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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 8 August 2006 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Arlene's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betsy's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf Blake's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Catherine's Bookshelf Connie's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Emanuel's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Jason's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Lowe's Bookshelf Magdalena's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Mona's Bookshelf Norton's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Roe's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Volk's Bookshelf Zinta's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Old Masters: Great Artists in Old Age
Thomas Dormady
Hambledon and London
102 Gloucester Avenue, London NWI 8HX
838 Broadway, New York, New York, NY 10003-4812
ISBN: 1852852909, $29.95

Dr. Alma H. Bond, Reviewer

Donatello, Titian, Hals, Turner, Renoir and Munch, and a surprisingly large number of artists lived to be over 75. Some of their finest and most distinctive works, including Michelangelo's last Pieta, Goya's Black paintings and Monet's Water Lilies were done in old age. Whether experimenting with new approaches, adopting new techniques, responding to changed circumstances and debilities, or reacting to the approach of death, the intensity of the late work of many of the greatest artists is striking. Childhood genius has often been studied but, astonishingly, this is the first book to draw attention to a considerably more important artistic phenomenon. Old Masters establishes beyond doubt the frequency with which elderly painters and sculptors reached new heights in their seventies and eighties and suggests why and how they did so.

"Old Masters: Great Artists in Old Age," by Thomas Dormady, is a highly original book, which seems to have something in it for everyone. People who like biography, those interested in the lives of great artists, history buffs, individuals who are curious about biological aging, and those hardy souls who wish to learn how and why some people live longer than others, should find a storehouse of treasures in this book. The author, who is a physician specializing in biological aging as well as a successful artist, has written in a style easily read by intelligent lay readers. He also has a delightfully subtle sense of humor which added greatly to this reader's pleasure.

The major portion of the book, "Artists in Old Age," goes deeply into the lives, loves, and work of 10 artists, in order to understand the source of their late-life creativity. Since the meaning of "old" is elusive and often changes according to period and place, the author included only long-lived artists of the first rank, who died no younger than the age of 75. He excluded artists who were still alive, and those who died after 1955, in order to avoid including art valued because of passing fads or private passions.

Each biography is a tour de force, and when read in conjunction with the works of the various artists on the Internet, a visual as well as an intellectual treat. The author takes the reader on a tour through the lives and productivity of each artist, and demonstrates how his work had changed and grown in his later years. Perhaps the words of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), a Japanese artist known mostly for his magnificent "Views of Fuji," will best explain the philosophy of this book. "Although I had produced numerous designs by my 50th year, none of my work done before my seventieth is really worth counting. At the age of 73 I have come to understand the true forms of animals, insects and fish and the nature of plants and trees. Consequently, by the age of 86 I will have made more and more progress, and at ninety I will have got significantly closer to the essence of art. At the age of 100 I will have reached a magnificent level and at 110 each dot and each line will be alive." He also said, "If Heaven will grant me but 10 more years, I promise to be a truly great artist. I have only just learnt (sic) how to hold a brush properly. Even with 5 more years..." Perhaps it was Hokusai's will to live and grow that accounted in part for the fact that he alone of all the artists in the book, lived to the age of 89.

Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto (1518-1594) seems to have had other factors that accounted for his remarkable creativity in old age. He was the last in a line of long-lived artists whose lives spanned 160 years, the golden age of Venetian art. In contrast to the stereotype of an artist who has to starve in a garret in order to be able to paint, he had a long and happy marriage, and was a devout Christian with a regularly paid stipend. An astute businessman, he also was supremely confident of his talents. With him, carnal pleasures abounded. For example, his "Last Supper" was not a frugal, take-away meal in the tradition of Leonardo da Vinci's dull painting, as in an institutional dining-hall. "The foreground is a riot. A sideboard groans under dishes which suggest a banquet. Male and female servants scurry around. Dogs sniff at baskets of food. Bottles of wine stand in readiness on the marble-tiled floor. The Apostles sit, stand, pray, exclaim in wonderment and recoil overcome with emotion. Christ stands two-thirds up the table just off-centre, a diminutive figure compared to the bulk of the servant attending to a gigantic tureen...The profanity of the setting only serves to intensify the mystery of the sacrament"(p. 28).

Another artist who loved the good life was Frans Hals (1580-1666). "His unblended brush strokes and his slapdash execution, clear reflections of a wanton and feckless character"were regularly held up as warnings to students (p. 31). Nevertheless, his "feckless character" didn't seem to hurt his art, nor cut short his long and successful life. According to Dormandy (p.35) "No great painter ever took such obvious delight in his artistry or displayed his skill with such swank."Hals "wielded a cheerful brush," and in his old age his brush did not fumble, nor did he lose any of his sureness of touch. Although the Hals industry had been in full swing for a century, it took President Eisenhower to catapult Hals into one of the most popular painters ever. When the president was discovered by an enterprising Washington Post journalist to be painting "The Laughing Cavalier" by numbers, it triggered off the biggest painting boom in history.

Francisco Goya (1746-1828) is known as a "painters' painter," He remains the most liberating artist of the modern age, as well as a great purveyor of horror. He was 75 when he painted a battle scene entitled "3 May 1808" which once seen, can never be forgotten. Military force has always been represented by stylized repetition, in contrast to the disorderly huddle of the victims. In Goya's painting (p. 68), "the victors are perfectly aligned, totally disciplined, without a flicker of individual human interest - and deadly. The victims lie about like sacks of rubbish, defeated and futile. But not, in Goya's incandescent vision, completely futile. The death of the man whose white shirt ignites the scene is both a crucifixion and a resurrection. The message is not specifically Christian or even religious. "It is a universal affirmation of the ultimate triumph of the individual against all the odds over dehumanized evil." In the light of the Terrorist attacks on the United States, this painting should be imprinted in the minds of every American.

One painter who did not come into his own until old age was Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). He had always been preoccupied with public duties, with exacting masters to please, and historic moments to commemorate. In the exile of his last years, he found himself with no sermons to preach. To his surprise, this came as a great relief. "I had a good summer," he wrote his son. "I enjoyed painting."He had never used colors and graceful lines to better effect. What makes the paintings of his old age an inspiration is the sense of inner conviction they portray. An artist can paint well only what he feels. What David understood and painted only in his old age were the simple emotions of the sadness of parting, young love, the joys of a happy marriage, the bliss of young motherhood, as well as the pleasures of casual conquest. To dramatize these truthfully requires as much artistry as the portrayal of heroic virtue. This great truth did not dawn on David until he reached his senior years.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was another artist in love with life, who had a wonderfully happy marriage. Although he was already crippled at 60 by a painful and relentlessly progressing illness, he continued to grow in his work and in his life. Perhaps the secret of his phenomenal success is that he had no ideological hang-ups, and refused to adjust his style of life and painting to suit his dealers. Despite being a physical burden on those around him, he engendered deep love in them. It was not until his final years that he completely fulfilled himself, as he created a different world that was entirely his own. An interesting incident took place on the morning he died from pneumonia. Although he had a bad pain in his chest and could barely breathe, he asked for his paint box and brushes. Then he began to paint the anemones his nurse had gathered. He painted for almost an hour, when he whispered a few words about having discovered something. A few hours later he stopped breathing. We will never know what great revelation he may have beheld.

Unlike the other artists mentioned, Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) was a late starter who exhibited his first important sculpture when he was 41. He was 73 when he met Dina Vierny, a young woman of 15, of an "untamed and yet well-bred beauty" (p. 133). He understood immediately that at last he had found his ideal of feminine beauty. She then became the model for his last and greatest creations. He died at 83. Dormandy comments that one does not usually consider the death of an 83 year-old artist as "untimely," but Maillol in his last sculptures seemed to be on the threshold of a new and exciting phase. What a pity the world is deprived of the potential results of this period! Dina Vierny has devoted the rest of her life to extolling the creations of Maillol. She donated her collection of his art to the French state. It is now housed in the Musee Maillol, over which Mme. Vierny still presides.

Although Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was known for his genius in expressing repressed sexuality (i.e. "Puberty") and deep psychological insights (i.e. the "Split Personality of the Mephistopheles Series") he coped with a new ghost, that of growing old, differently from his peers. As in earlier periods of his life, Munch handled his fears by painting them. In his senior years he created masterpieces which documented the loneliness of old age. His self portrait: "Between Bed and Clock," shows the artist confronting his last ghost. In the painting, only a slight bowing of the trouser legs is an instant marker of old age. Yet who but Munch would have thought of painting it? Departing life is part of the human condition. Munch shows us that hemmed in as we are between the clock and the bed, we have no choice.

Dormandy gives many reasons why creativity flourishes during the old age of artists, including having more free time to create, improved financial conditions, the pressure of the fleeting moment, the sense of liberation that comes to many great artists in their last decades, and the commitment to truth. But most of all, he believes that old age brings about a slow and mysterious realignment of inner forces which impel human beings to create. He calls these forces "the mainsprings of creation" (p.197). Because they are difficult to trace and impossible to quantify, they are usually ignored. But, Dormandy says, it is these unknown forces that are more important in the lives of most long-lived artists than all the external circumstances put together.

Thomas Dormady is also the author of: The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis (1999), which was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize, author of over 200 scientific papers and books, and recipient of numerous scientific and medical honours. The mechanism of biological ageing has been one of his main research interests. He has also had several successful one-man exhibitions of his art.

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
Chris Moore
Harper Paperbacks
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 006056668X, $13.95, 336 pp.

Barry Allen

Nathan Quinn, a marine biologists has been working with whales for years, trying to figure out the meaning behind their songs. On a typical day with a new assistant at his side, he sees something that blows his mind. Scrawled across the back underside of the tail, he believes he sees the words, "BITE ME." To make matters worse no one else has seen the fabled letters.

Fighting insanity, he tries to unravel a mystery that goes back who know how long, joining Jonah's people, and going on an extraordinary adventure to an underwater city full of stange creatures, where he discovers the secret behind the winged whale songs.

Fluke is a "Save the Whales" propaganda book that reads like a cross between Douglas Adams and Tom Robbins. It starts normal, but goes off the deep end by the third part, and the reader is thrown into a Science Fiction world the likes of which has never been seen or read about.

The Wild Girl: The Note Books of Ned Giles 1932
Jim Fergus
Hyperion Press
ISBN: 1401300545, $23.95, 368 pp.

Bernadine Fawcett

Hold on to on your seat! "The Wild Girl" will give you quite a ride through Apache country, war, and ways. Jim Fergus, the author, has imaginatively woven myths/history into a gripping "can't put it down" until the last sentence. It leaves you with wanting the novelist to continue his wonderful ability to weave another intricate chapter. The main character, Ned Giles was orphaned by the death of his mother and the suicide of his father is left with a camera which begins the adventures of his lifetime, and the reader's enjoyment to discover why the Wild Girl becomes central to the story.

Picture Perfect
Jane Vollbrecht
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1594930155, $12.95, 207 pp.

Cheri Rosenberg

In her first published novel, Jane Vollbrecht shows that with love and the will, there is a way to overcome adversity and even find romance when life events block the path. What should be a distressing look at how Alzheimer's type dementia wreaks havoc on a family is, in fact, a life-affirming account of how two brave women deal with a dreadful disease that afflicts their fathers. Picture Perfect, a worthy finalist for a 2005 GCLS Literary Award, has earned its place among books of substance. Vollbrecht is an author to watch, as she is getting off to an impressive start.

With hopes of making junior partner, Katherine Lorraine Bingham (Kate) prides herself on her accomplishments as she climbs the corporate ladder of an Atlanta-based accounting firm. Although Kate grew up on a farm, she becomes a bona fide city girl who manages to fall in love with a country girl. Kate is reacquainted with Kayrun Clarice (Casey) when she goes to the hills of North Carolina to visit Nora Marsden, an old friend, former co-worker, and Casey's mother. Kate never counted on having feelings for the younger woman, who is actually closer to her age than Nora is, but sparks fly, and the attraction is mutual.

Kate has suffered a devastating break-up, which leaves her clueless as to what went wrong. Casey is not looking for love when she sees Kate again, but they form a bond, at first based on friendship and commonalities, but resulting in so much more.

Casey's father suffers from Alzheimer's, and her mother is in denial about the severity of his condition. Kate understands all too well the rocky road ahead for the Marsdens. "Although [Kate's] own father had been dead for more than six years, she was never more than a fleeting reminder away from reliving the horror of watching him die, synapse by synapse, as his brain rotted from the inside out. By the time it was done, he had forgotten how to do every single thing that constituted living" (p. 26).

Picture Perfect is touching, sweet, believable, vivid, and has plenty of humor to keep it from being completely depressing. After all, Alzheimer's disease isn't a picnic. Vollbrecht does a fine job of tapping into the human condition and the emotions that accompany it in a well-written novel equipped with romance between memorable characters and well-plotted action. Dealing with ill parents is never easy for the children who end up switching roles with their elders, but Casey does an admirable job of taking on the arduous task with amazing strength and valor. Having Kate's help is the one thing Casey comes to count on, but can their love survive Kate's professional ambitions?

While Picture Perfect is a truly satisfying romance, it is not simply a glorified lesbian love story. By showing how love helps conquer all, or at least how it makes life's adversities more tolerable, Vollbrecht provides the reader with just the right mix of pathos, information, and narrative to bring the reader into the story.

With love scenes that don't need to be graphic to convey the intense love and lust between these two women, characters you'll become invested in, and a story with a moral that reminds us what's important in life, Picture Perfect proves that Jane Vollbrecht is an author who has already left her mark on lesbian fiction. I am looking forward to Heart Trouble, (scheduled for release in August 2006), Dykes in the Daylight (February 2007), Close Enough (May 2007), Second Verse (November 2007), and anything else penned by this talented and prolific author.

Firefly Cloak
Sheri Reynolds
Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0609610082, $23.00, 285 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

Tessa Lee is one of those saddest of all people, a child abandoned by her mother. Her mother Sheila, a distracted and self-absorbed addict, left them alone in a campground with their grandmother's telephone number written with permanent marker on the bare back of Tessa Lee's younger brother, Travis. "She (Sheila) hoped that God understood she'd had to leave. If she'd stayed behind, those children would've sucked her dry." (p145) When she left Sheila wrapped the two sleeping children in her robe, gaily printed with scurrying fireflies. Tessa Lee had always loved it and called it her firefly cloak. She clung to it and wore it as often as she could; it reminded her of Sheila.

The authorities alerted grandmother Lil who came and rescued them and took them into her small trailer where she lived with her husband, Lewis. Both pragmatic realists, they took on the new responsibilities with good humor and waved goodbye to their dreams of a carefree retirement. They grew to love the children and the little family became a close and happy one despite the yearning the children experienced for their mother.

One day a relative came and told Lil he had seen Sheila working in a side show as a mermaid in a town just two hours away. He presented Lil with a picture of Sheila on a flyer from the show. Tessa Lee was not supposed to have heard them but she did. She took the flyer and disappeared for a few days in search of her mother and the museum/side show. She found Sheila in a window dressed as a mermaid and confronted her. The sight of a girl addressing her as Momma sent Sheila on an emotional race to escape. "the girl outside in her firefly cloak called her 'Momma,' "recognized her, just like that. Damn her." (p39) Sheila was scared to death at being confronted with her past, the past she was trying so hard to put out of he mind. She ran away and the following day Tessa Lee could not find her. Lil had no idea where Tessa Lee had gone and was very worried. She knew someone could easily take advantage of Tessa Lee's youth and inexperience. However, Rash, a young green-haired denizen of the area who Tessa Lee had met advised her, "Call your granny and tell her to pick you up from the arcade." (p54).

We are given a glimpse into the life of Sheila lost in her hopeless world of addiction. She woke one morning lying on the ground in the rain. She wanted to get up and find shelter but she felt very weak and, in addition, didn't know where to go. "Her head felt big and swollen, a monstrous thing about to break, an egg with a dinosaur inside it. She kept her eyes closed, but there was light behind them, and she could almost see through her eyelids, two eyes looking at her." (p54).

This is a gripping story revealing the angst, sadness and terrible loneliness inflicted on the family of an addict. No one understood Sheila's choices certainly not she. When Sheila found herself alone once again she thought, "There was no reason for her to stay, but she couldn't go. Someone else was running her show." (p276) Someone else was always running her show.

The Diary Of A Rapist
Evan S. Connell
North Point Press
San Francisco, CA
ISBN: 0865473080, $8.95, 252 pp.

Dan Schneider, Reviewer

Evan S. Connell's The Diary Of A Rapist fails as a novel for two large reasons. First, is the technical reason that its usage of small diary entries limits the point of view of his narrator, the rapist Earl Summerfield, which necessitates his not portraying fully his own predicament because the character simply cannot. By contrast, in Connell's two masterpieces of prose, Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, the short sections, written in an omniscient mode, allowed a brushstroke technique that slowly built indelible portraits in poetic touches. But, even were the tale to have been told in a more conventional manner, or in the same style that Connell sketched the Bridges, the work would still fail because Connell is unable to fundamentally grasp the mind of a criminal, or the concept of evil, instead relying on the worst narrative cliches imaginable.

The tale is rather simple: in an unspecified year, presumably the mid-sixties (the book was published in 1966), a miserable twenty-six, then twenty-seven, year old clerk, at a California State Unemployment Bureau in San Francisco, hates his thirty-three year old fat wife Bianca, a schoolteacher and later Vice Principal, and lusts for a younger prettier girl he eventually rapes. He does not meet her until well into the year and instead of portraying a mundane soul with violent outbursts, the archetypal rapist, Connell sketches Summerfield as if he were a schizoid from day one. Worse, the rapist is somehow aware of his schizophrenia, and able to convey it in his diary, which makes it all the less unrealistic a premise. What makes certain criminals truly scary is how truly average they are, not how deranged and bizarre. Yes, Summerfield is a loser, as are many violent criminals, but if you met him in real life you could see his twitching, oddities, and incoherent ramblings a mile away, and run for cover. Connell indulges other cliches: Summerfield hates his job, obsesses over violence, is paranoid of his wife's snooping, sees himself as morally superior, is envious of others' successes, fancies himself a great man, a poet, an artist, etc. Having known many criminals, including rapists, this simply is a Hollywood version of a rapist, not a real version. Connell has always been a bit of a maverick in the publishing world, but this book reads like a bad screenplay that was turned down once too often, and got worse and more trite with rewrites, then was tried to be salvaged in novel form. After the rape, of course, Summerfield loses his mind and soul into utter incoherence.

Perhaps in the mid-1960s, right before the horrors of Vietnam were to scar the country, this may have seemed a bold literary ploy, but Summerfield is far too trite a character to be real and instill any true fear in anyone- be it reader or occupant of his universe. And in order to capture his dullness, Connell has excised almost all prose poetry from the work, yet he does not go over the top enough with the violence. Even the rape is handled in psychobabbled mumbo-jumbo, only after a silence the day the first one occurs. The novel that this book is most often compared to, Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 American Psycho, is apt only in that both works fail. Ellis's book details the true insanity of a total psychotic who fantasizes he's a serial killer. While extreme in the internal violence, and barren of any real writerly skill, there is a rawness and psychological reality to the tone of that book's lead character, Patrick Bateman, that Earl Summerfield could and should be infused with. Instead, his male sexuality is neutered, as if presaging the absurd Feminist claim that rape has nothing to do with sex. It does, ladies, that's why it's a sex crime, but Summerfield's 'diary' reads like a hodgepodge of Freudian nonsense meant to deny the basis and cause of the character's criminal nature. Where The Diary Of A Rapist should have an edge on American Psycho- its writer's superior prose style, it does not, because Connell plays it far too safe, and gives a paint by numbers approach to the mind of Summerfield. He is paranoid, breaks and enters dwellings, and eventually obsesses over a beauty queen named Mara St. John. Here is one of his descriptions of her:

Then that bitch in the bathing suit climbed up on the stage wearing a cardboard crown & carrying a scepter, went parading back and forth to show off her tits. No shame. No modesty. Program said she was a dramatics student at University of California- Mara St. Johns. She looked to me like one of those professional sluts from Hollywood. If she isn't the symbol of American rottenness, what is?

Now, think about this. Connell's rapist is desexualized, does not seemingly fantasize nor masturbate, and loathes the rote sex he has with his wife, yet he fixates on a beauty queen, not some mousy girl he works with. Even more laughably Freudian, Summerfield is a transvestite who dresses in his wife's clothes, when alone, looking in a mirror, and fancying that only exceptional men do such a thing, for they are always more like women, whom he sees as shrews that dominate men. These tidbits argue against the very desexualization of Summerfield Connell posits in other aspects of the tale. This is a schism, the sort that rents the portrait Connell attempts, and makes it all the more unreal. I doubt that there has ever been a true chronicle of a sexual predator, in police files, as desexualized as Connell's protagonist. In looking up some of the original reviews for the book I came across this trite one from the New York Times: 'He knows all the colors of darkness and the full sound of the heart's anguish.' Well, perhaps in the Bridge novels, but not in this very disappointing book. One might say it's a good thing that Connell so poorly imbues his subject with realism, for writers are supposed to write what they know best, and Connell's manifest ignorance of sexual violence can only be seen in a positive personal light. But, it makes for both sententious and tendentious reading. The only positive I can think of for the book is that it shows Connell as a writer who refuses artistic stasis, and always experiments. Still, successful experiments are worthy, while failed ones should not see print.

The first time Summerfield rapes Mara, on the Fourth Of July, it is presaged with his violent fantasies over two of his wife's young female tutored students - Robin and Twinka, and the actual daily entry is left blank. Ugh! Only over the next few days and weeks and months do we get the hints of what occurred:

She closed around me like a glove, I can't forget. At least not yet. Wobbling through each day wishing she was my wife - might as well admit it. I blame her for what happened, I feel no sense of guilt. Want her to admire me, still I'm disgusted by what she's done- thinking of how clumsily she struggled & the mindless stupefaction of her gaze.

