1864 he made a trip to the U.S. in order to see the Niagara Falls, but after a study tour of Italy, decided to return to the U.S.

He settled in Montclair, New Jersey around 1865. Fenn is best known for the engravings he contributed to "Picturesque Europe", "Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt" (1881 - 84) and "Picturesque America" (edited by William Cullen Bryant, 1872). "Picturesque America" followed an extended tour of the country to gather material. He illustrated a number of books as well, including John Greenleaf Whittier's Snowbound (1868) and Ballads of New England (1870). Later in life he also painted some watercolors. He returned to the U.S. in 1881 and kept a studio in New York City.

Toward the end of his career Fenn concentrated on watercolor paintings. He was a member of the New York Watercolor Club, the Society of Illustrators, the Salmagundi Club, and was a founder of the American Watercolor Society. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1864 and at the Brooklyn Art Association between 1864 and 1885. He exhibited at the Columbian Expo in Chicago in 1893 where he was awarded a medal.

His White Mountain scenes include "Evening in New Hampshire", "Evening on Mount Washington", "Mount Washington and Adams", "Mount Washington under Three Feet of Snow", and "Mount Washington, North Conway".

The latest addition to outstanding 'Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book' series from the University of Massachusetts Press, "Creating a World on Paper: Harry Fenn's Career in Art" by Sue Rainey is an impressively detailed and illustrated biography of an artist and illustrator who was exceedingly well known and appreciated in his day, but who had over the last several decades fallen into an undeserved obscurity. This 408 page biographical compendium is superbly organized and presented, as well as enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of two major appendices ('Additional Illustrations by Harry Fenn' and 'Harry Fenn's Works Included in Exhibitions'), extensive Notes, and a comprehensive index. Informed and informative, this seminal work is truly extraordinary and very highly recommended for personal and academic library American Art History and American Biography reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Robert Newton Baskin and the Making of Modern Utah
John Gary Maxwell
The Arthur H. Clark Company
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780870624209, $45.00,

Robert Newton Baskin was born December 20, 1837, in Hillsboro, Ohio. He attended Salem Academy, near Chillicothe, Ohio and studied law with the firm of James H. Thompson in Salem, Ohio. In route for California, Baskin visited the Little Cottonwood mining district with Thomas Hearst and saw possibilities in the minerals of Utah Territory and decided to stay.

Baskin became friends with a Dr. Robinson in Salt Lake City who was assassinated on October 22, 1866. Dr. Robinson was building the first public hospital in Salt Lake City when the police tore it down and warned him not to "renew his operations there." Brigham Young later said about Dr. Robinson's hospital: "The band of men had done wrong; that instead of going by night to destroy the building, they should have gone through it in broad day." Dr. Robinson contacted Baskin in contemplation of bringing a suit to recover damages for the destruction of his property. A few weeks after the suit was instituted Dr. Robinson was called from his bed at midnight by some unknown person who said that a friend of Dr. Robinson was injured. Ignoring the advise from his wife he went with the person, but at the corner of third south and main in down-town Salt Lake he was beaten to death. Standing over the mutilated body of his friend, Baskin resolved that he would do all in his power to increase federal authority in Utah.

As a prominent Harvard trained, Protestant attorney in Utah. According to an article appearing in the Deseret News on August 26, 1918, "he did much to develop Utah mines, prosecuted John D. Lee, wrote his Reminiscences, exposed Mormon Apostle Orson F. Whitney, and was active in politics, especially against polygamy. He drew and procured the Cullom Bill, was mayor of Salt Lake City elected under the Utah Liberal Party in 1892, and was associate justice of the Supreme Court of Utah (sworn in January 3, 1899). Baskin died August 25, 1918.

The latest addition to the outstanding 'Western Frontiersmen' series from The Arthur H. Clark Company, "Robert Newton Baskin and the Making of Modern Utah" by John Gary Maxwell is a 392 page compendium that is a seminal work of impressive detail in presenting the life and accomplishments of a key figure in shaping the secular state of Utah from the ecclesiastical territory of Deseret. Enhanced with occasional illustrations, a chronology, a bibliography, and an index, "Robert Newton Baskin and the Making of Modern Utah" is highly recommended as a core addition to academic library American History reference collections in general, and Utah History collections and supplemental reading lists in particular.

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

Granta 122: Betrayal
John Freeman, Editor
Granta Publications
9781905881659, A$27.99

Granta's theme 'Betrayal' offers scope for many things, from love to war, from politics to survival, and more. As usual, the pieces included come from authors around the world and their contributions are unexpected, innovative and excellent.

Janine di Giovanni, who has reported on wars for more than twenty years, begins 'Seven Days in Syria' with her baby son, whose tiny nails she finds herself unable to cut. She charts this same sense of vulnerability in the lives of the Syrian people as she sees the effects of war gradually seep into their lives. Her account is personal and vivid. "There is no template for war", she writes, only the agony, the uncertainty and the fear, which is constant.

Karen Russell, too, writes of the effects of war but she weaves a sort of magic into her fictional story. Beverly, a professional masseuse, begins therapeutic massage on an Iraqi war veteran whose body tattoo is a "skin mural" of the war-landscape on the day his friend was killed. "Healing is a magical art" said a pamphlet which attracted Beverly to her career, and her ability to empathise with a customer and to use her massage skills to feel and relax the tensions expressed in the physical body is remarkable. But her expert physical work with this particular customer has inexplicable results, the tattoo does strange things, and there are unexpected psychological effects for both of them.

As well as reportage and stories, Granta includes photography and poetry. Darcy Padilla's photographs of 'Julie' chart a life affected by poverty, abuse and AIDS but they show happiness, partnerships and children as part of her struggle to survive. And John Burnside's poem, 'Postscript', echoes some of Robert Frost's well-known lines and offers a modern perspective on an evening in snowy woods. It tells of a passing moment in which a search for a mobile phone signal prompts musings on the ephemeral nature of beauty, a cup of tea, a welcoming home and "no promises to keep". And the only path is the one back to the car.

Mohsin Hamid tells of a young boy's text-message based love affair with a local girl who has the ambition, it is suggested, of sleeping her way to a better life. Samantha Harvey's small-scale apocalypse-survival scenario set on a fictional island could well be a true story. Andre Aciman documents an editor's experience with a young woman writer with whom he begins a strangely satisfying relationship. Neither of them seem fully able to commit themselves but perhaps it is just his reading of the situation, or perhaps he is just a man who cannot make big decisions. The result? I will not spoil the story by revealing it.

Colin Robinson learns about group loyalty and Paddleball. Ben Marcus imagines a dystopia in which group and family loyalties are tested. Lauren Wilkinson writes of the fatal attraction of guns. And Jennifer Vanderbes writes of a lone woman fire-mapper in the forests of New Mexico whose isolated life is briefly disrupted by a male forestry worker with whom she shares friendship and memories. Both, it turns out, have reasons for choosing to work with fire.

Callan Wink's 'One More Last Stand', introduces us to a man who participates in historical re-enactments of General Custer's last stand but who is inclined to tell tall tales to tourists and to fraternize with the 'enemy'. It can also be read on the Granta web site at, along with other material not included in this quarter's magazine.

Granta 122: Betrayal is excellent reading and a fine addition to Granta's long tradition of fostering new writing.

This Magnificent Desolation
Thomas O'Malley, editor
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315
New York, NY 10010
9781408834466, A$29.99

It is rare to find a book written in a language which so beautifully conveys its imaginative essence; or one with a title which is so exactly right. O'Malley's writing is often lyrical and evocative and he can take the reader and his characters to places far removed from the gritty world in which they live. And he borrows his title, This Magnificent Desolation, from the words Buzz Aldrin spoke from the surface of the moon. This first moon-landing haunts the book, as do the voices of the Apollo astronauts themselves, which ten-year-old Duncan hears through the static on his beloved ancient radio. Duncan believes that the astronauts never managed to get back to earth. He believes, too, that he remembers the moment of his birth, when God spoke to him.

Duncan has no memory of his past. He knows only what Brother Candice has told him about the terrible snow-storm, the stranded train, the deaths and the meteor shower which happened on the night his mother left him at the orphanage run by the Cappucin Grey Brothers of Mercy in northern Minnesota. His present, his life with the Brothers and with his friends Julia and Billy, are all that he knows and, although he is not the narrator of his story, his unemotional, unjudgmental view of the world and his imaginative visions shape this book.

Duncan's memory of his mother is a dream. So, when she does come to take him from the orphanage, he has no idea how his life will change. He knows that Maggie, his mother, was once a talented singer. Now, her voice over-strained and broken, she works as a nurse and sings, at night, in a run-down bar. Maggie sings to him, cares for him, promises never to leave him again and takes him with her to the Windsor Tap, but her life is clearly hard and is often made bearable by alcohol.

Joshua McGreavey, a Vietnam veteran who is Maggie's friend, comes and goes from their lives. He works as a tunneler on the San Padre Tunnel project seventy feet beneath San Francisco bay, and when power fails and the crew are left in darkness, not knowing what is going on, or in the interminable, slow decompression rides up in the lifts at the end of each shift, he relives the beauty and the horrors of the Vietnam jungles - but mostly the beauty. Medication dulls his memories, but the sudden death of his work-mates in a flooded tunnel hits him hard. Sometimes he disappears for long, unexplained, periods of time. Sometimes, as Duncan accidentally discovers, he fights in vicious, unregulated, fist-fights in a derelict dockyard.

O'Malley's writes about the recent past. The world in which Duncan and Maggie and Joshua live is not the fast-moving, high-rise, modern business world, and there is something of Steinbeck in his ability to capture the atmosphere of lives lived always on the edge of poverty, and surrounded by loss and death. But over the four years of Duncan's life in O'Malley's book, the harsh realities are tempered by moments of great imaginative vision. Duncan accepts people at face-value and Joshua becomes like a surrogate father to him, replacing the lost father he often thinks about, but whose identity and character Maggie will not divulge.

Joshua teaches him to ride his old Indian motorbike, and helps him when Maggie's drinking gets out of hand. Clay, the barman at the Windsor Tap looks out for him. Julie, Billy and the Brothers at the orphanage all recur in Duncan's dreams. And the Christmas Train, which got fatally stuck in the terrible snow-storm, and from which only Duncan and his mother survived, becomes a recurring and wonderful vision which acts as a metaphor for life. Travelling brightly-lit through the snow, full of life, joy and beauty it encounters unpredictable disasters and death but there is also survival.

At the end of the book, Duncan, alone, boards another train, in another snow-storm, and travels, like all of us, into an unknown future with only visions and dreams to rely on.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Applegate's Bookshelf

The Forgotten
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
9781455523153, $9.99,

David Baldacci: intriguing mysteries his specialty

David Baldacci is a storyteller whose plots are unusual and whose characters are even more so. The Forgotten is a thriller that most readers of mysteries will enjoy. When I see a Baldacci novel, I know I'm likely to enjoy it. The Forgotten isn't one of my favorites, but it has much to recommend it.

Baldacci serves up a convoluted, gripping mystery

The plot of the Forgotten is vintage Baldacci; it keeps you on your toes as a reader. The story is begins in a town on Florida's Emerald Coast called Paradise. But is Paradise really paradise? Maybe, and then again, maybe not.

General John Puller, Senior (retired) and living in a Veterans Administration hospital, gets a disquieting letter from his sister Betsy, who has lived in Paradise for many years. Aunt Betsy, who is not inclined to imagine things, seems to think there are suspicious goings-on in Paradise. But she doesn't give any details, beyond mysterious doings at night, people not being who they seemed.

Although Betsy is in her late years and uses a walker to get around town, her mind is clear, John Puller, Senior tells his son John Puller, Junior, an Army Special Agent, that she is still sharp and not inclined to fancy. Indeed, she has invested her husband's life insurance proceeds in Apple and Amazon and is now living comfortably in Paradise on the investment returns.

A shock awaits Special Agent Puller

General Puller is concerned enough by Betsy's letter that he asks, actually orders, since he is after all General Puller, his son to find out what is going on in Paradise. Puller makes his way there, assuming he can clear things up for Aunt Betsy in short order. But that's not to be. Aunt Betsy cannot give him any of the details he sorely needs in his investigation, nor in any way help him. Aunt Betsy has died in what he is told was an accident.

A cast of characters both good and bad, but who knows which?

Baldacci peoples his novels with seemingly improbably characters, which when you get to know them often seem to fit perfectly where their inventor has chosen to place them, doing things that eventually make sense. Following is a playbill that will give you some pertinent details about some of these personalities. You may want to keep this by your side as you read, as a sort of field guide to this story of many twists and turns.

John Puller, a man who has been in the army for most of his adult life, who lives in a small apartment with minimal furnishings - and whose close friend is a cat, named AWOL. He is trying to forget a recent disastrous ordeal in the line of duty.

A large, strong and dangerous man who is unnamed through much of the novel.

Cheryl Landry and Barry Hooper, cops who may be on the side of the angels. Or maybe not.

Henry Bullock, chief of Paradise police, a man who reminds Puller of his former drill sergeant.

Diego, a young boy who befriends Puller

The Storrows, a couple who go to the beach and never come back.

Jane Ryon, Aunt Betsy's caregiver.

Peter J. Lampert, a one-time hedge fund manager, multi-millionaire

Numerous bit players of differing ages, genders, races

The mysterious goings-on in Paradise, Florida, its environs, and the bodies of water that surround it will in many ways horrify you. You will wonder, how could such things as these go on in a modern, educated, civilized society such as ours. But Baldacci's mysteries generally aren't of the horror variety, and he has managed to avoid any temptation to fall into that trap in this tale. Your imagination will fill in any blanks.

When all is revealed and the mystery solved - that happens slowly and sometimes painfully - you may do as I did and sit for a while, grateful you are where you are and not in the hold of a ship going - well, find out for yourself by reading TheForgotten.

The Forgotten is, in my mind and to my taste, not one of Baldacci's best. But I would not review it if I didn't think it was worth reading, with whatever shortcomings it has.

Spend some time with The Forgotten.

It's a tale with the kinds of red herrings that will please most mystery readers.

The Litigators
John Grisham
Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780385535250, $13.75,

A fine book about the law and those who play that game

John Grisham, a lawyer and a fine writer, can put together a book about the law and those who play that game as well as most lawyers who also write. Grisham's fictional lawyers, like most of their breed, are fighting to get to the top and are tussling with all sorts of ugly characters, be they cheating lawyers, unjust judges or rapacious prosecutors. And, rarely, they meet one of those occasional saints who pop up now and then in a rip-roaring good courtroom battle. We meet cheating lawyers, unjust judges, rapacious prosecutors

In Grisham's The Litigators, we meet the cheating lawyers, the unjust judges, rapacious prosecutors. And in addition, we're introduced to a "hero" who displays certain characteristics of the less-than-heroic characters noted in the above paragraph. A "hero" who gets panic attacks

We first encounter our hero, David Zinc, when a glorious panic attack overtakes him as he arrives at work one morning. He cannot force himself off an elevator to make his way to his cubicle, so instead he plunges down an escalator, out the door of his present employer, one of New York's most prestigious law firms, and into a completely new world. A new world our hero isn't prepared for.

This new world is peopled with new coworkers, a new employer - in a manner of speaking - and a series of experiences nothing in his life or his law career to date has prepared him for. He falls into his new job - literally - by arriving at the rundown offices of Finley & Figg, as different from Rogan Rothberg as could be. And he arrives at the new firm drunk. Very, very

It takes David some time to sober up sufficiently to realize where he is, and much longer to fully realize what it means to be where he is. And with whom. Once he has his present location clearly in mind, and understands the present duties he has signed on for with Finley and Figg, his new life begins. Looking for business - in car wrecks, fake ones usually.

His new life includes being third in line to Oscar Finley, the man in charge - so to speak - who arrives at the office in mid-morning after having searched the neighborhood for car wrecks. Car wrecks, generally fake ones, have become the main line of business at Finley & Figg. Next in line at Finley & Figg is Wally Figg, who might blow into the office at 7:30 of a morning, looking for a battle, or struggle in at noon, hung over and hiding in his office for the rest of the day. Third in line at a three-lawyer firm, a good guy who cares about clients.

David Zinc has thus become the newest employee of Finley & Figg, number three in the legal lineup, the only one who has gotten his legal training at Harvard, and the only one who has never set foot in a courtroom. David now finds himself embroiled in lawsuits that reflect the society we live in. He battles what he thinks of as an evil empire, a drug firm which has brought a poorly tested drug to market, and works hard to help a little Burmese boy whose brain and life have been destroyed by lead-based toys brought in from China. High humor, low slapstick, and the pain of iniquity

David, as all good fictional lawyers do, wins some and loses some, and in the process Grisham brings his readers to fits of rage at human venality, to laughter at the antics played by Wally and Oscar, not to mention the firm's dog. And eventually to tears at the tragic plight of some in our society.

Grisham does an exceptional job in The Litigators in combining high humor, low slapstick, and painful renderings of the iniquities of human society. And the reader also gets a healthy dose of satisfaction seeing the evil-doers get what they deserve.

I'll give Grisham 110 points for his fine writing, entertaining plotting, and careful exposition of legal actions, all worthy of his Hahvahd training. Then I'll subtract 11 points for disappointing me by not including a murder. He gets a solid 99 points.

Marcia K. Applegate, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Here for the Ride
Jonathan Simmons
Climbing Ivy Press
9780983451822 $11.95 pbk. / $7.99 Kindle

Here for the Ride: A Tale of Obsession on Two Wheels is a tell-it-like-it-is cycling memoir written by a gung-ho cycling enthusiast. Author Jonathan Simmons began as a dedicated runner, but when some friends from work persuaded him to try cycling, he became hooked on spokes! His love for hardcore bicycle racing encroached upon the rest of his life to the brink of catastrophe, until he finally learned how to strike a physically and emotionally healthy balance. A chronicle of ups and downs, as well as the search for meaning in the joy of sport, Here for the Ride is a splendid browse from cover to cover. Also highly recommended for passionate peddlers is "The Hamster Ride & 25 Other Short Biking Stories" (9780983451839, $9.95 pbk. / $7.00 Kindle), by Simmons' wife Susan Meyers, who enjoys bicycling for fun rather than speed. "The Hamster Ride" is a true-life anthology of Susan's most memorable bike excursions, from pedaling a sick pet hamster to the vet, to teaching her son how to ride, to braving lightning on two wheels!

Forever Exposed
Lesli Catsouras
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th Street, Ste H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457514401, $14.95,

Words can hurt, no matter their source. "Forever Exposed: The Nikki Catsouras Story" seeks to tell the story of Nikkie Catsouras, an eighteen year old who passed in 2006, and how her death was linked to cyberbullying and other elements that allow kids to face torment and bullying no matter where they are in their life with the advancement of social media. "Forever Exposed" is an enticing addition to the important topic of bullying and their very real consequences.

Do's and Don'ts of Relationships
Ernest Quansah
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
c/o News & Experts (publicity)
3748 Turman Loop #101
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
9781466433168, $16.95,

Relationships often feel like unmanageable minefields. "Do's and Don'ts of Relationships: Nine Steps to a Deeper, Richer Love Relationship" is an motivational self-help guide aimed at making more sense out of the troubled pursuit of love in our lives with plenty of practical and wisdom about opening hearts and minds to one another for a better future. "Do's and Don'ts Relationships" is a strongly recommended addition to relationship and sexuality collections.

Triumph and Tragedy
J Roots
9781937887063, $19.99,

The Jewish Diaspora is vast and many Jews feel disconnected to their overall heritage. "Triumph and Tragedy: Journeying Through 1000 Years of Jewish Life in Poland" discusses the long history of the Jewish people in Poland. Discussing the important sites that have developed as culturally significant, and where one can go to truly understand the history of the Polish Jewish people, "Triumph and Tragedy" is a strong pick for anyone who wants to understand Jewish History around the world, highly recommended.

A Human Menagerie
Rob Kleinsteuber
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478713437, $9.95,

People are curious creatures that come in all sizes and motivations. "A Humans Menagerie: Triumphs, Tragedies, and Cautionary Tales in Verse" is a collection of humorous poetry from Rob Kleinsteuber who provides her own unusual brand of poetry and humorous verse, discussing the weird nature of humanity. "A Human Menagerie" is poetry well worth considering for contemporary verse collections, recommended.

Ingrid Ricks
RC Strategies Group
9780985929428, $9.99,

Vision is taken for granted by so many, but some never have it, and others have to fight for it. "Focus" is a memoir from Ingrid Ricks as she shares her struggle with her diagnosis of Retinitus Pigmentosa, a degenerative disorder that can take eyesight later in life. She tells of how she fought it and took the endeavor as a new lease on life and changed her life, for better or worse, along the way. "Focus" is a strong addition to any contemporary memoir collection.

Three of the First
Hilton Owens
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450233637, $14.95,

Color barriers often blocked many from advancing to places of prestige. "Three of the First" is Hilton Owens telling his own story of how he and two other black agents gained their employ under the IRS, and the many tasks they were charged with in bringing down illegal gambling operations, and the backlash that often came from their jobs in prejudice, as well as simply being agents of the law. "Three of the First" is an intriguing look into racial barriers as well as what being a Special Agent of the Internal Revenue Service truly calls for.

Wake Up, Lazarus!
Pierre Hegy
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781936236961, $19.95,

The Catholic Church is facing another set of major crises, enthusiasm on the decline. "Wake Up, Lazarus!: On Catholic Renewal" is Pierre Hegy's own call for renewal and finding the spirit of Catholicism again as mass attendance declines and more Catholics are lapsing than ever in the face of a troubled church. Encouraging greater participation in the church and making the life of Church extend beyond Sunday morning, "Wake Up, Lazarus!" is insightful and recommended reading for Catholicism studies collections.

Freer Markets Within the USA
Doug Seger
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477262184, $16.95,

A level playing field is often trumpeted with free market economics, but how level is it? "Freer Markets Within the USA" is a political call to action from Doug Seger as he advocates reforms to the tax system for America that heavily favors the rich and upper class and leaves the poor with an insurmountable struggle up a hill towards better success. With plenty to consider for American economics and its people, "Freer Markets Within the USA" is worth considering for political discussion collections, highly recommended.

Tickle Me
Monica Bouvier
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432797683, $23.95,

When all hope is lost, there may be still one who waits. "Tickle Me" is a romance following Alice, a 29 year old woman who has resigned herself to a life of loneliness free from the love of a man. But as Erik emerges in her life, she finds that love has not totally abandoned her, and is curious if the man in her life is too good to be true, pain waiting around every corner? "Tickle Me" is an enticing romance, not to be missed.

What To Do When You Get Shot
Richard Beauchamp and Zardo Retorn
Privately Published
9781477698945, $19.95,

The threat of violence looms over many in urban communities. "What To Do When You Get Shot: A Young Man's Survival Guide" is an illustrated poem from Richard Beauchamp and Zardo Retorn as they present a poem that reflects on the fears of violence many youths face in America's cities. "What To Do When You Get Shot" is a fascinating and much recommended pick for those who want an honest look at the soul of fear.

Journey With Zeke
Lynette Teachout
Balboa Press
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452555331, $14.99,

Old ways can haunt us so very strongly. "Journey With Zeke" is a novel from Lynette Teachout, following young Zeke Cook, haunted by dreams and the urging to follow an old ritual that starts a strange sequence of events in his life and puts him on a metaphysical journey through the universe as he knows it. "Journey With Zeke" is an enticing spiritual fiction read, highly recommended.

The Innovative Communicator
Miti Ampoma
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452556840, $14.99,

Communication is the most underrated and valuable research. "The Innovative Communicator: Putting the Soul Back into Business Communication" is a guide for encouraging better communication in business on many levels as Miti Ampoma offers her insight on building a community, a soul for the business, and using that kinship to allow a business to grow and flourish on many a level. "The Innovative Communicator" is a strong addition to general business collections, much recommended.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Shock Exchange
Ralph W. Baker Jr.
Privately Published
9780988488908, $20.00 print / $9.99 Kindle,

As wall street spiraled out of control...many people simply stated that people saw this coming. "Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids From Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead" discusses how there were many who saw the 2008 Financial calamity in the distance, and how author Ralph Baker and his associates knew it was coming...and how their message was only heard by deaf ears. An enticing look at the warning signs of crisis, "Shock Exchange" is a must for collections looking for memoirs focusing on the financial world.

A Sealed Fate
Lisa Gordon
Janus Publishing
93-95 Gloucester Pl.
London, UK W1U 6JQ
9781857566543 $14.95 print / $4.50 Kindle

British author and radio station astrologer Lisa Gordon presents A Sealed Fate, a dark, psychological novel of two women searching for meaning in their lives. Valda and Larissa have both known the pain of heartbreak and shattered success; attempting to rebuild their lives, they journey to Dubai. Valda begins to turn her life around, but everything is thrown into drastic upheaval when she meets a billionaire Sheikh. Larissa, a skilled astrologer, foresees a cruel, immutable destiny for both Larissa and the Sheikh, but fears that voicing the dire prediction will only hasten its reality. Valda and Larissa must both play a deadly game in which Fate holds all the cards - but do they have a prayer of saving themselves, let alone anyone else? Suspenseful to the very end, A Sealed Fate is especially recommended for those with an interest in astrology fiction.

Scattered Letters
Reshunniece Kline
Privately Published
9780615755816 $11.99

Scattered Letters: A Novel is the thought-provoking story of Bellina Al Asma, a young girl whose life suffers unexpected upheaval. Tragedy requires her to leave her home in Switzerland; her new normal is the disorganized home of her abusive, disturbed, and alcoholic aunt. Adapting to life in an unfamiliar land is hard, but Bellina finds a kindly and helpful friend in her African-American neighbor, Ms. Hickens. Then the two of them discover a shocking secret revealed amid a pile of letters... and the way they see their lives and their futures will never be the same again. Scattered Letters is ultimately a novel of hope, of learning to confront life's hardships and build a strong foundation to reach for one's dreams. Highly recommended.

Who Told You That?
Gail E. Dudley
Privately Published
9780975292112, $17.50,

Too often faith is twisted into something of hate. "Who Told You That?: The Truth About Lies" is an inspirational look at faith as Gail E. Dudley encourages readers to see through their lives and find the devotion and empowerment that can wait for us in our spirituality and faith, reminding that God thought the world was Good. "Who Told You That?" is a strong addition to faith and motivational collections, highly recommended.

The Silver Moon
Charita Padilla
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432798079, $28.95,

No one likes to be used, as tempting as it can often seem. "The Silver Moon" is a novel of fantasy, following third year wizard Sadie Wheaton as she finds that she has her own special magical talents, but there are those who want to use her for their own selfish purposes, and Sadie must confide in her friends to keep her will her own. "The Silver Moon" is a riveting read for young adult fantasy readers, much recommended.

Surviving American Medicine
Cary Presant
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475937756, $17.95,

The almighty dollar is more important than saving lives. "Surviving American Medicine: How to Get The Right Doctor, Right Hospital, and Right Treatment with Today's Health Care" is a doctor's discussion on how to get the best medical care in this minefield of insurance companies and for profit medicine. Taking on his forty years as a doctor of years, "Surviving American Medicine" is a treasure of knowledge, highly recommended reading.

Time Warped Travelers
Robert Westfall
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478718574, $11.95,

Why would one with the ability to shift through time choose a small town in 1922? "Time Warped Travelers" tells the story of two such individuals who choose to work with the small town of Blainesville, Ohio in 1922, working with the people in the town in the era of the prohibition living their lives and helping others live theirs. "Time Warped Travelers" is a strong addition to those seeking historical fiction with a sci-fi twist.

Counting the Days
Leslie Rutkin
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468539226, $16.95,

Personal integrity can very much be tested strongly. "Counting the Days: 366 Days in Prison" tells the true life romance of Leslie Rutkin and her husband Matthew Smith as they shared over 600 letters to one another as they were separated by the law as Matthew was held in prison for refusing to cough up evidence against corrupt cops. "Counting the Days" is an enticing look into life and dedication, highly recommended.

Scout's Honor
Charley Rosen
Codhill Press
9781030337688, $14.95,

Basketball too often isn't just about the game too often anymore. "Scout's Honor" follows talent scout Rob Lassner, who grows disillusioned with the Corporate side of the his talent scouting job as he searches colleges and high school players for the next star. Drawing on the author's own experience with the bureaucracy of the game of the hoops, "Scout's Honor" is an enticing and humorous look at the world of basketball, highly recommended.

Thy Will Be Done
Jacqueline Bell
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477230152, $23.95,

Old secrets sometimes are better left uncovered. "Thy Will Be Done: The Cherubim" is a novel of the fallout of tripping up a dark tome that deeply threatens a family; it's left to a granddaughter to solve the uprooted mystery steeped in the unknown and paranormal. "Thy Will Be Done" is an enticing addition to fiction collections, highly recommended.

The Trench Coat Killer
Michael Bloodwell
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477288672, $14.95,

A brutal crime leads to fear for an entire community. "The Trench Coat Killer" is a mystery surrounding the small town of Blackford, Indiana, and the nature of a series of crime and the status of an old house in the neighborhood. As pieces of the puzzle come together, the truth may shock people. "The Trench Coat Killer" is an enticing addition to mystery and thriller collections.

Ghost Mothers
Kathryn Rudlin
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477267943, $16.95,

Parents are too often taken for granted by those blessed with their presence. "Ghost Mothers: Healing from the pain of a Mother Who Wasn't Really There" is a memoir aimed at finding peace of mind and healing when you've grown up with a mother missing from your life, encouraging women to shake the ghost of regret from their lives, finding their woes and doing what they can to free themselves from that weight. "Ghost Mothers" is a strong addition to memoir and spirituality collections, highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Where Danger Danced
Irene Bennett Brown
RiverEdge Books
9780988483002, $14.95,

A decades old mystery leaks over their head. "Where Danger Danced" is a novel of mystery from Irene Bennett Brown as Celia Landrey, tour guide of the local creek finds the lost bones of a drifter who lived over a half century ago. When it emerges that it could have been murder that did him in, the truth begins to leak out, and may have a serious effect years after the fact. "Where Danger Danced" is an enticing read that will be hard to put down.