This behavior is so unlike rapists who brag of their 'conquests' that one suspects Connell has never had a dark sexual urge himself. As months pass, and the year winds down there is nothing but murk, inside Summerfield, and in the body of the narrative. Summerfield's entries get shorter and more and more predictable- with Jack the Ripper like fantasies as this:

Those shears an inch from her throat, suddenly I felt a wish to marry her- I never dreamed that, God knows! I almost asked the slut. Would have, I think, but was afraid she'd start to laugh. Maybe she wouldn't laugh at me. I don't know. It's too late now, she hates me. Hates all men because of me. I didn't have any right to do what I did – it was wrong. But of course on the other hand it's what she deserved. She's a vile dirty little bitch. I should have ripped open her belly and snapped a picture of the mess – sent it to the Chronicle. Everybody ought to see exactly what she is. Exactly what she is. Everybody ought to see. That's right.

And if not that, then Biblical brimstone spouting, and possibly another rape near the end of the year. Then, the entries thin out, and we are not sure whether or not Earl has been caught or commits suicide - although the latter seems the more likely, due to the text of earlier entries. The last entry is on Christmas, December 25th:

In the sight of our Lord I must be one of many.

Yet, the idea that any rapist would suicide, be it over guilt or any other reason, is just not plausible in the main, and certainly not for the character that Connell sketches in this book. Even though we know little of Summerfield's past, the idea of this raging mess of a man suddenly giving up seems more like wishful moralizing by Connell than a genuine character study. All in all, the end only reinforces the phoniness of the whole portrait. Summerfield is neither the impotent unerotic rager that Feminists believe all rapists to be, nor is he the sexual priapic that others posit. He is neither, and thus a cipher of a character, even as Connell tries to portray him as a cipher of a person.

In short, The Diary Of A Rapist is merely a poor imitation of a true exploration of human evil, and, coming from a writer as talented as Connell, a profound disappointment, yet, oddly emblemic of his up and down, hit and miss, career. The basic conceit of the book fails because the references to himself as Earl Summerfield, as well as the many incidents offstage, are too self-consciously detailed and unlike any real diary. The whole novel reeks of artifice, lacking even the accidental poesy a real diary might have, in its relentless and focused drive toward violent hermeticism. There is a fatal schism between evil as it really is and how Connell projects it in the book, especially toward the end, when Connell begins his inevitable and trite 'descent' to madness and death, that ultimately dooms the book as a viable work of art, much less a genuine and believable portrait of evil. Thus, when on September 6th, Summerfield writes, 'The more I'm stripped the more I feel pain,' it reads not like Summerfield's own cliche-ridden diary entry, but Connell's novel's cliche-ridden prose. That's his, and the book's, greatest crime.

James Rollins
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5299
ISBN: 0060580666, $24.95, 464 pp.

Dawn McKinney

The Kinsington Gallery, Lady Kara Kinsington's tribute to her late father Lord Reginal Kinsington, is located in the British Museum. The north wing, to be exact, because that is where the museum is hosting their anniversary showcase, an ethno graphical collection portraying human achievement through the ages and cultures.

The gallery is run by the austere Dr. Safia al-Maaz, also Kara's closest friend since childhood. They have lived through the trials and tribulations of a friendship that was born of tragedy.Kara has never been able to get over the death of her beloved father and Saffy still has nightmares of the violent death of her mother.That friendship has never been tested the way it is about to be. Just a few days before the showcase was to open, a violent and unprecedented explosion rocked the gallery. It destroyed a large percentage of the relics that had been accumulated by Kara and Saffy for a period of over ten years.

Enter Painter Crowe, operative for the elite SIGMA force, suddenly double crossed by his trusted partner Cassandra. With a new partner and a new assignment, posing as an American scientist to find the cause of the explosion at the Kennsington Gallery, (SIGMA has a theory that involves antimatter) Painter is off on a new adventure that will land him right in the path of Kara and Saffy. Unfortunately, for Painter, it's also the same path being taken by Cassandra and the reason she double crossed Painter to begin with.

Together and separately they head for Ubar, lost city of Arabia, the Atlantis of the sands. Along the way they pick up a cast of colorful characters, such as, Dr. Omaha Dunn. In the past he had broken Saffy's heart, but still held a small place there. Now Saffy is beginning to have feelings for Painter. It sets the stage for a beautiful manage a tois of the heart. Rollins has the ability to raise many questions of science vs religion, as a matter of fact, it's one of the things I love about James Rollins books. He doesn't just bring up the age-old questions, he rams science and religion head on at high speed. He volunteers no answers. He just lets you pick up the pieces of the crash and make your own decision.So, if you're looking for answers, this isn't the book for you. If you're a mature reader looking for more intelligent questions, this is a "must have". His books, Map of Bones, Excavation and Subterranean are all excellent reads for the educated mind and those that want to be educated.

Jane Austen in Scarsdale: or Love, Death and the SATs
Paula Marantz
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0312325029, $23.95, 275 pp.

Kathryn Atwood

There's something about Jane Austen's novels that makes the suddenly addicted reader cry out: "What? She only wrote six?" The unsuspecting will instantly crave more of her witticisms, her lovely command of the English language, her hilarious but believable characterizations and her entertaining plot points that always lead to a satisfyingly happy ending for the lovers, no matter how star-crossed they initially appear.

Aside from the literal screen adaptations of Austen's works (including those produced by the BBC and A&E), the proof of her artistic timelessness are the adaptations which take her basic plots and characters and place all in an updated setting, such as the film "Clueless" (based loosely on Jane Austen's novel, "Emma").

"Jane Austen in Scarsdale," by Paula Marantz Cohen, is a literary adaptation in the same vein. It takes the basic story of Austen's novel, "Persuasion," and sets it in the middle of a contemporary New York prep school. Austen's Anne Eliot, an almost-old maid who still pines for a love she was advised against years ago, becomes Anne Ehrlich, a guidance counselor for ivy league-bound high school students and their hyperventilating parents. Her long lost love, the now-engaged Ben Cutler, is based on Austen's Captain Frederick Wentworth and the person who advised against their union so many years ago is Anne Ehrlich's grandmother, Winnie (Lady Russell, a close family friend in Austen's book).

Although "Scarsdale" is great fun for Jane Austen fans, who will be constantly running back to the original story in their minds, the essential question is this: does Cohen's book work on its own? Can non-Austenites enjoy "Scarsdale" on its own merits? A wildly deafening yes! Austen's truths are indeed timeless but Cohen has added a profoundly compelling story - all her own - to the bare bones of Austen's novel. Although it is not fitting for an Austenite like myself to blaspheme, I must say that while reading "Scarsdale," I frequently thought that Cohen had actually improved Austen's basic story (sorry Jane!)

Cohen's writing skills are formidable and I was often at her mercy, either doubled up with laughter at her witticisms and hilarious characterizations or racked with pathos as the eminently patient Anne Ehrlich agonizes over the renewed proximity of her lost love but quietly soldiers on. Paula Marantz Cohen is a writer of exceptional talent who, while giving a nod to a classic, has created a masterpiece of equal parts poignancy and hilarity that is entirely her own. I certainly hope she intends to write more than six novels because I'm hooked!

Shepherd's Son
Terry W. Burns
River Oak
imprint of Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
ISBN: 1589190335, $12.99, 256 pp.

Les Williams

Running sheep in cattle country is dangerous work. Even Jay Mendelson and his widowed mother Audrey of the Bar-M know this. Yet, hoping to keep the place going, that is exactly what the two do in the valley. Nobody is more opposed that Colonel Blake Johnson, owner of the biggest cattle ranch in the valley, the Circle J.

Blake tries to discourage Jay by sending his former First Sergeant Rafe Silbee with some other men to scatter the flock. Though they were wearing bandanna's to cover their faces, they did not fool Jay. When his Border Collie Lady tries to keep the riders from the sheep, one of the men shoots the dog and another sends Jay to the ground with a blow to the head from his pistol. When Rafe reports back to the Colonel, his daughter Carrie Sue over hears part of the conversation and is appalled. Carrie has set her cap for Jay for some time, even if he was unaware.

In the town of Three Forks, Jay confronts Rafe and bests him with his fists. Rafe vows revenge since he can not afford to lose face with the hard cases he has with him. Jay enlists the help of the Mexican Paco, his wife Rosita and their young ones to help with the flock. Jay knows he can't go to the law because Sheriff Ron Farnsby was put in office by the Colonel and answers to him. Farnsby encourages a group of saloon patrons to make a night visit to the sheep camp. The would be night riders, wearing flour sacks as hoods, are routed by Jay and his crew. They are sent back to town tied to their saddles. Once they return to Twin Forks, they let it be known that Fransby put them up to it. This is the beginning of Farnsby's down fall.

Jay takes a beating at the hands of two of Rafe's hard cases. For Carrie, this is the last straw and she moves in to the Bar-M. The town decides it needs a new sheriff and an election is set. The candidates are Farnsby, his former deputy Danny Cook and one of Rafe's gun hands Hank Peyton. Cook wins the election and Farnsby goes to a place he knows of in the hills to plot how to get even with Jay, who he blames for all his troubles.

Into this hot bed rides Reverend Amos Taylor, his wife Judy and his black helper Joseph Washington. Taylor believes God has specifically called him to Twin Forks to prevent a shooting war between the cattlemen and the sheep men. Before he rides off again, Amos will have changed the lives of those in Three Forks. There will be men saved by the Holy Spirit, reconciliation and weddings. A surprising experiment between cattle and sheep will forever change how the valley looks at the question of cattle and sheep. Once again, Terry Burns has proven that you can have an exciting western with both gun smoke and an inspirational message in one book.

Wizard of Arabah
Tristan Parrish
Legendary Books/An imprint of Tristan Parrish Creative Communications
PO Box 49128, 7740-18th Street S.E., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2C3W5
ISBN: 0978007301, $24.00, 174 pp.

Lynn Burton

Wizard of Arabah is a novel of historical fantasy. From the first page, we're drawn into Solomon Magus' young life as he's on a voyage with his family. Through unforeseen circumstances, he's orphaned and shipwrecked. He soon finds himself on an island in the company of a sorceress who teaches him about magic and love. As a young man, he sets out on his own to find understanding of the world around him and its people. His strength and determination alone against such obstacles make him a worthwhile character.

With great story telling and colorful descriptions, you won't just read this story, you'll be right there along for the ride with Solomon. "There is nothing quite like it. Light sprays of salt water caress the skin; the unique fishy odour of the ocean fills the nostrils; waves slap against the wooden hull of the ship as it plows its way through the water, and a stiff wind fills the sail".

Elements of magic and eroticism make this book an overall winner. But along with that, be prepared to be a bit shaken. It's not all a nice ride; there are those nasty pirates and other elements that threaten to destroy Solomon. And if the ending is any indication, there will be more tales of Solomon to come. I hope so. Wizard of Arabah is Tristan Parrish's first published novel. You can visit his website at

Gregory David Roberts
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 0312330537, $14.95, 944 pp.

Manuela Pop

5 out of 5 points

Lindsay or Linbaba, as the Indian people named him, is a fugitive who escaped prison in Australia, where he served two years of his 19-year sentence of arms robberies, which he used to do to support his heroin addiction caused by loosing custody of his daughter in a failed marriage. After the escape, Linbaba lands in Bombay on a fake New Zealand passport. Upon landing, he meets Prabaker who plays the guide role and shows him even the most secretive parts of Bombay. In the same time Lindsay meets Karla, a beautiful Swiss-American who works at Leopold's café the place where all the ex-pats hang out. Linbaba falls deeply in love with Karla and the love takes a complicated role in the plot. Following one night when Lindsay is robbed of all his possessions, Prabaker brings him to the slums of Bombay where over twenty-five thousand people lived in extreme poverty. There, Linbaba becomes the "doctor", taking care of people illnesses: rat bites, dysentery, anemia, etc. His unfortunate fate brings him within the walls of Arthur Road Prison, a hellish place where he experiences the worst prison conditions. He is released from prison and Lindsay gets involved with the Bombay mafia, Abdel Khader Khan, which later on brings him in Afghanistan to fight against the Russians.

Roberts wrote the book in prison, two of the copies were destroyed in 13 years and then he succeeded to write the last copy for publishing. The writing approach is far from flawless, but the book has a magnetic appeal and it is hard to put down; its plot whirls into complicated events which are linked and explained in the end. The characters have fascinating personalities and have strong connections in the series of events.

It's interesting how the book reveals the underground scene of the 80s and how its ex-pats engaged in criminal activity to lead a high life in Bombay. Despite the criminal activity he gets dragged into, Lindsay comes out as a strong person with a great heart. His love for Karla grows stronger in time even if she cannot return the same feelings. He is a savior, a fighter and a survivor. I strongly recommend this book as a work of action thriller, travel guide, love story and superb epic.

Lion Taming
Steven L. Katz
Sourcebooks, Inc.
ISBN: 1402202172, $14.95, 290 pp.

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Artfully done!

It's not difficult to imagine yourself as a lion tamer, equipped with the traditional whip and chair, matching wits with lions like leaders, bosses, and customers. You have to keep your wits about you in your relationships with these cats. It's a lot like real-life lion taming. And yes, the consequences of angering a lion in business can be comparatively just as devastating as angering a lion in the circus cage.

OK, cute analogy. It shouldn't be that difficult to draw a few analogies and crank out a clever book. Perhaps, but Steven Katz went further…much further. It's obvious as you turn page after tempting page that this author did his homework. The lion tamers he consulted and learned from are named in the acknowledgements, and their influence is felt throughout the book. Whether the topic is the big cats with four feet or two, the lessons are plentiful, clear, and appropriate. The transition back and forth between lions and humans is smooth and natural. Learning Katz's lessons is comfortable, not forced.

We're surrounded by lions. "Being a lion is not a specific position, it is a state of being." It's essential to understand that lions have four senses beyond sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell: dominance, territory, survival, and social standing. You'll gain a deep appreciation of these elements in the three sections of this fast-moving paperback: Lions are Never Tame, The Art of Lion Taming, and Lion Taming is Really Lion Teaming. You can see the flow just from those section titles.

The book is filled with lessons that apply the fundamentals of lion taming to leadership, management, and other relationships. Conveniently, the lessons are all listed at the end of the book to pull it all together. Well worth the time to curl up with this book cover-to-cover.

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming Parent-Child Relationships from Reaction and Struggle to Freedom, Power, and Joy
Naomi Aldort
Book Publishers Network
P.O. Box 2256, Bothell WA 98041
ISBN: 1887542329, $18.00 US/$24.00 CAN, 250 pp.

Shari Maser

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves is a unique parenting book, with an emphasis on parenting through personal growth. This is not esoteric philosophizing; it is useful advice with a five-step approach that is eminently doable. Each step is illustrated with story after story about parents who discover, or rediscover, the power of love as they replace controlling parenting techniques with gentle nurturing.

In applying Ms. Aldort's suggestions myself, I have found that my listening and communication skills are improving and I am definitely more mindful, more empathetic, and more flexible as a parent. Happily, my children have noticed this change and, even more happily, have emulated it in their relationships with each other, with their father, with me, and with friends. A little positive parenting goes a long way!!

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves is a must-read, must-have book for parents who are trying to break a personal or cultural cycle of authoritarianism and start becoming the mothers and fathers they wish to be.

Another Roadside Attraction
Tom Robbins, Bantam
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0553349481, $14.00, 352 pp.

Tyler Tradere

When a former college football star "Plucky" Purcell impersonates a priest in a Catholic order, he takes a trip to Vatican City. While visiting the Holy City, there is an earthquake and the ground rips open freeing Purcell to explore the catacombs beneath and various chambers of material the Vatican has deemed unfit for Catholic eyes. While exploring Purcell comes upon a tomb, where he finds what he believes to be the mummified body of Jesus Christ. Of course if this is really Jesus' body what does that say about the resurrection? What does that say about the Catholic Church? Purcell steals the body and takes it back to America, where he holds up with his friends John Paul Ziller and Amanda at a roadside zoo, until he can figure out the proper way to expose this lie of epic proportions.

The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood
Sy Montgomery
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0345481372, $21.95, 240 pp.

Victoria Kennedy

This book captured my heart in the first few pages. It is a kind and loving glimpse into the life of a special pig named Christopher. A pig that was given a chance to live much longer than most pigs whose life spans usually last a brief six months. Christopher was a person and not a future side of bacon. Animal lovers and vegetarians alike will enjoy this wonderful book about two people and the sickly little runt they rescued and raised. Christopher's life as told in the pages of this book is a celebration of the love and devotion between this pig and every person he came in contact with.

The story of this sweet creature will inform you and warm your heart. Sy Montgomery is good writer who draws you into her tale and keeps you there until the last page is turned. I laughed and cried all through the book. This book may change your thinking of how animals think and act. When you are done you will feel that you too have met Christopher Hogwood and you may miss him like I do.

This short paragraph says a lot about Christopher and about his owners Sy and her husband Howard: "At the moment, the Pig Palace stands empty. People ask, "Will you get another pig?" This I don't know. But one thing I know for sure: a great soul can appear among us at any time, in the form of any creature. I'm keeping my eyes open."

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist and has written other books such as Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Spell of the Tiger, Search for the Golden Moon Bear, The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans and The Wild Out Your Window, among others.

Arlene's Bookshelf

The Weekend Visitor
Jessica Thomas
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1594930546, $13.95, 220 pp.

The Weekend Visitor

One of the most gifted writers on the scene is the Golden Crown Literary Award winning Jessica Thomas, creator of the Alex Peres mystery series set in Provincetown, MA. Her debut novel, Caught in the Net, introduced the reader to Alex Peres, a refreshingly original character that far surpasses the stereotypical PI one often encounters in today's mystery genre. Turning the Tables, the second in the series, further developed the characterization of this appealing woman. Now, with The Weekend Visitor, the emotional growth of Alex Peres resonates clearly and most plausibly. The stylistic writing style continues to capture the reader, providing not only an enjoyable reading experience but also an exceptional lesson in deliberative and logical plot development.

Alex has just returned from Boston after having testified in a fraud case. The hot gossip in town revolves around Mary Sloan, the local curmudgeon, and not one of Alex's favorite people. "Face it, Mary was like a label in your shirt; either you don't know it's there, or it's driving you crazy" (p. 11). Mary has a new, much younger woman, Maureen Delaney, staying with her; thus the source of town musings. Mary wants to hire Alex--to find the man who raped Maureen. Alex accepts the case and finds out quickly that things are not exactly what she had expected. A powerfully influential family, Maureen's evasiveness, and unexpected local reactions to the crime all pose problems for Alex. While doing the necessary detecting for Mary, Alex also takes on a second case involving twin sisters, an inheritance, a body in a Louisiana lake, and more surprises than Alex could imagine.

One characteristic of Thomas' writing is her mastery of the literary elements. Alex's intelligence, wit, and charm shine through which makes for an even more endearing and engaging personality. The descriptive phrases capture the essence of the moment. While looking at one of her cherished photographs now displayed in the bank, Alex says, "Another favorite was a line of nine starlings…grumpily sitting out a heavy rain along a phone wire, and looking like Supreme Court Justices about to hand down an unpopular verdict" (p.11). Thomas' incorporation of vivid imagery carries throughout the book. The many examples of it display the author's gift for turning a phrase. Her description of arriving and departing P-town tourists "Like weeds, they started popping up in May, grew thick in June, and completely overran us in July and August. Slowly, slowly they began to thin again in September and pretty well disappeared in November…." (p.18) is an extraordinary sensory simile. Anyone who has been there also recognizes the unequivocal truth of that portrayal.

Alex's sense of humor, wry wit, and at times, sanguine attitude differentiate her within the mystery genre and place her above the ordinary formulaic detective character. She is a woman one would like to spend time with, have over for dinner, and sit on the beach and gossip about P-town. Her lover Cindy, not quite live-in yet, is the perfect balance for Alex. Understanding, humorous, independent, and deeply in love with Alex all contribute to a viable and sustainable loving relationship.

Another aspect of Thomas' characterization is her depiction of the secondary characters. The Wharf Rat Bar denizens provide local color and some old-fashioned Yankee common sense. Harmon, the elderly fisherman who scopes out the beach while waiting for clandestine drug smugglers, is hilarious. He means well but often it just doesn't happen for him. Alex's pals, Peter and the Wolf, are comic relief, and her brother Sonny, the Provincetown police chief, has such a warm and accepting attitude toward his sister that is quite endearing.

The Weekend Visitor is a tightly written, adeptly developed mystery that is certain to please the most discriminating reader of this genre. Expertly drawn characters, a fluid narrative, an inviting setting, and a mystery within a mystery make this latest installment a most satisfying and absorbing reading experience.

Murder at Random
Claire McNab
Bella Books
PO Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302
ISBN: 1594930473, $13.95, 182 pp.

Murder at Random

The latest installment of the Denise Cleever series is a most enjoyable read. Again, Denise must go undercover to find the people behind a series of seemingly senseless acts of violence—the bigger the bang, the bigger the bucks the culprit can collect. To complicate matters, an old flame appears with a startling connection to this rampage of terrorist attacks, and Denise delves farther into her feelings for her handler, the mysterious Cynthia, who is not above dropping a bomb or two of her own. This most challenging adventure serves as a catalyst for Denise's future path both personally and professionally.

As anyone knows who has read the previous books in the series, McNab writes sparingly, at times even sparsely. The reader sometimes wishes that the author would expand more, go into greater depth with her characterization. Just when one thinks something of substance will follow, the author employs the fade to black scenario. However, if you are a true fan of McNab, you realize that this is her style, and you content yourself with the story at hand. The action is fast-paced and plausible. Very often some authors are lax in their research, especially when it comes to security and governmental matters. However, McNab proves she has a grasp of the Australian machinations and the exchange of information among countries.

As the series has progressed, Denise Cleever has matured, both in action and attitude. Always irreverent, witty, and clever, she has assumed a more credible persona, not hesitating to speak of her inadequacies. This is indeed refreshing and keeps the character from becoming a one-dimensional super hero. The novel is somewhat short, but again, readers have come to expect this in the series. Perhaps the most gratifying segment of the novel is that the reader really begins to empathize, if not fantasize, about Cynthia. In the past, she has been portrayed rather inscrutably, which was her initial appeal. Now one begins to understand who she is and what drives her emotional vacillation.

Murder at Random is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. With characters that are likable and comfortable, action that races along, elements of discovery and surprise, the reader will not be disappointed. No hidden meanings here, just good old-fashioned storytelling with a nod to today's tumultuous times. This reader eagerly awaits the next in the Cleever series.

Honor Reclaimed
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
ISBN: 193311018X, $15.95, 279 pp.

Honor Reclaimed

This fifth installment in the Honor series continues in the aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent murder attempt on Blair Powell, daughter of the President. Driven by revenge and betrayal, Cam Roberts vows to apprehend the perpetrators. Officially relieved of her duty as Chief of Security for Blair, she works behind the scenes with her small cadre of trusted allies to uncover those in the government who have switched to the other side in the war on terror. Not only do Blair and Cam encounter crises, so do Paula Stark, Blair's new Chief, and FBI Agent Renee Savard. Add to the mix a curiously mysterious new relationship for Blair's best friend, Diane Bleeker, an unexpected appearance by an old friend, and a sudden clandestine return to Whitley Point, and the reader will be swept along as the waves of retribution violently take place.

Honor Reclaimed is, overall, an enjoyable read, especially if one has followed the series. Two aspects are especially commendable. First, the narrative depiction of Whitley Point captures the essence of the island. Cam's description of Blair's painting visualizes the scene. "It was an astonishing riot of turbulent purples, indigos, and grays verging on black, cut through with slashes of white. She could almost feel the water beat against her skin" (p. 199). There is an atmosphere of intense and brooding simplicity, almost primeval, as the small band of friends shelters on the Point. The sense of malevolence in the real world attempts to permeate this sequestered retreat.

Another strength of this novel is the author's depth of characterization for the secondary characters. Diane and Blair share their earlier memories of being intimately together with fondness and nostalgia and both are genuinely credible. When referring to their friendship, Diane states, "As much as I've wanted you all these years, this is what I've always needed" (p. 205). Diane is more skillfully and completely drawn in this novel. This reviewer found her unveiling to be a smart, witty, and most plausible metamorphosis. However, of all the characters found in Honor Reclaimed, the mysterious Valerie is one of the most sensuous, intriguing, captivating, and melancholy women in Romance literature today. One can only hope that Radclyffe seizes the opportunity to explore the character more fully in a novel wherein Valerie is the protagonist. Redemption comes in many forms and at the most unexpected, yet possibly, fortuitous times. There are many reasons for this, but not wanting to deprive the reader of the joy of discovering Valerie, suffice it to say, a truly unique conundrum awaits.

The ultimate resolution of the conflict was, for this reviewer, less than what is usually found in an Honor novel. Although the pace is steady and the action compelling, it was far too condensed, given the context of the initial life-threatening problems facing Cam and Blair. The emphasis is definitely on the relationships of the three couples. However, as someone who awaited this novel to uncover and react to the crises presented in the previous book, Honor Guards, it would have been an even more satisfying reading experience had the final showdown been more intricately developed and the perpetrators' background more completely established.

Honor Reclaimed is worth the time and expense. Radclyffe continues to give us characters we will long remember, and if a romance storyline with plenty of steamy scenes is what you are looking for, she proves again that she is, indeed, one of the best today. However, for this reviewer, it is not the pinnacle of the series, but individual readers will make their own judgments after reading Honor Reclaimed.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

Take The Kids: London
Joseph Fullman
Cadogan Guides
c/o Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
1860113117 $18.95 1-800-962-0973

Now in a fully updated and expanded fourth edition, Joseph Fullman's "Take The Kids: London" is an indispensable planning guide for any family touring London, England with their children. Packed with tips on traveling with children which range from babysitting services to first aid instructions, "Take The Kids: London" also includes color maps and suggested itineraries of interest to youngsters; fact boxes, quizzes and stories to keep kids entertained; practical information and emergency contacts; as well as personally recommended and child-friendly restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels. "Take The Kids: London" is the perfect planning and tour guide to exploring one of the world's great cities and discovering what it has to offer that will be of interest to children in the company of their parents, with itinerary ideas and suggestions ranging from a Duck tour to the London Zoo, numerous green spaces throughout the city, and some of the best sports events in the whole of England.

The Creaky Traveler in Ireland, Clare, Kerry, and West Cork
Warren Rovetch
Sentient Publications, LLC
1113 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO 80302 866-588-9846
1591810272 $15.95 292 pages

The second title in the unique 'Creaky Traveler' series, "The Creaky Traveler in Ireland, Clare, Kerry, and West Cork: A Journey for the Mobile but Not Agile" by Warren Rovetch provides unique perspectives for "agility challenged" travelers to Southwestern Ireland. "The Creaky Traveler in Ireland" provides so much more than just another guide to the local sights to see and the Bed and Breakfast places to stay in while traveling through The Irish counties of Clare, Kerry and West Cork. Warren has an exciting eclectic personal background that he draws upon as a rather gifted writer. For example, he has been an economist, a textbook publisher, a creator of an environmental education and conference center on the Columbia River, and a Fullbright Scholar. He has created many projects focused on new approaches to learning and education. He was widely traveled even in his pre-creaky days, so his recent series is an expanding of his experience that is especially appealing to mature adult travelers. You might say he has "been there and done it and got the T-shirt" at least twice. So it is no surprise that "The Creaky Traveler in Ireland" includes wonderful quotations from appropriate Irish literature (translated to English), intimate epiphanies, anecdotes, and other accounts of travel experiences, and humourous musings on the plight of the modern adult traveler and the world traveled, in addition to valuable tips and suggestions about sights to see, walks to take, and places to seek out. "The Creaky Traveler in Ireland" is a treasure trove of information that can be of great worth to both the novice traveler and the Irish locals themselves. The text is further enhanced by a series of handy descriptive maps and a center selection of beautiful color photographs of sites and sights of interest. "The Creaky Traveler in Ireland" is sure to be another success in this on-going series from Sentient Publications, piquing the reader's curiosity, tantalizing same to wonder where the "Creaky Traveler" will voyage to next. Also very highly recommended reading is the first book in this outstanding series by Warren Rovetch: "The Creaky Traveler In The North West Highlands Of Scotland".

AMC's Best Day Hikes In The Catskills & Hudson Valley
Peter W. Kick
AMC Books
c/o Globe Pequote Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
1929173849 $16.95 1-800-962-0973

There are more than 600 miles of hiking trails in the Catskill mountains and the Hudson Valley, locales that are within just a few hours of New York City. "AMC's Best Day Hikes In The Catskills & Hudson Valley" is a practical "day trip" guide to varied and scenic terrains that range from Westchester County to Albany, showcasing sixty of the most scenic and spectacular of these trails which suited for anything from short family nature walks to day-long hikes with magnificent views. Each individual trail trip includes a detailed map and a summary of the trip time, distance, and difficultly. An icon indicates whether the trail is also good for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter, making "AMC's Best Day Hikes In The Catskills & Hudson Valley" an all weather, all-season reference of value for both local residents and vacationing visitors. Enhanced with hiking and safety tips, advice for hiking with children, an 'At-a-Glance Trip Planner' for finding the best hikes suited to the reader's aspirations and limitations, "AMC's Best Day Hikes In The Catskills & Hudson Valley" is the premier guide for anyone planning an excursion in New York's Catskills and Hudson Valley country!

Are You Really Listening?
Paul J. Donoghue, Ph.D. and Mary E. Siegel, Ph.D.
Sorin Books
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0428
1893732886 $14.95 1-800-282-1865

"Are You Really Listening? Keys to Successful Communication" is a self-help guide to relationships, and the value of listening - a skill desperately needed in a world prone to misunderstandings and worse. "Are You Really Listening?" isolates the factors that tend to keep people from listening, and how to identify one's own tendencies to tune out what others are saying - from the "Me Too" syndrome that tends to tune out the speaker and refocus the conversation on the self, to learning how to be heard, to how counterproductive defensiveness can be (defending oneself signals that the time of listening to the speaker's concerns have ended). "Are You Really Listening?" has the absolute highest recommendation for anyone striving to improve their communication skills and professional or personal relationships.

Susan Bethany

Betsy's Bookshelf

Simply Vegan
Debra Wasserman & Reed Mangels
The Vegetarian Resource Group
PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203
0931411300 $14.95

Now in a newly updated and expanded fourth edition, Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals includes information about Protein, Fat, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin B-12, Sources of Omega-3 Fats, Weight Loss, and more. Not just another vegetarian cookbook, Simply Vegan also serves as a guide to a non-violent, environmentally sound, humane-lifestyle while showcasing 160 quick, easy, and delicious recipes, meal plans, and even offers a guide to 'Vegan Shopping by Mail' for vegan food, clothing, cosmetics, household products, and books. Of special value is the chapter devoted to pregnancy, infants, and vegan children. From Oat Nut Burgers; Creamy Cauliflower Soup; Pasta with Spicy Tahini Sauce; and Vegetable Pancakes; to Wayne's Tofu Chili; Oriental-Style Green Beans; Peach Compote; and Karen's Creamy Rice Pudding, Simply Vegan is a welcome and seminal addition to any vegan lifestyle reference and/or cookbook collection.

Resume, Application, And Letter Tips For People With Hot And Not-So-Hot Backgrounds
Ron Krannich & Caryl Krannich
Impact Publications
9104-N Manassas Drive, Manassas Park, VA 20111-5211
1570232407 $17.95

The newest addition to Impact Publications' impressive roster of "how to" books designed to help find and secure gainful employment, "Resume, Application, And Letter Tips For People With Hot And Not-So-Hot Backgrounds: 185 Tips For Landing The Perfect Job" outlines an effective 10-step job search process, proven ways to best present a work history, identifies the key attitudes and behaviors for success in securing employment, common job application writing errors to be avoided, redefining work or background negatives into positives, dealing with potential 'red flags' in your personal or professional history, follow-up methods to enhance your chances of securing a job, the different kinds of job search letters, and so much more. Enhanced with sample resumes and letters, self-assessment devices, evaluation exercises, and illustrations, "Resume, Application, And Letter Tips For People With Hot And Not-So-Hot Backgrounds" is a welcome and well-presented instruction manual that will prove especially valuable for novice job seekers and those re-entering the job market.

Betsy L. Hogan

Betty's Bookshelf

The Street-Smart Writer: Self-Defense against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World
Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven
Nomad Press
2456 Christian St., White River Junction, VT 05001
ISBN: 0974934445, $16.95, 296 pp.

Someone once said, 'There's a sucker born every minute," and from where I sit, many of them seem to be writers falling for one scam, scheme, or dumb idea after another. Jenna Glatzer, creator and queen of Absolute Write (the web's most popular magazine for writers) and author of such writerly goodies as Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen and Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments has seen the dreams of many good writers dashed. To combat this, she got together with Daniel Steven (a publishing attorney who knows the ropes) and they came up with a book that will benefit both newbies and experienced writers. No more falling for scam publishers. No more being duped by crooked agents. No more poetry "prizes" not worth the paper they're written on. Now, all a smart writer has to do is get hold of a copy of The Street-Smart Writer.

The anecdotes, advice, definitions, and templates inside can help cautious writers make sure that they're not cheated and their work's not stolen, cheapened, or unfairly tied up by the crooks and creeps that make up the writing world's underbelly. True, reading The Street-Smart Writer won't guarantee publication, nor will it guarantee that you'll never get ripped off. However, you will be armed to avoid many of the pitfalls that the uninformed have fallen into, including the clutches of an unsavory agent or a dishonest publishing house. Way to go, guys. You two are my heroes!

Agent to the Stars
John Scalzi
Subterranean Press
P.O. Box 190106, Burton, MI 48519
ISBN: 1596060204, $30.00, 286 pp.

In 1997, writer John Scalzi started his first novel, after deciding to find out if he was capable of writing something that was longer than two thousand words. He told himself it was just a practice novel that would never see the light of day, so there was no worry about how good it would be. And since it would never be sold, it wouldn't matter what he chose as subject matter, either. The self-deception did the trick; in the book's introduction, Scalzi says it took him three months to write and "…I had a ball. Writing [this] novel was one of the most fun writing experiences I've ever had."

Completed book in hand, he decided to see if it would sell. The results weren't encouraging. True, everyone who saw it liked it. However, no one wanted to publish it. By that time, Scalzi had a web site up, so he bunged the manuscript onto the site and asked readers who liked it to send him $1.

To his surprise, between 1999 and 2004, he received $4,000 from grateful readers. To his further surprise, a publishing house then decided they wanted to publish it. I'm glad they did. Now readers can enjoy reading Agent to the Stars while lying in bed or soaking in the bathtub, rather than while hunching over a computer screen.

Agent to the Stars introduces us to Thomas Stein, a junior Hollywood agent, whose boss gives him the job of introducing Earth to the Yherajk, who are worried about how they will be accepted by humans. True, the Yherajk are friendly and eager-to-please, speak excellent English (learned from thousands of hours of television sitcoms), and know more about earth's entertainment industry than any earthling alive (with the possible exception of BGSU students who've chosen to pursue a pop culture degree.)

However, as they themselves admit, "We look like snot. And we smell like dead fish." With this major image problem, making first contact with a PR expert (Stein's boss) instead of the White House made perfect sense to them. However, since the alien make-over needs to be kept a deep dark secret until the Yherajks are ready to make their worldwide debut, Stein's boss thinks Stein should handle it. After all, who pays any attention to junior agents?

It's not going to be easy. However, if Stein can present the Yherajk to Earth in a positive light, he'll not only have a major place in earth's history, he'll have nice percentage of the most amazing deal ever to come along. Can he pull it off?

I started reading Agent to the Stars because I really enjoyed Scalzi's Old Man's War. It was a little hard going at first, but I figured I'd at least give him long enough to demonstrate whether or not he could pull me past the "eeeeuw - gross" alien description and make me want to finish the book. The answer turned out to be: Yep, he could. Interesting premise. Fun story. Nice job!

What Fish Don't Want You to Know: the Insider's Guide to Freshwater Fishing
Frank P. Baron
Ragged Mountain Press
P.O. Box 220, Camden, ME 04843
ISBN: 0071417141, $16.95, 163 pp.

I don't fish. Oh, it's not that I don't like the idea - spending the day lazily dropping a hook into the water, enjoying the peace and quiet, communing with nature - it's that I hate failure. I grew up going fishing with my dad and two younger brothers and the only thing I've ever caught in my entire life was my dad's ear lobe. Shortly after that painful episode, I was demoted to dropping a handline in the water off the edge of the pier.

This, as you can imagine, was not exactly the height of excitement, so I usually hid a book in the gear before we left the house. Once at the pier, after everyone else was busy baiting their hooks, casting their lines, and pulling in one fish after another, I would tie my line to one of the pier railings, pull out my book, and read until lunch. No one ever noticed or cared, except maybe the fish - I'm convinced they were down there laughing at me, knowing they were totally safe.

Then I grew up and moved to Ohio, where you must have a fishing license to fish, on penalty of losing all your gear (including possibly the car you drove to get to the river). This suited me just fine. We bought a license for my husband, the kids didn't need one, and I was free to sit in a lawn chair and read, looking up occasionally to murmur to one child or another, "Oh, yes, isn't that a big fish?" and "I see you, sweetheart - yes, aren't you a big boy!" It was illegal for me to even carry a rod. Sweet!

However, after reading Frank Baron's book, What Fish Don't Want You to Know, I'm actually considering giving fishing another chance. It's not quite a miracle, but it's so unexpected, I'm still blinking in amazement. I know how to catch fish now! Baron's been fishing for forty years, and he has the tandem talents of actually catching fish and being able to write about it for others.

Yep, his book is both educational and entertaining. I can't believe I'm writing this - I actually enjoyed reading a book about fishing, even though I don't like fishing! If you do like to fish, you'll like it even more after you read Baron's book cover-to-cover. Word of warning: if you take it with you on your next fishing trip, don't let the fish catch sight of it. I assure you, they'll never know what hit them!

Betty Winslow

Blake's Bookshelf

Tears and Tales
Russell A. Vassallo
Krazy Duck Productions
PO Box 105, Danville, KY 40423
ISBN: 0977673901, $16.95, 165 pp.

"Tears and Tales" is a compilation of real life stories. Through these stories has Russell Vassallo demonstrates the impact animals can have on our lives.

Vassallo's writing is entertaining and inspiring. He expresses genuine compassion and empathy for the personalities of his characters, both animail and human. Russ has unusual insight and becomes vulnerable as he opens his heart to the reader. His is a message of hope and faith as he relates examples of the power of animals to heal, physically and emotionally.

Vassallo survived colon cancer, however, he continued to experience anger, self centeredness, jealousy, and depression. He lost his will to live. The loyalty, love, and self giving of, his wife, Virginia encouraged him through her love. Another healing factor came through the repeated visits of a small bird. Russell's depression lifted as he learned a fresh lesson on the meaning of love, and the need to love. His hope and vision for the future were restored.

Vassallo testified to the uplifting encounters with animals that taught him lessons in self discovery, improving relationships, and moving on to new levels of maturity. He shares a dramatic story of how, his horse Lonesome Dart was a source of comfort after the loss of his dog, Tribute. Touched by Lonesome Dart's grief he expressed it this way: "I saw in his eyes a pain so vast I would not have believed it possible…bonded by mutual love, mutual tears, by the pain of deprivation."

This is a story of bonding, a heartwarming collection of tales that bring both tears and the comfort you can find as you develop a loving relationship with your animal friends. This meaningful, heartwarming, unforgettable will inspire cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones. It is promise of hope and bravery a recipe for healing, from illness, heartbreak, or loneliness.

The Immigrant's Daughter - Midwest
Mary Terzian, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
15911377X, $ 15.95, 275 pp.

Mary Terzian spent her childhood in a community of immigrants in the city of Cairo. This is the moving dramatic story of her early life. It is told in the first person. The story begins with Mary's birth and progresses from preschool years moving on to young adulthood She does not understand "why" there are privileges given to the male gender that are unavailable to girls and women. She questions the importance of tradition, religious superstitions, and cultural issues. Her questions go unanswered.

Mary's mother instills in Mary a desire to get an education. Her father insists on Mary fulfilling the traditional expectations for women. At age ten Mary's mother suddenly dies. After the death of her mother she writes: "I hide Mama's absence like an ugly abscess because not having a mother is embarrassing. Everybody has one. I feel like I am being punished." Home life becomes unbearable.

After only a few months her father marries again. He wanted a stepmother to take over the household duties and child rearing. "Stepmother" has other plans. Mary is made to assume many household duties and childcare responsibilities. Mary struggles for an identity. She drives herself to excel in her studies. Books become her friends, her life. She looks on herself as "emotionally homeless."

The story moves quickly. However, Mary expresses it this way: "The evolution from an affable, dependent, defensive young girl to a self-supporting, confident, decisive woman is a long, rough, and trying journey."

I found myself engrossed in the Mary's journey. The author has a unique way of using tongue in cheek humor to lighten the impact of hopelessness. Terzian is a gifted writer and communicator. She has a wealth of experience to share. I am looking forward to a sequel to this fascinating, uplifting, and unforgettable book.

Richard R. Blake

Bob's Bookshelf

A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute To My Father
Chris Lemmon
Algonquin Books
ISBN: 1565124804, $22.95, 193 pp.

"Being the child of a Hollywood star is both a blessing and a curse," writes Chris Lemmon. In "A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father" the son of Jack Lemmon shares the good and bad times he experienced growing up in the shadow of his famous father. As he delves into his relationship with his father, Chris emphasizes that although it wasn't always perfect, most of the time he and Jack got along together.

It has been four years since Jack Lemmon died. Chris explains that this memoir is his way of trying to make sense of the man who was his father and to come to terms with the reality of "their sometimes troubled relationship" that often involved too much alcohol.

Preferring to dwell on the good times, Lemmon shares the Alaskan fishing trips and Pebble Beach golf outings they shared together. He writes, "In my book I write mostly about the big things, the funny things, the things I loved especially about Pop."

Commenting on his the decision to cast Jack as Felix Ungar in "The Odd Couple", Chris says his father was perfect for the role. It wasn't a very difficult part for Jack to play for he already possessed most of Felix's character traits. He was Felix Unger through and through but only Lemmon's family and closest friends realized it.

As he explains in the book, eventually Chris emerged from his father's "very long shadow" and became a respected actor himself. He delights in retelling the story of an afternoon when he and Jack were out and some young women came up to ask Chris for his autograph. Standing in the background completely ignored, Jack looked on and then jokingly muttered, "Major movie star here; major movie here!"

As Hollywood family memoirs go, "A Twist of Lemmon" is pretty mild. Don't expect the author to tell how terrible his life was growing up in the Lemmon household. Granted, liquor was a problem from time to time but looking back this time Chris explains, "I have no complaints. Jack Lemmon was a great actor and a remarkable man."

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee
Charles J. Shields
Henry Holt
ISBN: 080507919X, $25.00, 337 pp.

Harper Lee wrote only one book yet most people are familiar with that award winning novel,"To Kill A Mockingbird", because it has been a staple of classroom reading for decades. Surprisingly until the publication of "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" no one had done a study of the author's life.

Pieced together from hundreds of interviews, Shields places on center stage a woman who never relished the limelight. Like her character Scout, Lee grew up a rebellious tomboy in a tiny Alabama town. While attending the University of Alabama she satirized bigotry mercilessly in campus publications which didn't endear her to her peers. Readers may be surprised to learn that Lee was a close personal friend of Truman Capote and worked as a research assist for him on "In Cold Blood".

Harper Lee, who turned 80 this year, still shuns the spotlight. A private person who still has to occasionally field the Big Question - "Why didn't you write another book?" Her reputed reply has been, "I had every intention of writing many novels, but I never could have imagined the success To Kill a Mockingbird would enjoy. I became overwhelmed."