Patriots of Treason
David Thomas Roberts
AKA Publishing
c/o Ascot Media Group (publicity)
PO Box 133032
The Woodlands, TX 77393
9781936688371 $35.00 hc
9781936688388 $9.99 ebook

Patriots of Treason is a politically charged "what-if" novel, set in contemporary times. If the American President and the Justice Department enacted a brutal conspiracy against their own people, how would the states react? The story begins with an incumbent President who is losing at the re-election polls; he stages a last-second electoral comeback that is little more than a coup. An assassination attempt on the corrupt president brings riots and economic upheaval; when a Tea Party sympathizer is accused of the deed, it sparks a federal crusade to permanently exterminate the Tea Party. As government-sponsored terrorism, unlawful imprisonment, and murder loom large, the governor of Texas dares to take a principled stand, even if adhering to his beliefs could precipitate a second Civil War. Patriots of Treason never lets up on the high-stakes tension, right to the very last page.

The Dogs of Luck
William Kenly
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432797867, $19.95,

Growing up, our world view can change often along the way. "The Dogs of Luck: Comic Confessions From Warren PA, Corporate America and Family Life" is a memoir from William Kenly who offers his own bizarre and humorous method growing up, focusing on the years as a teenager and a young adult and where he learned so much about the world and what it means to be a flawed human. "The Dogs of Luck" is a strong addition to memoirs focused on the coming of age period.

My Nine Lives
Jane Leigh
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477239650, $19.76,

When the first half of your life is peppered with endless tragedy, life can seem so hopeless. "My Nine Lives: A Psychotherapist's Journey from Victim to Survivor" is a tragic yet uplifting memoir from Jane Leigh who shares her tale, of facing repeated sexual abuse and rape, loss of the few people in her life who cared, and the incredibly long road to healing, becoming a counselor to help those who have also suffered. "My Nine Lives" is a strong addition to memoir collections dealing with the pain of trauma.

The Art of Classical Details
Phillip James Dodd
Images Publishing Group
9781864702033, $70.00,

Classics are classic for a reason. "The Art of Classical Details: Theory, Design, and Craftsmanship" explores the exterior and interior design of twenty five different homes, detailing their construction in and our with glossy full color photography all the way through. With additional information detailing the construction of each home, and how they have used the classic aspects and motif of design to the fullest in their details. For those seeking inspiration for their own design, or simply love the classical look of homes and want to see more of it, "The Art of Classical Details" is an absolute must for coffee table book and designing reference collections, highly recommended.

The Spirit of Want
William H. Coles
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467025690, $15.95,

When we are tempted by love, it can be hard to accept the serious flaws in who we seek. "The Spirit of Want" is a novel from William H. Coles, following a young lawyer who becomes enraptured in the wiles of a televangelist who is facing accusations of sexual molestation. In her search to find the truth, she will find more than she truly wishes to seek about her love and her duty. "The Spirit of Want" is an enticing exploration of faith and fundamentalism, much recommended.

Grew Up In the Deep South and Saved By Many Angels
Clayton Arline
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795207, $25.95,

A minefield of youth gave way to a chance to rise from the ashes for a better life. "Grew Up in the Deep South and Saved By Many Angels" is a memoir from Clayton Arline who shares his faithful journey from rough beginnings, finding his way into the military and enjoying life from his successes that have spilled from that. "Grew Up in the Deep South and Saved By Many Angels" is a strong addition to southern memoir collections.

A Lost Gun
Wix Simon
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475926682, $15.95,

A gun is a powerful tool, and losing track of it can lead to very bad things. "A Lost Gun" is a novel following detective Jessie Sands as she loses her gun to a river after a struggle...only for that gun to turn up as an assassination weapon, leaving some accusations leveled at her. Dealing with the fallout and the corruption that may live in her department, "A Lost Gun" is an enticing mystery that shouldn't be overlooked.

Panic Attacks and Me
Kay Hammond
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781352553986, $8.99,

Anxiety strikes are makes us fearful to live life as we know it. "Panic Attacks and Me" is a memoir from Kay Hammond touches on her own struggles with her own life and presents how she faced her own panic attacks and rose herself above it all through finding her own hope and empowerment through it all, and finding faith. "Panic Attacks and Me" is uplifting memoir about overcoming pain, highly recommended.

Ashes of Deception
Willoughby S. Hundley
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475959406, $13.95,

With deaths piling up, the truth seems hard to comprehend. "Ashes of Deception" is a mystery novel from Willoughby S. Hundley as he tells the story of physician Obie Hardy taking on his side job of medical examiner on a string of deaths throughout rural Virginia, and he may have an idea where the next murder will come and how arson keeps rolling into it. "Ashes of Deception" is a twisting multi-layered mystery that fans of the genre will relish.

Searching For Sassy
Alyson Mead
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452541945, $18.99,

Being psychic doesn't make life any easier. "Searching for Sassy: An L. A. Phone Psychic's Tales of Life, Lust, & Love" is a humorous memoir as Alyson Mead shares her journey westward, a self-proclaimed psychic for most of her life, sharing her experiences and struggles in trying to find her way through life. "Searching for Sassy" is an unusual take on life from the perspective of a psychic, worth considering.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Barkers & Bones
Phil Ribera
Privately Published
9780615462622 $16.00

A category winner in the 2012 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Competition, Barkers & Bones: Portrait of an Undercover Narc is a memoir of the police service of author Phil Ribera, continuing where Ribera's previous memoir "It's Only a Badge" (9780578051123, $16.50) left off. Though names of people, businesses, etc. are changed to protect the innocent (to the extent that some characters are actually composites), the stories of San Francisco's mean streets and the author's infiltration work to undermine the black market traffic of heroin, LSD, cocaine, PCP, and methamphetamine are all vividly, shockingly true. Barkers & Bones is written in the present tense and reads like a suspenseful crime novel, especially when the author's hazardous profession puts his life and the lives of his family in peril, but carries the bitter lessons of real-life experience. Once picked up, Barkers & Bones is all but impossible to put down! Highly recommended.

The Awakening of Latin America
Ernesto Che Guevara
Ocean Books
9780980429282, $24.95,

Che Guvara is a controversial name in the United States, but it is known as hero throughout Latin America. "The Awakening of Latin America" compiles the works of the famed revolutionary into one cover, compiling his story from a man who wanted to be a doctor to the sweeping revolutions that occurred throughout South America. An intriguing direct look at the mind of the revolutionary and into how it matters for him, "The Awakening of Latin America" is a strong addition to world history collections focusing on revolutionaries and the western hemisphere.

Remember Thou Art Mortal
Atul Uchil
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478715887, $15.95,

The meaning of mortality is the reality that time is not infinite. "Remember Thou Art Mortal: The Chronicles of a Mending Heart" is an inspirational read from Atul Uchil as he encourages readers to heal themselves, deal with the unpleasant things in their life and cope with their pains, and find the happiness and what matters most to them to improve their life's outlook. "Remember Thou Art Mortal" is a strong addition to self-help and inspirational collections, not to be missed.

God's 9 and Moses's 1
Rubye C. Wright
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475953466, $13.95,

The word of God has been changed and altered so much, that few truly understand the purpose of his dialogue any longer. "God's 9 and Moses's 1" discusses the corruption of God's word by man, as Rubye C. Wright analyzes the history of the commandments and the holy word, and he offers a very controversial view that the revered men of God such as Moses, are unworthy of his word and are as guilty of sin as any other. "God's 9 and Moses's 1" is an intriguing discussion of religion, very much recommended reading.

Void & Sky
Kyle Hemmings
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478714729, $9.95,

Oblivion can often be right around the corner for our lives. "Void & Sky" is a novel that seeks to blend verse and prose to tell the story of modern urban life With an honest and frank addition to the wisdom and wit of life on this uncertain way of living life, "Void & Sky" is a fascinating read that should very much be considered, recommended.

Wolfhilde's Hitler Youth Diary
Wolfhilde von Konig
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475968552, $24.95,

What did it mean to grow up under the reign of the man whose name has become synonymous with evil? "Wolfhilde's Hitler Youth Diary" is a memoir from Wolfhilde Von Konig as she shares her experiences growing up during those tumultuous years running up to World War II and becoming a teenager during the period, what was told to them and the life's lessons that followed. "Wolfhilde's Hitler Youth Diary" is an enticing and fascinating read about history, highly recommended.

Shock and Awww in the Cul-De-Sac
John Douglas
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478717454, $11.95,

A divorce after twenty years can seem quite jarring. "Shock and Awww in the Cul-De-Sac" is a memoir of John Douglas as he writes of coping with the sudden divorce from his wife after twenty three years, letting their youngest child graduate high school before separating. Touching on therapy, struggling with the pains of singlehood again, and much more, "Shock and Awww in the Cul-De-Sac"is a frank story, very much worth considering.

Murder in Stilettos
B. Bryant
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781481703185, $23.95,

Stolen art is quite a bit different from the act of murder. "Murder in Stilettos" is an international thriller mystery as stolen art insurance investigator Prudence Paley finds that her latest endeavor as an investigator may turn to murder as a fashion star turns up dead and people turn to Prudence's cunning mind to piece it act that may put Prudence in the cross-hairs. "Murder in Stilettos" is a riveting read, that should prove hard to put down.

Holy Hodgepodge!
Paul E. Sago
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450297523, $12.95,

What is faith and why do we hold it so strongly? "Holy Hodgepodge!: Have You Thought About Your Religion Lately?" is a faithful encouragement form Paul E. Sago offers his own unique perspectives on the ideas of faith and what we truly believe and seek to get out of our faiths. With much to ponder about our faith and what we seek out of life, "Holy Hodgepodge!" is a strong addition to any spirituality or religion collection, highly recommended.

Just The Word
Kathryn Cortes
Westbow Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449772550, $13.95,

Scripture is best interpreted by the self, with perhaps a slight guidance. "Just the Word: Bible Study Guide" is a collection of suggestions on scripture readings about the morals and virtues of the bible as chosen by Kathryn Cortes as she suggests on how to better bond with the wisdom and ideals of the Bible and the will of Christ and God. "Just the Word" is a fine addition to Christian studies collections based in personal Bible study.

Michael J. Carson

Cassandra's Bookshelf

Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life As A Feminist Artist
Helene Aylon
The Feminist Press
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016
9781558617681, $29.95,

In Duties of the Heart, Bahya Ibn Paquda writes: To accept tradition without examining it with intelligence and judgment is like the blind blindly following others.

Chastising the Rabbis in a distinctive and sometimes edgy voice, Helene Aylon's Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life As A Feminist Artist is a tale of love, loss and hope. It is an unapologetic book lyrically written, shot through with disquieting flashes of humor and hugely rewarding.

Born in 1931 at the Israel Zion hospital in Boro Park, Aylon grew up in the close-knit orthodox Jewish neighborhood in a house on 47th st. between 10th and 13 avenues. It remained her home until her marriage to a Jewish rabbi. It was rare to see a Christian in the neighborhood, or even a secular Jew. Aylon laughingly refers to a Rabbi who labeled her a post- orthodox Jew. How she came to be one is the heart of this gut wrenching book.

Her memoir spans eight decades, encompasses her marriage, the birth of her children, the death of her husband, her artistic education, love affairs, and a near death experience. It is a shapely critical account of her struggle with the Jewish religion and how her art addresses the ancient quarrel between the individual and her G-d; between a patriarchal philosophy and the truths of women's lives within these closed circles. It is a discourse about servitude and liberation. Above all it is a thorny book that questions respective allegiances to family, Judaism, tradition, motherhood, morality and ethics.

The artist is a deeply spiritual woman who uses process painting and conceptual installation art to raise questions relating to beauty, identities and existence with an honestly and forthrightness that bring about a close personal connection with the writer. Aylon emerges as an eco-feminist artist whose work is grounded in her Jewish orthodox upbringing In these closely knit communities the rule of the fathers is unquestioned. Their control is supported by a biblical doctrine that women in such families rarely take issue with. It is a world in which the essential nature of women allows nearly everyone to disregard their creativity except for childbearing. Despite this, Aylon came to know and appreciate the power of women making connections; connections that led her to travel roads her grandmother's and mother never imagined existed. She opens the floodgates of big ideas and fully acknowledges, in both anger and love, her indelible legacy. In these anguishing pages, Aylon bleeds out refusing to die or disappear as she brings readers closer to Helene Aylon the person.

In this book and through her art she brilliantly illuminates controversies over issues concerning women, ethnicity, sexual politics, and artistic integrity. She relates them to us as only a totally engaged participant in these events can. This is as art historian and feminist Gail Levin writes an, interesting tale of uncommon courage intelligence and wit.

It is the story of a Jewish girl who imagined the possibilities that were unthinkable for an orthodox Jewish girl of her generation. In the context of the disparate pictures that are scattered throughout this volume we are treated to a remarkable tour of a disappeared world of women who were silently there but not acknowledged.

In publishing Aylon's 287 page narrative, beautifully designed by Drew Stevens and augmented by 70 black and white photographs, the editors at the Feminist Press have done themselves proud. The book is part of the Reuben/Rrifkin Jewish writers' series and a strong insightful contribution to it.

Lady Macbeth: On the Couch, Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth
Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360
Baltimore, MD 21209
9781610880251, $21.99,

For transparency, sake let me confess that I am a fan of psychoanalyst Alma Bond's On the Couch series. Her latest retrospective fictional narrative told as a memoir gets inside the heart and mind of William Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. Employing Celtic and historical resources the author takes readers back in time to the childhood and coming of age of one of the least known and most fascinating women in theatrical drama.

Bond's narrative psychobiography is written in the first person. She juxtaposes Shakespeare's shortest tragedy written between 1603-1607 (although scholars generally date it 1606) with her own narrative voice modeled on the playwright's manner of speech. Few people are better qualified to do this than Bond who is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Dramatist Guild and Authors Guild. As a writer of biography as well as a poet, I enjoy Bond's fascinating historical characters.

The story that Lady Macbeth tells is essentially a family drama. It begins with by asking a fundamental question, one that scholars, professors and historians have wondered about for centuries, how and why Lady Macbeth spurred her husband, Macbeth into regicide? In explicating this fascinating historical moment, Bond constructs a labyrinthine family tree and a woman of consuming ambitions. The story begins with Lady Macbeth's startling confession, Yes I did it, I did indeed talk my husband Macbeth into killing King Duncan.

Following this prologue, Bond goes on to create a surprisingly significant read of a complex moment in Scottish history. Scholars, professors, theater buffs and readers who always wonder why Macbeth's beautiful and beloved wife drove him into killing his kinsman, King Duncan of Scotland will finally have a plausible explanation.

At the tender age of fifteen, Lady Gruoch's father marries her off to the widower, Lord Gilcomgan, the head of a great province who wants her as a brood mare. Although she fails to dissuade her father, the union is humane by Scottish standards. Nonetheless, the young girl has higher ambitions. Her husband goes to battle with Macbeth who bests him and arrives at her castle gate demanding entry. She appears sword in hand and wants to know what happened to her husband. Macbeth says he has a message for her from her husband. He then informs that her Gilcomgan is dead. He tells her he killed him to avenge the murder of his father Finlach. He says he is sorry but he really had no choice and will now marry her and take care of her and the child she is with. Before she knows it, she is Lady Macbeth and shortly thereafter gives birth to her first son Lulach, the future King.

Everything goes well and Macbeth rises in power and fame serving his King faithfully. Even so, halfway through the story we find ourselves in the darkest corners of her mind as her ambitions shape the choices that will drive both husband and wife into the abyss. We follow the twists and turns as these two plot to kill Duncan and gain the throne of Scotland. Lady Macbeth says, look like an innocent flower, my Lord, but be as the snake that lies in wait beneath it. Yes, the King is coming, and you must carry out what needs to be done. Further along we listen as she tells Macbeth, listen to me. I want you to kill Duncan because I know you well and believe deep in your heart that is what you want to do. Your future happiness depends on you becoming King. You will never be a fulfilled person otherwise. To say nothing of fulfilling her own ambitions and what she believes is her destiny, to be Queen of all Scotland.

I highly recommend Alma Bond's newest psychobiography. It is a page-turner and an intoxicating meditation on women, power and how one woman's ambitions spirals out of control in a tragedy that forces her to face the darkest truths about herself and the consequences of her choices. Because of Lady Macbeth's ambitions her husband embarks on a reign of terror that eventually drives her mad, plunges the country into civil war and ultimately leads to the death of both of the central characters; Lady Macbeth slits her throat with the dagger used to kill Duncan and Macbeth at the hands of the King's kin.

Cassandra Langer

Christy's Bookshelf

Bram Stoker
Dover Publications, Inc.
31 East 2nd Street
Mineola, NY 11501
9780486411095, $3.50

Young London lawyer Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to conduct business with Count Dracula, a mysterious and very sinister-looking man who reveals himself only at night. When their business is finished, Dracula seems intent on keeping Harker in Transvlvania while he travels to England. Harker soon figures out Dracula is not just an ordinary man but a vampire and manages to escape only to suffer a mental breakdown, delaying his marriage to Mina, a woman Dracula becomes fixated on. To the rescue comes Van Helsing, a doctor who knows about vampires and how to kill them. But their efforts to find Dracula are hampered by the fact that Dracula has Mina under his power and is able to stay at least one step ahead of them as he flees back to Transylvania.

This classic is written in an interesting style with the plot relayed through diary and journal entries of the people surrounding Van Helsing. Readers might find it interesting that Stoker based Dracula on Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian ruler during the mid 15th century known for his cruel impalements of men, women and children. The plot lags at times, especially during lengthy discourses by Van Helsing, but it's an interesting look into the period (late 19th century) and the mindsets and interactions of men and women of that time. The story is at times thrilling and suspenseful and Dracula a most evil character.

Must Love Dogs
Claire Cook
New American Library
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
0451217217, $4.82, B000BSFQM8, $2.99

Preschool teacher Sarah Hurlihy, encouraged by her close-knit Irish Catholic family, begins to think about dating after being divorced for two years. Sarah answers a personal ad in her local paper, only to find her date is her widowed father; something her family finds hilarious. Sarah's sister Carol places a personal ad for Sarah which starts Sarah on the path to weeding out prospective dates. One or two hold promise but Sarah can't seem to find the time for any relationship to marinate while dealing with her father's overzealous and overjealous girlfriend, her brother Michael's marital problems, and her sister Carol's rebellious teenage daughter. Will she find someone to spend the rest of her life with or will Sarah be forever doomed to taking care of the rest of her family?

Claire Cook has penned a fun romantic comedy depicting the pitfalls of dating and family life. The book moves at a fast pace, placing Sarah in the midst of some pretty humorous situations, surrounded by loving family members and interested would-be beaus.

Sautee Shadows
Denise Weimer
Canterbury House Publishing
225 Ira Harmon Road, Vilas, NC 28692
9780982905487, $15.95,

Denise Weimer has woven a magical tapestry of history and fiction around the lives of four families in the hot, sultry climate of southern Georgia during a volatile time when differences between the North and South over slavery are threatening to come to a boil and the Cherokee people are being forced off their land and made to relocate. In this first installment of her Georgia Gold Series, she introduces and provides background for three standout characters: Mahala Franklin, a beautiful young woman who endures prejudice and rejection because she is half-white and half-Cherokee; Jack Randolph, the son of a wealthy shipbuilder who abhors slavery and longs to return to his original homeplace in New York; and Dev Rousseau, a true Southerner who plans to enter the military if the perceived war between the North and South becomes reality. Chocked full of history, with dialogue true to the time, characters that intrigue and beguile, and what promises to be an adventurous and exciting journey, this is certain to be an interesting, entertaining series.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution
Marla Heller, MS, RD
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
9781455512799, $22.99

Holiday time is over, spring is around the corner, and you wonder about what I will look like in shorts! Well, there is a new diet book, which is a quick fix to help you drop pounds, boost metabolism, and get healthy! "The Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution by Marla Heller, MS, RD contains a full education for the neophyte dieter! Even old hands will gain a new understanding of how their body works and what they can do to improve it.

U. S. News & World Report names it the "Best Overall Diet" and the "Healthiest Diet." If that is not enough, think about the benefits it implies, DASH, (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). "It lowers cholesterol and improves brain function."

Additionally, some great side effects of this diet of the DASH diet according to Heller are lower rates of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and some types of cancer, including BRCA negative breast cancer. The eating plan advocated by DASH makes it less likely to develop diabetes or kidney stones.

A straightforward no-nonsense approach is how this book explains what ordinary people can do to improve their health and their wallets. Obese people spend $1,500 per year extra for medical care than someone of healthy weight according to Heller. Learning in this style is easy because everyone needs to avoid those things that will ultimately kill him or her at a younger age than the normal. Based upon scientific research, this eating plan discusses how some of the fad diets of the past were not all they were cracked up to be.

One outstanding feature of this book is the charts, which you can use to track your own goals for healthier living. A check-off list for your personal health risks draws you into recognizing the need for a reduction of harmful things:

Is your waist size too large?

Blood pressure too high?

Cholesterol or triglycerides too high?

Eating too many fried foods?

These are a few examples of the harm recognition only you can know about yourself. Knowing what to do about them is what this book is about. Is this plan for you? Can you do it without a doctor? You make the decision and the key is following it.

Another chart title is "My Actions to Get Started with the DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution." Here you face making a plan for success by facing the challenges that prevent going on the diet and maintaining it.

The first 14 days of the diet has a menu plan with simple items you can pick up at your local grocery store without buying specially planned programed meals. One of the things that I particularly liked was you can go out for lunch from work and order a hamburger! However, skip the bun, get a salad, cut the meat up, and put it on the salad.

Alcohol in the first phase of the diet is a no - no! As Heller puts it, "They may contain sugars, they definitely contain calories, and they do a very good job of reducing willpower and leading you down the path to diet ruination."

The last half of this book has specific recipes for success and more charts that help you map your way to winning the fight against ailments. This is a five star book and one that you will surely want to get as a gift for that obese friend or relative you want to stay alive!

The Best Things You Can Eat: For Everything from Aches to Zzzz, the Definitive Guide to the Nutrition-Packed Foods that Energize, Heal, and Help You Look Great
David Grotto, RD, LDN
Da Capo Lifelong Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center
Cambridge, MA 02142
9780738215969, $15.99

Often we hear of the bedside companion, a book that will help you to doze as you stumble through the pages. "The Best Things You Can Eat," is not that book. This is a new kitchen tool to help make decisions on what to prepare for dinner. Not a recipe book, it is a guide to discovering those foods that will aid eating to prevent or help cure illness.

David Grotto, RD, LDN, formerly the national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the founder and president of Nutrition Housecall, LLC. He is the author of "101 Foods That Could Save Your Life." His credentials are impeccable and so is the message that he conveys.

A new awareness concerning the consumption of good food has erupted through our nation. Was this because of the President's wife? Alternatively, is it we are living longer and want to enjoy our lifestyles? There is no simple solution and this book does not really delve into the whys and wherefores. Instead, we find an honest discussion about food and its benefits.

A cancer fighter according to Grotto is Guava Fruit. He points out that studies indicate that guava fruit increases apoptosis (programmed cell death) and prevents the spread of malignant cells sending the message to cancer cells that their days are numbered. Guava fruit is grown in tropical climes like Florida and for years has been a tourist attraction to take home in the form of guava jelly.

Almonds are an excellent source of protein, manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, and copper Grotto points out. The best side effect beyond the minerals and vitamins is that when a regular part of the diet, almonds significantly reduce blood pressure.

Using cherries to combat bad breath is another of Grotto's recommendations. He points out that they have antioxidant functions, which help remove the odor of the colorless gas released in decaying organic matter and garlic attributed to bad breath.

Throughout the book, Grotto has charts, which highlight what foods will do certain things. An example is how to raise good cholesterol or HDL by eating those items on the chart. In addition, there are many other tips regarding what to do. However, here are some: Avocados, Chocolate, Olive Oil, Orange Juice, Pumpkin seeds or Pumpkin seed oil, and finally Wine. Wine in moderation, meaning 5 ounces is beneficial, but if you do not drink, Grotto says do not start! He says further you cannot save up the one or two drinks per day and have fourteen drinks on Sunday!

Throughout the book, there are highlighted sections that discuss "Shocker Food!" These are tidbits of information, which stand out because they are unusual. An example is eating carbohydrates before bedtime is one of the best fuels for cranking out sleep promoting serotonin. Eating leftover baked potato topped with salsa (not too spicy) and accompanied by a glass of milk may prevent leg cramps and calm restless legs, as well as lower blood pressure.

This is a highly recommended five star book, which will aid you in looking and sleeping better with the additional benefit of keeping you healthy.

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Diane Ackerman
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10110
9780393333060, $14.95

This is the true story of Jan and Antonia Zabinski, zookeepers of the Warsaw's Poland Zoo. They risked their lives to keep many Jews safe from the Nazi Holocaust. This epic tale is unusual because this couple was Catholic and safe from persecution. They took many risks to provide shelter, as they were compassionate patriots.

Jan and Antonia managed the well-known zoo, which had a reputation of being one of the greatest zoos in Europe. The zoo was bombed during the invasion by the Germans and that created massive destruction. Shipping some of the animals to Germany was necessary to safeguard them from further harm. Then to make matters even worse, the Nazis came back to the zoo and killed many of the animals for sport by cruelly shooting them in their cages.

Jan and Antonina enlarged tunnels built under cages, erected false panels in the main house creating hidden rooms, and even zoo cages hid secret special guests. During this occupation, almost 100 people, at any given time, were living in these hush-hush places.

Antonina realized that if you hid people in plain view and acted as though nothing was amiss, the Nazis would not discover them. Even a housekeeper who cared for the home did not suspect anything, because the people, who were hiding, only came out at night! Jewish fugitives stayed in the tunnels or behind false panels during the day with a strict code of silence. Heightening the intrigue, the Nazis had an ammunition building on the property where they stored war supplies.

As a leading member in the Polish underground, Jan Zabinski considered it necessary to gain entry to the Warsaw Ghetto so he could save many Jews from the Holocaust. There were times when Jan was able to use his skills as an animal handler to further help people in the Ghetto. He had convinced the Germans to allow him to raise pigs at the zoo in order to feed German soldiers. He also used the pigs to feed his "guests".

Diane Ackerman's research into this book enhances this remarkable story as she unfolds many little known facts about patriots who risked all for their fellow citizens. This very unusual story can be a spellbinding movie. Pictures can display the exotic zoo animals among people hiding in tunnels and bombs exploding around them both trying to survive the Nazi invasion. This is a five star book that tells a very unusual epic adventure of survival.

Clark Isaacs, Reviewer

Crocco's Bookshelf

Renaissance (Byland Crescent Book Two)
William Gordon
Bill Kitson
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BEJXAZS, $4.58

Renaissance is the story of two families, the Cowgill's and the Fisher's. WW1 ended and the families needed to persevere after suffering heart-rending personal losses. From England to Australia they became familiarized with innovative ways of life. They also faced the challenges of forgiveness within their families.

Reading Renaissance, I enjoyed following the Cowgill and Fisher families from Requiem, Byland Crescent Book One. The characters remained interesting as they lived through dramatic life events at such trying times.

I especially enjoyed the historical aspect of Renaissance, as it's my favorite genre.

The Byland Crescent Series has five volumes, and I'm currently looking forward to reading Book Three.

When Monsters Come Out to Play
Samantha Foster
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BUVM0BA, $2.99

A cute little bedtime story meant to ease children's fears of monsters.

Samantha Foster's first book, When Monsters Come Out to Play, is a short story rich with kid friendly rhymes and outstanding illustrations.

There's a variety of monsters sure to befriend any child's imagination.

By the end of the story, children will not only be fearless but will have chosen a favorite monster!

Cloud Dancer
P. A. Bechko
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B005AVV6YS, $4.97

The Spaniards are coming, the Spaniards are coming!

The year is 1598 and the Kere tribe of the Acoma Pueblo were about to be annihilated from their peaceful home in New Mexico.

Being a Kere Native American woman required domesticity, certainly not a hunter and warrior, but Cloud Dancer was having none of that. She couldn't hide in her teepee any longer when the Spaniards came to take whatever food and supplies they wanted. She knew she had to stand up for her people.

In this battle, she lost. The Acoma Pueblo were wiped out. A handful managed to escape, seeking a new home with nearby tribes, but as a whole, the Acoma Pueblo were wiped out.

Cloud Dancer's life was saved by a young Spanish warrior, who knew his people were wrong. He risked everything saving her. It was from her new friend she learned to ride a horse and shoot "the stick that thunders."

Missing her family, friends, and previous lover - Apache warrior and medicine man, White Hawk - Cloud Dancer finds she is alone. As with other survivors from the Acoma Pueblo, she decides to live with an Apache tribe. Their ways are very different from the Kere ways, but she doesn't want to be alone, wanting to be a warrior and hunter for the Apaches. Her goal is to fight the Spaniards when they attack again.

The story of Cloud Dancer is a brilliant historical novel filled with Native American events and details for the passionate historical fiction reader. The romance added to the story, without lessening the historical significance.

I stumbled upon Cloud Dancer in my search for historical fiction and was so glad I did. I appreciated the research P.A. Bechko devoted to her book and I aspire to write my own historical novel with as much skill and expertise.

Winston & Me by Mark Woodburn
Valley Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00A6Z5EVE, $4.50

Winston & Me is a book that supports my love of historical fiction. The research Mark Woodburn undertook is appreciated by readers eager to learn a part of history missed in their education. I am embarrassed to admit I knew little about Winston Churchill, but Winston & Me became my private tutor in the most enjoyable way.

The fictitious character, James Melville, was a fifteen year old Scottish young man, who told the story of his relationship with Winston that developed throughout WW1 in Britain, Edinburgh, and France.

I have always felt the best way to learn history is by reading a well written, captivating, historical novel. Mark Woodburn knocked it out of the park!

As with all war stories, events are not always pretty. The reader will experience the horrors of war, yet at the same time, the public and private life of Winston Churchill.

I recommend Winston & Me for the history buff along with readers of all ages wanting to expand their knowledge of WW1 and Winston Churchill.

Book 1 Learn the Numbers (Pre-K Learning Series)
Sandra L. Portman
Illustrated by Kopralzz
GRM Digital Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00AUN6J9S, $0.99

Schools today are pleading for more parental involvement and this Pre-K Learning Series is perfect for the parent to get started.

There are four levels and chapters (for age 0-4) in Book 1 where the preschooler learns numbers from 1-10. From imitating sounds of words and numbers, to identifying pictures and answering questions, to pretending to read, to counting from 1-10, the child enjoys appropriate and clear images of numbers, fish, cars, and teddy bears.

Outstanding lessons for the child written with the parent in mind for ease and a sense of accomplishment for both.

Santorini, Greece Travel Guide 2013: Attractions, Restaurants, and More... (One Day In A City) Gina Douglas Tarnacki
Doma Publishing House
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BCQ69TC, $2.99

The travel guide begins with an abridged but captivating history of the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece by Gina Douglas Tarnacki. It continues by informing readers how to travel to Santorini, by ferry or cruise, if by air one must travel to Athens.

Tarnacki highlights her suggestions for the wine tasting travelers, the 4- wheeler adventurers, and the beach lovers.

Restaurants, foods, night clubs, hotel accommodations, museums and monuments for the history buffs are described to enhance the best one day experience in Santorini.

Pertinent information is included, such as, pickpocket precautions, holiday and off-season tips, currency, costs, operation times, and more.

Santorini, Greece Travel Guide 2013: Attractions, Restaurants, and More... (One Day In A City) by Gina Douglas Tarnacki also includes photos to entice the one day traveler to get the most out of their day in Santorini.

Rome, Italy City Travel Guide 2012: Attractions, Restaurants, and More... (One Day In A City) Gina Douglas Tarnacki
Amazon Digital Services, Inc
B00B1H8J72, $2.99

An abridged travel guide that includes everything.

The travel guide begins with an abridged history of Rome, short and brief, yet includes all the city's highlights for the traveler to get the most out of one day in Rome.

Means of travel include - ship, train, plane and car, to experience the top ten sites of Rome in a day. It includes a photo of each site with pertinent comments appropriate for the one day visit.

The guide is all about not wasting time, yet not missing anything of importance. It includes time saving tips, such as, times the sites are open and less crowded, inexpensive and quick ways to get from one place to another, nearby restaurants, telephone numbers, hotel accommodations, phrases translated from English to Italian and even pickpocket precautions.

This is the perfect travel guide as it contains everything the traveler needs to enjoy one day in Rome. It can easily fit in one's pocket for quick and easy access.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Die A Stranger
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9780312640217, $25.99,

I first began to read a Steve Hamilton book, when my wife and I joined our only one mystery club. It was a selection by the club. I got back to him again by picking up The Lock Artist, which I really liked. My memory went back to that earlier Alex Knight novel. His stories set in the Upper Peninsula have special interest to me, and now I live in the area.

Alex Mcknight has a new problem facing his life in the Upper Peninsula, and he first recognized its signs, when his close Indian friend Vinnie LeBlanc, and his cousin Buck Carrick took off to a unknown location. It happened soon after his mother died, and Alex was concerned upon his taking off for no reason. He tries to help find him by investigating his disappearance along with Buck or known as Bucky too. He tells the family he was consoling him after his mother's funeral. They didn't approve of him drinking with him, for as a rule Vinnie didn't drink. He remembers back his family isn't as friendly towards him, so the information is uprupt and to the point. He leaves with little knowledge other than, if he wants to find him he will have to do the work.

The Bay Mills reservation police chief, Benally consults with Alex to see, if he knew the where abouts of Vinnie. He also is noting a the death of five people found upon a landing of drugs, and the pilot with others all shot for unknown reasons. In that same time-frame the chief takes some interview notes from Alex, that maybe the disappearance of Vinnie and Buck are related to those multiple deaths in the small plane landing. Alex strikes up nothing by asking around. He comes back home after questioning at his work place at the casino and family members. He even stops again at the Indian reservation police to see, if anything turned up.

Now a stranger is hanging out at Vinnie's house and Alex learns, that it is Vinnie's father also looking for Vinnie. The two of them team up together to locate what happened to Vinnie and Buck. They start by going back to Vinnie's family on the reservation and then start exploring possible leads to their whereabouts. Unfortunately upon asking questions it does lead them to bodies. A major crime spree is occurring in the UP, and these two seekers are putting themselves right smack in the middle of it. The closer they will get to the antagonists, the more likely they will have to face the bigger picture of the problem. It doesn't take too long on exploring the investigation, that they realize that will be true. Some guy named Corvo figures Vinnie, and Buck are walking dead men and that goes for anyone else who helps them.

Steve Hamilton is the author of the Alex McKnight novels and some stand alone efforts. His first novel A Cold Day in Paradise won the Private Eye Writers of America/St Martin Press Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. It happened before becoming a USA Today bestseller and winning both an Edgar and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel. His stand-alone novel, The Lock Artist was named a New York Time Notable Crime Book. He received an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and then went on to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He was the only author besides Ross Thomas to win Edgars for both Best First Novel and Best Novel.

The Last Man
Vince Flynn
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416595212, $27.99,

I was encouraged to read this author by my ex-boss and mentor who liked his style. He loves thriller type novels involved with the CIA operations and espionage novels. He also was bored with the mystery thrillers, that had detectives solving crimes. I got my first novel done by him entitled Pursuit of Honor, and I have been hooked on his stories. His face pace moves the story, and the content is exciting and engaging. He is a master of the thriller novel with plenty of action to keep this reader enjoying the story and intense plotting.

Matt Rapp is looking at four dead bodies in the safe house in various positions inside it, three supposedly shot by a nine millimeter pistol, and one by a 45 caliber slug. They were lined up on the floor and shot in the forehead like Rapp would've done it. The fourth, an Afghani, was shot through the back of his head, and a quarter of his face gone. It was showing a crater of flesh, blood and bone. Rapp also continues to works with his team to figure out how what happened to Joe Rickman, and all of the events that took place in the safe house. Rickman was taken out of the safe house, and the bodies are what is left of the kidnapping attack.

Rapp is visited right by the afghani police with their leader who is a ruthless player in the region. His name is Abudl Siraj Zahir. He was responsible for a lot of the road side bombs killing American troops in the nearby Afghanistan town of Jalalabad. Rapp listens while he belittles his cohort Hubbard upon entering the safe house. Rapp tears into him, and this shows Abudl he means business. He warns him unless he can find some information to digest what happened to Rickman, his life is worth nothing to Rapp. He even gives him a time table to get that information.

The major problem occurs later for Rapp when he is visited by the other agencies for a meeting, and he finds out who is really on his side in this search for Rickman. The blame is placed on the him for his actions against Zahir, and Rapp argues that they don't understand who has been sent in here to clean up the mess. This would include DC and other government agencies besides the CIA. Matt Rapp moves on after his meeting with the agencies regarding his tactics with Zahir. He proceeds to check on Rickman's dog becomes hunted across the street by an assassin, while he is checking at a veteran clinic.

Soon after this Rapp and his securtiy detail arrive there, then all hell breaks loose with the Afghani police force attacking the clinic. Rapp leaves and faces a gunfight after confronting an assassin who is paid to kill Rapp. The outcome is mind boggling and Rapp is injuried after a shoot out with Afghani police. Of course, the casualities weigh heavier on the police side, but one good member of the clandestine team also gets killed. It was Mitch's best friend Mick Reavers.

Rapp needs to recovery in a hospital, which Kennedy the director of the CIA makes sure he is not disturbed. The FBI agent Joel Wilson appears at the hospital desk to seek information from Rapp, who is the clean up guy for the clandestine forces overseas. Kennedy needs to figure out why Rickman is kidnapped, while Hubbard is noticed to be missing. All of this happens with Rapp, who she remembers was attacked at the animal hospital. Her operation's ability to operate in all areas are in jeopardy. Kennedy and her team need to figure out who is weakening their clandestine ability methods to keep balance in the United States's favor. The ace in her hand was they all feared Mitch Rapp. She has to figure how to use him to help with the clandestine problems, before it gets out of hand.

Vince Flynn is the New York Bestselling author of now fourteen thrillers, including Kill Shot and American Assassin. I enjoy his main character Mitch Rapp, and I plan on reading eventually all his novels.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
Jon Ronson
Riverhead Books
Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
9781594488016, $16.00

There is an old joke that one still hears once in a while: "What do you call a boatload of lawyers on the bottom of a river?" The answer is "A good start." After reading Jon Ronson's 'The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry,' readers may decide that a cruise ship full of psychiatrists at the bottom of the Mariana Trench would be called "a VERY good start."

Anybody who studied the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis will choke on the idea that psychiatry is a science. General readers who never studied the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis will, after reading Jon Ronson, understand why psychiatry is not a science. Along with all the Scientologists in the world, Ronson's readers will finish 'The Psychopath Test' thinking it's a crime that law allows psychiatrists to prescribe drugs -- any drugs -- for any reason at all.

Of course anybody might love or hate Jon Ronson, his style, and his books. Be that as it may, readers with a sense of humor will at least chuckle at a journalist who, in a dimly lit mansion full of creepy statuary as the invited guest of Mr. & Mrs. Albert Duncan, has the chutzpah to stand flat-footed and ask "Chainsaw Al" if he is a psychopath.

Ronson's interview with "Toto" is a jaw-dropper, too, which is what it should be so for any American citizen with the brains to connect a few dots. Introspection and deadpan wit scattered liberally throughout the book are both side-splitting and priceless.

Solomon sez: 'The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry' is another wild ride from Jon Ronson -- if you got the nerve to stay in the car. Highly recommended to anyone who whistles past the graveyard of our therapeutic culture while entertaining a secret suspicion that (s)he might be one of the nuts.

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
Ahmed Rashid
Yale University Press
302 Temple Street
New Haven, CT 06511-8909
9780300083408 $TBA print / $9.99 Kindle

Ahmed Rashid's 'Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia' is a work of journalism such as we too seldom see these days -- perhaps because it wasn't written by an American.

Whining aside: The merits of Rashid's 'Taliban' include the fact that it was researched and written in the years before 9-11 by a journalist who also happens to be a British-educated, Pakistani Muslim. He lived among Taliban fighters and covered events in Afghanistan for more than 20 years. Ahmed Rashid is a superb writer, a careful and responsible reporter who doesn't do hyperbole. It's possible, too, that Rashid's fine work didn't suffer from attention paid it by fine editors at Yale University Press.

Before hysteria over the Twin Towers poisoned America's journalistic well it was possible to get a rational look at what was then going on in Afghanistan, and that's exactly what one gets from reading Rashid's book. Thoughtful readers will find it possible to understand how and why events in Afghanistan during the 1990s may have led to the implosion of the Argentine economy in 2001-02. Thoughtful readers will also see that the fall of the Twin Towers (9 months after 'Taliban' was published and 3 months after I read the book) did not provoke America to invade Afghanistan but instead served the Bush administration a handy excuse for what was and remains a war of aggression, the aim of which is to capture and/or control the mineral riches of Central Asia.

I bought 'Taliban' after listening to an NPR newscast about Taliban destruction of ancient Buddhist colossi at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in March 2001. Archaeology is a freak of mine, and so it was my itch to know about those colossi that helped me to understand what was really going on when Bush announced his intent to invade Afghanistan. It was what I learned from this book that made my opposition to America's Afghan war principled rather than political. It is probable that Rashid's 'Taliban' will do the same for other sentient readers.

Mr. Rashid is, as I've already stated, a careful author and a stranger to hyperbole. He is a fine craftsman who writes a line that is eminently readable. He discusses things such as politics, diplomacy, mineral resources, geography, the oil business, and other potentially dry subjects with an easy grace. Any high-school student should be able to ingest this book, to grasp the points made and connect the dots proffered. If some adamant, American uber-patriots find 'Taliban' provocative, they should at least own that the work is nontoxic.

Solomon sez: Ahmed Rashid's 'Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism' in Central Asia' is highly recommended to American readers of every political persuasion and to other folks -- world over -- who want to understand the reasons for what's happening in Afghanistan. Read it. Think about it. Get mad. Do something.

Deacon Solomon

Gail's Bookshelf

God Gave Us Easter
Lisa Tawn Bergren
Art by Laura J. Bryant
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307730725, $10.99,

Lenten season began February 13 in 2013 and ends March 30 the day before Easter. It's both a time of spiritual celebration and fun, yet youngsters sometimes focus only on the fun. Whether it's coloring, hiding and finding bright colored Easter eggs or gifts of lush Easter baskets overflowing with bright colored candies the real meaning of Easter can be eclipsed. That's why Lisa wrote God Gave us Easter for children, a story that teaches what Easter is really about.

The account centers on a family of Polar bears and begins with "Little Cub" and "Papa Bear" coloring eggs for Easter. "Little Cub" has just told Papa Bear how much he loves Easter.

"Papa Bear" agrees and says, "It's even better than Christmas."

Lisa contrasts Christmas with Easter in the introduction then highlights the similarities and differences between them as the story begins. For example, Christmas is a time of giving that celebrates Christ's birth while Easter celebrates the "bigger story," the gift of eternal life Jesus paid for with his life.

She uses the analogy of a chick breaking the eggshell at birth to illustrate Christ's breaking free of the tomb because "death couldn't trap God's son" any more than the eggshell could keep the little chick inside.

My only criticism is the inclusion of topics besides Easter, such as Noah and his family, the flood and the rainbow's promise that distracts from the main topic of Easter. That said, the appealing narrative does provide a basic non-gospel specific summary of Easter.

I also liked the suggestion that children should listen to Jesus with their hearts and not just their heads, because that "...takes a special kind of listening." Colorful pictures by award-winning illustrator, Laura Bryant add enjoyable visual texture to the story.

The book is especially suitable for ages three through six, especially with youngsters who have a church background and for children without that, Lisa's book still provides a basic and sound overview of Easter.

Click through the "List" on the Examiner for more God Gave Us... books from this award-winning author:

Rose Guide to the Temple
Dr. Randall Price
Rose Publishing
4733 Torrance Blvd., #259, Torrance, CA 90503
9781596364684, $29.99,

Easter and the Lenten season's focus are on Christ, Jerusalem and the Holy Land, a place many have visited. For those who haven't, but would like to Dr. Price's Rose Guide to the Temple is the next best thing to being there. Noted research Professor, Dr. Randall Price, Th.M., PhD covers the "entire history of the Temple in Jerusalem, from the time of Abraham to modern day" in Rose Guide to the Temple, with text and pictures on full-color glossy pages. It's a lavish visual delight of superb graphics, maps, lush illustrations, pictures, labeled diagrams and drawings that provide detailed historical context of the Temple Mount. When readers finish they will understand why Judaism, Islamic tradition and Christianity consider the Temple important.

The attractive spiral bound book contains an introduction, three sections, "Before the Temple...The first Temple...The Second Temple" and concludes with "The Modern Temple Mount and Future Temple." Price's comprehensive information gives readers a spectacular pictorial tour that brings to life a stunning 4000 year historical landscape.

The introduction explores the Temple's spiritual meaning and God's desire for relationship with His people and how God inspired, by divine revelation, the Temple's specifications. God planned it as His dwelling place on earth, while it would also act as a "visual aid" for the people of Israel to comprehend God's glory.

Some of what readers find in this exceptionally well-done book:

A two-sided "24-inch-long fold-out poster of the Temple Mount by National Geographic.

Half-page pictures contrasting the Garden of Eden and cut-away of the Tabernacle (pg. 8)

The two-page full-color cutaway of the Tabernacle that lifts to reveal the exquisite interior with Ark of the Covenant, golden lampstand and other items in the Holy of Holies. (pg. 10-13)

Multiple color-coded maps throughout.

The extravagant, vibrant portrayal and cutaways of Solomon's Temple (pgs. 32-37)

Sacrifices and their significances (pg. 43)

Six easy-to-understand timelines from the first temple through "modern time."

Archeological discoveries with pictures, descriptions and meanings in each section.

The modern Temple, Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount Gates.

The mystery of the "Lost Ark," when it disappeared and where it might be today.

I found the archaeological discoveries, their pictures, diagrams, dates and descriptions of where found and how they validated Scripture, especially interesting. Particularly those of walls, lintels, arch stones, doorways and more I've read about in Scripture.

If the Temple were built today it would require 575 tons of silver, cost $755 million US dollars and 270 tons of gold at the cost of $15.3 billion or more with fluctuating gold prices, not to mention 610 tons of bronze and 3,400 tons of iron. (pg. 24)

From the unique transparency cut-away overlays to a visual tour of the Holy Land to information that has never before been published, Rose Guide to the Temple is a literary extravaganza excellent for students, pastor or lay readers. On a scale of one to ten, this book is 20+

For more Bible maps, charts and timelines from this impressive publisher click through the list of books that headlines the review.

Damascus Countdown, #3-Twelfth Imam series
Joel Rosenberg
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414319704, $26.99

Joel Rosenberg announces the release of Damascus Countdown today that completes the Twelfth Imam trilogy, a book endorsed by "...former presidential candidate, Rich Santorum and radio host, Rush Limbaugh..." Rosenberg's realistic portrayal of the unrest and division in the Middle East, Jerusalem and the anticipated appearance of the prophetic Twelfth Imam is chilling, dramatic and real.

The Tehran Initiative, second in the series, ended with covert agent David Shirazi, aka Mr. Tabrizi's meeting with the Twelfth Imam's aide to deliver the highly prized SAT phones, that unbeknownst to them were converted by the CIA. Damascus Countdown begins with that meeting.

David knew the satellite phones would prove irresistible to the Iranians with the growing unrest and threat of communication breakdown with war imminent. It also meant "...Iran's supreme Ayatollah...president...and the passionately devout "Twelver's" of the so-called Islamic Messiah..." only communication would be through satellite transmission. The CIA monitored phones would prove critical to Israel and the United States.

During the meeting, sudden sounds of sniper rifle fire felled two bodyguards and left the aide crumpled and bleeding on the ground with David crouched beside him. David felt a small sense of satisfaction knowing the first part of his daring plan had succeeded. Then felt his muscles tense in anticipation of phase two - a programmed car bomb blast that would ensure their escape.

Instead David heard the unexpected roar of four fighter jets as they streaked across the sky, firing air-to-ground missiles and knew Israel had ordered a devastating and massive preemptive "first strike" on Iran's nuclear facility.

Add the suspicions, tensions and turmoil of a nation and culture divided, an American President whose stand with Israel is questionable, two missing nuclear warheads and a CIA agent stranded in Iran with Israeli operatives and readers have an international tale of intrigue that keeps pages turning long after the lights should go out.

The narrative is told through the lens of bible prophecy from both a biblical and Islamic perspective. Many events could be tomorrow's headlines, whether an Israeli first strike or the Twelfth Imam's prophesied appearance or Iran's order for Israel's annihilation, any of which would be cataclysmic and world changing.

Limbaugh says, "... the intense action and blistering pace is eerily close to real events..." such as Syria's meltdown and Iran's nuclear capacity. Rick Santorum says the book "...will be banned and burned in Tehran and Damascus, but it should be required reading in Washington."

Rosenberg's book is not one to miss.

Check out the "list" that headlines the review on the Seattle Examiner for more in the series:

And YouTube from Tyndale House Publishers: "Damascus Countdown - Joel Rosenberg - Releases March 5, 2013"

Fool Moon Rising
Written and Illustrated by Krisi and T. Lively Fluharty
Crossway Publishing
1300 Crescent Street,Wheaton, IL 60187
9781433506826, 15.99,

Crossway Books selected Fool Moon Rising for February's Homeschool Book Review Program this year: In this delightful children's tale for ages 3-7, author Kristi Fluharty uses humor and rhyme to write an intriguing, sassy tale about the moon, Christ, talents, pride and humility. T. Lively Fluharty's outstanding illustrations add rich, vibrant color and detail with each turning page. The book also fits with the Lenten season since it highlights the glory of the risen Lord.

The story begins with a little boy framed in his bedroom window, elbows leaning on the window sill, his long-nosed puppy perched beside him, his doggy ears flapping in the wind. The little boy gazes into the night sky and begins a serious talk with God.

He's concerned about a story he heard and asks God, did the "moon" really brag about "stealing glory" from the sun?

Thus begins an imaginative account about a "crime of cosmic proportions," a creative tale that illustrates a proud self-involved moon who never considers where the light he shines comes from. Because he can change shapes many times in a month, influence the tides coming in and going out, shed light or darkness and even - drum roll please - once had visitors from earth. Whenever he considers his accomplishments he feels large and proud and is quick to say, "I am the greatest light."

The gospel-centered narrative is rich in meaning with an underlying message of the dangers of pride and boasting from an enchanting self-centered, self-involved moon. However the moon changes by tale's end and recognizes his foolishness. He's very sorry when he realizes his talents and gifts are from God and begins to boast about the sun.

This well-told children's parable demonstrates an easy-to-understand lesson about pride and humility. Just as the moon reflects the suns light, we reflect Christ's light when we focus on Him instead of ourselves. Another advantage when we focus on Christ, there's little room for pride and lots of room for humility.

1 Corinthian's 4:7 (NLT) is the foundation verse "What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if everything you have is from God, why do you boast as through it were not a gift." for this well-done story

Be sure to check out Max's delightful tales of Punchinello and the Wemmick's included in the list that headlines the review in The Seattle Examiner.

Beyond Heaven's Door
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 14100 Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780849948435, $14.99,

Max Lucado's new gift book, Beyond Heaven's Door released just in time for Easter with answers to common questions and concerns about heaven, death and dying. He uses Scripture and selections from work previously published in When Christ Comes to quiet collective doubts and fears about all three in twenty short chapters that foster understanding as well as faith and trust.

Max, long considered a "golf addict, begins with a short golf story." When pro-golfer, Scott Simpson invited him to "attend the Masters Golf Tournament" known as the "Holy Grail" of golfing, his excitement and anticipation were hard to contain. However, upon arrival he was refused entry to the one place he really wanted to see - the locker room where the "players hang out."

He likens that rejection to fears many have about heaven. They either don't believe or entertain doubts about going to heaven even though they are "" people. Yet, "according to the Bible, it is possible to 'know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13 MSG)..."

One heavenly requirement is faith and belief in Jesus Christ, however, Max writes it also depends on the "clothing you wear..."

Readers learn:

What the "clothing of Christ" is and why it's significant.

Why the color of your clothing is important.

What seeds and harvest have to do with heaven?

Where souls go when the body dies.

Although small in size, Max's reassuring message offers scriptural comfort about a journey everyone is destined to take. It's especially appropriate for Easter, a time when we remember Christ's victory on the cross that ensures eternal life in heaven for those who accept and believe.

The First Easter Day
Jill Lord
Illustrated by Michelle Henninger, Board Book
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Ste. 2AB
Danbury, CT 06810
9780824918927, $8.99

This delightful children's "touch-and-feel" board book familiarizes youngsters with the concept of Christ and Easter. Captivating pictures of a large bee, bellowing frog, bunny rabbit, and more feature a variety of touchable textures that engage little ones in the Easter story and the risen Lord.

'God Keeps You Safe - Peek-a-Boo Promises series' by Michelle Medlock Adams, Illustrated by Pauline Siewert, CandyCane Press - Ideal Publications, 16 Pages, 2013, 978-0824918910, $8.99

This "lift-the-flap" board book introduces little ones, ages two through five, to God's love for them through the game of peek-a-boo. Children learn God is there to guide them while God's angels watch over them because "...that's their job..." (Psalm 91) Anytime youngsters experience worries or concerns, help is only a prayer away, because "...God will never let you go astray..." (Proverbs 3:5)

God Loves You - Peek-a-Boo Promises series
Michelle Medlock Adams, Illustrated by Pauline Siewert
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Ste. 2AB
Danbury, CT 06810
9780824918903, $8.99,

In this charming "lift-the-flap" peek-a-boo board book children learn how much God loves them through ordinary everyday events demonstrated through pictures and rhyme. Imaginative, colorful pictures pose questions or statements children find answers to when they lift the flap on the opposing page. For example, "God loves you from the very start" (lift-the-flap next page) because "you're on his mind and in his heart." (Psalm 139:17)

The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams
Retold by Patricia A. Pingry
CandyCane Press
c/o Ideals Publications
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Ste. 2AB
Danbury, CT 06810
9780824919009, $6.99,

This board book is a revision of the classic Velveteen Rabbit for children ages two through five with lessons about the power of love. The ageless tale includes a small boy, a cuddly rabbit and a Nana. The delightful tale of a stuffed rabbit's quest to become real has captivated audiences for generations and will again with this new adaptation.

These four sturdy and durable board books are designed for chubby hands, jam-stained fingers and repeated readings, whether the books are carried room-to-room, tucked under nighttime pillows or frequently flipped through. I'm sure they will quickly become toddlers and youngsters favorites, not unlike the classic story of the Velveteen Rabbit.

The Voice Bible: Step into the Story of Scripture
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 14100, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781418549015, $19.99

The Voice(R), a new Bible translation from Ecclesia Bible Society and Thomas Nelson Publishers, brings an unusual "flavor and color to the Bible story" enhanced by screenplay formatting, color-highlighted text and speaker identification tags. The result is a "...hybrid of the word-for-word, thought-for-thought..." transcription most translations use. While The Voice has met with mixed reviews I'll begin with what I liked.

There is much to like in the approach and fresh voice of this new translation influenced by poets, artists, writers and musicians as well as pastors and academic scholars. Speaker identification tags are in brown-gold tones that stand out from black text and asterisked footnotes provide "literal meanings" that add context and additional information.

The narrative is formatted similar to a screen play and lies flush to the left which makes it easy to follow, while dialogue is indented with colored tags that name who's speaking. Use of italic script alerts readers to non-scriptural information added for clarity. The notes sections, set apart by a capitol V, begin with a wide brown-gold line and end with a thin brown-gold line.

The Voice (R) offers four reading plans, two of which follow the annual church calendar year with suggested readings for Advent, Pentecost and Lent. Plus the informative "critical dates in the church year," that cover 2012 to 2050 and the alphabetized "Guide to the Notes" and "Topical Guide to Scripture" segments.

What I didn't like were the name changes for God, Jesus Christ and angels, examples below, still that's my personal preference and not a reason to discount this Bible. Several explanations for why this was done are included in the beginning pages and before the New Testament begins.

The name Jesus Christ changed to "Jesus the Anointed One...God's Anointed...

...or the 'Anointed One' depending on context and narrative flow..." (pg. xxi)

God translated as "...the 'Eternal One...or the 'Eternal' depending on context..." (xxiii)

Angels are referenced as "messengers of the Lord."

Overall, The Voice (R) engages the reader and draws them into God's story which was the purpose behind this new edition - to attract a modern audience with an easy-to-understand Bible version. For readers familiar with the Bible, The Voice would be a refreshing change. However, for new believers other Bible translations featured in the list that headlines the review might be more suitable.

Please take note that Thomas Nelson Bibles are sold with a guarantee that requires registration: When registration is complete Thomas Nelson offers the choice of a free gift download in appreciation.

Check out the "list" for additional age specific Thomas Nelson Bibles:

Cuts Like A Knife
M.K. Gilroy
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781936034697, $14.99,

M.K. Gilroy, 30-year veteran of the publishing industry, uses years of experience and writing skill to craft this accomplished debut suspense - Cuts like a Knife. There he draws readers into a tale of mystery, romance and intrigue with a dash of humor rarely seen in introductory books; his well-done characterizations served up with fast-moving schemes that keep readers involved.

Readers first meet Chicago's Kristen Conner, a bright and sassy detective who loves her family, coaches her niece's soccer team, loves her mom and makes time to attend church on Sunday. It's a routine of normalcy that adds sanity to a life that otherwise revolves around homicide, bad guys and chaos whether petty punks, thieves, murderers or serial killers.

Especially a serial killer recently moved to Chicago from California ready to end his "self-imposed limbo" from six months of tortured self-restraint, something he would never get used to. Still he knew his season of self-discipline would soon end after his "signature artistry" announced his arrival. For today, he was content to sit " the precipice of his next great work..." because "tomorrow was April Fool's Day."

Gilroy's debut suspense holds readers in a page-turning grip as Detective Kristen Connor tracks down a killer bent on revenge seemingly without cause. Or was there? Join the chase to find out why someone is determined to teach selected victims what "exsanguination" means. The chase is realistic; the characterizations well-done, the plot gripping, from the pen of a debut novelist readers need to keep their eyes on.

Sprinklings of humor and romance add contrast to an otherwise harsh backdrop of action and suspense. "Project Vigilance," a program designed to track terrorist activity, the FBI and the US Army, as well as a group of Chicago detectives with conflicting jurisdictions add additional interdepartmental conflict and intrigue.

Gilroy has launched dozens of authors as a veteran of the publishing industry that help him to craft this first-person, character-driven mystery with a bit of humor and theology wrapped around a delightful new detective protagonist - Detective Kristen Conner.

Read to me Bible for Kids
Dawn Mueller
Illustrated by Gill Guile
B&H Kidz
127 Ninth Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9781433680588, $19.99,

The attractive Read to me Bible by B&H Kidz uses vibrant colors and glossy pages to portray Bible stories sure to catch the attention of young children and their parents. Forty-five narratives, specifically designed for youngsters age 3-8, teach charm and engage the imaginations of young and old alike.

The first half includes twenty-five stories from the Old Testament and begins with the story of creation, "God Makes the World." This segment closes with the Old Testament account of "Queen Esther" who saved the Israelite nation from Haman's evil intentions.

The second half features New Testament stories that begin with the familiar account of "The Birth of Jesus." I especially liked the inclusion of a story from the Book of Revelation, an account of "God's Wonderful City - our True Home." There children learn about the Apostle John, the island of Patmos and the vision of Heaven, a vision given to John by Jesus.