After reading this unauthorized biography (Lee refused to assist the author) it is difficult to believe this feisty Southerner would be "overwhelmed" by anything. But that appears to be her story and she's sticking to it!

Hit Parade
Lawrence Block
William Morrow
ISBN: 0060840889, $24.95, 295 pp.

With all the crime novels, mysteries, and thrillers flooding the market each year its no wonder a new breed of character has appeared the last few years in the genre - the hitman. Altering the formula which pits the good guys against the bad guys with the forces of good usually emerging victorious, the pattern has been reversed. Now a handful of authors have made the antagonist the center of the novel and the final outcome does not affirm the idea that justice will prevail. In some cases, there is a hint of "justice" in an outcome (the person appears to deserved his fate) but this is still a perversion of the concept.

A case in point would be Lawrence Block's latest novel "Hit Parade" which showcases paid assassin, John Keller. Thoroughly professional, Keller has traits the reader will like but the fact remains he is a killer. As we watch him take time out from tending his stamp collection to setup and execution a number of assignments (one includes "offing" a dog!) it becomes very easy to respect his consummate skill. In fact, it is even easier to ignore the fact that this is all about killing people and getting away with it.

This marks a sad reversal in the values some people like to talk so much about preserving. From electronic games and foreign policy decisions to what we read and watch for relaxation, violence apparently now has the upper hand in our society and is not only acceptable but the expected norm.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Gabriel Banat
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
1576471098 $56.00 1-518-325-6100

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow is the biography of Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), the illegitimate son of a French planter and a young African slave. Educated in France, his skill in fencing and amazing talent as a violin virtuoso earned him a distinguished place in French high society and the court of Versailles; yet he was not content to simply bask in court life, choosing to support the abolitionist movement, take part in the Haitian slave revolt, and join the French Revolution in the hope of ending slavery. Considered the first classical composer of African descent, his music is best understood in the context of his vivid life. Black-and-white photographs, illustrations, and sample scores, and reproductions of primary source documents round out this in-depth study of a singularly remarkable musician, politician, and fighter.

Elysium for the Brave
Azam Ali
Six Degrees Records
c/o Rock Paper Scissors
216 West Allen Street, Suite 137, Bloomington, IN 47403

Elysium for the Brave is the second solo album by gifted singer Azam Ali. Singing predominantly in English for the first time, the poetic and lyrical verses convey a haunting sense of emotion, longing, and anticipation. A singularly skilled cast of musicians complement Ali's singing with soft, melodic tracks; they include King Crimson's rhythm section of trey Gun and Pat Mastellotto, Persian Classical violinist Kiavash Nourai, and film composers Tyler Bates and Jeff Rona, and the Iranian group Niyaz. The resulting mix of ancient and modern instrumentation transcends cultural limitations in a soothing synthesis. Elysium for the Brave is an especially beautiful and helpful CD to listen to while relaxing, meditating, or striving to reduce personal tension. The CD case includes the complete lyrics for the songs, and the CD tracks are Endless Reverie (5:47), Spring Arrives (5:17), In Other Worlds (6:07), Abode (5:59), Forty One Ways (6:09), The Tryst (6:07), From Heaven To Dust (4:18), I Am A Stranger In This World (7:24), and In The Divide (5:18). Highly recommended.

The Strange Death of Liberal America
Ralph Brauer
Praeger Publishers
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
027599063X $49.95

Award-winning writer Ralph Brauer presents "The Strange Death of Liberal America", a fascinating examination of how American attitudes shifted sharply to the political right in recent times. Part modern political history, part lamentation for the abandonment of the liberal ideal in which "government exists to keep the playing field level", part cautionary tale of the social ills promoted by policies that increasingly favor the rich, the powerful, and the corporations over struggling ordinary citizens, "The Strange Death of Liberal America" is fascinating and slightly unnerving in its grim survey of the past and dark predictions for the future. From suburban obsession with minutia rather than the broad picture, to subtle rollbacks in civil rights, to the drumbeat of fear that the so-called Counterrevolution plays to scare voters into falling in line with its social agenda, "The Strange Death of Liberal America" exposes all in no-nonsense, clear and charged language.

A Short History of Watauga County
Michael C. Hardy
Parkway Publishers
PO Box 3678, Boone, NC 28607
1933251263 $24.95 1-800-821-9155

Independent historian, photographer, and author Michael C. Hardy presents "A Short History of Watauga County", the local history of a former frontier land, which once witnessed the Cherokee follow game over the Old Buffalo Trail and the beginning of Daniel Boone's great trip west. Once a Blue Ridge Mountain wilderness, so remote it was thought of as one of North Carolina's Lost Provinces, Watauga County witnessed settlement, the outbreak of the Civil War, and modern transformations in technology. Drawing upon previous histories published in 1915 and 1949 to round out the chronicle, as well as presenting an inset section of black-and-white photographs of people and historic places, "A Short History of Watauga County" perfectly captures the daily essence of life in a land inhabited by many of the same families who settled it in the late 1700s and early 1800s. An engaging, easy-to-read and enjoy chronicle recommended for lay readers and historians alike.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Rifts World Book 29: Madhaven
Brandon Aten & Taylor White
Palladium Books
12455 Universal Drive, Taylor, MI 48180
1574571583 $14.95

Palladium Books is an independent publisher of role-playing games who has been providing quality science fiction and fantasy gaming in the "Rifts" universe for the past 25 years. Their latest title, "Madhaven" by co-authors Brandon Aten and Taylor White (both of whom are experienced gamers in their own right) is the 29th title in the 'Rifts World Book' series. It's a post-apocalyptic world and the ruins of Manhatten are now known and feared as Madhaven -- a place of madness, ghosts and monsters. This is the setting for adventures in search of plunder from the ancient ruins in the form of dark secrets and hidden treasures. Seven new mutants characters can be run as players or as villains. "Madhaven" also introduces the Knights of the White Rose and their Techno-Wizard weapons to this role-gaming universe of high adventure and hours of fun. No role-gamer's reference collection can be considered complete without the inclusion of Brandon Aten and Taylor White's "Madhaven"!

Video Games & Interactive Media
Stephane Natkin
A K Peters, Ltd.
888 Worcester Street, Suite 230, Wellesley, MA 02482
1568812973 $19.95

"Video Games & Interactive Media: A Glimpse at New Digital Entertainment" is a straightforward introduction to what video games and interactive media are, and the impact that their increasing popularity has had on modern culture. Though a scholarly work, "Video Games & Interactive Media" presents its information in terms accessible to non-specialist general readers of all backgrounds, whether they are familiar with games or not; and is enhanced with a glossary and an index aid in comprehension. Black-and-white photographs and screenshots illustrate the points made about various games, their different genres, their technological advances and subtle influences, and more. From the phenomena of virtual items in multiplayer online games being sold for real-life money and thus having an impact on the real-world economy, to the business models of video game companies, to evolutions in video game artificial intelligence and much more, "Video Games & Interactive Media" is the perfect primer for any serious student, scholar, or parent needing the straight facts about interactive computer games.

Black Belt Karate
Hirokazu Kanazawa
Kodansha America, Inc.
575 Lexington Avenue, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10022
4770027753 $35.00 1-800-451-7556

Hirokazu Kanazawa was a close disciple of Gichin Funakoshi, considered by many to the founding father of the Shotokan school of karate. Kanazawa founded the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation in 1979, an organization that now has branches in more than 90 countries. In Black Belt Karate: The Intensive Course, Kanazawa draws upon all his years of experience and expertise to create a meticulously detailed and illustrated self-study training course is specifically designed for beginners that, if followed conscientiously and practiced daily, will result in their being able to attain a black-belt level of martial arts proficiency in karate. "Black Belt Karate" is a thoroughly "student friendly" and enthusiastically recommended addition to any personal or dojo martial arts reference collection.

Out There Fishing
Keith "Catfish" Sutton
Stoeger Publishing Co.
17603 Indian Head Highway, Suite 200, Accokeek, MD 20607-2501
0883172933 $19.95

ESPN Outdoors columnist and award-winning photographer Keith "Catfish" Sutton presents Out There Fishing, an impressively informative and entertaining anthology of true-life stories about angling in the Western Hemisphere, here collected in print for the first time. Black-and-white photographs nicely illustrate this combination memoir and travelogue devoted to the quest for every sportfish conceivable in America, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela waters. Written in a down-to-earth narrative style, Out There Fishing is the perfect, relaxing read for armchair travel angler and fishing enthusiasts as the next best thing to being there!

The Grill Of Victory
Bill Brohaugh
Emmis Books
1700 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45206
Publishers Group West, dist.
1700 - 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
157860267X $16.95 1-800-788-3123

Ever wondered what it would be like to participate in a cooking contest? Highly recommended, unique and informative reading, The Grill Of Victory: Hot Competition On The Barbecue Circuit by William Brohaugh takes the reader into the intensely competitive world of barbecue competitions. Brohaugh (a BBQ judge for more than fifteen years on the Memphis in May circuit) brings to bear his experience and expertise to provide the reader with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what has evolved from backyard grilling for family and friends into a no-holds- barred competitive sport. The tools the competing BBQ teams, a sampling of the grilling secrets, and a descriptive touring guide to the towns and cities on the BBQ competition circuit art to be found within the pages of The Grill Of Victory. If you've ever felt the impulse to show what you can do in these kinds of events, first give Bill Brohaugh's The Grill Of Victory a quick and careful reading. Then you will be well advised and prepared as to what you are getting yourself involved in!

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Religion And The American Experience
Frank T. Birtel
New City Press
202 Cardinal Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538
1565482158 $29.95

Compiled and edited by Frank T. Birtel (Professor Emeritus, Tulane University), "Religion and the American Experience" is an impressively informed and informative anthology of scholarly essays by learned authors about the interplay between religious faith and American culture. All of the essays were originally memorial lectures, delivered to academic audiences and preserved for posterity. Topics range from issues of Islamic religion and violence to the impact of Catholicism on the American experience to American church responses to current crises in human sexuality and much more. A sober, thought- provoking, and heavily researched selection of sharp analysis, capturing a crystal-clear portrait of numerous different ways in which religion's impact reverberates through the fabric of American culture. "Religion and the American Experience" is especially recommended for college library Sociology and Religious Studies collections.

Identity Crisis
Jim Harper
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001-5403
1930865856 $13.95 1-800-767-1241

Cato Institute director of Information Policy Studies Jim Harper presents "Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood", is a cautionary book about how increasing identification and computer technology, as well as stepped-up government demands for identification in the wake of the September 11 attacks, are threats to citizen autonomy, privacy, and civil liberties. "Identity Crisis" maintains that resisting endless demands for identification can protect privacy without compromising national security; furthermore, Identity Crisis warns against potential abuses of government power and gives current information about controversies such as the REAL ID Act and other security-related topics. A thoughtful and critically written dissection of a hot-button social topic, "Identity Crises" should be considered "must reading" for all social activists concerned with the growing domination of government into personal lives and liberties of American citizens.

Sustainable Fossil Fuels
Mark Jaccard
Cambridge University Press
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211
0521679796 $24.95 381 pages

"Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy" tackles the task of explaining why the solution to energy consumption is not limited to finding an alternative to fossil fuels. The author argues that there is evidence that the world has untapped resources and an energy reserve supply of fossil fuels to last perhaps 800 years (for gas and coal), and that rising prices of precious fuel resources should not be assumed to mean the end of stored fossil fuel energy is imminent. Considering the options of renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency, the author states:" The end (goal) is a low impact and low risk energy system that can meet expanded human energy needs indefinitely and do this as inexpensively as possible, without succumbing to cataclysmic forces at some future is unjustifiable to rule out fossil fuels in advance of a holistic comparison that considers critical decision factors. These factors include cost... the human desire to minimize the risk of extreme ensure adequate and reliable energy supplies free from geopolitical turmoil, and to sustain values, institutions and lifestyles (p. 355)." Jaccard believes that fossil fuels are likely to continue to provide a significant resource to the global energy system during a gradual transition to a sustainable global energy system, perhaps over a period of more than a century. "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" makes a convincing argument for thorough review of the cost of energy sustainability, leading to an unprejudiced reconsideration of continuing the mixed use of fossil fuels. A handy chapter reading guide suggests the best way to read the book, considering the following key questions: What is energy sustainability (Chapter 1)? Is our current energy path sustainable (chapter 2)? Chapter 3: The prospects for clean, secondary energy, Chapter 4: The usual suspects: efficiency, nuclear and renewables, Chapter 5: The unusual suspect: how long can fossil fuels last - and does it mater? Chapter 6: Can we use fossil fuels cleanly - and what might it cost? and last, Chapter 7: Sustainable energy choices: comparing the options. "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" is a convincing argument for the continued judicious planned use of fossil fuels while seeking alternative sustainable energy choices. It is enhanced by a bibliography of 22 pages and many graphs and charts and footnotes. References are made to pertinent web sites for further information as well.

The Principles Of Natural And Politic Law
Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui
Liberty Fund, Inc.
8335 Alison Pointe Trail, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46250-1684
0865974977 $12.00 1-800-955-8335

Ably translated into English by Thomas Nugent in 1748, this edition of "The Principles Of Natural And Politic Law" by Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (1964-1748) is expertly edited and enhanced with an Introduction by Petter Korman (Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and Postdoctoral Researcher in Philosophy at the Academy of Finland) and part of the Liberty Fund's outstanding 'Natural Law and Enlightenment Classics' series. A historical benchmark in the concept of individual rights, The writings of Burlamaqui were influential upon the work and thought of such later philosophers and political activists as Rousseau and Diderot, as well as exerting profound influence on the American Founding Fathers and their newly emerging constitutional system of governance. Indeed, Nugent's English translation became a standard textbook at both British and American universities in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also available in a hardcover edition (0865974969, $20.00), "The Principles Of Natural And Politic Law" is a seminal addition to scholarly and academic Philosophy and Political Science History reference collections.

Michael J. Carson

Catherine's Bookshelf

Bernardo and the Virgin
Silvio Sirias
Northwestern University Press
625 Colfax Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201-2807
ISBN: 0810122405, $26.95

Rating 5 stars

In the book, Bernardo and the Virgin, Silvio Sirias tells Bernardo Martinez's story in a unique and refreshing way – through the eyes of those who knew and loved him, because one could not know Bernardo Martinez and not love him. The author brilliantly mixes English with just a dash of Spanish terminology tossed in at just the right moment for added authenticity. The prose is fluid and allows the reader to have fun with the pages.

This is fiction based upon a true man of God. Bernardo Martinez lived in the small Nicaraguan village of Cuapa. He made his living as a tailor and volunteered to be the caretaker (sacristian) of the local church, with a lifelong dream of becoming a Priest. A man of simple means, his innocent outlook on life and his seemingly divine patience is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Bernardo's life changes when, for a mere three hundred cordobas (about forty dollars), he purchases a statue of la Virgencita (The Virgin Mary) from another parish. La Virgencita comes to him in both visions and dreams, reveals her fears for the Nicaraguan people and gives him instructions for the people in order to save them.

Despite ridicule by some unbelieving villagers and imprisonment and suspected torture by the new Sandinista Government, Bernardo's faith never waivers and he holds true to the message of la Virgencita, determined to keep her message in the hearts of all believers. His honesty and integrity is unquestioned by the faithful and soon, the small village of Cuapa becomes a pilgrimage site for those seeking healing and salvation from God through la Virgencita.

The story is not only about Bernardo, but explores the faith and passion of the Nicaraguan people themselves – from their entertaining superstitions and rituals, their passion for la Virgencita and the Catholic faith, their desire for a better life and the romantic yet unfulfilled notions of the Sandinista Revolution and what it would bring to a people too long silenced and repressed by a cruel dictatorship. Bernardo and the Virgin is ultimately about goodness – goodness and faith that in the end will triumph over evil. Bravo Silvio!

The Book of Bright Ideas
Sandra Kring
Dell Publishing Company - Delta Trade Paperbacks
A Division of Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385338147, $13.00

Rating 5 stars

Sandra Kring enchants us with simpler times of corner Rexall Drugstores, best friends and dancing in the rain in your underwear. On the surface, life in the small Wisconsin town seems laid-back and comfortable, yet lurking beneath are repressed scars of childhood injustices, guilt of shameful deeds and sinister acts against the innocent that go unpunished, forever altering the lives of the victims.

The year is 1961 and Evelyn "Button" Peters is an obedient nine-year-old girl – the only child of a doting mother and hardworking father. Button knows her parents love her, but it is when she is alone with her Aunt Verdella that she can let her guard down and liberate the free-spirit buried deep inside her.

Button's world is turned upside down when Aunt Verdella overextends her small-town hospitality to two drifters, Freeda Malone and her younger sister, Winnalee. The unusual behavior of the two strangers don't seem to bother Aunt Verdella – oddities such as Freeda's strong sense of independence and sexual promiscuity, and young Winnalee's attachment to an urn filled with the ashes of her recently passed mother.

As the Malones and the Peters' families share a country road, Button and Winnalee become best friends and spend the summer making potholders, plotting to find the fairies that Winnalee swears do exist but only if you know where to look and writing down life's lessons in Winnalee's Book of Bright Ideas. The lazy days of summer pass and the families – from two different walks of life – come to have an enormous impact on each other.

Ultimately, hard exteriors and self-imposed walls come crashing down to expose raw self-doubt, shame of past deeds, lies and a horrible crime swept under the rug so long ago. And just as the healing begins, Freeda makes an impulsive decision and the Peters family, especially Button, is left stunned, sad and asking why.

The author's underlying theme in this charming story is that no matter how perfect or admirable someone my seem, inside there is a pain, an emptiness, an anger, a fear or a feeling of inferiority lurking – covertly shaping who we are – all of us.

I expected a lot of Sandra after falling in love with the characters from her debut novel, CARRY ME HOME. I'm thrilled to say, she exceeded my expectations and has created another classic piece. I came to care deeply about her complex and layered characters and could not put the book down until I had read it all. It is a stunning follow-up novel written in Sandra's truly priceless voice. She superbly masters the point-of-view from a child and this book will make you laugh, make you cry and make you never want it to end.

Catherine Ekbert

Connie's Bookshelf

Just Kiss Me
Sarah Storme
Echelon Press
712 Briarwood Lane, Hurst, Texas
ISBN: 1590801741, $13.49, 242 pp.

A judge and legislator, Mr. Strickler will see that his daughters, Mae, Alberta, and Lydia; and his sons, James and Will, behave like ladies and gentlemen--or else. His children will also stay out of bars and dance halls, and obey his every command.

So as Sarah Storme's "Just Kiss Me" opens, Alberta Strickler has led a strict and sheltered life in Marshall's Bayou, Louisiana circa 1918. She doesn't care. To her, the outside world is a terrifying place, though she has attended business college with Mae. Alberta's happy to stay home and go to church, and love her mother and siblings. The thought of marriage--of having feelings for a man--frightens her more than anything else. Surely passion must be evil.

Mae has different ideas. She plans to return to Baton Rouge and find a job. She will bob her hair. Already, she smokes behind the barn, and sneaks out to drink and dance at a local hang out. Their eleven-year-old sister, Lydia, has the same wild streak, though right now, she prefers standing on the back of a galloping horse, to sneaking out past her bed time. Brother Will has married and is considered a man, free to follow his own bent. James waits his turn to strike out on his own, struggling to be patient as childhood drags to an end.

Alberta finds herself caught between all them, lying to the judge to protect Mae when she breaks his rules, helping her mother keep track of Lydia, supporting Will's young, sickly wife, and trying to keep James from going wild. She must also lend a hand to see that the family survives the worst drought in years.

Meanwhile, Marshall's Bayou is strictly segregated, as were many towns across America just after World War I. People of French Catholic extraction stay on their streets. Protestants, like the Stricklers, stay on theirs. The judge makes it clear that's the way things should be. At first, Alberta doesn't question him. Then handsome Isaac Broussard rides into town, looking for a place to raise cattle. Instantly attracted to Alberta, he decides to court her. She spurns him, but gradually, gently, he initiates interaction.

She finds out that French people are just like her. They have goals, hopes, and dreams, and plans for the future. She begins to fall in love with Isaac Broussard. Mae supports the relationship. Lydia and James keep their mouths shut. Alberta takes her first steps toward mental and physical freedom. Judge Strickler becomes furious. He tells Alberta if she leaves home with Isaac, she needn't bother to come back. Albert a doesn't know what to do. How can she leave her brothers, sisters, and mother?

Then Mae makes a decision that will change the family dynamic. Lydia gets bitten by a poisonous snake. Isaac Broussard might be able to save her life. Rain comes. What will these things mean for Alberta?

As author Storme reveals the answers, she creates a vivid picture of life in rural early 20th Century Louisiana, describing everything from daily activities, intense summer heat, a cool swim, Marshall Bayou's main street, and a gathering storm in clear, lucid language.

Every character has plenty of opportunity to face life-changing challenges. They're all three-dimensional, moving at a believable pace toward their position at the end of the book. Storme leaves some of their problems tantalizingly unresolved; some of their questions unanswered. She has planned "Just Kiss Me" to be the first in a series about Marshall's Bayou, and she's made sure that everyone will have room to keep maturing in the books ahead. "Just Kiss Me" is a fun read, with enough romance and subsistence to keep the pages turning.

The Vote
Sybin Downing
University of New Mexico Press
1601 Randolph Rd. SE Suite 200 S., Albuquerque, NM 87106
ISBN: 0826338577, $19.95, 294 pp.

'The Vote' by Sybil Downing brings to life the political process that brought Suffrage to American women in the years just after World War I. The story centers on Kate Brennen, a Denver Socialite and college graduate. On her way to catch a train home from a visit to an old roommate in Washington D. C. after graduation, Kate sees a Woman's Rights march in front of the White House. The way the police treat the demonstrators horrifies her, and she rushes out of her cab to aid the marchers.

In the ensuing battle between the Suffragettes and a jeering male crowd, Kate is arrested. The Suffragette leader, Lucy Burns, demands all the arrestees be treated as political prisoners. The judge laughs, and sends the entire bunch to the Occupation Workhouse, a hideous prison full of roaches, rats, maggoty food, and backbreaking labor. The experience galvanizes the sheltered, inexperienced Kate. She joins the National Woman's Party, and against the wishes of her parents, especially her mother, begins to work for universal suffrage.

She changes from a naive girl who believes Congress will support the Woman's Party because it is right that women be able to vote, to a "tough broad" who realizes that in the political game, rights come at a price. Sometimes this price is justified, and sometimes not. Either way, it must be paid.

As well, Kate meets a feisty Irish party worker named Mary, on the lam from an abusive boy friend. Working for the vote, and dodging him have tragic consequences for Mary. Kate also meets Charlie, a tough reporter--with a soft spot--maybe for her. Her sister, Lizzie runs away from home and insists on following Kate. Kate watches the 16-year-old become a young woman in one weekend.

All in all 'The Vote' is an interesting read. Using a mix of fictional people like Kate, and real Suffragettes such as Lucy Burns and Alice Paul, Sybil Downing follows the history of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which extended voting rights to women. The Amendment appears at the back of the book.

Ms. Downing's vivid arrest scenes, Workhouse descriptions, and moments when senators and party bosses patronize Kate and her cohorts, can make a reader furious. If the reader happens to be female, hopefully she'll stop to think about cost, in terms of life and relationships, of what Kate Brennen's generation achieved for women living today.

Unfortunately, 'The Vote' does have one drawback. Sybil Downing gets caught up in the political process of passing the Anthony Amendment to the point of sometimes forgetting character development. In spots, The Vote' feels more like a newspaper article enlivened by adding human interest, than a novel about people growing, as they out to achieve something for themselves and others.

If readers like politics, they'll adore this book. If they're looking for something more about the human character, they might find 'The Vote' lacking at times. They'll have some unanswered questions about plot and motivation. Even so, 'The Vote' is worth the read to understand exactly what the Suffragettes did. Getting the Susan B. Anthony Amendment passed was no tea party. The women who managed it had courage and strength.

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

Debra's Bookshelf

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor Books
ISBN: 1400095085, $9.95, 128 pp.

The unlikely adventures of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld continue in this collection of five stories by Alexander McCall Smith. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs finds our hero--the renowned author of that philological masterwork Portuguese Irregular Verbs--lecturing on the subject of veterinary medicine at the University of Arkansas ("The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs"), evading man-hungry widows on board a cruise ship ("The Perfect Imperfect"), and hobnobbing with Vatican bigwigs while vacationing in Italy ("The Bones of Father Christmas"). His relationship with his nemesis, Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer (the author of a study on the Portuguese imperfect subjunctive, which is not, however, as fine a piece of scholarship as Igelfeld's own monograph), deepens in the course of these stories, despite Igelfeld's unwonted involvement with sausage dogs and as a direct result of the aforementioned widows.

The situations into which von Igelfeld stumbles in his life can be inherently amusing: McCall Smith's account of Igelfeld's initial encounter with the Pope in the Vatican Library and the fallout from that meeting are well worth the read. But what makes the series so successful is the character of von Igelfeld. He is both oblivious to the perceptions of those around him and imperturbably convinced of his own self worth. His ego and his personal and academic jealousies inform his actions to a great degree. But at the same time there is a redeeming decency to Igelfeld, a sentimentality, that makes him likeable despite his many character flaws.

McCall Smith's von Igelfeld series makes for a good, quietly comic read. Academics in particular will enjoy the author's wry mockery of their world--in which, as Kissinger's famous quip has it, the battles are vicious and the stakes so very small.

Playground: A Childhood Lost inside the Playboy Mansion
Jennifer Saginor
ISBN: 0060761571, $13.95, 277 pp.

The blurb on the back of the book is misleading. A review claims that Jennifer Saginor's memoir Playground is "Bizarre...hilarious, disturbing." Bizarre and disturbing it certainly is, but there's nothing whatever hilarious here. Saginor's father, "Dr. Feel Good," was (he has since lost his license, after the events described in the book) a doctor with a thriving Beverly Hills practice, famous for dispensing pills to models and Hollywood starlets. He was also Hugh Hefner's personal physician and Hef's right-hand man for more than thirty years, a fixture at the Playboy Mansion. Saginor's parents were divorced when she and her sister Savannah, two and a half years her junior, were very young. Saginor's father had custody of the girls on Thursdays and alternate weekends: he started bringing them to the Playboy Mansion when Jennifer was six.

It is one thing to introduce one's little girls at so young an age to the Playboy brand of in-your-face hedonism: topless girls rubbing against Hef and their father, the atmosphere dripping with easy sex, ready drugs and the glorification of instant gratification. Incredibly, though, that Saginor's father regularly brought his daughters to the Mansion was the lesser of his offenses. Far more heinous was his complete abdication of all parental responsibility. He left his girls to roam the Mansion grounds alone, at the ages of six and four, while he played with Hef and the bunnies poolside. Let loose without parental guidance in the Hefner playground, the girls did and saw and ate what they pleased, room service and the occasional centerfold catering to their needs. Their father made no attempt to conceal his sexual promiscuity from the girls, and indeed engaged in his crass flirtations right in front of them.

Because their mother did not approve of the girls spending time at the Mansion, their father induced them to lie to her: this was one manner in which he attempted to poison the relationship between his daughters, Jennifer in particular, and their mother. Eventually this split the family further apart: Savannah rejected her father and his lifestyle for the most part, while Jennifer was swallowed by her devotion to him. Neglected in childhood, Jennifer wallowed in decadence during adolescence--sex, drugs, and endless clubbing. Money came easy. School was an afterthought. Homework was something you paid someone else to do for you.

Saginor became her father's accomplice in debauchery during these years, fully cognizant of his action, scoping out the girls with him. She allegedly had the following conversation with her father when she was fifteen, during one of their innumerable nights out at one of the innumerable hot spots that counted them as A-listers:

"Dad and I are then distracted by two stunning girls locked in a heated French kiss. Their boyfriends lurk beside them on standby.

'It's called intergroup dating,' I inform him.

'Friends of yours?' Dad questions.

'Interested?' I ask as Dad reviews his choices.

By now, checking out girls with my father is too familiar to seem scandalous. I wave to Hef and the circle of young beauties by his side. I nudge my dad.

'What are you waiting around for, sloppy seconds?'

'Very funny.' He grimaces, but we both know it's true."

Later Saginor's relationship with her father, always complicated, would worsen as he spiraled into drug-induced paranoia. One bright spot in her life, an affair with Hugh Hefner's current girlfriend--was doomed by their need to keep it quiet: apparently sexual license has its limits even at Hef's Mansion.

So there's nothing funny about Saginor's life story, the neglected child morphing into irresponsible adolescent; relationships destroyed, overdoses, the sheer volume of time wasted on meaningless pursuits. As for Saginor's book itself, it certainly has an interesting story to tell, but it falls short of gripping prose: the constant recitation of designer names in the author's descriptions become tiresome, as do the playmates' conversations as Saginor records them--presumably capturing their spirit if not their precise content. The repeated descriptions of further acts of decadence--more nights out, more drugs--also become monotonous after a time. But perhaps that's part of the point: the reader tires of Saginor's lifestyle even as she comes to despise it and to realize that changes are necessary. Would that she had decided as much sooner.

The Dead Beat
Marilyn Johnson
ISBN: 0060758759, $24.95, 244 pp.

Marilyn Johnson is a connoisseur of obituaries. At once an avid reader and occasional writer of obits--her words have ushered out such luminaries as Bob Hope and Princess Diana--Johnson has now become, with The Dead Beat, a chronicler of the history of obituaries and of the subcultures of obituarists and obituary enthusiasts. In her perfectly titled book, in perfectly readable prose, Johnson discusses a number of topics: the difference between American and British obituaries, how various newspapers memorialized the victims of 9/11, the online haunts of fanatical obituary watchers, the "revolution" in obituary writing that took place in the mid-1980's, when obituarists--in particular Jim Nicholson of the Philadelphia Daily News--began to write up the lives of the ordinary departed. Johnson profiles a number of obituarists in her book--I found them hard to distinguish from one another after a time--but her portrait of Nicholson, now retired and caring for his ailing wife, is particularly affecting.

The obit lovers about whom Johnson writes presumably already understood this, but what I came away from her book with was an appreciation of the obituary, at its best, as an art form and as history. As Johnson explains, obituaries preserve information--personal anecdotes and gossip and small moments in a life--that you won't find elsewhere in a newspaper. Of the obituary of a Russian emigre that mentioned the deceased's escape from the Bolsheviks as a child, for example, she writes:

"Where else would a story like this surface in our world? It wouldn't be on the local news because there's no video footage. It happened long ago, to someone who died, so we won't be reading it on the front page, or the editorial page, or in the lifestyles pages, where cookie recipes meet movie reviews. Only the obituaries keep such personal history alive." An obituarist writing up the life of the owner of a wine store cum diner in Atlanta dug up another historical gem that might otherwise have gone unpreserved:

"One day, Marvin Griffin, the former segregationist governor of Georgia, Ralph McGill, the liberal editor of the old Atlanta Constitution, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., found themselves shopping in the store at the same time, and ended up in the back room together. A few bottles of Mr. Jim Sanders's wine smoothed the meal in this tantalizing footnote in the history of the South. The three men, all great storytellers, stood outside the wine store after it closed, laughing and swapping tales. King was killed soon after."

Johnson ends this anecdote with a line that elegantly sums ups the historical function of the obituary: "The vast waterfall of history pours down, and a few obituarists fill teacups with the stories." Good writing--as that sentence demonstrates--and a great subject make this one worth the read, whether you're an obituary follower already or not.

The Vanishing Point
Mary Sharratt
Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0618462333, $12.95, 369 pp.

May and Hannah Powers are both unusual for their sex. May, twenty-two when the story begins in 1689, is willful and bold, apt to give away her favors to the nearest boy with a flashing smile and brawny chest. Hannah, seven years her sister's junior, is an innocent, but her Oxford-educated father, lacking sons to whom to bequeath his skills, has taught her as much as he knows of medicine. When age made her father's hands too unsteady to operate, it was Hannah who, unbeknownst to their patients, wielded her father's scalpel.

Because she longs for adventure, and because her wantonness has ruined her chances of contracting a decent marriage in her small town, May acquiesces when her father's cousin, Nathan Washbrook, writes to propose that May marry his son Gabriel. She ships off across the Atlantic, bound to marry a stranger in the wilderness of the American Chesapeake. Hannah plans to join May and her new family once their ailing father dies, but until then she must endure being separated from her beloved sister by months of difficult travel.

Mary Sharratt tells the story of May and Hannah's experiences in the old and new worlds from multiple points of view, occasional flashbacks bringing their present into greater focus. Her book is an example of historical fiction at its finest. Though it wears its scholarship lightly, the book is clearly the product of a great deal of research by the author--more than a decade's worth, according to the Afterword. The Vanishing Point is awash in details of the impossibly difficult lives people led during the period--the trouble that had to be taken to plant and harvest crops, to trap and skin animals and make clothing from their pelts, to merely travel to the nearest town. One is transported in the reading to the verdant Maryland wilderness, loud with animal noises and buzzing insects, the overgrowth pressing in on the Washbrooks' modest home as if to reclaim it for the surrounding woods.

"She hoed eggshells and chicken manure into the garden, hacked up the bloody kid bones with Gabriel's ax and mixed them into the soil, too. The earth demanded blood. When the apple and cherry trees blossomed and the strawberries ripened, she told herself they were over the worst. But the rain also brought a terrible crop of mosquitoes, far worse than anything she remembered from the previous year. Even in the house, with the door and windows closed, there was no escape."

The Vanishing Point is a slow read in that Sharratt takes the time to breathe life into her characters and the world they traverse. But she also manages to tell a gripping story in the book. It is suffused with a quiet dread that keeps one turning the pages, worried about what Sharratt's characters have done to one another, what they will have done to one another by the book's end. Surprisingly affecting and beautifully written and transporting as it is, I can't recommend The Vanishing Point highly enough.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Emanuel's Bookshelf

He Won't Commit
Randa Wise
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 1425934595, $15.50, 218 pp.

In the new novel, He Won't Commit, from Virginia author Randa Wise (His Rib For Eternity), the author explores the lives of three African-American men, their women and their relationships. First there's Larnell, a man who redefines the word "playa." The handsome and successful realtor juggles enough women to make your head spin until he meets his match in Augustina, a woman who will not be played. Can she tame him? Or will the user get what's coming to him?

Then there's Nilo, who much like his friend Larnell, is a fine playa in his own right. But when he meets a down-to-earth New Yorker named Cheyenne, will she be woman enough to make the man turn in his playa card? Or will his past be too much for her to handle?

Finally there's Keith, a successful attorney. Unlike the other men, he is purposely the direct opposite of a player and would prefer to be in a loving relationship if he could find the right woman. However, the women in his life see him as one to be played and used for his money. Will Keith finally realize enough is enough and kick the users to the curb so that he can find the woman of his dreams?

He Won't Commit is a novel in which women will relate to and love and men will take heed to and learn. Wise has crafted a page-turner with drama in the fashion of "Waiting to Exhale" and suspense in the style of "Menace II Society." The way the author orchestrates the book's many characters like a maestro without missing a beat is remarkable. Though the book could use a much tighter edit, it does not take away from the author's crafty plot and worthwhile story of love, sex and consequences. Readers should definitely pick this one up. Recommended.

Family and Other Accidents
Shari Goldhagen
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385515979, $23.95, 272 pp.

In Shari Goldhagen's debut novel, "Family and Other Accidents," we are introduced to two unique and completely different brothers, Jack and Conner Reed. After their parents' deaths, Jack has no choice but to play more of a parenting role to his younger brother. Jack, ten years Conner's senior, is a Playboy attorney who has problems expressing love. Conner holds out hope for love from his relationships and from his older brother.

When Jack meets a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter named Mona, he decides to commit. But is it enough for Mona, who would like to be married? Later in college, Conner himself meets the love of his life in Laine. Do they have what it takes to maintain a long, healthy relationship though? Rest assured, the surprising answers will be revealed in this book that follows the Cleveland men through more than two decades of their lives.

"Family and Other Accidents" works on many levels. Goldhagen is a gifted and talented writer who manages to introduce interesting yet flawed characters whose lives readers will care to understand and follow throughout years of their lives. Those of us from the Cleveland area will instantly recognize and fall in love with the author's depiction of the area and its attractions. Though it tends to drag a bit, the book itself manages to touch on issues of aloofness, adultery, and death while still giving readers hope that love is attainable for anyone. It's definitely worth checking out. Highly Recommended.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Mr Monk Goes to the Hawaii
Lee Goldberg
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0451219007, $6.99

This time Monk and Natalie travel to Hawaii to solve numerous crimes including murder. I love the show "Monk" and am glad this novel continues the series. I think it's a plus that Goldberg has actually written for the show because the story flows like an episode, and each chapter is titled like each show. The novel is filled with many good aspects that make the series such fun.

You Can't Hide
Karen Rose
Warner Books Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
ISBN: 0446616893, $6.50,

I've not read anything else by this author but in the future I will make it a point to because she is very good. Patients of psychiatrist Tess Ciccotelli are committing suicide and she is the only suspect at the beginning of the novel when detective Aidan Regan is brought on to the case. But things change and the two of them are thrust together to find out who is targeting Tess and her practice. The author builds the suspense and relationship between the two main characters very well and the story is a fast paced suspense novel with many twists and turns. Rose is a great suspense writer.

James Siegel
Warner Books Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
ISBN: 0446617067, $6.99

The author of "Derailed" once again has written a very fast paced thriller that is filled with believable characters in tight situations. The pacing is rapid while the story is very realistic. Also handled very well is what price will someone go to adopt a child from another country. I loved this book and feel it would make a great movie.

Stephen King
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 1-800-456-6798
ISBN: 0743292332, $26.95

I don't usually read Stephen King because his last few books have been too long, too wordy, and just plain boring has but this time he has written a perfect scary novel because it could just happen. Our society has come to rely too much on cell phones and this novel shows just what happens when something goes wrong with the entire network. I'm a dinosaur who refuses to get a cell phone and this story backs up some of my reasoning for not entering the cellular communications world. I like his horror tale that flows along like an early King novel that was quick and to the point but also made readers think. This one does all of that and more.

Two Little Girls in Blue
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 1-800-456-6798
ISBN: 0743264908, $26.95

Clark adds new twists to the typical kidnapping novel. I like the fast pacing of the story and the characters that are so well defined. Clark takes the reader along with chilling ride to the very end. It is easy to see why she is the queen of suspense. The tale roars along until its revealing climax.

Monk the Official Episode Guide
Terry J. Erdman and Paula M. Block
St. Martins Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 0312354614, $19.95,

The authors take readers into the world of the show "Monk" and reveal how the show is written, how it is different from any other show ever made, actor profiles, and so many other things. Included are episode guides for the first four seasons. They give details about certain episodes. They also talk about an episode that took four seasons to figure out how the killer did the murder because he had the perfect airtight alibi. For any fan of the show this is the book to have. I hope there will be other editions as other seasons unfold.

The R Document
Irving Wallace
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 0765354470, $7.99,

I read this novel a long time ago when it originally came out. Back then it was considered by many to be a very good piece of fiction. Today it is a very timely warning to our society of what can happen when the federal government abuses its power. Wallace fills the story with great characters, fast pacing, and situations that are all too real. This is a book that should be on every politician's shelf of must read.

The Cattle
Greg M. Sarwa
Ampol Publishing Inc
656 N. Convent Ave #104, Bourbonnais, IL 60914
ISBN: 0976620200, $14.95,

The issue of immigration is covered in this timely cautionary tale of government gone bad in the near future. A new law on immigration is to take effect. A few days before, several people are found dead while a disk with information on what is really going on disappears. Bodies pile up as government agents try to recover the disk. It seems the government in its infinite wisdom has come up with a way to solve the immigration problem. I loved the writing and the situations that the author has presented of government-gone bad trying to protect itself.

Bobby's Troll
John Lance
Yard Dog Press
710 W. Redbud Lane, Alama, AR 72921-7247
ISBN: 1893687686, $6.00,

There are seven short gems here by a very talented writer. The stories are fun that show what is really going on with the tooth fairy and a household dragon to name a few. I would love to see other works by this writer.

Lemons Never Lie
Richard Stark
Hard Case
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843955945, $6.99

This is Stark at his best. Fast pacing, strong characters, and just fun to read. I love this series of novels that have long been out of print and now are finding new audiences. Hard Case is a great line of good old mysteries and this is one of the best. Hard Case novels are the perfect summer beach reading material.

Nancy Grace with Diane Dlehane
77 West 66th Street, New York NY 10023-6298
ISBN: 1401308481, $14.95

Nancy Grace, who is boldly outspoken on two cable networks, now tells what's wrong with the court system, and she pulls no punches. She tells who is getting justice, why the system is failing and lots more, but she also has many ideas on how to fix it. She also goes into detail why the OJ trial went the way it did, why Michael Jackson walked, and why Scott Peterson went to jail. Grace has a lot to say and she does it very well. I am now even more of a Nancy Grace fan after reading her book.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

Odd Thomas
Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
ISBN: 0553584499, $7.99, 446 pp.

Dean Koontz is an acquired taste for the typical horror reader. With 'Odd Thomas,' he has created a bitter/sweet fable for everyone. Koontz writes with rich detail and an eye to the absurd. In 'Odd Thomas,' this results in a tale that brings a smile as it pulls you down the road to a horror you know is coming but can't stop.

Odd Thomas, this is his real name, is a fry cook at a local dinner. He is different because he can see dead people and evil sprites. The dead people, including a sad Elvis, come to him for comfort or help. One day a man comes to the dinner followed by dark shadows, which live on violent death, and Odd's world changes as he struggles to stop the death he sees coming.

Odd Thomas is a sad character you will love. The melancholy tale doesn't depress the reader but pulls you to a pathos filled climax that feels real. 'Odd Thomas' is a story every serious reader needs to experience.

The Ancestor's Tale
Richard Dawkins
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 0739453734, $16.00, 673 pp.

Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist with an opinion. In 'The Ancestor's Tale,' he does a great job of informing the reader of the current knowledge of genetic and evolutionary biology. This is a good lay-text for those who are interested in the subject and should be required reading for any who want to discuss evolution.

The book is loosely based on the narrative format of the 'Canterbury Tales.' It is so loosely based that you need to be told that 'Canterbury' was the inspiration for the format. What Dawkins does in the story is trace modern human ancestry back through time with forty different genetic mergings. Each merging is a known or suspected match of a genetic ancestor of man with the rest of the life on the planet. In the process, Dawkins explains molecular biology and evolutionary questions that are frequently asked but seldom explained in a significantly accurate manor.

'The Ancestor's Tale' is a must read for anyone interested in biology or evolution. It is a comprehensive and readable text on the subject. It is surprisingly understandable for such a massive technical work. Unlike some of Dawkins other stories, his opinions are restrained and the text becomes an enjoyable ride into the history of the world. There is even a great tutorial on the geology of plate tectonics and atomic theory that is blended into the tale. 'The Ancestor's Tale' is well worth the time it takes to read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Greenspan's Bookshelf

An Elk in the House
Beverly Lein
NeWest Press
#201, 8540-109 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 1E6
1896300995 $15.95 1-800-805-1083

"An Elk in the House" is the heartwarming true story of Butter, an elk calf at the Seventh Avenue Elk Ranch in Manning, Alberta, Canada. Originally given low odds of survival due to her refusal to nurse and her paralyzed leg, Butter quickly became an unforgettable part of the lives of farmers Beverly and Carson Lein. "An Elk in the House" also presents the reader with an informative look at daily life on an elk farm, with its joys and pains, triumphs and mishaps, including the dangers of charging bulls! Black-and-white photographs illustrate this gentle, slice-of-life, entertaining and recommended memoir.