Both the Old and New Testament segments begin with introductions that relate the stories as "historical events." Stories also cite the book, chapter and verse of where the story is recorded in the Bible. In addition, all accounts point to God's plan of salvation bought and paid for by the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, God's Son.

Gill Guile's eye-catching, full-color illustrations enrich and enhance each story to encourage youngster's interest and attention. I especially liked the inclusion of the Apostle's Creed that ends the book and the Lord's Prayer on the back inside cover. I haven't seen either included in a children's book in a long time and both are important parts of our spiritual heritage.

This outstanding durable resource would make a wonderful gift for any family and I recommend it without reservation for family devotions or for read-aloud stories for children.

NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women: Insights for Everyday Life
Lysa TerKeurst
Zondervan Publishers
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310439363, $34.99,

Bibles and devotions go together kind of like locks and keys since devotions are sometimes the key that "unlock" scripture with fresh insights. That's especially true in the NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women from Zondervan Publishers released March 19th. Devotions, penned for women by women from Proverbs 31 Ministries and the President Lysa TerKeurst, share collective hurts, struggles and worries common to all. From young mothers to married women to single or older women, gospel targeted narratives touch hearts and minds with the reality of God's truth, forgiveness, redemption and grace.

Three-hundred-sixty-six single page devotions are positioned near the scripture's text for ease of lookup. Narratives are numbered but do not include dates or follow a specific reading plan.

Each features a topical theme, brief elaboration with related scripture at the bottom, even a "go to" note for the next devotion.

For example, the devotion, No need to fear by Micca Campbell (pg. 824) is about negative aspects of fear that paralyze emotionally, breed fear, suspicion and worry. Such fear robs us of sleep and leads to distraction during the day over real or imagined consequences. Dozens of bible verses tell God's children not to be afraid like the verse from this devotion, Isaiah 41:13. "For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

Useful indexes list devotions by subject to help the reader find a topic of interest or by author if following a specific writer in addition to alphabetized "author and contributor indexes." Plus a brief author or contributor bio with website links.

The Devotional Bible's appealing blue colors, artwork and dust jacket is found throughout the Bible pages as well as the hardback binding, which mirrors the dust cover. The size is easy to handle and the font size appears standard though it isn't listed.

While this Bible follows the NIV thought-for-thought translation, this edition combines the 1984 revised translation with the 2005 revision known as Today's New International Version, the TNIV. The Preface includes information about reasons for any changes, such as the controversial "gender neutral" revision and non-gospel sectional headings for reader aids.

I personally like and use the NIV and didn't find anything objectionable in the TNIV, still readers need to be familiar with God's Word and aware of any change to its content. I especially like this edition for its simplicity, authenticity and identification with real problems women face. The messages of hope found in the devotions direct readers to scripture that promotes faith, encouragement, trust and belief. It's like hearing from a friend who's been there, gets it and understands. This would make a wonderful gift for friend, loved one or mom for Mother's Day.

Every Breath You Take
M.K. Gilroy
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617950681, $14.99,

M.K. Gilroy follows his Christian themed debut mystery, Cuts like a Knife with Every Breath You Take. In this book Chicago Detective Kristen Conner finds herself on temporary assignment with the FBI in search of a killer who uses an online dating service to find his victims. She has no idea what's in store for her or why the FBI is interested in her.

The story begins with Kristen and three attack team seconds away from storming a split-level home after the squad leader "slaps... three 'Micro Concussion Bombs' on the door surrounding the handle." Before the smoke clears, Kristen races through the "jagged smoking entrance...her head on a swivel, weapon up, ready to fire..." with her team. One of Kristen's last thoughts was about her mom and the bullet resistant jacket. She regretted not telling her mom she loved her and really wished her jacket was bullet proof.

Thus begins a character driven, police procedural of murder, intrigue and suspense on the order of Castle, Law and Order or The Mentalist. Similar to the first book, Gilroy uses italic type to illustrate the killer's thoughts in the first and ensuing chapters. He adds potential romance through a charming FBI agent who's attracted to Kristen's good looks, vibrant personality and solid values. The plot thickens when a murdered wealthy playboy is found with clues that lead to an online dating service, former madam and unknown stalker, all of which complement a lively tale of suspense that keeps readers guessing.

I felt the book was slow to start and would have liked to read more about the crime and less about Kristen in the beginning, still Gilroy knows how to create authentic characters and situations and continues to be a writer to watch. When John Valeri, Hartford Book Examiner interviewed M.K. Gilroy he asked what was next:

Gilroy said, "I'm currently writing Cold as Ice," sequel to Every Breath You Take."

The sequel sounds like a similar tale of struggle, hurt and secrets with added romance. The interview references the serial killer from Cut's like a Knife several times and I wondered if Gilroy intends to resurrect the serial killer from book one in book three. His words I'm "...not telling" is a good "teaser" to leave readers with.

Finding Moosewood, Finding God
Jack Perkins
Zondervan Publishers
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310318255, $22.99,

Jack Perkin's inspirational memoir recounts the life of a celebrated, globe-trotting journalist who couldn't find room in his " for God..." until he learned "...there was room in God for his life..." It's the story of a road well-traveled from the journalistic corridors of fame to a remote island in the backwoods of Maine where he wrote, he and his wife found "...the greatest story this newsman could ever report..."

The seeds that prompted his decision were buried in the soil of his writing career. Whether meeting master photographer, Ansel Adams or a "...genuine back-to-basics Idaho hermit known as Buckskin Bill" decades earlier, Jack knew such men had found purpose that gave their lives meaning.

Although Jack's life was full to overflowing with fame, fortune and happiness, I could sense an underlying discontent in his writing that presents a "before and after" picture in his memoir. The "before" made me think of the Liber and Stoller's 1969 song classic "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee's #1 hit: While the "after" was the realization God had always been there "...patiently waiting..." (pg. 18)

His decision to walk away from his career coincided with another major life event, winning an Emmy for a commentary on media's moral culpability regarding illegal drugs and drug abuse. Within days of the award, Jack's heartfelt commentary led Brandon Tartikoff, NBC's Entertainment president, to announce a new policy that NBC would " longer treat drug abuse as a laughing matter." A move predicated by an apology for his appearance on a Saturday Night Live skit that cynically trivialized the topic.

The Emmy Awards banquet also coincided with the LA Times report that said "...Perkins...plans to retire from broadcast journalism next month to move to a small island off the coast of Maine..."

In case his name was selected for the "Best Commentary" award, Jack prepared what might be the shortest Emmy awards speech ever. When he heard his name, saw his reflection in the "mirrored columns" throughout the vast hall, he realized "...that fellow out there in the mirror..." wasn't him or who he wanted to be. With what had to be a twinkle in his eye, Jack stepped forward, shook hands and said, "Thanks ...but we're still going."

Jacks' stirring story of why he left an "ego-driven life" to assume a mantle of simplicity, on a remote island without electricity, running water or other taken for granted amenities, will make you laugh, cry and at times shake your head in wonder.

He writes with warmth, humor and unusual common sense about a "secular world that worships knowledge and colleges that test what you know instead of teaching you how to think." A centerfold of pictures portray Jack's life from his first job in Cleveland, Ohio, to his marriage, to a picture of Jack sitting on the rock on the shore of Bar Island, a favorite vantage point for reflection.

The book is a literary gem of compelling, life-changing, spiritual truth penned by a man who found God when he and wife Mary Jo "discovered the rewards of a close-to-nature existence..."

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Moonie and the Spider Queen
Nicola Cuti
97881448686919, $10.00

Like many characters in science fiction, Moonie began in comic books. She debuted in 1969 in a self published comic called "Moonchild Comics." That version was so popular that she was later re-published in an underground comic from a company out of San Francisco titled "Weird Fantasies No 1." Moonie has been so well accepted by fans of comics that "Moonie and the Spider Queen" now tells her adventures in novel form. This year there is also a forthcoming movie version on the horizon. .Moonie is a lusty busty woman whose adventures are erotic while at the same time fun space opera. There are spaceships, aliens, space captains, monsters, and lots of erotic sexual activity that make this one for adults only. "Moonie and the Spider Queen" is a well written fast paced novel that should please any fan of adult comics and space operas like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.

Bass Fishing in Outer Space and other stories
Tom Levine
Defiant Worm Books
9780972939027, $19.96,

Tom Levine once again tells many wonderful fish tales in his collection "Bass Fishing in Outer Space and other stories." Levine takes the reader on a witty journey of what it is like to fish in Florida with tall tales that are laugh out loud Levine is a master of the genre and "Bass Fishing in Outer Space and other stories" is a shining example of why.

Serving Up Some Funny
Lisa DeMarco
Strategic Book Publishing .
845 Third Avenue 6th Floor 6016
New York, NY 10022
9781608600694, $10.95,

For over 27 years DeMarco has worked in many service industry positions. The jokes and other funny things she tells have been told to her by people she has met while working in those jobs. She tells bizarre humor on signs displayed in business. Also she includes stupid things people often do and say. An example of stupid things is the woman who asked if she could take an airplane to California then take a train to Hawaii, or a sign in front of a funeral home: Drive carefully. We'll wait. Then there are the jokes clean and dirty that will have readers laughing out loud.

Serving Up Some Funny Leftovers
Lisa DeMarco
Strategic Book Publishing .
P.O. Box 333 Durham, CT 06422
9781609767907, $10.95,

Demarco once again in "Serving Up some Funny Leftovers" has gathered together many remarkable jokes and stupid things people do that is another laugh out loud collection. In her forward she explains part of the reason she has collected these funny stories. "If there was one thing I would preach to everyone I meet, it would be to make time to LAUGH. Laughter is great, and it makes you feel great. It MUST be a scientific fact :people who take the time to laugh and enjoy life even if it means indulging in "silly" behavior just feel better. ..People who can laugh at a simple joke, whether it is spicy or cheesy or somewhat tasteless, realize that life doesn't have to be SO serious all the time." The two "Serving Up" titles are perfect gifts for any occasion.

High Five Your Life Why the Silver Lining in Life's Trials is Actually Gold
Gary Larson
Privately Published
9781611660234, $14.95,

Larson in "High Five Your Life" shares many personal stories geared to help others. He teaches that there are going to be many negative things that we all face and that you should "get over it" and move on. He shows how being negative can effect our health, and others around us. "High Five Your Life" delves into many different aspects of life and is a good resource on how to begin to have a better one.

The New Tradition Cookbook
Valerie Hart
Editech Press
10511 SW 128th Avenue
Miami, FL 33186
97809455860121, $15.00,

Valerie Hart in "The New Tradition Cookbook" brings together many different recipes under one cover. There are wonderful things she covers like appetizers, soups, desserts, vegetable dishes, and lots more. Not only does she tell how to cook them, she also has notes on the many different occasions to serve them. Some of the soups are Cream of Spinach, Cold Cucumber, Shrimp and Crab Bisque, and Curry Gumbo. Then there are main items like Lamb Parisian, Bassano Beef, Chinese Chestnut Chicken and Pork. Topping it all off are desserts like Sunshine Cake, Rich Chocolate Roll, and Strawberry Pie. "The New Tradition Cookbook" has lots of dishes just waiting for people to try

The Bounty of Central Florida
Valerie Hart
Winner Cookbooks
9780974867601, $22.00,

For so long people around the world only think of Florida as the home of Disney World. But the state has so much more to offer and author Valerie Hart shows in her cookbook "The Bounty of Central Florid" so many tasty recipes that anyone can enjoy anytime. A delicacy is alligator tail that when cooked properly has the taste of chicken, or different uses for citrus like lemons, limes, oranges, and tangerines. She shows that many of them can be used in jams or jellies along with grapes and berries. Also she shows many uses for bananas that people have not thought to do. "The Bounty of Central Florida" reveals a very different side of the state of Florida that anyone in the world can enjoy.

Lill And Mewe And the Secrets of Mars
Jean E. Lane
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
12620 FM 1960, Suite A4-507
Houston TX 77065
9781937952273, $11.97,

"Lill and Mewe and the Secrets of Mars" is the first of a series of novels geared to kid's that are enjoyable fare for anyone who is looking for a good science fiction novel. Lill and Me We a cat like creature, are two fun characters who live on the planet Mars who take a trip to earth to learn more about the planet and its people. They encounter a girl named Lilly who teaches them about such things as ice cream and they develop a friendship. My only criticism would be the use of the two characters whose names are so similar. For me there was confusion when they were together. Otherwise the novel is a fun excursion through the solar system with a fast pace, fascinating characters and lots of valid science fact. "Lill and Mewe and the Secrets of Mars" reminded me of the "Kipton" novels by Charles L. Fontenay and the Jerry Lewis movie "Visit to a Small Planet." Author Jean E. Lane is off to a great start with "Lill and Mewe and the Secrets of Mars"

Where Do Missing Things Go?
Cynthia Drew
Illustrations by Bill LaRocque
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road
Winter Park, FL 32789
9781612045733, $14.95,

Sometime or other we have all experienced that we have laid something down and later can not find it anywhere until it somehow miraculously appears. Author Cynthia Drew in her kid's book "Where Do Missing Things Go?" uses animal characters to show that no one is immune from this problem we all have dealt with. The artwork by Bill LaRoque colorfully highlights the story as it unfolds. "Where do Missing Things Go?" is a charming tale with interesting animal characters that anyone of any age can relate to.

The Man and the Wall
Dan Stombaugh
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road
Winter Park, FL 32789
9781937952303, $14.95,

"The Man and the Wall" is a short wonderful book that is for all ages. The story is about two men who deal very differently when they talk to God. You also do not have to be religious to enjoy the moral behind the small story. Those readers who are into symbolism will find lots of it when they read this remarkable tale of two men and how they deal with the same situation. I know it will take readers no time at all to read "The Man and the Wall" but it is much more than it appears to be.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Blood Line
Lynda LaPlante
Bourbon Street Books
c/o Harper Collins. 10 E. 53rd St.
NY, NY 10022
9780062134325, $14.99,

No one who knew 26-year-old Alan Rawlins - - family, family, co-workers - could say anything about him other than that he was somewhat shy, never got into confrontations, and was the quintessential 'nice guy.' But he has apparently been missing for nearly eight weeks when his father, an usher at the Old Bailey, comes into the Hounslow police station, where he asks to see DCI Anna Travis. He tells her of his conviction that his son has been murdered, as he was very close to his family, and there has been no contact at all for this period of time. Anna is urged by her friend and former lover, DCS James Langton, to pursue the case as a murder investigation, knowing it would be only her second case since her promotion to DCI, and the first category A murder inquiry she will handle solo. He does so knowing she is still recovering from the murder of her fiancee nearly a year ago, and as the ensuing investigation proceeds he watches over it, and her, very closely.

The problem with the case, as immediately becomes apparent, is that search as they might, no body can be found, although forensic evidence indicates definitively that there was some violence in the apartment he shared for some time with Tina, the woman who claims they were planning to be married. Tina adamantly denies knowledge of anything untoward, claiming she had not seen him nor heard from him from the day on which he asked her to pick him up at his job two months prior as he had a severe migraine, from which he periodically suffered, and when she returned to the apartment later that day, there was no sign of him, nor of anything amiss in the apartment. When the police cannot positively identify the blood as belonging to Rawlins, the investigation is stymied. Secrets and lies abound.

This title is among several recently brought out in the US by Bourbon Street Books, the authors including many which are favorites of mystery lovers, among them four by Dorothy L. Sayers. Few authors can top Ms. LaPlante when it comes to police procedurals, having written, among her fourteen novels, the much-loved Prime Suspect series, and created the wonderful TV series based on those books which, in its British incarnation, starred Helen Mirren [with a shorter run in its US version].

"Blood Line" is a terrific example of the police procedural at its best, and it is recommended.

Sacrifice Fly
Tim O'Mara
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250008985, $24.99,

Raymond Dunne is a very dedicated schoolteacher, working with eighth-graders in a middle school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and taking the welfare of his students very seriously. In particular, one of the most promising, Frankie Rivas, has obtained a scholarship to a private high school on the basis of his baseball skills and the fact that Ray has called in a favor from their coach. When Frankie fails to show up for school for a couple of weeks, Ray decides to try to find out why. His visit to the home of the boy's father results in his discovery of the man's dead body.

Ray's involvement at that point derives as much from his concern as his teacher as from the fact that Ray is a former cop. His feelings when he walks into his old precinct are made palpable to the reader, his emotions roiling as he remembers back five years, when "you fall thirty feet, and your whole life changes." Among those changes are the physical ones; Ray has an umbrella with him every day, knowing it has to rain sometime; besides, it means he doesn't have to carry a cane.

Frankie and his younger sister are nowhere to be found, and Ray follows up every lead he can find in order to locate the two children and ensure their safety. Then the pace, and the suspense, move into higher gear, beyond the "controlled chaos" of Ray's classroom, and the stakes go up as well.

When one has a terrific protagonist [with a valuable friend, a wannabe cop, nicknamed "Emo"], a well-developed plot, writing that makes the Brooklyn streets come to life and, as the title might imply, a lot of baseball references, what more could one ask? [Well, this reader had to get past the fact that Ray is a Yankee fan, although he does don a Mets cap when the situation requires it.] This is a wonderful debut novel from a writer whose next book I will anxiously await, and it is highly recommended.

Random Violence
Jassy Mackenzie
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952781, $9.99

Jade deJong, the headstrong protagonist of this terrific new novel, is a p.i. who has left her native South Africa, but following a ten-year absence has returned after, most recently, doing surveillance work in England. Her father, before his death, had been police commissioner in Johannesburg, described as a city filled with crime and brutality. The tale opens with the brutal murder of a young woman in what initially appears to have been an attempted carjacking, the first but hardly the last violent act in this novel.

Jade, thirty-four years old, has long-standing relationships with two men, who couldn't be less alike: David, a cop who trained under her father's mentorship and is now a Superintendent in the Johannesburg Central police headquarters, with whom she has a chaste friendship which she would like to see evolve into something more intimate; and Robbie, a small-time gangster whose own attempts at intimacy she rejects, but who serves a purpose. She has timed her return home with the expected release from prison of a convicted murderer who she blames for her father's death. Ultimately, her sense of justice, and her determination to see it done, provides her motivation despite some narrow escapes and the continuing jeopardy in which she finds herself.

The author, who was raised in South Africa, has written a debut novel which brings the country to gritty life, a fast-paced and gripping tale with memorable characters. Readers, including this one, can look forward to her follow-up entry in the series, "Stolen Lives," due out in April in hardcover. Recommended.

Dead Scared
S. J. Bolton
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250022561, $15.99,

The brief prologue sets the scene for the reader: Near midnight; one of the tallest towers in Cambridge, England; D.I. Mark Joesbury, racing up the stairs to its roof; and a young woman perched near the ledge at the top. And then the reader is brought back eleven days in time to see how they got there, with a 1st person p.o.v. of D.C. Lacey Flint, which alternates with third-person perspectives. Flint has been "loaned out" from the Southwark Police to the Special Crimes Directorate of the Metropolitan Police which deals with covert ops, typically being sent on "difficult and dangerous situations." As we are introduced to them, the slightly flirtatious banter underlying their meetings hints at the least of a possible romantic entanglement between them at some point in the relatively recent past.

Lacey goes undercover as a student at Cambridge University after the latest in a number of suicides, with a suspicion that there is more going on than meets the eye. The death was only the latest of three suicides during the current academic year. The only one outside of her police colleagues who knows the truth is Dr. Evi Oliver, head of student counseling. The belief is that there is "something decidedly sinister" happening. Lacey's remit is to "keep a lookout for any unhealthy subculture that might be unduly influencing young people."

Initially Lacey feels out of her element: "I knew I'd never get used to it," in a place where "Wordsworth and Wilberforce weren't characters from history but alumni." But she is there to do a job, and it becomes increasingly urgent. Within several days, one more death occurs. And further investigation indicates that there have been a total of nineteen suicides over the past five years, far more than the general statistics on suicide would bear out. And the manner of death chosen is not what might be expected, including self-immolation by one girl and another who'd decapitated herself. As the days go on, whatever is going on threatens to ensnare Lacey herself.

This is a book at once not an easy read and yet difficult to put down, much more so on both counts as the book progresses. The fifth novel from Ms. Bolton, this is the first I have read, but it will certainly not be the last. It is a nail-biter, beautifully written, and highly recommended.

Gun Church
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books/F&W Media
10151 Carver Rd., Ste. 200
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
9781440551703, $25.95,

[The book is also available in trade paperback, 9781440551994, $16.95]

Reed Farrel Coleman is the author of fourteen novels, including three series books, among those the seven terrific Moe Prager books, This is his third standalone, and it is a beaut. As good a description of "Gun Church" as any would be contemporary noir, with the large quantities of violence and sex that the term implies. But the surreal world created in these pages is less easily classified.

"Kip" Weller, once a boy wonder who produced three hugely successful novels with the attendant fame, has fallen far in thirty years. His fame, his career, his money and his marriage are all now in the past, and after more than one interim stint as a visiting teacher at Columbia, for the last twenty years he has been teaching English at Brixton County Community College in a little mining town. Then his life totally changes again as he stands up to a deranged student with a gun, saving the lives of the students who had been taken hostage. And then changes again soon after, when Kip is introduced, one might even say, inducted by Jim, one of his students and an ardent and devoted fan, into a group of "gun junkies" who meet regularly in a venue that they call their "chapel," a fitting place for the virtual worship of guns implied by the book's title. Soon Kip gains a certain proficiency not only from his 'meetings' at the chapel, but also from his and Jim's daily sessions of shooting practice in the wood outside of town.

One could almost say Kip becomes transformed by the ensuing rush that becomes almost a new addiction, after the dependence on drugs, alcohol and sex that typified his prior life in New York. Having once described himself as "a bitter, talentless, middle-aged boor," he becomes so thoroughly divorced from the man and the writer that he had been that he refers to his former self in the third person. One outcome of his new obsession is that, for the first time in years, he is able to really begin writing again, a novel that had been limited to seven incomplete sentences, and he instinctively knows that the work is the best he has ever done. His protagonist is based on a man he actually met, a killer for hire at the time of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, who had given Kip a notebook fully describing his life as such, in essence the biography of a murderer. Using his new-found "hobby" and fellow church members in the book, at a certain point Kip is not sure where his creation ends and he begins [or vice versa]. To say that the results are successful is as true as to say that they are also disastrous. I would advise readers to make sure they have nothing urgent awaiting their attention when sitting down with "Gun Church;" for this reader, dinner was a couple of hours late after I started the last third of the book - - I simply couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.

The Dark Winter
David Mark
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158643, $25.95,

[The book will be published by Plume in a paperback edition 9780142196977, $15.00]

The book opens with a prologue describing the making of a documentary about a tragedy in the late '70's when a ferocious storm off the coast of Norway caused the loss of a brand new super-trawler which sank, killing all crew members save one, Fred Stein, who is now re-living the incident for the benefit of the cameras. En route to the spot where the ship sank, and seventy miles off the Icelandic coast, Stein vanishes.

In an impressive debut novel, David Mark introduces Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy, a Scotsman working out of the Humberside Police CID Serious and Organized Crime Unit in Hull, in the East Riding area of Yorkshire. A dedicated policeman in his '30's, and a shy man who [surprisingly] blushes easily, McAvoy thinks of himself as one of the ones "who still gives a damn about the rules"". His adored wife, the one who 'keeps his heart safe for him,' is heavily pregnant with their second child. As he sits with their four-year-old son in a cafe across the square from Holy Trinity Church, the city's biggest and most historic church, two weeks before Christmas, a horrific scene unfolds before him: a fifteen-year-old black girl is stabbed to death on the altar steps. McAvoy momentarily has the perpetrator in his clutches before he escapes. It is discovered that the girl was the lone survivor of a massacre in Sierra Leone in which her entire family was murdered, hacked to death with a machete during the genocide which prevailed at that time.

There are other murders, with similarities which are overlooked by most the cops working the cases, but McAvoy does what he does best: follows his instincts, despite the problems that causes him with his superiors. The story swings back and forth between the various lines of investigation, and everything is tied up neatly by the end, with an unexpected and riveting denouement.

Notwithstanding the dark nature of the story, I was completely charmed by the writing. Driving along a roadway on a rainy day, McAvoy "fancies that a rabbit is streaking across the wet gravel to his rear, a moment of fur and exclamation mark of tail, glimpsed in the foggy glass." A woman is described as having "short bobbed hair [which] looks as though it is drawn in pencil."

Mr. Mark has created an intriguing protagonist, and I look forward to the sequel.


Out of the Deep I Cry
Julia Spencer-Fleming
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250016041, $14.99,

The Clare Fergusson Russ Van Alstyne novels now number seven. This, the third in the series, has been issued in a trade paperback edition, among others recently published by Minotaur Books. The mystery around which the tale revolves starts in 1930, when Jane Ketchem's husband, Jonathan, disappears without a trace. Flashbacks to the 20's and the history of the Ketchems over past decades are present throughout the entire book, its chapters delineated "Then" and "Now."

There is a contemporary and somewhat analogous mystery as well, when another man goes missing, and the police force in the Adirondack Mountain region of Miller's Kill, New York (population 8,000), headed up by Police Chief Van Alstyne, attempts to track him, or his body, down. Russ had been a cop, military and civilian, for 25 years, but as usual, he and parish priest Fergusson end up doing dual investigations, despite his reminder "Me cop, you priest." But that never stopped Clare before, much to the dismay of the church elders. The growing attraction between the two is, as always, a major plot point, and becoming harder for the small town gossips to ignore the weekly lunches they enjoy, mindful of the fact that Clare is thirty-five and that Russ, a recovering alcoholic, is forty-nine and, more importantly, a married man.

Let it be said that I am a huge fan of this series, but had somehow missed this and the subsequent entry, which is next up for this reader. I have to add that I felt a bit let down on reading this one, unsure of exactly why, other than that some of the flashback scenes seemed to slow down the novel, as did some of the historical aspects, which were at the same time interesting.- - contradictory, I know. There is much discussion of the effects on the town when the old mills, "ornate brick mausoleums for the town's prosperity," closed down, and the valley was flooded when the dam was constructed. Over all it was a good read, and one which is recommended.

To Darkness and to Death
Julia Spencer-Fleming
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250016065, $14.99,

The fourth book in the Clare Fergusson Russ Van Alstyne series describes a very eventful day in the Adirondack Mountain town of Millers Kill, New York. That may be a gross understatement. As one character states: "A murder, a missing person, and an assault case all in one day? It's like one of those signs of the Apocalpyse."

As the book, and the day, begins, the only event of major import is that it is Police Chief Van Alstyne's 50th birthday. He is doing some serious soul-searching, as he and Reverend Clare Fergusson are coming to terms with their strong mutual attraction, and Russ has to make a decision on whether to tell his wife about his love for another woman. But that is pushed to the background as sinister events occur. There is a land buyout about to come to fruition, 250,000 acres of timberland involved, affecting as it will the lives and livelihoods of many of the townspeople. Tempers flare, things get horribly out of hand, and violence ensues. A more traumatic and fateful birthday for a protagonist would be hard to imagine.

The concept of stewardship of the land (and the local businesses) comes into play. Generations of landowners find that their values may no longer be shared by their children and grandchildren. Russ and Clare find that they have to go beyond their primary vocations to smooth the troubled waters, and try to find out what, and who, is behind the crimes. It is hard to find a sympathetic character among these people, most of whom have known each other - or their families - all their lives.

As always, the author lays out the lives and backgrounds of the Millers Kill inhabitants very thoroughly, and in interesting fashion, and as the book approaches its denouement, the suspense increases immeasurably. (Parenthetically, I loved the tip-of-the-hat to Lee Child and his protagonist, Jack Reacher.)

The constantly shifting p.o.v. did make the read difficult at times, but the good writing and intriguing plot made it worthwhile, and the book is recommended.

Wherever I Wind Up
R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey
c/o Penguin, 375 Hudson St.
NY, NY 10014
9780452299016, $17.00,

This is, admittedly, not a mystery [my normal genre of choice], but it is a fascinating tale, about a fascinating man. R.A. Dickey is much more than a talented pitcher: He is a former English lit college student; he once [attempted to] swim the Missouri [and was partially successful]; and most recently climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, a height of over 19,000 feet, for charity, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to stop human trafficking and prostitution in Mumbai. He is a devout Christian, and though at times less than perfect as a Christian, husband and father, that is no longer the case, and there can be no doubt as to his love for and devotion to his wife [his childhood sweetheart], his children and his God.

Nominally, and obviously, a sports book, this novel is much more than that. To the author's credit, he names names, and is generous in his praise while being candid in his assessments when circumstances warrant it. In addition to an insider's view of the game of baseball, there is the occasional quote from Greek or Chinese philosophers. In 2011 he completed his 15th season of professional baseball, in a remarkable story. Despite some horrific abuse suffered when he was eight years old, detailed in the book, he overcame great odds to be where he is today, also detailed in the book.

Full disclosure: This reviewer is a passionate fan of the New York Mets, the team where Mr. Dickey is now a trusted part of the five-man pitching rotation, and I have been a Mets full-season ticket holder for 25 years, attending at least 70 [out of 81] home games each of those years. But my admiration for the author goes beyond the obvious - he is a courageous human being as well, as this book makes clear. Called a "phenom" when he started out, he was the Tennessee State player as a senior in 1993, an All-American at the University of Tennessee and a starter for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics. After playing in the minor leagues over a long period of time, he is offered a signing bonus of $810,000 by the Texas Rangers. It is the realization of his dream. Until he undergoes the routine physical examination required before the contract can be signed, and it is found that he was apparently born without an ulnar collateral ligament - the main stabilizing ligament - in his elbow, and the offer is summarily withdrawn. Ultimately, he signs for $75,000.00. How he proved himself, remained in the major leagues, and became one of the premier - and few - knuckleball pitchers pitching today, is quite a tale.

The book is highly recommended, for readers who are baseball fans certainly, but for those who are not as well. As you can probably tell, I loved it.