Judging Dogs: Science And Technique
Robert Berndt
Alpine Publications, Inc.
PO Box 120, Crawford, CO 81415
1577790111 $34.95 1-800-777-7257

A seasoned and experienced all-breed judge and past Chariman of the Board of the American Kennel Club, Robert Berndt also draws upon his many years of experience as a dog handler in "Judging Dogs: Science And Technique", a superbly written and organized instruction manual for judging entrees of any and all breeds of dogs either in general or in specialized dog shows and competitions. Properly judging dogs requires a detailed and accurate knowledge of breed Standards and type, as well as an expertise in canine anatomy, physiology, and topology. "Judging Dogs: Science And Technique" is an ideal and substantial 276-page, step-by-step, illustrated introduction for the novice judge, and has a great deal of value to offer even the more experienced judges. "Judging Dogs: Science And Technique" is also a critically important reference for anyone entering their dog into competition so they, as a dog owner and/or handler, will know what to expect and prepare for.

Neotropical Savannas And Seasonally Dry Forests
R. Toby Pennington, Gwilym P. Lewis, James A Ratter, editors
CRC Press
c/o Taylor & Francis Group
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487
0849329876 $119.95 1-800-272-7737

Collaboratively compiled, organized and edited by the team of R. Toby Pennington, James A Ratter (both of whom are with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh) and Gwilym P. Lewis (from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), "Neotropical Savannas And Seasonally Dry Forests: Plant Diversity, Biogeography, And Conservations" is the latest addition to the prestigious 'Systematics Association Special Volumes' series (under the general editorial supervision of Alan Warren (Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London, England) and the first extensive compilation focused specifically upon patterns of plant biodiversity in the species-rich savannas and seasonally dry forests of the neotropics. This scholarly and expert 484-page overview (contributed to by 59 contributors from around the world) succinctly summarizes what is currently known of the evolutionary history of these particular ecosystems, including links to the development of analogous vegetation in Africa. "Neotropical Savannas And Seasonally Dry Forests" focus on plant biodiversity and the molecular phylogenies and molecular population genetics for uncovering the biogeographic history of these ecosystems making it a seminal and necessary addition to professional and academic library Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies reference collections.

Able Greenspan

Harwood's Bookshelf

Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
10 East 53rd Street, NY 10022
ISBN: 0060746874, $21.95, 244 pp.

reprinted from American Rationalist, Jan/Feb 2006.

Robert Kennedy Jr does not identify George W. Bush as a talking chimpanzee who should be sterilized to get the blueprints for absolute evil out of the human gene pool. That is surprising, since everything he does say about the moron polluting the White House and betraying America is right on the money. By the time Kennedy has finished spelling out Bush's crimes, not only against America but also against planet earth and the human race, only another Republicanazi could fail to recognize that, compared to Bush, Al Capone was a humanitarian. This book is the most detailed and accurate indictment of a subhuman monster since the trial of a Bush prototype's good buddies at Nuremberg in 1946, although those gentlemen admittedly did not have Bush's legal defence of diminished responsibility. And the book is not partisan. Kennedy made the same points in a number of speeches to card-carrying Republicans, and received standing ovations (pp. 1-2).

A point Kennedy does not make, since he is writing for an audience that has a favorable view of religion, is that Bush's calculated destruction of America and Earth as human habitats is derived from his belief in an imaginary playmate he is counting on to intervene and save the planet and the species from the very destruction Bush is perpetrating. Republican Interior Secretary James Watt declared that protecting the environment was unnecessary, because the second coming of the Christian junior god was mere months away, and all problems would magically disappear at that time. While Ronald Reagan, himself not the brightest light on the candelabra, dissociated himself from Watt's extremism and forced him out of his Cabinet, Bush Junior reflects Watt's substitute for thinking down to the minutest detail.

The whole time I was reading this book, I kept looking for a paragraph that summarized the crimes against humanity of the most corrupt, criminal, morally bankrupt, lying, conscienceless, self-aggrandizing president America has ever had. This may be it: "As Jesuit schoolboys studying world history, we learned why Copernicus and Galileo kept their discoveries under wraps: a less restrained heliocentrist, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive in 1586 for the crime of sound science…. Today, the Bush administration and Congress are similarly twisting science to consolidate power…. To justify its agenda, the Bush White House is suppressing studies, purging scientists, and doctoring data to bamboozle the public and press. It is a campaign to suppress science arguably unmatched in the western world since the Inquisition" (pp. 76-77).

But that paragraph summarizes only Bush's conspiracy to keep the masses ignorant of his use of anti-science to justify his Stalinistic seizure of absolute power. Most of the book details Bush's acceptance of bribes, in the form of campaign contributions, for overturning all legislation ordering the polluters that are turning America into a coast-to-coast smog zone to clean up their act. Bush has reversed decades of environmental protection measures, for the sole purpose of rewarding corporate criminals for kissing his butt and making him the biggest turd in the cesspool. And Kennedy spells out Bush's crimes in such detail that a randomly chosen paragraph from almost anywhere in the book would convince any grand jury in America to indict the entire Bush Gestapo for doing to America what Hitler did to Germany, and name Bush as an unindicted coconspirator

No sane person can approve the execution of anyone who could be neutralized by lesser means. But if George W. Bush were to be strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm, I might well conclude that the consequences of not taking such action would be an even greater evil. America needs George W. Bush like Germany needed Hitler.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
Bart D. Ehrman
10 East 53rd St, NY 10022
ISBN: 0060738170, $24.95, 252 pp.

Reprinted from Freethought Perspective, April 2006.

Bart Ehrman begins his latest analysis of Christianity's sacred writings with an autobiographical Introduction that explains how he evolved from a born-again biblical literalist into the person who holds his current views. The transformation began when he wrote an essay that went to heroic lengths to "prove" that, when Mark showed Jesus misquoting the book of Samuel, it wasn't really a misquotation. Jesus' reference to a time when Abiathar was high priest meant during the same era that Abiathar had been a high priest. Instead of congratulating Ehrman for going to such extraordinary lengths to preserve biblical inerrancy, the professor wrote, "Maybe Mark just made a mistake." And that comment prompted Ehrman, for the first time in his life, to consider the possibility that the supposedly inerrant gospels did contain mistakes.

Confronted by the fundamentalist argument that the original autographs were inerrant but copyists corrupted them, Ehrman writes (p. 11), "I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place." He later reaffirms, "Given the circumstance that he didn't preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable that he hadn't gone to the trouble of inspiring them" (p. 211).

Since Ehrman is focusing on gospel passages that have been changed, he does not mention a prophecy attributed to Jesus in Mark 13:30 that has survived unchanged, that the world was going to end (later misinterpreted as promising a "second coming") within the lifetime of persons listening to him preach, in other words no later than the reign of the emperor Hadrian. He does point out that a literal interpretation of Matthew 24:32-34 means that Jesus' second coming was to occur before 1988 (p. 13). A book titled The Late Great Planet Earth endorsing such an interpretation was the bestseller of the 1970s. And a series called Left Behind that similarly endorses biblical literalism has so far sold more than sixty million copies. Does that mean that sixty million Americans are dangerously, criminally, certifiably insane? While their buying such books proves only that they are gullible, their failure to recognize them as nonsense would prove exactly that. And Left Behind's imbecility is scheduled to be made into movies.

Ehrman is assuredly not a biblical literalist. But has he faced the reality that religion is in its entirety a product of the human imagination? His failure to come clean on that question arouses a logical suspicion that preserving his bread and butter as a Bible Belt professor makes it inexpedient for him to answer Yes, and awareness of the overwhelming evidence that God is no more real than Mother Goose makes him reluctant to answer No.

In reviewing Ehrman's previous books, I was unable to determine from his writing if he was Christian or Jewish. It is now clear that he was not Jewish in the past. But since Christianity can be disproven without disproving Judaism (although not vice versa), his apparent inability to give up belief in eternal life in Cloud Cuckoo Land, that is the mind-deadening opiate that gets intestinally challenged godworshippers through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered, is best viewed as an indication that Ehrman has reverted to the mythology of his ancestors. Such an unmentioned conversion is as important a clue to his motivations as the information that his Introduction does provide.

The book's title is misleading. Ehrman does not even consider whether words put into Jesus' mouth by the gospel authors were ever spoken by him—perhaps because the Jesus Seminar, in which 200 scholars from several disciplines examined Jesus' alleged sayings to ascertain their reliability, had answered that question to the point that there was nothing more to say. Rather, his book is devoted to showing that passages in present-day bibles may or may not be what the gospel authors really wrote.

Did the author of Matthew write that a voice from the sky at Jesus' immersion declared, "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased," or did he have the voice say, "Today I have begotten you"? Ehrman sees the latter reading as coming from an "adoptionist" philosophy that he views as a Christian heresy. Since no surviving manuscript of Mark shows the "Today I have begotten you" reading, he concludes that Mark never contained it. But where does he think the Matthew and Luke versions of the immersion scene came from? Since Matthew and Luke both copied the scene from Mark, and there is enough manuscript evidence they both originally said, "Today I have begotten you," is it not self-evident that Mark must have originally carried the same reading? A consensus of scholars agrees that it is.

While acknowledging that Luke wrote, "Today I have begotten you," Ehrman inexplicably writes (p. 160), "Luke probably did not mean that to be interpreted adoptionistically, since, after all, he had already narrated an account of Jesus' virgin birth." Come again? Even ignoring the reality that manuscripts survive that contain no virgin birth fable, does Ehrman really believe that the author of Luke (and likewise the author of Matthew) was so stupid as to place a virgin birth myth adjacent to a genealogy with which it is incompatible? No original gospel said anything about a virgin birth, and Paul had never heard of such a doctrine. All biblical authors believed that Jesus was the natural son of Joseph, as did all Christians prior to his deification in the gospel called John between 130 and 138 CE.

Ehrman cites the Ebionite belief that, "Jesus did not preexist; he was not born of a virgin; he was not himself divine" (p. 156). Of course that is what the Ebionites believed, because the Ebionites were the original Judaic cult formed by Jesus and continued after his death by those apprentices who returned to Galilee rather than remaining in Jerusalem and becoming the Nazirites. But Ehrman calls the Ebionites "Jewish Christians," implying that Christianity came first and the Ebionites were a splinter offshoot. Is he unaware that, when Jesus instructed a potential proselyte to "sell everything you own and give the proceeds to The Poor" (which Ehrman acknowledges to be the meaning of Ebionim), he was instructing him to give the money to Jesus' communal coffers? This is made crystal clear in the Acts passage in which Hanan and Sapphire withhold some of the proceeds for personal use and are snuffed. The Ebionites were not Christians. They were practising Jews—as was Jesus. Regarding Jesus as the heir and successor (but not descendant) of King David did not make them gentiles—and the Christians were gentiles.

While spelling out intentional alterations in the Christian books, Ehrman also recognizes that, "Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort of another" (p. 55). Only the most dogmatic incurable would disagree with that. Similarly only incurables dispute that the concluding verses of Mark are an interpolation based on Matthew and Luke, invented to replace Mark's own lost ending. Most English translations acknowledge this by printing the twelve verses in italics. And Ehrman shows that the fable of Jesus and the adulteress was certainly never part of John, and probably never part of Luke (where The Compact Fully Translated Bible puts it) either.

In quoting a passage in Revelation in which the author invokes a curse against anyone who deletes or adds any words in his apocalypse, Ehrman explains that the threat was not against persons who did not believe his fantasy novel, but against copyists who changed it (p. 54). No doubt it was. But Ehrman misses the supreme irony that the author of those threats was a Nazirite (Jesus-Jew) redactor who added three chapters at the beginning and three chapters at the end to an Essene (orthodox Jewish) apocalypse written almost three decades earlier. Neither of Revelation's authors was a Christian, as Walter Bauer pointed out in Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.

Ehrman does make a valid point for scriptural falsification when he quotes gospel passages (p. 158) describing Joseph as Jesus' father, and then quotes translations (not alternative manuscripts) in which references to "his father and mother" and "his parents" were changed to "Joseph and his mother," for the conscious, intentional purpose of preventing readers from realizing that the gospels as a whole are incompatible with the post-synoptic pretence that Jesus' father was not Joseph but a spook—who according to Augustine of Hippo impregnated Mary through an unusual orifice: "God by means of the angel's voice and through the virgin's ear impregnated her."

Similarly, in Mark's account of Jesus' encounter with a leper, the most reliable manuscripts say that Jesus "became angry," while others say that he "felt compassion." When Matthew and Luke copied the fable almost verbatim, they omitted the quoted words altogether. Would two independent revisionists, Jesus admirers both, have chosen to omit that Jesus "felt compassion"? The logical answer is that "became angry" was Mark's actual wording, and his copyists saw that as incompatible with their theology. The possibility of a scribe changing Mark's original "felt compassion" to "became angry" can be estimated as zero. Only a change in the opposite direction, for propaganda purposes, is explicable.

Even the earliest Christian apologists attest that copyists changed the sacred writings to make them conform to their own theology. Origen in the second century (Ehrman says third century, perhaps simply a typo) wrote, "They make additions or deletions as they please" (p. 52). And a second-century bishop wrote that, "some have dared to tamper even with the word of the Lord himself" (p. 53).

With rare exceptions, Misquoting Jesus is trivia. While it should be required reading for Biblical Historiography 101, designed for believers who have never learned to think but are not incapable of doing so, it is of no more use or relevance to persons who already know that the Christian gospels are fairy tales than an equally detailed exposition of how Scientology evolved from Ron Hubbard's initial decision to invent a religion because, "that's where the money is," into the opiate of choice for some of Hollywood's best known brain amputees

Arthur C. Clarke & Stephen Baxter
Del Rey Books
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
ISBN: 034545250X, $25.95, 330 pp.

This sequel to the authors' Time's Eye is a magnificent novel, by two of the most powerful imaginations in the history of science fiction. While there are (amazingly) people who do not like science fiction, for everyone else Sunstorm can be recommended without reservation.

In a subplot reminiscent of Tom Flynn's Nothing Sacred, when humankind is threatened by an impending natural disaster capable of wiping out all life on earth, and scientists devise a method of preventing that disaster, a cult of religious fanatics sabotages the scientists' efforts in the conviction that their god has a right to exterminate the human race if it so chooses, and humans do not have the right to defend themselves. Were Clarke and Baxter thinking of humankind's mindless destruction of planet earth as a human habitat, particularly by global warming, and the religion-infested Bush administration's paranoid suppression of all attempts to counter it? Certainly the parallel is hard to ignore.

That said, it is unfortunately necessary to point out a chronic and totally unnecessary weakness that, while not causing the reader to shut the book in disgust, will certainly cause shudders. Partly from political correctness and partly from ignorance of the origins of the Christian religion, the authors tacitly endorse the delusion that Christian myths have a factual basis. For example, the star of Bethlehem, although portrayed as a missile sent by hostile aliens rather than by a god, is nonetheless authenticated as an event from history. It was nothing of the sort. The tale was plagiarized by the Christians from myths centuries older.

The magi who followed the star are likewise authenticated, even though that myth too originated centuries earlier. Jesus is depicted as being born in Bethlehem. He was born in Galilee (although some scholars dispute that he ever existed). And the authors' use of the Christian dating system that is intrinsically offensive to this planet's 5.5 billion non-Christians, instead of the scientifically neutral replacement, BCE/CE, which even liberal believers are now using, is inexcusable. Are the authors unaware of the neutral terminology?

As for the scene at the approaching climax when the scientists combating the disaster resort to praying: while it might be mere realism to show religion still flourishing forty years in the future, allowing the novel's most intelligent, educated characters to endorse the god hoax is an unnecessary pandering to readers' ignorance. Was this scene designed to counter the portrayal of a couple of characters' sexual orientation, by showing gays having a "normal" attitude toward religion? Justifying unorthodox sexuality by combining it with orthodox religiosity is not only unnecessary; it is counter-productive. And surely there was a better way of showing the stress a scientist was under than by having him insert an artificial dog turd between his lips, set fire to it, and inhale its carcinogenic smoke?

All of those endorsements of superstition and irrational behavior could have been avoided without lessening the power of the narrative. Perhaps a "new star" was necessary to the plot. But it could just as easily have been equated with the alleged new star that heralded the birth of Abraham or Zoroaster, thereby subtly reminding Christians that their fables are not new, rather than encouraging the belief that a copy of a copy of a copy had a historical basis. Since the plot did not demand it, they need not have mentioned a Bethlehem birth at all. The magi could just as easily have followed the star to the birthplace of Zoroaster, making the point that that was the original version. The authors are not brainwashed religion addicts (there's another kind?), and neither are most science fiction readers. So why pander to the ignoranti? Surely it is high time Sir Arthur emulated his only peers, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, by acknowledging his awareness that gods do not exist, have never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future.

Nonetheless, the cited weaknesses add up to less than two pages out of 330. No science fiction appreciator who reads it will be disappointed. The plot is Clarke at his best, and if Baxter did most of the actual writing, the future of science fiction is in excellent hands.

Boys and Girls Together
William Goldman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0345439732, $14.00, 768 pp.

previously posted to

Boys and Girls Together is one of the masterpieces of twentieth century American literature, ranking alongside Gone With The Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. So why has it never been made into a movie? Surely the screenplay writer of Butch and Sundance has the connections to get his own book filmed? Admittedly, the ending is too downbeat for modern filmgoers. But that could be changed without compromising the author's integrity. The fate of Aaron and Rudy must not be changed. But the insertion of happy endings for Jenny, Branch and Walt is surely permissible, if the alternative is no film at all? How about it, Mr Goldman? The book's reprinting in a 2001 paperback proves that there is still a market for incomparable storytelling. Go for it. For anyone who has not yet read it: Do so.

How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)
Ann Coulter
Crown Forum
1745 Broadway. New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 1400054184, $16.98, 368 pp.

previously posted to

"When you have no defence, attack." That has long been standard operating procedure for fanatics who espouse a moral or political philosophy that they know is indefensible. And one of their most effective procedures has been to take words that are intrinsically positive and use them as if they were pejorative: "You dirty little morally evolved educated person."

In recent years the most targeted victim of language distortion is a word that means, "morally evolved, moderate, pragmatic, tolerant, and middle-of-the road," the word "liberal." In a posthumously published book, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote that, "Long ago there was a noble word, LIBERAL, which derived from the word FREE (libre)." She went on to explain that a strange thing happened to that word. A man named Hitler made it a term of abuse, because liberals had no use for him. Then another man named McCarthy cast the same opprobrium on the word. Today many Americans distrust the word derived from FREE, because they are brainwashed on an ongoing basis by persons who see freedom as an obstacle to their determination to violate the First Amendment and impose their extremist sectarian religion on persons who disagree with it.

As part of the Big Lie of the Theocratic Right, the word "liberal" is being used by persons whose moral evolution falls between 2,000 and 10,000 years below that of liberals, as a synonym for neo-communist or something equally indefensible. They label conservatism as mainstream and liberalism as left wing. A notorious theocrat admired by Ann Coulter even described liberalism as "the far left bank." But even as conservative a Republican as Dwight Eisenhower declared that any philosophy that is not in the middle of the road is "in the gutter."

Coulter's hatred of morally evolved liberals (tautology) is best diagnosed as a function of her status as an upholder of the extremist philosophy Eisenhower denigrated as, "in the gutter." Nowhere in any of Coulter's books does she express the belief that the earth is flat. But such a dogma would be no more of a throwback to a less enlightened period of human history than every other philosophy espoused in "How to Talk to a Liberal." America needs Ann Coulter like it needed Kenneth Starr.

Godless: The Church of Liberalism
Ann Coulter
Crown Forum
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 1400054206, $27.95, 320 pp.

previously posted to

If a liberal humanist wanted to discredit the Bush administration and everything it stands for, by writing the most extremist exposition of anti-human thought patterns that evolved Homo sapiens had outgrown 30,000 years ago and pretending that he was the Bush league's propaganda minister, this is the book he would have written. By showing that, "This is how those people think," it annihilated the Theocratic Right better than any unambiguous Philippic could ever hope to do.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Language of the Blues, from Alcorub to Zuzu
Debra DeSalvo
Billboard Books/Watson-Guptill
New York, NY
ISBN: 0823083896, $16.95, 173+xviii pp.

Every reader will pick up something new about lyrics, terms and phrases, noted cities and neighborhoods, instruments, performers, lore, and other aspects of this always popular and colorful style of music. With occasional material from interviews with top names in blues and closely-related types of popular music in entries as long as essays of three or so pages to as short as a couple of lines, DeSalvo relates origins of words and phrases, gives examples when relevant, describes nuances in different styles, locates the origins and outlines the course of different traditions, explains details of instruments and techniques of playing them, and draws profiles of significant singers and instrumentalists. And she includes considerable colorful lore and terminology unknown to only the most knowledgeable aficionados which can only add to enjoyment of the blues with more casual fans. A lively, informative, eminently readable companion to blues music in all its history and manifestations.

Tesseracts Nine: New Canadian Speculative Fiction
edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing/Hades Publications
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
ISBN: 1894063265, $16.95, 390 pp.

Seven of the 23 collected pieces have been previously published; the others appear here for the first time. While all the authors are from Canada, in introductory and closing sections, the editors each note that there really is no meaningful or helpful classification of "Canadian speculative fiction." In his foreword, Ryman notes that among the selections in this loosely-defined genre of speculative fiction are science fiction, Christian miracle tales, ones based on pagan themes and content, and others depicting inexplicable events. Hopkinson in her closing section "Final Thoughts" cites the variety of humor--satire, buffoonery, camp, etc.--found in many of the stories. A few of the pieces are short-shorts of only a page or two, a couple in verse; the longest is over 60 pages. Detailed biographical notes on the number of authors at the back lead readers to additional works.

Friday Night Grind: Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Jackie Brenner
Fresco Fine Arts Publications
Albuquerque, NM
distributed by U. of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
ISBN: 0976252333, $55.00, 96 pp.

Brenner's photographs report the New Orleans strip-club scene in a gritty style. The noirish, realistic photos capture the words from the lines of a poem "The Grind of Bourbon Street" used as an epigraph for the 50 or so photos--"The grind of/merely surviving the harshness of living..." This "grind" is juxtaposed with the "grind" of the crowds and of the music. Yet the women do not appeal for sympathy; nor are they photographed to evoke sympathy. Neither are Brenner's photos moralistic in that they belittle or judge the women. Their work as strippers is merely and equivalently another kind of work, like the work of other laborers or blue-collar workers. The scenes with women smoking and drinking sodas offstage and even the shots of them in their nearly naked performances have a matter-of-fact quality. Here the flesh of breasts, buttocks, backs, and thighs is simply another element of the scene, like the excited or jaded men with their beers. Everyone is playing a prescribed role. Only the few photos of younger women, little more than girls, with faintly frantic looks for means of escape suggest the vacuousness of the enterprise sucking the adult women and men into it with no hope or desire of return at the point they have reached. After Katrina, one will wait and see if this aspect of the famed New Orleans Bourbon Street night life comes back.

Imperium Legionis: A Detailed Study of the Roman Army During the Empire
Jose Sanchez Toledo
Andrea Press
Madrid, Spain
distributed in U. S. by Casemate
Havertown, PA 19083
ISBN: 8496527239, $35.95, 206 pp.

Toledo's participation in reenactments of Roman battles with replicas of classical Roman military uniforms, weapons, and maneuvers familiarized him with all aspects of the legions which carried Roman civilization throughout Europe and parts of North Africa and the Middle East. But he does not stop at the colorful, captivating Roman military regalia. Military ranks from ordinary legionnaires through standard bearers and centurions on to cavalry and generals and the roles of each are covered, as well as the military pay scale, battle tactics, parts and purposes of body armor, and daily life including garrison duty in conquered lands. Photographs of reenactors like Toledo (similar to American Civil War buffs putting on Northern and Confederate uniforms to replay Civil War battles) and realistic color illustrations complement the author's descriptions and discussions. In a column on many pages is a journal of a fictitious legionnaire recording his impressions, thoughts, and experiences in relation to the subjects being treated in the regular text. This is an engaging illustrated, popular, yet comprehensive and authoritative treatment of the always fascinating Roman armies which were for centuries unrivaled in the ancient world.

Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire
Jennifer Doyle
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN
ISBN: 0816645264, $19.95, 184+xxxi pp.

You know that any book of criticism with Thomas Eakins, the notorious pornographic film "Moby Dick," Andy Warhol, Vanessa Beecroft, and Tracey Emin in it is going to be quirky. What links all of these quirky artists in this work by an associate professor of English at the U. of California-Riverside and co-author of "Pop Out: Queer Warhol" is their approaches to handling sexuality. With Eakins, the approach in his time and place of Victorian era America was subtle and ambivalent. With Warhol, the approach was ironic and often detached. With Beecroft, forward and multiplicitous. These and the other unconventional treatments of sexuality are critiqued with reference to "the queer theory that addresses the limitations of dominant (largely binary) models for sexual identity for describing our sexual lives and for understanding representations of sexual difference and sexual desire." Doyle demonstrates a sure understanding of the latest methodology and critical possibilities of queer theory.

The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects
Peter Schwenger
U. of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis, MN; 800-621-2736
ISBN: 0816646317, $25.00, 200 pp.

In his book-length essay with elements of philosophy, art criticism, and literary critique, Schwenger ruminates on the incompleteness of perception, "always falling short of full possession [as comprehension or understanding], giving rise to a melancholy that is felt by the subject and is ultimately for [italics in original] the subject." The author--a professor of English at Mount St. Vincent U. in Canada--detects the limits of the connection with things in a world of physical objects, including an individual's own body; which limits inevitably give rise to feeling of melancholy and loneliness. Art works of Georgia O'Keeffe and Rene Magritte, writings of Borges and Virginia Woolf, and sculpture by Duchamp and Louise Bourgeois are among the many and varied art by recognized modern artists the author brings in for his illumination of this mood of melancholy which is ordinarily faint in the hustle and bustle of daily life and its simple, practical relationship with things. One appreciates the author's unapologetic use of psychology in this sensitive movement in this central, yet for the most part unrealized feature of human existence. The psychology brings an illumination and reach to the subject which semantics, semiology, aesthetics, and the study of "material culture" cannot with their formalistic, postmodernist methods and styles. Schwenger finds in the end that although it is bound in with anxieties over "real and metaphysical death," since it is essentially a desire refusing "to conclude...always impelled past conclusion," melancholy is a part of the life force.

Marked Women: Prostitutes and Prostitution in Cinema
Russell Campbell
U. of Wisconsin Press
Madison, WI
ISBN: 0299212505, $65.00, 450+xiv pp.
ISBN: 0299212548, $24.95

"The representation of female prostitution in the movies takes place in a complex, dynamic field in which the forces of male fantasy and patriarchal ideology...merge or collide...." The merging and colliding have given rise to 15 identifiable images of the prostitute--siren, comrade, nursemaid, junkie, baby doll, and martyr, to name some. Campbell--senior lecturer in film studies at a New Zealand university--reviews numerous films mostly from the 1950s on for their portrayals of prostitutes according to one of these images; or sometimes portrayed with a mixing of images though one is usually predominate. In many cases, the images are general labels, or are loosely applied, rather than stereotypes. With changing mores regarding sex, gender dissonance, the bent of "free-market capitalism" to cater to popular culture, and the "interests of female spectatorship [and] varieties of feminist discourse," the character of the prostitute in movies is fluid. Sometimes, a prostitute is even portrayed as virtuous and contrasted with society's moral hypocrisies and sexual ambivalences. And at times, the prostitute represents society's unmet needs and muddled yearnings. Campbell's wide-ranging study based on numerous films in the genre of movies with characters of prostitutes over the past several decades since strict gender roles have been breaking down and formerly taboo subjects have been treated more openly is a benchmark in this area of film studies.

The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales: The Iliad, The Odyssey, and the Migration of Myth
Felice Vinci
translated by Felice Vinci and Amalia De Francesco
Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
Rochester, VT 800-246-8648
ISBN: 1594770522, $22.95, 370+xiii pp.

Making comparisons of climate and geography, including place names, between Homer's ancient Greek classics and the Baltic Sea coastal areas, Vinci engages in intriguing, fascinating, but also well-substantiated speculation on the bases of Homer's works. Eons ago when the epics originated, climate was warmer in the Baltic region. Though it was not as warm as it commonly is in the eastern Mediterranean lands including Greece, Vinci finds references to this one-time warmer Northern European climate in the Odyssey, for example, with its frequent mention of cooler, damper weather often forming mist. Ulysses, the main character of the Odyssey, is more like a Viking seafarer than a typical Greek sailor. Vinci even finds many references in the Baltic region to the Trojan War poetically recorded in Homer's "Iliad." The link between the Baltic region and ancient Greece is strengthened, though not confirmed, by the migrations of Northern peoples to areas of Asia Minor. As Vinci recognizes, "further archaeological corroboration" by experts in different fields would be necessary to confirm his theory. But in pursuing it, this work covers many little-known but interesting and colorful aspects of the ancient European world and also enhances appreciation of the literary style and the cultural material and sources of the works.

Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker
edited by Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman, and Avital Ronell
New York, NY
ISBN: 184467066X, $19.95, 120+viii pp.

Kathy Acker's irresolvable discomfort did not lead to knowledge or even much of a perspective. Peter Wollen quotes from her, "The only reaction against an unbearable society is equally unbearable nonsense." Acker's discomfort was a kind, a species, of energy and passion which attracted a sizable, loyal following. The eight essays by teachers and writers take up her literary, artistic style, her persona, and her treatment of politics, gender, sexuality, and other issues of her day. She died of cancer in 2002 shortly after turning fifty. "In order to make scandal felt continually, Acker finds ways to overflow the bounds of the literary by combining the knowledge she gives us of her life with aggression, humor, unfairness and shifts in direction and context." She was a prototypical postmodern writer, and there was little difference between her activism and her writing. The essays define and analyze this singular author-activist's style of provocation and education while also linking her to broader artistic, philosophical, and cultural ideas and influences.

Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development
David Harvey
New York, NY
ISBN: 1844675505, $26.95, 154 pp.

"Gaining some sense of how space is and how different spatialities and spatio-temporalities work is crucial to the constructive of a distinctively geographical imagination." And such an imagination is necessary to national and global politics, especially the economics interrelated to these. To fail to have a concept of space is to "court political irrelevance"; and at least to fail to understand how and why only certain places are benefiting from globalism. Harvey teaches at CUNY's Graduate Center, and has written previous books. In his theory, space is not simply physical, but is a concept that refers as well to political, economic, and cultural positions or dominances attained by capitalism. Thus he sees "spaces of the world economy"; and notes that "investments in the built environment effectively define regional spaces for the circulation of capital." The spottiness and unevenness of globalism has been pointed out by many. But Harvey is interested in how and why this is happening as a matter of course so that the "spaces" not realizing the benefits of globalism or exploited by it can share in its benefits touted by those nations and businesses leading it. Harvey's incorporation of the concept "space" and all its facets into political theory shows his theory to be particularly relevant and timely in this time of postmodernism where space has been much considered with respect to social life. Discussions of space and other aspects of the theory with respect to Iraq and China further go to indicate the applicability of the theory to conditions of today's world and forces shaping its future.

Lacan: The Silent Partners
edited by Slavoj Zizek
New York, NY
ISBN: 1844675491, $34.95, 406+vi pp.

The aim of the idiosyncratic philosopher and critic Zizek--Co-Director of the International Centre for Humanities at Birbeck College, U. of London--in bringing together these 16 essays by an international group of thinkers is "not to enable readers to approach Lacan in a new way but, rather, to [begin italics in original] instigate a new wave of Lacanian paranoia [end italics in original]: to push readers to engage in work of their own, and start to discern Lacanian themes everywhere." Jacques Lacan's ideas and perceptions have been a major influence on psychology, epistemology, semiology, and identity in the era of postmodernism. They have become so absorbed into postmodern thinking that they are only rarely attributed to him any longer. These essays do not so much work to give credit to Lacan, for this isn't necessary with those to whom this would mean anything; nor work to expound his ideas and perceptions for those unfamiliar with them. The essays put Lacan in the context of the broad philosophical tradition of Western philosophy, and in so doing relate him to many and varied specific philosophers, Nietzsche, Plato, Descartes, and Heidegger among them. This is what the subtitle "silent partners" denotes. Zizek has four of the essays. Many American readers will recognize the name Frederic Jameson as author of one of the essays. Other authors are from Europe and Asia. Lacan is woven into the fabric of Western philosophy in such as way that his distinctive, seminal ideas and interests are identified so that readers can "discern Lacanian themes everywhere" in the world around them.

Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives
Prepared by the Midwest Dialogue of Catholic and Muslims
Co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, D.C.
ISBN: 1574556304, $6.95, 52+xii pp.

For Catholics, any individual can experience revelation;; whereas for Muslims, prophets are the ones who experience revelation. For Catholics, "revelation offers humans an intimate knowledge of God, and Christians experience faith as a gift from God that enables them to respond positively to this offer." In Islam, the Arabic word "wahy" is used for revelation; "as such, 'revelation' us used for those special modes of communication through which God speaks to the Prophets and the Messengers." In spite of the difference in focus, both Christianity and Islam regard revelation as a special communication, or working, of God or Allah which renders individuals more aware of the God; and individuals who experience revelation work to spread this awareness. This difference is not so much in what is revealed as in the subject experiencing revelation; which subject is the source for communicating what is revealed to others. The short, pithy summary--little more than a pamphlet--of the "Dialogue" specifies differences and identifies commonalities between this concept of revelation which is central to the faith and beliefs of both major world religions.

Opera's First Master: The Musical Dramas of Claude Monteverdi
Mark Ringer
Amadeus Press
Pompton Plains, NJ
ISBN: 1574671103, $29.95, 344+xiv pp., CD inside back cover.

The author who is an Associate Professor of Theater at Marymount College supports his belief that "Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was the first great opera composer" by commentaries on his operas scene by scene. Ringer follows the narrative line (such as it is in opera) and profiles the characters while explaining the role and effects of the music and words on these. Introductory parts give a biography of Monteverdi focusing on his distinctive creative genius and viewing him in the context of the development of opera in Florence in late Renaissance Italy. The CD contains 13 selections from Monteverdi operas; which are annotated in back matter. Ringer's accessible treatment of this outstanding and influential composer is an ideal introduction and companion to Monteverdi's operas.

The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen
Dominique Mainon and James Ursini
Limelight Editions/Amadeus Press
Pompton Plains NJ
ISBN: 0879103272, $24.95, 400+xxi pp.

After briefly citing some references to women warriors in ancient mythology and history, the authors with broad backgrounds in film studies and popular culture note their book does not speculate "about the possible existence of Amazon women in the past, but rather document[s] the proliferation of the warrior woman archetype in popular culture, film and television in particular." An encyclopedic filmography and another back section on women warrior movies and television series records the varieties of this proliferation. Used loosely, the term woman warrior encompasses not only women warriors like men soldiers, but also women detectives, science-fiction characters, prehistoric humans, cowgirls, spies, martial arts experts, athletes (e. g., "Million Dollar Baby"), and more or less ordinary women who at moments accomplish extraordinary feats such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Though such extraordinary women characters transgressing the conventional image of women can be found in films from its beginning in the early 1900s, the overwhelming majority are from the post-WWII years with the numbers of films increasing exponentially in recent years as gender roles have weakened and popular interest in the potentials for women has grown. The approach is to classify the categories of "warrior women" and discuss the women characters and the films or TV shows in each category. Like the term "warrior women" itself, the categories are loose. But the aim is not strict definition, rather recognition of the expansion and diversity of this genre involving unconventional, in many cases quite imaginative women characters. Photographs on almost every page picture the women in their various costumes or engaged in their exploits.

Arguments for Stillness
Erik Campbell
Curbstone Press
321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT
ISBN: 1931896267, $13.95, 85+xv pp.

Campbell's poems of direct and elliptical commendations for silence have touches of the Buddhist attribution to silence of a moral value and also a personal use for keeping one's mental senses and even enhancing one's emotional senses. Some of the poems in the last section titled "East" in fact mention Buddha. Campbell is from Nebraska, and is now in Indonesia working as a technical writer for an American mining company. But in his poems silence is more than a state for Buddhist contemplation. Silence is not a strategy or means for escape from the world or for shutting it out. Instead it is a kind of engagement with the world--as when the thoughts of the poet "alone in that hotel hot tub" in the poem titled "Epistemology" move with enhanced mental and emotional sense from his sleeping wife to their wedding, to his brother, and to historical religious figures. Silence not only yields keener memories and observations, but also leads to a particular perspective--in this poet's case, one that is recurring wry and occasionally humorous, showing that silence can be enlivening.

Falling to Earth
Tom Hansen
BOA Editions
Rochester, NY
ISBN: 1929918755, $14.95, 93 pp.

From the middle ground of middle age, Hansen comes to compromises with existence in this this A. Poulin, Jr., Poetry Prize award-winning volume. Of course, it is not the calculated compromise of politics. Rather, Hansen's compromise is a type of thinking, learning, imbuing a light glow to reflection and surroundings; it is a type of wisdom and way of familiarizing oneself with existence. Oftentimes, the compromise arises from encounters with nature--as in "Garden Plot" when the poet realizes "Our garden is too damn big: a giant plot to get us," and muses that willing the garden to deer and rabbits would be suitable since "we are only migrant workers." Compromise is a proper relationship and temper because one comes "into this world, yet [is] not wholly of it." [from the prose poem "A Little Meditation on a Bubble"] Hansen taught writing and literature at Northern State U. in South Dakota for more than 30 years, and now lives in retirement in the Black Hills.

The Disheveled Bed
Andrea Carter Brown
CavanKerry Press
Fort Lee, NJ
ISBN: 0972304533, $16.00, 104+xiv pp.

"Being suspended/above the world and between two/lives is neither good nor bad." [from Point Dume] In relation, "Rootless/without children or belief, where will we/find peace?" [from San Juan de los Caballeros, after Ansel Adams] No matter what her mind turns to, Brown sees reminders of the hope and trepidation entailed in having a child. Thus, the tone of the poems is mostly absence and the longing to fill this. This is not the sharpness of tragedy of a lost child, but the mystery of the unconceived one and the distractions to try to soothe this, "the clutter we've accumulated/instead of kids" [from Madonna and Child"]. In "Natural Selection," Brown writes of "what fullness of life remains to be made." Without yet giving birth, she continually imagines how one's life is completed and also lost with the birth of a child. Brooks Haxton provides a succinct "Foreword" to this first collection from a poet whose works have appeared in North American Review, Mississippi Review, Gettysburg Review, and other noted literary periodicals.

Creating 2d Animation in a Small Studio
Bill Davis
Garth Gardner Publishing
Washington, DC
ISBN: 1589650077, $34.95, 332+xii pp.

Bill Davis imparts more than 30 years' experience in creating animation videos for Nickelodeon, CBS, the Federal Reserve Bank, and other clients on how to make short films and television commercials "from budget to screen." This is a timely work for aspiring filmmakers considering the opportunities for audition which are available on the Internet. The detailed "Contents" listing chapter sections covering four pages in smaller type attests to the thoroughness and detail of Davis's tutorial. As typical with other up-to-date manuals in the line of "Gardner's Guides," this one contains incomparable guidance, instruction, and directions from a successful working professional in a well-organized format and comprehensible style.

Koalas: Moving Portraits of Serenity
edited by Joanne Ehrich
Koala Jo Publishing
San Mateo, CA
ISBN: 0976469804, $45.00, 231+xxiii pp.

The 315 photographs by over 100 different photographers are grouped in chapters on various aspects of Australia's koalas such as feeding, types (three), and life cycle. Photographs within each chapter and overall have also been ordered to illustrate the koala's movement along the ground, up tree trunks, among branches, and in some cases with a young koala clinging to a mother's back. In keeping with this, some of the pages have several side-by-side smaller photographs in which the koala's sequence of movements stand out especially. Besides offering an opportunity for viewers to enjoy numerous pictures of the always fetching, cute-looking koala, the work has the aim of presenting a broader picture of the koala to publicize environmental threats to it. Koalas are so gentle and congenitally slow-moving and approachable because with "no natural predators in their distant past, [they] have underdeveloped adrenal glands and therefore did not develop the same flight-or-fight mechanisms" of most other animals. This is but one of the little-known facts found in short introductions to the chapters of this book largely of photographs.

Rudolph Spielmann: Master of Invention
Neil McDonald
Gloucester Publishers
distributed in North America by Globe Pequot Press
Guilford, CT
ISBN: 185744406X, $21.95, 144 pp.

Born in 1883, Spielmann was among the top world-class chess players in the early part of the 1900s. Although he never held the top position for long nor achieved the legendary status of Lasker, Alekhine, or Capablanca, in most matches he held his own with them, losing by narrow margins. Spielmann made a mark historically and is studied by competitive and ambitious chess players of each generation for his sacrifices or combinations which in his own words were not always "necessarily sound but [leave] your opponent dazed and confused." This tactic can be seen in half of Spielmann's recorded games; whereas by comparison it was employed by other chess masters in only every fifth or sixth game. McDonald--chess coach as well as player on the international circuit--analyzes in detail many of Spielmann's games against top opponents focusing on his use of particular pieces in the kinds of sacrifices and combinations that distinguished his characteristic, formidable style of play.

Henry Berry

Jason's Bookshelf

Day Of The Dead
Marshall Brement
Moyer Bell
459 Old North Road, Kingston, RI 02881
1559213876 $26.95 1-888-789-1945

Set in the 1960s, "Day of the Dead" is a political novel about a young Foreign Service Officer who comes to Saigon, Vietnam to be the Ambassador's Aide. Cast amid competing agents, a jaded general, a Catholic Bishop, Buddhist monks, a beautiful Vietnamese woman, an alluring Southern belle and more, he strives to keep afloat of turbulent events as the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother lead to full-scale war. A dark saga of trans-cultural ignorance that led to destruction of human life, "Day of the Dead" is a powerful and gripping saga grounded heavily in history, and offers a striking metaphor for modern U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die!
Mark Binelli
Dalkey Archives
ISU Campus Box 8905, Normal, IL 61790-8905
1564784452 $14.95

The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti in Mark Binelli's novel "Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die!" are not the infamous anarchists executed for treason by the United States government, but film stars and slapstick comedians who rose to fame through a seedy New York vaudeville club, then on to Hollywood films and USO tours (where they opened with disastrous results for Bob Hope). Eventually their careers decline , slapstick becomes a kind of stand-in for anarchic freedom, the two performers begin to merge with their more infamous namesakes. An alternate history of the 20th Century, "Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! " is a work of considerable talent and originality, documenting author Mark Binelli as a writer who has mastered wit and storytelling to produce a highly recommended, minor masterpiece of literate, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining fiction.

Field Marks: The Poetry Of Don McKay
Meira Cook, editor
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
75 Univeristy Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
0889204942 $14.95

Selected and compiled by Meira Cook (who also provides the reader with an extensive and informative introduction), "Field Marks" showcases some of the best verse drawn from the work of prize-winning Canadian poet Don McKay. This slender compendium providing those new to his poetry with a representative sampling (he has eight published books of poetry to his credit), is enhanced with the inclusion of an essay by McKay, 'The Shell of the Tortise', in which he presents his relationship to the earth, to metamorphosis, and to language. "Field Marks" is a superb introduction to an accomplished poet and will motivate the reader to search out his other published works. Alibi: Because the swallows had departed from the cliff,/over and over,/the soft knives of their wings tasting the river mist as they/went wherever it is/they went, because/with the air free of their chatter we could hear ourselves/think, because the notes/we left in their holes, full of love and envy/and lament, were never answered and because we need/an earth with ears to hear the long dread/carpentry of history, and then, and so, and so,/and then, each bone nailed, wired, welded,/riveted, because we knew/the gods we loved were charismatic fictions, and because/the swallows had departed.