Night Moves
Randy Wayne White
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158124, $26.95,

This is the twentieth novel in the series featuring Marion "Doc" Ford, marine biologist, and his hipster neighbor and friend, Tomlinson [or, more formally, the Rev. Sighurdhr M. Tomlinson, an ordained Zen Buddhist teacher, among other things]. The main thrust of the plot deals with five Navy torpedo bombers that had vanished in 1945. Five planes (and fourteen men), the disappearance of which gave rise to the perhaps mythical Bermuda Triangle. There followed "the largest land-and-sea search in the nation's history."

Apparently ever since the tragedy, there has been a contingent who believe the planes had disappeared in the Gulf or the Everglades, and Doc and Tomlinson, with their pilot and friend Dan Furch, undertake to try to solve the mystery, seventy years after the fact. Things become more complicated when their plane is sabotaged, and the big question is exactly which of the three of them was the primary target of a murder attempt.

Doc and Tomlinson's backgrounds each include what are referred to as "covert lives," sufficient to cause Doc to wonder "Had a foreign agency or a terrorist cell issued orders to kill me?" The tale includes at least two men who are traveling under aliases, with unsavory and possibly criminal elements, a Germanic (Nazi?) Brazilian, "a Haitian drug-dealing witch doctor, . . . a strange boat, missing planes, a married mistress, and a filmmaker who seemed to have ulterior motives," as well as Crunch & Des, the communal cat at Dinkin's Bay Marina, where Doc keeps his boat, and an apparently well-trained retriever who had "ended up in the middle of the Everglades, hunting for food and battling snakes to survive" before Doc and Tomlinson rescue him.

This was my introduction to this author's writing, about which I'd heard so much. It was an original story, with fascinating characters, but for this reader, the minutiae of fishing in Florida waters, WWII-era planes, and assorted other plot lines proved too much for this reader, and I'll have to leave it to others who might better appreciate this particular effort to extol its virtues.

The Hiding Place
David Bell
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451237965, $15.00,

David Bell introduces the reader to the family of Justin Manning, a boy who was murdered twenty-five years ago, when he was only four years old, his body found six weeks after he had disappeared, buried in a shallow grave in the woods near a playground. His sister, Janet Manning, who, at the age of seven, had been entrusted for the first time with the care of her brother in the park where he had been playing, compounded by her mother's death a few years later from (as they said) a broken heart, has been plagued with guilt for all the intervening years.

The anniversary of the boy's disappearance brings it all back to the forefront of the consciousness of the small town of Dove Point, Ohio. Discrepancies in various accounts of the day of Justin's disappearance come to light in the aftermath of the front-page newspaper article commemorating the murder, and for the first time questions arise about the guilt of Dante Rogers, a black youth seventeen years old and living, literally, on the other side of the tracks at the time of his arrest. Convicted by an all-white jury, he had been paroled three years ago after serving 22 years in prison.

The novel explores the relationships among the Manning family members: Janet, in her early thirties, office manager for the dean of the local college and the single mother of fifteen-year-old Ashleigh, and Janet's dad, 62 years old and unemployed for the last two years, Janet and her daughter living with Janet's dad to assist with finances. Janet is determined to get to the truth of her brother's death, with the assistance of one of the cops who originally investigated the crime, leading to the exposure of long-buried secrets and one unexpected, and shocking, turn of events after another.

The author has crafted a well-written, intriguing tale, exploring as it does the part played by memory, trauma, and the relationships among and between family, friends, and others whose lives one may only tangentially touch, but to great and long-lasting effect. A gripping, fast-paced novel, and one which is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Knocking on Heaven's Door
Lisa Randall
Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
9780061723735, $16.99

Knocking on Heaven's Door is a hard book to classify. The easiest explanation of the book is to explain it not as a text but as an introductory presentation to a freshman class about particle and astronomical physics. As with many introductions, you place the key aspects of your topic with other topics, such as religion and art, by showing where they are the same and where they are different. Lisa Randall is well qualified to write this book. She is a noted theoretical physicist at Harvard University.

If you ask a hundred writers to write about a single topic, you will get a hundred different stories. Randall uses scales to talk about physics. How we describe and model different features of the universe around us changes when you change scales. Before Galileo, scientists would limit their modeling of the physical universe by what they could physically measure with their senses. Galileo popularized the use of instruments, such as the telescope, to extend what we can tell about the universe and changed what science could tell us. Each jump of scale, either larger or smaller, changes how science deals with the universe. Newton is the best known physicist to explain the universe around us at the scales we live and interact directly with. Einstein, with his contributions, pushed the scales in both directions creating the current expansions into scales so extreme our everyday concepts on how things work break down in seemingly non-logical ways.

The scales Randall is most interested in are the scales making up the internal parts of an atom, a factor of nearly twenty times smaller than what we can see, to astronomical, a factor thirty times larger. She does a great job breaking down to lay speak very technical topics such as the Higgs boson, supersymmetry, banes, string theory... She takes the most time explaining the functioning and research being done at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Knocking on Heaven's Door is not an easy read but it is simplified enough for most lay readers to successfully get through it. Science is a key factor in a modern technical life and people need to take the time to understand where science is going and where it came from. This makes Knocking a book for anyone wanting to understand both the immediate world around them and the universe. A few aspects of this book really caught my eye. Many scientists don't take the time to really acknowledge the part creativity plays in their work. Randall takes the time to talk about this and its many aspects in science. She also takes the time to detail many other scientific studies besides the LHC in CERN even if just in passing. You might not ever get a chance to visit CERN in Switzerland but most people live close enough to one of the many experimental studies running around the world to get some firsthand knowledge about one of them.

Knocking on Heaven's Door is a highly recommended read. Other books do a better job of explaining different aspects of science and how science coexists with the social world around us but Knocking covers a huge swath of information. The lay explanation of the current theoretical edges of physics is very good. Its weakness is trying to cover too much in a single book.

The Affair
Lincoln Child
Delacorte Press
Random House Digital, Inc.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780440339359, ASIN: B004P8JPS6, $9.99

Jack Reacher is a lone vigilante/investigator. Lincoln Child has create a great quirky antagonist with Reacher. The Affair is a flashback story which brings the Reacher character to his last case in the Army CID, well before the time most of Child's stories take place. The story gives plausible explanations to a number of Reacher's unusual character traits plus it is a good action/mystery.

Reacher is a Dirty Harry type good guy. He has no psychological inhibitions to delivering street justice and a tendency to administer it preemptively anytime there might be a problem bringing the bad guy to court. In this case, a series of murders occur outside an isolated military base in Louisiana near the Tennessee border. Politically the murders could harm very a powerful politician so the Army decides to covertly get involved. They unfortunately choose to put Major Jack Reacher undercover in the nearby town. Jack Reacher doesn't do undercover well. He's investigative skills tend more toward the direct confrontation. The bodies pile up as he bulls his way through the investigation and into the bed of the local sheriff.

An added treat in the book is the short story Second Son. This tale expands the Jack Reacher story into his childhood with examples of both his investigative powers and his hit first and answer questions later attitude.

Fans of the Jack Reacher franchise will have to read this book but any action/mystery reader will enjoy this mix of in your face action and mystery. For readers new to this series, this book might actually be the first one they should read. Reacher has some very extreme quirks and this book introduces these quirks in a satisfying way. The Affair is an easy recommendation for the adult reader.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
Janet Heimlich
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616144050, $20.00

It is not necessary to be a biblical scholar in order to examine and evaluate the adverse effects of religion on human behavior. The most prominent recent advocates of moral atheism had no expertise in documentary analysis, and consequently made appalling mistakes on the rare occasions when they trespassed into the field of bible interpretation. For example Richard Dawkins' most egregious blunder occurred when his determination to be politically correct led him to parrot the big lie that Jesus was basically a nice guy. Newsflash: Jesus' official biographies reveal that he was a racist and a hardcore nutcase who thought he was the fulfillment of a prophecy about a mythical liberator destined to free Judea from Roman overlordship.

Janet Heimlich is not a physicist like Victor Stenger, a biologist like Richard Dawkins, a philosopher like Daniel Dennett, or a neuroscientist like Sam Harris. Rather she is a journalist like Christopher Hitchens, a calling best described as a jack of all trades and master of none. And like all of those persons, she excels when she stays within her field of competence, and screws up when she ventures into the realm of the historian.

For example, she states (p. 36) that, "The Torah explicitly prohibits child sacrifice." Not true. One of the early documents that a Redactor combined into the Torah contained a fable in which Yahweh rewarded Abraham for sacrificing his son Isaac. When that document was combined with another in which the sacrificed Isaac was still alive as an adult, the Redactor inserted a harmonizing passage in which Yahweh rescinded his order, so that Isaac was spared. But even the final redaction merely showed a specific sacrifice being halted. Only an interpreter with an axe to grind could see it as a prohibition of infant sacrifice. Heimlich later acknowledges (p. 70) that, "God is driven more by jealousy than ethics. After all, the deity does not oppose all child sacrifice, only that which involves offering up sons and daughters to gods other than himself."

Heimlich consistently quotes Torah passages in a way that reveals her belief that the passage exemplifies Jewish doctrine at the time of writing, with no awareness that a Yahwist passage, for example, often directly contradicted an Elohist passage that the Redactor had inserted into an adjacent paragraph. And when (p. 67) she cites the "ten commandments" declaration that, "Because God is a jealous deity, he will punish 'the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me,'" she shows no awareness that this is not from the lawcode (Exodus 34:14-28) actually identified by a biblical author as the Ten Words. Nor does it occur to her to wonder why Yahweh would be forced to punish descendants if he had the option of further punishing the perpetrator posthumously. The explanation is that at the time of writing Judaism did not contain any form of afterlife belief.

A check of Heimlich's bibliography showed that it did not include Ronald Aronson's Living Without God. That explains why she listed statistics (p. 37) that show godworship in America to be far more prevalent than Aronson's competent evaluation of opinion polls (p. 12) revealed it to be. A full 36% of Americans are nontheists, and a further 32% are secularists, believers who support the separation of church and state. Heimlich thinks believers in a Sky Fuhrer number 86%, as do all reporters who fail to recognize when polling questions are constructed to elicit a predetermined answer. When she declares (p. 99) that, "if you're a Christian-and more than three-quarters of Americans are," that has the appearance of a typo, since the correct figure is three-fifths, not three-quarters. Unfortunately, it represents her actual belief and is not a typo.

Another glaring omission from Heimlich's bibliography is Garry Wills' Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit. That explains his outdated report (p. 42) that, "A 2002 report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church shows that 4 percent of priests nationwide-nearly 4,400-had been accused of sexually abusing minors." Wells reports (p. 194) that, "Those [priests] ordained after 1981 say their seminaries were 70 percent gay." While the number of pedophiles among gays is actually lower than among heterosexuals, a realistic extrapolation is that the strongest motivation for gay Catholics to become priests is the same one gay Protestants have to become scoutmasters: access to lots and lots of little boys. I can understand Heimlich's reluctance to damage her credibility by drawing conclusions she was unable to document. But she might have at least suggested that, if 4 percent of American priests had been caught and identified as child-rapists, the percentage who were not caught is likely to have been much higher.

Typos tend to be unavoidable, and even when they reverse the author's intended meaning, a reader can usually figure what a passage was intended to mean. Heimlich's proofreader failed to catch this howler (p. 38): "Apologists commonly refuse to concede-even when evidence points to widespread abuse within a faith institution-neither the religion nor the system on which the religion is built is to blame." "Apologists commonly argue" is surely what Heimlich meant?

Of all the crimes against America perpetrated by Richard Nixon, the most monstrous may have been his allowing "prominent Christian Scientists, some of whom were high-ranking officials in [his] administration" (p. 224), to manipulate him into withholding federal funding from states that did not insert a religious-exemption clause into child-protection laws. Only brainwashed adherents of anti-healthcare religions disagree with Heimlich's contention (p. 301) that, "These exemptions should be done away with." But as usual, she takes a step too far when she parrots the psychoquackery theology (pp. 304-305) that, "many child victims of abuse block memories of those incidents from their memories, only to recall them years later." Bull-effing-excrement! There is no such thing as suppressed memory, and no such thing as recovered memories. Memories allegedly recovered under the manipulation of a self-styled therapist, whose other patients all happen to "remember" the same thing, are false memories.

Heimlich differentiates (p. 45) between "healthy and unhealthy faith," the difference being that religion is only a bad thing when it is authoritarian. That is like differentiating between good and bad AIDS. Religion is mind-AIDS. Even the most benevolent priest/minister/rabbi is at best a parasite, sponging on the superstitious ignorance of adults who have not outgrown their infantile belief in religious fairy tales. And without the pretense that religion per se is not evil, there would be no market for mad dogs such as Osama bin Laden, Jim Jones, Benjamin Netanyahu, Pat Robertson, Jim DeMint (p. 323), Warren Jeffs, David Koresh, and history's most prolific serial killer, with sixty million homicides on his resume from his self-serving prohibition of sane population control and disease control, Joseph Ratzinger.

I have no quarrel with people who have praised this book. Its basic message, that religion has been and still is the inspiration for unspeakable crimes against children, is accurate and admirable. That is precisely what makes it a shining example of the folly of writers with a valid point to make venturing into the area of biblical criticism in which they are as incompetent and ignorant as I am in Etruscan (which has never been deciphered). Other than pointing out biblical passages used by child abusers to justify their atrocities, Heimlich would have been more effective if she had written as if the Judeo-Christian Bible did not exist.

Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith
J Anderson Thomson Jr., MD, with Clare Aukofer
Pitchstone Publishing
1909 Stillhouse Rd.
Charlottesville VA 22901
9780984493210, $12.95

Psychiatry and psychoanalysis are imaginative, pseudo-medical confidence swindles with no more scientific legitimacy than astrology. That is the (paraphrased) official credo of the cult of Scientology. Since Scientology's evaluation of psychiatric procedures is totally accurate, does that mean that Scientology is not itself an imaginative confidence swindle with no scientific legitimacy? It does not, any more than Adolf Hitler's denunciation of Josef Stalin made him any less a mass murderer than the mass murderer he berated.

Evolutionary psychology is the new name for a pseudoscience called sociobiology, that abandoned its original name once it was widely recognized that, if it was a legitimate science, then biology, anthropology, genetics, history, and several other sciences were as invalid as tealeaf reading.

Anderson Thomson is a self-confessed (p. 16) "psychoanalytically oriented psychiatrist," steeped in "evolutionary psychology." In other words he is an expert in both astrology and tealeaf reading. Does that mean that his conclusions about religion cannot be taken seriously? Fortunately it does not. But it does mean that, before anyone cites Thomson's arguments as authoritative, he should "consider the source."

Thomson writes (p. 29) that, "To survive, we adapt over evolutionary time.. Creatures in the Galapagos faced slightly different problems and solved them differently. They adapted. But more importantly, they passed those adaptations on." In stating that Galapagos iguanas "solved" survival problems by adapting, he appears to have swallowed sociobiology's contention that species are able to recognize non-survival factors and evolve them away-a total violation of Darwin's theory and a violation of all later evolutionary theory. In fact, in a hostile environment, it was those individuals whose random mutations already constituted survival qualities that lived to pass the mutations on.

Thomson defines religion (p. 32) as, "sets of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe-begin[ning] with belief in one or more central holy figures or teachers." The weakness in Thomson's definition is that it would classify Scientology as a religion, even though it is not, while denying that psychiatry is a religion, which it clearly is. A definition that would rectify those deficiencies would be, "any set of sincere beliefs that originated in the imagination of a guru, able to offer no justification for those beliefs other than, 'because the guru says so.'" But even that definition, designed to eliminate the pretend-religion of a conscious liar such as L. Ron Hubbard, would also eliminate the creations of such other conscious liars as Joseph Smith, Pope Pius IX, and the authors of Leviticus. So the true definition of religion remains an eye-of-the-beholder concept. But Thomson is assuredly right that, however it is defined, religion is a product of the human imagination.

The only fraudulent element of Thomson's highly-probable conclusions is the Big Lie that they stem from an expertise that ecdysiasts and mud wrestlers lack. For example, he recognizes (pp. 44-45) that, "religious people are attached to their gods. It is no leap of faith to see how the attachment system works.. Think of a two-year-old child reaching out to be picked up and cuddled. He extends his hands above his head and beseeches you. Now think of a Pentecostal worshipper.. He stretches out his hands above his head, beseeching god in the same 'pick-me-up-and-hold-me' gesture. We may lose human attachment figures . but a god is always there for us." Unfortunately, having made a valid point, Thomson then weakens it by citing a wild guess from "practical psychiatry," describing a woman's turning to religion as an attempt to replace an abusive real father with a loving imaginary father.

While I could not suppress a shudder at Thomson's parroting of the vicious libel of the educated, that (p. 46), "There are no atheists in foxholes," I recognize that he cited it as an example of the thought processes of the godphuqt. Actually there are no atheists in looney bins. Indeed Thomson later (p. 70) makes the point that, "Perhaps there are only atheists in foxholes," since, "If the faithful truly and fully believe in a protective deity, why would they dive into a foxhole to protect themselves from the bullets whizzing by? A part of their brain knows damn well that if they do not protect themselves, the bullets will hardly discriminate between those who claim faith and those who reject it."

Thomson uses the terminology, "the evolutionary cognitive neuroscience of religious belief," in a context that implies that it means something analogous to "the scientific evaluation of religion." Assuming that is indeed what he meant, why could he not have said so in plain words, instead of resorting to psychobabble that appears to view religion as scientific?

"The male must compete fiercely with other members of his sex to gain access to the female and to ensure survival of his DNA" (p. 102). That is an example of Thomson's sociobiology-think. Coupling among humans as a means of satisfying an instinctive orgasm-need is learned behavior. "Survival of his DNA" could not have been a consideration prior to humans first learning that copulation causes procreation. Only sociobiologists refuse to recognize that animals other than humans still have no such awareness, and humans only learned it c 3500 BCE.

"It is quite possible to be nonreligious but highly moral.. The less you abide by scripture, and the more you use your basic moral intuitions, the more moral you are likely to be" (p. 78). Note the repeated use of disclaimers such as "perhaps," "quite possible," and "likely." Thomson has written a bookful of plausible speculations, guesses, and extrapolations stemming from the prime delusion of psychiatrists that they have an ability to read minds exceeding that of a well-trained sheepdog. Such imitation scholarship will impress only persons who already know that religion is incompatible with observable reality, and lack the discrimination to recognize that he offers no empirical evidence in support of his conclusions whatsoever. It will not prompt a single believer into questioning assumptions that Dawkins(1), Hitchens(2) and Stenger(3) have demolished in spades. Persons seeking arguments to use against True Believers should look elsewhere.

1 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Mariner Books, 2008.

2 Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, Twelve, 2009.

3 Victor Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis, Prometheus, 2008.

You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom
Nick Cohen
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022-5299
9780007308903, $12.99

As an Albertan, I am aware that a theocratic provincial premier banned Sunday football to try to force citizens to listen to his "Back to the Bible" radio broadcast. As a Canadian, I am aware that the current prime minister is under pressure from his Canadian Taliban party to restore heretic burning. As a North American whose primary source of news is MSNBC, I am aware that America's Republican Party is hellbent on turning the USA into a Christian counterpart of theofascist Iran. What I did not realize until I opened Nick Cohen's revelatory book is how much more right to indulge in free speech I have than is permitted in England. I was aware that (back cover), "We in the liberated West find ourselves in a situation in which you can write a novel, criticize an alternative therapy or 'offend' a religion by drawing a cartoon, and risk ending up financially ruined, or even dead." I was unaware that, in England, that was the mere tip of the iceberg.

England's libel laws are so stacked in favor of the plaintiff, that Liberace was able to win a libel suit against a magazine that merely hinted that he might be homosexual. Newsflash: Liberace was homosexual. Anywhere else in the world, "truth and public interest" would have been a legal defense of the "crime" of telling the truth. In England and nowhere else, public figures are given the same "right to privacy" as ordinary citizens, with the result that, when a high-profile footballer was discovered to be a habitual extramarital copulator (pp. xiii-xvi), a judge informed a prospective publisher that, if it published a book by the footballer's girlfriend describing their relationship, thereby damaging the footballer's "public image as a loyal husband and wholesome sporting role," it would have to "face the consequences," as would any newspaper that so much as mentioned the girl's allegations or identified her accused lover. The media were not even permitted to report when an accuser went to court to try to obtain permission to tell the world the truth. Ayatollah Khomeini declared free speech that so much as questioned Moslem teaching a capital crime wherever on earth it occurred. But Khomeini was dangerously, criminally, certifiably subnormal. What excuse do England's lawmakers have when (p. 26), "The English judiciary does not put the public interest first, as its willingness to censor on behalf of bankers who had affairs at work shows"? Cohen argues that, "No honest jurisdiction can defend using censorship to protect ideological systems from the harm or offence of criticism."

But while Cohen's initial focus is on censorship peculiar to England, the bulk of his book is a denunciation of suppression of free speech that is universal. He writes (p. xi), "This book covers the power of the wealthy to silence critics, the conflict between religion and freedom of thought, and the determination of dictators to persecute dissenters."

He asks (p. 21), "Do you believe in free speech? Are you sure?" He goes on to explain that, "Humans are social primates, and socializing with the rest of our species requires a fair amount of routine self-censorship and outright lying, which we dignify with names such as 'tact,' 'courtesy' and 'politeness.'" As the epitome of such self-censorship he cites the case of Salmon Rushdie. For example (p. 31), "Rushdie's friend Christopher Hitchens saw the centres of British cities clogged with men who wanted to pass blasphemy laws and give the police power to control what free citizens could read. That this ultra-reactionary mobocracy was composed mainly of people with brown skins ought to have made no difference." Also (p. 33), "When Catholic reactionaries accuse opponents of papal doctrine on contraception and abortion of anti-Catholicism, and when believers in a greater Israel accuse opponents of Israeli expansion into the West Bank of anti-Semitism, they too are palming a card from the bottom of the deck."

I am not anti-Semitic. I support Israel's right to exist. But that does not stop me from recognizing Israel as a rogue nation that has been in blatant violation of international law since 1967. I am not anti-Catholic, in the Ian Paisley sense. But I recognize that Catholicism is a religion, and all religions are anti-human. I oppose Catholic dogma on contraception and other issues because they are anti-human, not because they are Catholic. While I am confident that a majority of educated (meaning nontheist) individuals agree with me, it is nonetheless gratifying to encounter an author willing to do so on the record.

Cohen states that (p. 41), "I can place public figures in my generation by where they stood on Rushdie.. Even if they did not agree with him, they knew that those who were trying to silence him would silence millions if they could." He denounces individuals who blamed Rushdie for the atrocities committed by terrorists who denied his right to draw attention to historic realities in a work of fiction. He identifies such Rushdie-blamers as John Le Carre, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Roald Dahl, Robert Runcie, and Margaret Thatcher as the terrorists' facilitators. He points out (p. 38) that such facilitators were, "telling Muslim democrats, freethinkers, feminists and liberals that human rights were Western rights, and not for brown-skinned people from a clashing 'civilization.' You can call this cultural relativism, but 'racism' is a blunter and better word."

Amen to that. Anyone who claims that persons of a different race, ethnicity or culture are genetically incapable of handling criticism, and therefore must not be criticized, is a racist.And in case anyone doubts that censorship by terrorism works, and will continue to work as long as there are cowards willing to let it work (p. 42): "No young artist of Rushdie's range and gifts would dare write a modern version of The Satanic Verses today, and if he or she did, no editor would dare publish it."

But religious and political terrorism are not the only forces Cohen recognizes as oppressing the freedom of populations. He writes (p. 145-146), "I can think of few more important subjects for democratic citizens than the influence of the rich over politics, the damage business can do to the atmosphere and the environment, and the risks high finance brings to economic stability. Yet extreme wealth is creating societies in which it is harder to hold economic power to account.. Oligarchies with no traditions of freedom of speech or democratic government now hold much of the world's wealth, and those who try to hold them to account run considerable risks." In other words, the Republican Party's determination to give America's superrich a free ride so that they will continue to bribe the Party with campaign contributions merely echoes the situation found in countries even plutocratic Republicans recognize as tyrannical.

"Vladimir Putin's Russia is typical of dictatorships old and new. It does not try to censor everything. The regime understands that the total control of communism failed because it suppressed too much.. The elite wants a safe and profitable autocracy, and will tolerate dissent as long as its effects are limited" (p. 273). In other words, you can take the Putin out of the KGB, but you can't take the KGB out of the Putin.

I have never been able to understand why MSNBC commentators, otherwise totally on the side of freedom from oppression, are fanatically opposed to "right to work" laws that permit workers to obtain employment without joining a trade union whose role model is the Soviet Union's Communist Party. I am delighted that Cohen agrees with me (p. 250): "When a company board or a trade-union committee takes a political stance, it forces dissenters to pay a de facto tax to subsidize views with which they profoundly disagree."

Fear of terrorism is the most pervasive force for the suppression of free speech. But to its many victims, fear of economic disaster is equally dissuasive. For every whistleblower who follows his conscience and reveals what he knows-and pays the price-there must be an uncountable number who shut their eyes to corruption and unconscionable behavior as the price of retaining their only source of bread and butter. But a distinction must be made between whistleblowing and giving aid to an enemy.

While laws like the UK's "Official Secrets Act" are most commonly invoked to criminalize publishing information that embarrasses oligarchs without in any way threatening national security, there are situations where publishing government documents does presents a clear and present danger. Cohen writes (p. 297), "For all my liberalism, I cannot think of one honourable reason why governments should not be allowed to keep information secret that might be used by the Taliban to compile a death list. Yet a death list was what the founder of WikiLeaks appeared ready to give men who would crush freedom of speech and every other human right," since cables leaked "contained the names of Afghans who had helped allied forces fight the Taliban."

Most of You Can't Read This Book is a history of the unending battle between censors, usually conservative, and opponents of censorship, usually liberal. Since it is factual rather than opinionative, disagreeing with it would be like disagreeing with the contention that Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Nonetheless, conservatives who dislike Cohen's opinions are bound to dispute his facts. That is what opponents of reality do. Are you a Republican who recognizes that America is being screwed? Then blame Obama. Are you a godworshipper who recognizes that the world is being screwed? Then blame atheists. When you have no defense, lie. That is essentially what censors do.

50 Simple Questions for Every Christian
Guy P. Harrison
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616147273, $18.00

In his chapter, "Does Christianity make sense?" Guy Harrison cites perhaps the most senseless dogma Western godworshippers have ever concocted, the concept of one god in three persons. Not being a biblical scholar, he is unaware that it is, like most male-god theology, simply a masculinization of the matriarchal religion of the ancient Greeks, specifically the triple-goddess who was simultaneously virgin, mother and hag. "If true, it means that God sent himself to earth, sacrificed himself to himself, and then returned to be with himself. . . . Temporary pain aside, if Jesus was God and knew that he would return to Heaven, where is the big sacrifice? . There seems to be a very serious problem with the claim that God sent his son to Earth as a sacrifice for us because God and Jesus are supposed to be the same being." Since Christians recognize that there is no sane rationalization for such an absurdity, they instead claim that it is unacceptably rude of the skeptic to ask.

It is even considered rude to ask about religion in circumstances that logically warrant doing so. For example: What effect would his Mormonism have on his attitude toward the First Amendment if Mitt Romney became President of the United States? "Imagine if a reporter were to ask the President for specific views on the Bible. . . . It wouldn't matter if the President had just finished quoting the Bible. . . . There is little doubt that the reporter would be run over and left for dead on the one-way street of religion."

In the chapter, "What is atheism?" Harrison explains, "If you do not think that at least one god is real, then you are an atheist." Atheism is not a dogma, any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

He asks, "Why hasn't the Bible convinced more people?" He answers, "For the Christian, the Bible often is exhibit A in the case for Christ. For many skeptics it is exhibit A in the case against Christ." The explanation for Christians citing the book Isaac Asimov identified as "the most potent force for atheism ever conceived," is that, "Very few seem to have actually read the Bible." If they did read it, they would recognize the character mistranslated as "God" in English as the most sadistic, evil, insane mass murderer in all fiction.

"What do prophecies prove?" Answer: "Another problem with prophecies in the Bible about Jesus is that they are in the Bible. . . . Imagine if someone showed you a book . in which there was a prediction of an alien spaceship landing on Earth in one chapter and then confirmation that it happened in another chapter. Would that be enough to convince you?"

"What do evil atheist dictators prove?" Answer: "It is also fair to speculate about how many more people Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot might have abused and killed if they had sincerely believed in God and felt their efforts were part of some divine plan. . . . Imagine if those men were driven not only by a lust for power and control but also to fulfill some divine plan they sincerely believed in," the way Hitler sincerely believed that his extermination of an opposition religion constituted "doing the Lord's work."

"Does Jesus heal the sick?" Comment: "If Jesus is real, why wouldn't he cure, say, every Christian child with a life-threatening disease or injury?"

"Why do people go to Hell?" Comment: "Maybe it's just me, but I don't like a justice system that might place a Catholic Hitler in Heaven and a Jewish Ann Frank in Hell." He does clarify that only a minority of Christians believe that deathbed repentance guarantees a Christian eternity in Heaven, or that non-Christians are automatically consigned to Hell.

On the question on which biblical scholars are divided, whether there was ever a historical Jesus onto whose biography the Christian fairy tales were posthumously grafted, he agrees with the majority: "I am not convinced beyond all doubt that a Jewish preacher named Jesus lived in Palestine in the first century. However, I suspect that he probably did. To be clear, I am talking here about a non-supernatural human being named Jesus who inspired a religion, not the god who performed miracles, rose from the dead, and now involves himself in the daily lives of Christians. . . . Scholars who are convinced that Jesus lived far outnumber those who are confident he did not."

That brings to mind an unpleasant encounter I once had with a "no such person" dogmatist who, even though one of us is a historian and the other is not, accused me of embarrassing myself by agreeing with the majority of biblical scholars instead of with him. Harrison's endorsement of my own conclusion on a question for which there may never be sufficient evidence to provide a definitive answer does not prove that he is right. But it does help incline me to view him favorably. For anyone looking for ways to respond to curable believers, this is an extremely useful book.

Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
Michael Isikoff and David Corn
Crown Publishers
1745 Broadway
New York NY 10019
9780307346810, $25.95

"It was the middle of the night in Baghdad. There was a pounding on the door. David Kay got out of bed. A staff officer of the Iraq Survey Group was at the door. He had an important message for the man ." That would be a perfectly good chapter opening-for a novel. In a work of history, it blurs the line between fact and fiction. Michael Isikoff and David Corn are journalists, and as such have never learned to write the kind of prose one would expect from any scholarly publication. Fortunately, the greater part of their book presents the facts in a readable manner, and the authors' attempt to overcome their literary inadequacies does not diminish Hubris's impact.

George W. Bush lied to Congress in order to obtain permission to start a war against a country he knew full well had not committed an act of war against the United States and lacked the means to do so. If that does not constitute capital treason, then nothing does. Thanks to Bush, Ronald Reagan is no longer the least intelligent president America has ever had, Richard Nixon is no longer the most crooked president America has ever had, and Herbert Hoover is no longer the worst president America has ever had. Bush repeatedly referred to Saddam Hussein as a m****r f****r. As accurate as that observation may have been, it was also an accurate description of what Bush saw in the mirror.

Hubris names several dozen of Bush's co-conspirators who facilitated his plot to launch an unnecessary war by citing intelligence reports they had good reason to suspect were unreliable or even forgeries. But the most morally culpable, as guilty as Bush himself, are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove, none of whom has Colin Powell's defense that he made false statements because he was himself deceived.

Cheney had been looking for a salable excuse for war long before 9/11, for purely self-serving reasons (p. 230): "Halliburton-of which Cheney had been the chief executive officer-had received more than half a billion dollars in military contracts relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in an arrangement that did not require the firm to bid on these jobs." Aren't there laws about "conflict of interest"?

Karl Rove contributed to the leak of a CIA operative's name, a leak that her husband Joseph Wilson described (p. 286) as, "possibly damaging to national security." When Rove discussed the outing with MSNBC's Chris Matthews (p. 297), "He was not apologetic or defensive about the outing of Valerie Wilson.. He saw Valerie Wilson as a full-fledged combatant on the other side.. and said that the Wilsons 'were trying to screw the White House so the White House was going to screw them back.'" Joseph Wilson's crime, in White House eyes, was writing an op-ed questioning the Bush administration's actions. To Rove, that justified treating him and his wife as enemy aliens. One United States Senator described the deliberate ruining of Valerie Wilson's career (p. 298) as "vile" and "highly dishonorable." Another "accused the White House of going after anyone who questioned how the administration had made its case for war." A third demanded an investigation, to which the White House press secretary responded, "That's just not the way this White House operates."

Donald Rumsfeld, in response to accusations that the invasion of Iraq had made the situation worse rather than better (p. 312), "had declared that there was no 'guerilla war' in Iraq. Yet chaos and conflict were spreading, as the insurgents . adopted deadlier and more sophisticated tactics." If Rumsfeld's worst offense had been to put a favorable spin on an unfortunate situation, that would be less than criminal. But as this whole book makes clear, the instances cited above were merely the tip of the iceberg. The Bush administration took the Nixon doctrine, "When the President does it, it is not illegal," to levels even Woodward and Bernstein could not have foreseen.

A question that neither this book nor the 2013 television documentary of the same title on MSNBC answers is: Why have Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove not been strapped to gurneys with needles in their arms? Sacco and Vanzetti were executed for far less.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Petite Eats
Timothy W Lawrence
Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
NY, NY 10018
9781620874004, $14.95

A Book for Hosting Your First Appetizer Party

Sometimes a cookbook comes across my desk that I like and still have no idea why it actually got published. Mr. Lawrence's book is well-laid out and provides beautiful photographs to illustrate the recipes. Even so, it offers nothing rare or particularly innovative. Looking through the book during my first review I ended up with reactions such as, "Seriously?" and "This one is a little interesting."

I love books, I love cooking; I don't dislike most books on sight. Celebrity cookbooks have to work harder to earn my affection, but this little book is form over function. It looks great. The concept and recipes certainly work. The only person I can see getting much out of this book is a new hostess who wanting a guide to successfully completing that first appetizer party. If you are that person, I'd recommend getting the book from library however. Save the $15.00 for your shopping budget.

More experienced cooks and entertainers will be left wanting for new ideas, unique flavor combinations, and concepts that aren't available for free on a hundreds of website or other cookbooks. I've no doubt that prepping the information the book and styling the food for the amazing photographs called for a huge investment of time. Sadly, for this well-seasoned home cook, the meat was more like Taco Bell filling than a satisfying steak.

The Magic of Mini Pies: Sweet and Savory Miniature Pies and Tarts
Abigail R. Gehring
Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
NY, NY 10018
9781620873984, $14.95

Mini Pies are so trendy right now, it was hard for me to imagine another book in this category offered much of interest. Fortunately, the savory recipes immediately followed the crust offerings. One odd aspect is the book is designed for one of the kitschy little machines you plug in to bake your pies. I even begrudge the room my waffle iron takes up in the kitchen - the interchangeable plates model was an unmitigated disaster - so I definitely don't have that gadget in my house. Not to worry! The recipes I tested worked just fine in the oven. Sometimes traditional, standard is a good thing.

The variety of pie crust recipes was fun to play with. The book actually reminded of one of my favorites a couple years ago where you could pick your crust and combine it with the filling recipe of your choice. While "Mine Pies" isn't designed that way, nearly any literate cook could make new combinations.

Even with my constant hunt for good savory pies, I was surprised that all of the testers liked a fruit pie the most. From the Blackberry Malbec to the Chocolate Cherry, we tried a variety. Just one of the joys of smaller treats: you can taste a bigger variety. The winner however, was Ginger Pear recipe.

Two testers who typically dislike ginger, enjoyed this pie. The tastes were balanced and accessible for everyone. The ginger adding a little warm while matching well with the earthiness. Of course, if you find a recipe in this book you like, there's nothing that says you have to stick with minis! Some of my favorite mini pie recipes are so yummy, at my house we bake them in full-sized crusts.

Regardless, this book is a good addition to the trendy, mini pie realm. Many of the flavors were enjoyable and the lovely illustrations inspire you to try your own hand at making new pies.

Real Irish Food
David Bowers
Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
NY, NY 10018
9781616088705, $24.95

Potatoes are often the only thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Irish cooking. Perhaps you also think of mutton to go with all the windy, rough grazing land found in various areas. Irish food traditions, fortunately, have book expanded and continued to include local favorites. During the time of testing this cookbook, we ate well and were satisfied.

Local access greatly influences food traditions, so you will find things that in other places are considered outside the normal combinations such as "Cheesy Baked Fish." When an area has access to seafood, fresh-water fish and dairy products, they are likely to figure out how to combine such ingredients with great success. It turns out we agreed when it came to this particular recipe.

Although we tried a variety of recipes, many more when it came to contributing to parties for St. Patrick's Day, one specific recipe was a complete standout. "Roasties" or potatoes roasted in the Irish method now holds favored method for fixing potatoes. It may seem a bit too much work; trust me - and the pile of people since who've tasted them - it's well worth the little bit of extra effort. If you're fixing other dishes for your meal, just start these first. Every person at the table, including the cook will be grateful.

Be prepared: Irish Roast Potatoes are more of a process than a recipe. A couple others in our circle attempted the dish after our test meal. If you're still developing your cooking chops, read the recipe a couple times to make sure you understand the process.

Many other combinations pleased us from book from salad to vegetable side dishes. In my kitchen, a single brilliant recipe is worth a high investment. Adding something new to my "regular" list of items to prepared doesn't happen very often. For that reason, I highly recommend this book. Master the roasties recipe and draw on many other good choices for the simple pleasure of exploring what really happens in Irish kitchens!

Viva Italia: 180 Classic Recipes
Tomas Tengby and Ulrika Tengby Holm
Stine Osttveit, translator
Skyhorse Publishing
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
NY, NY 10018
9781616088804, $24.95

Interesting Recipes in an Odd Experience

My husband is half Italian; we have a lot of Italian cookbooks on the shelves. "Viva Italia" was an odd experience for a variety of ways. Was something lost in translation? Perhaps. Maybe I found the layout, an unexpected combination of older-style columnar mixed with travel-guide double spreads and random opinion bits disconcerting. At the very least the book is not visually cohesive. Honestly, however, additional qualities contributed to the oddness.

A number of recipes offered unexpected combinations. Those we tried were fine, but no powerful home runs. Even odder was the recipe for gnocchi. This version makes the dumplings out of ricotta cheese and cooked spinach. Boiled in water. Despite following the recipe closely, the result came in around a C+ at best. Make each dough ball large enough to still have substance after cooking and the middle stayed cool. Smaller ones heated and cooked away far too easily.

I recently saw another version of this recipe where the gnocchi are baked. I want to try that with the recipe from Viva Italia. I see potential in taking the dumplings out of hot water and treating them with dry heat.

Many pieces of information in the book were interesting. Most of the recipes lived up to the billing: classics that have been seen and represented many times. If you've never tried traditional items such as the common salad for left over bread or the usual sauces, you may find this book an interesting place to start. My favorite however, is from the Frugal Gourmet. My husband had that book when we married; it definitely carries the family endorsement and it's the one I reach for time and time again.

Heidi Sue Roth

Henry's Bookshelf

Losing it - Behaviors and Mindsets That Ruin Careers
Bill Lane
FT Press
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300
Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780133040241, $27.99,

Lane observed much of what finds its way into his book taking a different look at business as speechwriter for the legendary Jack Welch of General Electric. His background for the book is much broader than this however. After serving in Vietnam, he worked at the Pentagon as a civilian congressional liaison. Teaching and consulting are also elements of his long diverse and interesting career at higher levels of American business and government.

Ranging over a broad field of American business in an entertaining and insightful popular style, the book has timeless lessons, but it is also notably timely especially considering the national economic problems and unethical or reckless business practices giving rise to these. Lane's depictions and lessons regarding how ambitious, talented, and promising business people casually or purposely slip into the Gray Zone of questionable, possibly illegal, and usually eventually self-destructive behavior have obvious relevance to current concerns and questions.

Most self-help books relate what to do. Losing It however relates what not to do. Much of the advice and engaging anecdotes concern maintaining integrity. Lane also delves into strategic comprehension of one's field, management decisions and activity, reading subtleties in one's working environment and interactions with others, and other factors in career growth.

With its engaging style, timeliness, and instructive anecdotes and analyses, Losing It is not only a useful guide for business people, but also for general readers, an inside view of scenarios, pressures, activities, relationships, etc., within varied contemporary organizations.

In Death Lamented - The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry, A Companion Volume to the Fall Exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society 2012
Sarah Nehama
Preface by Curator of Art Anne E. Bentley and Sarah Nehama
Massachusetts Historical Society
University of Virginia Press (distribution)
PO Box 400318
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4318
9781936520039, $35.00,

The Anglo-American is specified because mourning jewelry and related mementos for other groups such as African Americans or Middle Easterners or even other European groups such as Germans would be somewhat to markedly different. The Anglo-American focus especially for this period of the 18th and earlier 19th centuries infers mostly New England and also by extension England leaving its closest, most apparent imprint on this type of jewelry. The book's publisher Massachusetts Historical Society accords with the New England/England subject matter as well.

Some of the mourning jewelry is for notable American historical and political figures such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The large majority of the pieces however are for unknown persons, usually from well-to-do families who would have or be able to buy the precious metals and gems of the jewelry and have a craftsman or artist fashion such into a mourning piece by a small portrait or incorporation of a small swath of hair or other physical object related to the deceased individual. The term jewelry is not incidental or suggestive. The foundation of the pieces was jewelry. The idea for them came from jewelry--rings, brooches, pendants, etc.; and the finished pieces look like jewelry made from gold, ivory, pearls, and other previous materials, and were intended to be worn like jewelry. They were worn not to show unresolved grief, but as customary out of respectful and fond remembrance.

Though unknown outside of their families, the individuals memorialized in the jewelry are given brief biographical notes from reference notes often accompanying the jewelry. Part of the interest in mourning jewelry among antiques dealers and collectors is not only their age and attractiveness alone giving them value, but also their provenance and identification and often background of the deceased individual, factors which can add considerably to the desirability and value.

The repeated format for each piece of mourning jewelry is title combining the type (e. g., ring) and name of individual, specifics (e. g., size, material), and annotation pointing out notable features or special qualities of the piece and when known, brief biography of the individual memorialized. A sharp color photograph for appreciating each piece overall and studying detail from the annotation complements each piece of jewelry; in some cases, more than one bright, clear photograph.

As a facet of Americana, social history, and material culture, mourning jewelry has always had interest for ones beyond specialized collectors and dealers. And the book here stands out not only for rare treatment of this relatively specialized area, but also as an introduction for interested general readers. Author Nehama is a jewelry-maker with a degree in art history and also collector of the mourning jewelry she writes about.

Battlefields of Honor: American Civil War Reenactors
Text by Jeannine Stein
Photographs by Mark Elson
Foreword by James Lighthizer
Merrell Publishers
38 High Avenue, 4th floor
Nyack, New York 10960
9781858945781, $34.95,

Text by a Los Angeles-based journalist gives an inside view of Civil War enactments which enhances the reader's appreciation of them, although they are magnetic enough on their own with their realistic uniforms and gear and the effort the participants put into them. While a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker specializing in wet-plate photography, the main process during the time of the Civil War, has created many photos for seeing the uniforms and details of them and other Civil War articles.

As the reader learns, there are two kinds of enactments--public, which are usually advertised, and others known as "immersions" where participants go out to unpopulated, relatively remote areas for days to recreate the daily life and combat of Civil War soldiers as closely as possible. Civil War enactments actually started during the Civil War as recruitment aids. The scale, location, and degree of authenticity of reenactments can vary widely--from small groups to small armies sometimes including cavalry; from local parks to actual Civil War battlefields; from use of store-bought imitation clothing made of synthetics to uniforms and weapons from the Civil War. Though describing the variety of reenactments, the book's interest is mostly authentic reenactments and immersions replicating Civil War military units with officers leading and participants using weapons and equipment from the Civil War or the era as much as possible. To replicate the experience of the War as much as possible for the enjoyment of the participants, other figures such as wives, surgeons, and reporters and at times famous generals and occasionally Abraham Lincoln himself are represented with clothing, mannerisms, and actions to match the circumstances.

For readers, Elson's wet-plate photography like that in use at the time helps to recreate the atmosphere with the many darker-toned photographs of the time with reenactors in period garb and typical poses of the period. In the photos, varied uniforms, civilian wear, and gear and accouterments can be appreciated and in some cases details picked out. The reenactors take the full-length, somewhat formal poses familiar from mid-nineteenth photographs of individuals, though they lack the solemnity and tenseness seen in individuals in genuine Civil War photos, appearing more relaxed and in a few cases, smiling slightly. Elson provides too some color photographs so the reader can see different colors for some of the uniforms and terrain of the locations of the reenactments.

Readers will appreciate getting background on and going through the photographs on the reenactments which are a combination of recreation, entertainment, and education.

Woods in British Furniture-making, 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary
Adam Bowett
Oblong Creative Ltd.
Wetherby, United Kingdom
9780955657672, $180.00

The book is "a reference intended for anyone who works with, or is interested in historic British furniture." This is true, but the description is so generalized that it at best simply skims the surface failing to denote the uniqueness, thorough research, knowledge, expertise, and the unrivaled content of the book. What impresses first about it is its size--not intended somewhat for show, as an art book; but as one soon realizes, necessary for the treatment of the bounty of information. Secondly, the abundant, attractive, and varied visual matter with one or more images on the majority of pages makes an impression, with the color photographs of the pieces of furniture most noted. Lastly, when one gets to this, the text is direct, ordered, and detailed. For example, one learns that "Chestnut, sweet or Spanish [was] widely used as medieval building lumber"; although not all historians and researchers are in agreement on this, with Bowett citing different views from different times. There is no disagreement though that this type of chestnut "is durable, particularly below ground, [though] not so resistant to splitting." That it split relatively easy was why it was "popular for split-pale fences." Bowett's book is a multifaceted work of meticulous scholarship as authoritative for scholars and researchers as useful as it is for craftsmen, decorators, and ones in the antiques and auction field.

The content is organized alphabetically into the two primary categories of hardwoods and softwoods. But this too says little about the book other than denoting ease of use as a reference. The two indexes help in this too. The alphabetical entries are more than simple definitions, overviews, and annotations to inform the reader of basics of the hundreds of entries. Many of the entries are like articles or essays like ones seen in scholarly journals or periodicals for craftspeople or hobbyists. The material of any of the extended entries is liberal with diversified topics and often to the point of colorfulness so as to interest lay readers. One looking up a particular entry for a fact or simple definition-like understanding will, for instance, find oneself becoming absorbed in rich material ranging from biology, visual description, history, authoritative opinion, use in different historical periods, social history, geography, and others. Following the alphabetical section are four appendices, including one with realistic-looking photos of more than 90 different types of wood for identification.

Bowett's knowledge of the field is incomparable - and to the benefit of the reader, accessible, digestible, and useful. This book is the culmination of the author's interest in and research on British furniture and the wood its made from and its craftsmanship preceded by two other books on early British furniture. The high cost of the book is justified not only by its high quality in every respect, but also because it is improbable that it would ever be superseded or surpassed.

Gothic - Visual Art of the Middle Ages, 1140-1500 edited
Edited by Rolf Toman
Photographs by Achim Bednorz
Text by Bruno Klein
H. F. Ullmann
c/o 60 Cycle Media Relations LLC
38 High Avenue, Nyack NY 10960
9783848000401, $150.00

This is an oversized oversized book, weighing about 15 pounds. It's obviously not meant for toting around, nor for learning about the art of the era it covers in the standard educational way. Leafing through the book and stopping at places to take in visual content, one gets a sense of the new encounter with art works this volume is meant to create. This encounter and the ideas and craft bringing it is related to some extent in an accompanying pamphlet by the publisher on the series this volume is a part of. Baroque, Romanesque, and Art Nouveau (the latter two in preparation at this time) are the others in the series named the Collection of Art Epochs so far, with the presumption the publisher will come out with others if these go well.

The form of the publisher's pamphlet is an interview with the series general editor Rolf Toman. In answer to a question about the new approach, Toman explains that the varied genres of art of any period/epoch such as architecture, painting, sculpture, and crafts are typically studied individually, discretely, whereas this book on Gothic arts, like the others in the series, brings out the interconnections among the varied types of art. While this focus on interconnections is not novel in itself, the approach in this book is novel and different. Whereas the matter of interconnections among the diverse and multitudinous art of any period is inexhaustible and mostly covered by collected essays by academics and critics which can at best present only facets seeming like shards of the comprehension touched on, the text of this "Gothic" and the related series' titles is written by a single author versed in the academic and critical views who brings together the interconnectedness in a single sensibility, style, and voice.

The text by the professor Bruno Klein presents the interconnected perspective so the reader sees a unity to the varied art works in what is a grand embellishment of the customary perspective toward the gothic art of the Middle Ages as varieties of Christian religious art gradually evolving into humanist, secular art as it approaches the Renaissance. Professor of Christian Art of the Late Antiquity and Middle Ages at Dresden University was one of the positions Klein held in his academic career.

The text is fresh and elucidating. But one does not look to a book of this size and evident copious visual content including fold-out mainly for its text. When it comes to the publisher's advanced (which some may see as evolutionary), ambitious conception of visual content, the quality of this, and the eye and technical knowledge and ability of the photographer Achim Bednorz for photographs, the coordinated editorial hand in selecting appropriate illustrations of art of the period, and the book designer for the formatting, this is seen as a success too. The book is distinctive and effective.

From the publisher's pamphlet again, Toman says the book's aim is to convey Gothic art "in a particularly vivid and accessible manner, to take you as close as possible to the history and artworks--sometimes even closer than is possible in reality, on the spot." The size of the book is seen as both required and desirable for getting one "as close as possible" to many art works. Bednorz's photographs (he specializes in architecture and sacred spaces) of selected representative architectural features and art works have been enhanced to balance subject, proportion, and light so the viewer can take them in optimally. These techniques minimally making use of computer technology for photographs are applied also to features and art works high in cathedrals or in dark recesses which a viewer could otherwise hardly make out or not even see on a tour.

The book brings Gothic art to the reader in a unique and memorable way. The large size seems to beckon as a doorway to lead the reader to new terrain of this important art in Western culture--a promise delivered.

Mapping India
Manosi Lahiri
Niyogi Books
9788189738983, $145.00

Nearly all the maps are done by European mapmakers and publishers. Many of these are British, reflecting that India was of interest to the British government, businesses, and public because it was an important British colony and virtually a lucrative commercial property with British government cooperation of the East India Company. The front cover is a part of a map of the area of Ceylon on the Indian Peninsula. This map has an elaborate cartouche picturing an elephant and a crudely-drawn tiger surrounding by different types of Indian figures (as cartouches in antiquarian maps of America often have pictures of Native American crops or vegetation and figures in native dress). The full-page map illustration facing the Content page is the Nepal part of a 1822 map of India "To The Hon[orable] Directors of the East India Company" by the noted British mapmaker Arrowsmith. The frontispiece map is part of the city of Calcutta showing roadways, the British Fort William, a Raceground (no doubt made by the British for recreation of military occupiers and businessmen), and part of the Hoogly River published in 1842 by the British Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in Britain. France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal are other European countries whose maps are shown. (European sources for the majority of the Indian maps holds as well for historical maps of China, Africa, Japan, the Americas, Australia, and the rest of the world.)

Europeans and especially England were the major publishers of Indian maps for the longest time not only for mercantile reasons, but also because Europeans were in the lead in exploration and colonization from the 15th through the 19th centuries; maps were useful in the growing educational and scientific interests of a growing middle class; and the public of countries active in exploration and trade (e. g., the Dutch in the East Indies) were interested in the new lands. Maps of these centuries met practical interests of trade, administration, geography, etc., but in many cases also offered outstanding works of artistic style and publishing craftsmanship with their ostentatious cartouches, depictions or symbols of terrain, details of regions or cities, coloring, and elaborately engraved long dedications and titles.

All of this is the historical backdrop in Lahiri's chronological study of Indian maps. That the majority of the maps were done by British and other European powers does nothing to diminish their geographical accuracy. Accurate maps were crucial to the British and other commercial interests and the military hold required for pursuing these. Accurate maps were crucial for coastal and river navigation, transportation, administration, military operations and defense, and to pursue larger colonial and commercial ambitions. Thus the maps mostly follow the course of British Empire and East India Company exploration, development, and exploitation of India through independence following World War II when Indian-made maps start to replace the European ones. Lahiri's text with accompanying color illustrations of maps and sections of them for close-up examination blends commentary and critique of the maps with what they represent historically and their significance in relation to historical developments.

The book offers a visually pleasing and informative study of the history of India beginning with European interest up until about the 1950s after India gained its independence. Lahiri's knowledgeable engaging text draws on her long and varied academic background and extensive travels in the region. This book stands out among the many oversize art books on maps for being a first on the historical maps of India.

The Gardens of Ron Herman
Bradford McKee
Introduction by Marc Trieb
Principal Photographer Mark Schwartz
Grayson Publishing
1250 28th Street NW
Washington, DC 20007-3355
9780982439265, $39.95

With the winding walkways, large stones, small shrubbery, palm frond-like grasses of Ron Herman's gardens, the influence of Japanese gardens is plain. However, the overall impression is not spiritual, but rather aesthetic. Herman studied gardening in Japan as a graduate student; but the greater influence was his studies at University of California-Berkeley in the 1960s when ideas and techniques of Modernism, especially the way abstract paintings were composed, were being developed in what was known as the California style of contemporary landscape architecture.

A Ron Herman garden is recognizable for its principles, materials, and appearance. However as the fourteen representative gardens of this art book show, particular gardens vary widely by being adapted to location and also as in any architectural project, creatively meeting requirements and preferences of clients.

Herman's favored, characteristic materials and objects, surfaces, and layouts and layering benefit particularly in locations of sunniness and space. One does not picture such a garden, for instance, in a shady forest locale, nor an urban environment; although practically any residence or building or park could make use of aesthetics and compositions and in many cases types of shrubbery found in the characteristic Herman garden. However, dimpled rocks, often of larger size and in a single earth-tone color; walls made of irregularly-sized building materials, sometimes with uneven surface; and smaller, open shrubbery and delicate, tall grasses benefit most from sunniness and space. Sunniness and space help to fulfill the aesthetic intent of the garden. Sunniness allows for notice of the subtle changes in surface of larger rocks and ground surface. Space enables Herman to compose gardens of varying sizes so that many of the rocks, shrubs, small trees, and bunches of grass seem featured without seeming crammed or dominating.

With each garden covered in several pages of color photographs of overviews of parts of it and closer views of particular features are copies of the detailed, multicolor architectural design drawings Herman uses like a blueprint for a finished garden and in discussion with clients. In addition to being attractive, these drawings display the full scope of each garden which no photograph could encompass.

Herman has won awards for his landscape designs, and he has done more than 400 of these. He is still active as the head of his landscape architecture firm in California.

Al Taylor: Catalogue Raisonne
edited by Michael Semff with the assistance of Debbie Taylor
Interviews by Mimi Thompson Hatje Cantz with Staatliche Graphische Sammlung
Hatje Cantz
9783775726467, $60.00

The bilingual (English-German) catalogue raisonne for Al Taylor (1948-99) goes beyond the typical chronological organization and annotations of such artist references by presenting developing stages of prints when applicable. This is done by numbering using decimals. "Each whole number catalogue entry lists a comprehensive overview of the documentation applicable to the final state of the print it represents. Decimal numbers were employed to identify states or variants and trial or working prints." The title for this Section II of prints so presented is 'Published and Realized Editions, 1988-1997." The decimal numbers indicating states and variants are not always sequential since in some cases "additional proofs [that] may have existed that are no longer extant" are determined from consultation with the printers of Taylor's prints. Section I is "Unpublished and Unrealized Editions 1988-1997."

In addition to the complete-as-possible record of prints, the work has interviews with five printers. This is not only informative and revealing with regard to Taylor since nearly all of his work is prints, but also informative regarding the craft of printmaking. There's also a six-page chronology.

in the 1990s, Taylor started to incorporate photographs into his prints and did some photographs; eight of which are collected into a portfolio named "Ozark Drive-Bys" (1994). Although evidencing Taylor's characteristic consummate skill, the photographs were secondary for him. For Taylor was a craftsman at heart drawn to the craft of printing. He never became diverted into new and increasingly popular mediums or materials such as multimedia collage even though he could have been distinctive and successful in these. One sees that he liked drawing and paper too much to stray from these.

Although basically a craftsman, Taylor had a good imagination too. His imagination goes to making puzzles. There is in Taylor's graphics and drawings a note of the familiar, though usually not the obvious. "Taylor...managed to breach every conceivable, normal, way of seeing...he developed what might justly be described as a transcendental ability to perceive the world and the things in it...His apparently absurd pursuit of the lowest and most banal subjects...." [from the introductory essay "Serious Games"] When looking at many of his works, it's as if one is being quizzed. Sometimes you figure out the subject or visual concept on your own; or sometimes you look to the title.

Despite his outstanding craftsmanship and the distinctiveness of his work, Taylor did not rise into the highest ranks of later modern artists probably because he was committed to prints and his works were not challenging so as to express a vision or a compelling social commentary. Yet within their "own veritable cosmos of meaning," they effectively and memorably engage one.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Will Sparrow's Road
Karen Cushman, author
Clarion Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547739625, $16.99

A boy grows in wisdom in this richly researched middle grade tale set to the coarse backdrop of a 16th century English fair circuit. Mentally and physically wracked by adult cruelty, runaway Will Sparrow is determined to only care for and about himself. Then he joins a motley, spirited group of characters, including a midget, a blind juggler and a girl with heavy facial hair, who star in a travelling "oddities" tent show. As they travel from fair to fair, daily tasks such as securing food and luring paying visitors into the tent draw Will deep into the fair markets. The markets are a colorful, vibrant home of currant buns and roasted pork, music, quack doctors, pick pockets and shoemakers. In private moments with his new friends, meanwhile, Will is challenged to let down his guard and to love and trust again. And he's challenged to fully see the humanity of those whom society has rejected as freaks and monsters. Fine writing and historical scene setting are punctuated by humor and just-right doses of Elizabethan-era dialect. Masterfully penned with a timeless message that lingers.

Odile Weulersse, author
Rebecca Dautremer, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854162, $17.00

An ancient Middle Eastern tale gets a child-minded twist in this story of boy who must learn to trust his judgment and to disregard baseless criticism. The story of the man Nasreddine dates to the Middle Ages. This time, Nasreddine is a boy headed to the market with his father. The two are taunted by passersby who call the father lazy for riding a donkey while Nasreddine walks. Nasreddine is ashamed. A succession of similar incidents follows. After each one, Nasreddine internalizes the criticism and changes his ways to try to please their tormentors. Yet, no matter his approach, new passersby always find something to mock. His father finally puts his foot down when Nasreddine suggests that they carry their donkey to the market. He gently lectures Nasreddine on the difference between wise advice that he should take to heart and hurtful words that he should ignore. The illustrations, exquisite in their fine detail yet minimal in their arrangement, compliment the story's simple yet essential truths and fittingly honor its ethnic roots. Beautiful.

Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love
Julie Paschkis, author and illustrator
Harcourt Children's Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547807454, $16.99

A suitor wins the heart of the woman he loves by baking an apple cake for her. Alfonso has tried everything to get Ida's attention. But her nose remains buried in a book. In a wonderful, creative trek, his cake preparation efforts take him above and beyond. He gallantly rides a horse to the top of a mountain to pick apples. Butter is a golden drip from the sun. Salt comes from the sea. Heat for baking comes from the nostrils of a fire-breathing dragon. Ida finally notices, partakes in the treat and the rest is history. With illustrations as sweet and simple as the story, a delicious tale of determined love.

I Wish I Had
Giovanna Zoboli, author
Simona Mulazzani, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr., NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854155, $16.00

What is it about the way an animal acclimates to its environment, that makes it unique? This stunningly illustrated, lyrical ode to wild and domestic creatures celebrates the sharpness of a crow's eyesight, a mouse's fleet-footedness, the stillness of a deer, the nimbleness of a hare and the singing voice of a whale. In all, thirteen animals are featured; many others are fit into the background of the intricately detailed illustrations. Gorgeous.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Texas Ingenuity
Alan C. Elliott
Atriad Press
c/o TexaSoft
PO Box 1169
Cedar Hill, TX 75106
9781933177298, $18.95

Alan C. Elliott's book, Texas Ingenuity, Lone Star Inventions, Inventors and Innovators, is a collection of some of the more famous stories about inventions and the inventors of the state. It starts with Sam Houston and the beginning of Texas and continues with Gail Borden of Borden milk fame, adds another liquid - oil at Spindletop and relates many other stories along the same vein. Hilton Hotels, Neiman-Marcus, Howard Hughes, Oveta Culp Hobby, 7-Eleven, Mary Kay and Liquid Paper to name a few more. The story behind the story is very interesting and in some cases, exciting. The innovativeness of Texans is nothing less than genius and this book is just what you need to learn all about it.

Mr. Elliott tells about people and companies that have grown up here that we Texans can proudly call our own. No wonder we have a pride in our state that is bigger and better than others. People and companies are not the only stories that are related - he tells about entertainment in Texas that includes O. Henry in literature, Bob Banner in television, animated cartoons and the great music of Texans. He tells about great sports figures such as Bill Pickett, in the rodeo, the great Babe Didrickson Zaharias, some consider the greatest athlete of all time and the Kilgore Rangerettes. There is more information stuffed in this small volume than anyone would believe and it doesn't even touch the whole scope of people and events that tell the Texas story.

"There is no way on God's green earth that this volume could cover all of the incredible Texas smarts. Let's face it; folks in the Lon Star State have an overabundance of cleverness."

Let's hope Mr. Elliott will write a sequel or two to this book and include much more of the stories we have heard and would like to hear.

Alan C. Elliott was born in Texas and is the author or co-author of over 20 books. Some of them are Currents in American History, Images of America: Oak Cliff, and A Daily Dose of the American Dream, Stories of Success, Triumph and Inspiration. He also co-wrote the movie Angels Love Donuts. See more information at Alan's website at

No More Expectations
Cathy Jo
Twisted Word Publishing
PO Box 46465
Bedford, Ohio 44146
9780983425922, $14.95

No More Expectations by Cathy Jo is a story that starts after the revelation of Brianya's life choices. She uses that knowledge to make her life better. Brianya's story is explored through flashbacks and present day narrative. The use of this strategy is an effective way to tell the story.

Brianya works hard to lose weight. She attempts to do it without changing herself, but as the weight comes off, her attitude changes and confidence raises. She eventually finds love and becomes strong in her desire to be the self she knows she can be. She has four suitors from her past and present who vie for her attention - each for their own reasons. Her better food choices seem to coincide with her equally better choices for men. Or does it? Will she backslide and go back to the wrong food as well as the wrong man? You are going to have to read this very thought provoking novel to find out.

One of the men she was involved with explained it this way:

"When I see you as you are today and I remember you as you were a few years back, I am in awe of you. Back then you were a woman who obviously had some issues with food, but you carried yourself with dignity."

No More Expectations is a novel that many of us can relate to. There is some sort of compulsion in many of us that we have to deal with. You will more than likely identify with Brianya's dilemmas, although possibly not with the specific one.

Cathy Jo has been writing since she was eleven years old. She attended school in Cleveland and still lives there. She worked in the Cleveland Public Library where she discovered bestselling authors like du Maurier, Austen, Morrison, Bombeck and Giovanni, obviously the writers who influenced her to become a writer. She is now working on completing unfinished manuscripts.

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

In My Mind
Alex Olinkiewicz with Dr. Richard O'Connell
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477620076 $19.95

Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (a type of high-functioning autism), Alex Olinkiewicz grew up amid people who had difficulty understanding him. At age 16, he made a YouTube video called "In My Mind" to help people better comprehend how Asperger's affected the way he functioned every day. In My Mind: A Journey Through My Life With Asperger's/Autism expands on that message, as a book that draws upon his personal experience. With in question-and-answer format with the aid of Dr. Richard O'Connell, In My Mind gives the reader a strong, clear picture of what it is like to live with Asperger's, in Alex's own, plain-terms words. Addendums with the honest words of Alex's friends and family round out this invaluable, "tell-it-like-it-is" accounting. Highly recommended, especially for anyone struggling to better understand an autistic friend, colleague, or family member. "I have reading problems. I have problems getting information from other sources. Yes, a computer does contain text, but it's more simplified. For me, the newspaper is so cluttered with different topics and different news reports that I get lost in what I see to be clutter. But on a computer it's basically a search engine to a specific main topic that you're looking for. It's something that really captures your interest."

The Seven Year Itch
S. D. Skye
LadyLit Press
9780983920236, $15.00,

To hammer out traitors, one must go far to catch them. "The Seven Year Itch" is a mystery thriller from S. D. Skye following Special Agent J. J. McCall who is charged with smoking out treason among the ranks of the FBI and those who want sell off American intelligence. Hot on the trail of Ice Phantom, a spy that has been lurking for ages, "The Seven Year Itch" is hard to put down for lovers of spy fiction, highly recommended.

Divine Fury
Robert B. Lowe
Enzo Publications
9780988644816, $12.95,

A reporter always seeks the truth, but the truth often comes with a price. "Divine Fury" is a novel following reporter Enzo Lee as his wish to pursue fluff pieces is interrupted by the presence of a murder, and how a race for governor makes it all the more complicated. His curiosity makes him a target and more may end up dead alongside him if the truth isn't hammered out from it all, "Divine Fury" is a fine addition to contemporary mystery collections.

Kevin J. Howard
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478716938, $23.95,

What's millions of miles for the sake of family? "Precipice: The Beginning" is a tale of science fiction and horror from Kevin J. Howard who tells the story of Travis Daniels, sent to Mars as penance for his mistakes, only to find that Earth has suddenly been struck by danger and he must force his way back home to protect them. "Precipice" is a fascinating addition to adventure and fiction collections, highly recommended.

Patrick Gallivan
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477238110, $15.18,

The human life of Jesus of Nazareth is a peppered story that is of fascination to Biblical and secular scholars alike. "Yeshu'a" is an analysis of many historical texts and accounts, hoping to gain new light on the life of Christ, and how author Patrick Gallivan states history has changed how the events actually went down, how the Jews were not the ones who doomed Jesus, and that it was his rebellion against the money lenders that ultimately sent him to his death. "Yeshu'a" is a fascinating exploration of true life Jesus, much recommended.

Before the Poisoned Apple
L.S. Dubbleyew
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786502, $17.95,

The world of Snow White is one of darkness and magic, never truly explored. "Before the Poisoned Apple" is a twist of folklore and fantasy as L.S. Bubbleyew seeks to expand the mythos of Snow White and focus on the story of the seven individuals who save her and the world around them through courage and their story before the maiden entered their lives. "Before the Poisoned Apple" is a fascinating twist of traditional and widely loved fairly tales, well worth considering.

Coal Dust is White
Irwin Sagenkahn
Abbott Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781458205735, $18.99,

A tragedy can lead to friendship being forever torn apart. "Coal Dust is White" is a historical novel of two families coming to America, and struggling to survive, finding friendship with one another for a time. Tragedy strikes, and hate wins out, leading to a poisoning atmosphere and the struggles of pain that comes with the road to recovery. "Coal Dust is White" is a honest read the plight of searching for the American dream.

The Adventures of a Bad Canadian
Anthony Morizio
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477290835, $16.95,

The rumors of Canada's kindness are vastly exaggerated. "The Adventures of a Bad Canadian" is a comical adventure from Anthony Morizio as he blends a twist of memoir and fabrication covering his journeys through the world in his quest to tarnish the good name of the Canadian people. "The Adventures of a Bad Canadian" is a fine pick for those who want a very Canadian take on the world, much recommended.

Scott McClanahan
Two Dollar Radio
9781937512033, $16.00,

In the countryside of Appalachia, life continues, out of sight to the rest of the world. "Crapalachia" is a unique memoir, in which Scott McClanahan reflects on growing up in the regions of West Virginia under the guidance of his grandparents. Frank and honest readings with its own brand twist of humor about growing up in this unusual piece of American life, "Crapalachia" is an excellent and insightful addition to any memoir and humor collection, recommended.

The Magic Book
Leonardo Deangelo
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477218464, $15.18,

Adventure calls, and a young boy and his dog often may be the ones to answer it. "The Magic Book" is a youth fantasy from Leonardo Deangelo who shares this adventurous high fantasy story as the pair Sam and Spot find a magic book and twist into this unusual world. A fun adventure for young adult readers, "The Magic Book" is well worth considering. Also consider "The Lost Valley" (9781467890137, $13.66) following Sam and Spot into a place more prehistoric than they thought possible, and "The Crystal Cave" (9781456788032, $12.85) following the pair on yet another imaginative adventure.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukharjee
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10020
9781439107959, $30.00

This book needs no praise from me; it already won the Pulitzer Prize. Yet I can't resist the temptation to add my voice to the many comments. There may be readers who hesitate to commit to nearly five-hundred pages on cancer, fearing they may be too technical, too medically focused, or just plain too gloomy. Those thoughts went through my own mind when a friend recommended the book. I'm interested in the subject; I've had a three-time bout with the illness; but I doubted I was five hundred pages interested.

Let me dispel any such doubts for other readers. The book is as riveting as any novel. There were times when I literally couldn't put it down. From page one, I was hooked. The author presents the history of cancer through the stories of its victims, starting with his own patient, Carla, a courageous fighter, and then taking us back to Egypt and the first recorded case of breast cancer described by the Pharaoh's physician, Imhotep. From there, we follow each recorded case through history. Interspersed with the historical account is a record of the early modern cancer fighters, Sidney Farber, who founded a cancer clinic, Albert Lasker, an intrepid fighter of the condition, and Mary Lasker, a tireless fundraiser for the cause and an advocate who knew enough about politics to land government grants and spearhead the founding of the American Cancer Society.

The story of cancer is told through the stories of courageous patients and of the many doctors who studied and fought the illness. One after another, from the 19th through the 21st centuries, young doctors took up the cause, convinced there had to be a cure and if we understood the dynamics, we would find it. Many of them triumphed with new meds, only to see their patients relapse back into illness after a brief reprieve. Not until the 21st century did the grim truth emerge: cancer may never be curable because it's not really a disease but a condition in which our own cells go awry. There is no virus or bacterium and hence no magic bullet for killing them, no vaccine we can use against our own bodies. Since cancer usually announces its arrival through pre-cancerous conditions, we can learn to recognize those and intervene before the worst happens, thus cutting down on the number of cases and ensuring survival more often. But we may never wholly eliminate this scourge as we did with smallpox, polio and diphtheria.

In short, we have met the enemy and it is us. So what do we do now? Can we find new techniques and approaches to this age-old blight? Do we need to look at cancer in a whole new way?

The intense focus on the condition has led to many successes as well as many failures. I am one of the successes; my doctors used the old cutting method rather than chemo, but it worked. With a compromised digestive system, I often suffer abdominal pains, but I soldier on, remembering that I would otherwise have departed this life twelve years ago. I once again celebrate my good fortune in surviving; I know I was very lucky.

No dry medical book, this is written in an engaging style that's always interesting to read and sometimes downright poetic. The author, a cancer physician and researcher in New York, teaches at Columbia. Since almost everyone has a friend or family member with cancer, there is almost no reader who would not find this book relevant and interesting. Highly recommended.

Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot
Lon Milo DuQuette
Red Wheel/Weiser LLC
500 Third St. Suite 230
San Francisco, CA 94107
978578632763, $24.95

Designed by Aleister Crowley and drawn by Frieda Harris, the Thoth Tarot is one of the most interesting Tarot decks, and certainly one of the most artistic, with artwork both unique and stunning.

It would be a good idea, before starting this book, to have some knowledge of astrology and the Qabala. I lacked that, and in the beginning I was lost with terms like sephira and and tifereth. There is a glossary but not all these terms appear there; the author assumes an understanding that not all readers may have. Any reader new to Tarot will need to bookmark the glossary and keep it handy, as new terms can pop up at the rate of two or three to a sentence.

I finally solved the terminology problem by reading once through the book quickly, and then returning for a slower-paced study. By the second reading, many of the terms had revealed their meaning just by their context.

According to the author, Aleister Crowley undertook this project because he felt that Arthur Waite, designer of the popular Waite deck, had merely introduced rather than revealed the Tarot. He believed there were many dimensions to the Tarot that Waite had failed to capture. And it is true that the Crowley/Harris deck is more comprehensive, though I will say that as I read I compared the two decks and found that the Waite did a good job of picturing symbols and ideas that needed verbal explanation in the Crowley deck. Admittedly, no one has ever accused the Waite deck of being artistic, and it may indeed lack the Qabala ties. But I find it as rich in symbolism as any Tarot deck including Crowley's, and easier to understand.

The author states that though no one knows for sure the origins of the Tarot cards, they can't possibly be older than the invention of paper. This is not true; the symbols if not the pictures may have been recorded on small clay tablets or large beads that would be easy to randomize by merely tumbling them around inside a sack. This seems to have been the method of divination used by the Druids with their unique symbols, and certainly, despite the overlay of Christianity, the cards date back to pagan times. The suites of cups and wands are in fact the oldest symbols known to mankind, and represent the male and female principles. Other scholars have suggested that the cards may have originated in ancient Egypt, but in fact, despite their popularity with Gypsies, they seem to be tied to the nature religions of Europe. The Hanged Man has often been identified with the Fisher King, and clearly the four seasons are represented by the four suites, cups, wands, swords, and pentacles or discs. Author Jesse Weston first made the connection to the nature religions almost a century ago in her book, From Ritual to Romance, and it seemed so profoundly right that T.S. Eliot based his famous poem, The Wasteland, on it.

Undeniably, Aleister Crowley extended the scope of Tarot by adding the astrological and Qabalistic elements, and for those lucky enough to understand them, I am sure the reading of spreads must be greatly enriched. For the rest of us, there is much to be learned from this book despite the esoteric confusions, and anyone interested in the cards will want to become familiar with both the book, which contains excellent instructions for divination, and the deck with all its artistry.

Lois Wells Santalo

Margaret's Bookshelf

Away All Boats
Claud Erie Hooker
Word Association Publishers
205 Fifth Avenue
Tarentum, Pennsylvania 15084
9781595718624 $16.95

Away All Boats is the true-life memoir of author Claud Hooker, who was only seventeen when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor - prompting him to enlist in the U.S. Navy to serve and protect his country. At this young age, he was required to get parental permission; his father acceded but his mother refused. He writes of his service as a machinist upon the USS Alcyone, a cargo attack ship that took part in the both the European and Pacific Theatres of World War II. Though Hooker's assignment was to "make sure the engine ran", his life was frequently in jeopardy, and the horrors of war that he witnessed remain with him to this day. Yet he remains rightfully proud of his wartime service, in this eye-opening insider's story of the war effort, including Hooker's memories of the North Africa Campaign, and the invasions of Makin Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Okinawa. Highly recommended.

Fit At 50
Matthew McLaughlin
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432792411, $24.95,

You never get too old for good health. "Fit At 50: Back from the Brink, Naturally" is a health guide from Matthew McLaughlin as he advises readers on how to better embrace their fitness and general health on many levels, from diet to exercise, and other good habits, the secrets to allowing one to have great health at middle age and beyond. "Fit At 50" is a strong pick for fitness collections focusing on health when facing aging.

Secrets of the Marriage Mouse
Marcia Reece
Aspen Publishing Group
9780985824303, $29.95,

Knowing hat you want is key to finding that marriage that can last forever. "Secrets of the Marriage Mouse: Find Your Forever Love in 4 Proven Steps" is a guide for crafting a successful marriage. Author Marcia Reece shares her own experiences about relationships, including ones that failed, and her discovery of the path to nuptial happiness. "Secrets of the Marriage" is an insightful and reader-friendly resource.

Violet Blue, editor
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781573449366, $15.95,

Desires we have are not always the desires we indulge. "Voracious" is a collection of short erotica from assorted authors who share these short tales on seeking that gratification that gives them what they seek in an instant of their life, free form the worries of what would come next. Enticing and sexy, these stories give women a bit of insight into the dark desires they keep under wraps, making "Voracious" a choice collection, not to be missed for erotica readers.

Death Ain't But a Word
Zander Marks
Yardwalker Press
9780988548510, $9.99,

Troubles from all sides in life are enough without adding the paranormal. "Death Ain't But a Word" is a unique tale of facing death, as druggie Wilkin deals with the pressures of his dead friend's ghost, and races against the man who did him in who has certain intents for the spirit and the druggie. "Death Ain't But a Word" is an enticing blend of the paranormal and urban fiction, highly recommended.

Titus Plomaritus
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477271377, $26.95,

A long life well lived is priceless. "Titus: The Life Story of Dr. Titus Plomaritus" is a memoir and autobiography of Titus Plomaritus, who shares his career as a college football star who became a nationally renown chiropractor as well as earned friendship through many high level individuals including former president Jimmy Carter. "Titus" is a worthy read for those seeking a life's memoir of reflecting back on a life so very well lived.

Forbidden Love
Dee Rose
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781478713494, $14.95,

We keep desires buried deep, but cannot flee from there forever. "Forbidden Love" is a story of facing death and the the time limit on the old passions you've forgotten. Mark has always had hidden homosexual desires for Jesse, his best friend. And when a brain tumor emerges...he's unsure if he can finally confess what he wants to do, and what the effects will have on both of their lives. "Forbidden Love" is a fascinating spin of gay romance, recommended.

How Do You Grab a Naked Lady?
Sharon L. Hicks
Abbott Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781458206190, $17.99,

Our inspiration in life comes from our parents, and it may not be in the ways we seek. "How Do You Grab a Naked Lady?" is a humorous memoir from Sharon L. Hicks who tells of her search of the life she wanted to live and all the pain that came with trying to figure it all out, looking to her parents for guidance. When the straight laced wisdom of her father failed, she looked to the outlandish if weird motherly intuition for answers. "How Do You Grab a Naked Lady?" is a fine take on life and our constant nature of learning, highly recommended.

Behind the Mask
Dennis Rozema
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450283571, $12.95,

Growing up can bring its own harsh level of pain with it. "Behind the Mask: Adolescents in Hiding" discusses teenager psychology and the pain these young people face, hiding their true selves from the world, scared of what would happen in the world found out about what they truly were. Encouraging a trust building and helping teenagers escape their shells for a better life in the long term, "Behind the Mask" is a strong addition to psychology collections focusing on teenagers and young adults.

Reinvent the Heal
James T. Hansen
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477211489, $19.95,

No matter who you ask, the American health care system is screwed. "Reinvent the Heal" is a call for reform from physician James T. Hansen who offers his own insights on what needs to be done to reform healthcare, believing that both parties ideas are failing to have good ideas, and people are suffering because of it. "Reinvent the Heal" is an insightful and recommended addition to social issues collections, recommended.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

The Cellar Door
Brett Gadbois
Belltown Press
11190 Forest Lane NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
9780615347318, $14.95,

This is the tale of a young boy and his amazing adventures.

Sam Bixby is your average nine-year-old. His parents have been divorced for most of his life. The concern and uncertainty that comes with divorced parents comes back to Sam when Mom asks him to live with her in California. Sam and Dad live near Seattle. On a camping trip to northern Minnesota with Dad, Sam explores an abandoned farmhouse (the kind that children should not explore alone). He falls, and hits his head, and he wakes up in a very strange land.

An elderly human sage teaches Sam the ability to change into whatever he wants (bird, animal, etc.) simply by thinking about it. Sam meets a talking squirrel who is searching for his father. Squirrel Dad has been on the run for a number of years because of a botched robbery. Sam meets talking blueberries who are proud of their color, and streams of water that give Sam fits of laughter even on the worst days. Through it all, no one knows just how Sam can get home, but they suggest that a magic pool of water in a nearby city is the place to start.

Sam also meets several human/animal hybrids, including a pair with human bodies and the heads of crows. They really want the secret to Sam's transformation ability. While Sam is a bird, they trap him inside a bird cage until he gives up the secret. Will Sam spend the rest of his life as a bird? Will he ever be reunited with his father?

This book is made to be read to children, perhaps as a multi-part bedtime story. It's nice and weird, and many children can identify with Sam. The reader will not go wrong with this one.

The Absurd Adventures of Mira
Sujata Rayers
Black Rose Writing
P.O. Box 1540, Castroville TX 78009
9781612961088, $16.95,

Mira is an Indian-American living in present-day Louisiana. She is also swarthy, weighs 250 pounds, and fantasizes herself as blonde, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz. At a high school party, she is raped by a member of the Black Panthers. her father refuses to acknowledge the rape out of concern that it will make her "spoiled fruit" when it comes time for marriage. Mira moves in with Andy, the manager of the local grocery store that soon goes out of business.

Among their neighbors is a Julio Iglesias look-alike. He is so convincing that a married couple, also neighbors, kidnap him and hold him for ransom. While they spend the next several years in prison, Andy and Mira become foster parents to their two children. Junior is a precocious child who is helping Dad write a guide to local plants while he is in prison.

Mira gets a job at a local clothing store, where her handmade Mardi Gras costumes are a hit. Another clothing store where Mira works is bought and becomes part of a chain. Mira is part of a group who travels to India looking for companies who can supply them with clothes to sell. Mira is able to meet some of her relatives.

Back home, Devi, Mira's sister, becomes part of the clothing empire (her proper, Indian, marriage ended in divorce). Mira has not spoken with her father since the day she disobeyed him by moving in with Andy (who was killed by a grizzly bear during a camping trip). Do they get back together? Do they at least talk to each other?

This is a really interesting story. It's plausible, and well-written, and Mira certainly has plenty of "adventures." Yes, it's worth reading.

Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money From Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity
Michael Shuman
Chelsea Green Publishing
85 North Main Street, Suite 120
White River Junction, VT 05001
9781603583435, $17.95,

A good way to achieve real prosperity in America is to invest money in local businesses, instead of the multi-national conglomerates of this world. This book shows some ways to do it.

First of all, forget about the usual method, that of buying shares in a local store. The vast majority of investors are "unaccredited," and for a local store to legally offer shares to the public requires an accountant, a lawyer, and several thousand dollars in expenses. A way around that is for the business owner to, for instance, offer a $100 gift card for sale to the public. The buyer then gets $125 in goods or services on that card. The business owner gets extra money coming in, and the customer gets something extra for their "investment."

The average Mega-Bank is getting less and less interested in approving a loan for someone who wants to start a business. They would much rather put their money in a higher-risk investment that offers a higher rate of return (credit default swaps, anyone?). Depositors should consider moving their money to a community bank or credit union, which is where loan-seekers should go for a loan. These are institutions where the head office is in your town, or a neighboring town, instead of a neighboring state. They will be much more interested in helping local businesses, and treating depositors and loan seekers as more than just a number.

Consider resurrecting regional stock exchanges, which would trade only companies from that state or region. Consider changing the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules, to make it easier for smaller companies to sell shares to the public, and make it easier for the average person to buy those shares. If you do nothing else, invest in yourself. Pay off your credit cards, pay down your mortgage as fast as possible, consider going (or going back) to school, to increase your available skills as much as possible, and consider a DIY retirement fund.

This will certainly change perceptions about finance. It is easy to read, and gives a number of ways to keep your money in your town (where it belongs).

Daughter of the Sun
Three Phoenix
Capital Apple Press
244 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2111
New York NY 10001
9780983068631, $11.99,

The people of the valley of East Mountain are looked after by Elana, the Daughter of the Sun. Whenever she smiled, the sun would join in and spread happiness and joy over the whole valley. The people thought she was magic.

For unknown reasons, a feeling of unhappiness has come over the people. AhMun, the corn grower, and a couple of his friends decide to visit Elana and ask for her help.

Naturally, getting to Elana is not easy. When they reach her, AhMun receives a beam of sunlight from her, and imagines that the bad feelings in the village have disappeared. He gives a big smile back to Elana, who relays it to her father, the sun. AhMun and friends return to the village and everyone is happy. One day, a thundercloud comes by and learns that Elana has a very different interpretation of her dealings with the villagers than do the villagers.

This book is made to be read to children under 10 years of age. Older children will also enjoy it. Yes, it is worth the time.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

I Cannot Sleep
Ann Louise Ramsey
Crown Peak Publishing
PO Box 317
New Castle, CO 81647
9780964566378, $19.95

Honey the fun-loving Cocker Spaniel is back! We first met Honey in "Just Be You" where she discovered the joy of being herself. In her new adventure, Honey shares her Recipe for Joy. One night when she has trouble falling asleep, Honey's imagination takes flight as she re-lives the joy and fun she experiences every day. Through Ann Ramsey's action-packed verse readers feel all the excitement Honey feels as she chases the tennis ball, swims, dances, and sings her way through life. Ann's amazing and delightful digital illustrations show the many moods and antics of this lovable little dog. As a special treat, bird watchers should keep their eyes open for Honey's feathered friends on each page. A gallery at the end of the book identifies each bird with its picture in the story - a great teaching tool! Fall in love with Honey all over again in "I Cannot Sleep."

The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter than You Think
By Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
9780525953197, $27.95

Anyone who has ever shared true companionship with a dog has wondered: Does my dog think? "The Genius of Dogs" not only asks, but answers the question. Co-written by husband and wife research team Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, this book focuses primarily on Hare's lifetime evolution into anthropology and his research into animal cognition. In order to distinguish how dogs think, Hare researched how other animals think including humans, bonobos, chimpanzees, wolves, foxes and cats. Then he compared domesticated dogs to wild dogs, dingoes, and New Guinea Singing Dogs. In some cases the outcomes were surprising. In others, the results were what I would have expected based on my own interactions with dogs, as well as other animals. No matter what, the accounts of Hare's travels to animal research centers all over the world and his discoveries along the way are certainly fascinating as well as entertaining. Hare's scientific analysis is based on decades of research into animal cognition and reveals the unique "genius" of dogs that sets them apart from all other species. But this is no dull treatise. Woods' engaging narrative is peppered with amusing anecdotes, plus glimpses into Hare's childhood and personal life which bring to light his deep affection and devotion not only to dogs, but the entire animal kingdom.

"The Genius of Dogs" presents ample evidence to support the subtitle, "How Dogs are Smarter than You Think." Some readers will never look at their dogs the same way. Others will look at their dogs and say, "I knew it," with the assurance their dogs understand exactly what they mean. All dog lovers should read this book. If you understand your dogs better, you can help them live longer, happier lives.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

Winds of Redemption
Harvey Goodman
Jupiter Sky Publishing, LLC
2689 County Road 318, Suite 100
Westcliffe, CO. 81252
9781617507298, $14.95

I really liked the cover of this book. It brought back memories of my family sitting in front of the TV watching a good western. We also had a big bowl of Jiffy Popcorn to munch on and soda to drink. Soda came in glass bottles then.

This book is well written and the characters are engaging. This was my first time reading a western since I was about 11 years old. This book really delivers to all that like Western books.

The Little Amish Matchmaker
Linda Byler
Good Books (Good Enterprises, LTD)
3513 Old Philadelphia Pike
Intercourse, PA 17534-7007
9781561487769, $14.95,

What a fun and delight it was reading this book. It was not your normal fictional book about the Amish. We find a younger brother named Isaac, who decides to get his older brother Simon to go out with his new school teacher. Simon tells him she was out of his league. No one as beautiful as her would go out with someone like him.

That just added fuel to the fire. Isaac tried in every way possible to get Simon to ask her out. But all to no avail. Then in school the girl who sat across from Isaac would lift her desk top up and put her head in her desk and was always be blowing her noise. Isaac thought he would go crazy as he knew she did it just to irritate him most of the time. No one made the kinds of sounds like she did when she blew her noise.

Then there was another girl who Isaac liked a lot who had problems with talking. She stuttered when she talked. Isaac tried in every way to help her but nothing helped. Poor Isaac did not know what to do. He had given up on his brother asking his teacher out. In fact he gave up on girls also.

This is just to give you a sample of what is in store for you when you read this book. I will be reading it more than just once. I have laughed and smiled a lot while reading this book.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Teri's Bookshelf

Season of the Wolf
Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Dark Fuse
P.O. Box 338
North Webster, IN 46555
9781937771614, $15.99

Life doesn't always work with your plans.

For Alex Converse money has never been a problem. Having inherited money from his family's coal mining business, he now has dreams of making a documentary about how global warming is changing our country. He views this as a way to pay back people for the profiting by his family's harming the environment. His plan is simply to take two people with him to help create this documentary about the bark beetles who are destroying the trees since they are no longer destroyed by the winter deep-freezes. He carries along the guilt from his family profiting while harming the environment permanently.

What he didn't plan on was the other global nightmare that is quickly killing the inhabitants of Silver Gap, Colorado!

It all starts very simply in the women are disappearing and wolves seem to be attacking and killing people. Wolves travel and kill in packs but don't bother humans. Why would these wolves choose to attack?

Season of the Wolf is a violent thriller, but still has a realistic aspect to this supernatural tale. This tale is fast paced, frightening, but at the same time addictive in that you can't stop reading it. There are twists and turns as the character and events weave in and out of each other. The underlying message regarding wolves, the bark beetles, and our environmental future is evident in every page emphasizing the need for balance within nature.

With outstanding characterization, a complex plot, and the hypnotic voice of a storyteller, Season of the Wolf is definitely an outstanding thriller. This is one novel where you can't wait to get to the end and then are sorry that the book ends.

Jeffrey J. Mariotte has written numerous novels throughout the years and has been nominated for a Stoker Award with his teen horror quartet Dark Vengeance. He co-owns Mysterious Galaxy, a bookstore and lives on a ranch in the American southwest.

I was amazed about how this gruesome thriller has become one of my favorite books. The mix of the gore with someone who just wants to do the right thing is unusual, but works for Season of the Wolf. Definitely read Season of the Wolf but plan to spend an entire day reading it.

Ring of Secrets (Culper Ring Series)
Roseanna M. White
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736950992, $13.99

Who could possibly believe that a woman during revolutionary times from an aristocratic family was actually a spy?

Winter Reeves currently is living with her grandparents in New York City. Since her father left to join the Patriot army and her mother died, she chose to get to know these people who had disinherited her mother. What she didn't plan on was the abusive meanness and controlling nature of her grandfather.

Her grandfather would have a heart attack if he knew the truth, Winter is secretly a spy. Having been a childhood friend with Robbie Townsend of the legendary Culper Ring, taught her about utilizing the tools of being a spy with code books, invisible ink, and drop locations. Feeling needed by the Patriots for the information she can provide and having a strong faith in God are what daily drives her to continue to live under their roof. What she didn't plan on was finding love.

She quickly attracts beaus and one particular, Bennett Lane, is drawn to her. With his family's Loyalist support, this Yale professor finds himself to be a secret Patriot in the midst of the Loyalist.

This fast-paced novel is a romance, historical, and Christian based novel. The research for this novel had to be overwhelming but is a fictional well-written account about real events and real people such as Benedict Arnold, John Andre, and members of the Culper Ring such as Robert Townsend, Austin Roe, Benjamin Tallmadge, and Abraham Woodhull who hopefully will appear in future novels in this series.

Ring of Secrets is a realistic viewpoint of a dangerous time in our history that leads into the War of 1812 and the relationship between our country and Britain during this time. From the divisions of loyalties within families, friends, and neighbors to the Quaker and Puritan influence, to prostitution as a means of survival as well as disease, this novel is a reputable picture into the past and possibilities from a religious viewpoint.

Roseanna White is a senior reviewer for the Christian Review of Books and a senior editor of White Fire Publishing which she founded with her husband. Other Christian novels that she has written are Jewel of Persia, A Stray Drop of Blood, and Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland. Ring of Secrets is the first in hopefully an extensive series of the Culper Ring.

Ring of Secrets is a refreshing novel that everyone, including men, would enjoy reading.

Through a Shot Glass Darkly
Siobhan Kelly
Cat's Paw Press
Long Branch, New Jersey
9780988709027, $15.00

Everyone always thinks about following their dream but few people really do. We envy those people who have the courage to actually give up everything in their lives to jump on that one chance of a lifetime. That is exactly what Alex Fitzpatrick achieves when she leaves New Jersey to open an Irish pub in a small college town in Nebraska. What she doesn't plan on are those non-published set of rules in this town. Who would be threatened by a female running a bar in a small town?

When you inherit money, this gives you an opportunity. Alex invests in a bar in Sherman, Nebraska. Her plan is to develop a true Irish pub which is definitely different from a bar. For economics and convenience, she is living over the place as she learns the business and the community.

One of her first friends in Sherman is Barb who owns a successful bookstore, Book Ends, a few blocks away. Barb is bothered by something but tells Alex that she will discuss the matter when she has time in a few days. However that doesn't happen. Barb's body is found in her apartment above the bookstore after it burned. Was this an accident or intentional?

Alex's guilt over not knowing what was bothering Barb quickly converts into her own investigation, of course, alongside of the local law enforcement.

This is a fast-paced, well-developed mystery that captures both the advantages and the disadvantages of living in a small Nebraska town. The characters are realistic with a perfectly planned setting, truly making the reader feel as if they are in the town with the characters. The strengths are the sense of setting and the character development in this novel. Through a Shot Glass Darkly excels in these areas.

Who is the intended audience for Through a Shot Glass Darkly? For this particular novel, it is easier to state who should not read this book. Unquestionably, the author has not had many positive experiences with Lutherans who are from the Missouri Synod. Also, those who are not comfortable with same sex relationships would not enjoy this novel. Those who would most enjoy this book are open-minded readers who have had experiences in small towns.

Siobhan Kelly taught for thirteen years in Nebraska. She has returned to the Jersey area and is working on a sequel to Through a Shot Glass Darkly.

Through a Shot Glass Darkly is a cozy mystery that keeps you wondering about the possible killer to the very end.

The Cat Did Not Die
Inger Frimansson
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
A Caravel Mystery
Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89th Street
New York, NY 10024
9781929355891, $18.00

Creepily haunting is how I would best describe the novel, The Cat Did Not Die.

In the hinderlands of Sweden are farms, some of which are deserted and used as summer homes, some as rentals to the farmhands, and some which are part of a small working farm. Life sometimes has different rules in these isolated lands.

Kaarina is accustomed to this life style, but that doesn't mean that she always agrees with it. When her cat has kittens, it is a problem. There is no way that the farm can support a growing cat family. So Holger who is in charge of the farm expects his farm hand to solve the problem with a shot gun. The kittens are in a box just as the gun fires, one kitten miraculously attaches itself to the leg of the farm hand. It must be fate.

This particular farmhand doesn't talk much and has little interactions with anyone, except Holger and Kaarina. However, that doesn't stop his curiousity. When a couple is visiting nearby at their ancestral family home for the summer, he does go into their house and steals two of their pillows while they are out. Why?

While being burgled, the couple who are in a nearby town hear about two escaped prisoners who are considered armed and dangerous. So naturally after realizing that their home had been invaded, the logical conclusion is that there is a possibility that the prisoners had been there. Why steal two pillows?

After this unusual violation, Beth is uncomfortable. Both Ulf and Beth are having difficulty with their relationship involving personal guilt and baggage from many years. Ulf is carrying the burden of leaving his first wife and son and Beth with the birth of twin girls seven years ago who died. Ulf also will not tell Beth that he still loves her which is becoming a major concern.
The farmhand whose curiosity made him steal the pillows keeps watching the two and finally is discovered. Beth who is certain that he is one of the escaped prisoners, goes after him with an ax that was nearby, killing him. Now what do you do?

And yes, the cat observed everything.

The Cat Did Not Die is an uncomfortable tale of guilt and people's relationships that is entirely realistic. Inger Frimansson's writing pulls you into the story so that you are with Beth through every difficult decision allowing you to understand this character completely. The combination of style with the writer and the translator Laura Wideburg created a novel that is completely spellbinding, even when you dislike one of the characters. What is shocking is how the relationships evolve through the guilt of one character and this effect on all their interactions.
Unnerving, well-written, and haunting all describe THE CAT DID NOT DIE with a conclusion that leaves you reflecting on this story.

Brooklyn Bones
An Erica Donato Mystery
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464201226, $14.95

For single parent and widow, Erica Donato, life is difficult to keeping up with a teenaged daughter and her work and research for her doctoral degree. Up until now, Chris, the daughter has not been overly overly challenging but frequently is expensive. Erica has greatly grown professionally from being a high school social studies teacher to being an intern at the local museum.

Conveniently, their home is in Brooklyn, close to the museum. Currently the old house is being remodeled by her close friend, Joe. Joe is like a big brother to Erica and usually helps her in many ways. Being that Erica can't afford summer camp for Chris, Joe hires Chris as a part time helper with the job.

With the dusty, dirty job of breaking through walls around the fireplace, Chris discovers a human skeleton of a long-dead teenaged girl. Naturally she is curious about who the girl really was but as usual, the police are not going to share information. Chris decides to investigate who used to own their home.

But someone does not want them to discover any information about the corpse. Quickly, it is obvious that there is a mystery here that someone does not want it to be solved.
As Erica discovers her daughter's investigation, fortunately, their family friend, Rick, comes to the rescue and pays for Chris to go to the summer camp. Chris is delighted but makes Erica promise to continue to investigate.

Sure, Erica now only has to continue the museum's research project about the Brooklyn neighborhoods, an extra project regarding the history of the area promises some much-needed extra cash and possibly a new relationship for her love life, and now added to that the death of a teenaged girl back in the time of hippies. When she just feels that things are getting under control, Rick, the family friend, has been shot.

Why? Rick was a police officer so could this be a killing of revenge?

Of course, added to her overflowing plate, she also feels obligated to investigate about Rick's death.

Brooklyn Bones is a fast-paced engrossing mystery that is realistic with well-developed characters. The actions are believable and written in an organized and logical sequence leading up to the climatic discovery of how all these people and actions were related.
Triss Stein comes from a small-town and has lived all of her adult life in New York City. Previously she has written Murder at the Class Reunion and Digging Up Death. Brooklyn Bones is the first book in this new series featuring Erica Donato.

Brooklyn Bones is a tightly interwoven plot in a riveting mystery.

Pyramid of Skulls: A Novel of Timur, Warrior and Emperor
Martin Fruchtman
Privately Published
9789085988601, $9.99

You've probably heard of many of the great conquerors of the world such as Julius Caesar, Attila, Alexander, William the Conqueror, and Genghis Khan, but have you heard of the Turkic warrior, Timur-i-Lang known as Tamerlane in the West?

Timur ruled in the early 1400s from the Black Sea to the Aral Sea into the Persian Gulf and as far southwest as Delhi including much of modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and into India with his main city of Samarkand being in what is now located in what we know as Uzbekistan.
As the victor, Timor and his armies did not take prisoners, but raped, pillaged, and beheaded their enemies creating pyramids with the skulls of the men, women, and children.

Pyramids of Skulls is the story of this legendary fighter, Timur who idolized his ancestor Ghengis Khan and dreamed of restoring this dynasty. This historical perspective is from his Jewish minister and doctor, David Ha-Tzadik who really did exist.

The author, Martin Fruchtman fictionalized gaps surrounding the known facts about this leader who is believed to be the catalyst for the entire Renaissance period throughout Europe. The novel is gory and brutal, speaking of numerous beheadings and rapes that are very descriptive.
Much of the first half of the book deals only with the fighting which involves rape, pillaging, and beheadings. The second half is more of a story focusing on David Ha-Tzad. This half also focuses on the divisions within the Muslim faith that has caused numerous rivalries and prejudices towards others as well as those towards Jews and Christians.

Pyramid of Skulls speaks of Timur during the time of most of his battles and basically through his Jewish doctor and Grand Visier, David Ha-Tzadik using historical fiction to fill in the undocumented gaps in his legacy.

Pyramids of Skulls is basically about Timur's battle years and definitely about his doctor and advisor, David Ha-Tzadik. The book was more about David than Timor as it spoke more about his background and created him as a realistic person. There were numerous questions that were not answered about Timor, such as his birth, younger years, how he rose to power, a description more of his influence with the Renaissance, and how he died that were not in this text.
The author, Martin Fruchtman is the former President of the International College of Technology and Business and dean of the DVS College-Renji Hospital and University Consortium in Shanghai, China.

Pyramid of Skulls is informative with a realistic story of David Ha-Tzadik and how he became an influential person on this eratic and tempermental ruler, Timor. Little is written of this time and Martin Fruchtman has definitely begun filling in the history of Timor.

The Hidden Village
The World Next Door, Book 1
Greg Krehbiel
Crowhill Publishing
10108 Madronawood Drive
Laurel, MD 20708
B00A3CJ8R6, $2.99 Kindle

The scariest stories are those that are realistic. If there is enough truth that you feel that the story could happen to, those stories are the ones that you remember and stay with you. That is the case of this short novel, The Hidden Village.

Geoffrey Franklin is a widower who lives a rather ordinary life. He goes to work and weekly communicates with his only son, Josh. Since Josh is an adult, Geoffrey realizes the need for his son's independence. When his son though does not answer his calls after a few weeks, he becomes concerned.

He calls his son's place of employment only to discover that his son quit his job a few weeks ago and no longer is living at his apartment. Geoffrey starts contacting Josh's friends only to discover that the car was supposedly sold to a friend and Josh seems to have disappeared.

Geof chooses to take a few days off work to search for his son. However, people don't seem to like the questions that he is asking. The more he asks, the more trouble he finds for himself.
After seeing a glimpse of someone who he believes is Josh, Geoffrey discovers a cult-like world with different rules and values.

The Hidden Village is an enthralling tale in the Washington D.C. area that revolves around a cult-like group nicknamed Elves. The Hidden Village is a believable thriller involving cults with unlimited resources. The story is well-written with well-developed characters. The most difficult part of this story is that the story ended, even temporarily.

The Hidden Village is a truly captivating taking the reader into another world.

Greg Krehbiel is a professional publisher of Crowhill and is the father of five children. The Underground Escape is the second book in this engrossing series.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Jonathan Kellerman
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345505736, $28.00,

The team of psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD homicide detective Lt. Milo Sturgis has been solving cases for a long time. But not like the crimes described in this latest installment. It starts out with the discovery of a child's bones, which appear to be old, perhaps dating to the 1950's. Soon, however, a fresh set of bones is found in a nearby park. And on the other side of the park, a murdered young woman. Are all these connected?

Following the familiar plot line, the detective follows procedure, and the psychologist thinks off the wall. And together they find the path to solving the mysteries, a tough road. Looking into the history of ownership of the first site provides little guidance. And there isn't much more to go on in the case of the new set of bones or of the murder victim.

The hallmark of the series is the interchange and quips between Alex and Milo, and "Guilt" is no exception. The author has perfected the novels, plotting and characters to such a high degree as to make each new entry a joy to read. And the newest book conforms to that ideal, and certainly is recommended.

Force of Nature
C.J. Box
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425250655, $9.99,

While nominally a Joe Pickett novel, the newest entry in this series is all about outlaw Nate Romanowski, finally bringing readers up to snuff on what makes him tick. Right off the bat, Nate is attacked by three locals, one firing an arrow into his shoulder, but he shoots and kills them all. He learns that he is being sought by his old Special Forces commander, and one by one all his potential allies are being murdered. Certainly his past is catching up to Nate.

The plot is the challenge of one or the other of them killing his nemesis, and the story progresses along the highways and mountains of Wyoming, which the author, as always, conveys with realism and fervor. While the law seeks Nate in connection with the three murdered men, he travels widely in an effort to protect those he cares about, especially the Pickett family.

The reason Nate is being targeted is something he witnessed many years before while on assignment in Pakistan. His fellow Special Forces member and commander is now afraid that a prior, dastardly act that might now be divulged could harm his chances at a big government contract. It is the reason Nate has been hiding all these years. Frankly, I thought the act was a bit too much and way far out. But despite that, the novel is well worth reading, and is recommended.

Blue Monday
Nicci French
Penguin Books
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143122722, $16.00,

This novel, whose protagonist, Frieda Klein, is a psychotherapist, is promised to be the first of a new series of psychological thrillers authored by this husband-and-wife team. It has the makings of an interesting work, but it seems to me that Frieda, whose profession is helping other people to cope with life, needs a lot of help herself, which makes for a lot of ambiguity and confusion.

At the heart of the plot is the disappearance of two children a couple of decades apart, and somehow Frieda, while treating a patient, divines clues to help the police solve the two kidnappings. Of course, the idea seems to be based on solid psychology principles, but appears to be contrived.

Maybe the plot is too complex and Frieda a too-complicated personality for the reader to sustain undivided interest. On the other hand, it is interesting and one hopes another effort will be more rewarding.

The Bat
Jo Nesbo, Translated by Don Bartlett
Harvill Secker
c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd.
London SW1V2SA, England
9781846556005, 13.99 BPS,

[It should be noted that this book is presently available only in/through the UK/Canada, with an anticipated US publication date by Vintage Books in July of 2013]

Seven Harry Hole mysteries have appeared in English, and now the first in the series has been published in that language. In it are the seeds of the future installments about the Norwegian detective, apparently the only one in the country with experience of having solved a case of serial murder. It begins in this debut novel when Harry is sent to Australia after a young Norwegian woman was found raped and murdered. His instructions: to observe and not get in too deep.

Of course, Harry can't resist when it becomes obvious that any number of unsolved rapes and murders with a similar MO have occurred Down Under and the police are unaware of the fact and have no clues. And in his inimitable manner, Harry jumps in with both feet. Along the way, he learns about Australia, its culture, and its people, both white and indigenous.

"The Bat" is the foundation of the Harry Hole series, from which future novels evolved. It has all the excellent attributes of the books already published, and Harry's character is defined. However, it was a first effort, and, as such, might have used rewriting and editing to a greater extent. There are long tracts and descriptions that read like a travelogue which add little to the over-all story. Nevertheless, it reads well and is a welcome addition to the series. Now, all that remains to hope for is an English translation of "The Cockroaches," the second novel in the series, and a new Harry Hole book as well.


The Shadow Girls
Henning Mankell
Translated by Ebba Segerberg
The New Press
38 Greene St., NY, NY 10013
9781595581921, $26.95,
9781846556722, 12.99 BPS

(UK ed., Harvill Secker, c/o Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 28A, England,

Henning Mankell is widely known for his Kurt Wallender crime series, as well as for his deep social conscience. In his various novels and other works, he has exhibited his concerns on a wide assortment of such issues. In this novel, he turns his attention to the plight of immigrants seeking permanent asylum in Sweden.

The protagonist seems to be a writer of obscure poetry, Jesper Humlin, whose books account for little sales. His publisher provides a light touch to the book, insisting he write a crime novel which would sell many more copies. Of course, he refuses. Instead, Humlin becomes involved with three immigrant girls, two of whom are undocumented. Listening to them tell their stories, he learns of their attempts to leave their homeland and sneak into Sweden. As a result, he determines to write a book about them.

This then is the thrust of "The Shadow Girls." It is a dry polemic. But more importantly, the three girls who relate their tales in italicized segments use language that seemed to this reader as not likely available to uneducated persons. Clearly, it is the voice of the author and might as well be non-fiction. The novel's purpose is laudable, especially in view of the current efforts to do something about immigration policy in the United States. But it really is not a piece of fiction. The only reason to consider recommending it is that it is written by Henning Mankell.

Lehrter Station
David Downing
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952204, $15.95,

Five months after the fall of Berlin, this chronicle of the adventures of John Russell, the Anglo-American journalist, and his paramour, Effi Koene, the actress, continues. Four previous "Station" novels carried them through the pre-war years in Berlin to Russell's escape to England. Now, his former Russian spymaster sort of blackmails him into returning to Berlin as a spy for both the Reds and the Americans. To sugarcoat the request, Effi is offered a starring role in a soon-to-be-made motion picture.

The couple returns to a devastated city, where the only rate of exchange seems to be cigarettes and sex. No food, housing or other essentials, but a thriving black market. The story continues with the history of the immediate post-war, including the beginnings of the Cold War and the plight of surviving Jews, with the British reluctance to allow emigration to Palestine and the Zionists' attempt to get around the roadblocks.

The series is more than just run-of-the-mill espionage stories, but a reflection of the time and people in an era of mass murder and terrible war and its aftermath. The descriptions of the rubble that was Berlin after the Allied bombings and the Russian rape (it is said that there were as many as 80,000) is terrifying. And the depiction of the duplicity of the U.S. and Soviet intelligence agencies is despicable, especially when they overlooked Nazi backgrounds when they served a purpose. Presumably, there is room for a new effort in the series, and we look forward to it.


The Panther
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446580847, $27.99

It must get harder and harder for an author to sustain a popular series. In time, the characters become long in the tooth, and the plots more difficult to create. Such is the case in this 600-plus-page novel in the John Corey/Kate Mayfield series. This time, following the last adventure in which they killed The Lion, the husband-and-wife team is tasked with finding an American, known as The Panther, who returned to Yemen to lead an al Qaeda terrorist group.

Apparently The Panther was instrumental in planning the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the Anti-Terrorist Task Force asks the pair to travel to the Middle Eastern country as part of a small group to apprehend or assassinate The Panther. The theory, of course, is that the suspect could not resist the lure of the possibility of capturing the killers of The Lion. So they go, and the novel plods on, describing various aspects of the search for the target and conditions in the Yemeni capital and second city, as well as descriptions of conditions in the tribal lands.

Not only is the book heavy, but so is the story. It surely could have been reduced to half the size and been made more readable. Much of it is repetitive, and Cory's wisecracks are becoming tiresome, not very amusing, as if the author is trying too hard. It's too bad, because Mr. DeMille has certainly written some fine novels, and is capable of much more than writing a continuing commercial effort.

Live by Night
Dennis Lehane
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060004873, $27.99,

There is an old cliche about the prostitute with a heart of gold. This same thought can apply to the main character in this novel, a gangster who is, nonetheless, almost too good to be true. But the book is so well-written and -constructed that it would be a shame to arrive at that conclusion. It is a movingly built tale encased in a reconstruction of a unique period in American history.

Joe Coughlin, the son of the deputy superintendent of the Boston Police Department, probably could have achieved success in a legitimate manner, except the path was not to his liking. Instead he chose to be an outlaw, and eventually part of the Boston mob, and later the boss of operations in Florida and along the southern coast to New Orleans. What made this possible, of course, was Prohibition, which was the basis for bootlegging, as well as gang wars and murders. He is distinguished from his counterparts by his use of brains (brawn is a reluctant fallback) and hopefully doing good by giving some of his ill-gained profits back to society.

The story follows Joe's life from Boston to Florida and Cuba, his loves, schemes, betrayals, achievements and failures. One can quibble about how the novel concludes, but the sweep is still of epic proportions. It is a welcome addition to the author's chronicling of 20th century America, and it is recommended.

Paradise City
Archer Mayor
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312681951, $25.99,

A Joe Gunther novel can be counted on for tight dialogue and a detail-oriented police procedural. That is the case in this latest addition to the series, which begins with a burglary in Boston. The investigation soon spreads to Northampton and Vermont, where a similar string of burglaries has taken place. What is strange, however, is that the usual targeted items such as TVs and computers are left behind, and jewelry and silver go missing.

Somehow the Vermont and Boston capers are brought to the attention of Joe and his VBI team, and they follow a rumor that Northampton is a key to the mystery. So everyone convenes in the Massachusetts town and follow the trail.

As in the past, this book's characters are well-drawn, and the surroundings are pictured graphically and delightfully. The plot is finely drawn, although the conclusion is less than surprising. But Joe Gunther remains one of the more interesting protagonists around, and the novel is recommended.

The Fallen
Jassy Mackenzie
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952174, $14.95,

P.I. Jade de Jong organizes a vacation to a seaside resort with her erstwhile lover, David Patel, only to get involved in a murder investigation and a potential ecological disaster. Some vacation, further complicated by the fact that when David does show up he tells her he is returning to his four-months pregnant wife. So much for a happy trip

Before David's arrival, Jade was taking scuba diving lessons and attempting to overcome her fear of underwater activities. Her instructor, Amanda, is soon knifed to death. Jade and David undertake to assist the local police in the investigation, hindered by an organized crime conspiracy.

A continuing theme in this series is Jade's attempts to learn more about her mother, who died when she was merely a year old in the very area in which she is now vacationing. This novel, as its predecessors, is set in South Africa. But unlike the former entries in the series, there is much less emphasis on that country's post-apartheid era and more on greed and revenge unrelated to that part of the nation's history.

As a rip-roaring heroine, Jade is still in the forefront of rugged protagonists. The book is a careful examination of the subjects and a superb thriller. Recommended.

The Jewels of Paradise
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802120644, $25.00,

For the first time, Donna Leon has written a standalone novel after so many successful and popular Commissario Brunetti mysteries. Apparently opera is the author's other passion, and so a once famous 17th century Italian Baroque composer, Steffani, serves as the focal point of this novel, set in the familiar Venice that serves so well in the Brunetti series, but to this reviewer hardly adds to this story.

When two trunks containing the composer's last worldly goods arrive in Venice, two cousins claim them as inheritance, tracing their ancestry back to Steffani. They retain an attorney who draws up a contract and persuades them to retain a researcher to determine which of the two sides of the family Steffani may have favored. They agree with his recommendation of "winner take all," and Caterina Pellegrini is lured from her position at the University of Manchester to study the contents of the trunks.

Thus the novel progresses as Caterina studies documents and researches the historical background in the library, uncovering little about any supposed treasure in the trunks, but a lot of information on the composer's life and, of course, the music. The detail is overwhelming. And the question is: Was this trip necessary when the time and effort could have been applied to another Brunetti mystery? It's not that the writing is not of the same high quality of past Donna Leon novels. Nor that the plot is wanting. It's just that "The Jewels of Paradise" is not as amusing or intriguing as we've become accustomed to in a work by this author. It is, however, an interesting effort. (It should perhaps be added that the next Brunetti novel, "The Golden Egg," will be published in April, 2013.)

Death and the Maiden
Frank Tallis
Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780812983340, $15.00,

The psychoanalyst Max Liebermann/detective Oskar Rheinhardt series continues in old Vienna with the discovery of a renowned opera singer dead, an apparent suicide. Except that the detective doesn't like the way she is lying on a rug. It seems too neat. So he continues to look into the matter, and the autopsy confirms his suspicion: she was murdered.

In the course of their investigations, Max (and the author) are given many opportunities to exhibit their interest in music, including visits to the Court Opera and close association with Director Gustav Mahler. More attention is paid to how Mahler conducts the orchestra and performers than to a couple of murders. But then, perhaps, it is of more interest than that of the demised characters.

The time is prior to World War I, and the background of the closing days of the Hapsburg monarchy and the rise of anti-Semitism in Viennese politics is graphically portrayed. And, of course, Sigmund Freud and his theories (and jokes) make their usual appearance. And could it be: Can Max and Amelia finally get together? Read the novel and find out.

Somehow, "Death and the Maiden" is not as satisfying as the preceding entries in the series. But it is still an interesting read, and it is recommended.

Mad River
John Sandford
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399157707, $27.95,

The chase is on. Non-stop.

Virgil Flowers, the top investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, takes on another weird case when a murder is discovered, followed by a trail of several more. It quickly is determined that three young people are on a murder spree, and just about everyone in law enforcement, with reinforcements from the National Guard, is deployed to find them before another person is killed.

The plot involves locating the perpetrators with sub-plots occupying some of Virgil's analytical thinking. Not much is in doubt as far as the story is concerned, just an exciting chase. There could even be a western movie or a television show in its future.

Mr. Sanford knows how to write a crime novel, and keeps the pace moving forward to keep the reader's interest. There really are few twists to the novel, which is more or less, in straightforward fashion, an exciting police procedural.


Robert B. Parker's Lullaby
Ace Atkins
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425260982, $9.99,

It is completely understandable that publishers and families would be reluctant to give up a long-standing franchise. In the case of Dick Francis, at least, his son Felix, who did research for many of the father's novels, then co-wrote them before taking over alone, keeping it not only in the family but on a par with the originals, had a full basic grounding. Ace Atkins, a successful author in his own right, was picked to keep Robert B. Parker's Spenser series alive and well.

The plot involves a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Sullivan, who visits Spenser's office one day to hire him to find her mother's murderer, which murder had occurred four years earlier. Upon his reluctance to take on such a case, she goads him into looking into the case file, in which Spenser finds an open-and-shut case against the man convicted of the crime. The girl says she saw two thugs force her mother into a car the night she was killed, and is not only convinced they are the murderers but that the wrong man is in jail. She continues to force Spenser to pursue the case and he does, along with Hawk, Vinnie, Belson and Quirk, Parker's well defined characters.

Well, the action and story progression is in keeping with Parker, with Spenser quips and Hawk comebacks peppered throughout. I for one do not ever remember Parker using profane language, which gratuitously permeates this book. Maybe Atkins thought it would endear his efforts to a new generation numb to such language. If so, perhaps he should rethink this technique. On the whole, the approach is heavy-handed, and not as subtle as that of the master. Nor is the prose as terse and sharp. If one is to make a judgment, based on this initial endeavor, practice may not become perfect.

The Jaguar
T. Jefferson Parker
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451239112, $15.00,

While this novel continues the series with Charlie Hood, the Los Angeles deputy sheriff and ATF agent, he plays a relatively minor role in the plot. Here he is more of a messenger carrying $1 million through Mexico to ransom Erin McKenna, wife of LA County sheriff's deputy Bradley McKenna and a popular singer and songwriter who has been kidnapped by a gang of narcos and brought to the Yucatan castle home of the cartel leader, Benjamin Armenta. The story is, of course, of her experience as a captive, and the attempts to rescue her given the time limit within which Charlie must deliver the ransom.

While the descriptions of Erin's captivity and the surroundings of the "castle" itself are well-drawn, the closing chapters seem almost perfunctory in the writing; Erin's rescue is almost reduced to an afterthought; and the concluding portions sought presented with little foundation.

The novel continues the saga of the cross-border narcotics flow on a much different level. It really is a tale of a diverse set of characters, good or evil. And the reader ends up wondering who, with perhaps the exception of Erin, is which. Nothing and no one is what it seems.

Night Watch
Linda Fairstein
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451416148, $9.99,

Two characteristics of the Alex Cooper series are a crime based on real events and inclusion of some landmark or aspect of New York City. This novel is no exception. The crime is a thinly disguised recap of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair in which the former managing director of the World Bank was accused by a hotel chamber-maid of attempted rape. The landmark is a loose one in this case, the former renowned restaurant Lutece, allowing the author to include a lot about the eatery business.

The story begins with Alex taking a vacation with her lover, Luc, in southern France, where he has a three-star restaurant. Le Relais a Mougins. In previous books, his plan to open a new Lutece in Manhattan was unveiled, and in this book the project begins to come to fruition. A former bookkeeper at Le Relais is found dead, setting up the subplot involving Luc, especially when a waiter supposedly recruiting for Lutece turns up with his throat slashed in the Gowanus canal in Brooklyn.

Somehow, the stories don't fully come up to the level of previous novels, especially Cooper's sidekicks, detectives Chapman and Wallace. The usual touches, including Jeopardy questions and the like, permeate the story, but perhaps the DSK affair is still too fresh in one's mind to have it practically repeated here, bogging down the other plot which seems to receive short shrift and perfunctory treatment. Still, Ms. Fairstein, as always, tells a good story, and so "Night Watch" is recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design