A Thousand Words
Jaime Hovey
Ohio State University Press
1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
0814210147 $34.95 1-800-621-2736

Independent scholar and English teacher Jaime Hovey presents "A Thousand Words: Portraiture, Style, and Queer Modernism", a unique and seminal work of literary analysis proposing the case for a 'queer modernism', and that the literary portrait - a favored form of experimentalism in late nineteenth and early twentieth century writing - served as an aesthetic mechanism for this 'queer modernism' phenomena. Though literary portraiture speaks volumes about the complicated connection between identity, sexuality, and art, very little writing has specifically addressed 'queer modernism' in literary portraiture prior to a scholarly summation and analysis as represented with "A Thousand Words". Individual chapters discuss stylistic variations, caricature studies, issues of forgery, looking back on modernism, and so much more, in this welcome and scholarly contribution to academic library Literature and Gay/Lesbian Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Jason Warrant

Kaye's Bookshelf

Adnan Mahmutovic
A. Mahmutovic and A. Osmancevic
c/o Werk, St Eriksgatan 72, 113 20 Stockholm, Sweden
ISBN: 9163166690, $12.95, 95 pp.

This book is a collection of short stories and poetry about Bosnian refugees in Sweden. The main character in the stories is a woman named Almasa, and I quote from the back cover:

"Almasa, a woman already not young, a woman daily growing less Bosnian but not becoming more Swedish, a woman with irrepressible memories of violence, a woman looking for intimacy and home, writes, 'It didn't happen in a day. It wasn't a spontaneous reaction of anguished souls that rushed into our homes like starving dogs to devour our provisions. Nothing like that. At least not in my hometown. Bosnia is a small country, but the war had many faces. The stories of its every man, woman and child make a ladder to the moon of suppressed memories.'"

And to continue from the book:

"Everything started off by renaming and prefix-ation. Grounding cliches of war. The word 'Serbian' was annexed to our mother tongue and with it, to everything else as in an avalanche. The names of streets and municipal buildings mutated. Houses of other nationalities were emptied one-by-one, or in smaller clusters, on a daily basis by so called Serbian soldiers. I say 'so-called' because until just a year or so before the havoc, everybody was Bosnian. The Serbs were in Serbia as the Swedes were in Sweden. Or perhaps I'm a misinterpreter. Now proposals were put forward that people be labelled by their nationality (as Jew, Gypsies, Poles, and some other not so long ago). Suddenly the word Muslim became a nationality-marker. My father would just mutter, 'Ridiculous' at any such thing and go on with his silence. It was a ghostly sight, to see my father bitter and silent.

The aggressors, themselves beside tanks armed with rotten reasons, knew we had no weapons, having confiscated the few hunting rifles that had been gathering dust in people's cellars. In the middle of it, we were still busy furnishing our house and working in fields. Even the bloody footages from places all over Croatia, followed by Sarajevo, and other Bosnian cities, towns and villages, could not make us believe the war was really here to stay. At least till we were gone.

Firstly, men who would not join the party and kill Croatians lost their jobs and consequently, so did their wives. Next came a curfew. Students were being harassed in schools. Going to the market to buy vegetables meant risking a beating. Still, nothing could make us believe it all was more than just an ephemeral whim of a malevolent wind.

It went on. Frequent raids. Taking a few men every day to test the pliability of bats and batons, to examine how severely you could be insulted and humiliated. Razing of the mosques and burning down a house or two per night. They would drive by like American ghetto gangsters, shooting, drifting around like a materialized scarecrow message: your house could be next.

So little by little, people put on their best shoes, packed what a pair of calloused hands could carry, and fled for their lives. Some walked forest corridors. Others were stuffed into dusty old buses and transported abroad to the beneficent countries that sheltered refugees from the Balkans. This is how I became a 'run-ee' or run-away-ee', as we nicknamed ourselves. Take care. Almasa"

I have quoted Almasa's letter from Chapter VII, Red Cross Message–Unadulterated, because it is the heart of these stories and also, because it is a poignant example of how, even today, such tragic things can happen, that evil does exist . . . and that no place, no town, no city and no country is immune to technically organized evil.

We choose to suppress unpleasant memories and move on with life, but it is important to remember evil does exist and is just waiting for the right opportunity. You may not believe it could happen to you or us, but many great civilizations and governments have passed away, and if we do not pay attention, so may we.

Through Adnan's little stories you will catch a glimpse and feel for life as lived by these Bosnian refugees. He's a good writer and is telling us something we need to hear . . . remember: pay attention to what's happening around you and never take for granted the life and freedoms we enjoy.

To get more information or to purchase this book, please go to or write to Adnan will send the book anywhere, shipment free, media mail for 6.99 pounds or $9.99.

Wishing Makes It So
Marilyn Meredith
Hard Shell Word Factory
PO Box 161, Amherst Jct, WI 54407
ISBN: 0759937605, $10.95, 164 pp.

"Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished" might be another title for this book. Wishing Makes It So is a psychological thriller about a good, healthy family (Steven and Alyse Chrestman) who want to share their home and love with four-year-old Belinda Sleigh.

Belinda had come from an extremely abusive situation in which she'd witnessed her step-father fly out the window to his death, as she wished it so. To say that this small child caused havoc in her new home would be like saying Katrina was a wind that caused a little damage.

From the start, you know where the plot is going and what the conclusion may be, so it's just a matter of how she wants to get you there. The idea of the "bad seed" child is not new. Marilyn Meredith is a competent writer but not one that grabbed or excited me, plus some of the Chrestman's behavior did not ring true for such intelligent, loving people. If you like psychological thrillers about "bad seed" children, you may enjoy this book.

Marilyn Meredith has been a professional writer for many years. She is one of the founders of the San Joaquin CA chapter of Sisters in Crime and has served as an instructor for the Police Writers' Association annual conference. You can find out more by sending an email to or going to

Portions of a Life: Recollections & Reflections
Michael Fak, Inc.
ISBN: 1591139694, $14.95, 248 pp.

This book with its attractive cover is an autobiographical memoir presented in a reader-friendly manner. If you enjoy reading true-life memoirs, you'll probably enjoy this book. It is just what the title says: recollections and reflections. Allow me to quote from the back cover:

"This Anthology Includes - Angels on the Ninth Floor: Follow Mike and Sharon's journal in reall time as new parents of a two-pound premature baby fighting for his life. Timothy didn't breath for 5 minutes after being pulled from his mother's womb and had an APGAR score of 1. This honest and compelling story is a lesson in hope and faith and eventual triumph.

Before it Was Wrigleyville: A new expanded version of the popular short story. Mike grew up in the shadow of Wrigley Field in the 1950s. This reverie makes you believe you were there with Mike in that marvelous neighborhood so many years ago."

Mike Fak currently lives in Lincoln, Illinois, with his wife and son. He is a freelance writer which a strong background in the writing field.

Day & Night Forever
Jack Nease Press
ISBN: 159113949X, $15.95, 300 pp.

This mystery-thriller follows the standard genre formula–someone is murdered, the protagonist searches for answers, there's a little romance and the truth is revealed in the end. How one gets there, to the end, is the key. Is it magical or mundane? Does the author have a special gift? Can we let go and believe what we read? Is the journey worth our time? I quote from the back cover:

"Maureen O'Neal is a one-of-a-kind Wall Street analyst, tough, incorruptible, and feared by corporate executives with something to hide. Her personal life is another story. So when her childhood buddy Gregory Overman phones and asks for help, she's on the next flight to Florida. Once there, she's astonished to learn he wants her to vouch for Roland Pettigrew, a sleazy billionaire-philanthropist known on The Street as Midas Man. Surprise turns to disaster when Pettigrew's ex-wife is found murdered under circumstances that make Maureen and Gregory suspects. Together, these old friends must uncover the secrets of the Pettigrew empire and track down a killer, all the while grappling with the scars that have kept them apart."

Day & Night Forever is written from a third-person point of view with some personal insights into Mo (Maureen) through her thoughts. We never really know what Go (Gregory) is thinking or feeling, but for some reason we like him . . . maybe because he has a limp from polio as a child; he was in love with Mo as a young boy, and she hurt him; he's a counselor who started drinking after the suicide of a young client, and he's now in recovery. I personally could not relate to Mo, possibly because of her casual arrogance–smart, feared by corporate executives, all the way to who saved the day. But, just because I could not, doesn't mean you may not.

As far as the development of the plot, it moved long nicely–Mo and Go were considered to be the prime suspects in the murder of Grace Pettigrew, and this information was in and on the news. Mo lost her job. So, Mo and Go had to solve the murder. I mention this because something in the ending didn't track for me. First, they're prime suspects according to corrupt police officer Fourquet, and next, they're found on a sinking boat which is missing one person, Luther, and they're no longer suspects or arrested for the missing Luther. Why should the police believe their stories now when they didn't believe them before? Because we know all the answers? . . . and did those answers provide sufficient proof that they did not commit the murders?

Jack Nease excels as a writer in several areas: his ability to describe South Florida, so that it comes to life before your eyes, and his skill to convey his knowledge of the stock market and Wall Street, which add richness and depth to the story. The novel is well-edited, has a good rhythm, and I would recommend this book to mystery readers.

Forgotten Tears: A Grandmother's Journey Through Grief
Nina Bennett
ISBN: 1591137640, $12.95, 144 pp.

This book is about Nina Bennett's personal grief experience over the death of her granddaughter, Maddy Hodgdon, who died during childbirth. In this book she shares her knowledge as a healthcare professional (former childbirth educator and reproductive healthcare specialist) and she shares her inspiration as she works her way through the pain. Nina wrote Forgotten Tears to help other grandparents with their personal grief while they try to help their bereaved child, and I think to help work through her own grief. Quoting from the back cover:

"Being a grieving grandparent means seeing your own child suffer and being powerless to help while experiencing the lack of support and understanding of your might-have-beens."

I personally don't dwell on "might-have-beens," for I see no point, except to make oneself unhappy, but who am I? Life goes on and so must we. Nina Bennett certainly makes it clear that grieving is a very personal thing with no time limits. The author currently works in the HIV/AIDS field, where she has been employed since the beginning of the epidemic. She lectures and presents workshops, both locally and nationally, on the psychological aspects of living with HIV.

Children of Rhatlan
Jonathan Fesmire
Lulu Printing
ISBN: 1411637194, $15.95, 276 pp.

High fantasy at its best! Wizards, sorceresses, magic and the new duals. In this story the duals are twins (Garum and Vayin) who have two bodies but share one life and one place in the world. For one to be present, the other must vanish.

The evil wizard Paterun who possesses the magical Claws of Rhatlan is possessed himself by the souls and voices of those he's killed. The voices laugh as one in his mind. They hear his thoughts, and they talk to him.

"Duals can handle another voice in their minds, so why can't I? The hair tingled along his arms. He looked toward the open shutters, eyes widening as a new idea formed. No light came through the horn windowpanes. Duals! Curse of Rhatlan, I believe they can handle it because they were born joined. They were made that way. What if I were a dual?

You're a fool! the sorceress cried. The wizard cringed; he had neglected to hide his thoughts. Now, he made the effort.

She'll know soon enough. I can't hide everything from them. He rubbed his forehead. I can't become a dual, but I could join with one, send my mind, all these minds, into one. Gods, I believe this will work!"

Now our evil wizard has a plan to free himself from the voices in his mind. Does he succeed? Only the tale will tell.

Jonathan Fesmire is an accomplished writer and artist. Children of Rhatlan will definitely appeal to children of all ages. Jonathan has a rich imagination and the ability to describe the world he sees in his mind. The magical mystical cover was created by Stephanie Law and is a work of art itself. Other books by Jonathan include Tamshi's Imp, Seeds of Vision and Amber in the Over World. You can find out more about Jonathan, his writing and his art by visiting his website at

Tamshi's Imp
Jonathan Fesmire
ISBN: 1411637186, $15.95, 256 pp.

Another high fantasy by Jonathan Fesmire, and I quote from the back cover:

"Tamshi Telardian just had an epiphany. Her memories are gone and she's been serving an arch-demon bent on destroying the true gods. Further, her ice imp familiar vanished in the confusion. How can a simple sorceress stop an entire cult, let alone an ancient demon lord?"

"Jonathan Fesmire continues to grow as the fantasist of the new generation. Tamshi's Imp is a blend of magic and mayhem, heartbreak and heroism, sorcery and suspense, but at its heart, it's also a story of redemption and the undying power of love. It is an adventure not to be missed!" writes James Clemens, author of Wit'ch Gate. Tamshi's quest in search of her memories and the truth makes for a delightful, fantasical read for children of all ages.

As I said in my previous review of Jonathan's Children of Rhatlan, the author is a gifted writer and artist with a rich imagination. The uniquely beautiful cover of this book is also by Jonathan and a fine example of his artistic talents. Other books by Jonathan Fesmire include Children of Rhatlan, Seeds of Vision and Amber in the Over World. For more information about Jonathan, his writing and his art, you can visit him at

Everything You Will Ever Need To Know To Start Driving A Big Truck or How I Became A Professional Tourist
Steve Richards
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO
ISBN: 1598006169, $14.95, 228 pp.

Here are revealed the mysteries of the eighteen-wheeler world! If you have ever thought about driving the big trucks, then this is the book for you. Steve Richards tells it like it is with a strong voice, good judgment and sound advice, served up with a sharp sense of humor. He covers every aspect: company selection, driver training, learning how to drive, miles equal money, log books, weigh stations, CB's, cell phones, Qualcoms, directions, getting loaded/unloaded, wasting time, truck stops, mirrors, chains, hot brakes, DAC reports, protecting your CDL, big blowouts, time management, don't let them cheat you and the best reason to drive a big truck.

Let me give you a sample of Steve's writing from pages 136-137:

"While these tire explosions aren't going to happen often, they will always happen at the most inconvenient moments, that is when you are driving your truck. How unusual.

One of my first blowouts happened on Interstate 15 about fifty miles or so east of Las Vegas. It was summertime and the temperature was well over 100 degrees making the highway into a veritable frying pan on which you could possibly torch a nice T-bone. It was hot! On top of that I had a near capacity load on the order of about forty-five thousand pounds in the trailer. A heavy load and a hot road is a good recipe for a tire to explode. There we go with the poetry again.

As for having the correct tire pressure in my trailer tires I do in fact confess to a certain laziness in that department as I believe do the vast majority of drivers out there. This is clearly visible in huge number of "gators" littering the highways. I have a reasonable degree of certainty that such practice or lack thereof is more than the norm in the transportation industry. . . .

You never really know what will happen to your tires. One time I actually found a seven inch long railroad spike sticking out of one of my drive tires. Fortunately I was in close proximity to my home terminal and got it fixed fast. Your tires are of great importance as they are your one connection between your tractor trailer and the highway. Do not take them for granted. Check them frequently and it will pay off. Ignoring them can provide you with dire consequences."

After you have read this book, you'll have a better understanding of the trucking world and if such a life would appeal to you. If you decide to become a truck driver, you can thank Steve Richards for sharing his knowledge and experiences with you by writing him at or PO Box 111, Fallbrook, CA 92088.

Steve Richards is a busy guy into many things. He's a real estate broker, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, former Denver radio announcer, guitarist & composer, private investigator and published author. I'm certain Everything You Will Ever Need to Know To Start Driving A Big Truck or How I Became A Professional Tourist will appeal to a wide range of readers–men and women fascinated by the powerful mystique of eighteen wheelers.

Travel Tales: Insights of a U.N. Inspector
A.B.M. Nurul Islam
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
ISBN: 1598001698, $9.95, 88 pp.

This small book of short stories by Mr. Islam, a Muslim from Bangladesh, about his prior occupation (1983-1999) and travels as a Safeguards Inspector for the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is very interesting. Safeguards is a verification system within the framework of international non-proliferation policy applied to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and entrusted to the IAEA. Inspectors work to meet the IAEA objective of timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities.

The author writes with a simple honesty and sense of humor. Through his adventures, misadventures, temptations and celebrations he weaves threads of history, culture and religion, adding richness to the texture. Of course, his job is of particular interest, and I quote:

"Since Japan is quite far from Vienna and the round-trip airfare is somewhat expensive, our tours of duty are of necessity rather long–usually 4 weeks–to justify the costs. Once one get one's biological clock adjusted (in my case it takes about a week), inspection life can be a rewarding experience if taken in the right spirit.

It is a kind of detective game that we play to check that nuclear materials are really present in the amount and characteristics as declared by the facility. The most difficult inspection are the annual stocktaking (physical inventory verification or PIVs in Safeguards jargon) in large bulk-handling facilities (i.e. facilities that deal with materials in powder or liquid form). Although we are not expected to become cozy with the facility personnel, a spirit of confrontation is also not warranted. Rather, when faced with a problem situation, effort is made by both sides to establish the truth. . . ."

I certainly would recommend Travel Tales - Insights of a U.N. Inspector to anyone interested in other countries, cultures and history. Insha-Allah, Mr. Islam's book will be a success and enjoyed by many.

Skipper's Revenge
Julie Teahan
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE 68512
ISBN: 0595369375, $15.95, 210 pp.

This story is a contemporary classic romance about Paige Sheehan and her definitive obsession about Mattel's Barbie doll, the blonde goddess with the large breasts, and Skipper, Barbie's less glamorous younger sister, with whom she identified. Paige actually had a boyfriend named Ken and did lose him to a Barbie beauty, which reinforced her belief that all the beautiful men belonged to the beautiful Barbies. As all romances must have a happy ending, and this one is no exception, you'll have to read the book to find who the lucky man was.

Julie Teahan is a good writer with a Janet Evanovich style of humor, but on the lighter side–not nearly as outrageous. Her protagonist, Paige, is generally in a mess or making a mess of something, somewhat reminiscent of a Stephanie Plum novel. The book is well-edited and a fast read. Allow me to quote to give you an idea of the author's style of writing, from page 9:

"According to statistics, 2.5 Barbie dolls are purchased every second worldwide, resulting in two billion dollars in sales annually. For over thirty years, little girls and big girls alike have viewed her as the ideal woman. Perhaps the reason much of the world sees her as ideal is the fact that she has never been a bridesmaid–never forced to wear an overpriced puffy-sleeved satin creation, never made to eat phallus-shaped confections at the bachelorette party, and never paired with a groomsman who would have been mistaken as the ring bearer. After all, never having to do these things would be . . . ideal.

However, I knew the world's obsession with Barbie went beyond her never-a-bridesmaid status. I had studied her and the women she represented since my childhood, realizing I was not one of them. Over the years, I had developed a theory that most women could be slotted into one of two categories: Barbie or Skipper. There were distinct differences between the two. "Barbies" come readily stocked with beauty and accessories galore. They, like their namesake, appear to drift through life unaware and unconcerned with anything outside of their Mattelian universe.

"Skippers" are the younger sisters, impatient to grow up from their awkward adolescence and fill the high-heeled shoes of their glamorous sibling. Their identities are not well-defined, and as such, they are eternally stuck in the process of becoming. . . ."

If you like light, humorous romances and Julie's writing style, you certainly might want to read this book. Skipper's Revenge is Julie Teahan's debut novel, and it is a fine accomplishment.

Heretic: Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel
Jerome Tuccille
ISBN: 0595384293, $19.95, 240 pp.

Heretic - a person who has a contrary belief/opinion to an orthodox religious doctrine. In other words, just about everyone, and I quote the author:

"Most practicing Catholics today are heretics in the technical sense of the term. They consider themselves to be cafeteria Catholics, accepting those tenets of their religion that make sense to them and rejecting those that don't."

And from the back cover:

"Religious fanaticism and intolerance are perhaps the greatest evils afflicting the human race. Most of the violence in the world today and throughout history has been caused by major religions trying to exterminate those who don't share the same beliefs."

Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel - and will it wipe the slate clean? Whether God or no, now humanity knows as Jerry has shared with us his struggle between his Apollonian nature and his Dionysian sexual appetites.

Heretic is a down-and-dirty chronicle of Jerome Tuccille's life from the 1958 to 1970 and most interestingly, written from a second person point of view (POV)–rarely used. Most memoirs and autobiographies are written from the first person "I" POV. And what was the result of writing from the second person POV? First, it's a refreshing change in a memoir from I, me, mine to you, you, your; second, the reader gets the feeling that the author is talking to himself–strange, unique, unusual; and third, per the author, it gave him some distance and perspective from/on the emotional and traumatic incidents in his life.

Jerry's life was hard from the start–a childhood terrorized by neighborhood bullies, harsh Catholic nuns and tensions at home, largely due to his parents' loveless marriage–and began to improve only after an uncle taught him to fight and defend himself. The author does a masterful job of weaving this tapestry of an Italian-American family's history and his upbringing in the Bronx around and through his sexual and spiritual contemporary odyssey–describing his carnal activities with explicit honesty.

Allow me to give you a sample of Jerry's writing and the second person point of view from pages 40-41:

". . . Twenty-three hours later, you reached your destination: an Aussie version of the American frontier, complete with swinging door pubs and cowboys at the bar. You rented a room upstairs, stowed your satchel for the evening, and took your place at the bar between two barbarous-looking-cretins wearing filthy jeans, sweat-stained, broad-brimmed hats, and a three-month growth of hair on their lined and weathered faces.

"Garruf, yer flaggin mizzen pot piss-head faggot," said the first.

"Right on," you replied, ordering your first pint of the evening.

"Siddly queer poddly bitch, effen yer ask me," said his partner.

"Delighted," you responded.

Who were these toothless, unshaven, barbaric morons? What language were they speaking? Were these nincompoops actually questioning your manhood in their alien tongue? You were about to make some comments about the toxic genetic pool they had obviously sprung from when frantic gesturing from the next room caught your attention. You turned to see a well-dressed man about fifty waving you in his direction. At the table with him was a woman who was apparently his wife, and a younger man and woman close to your own age. The urgency of his hand action made you think twice about broaching the subject of your drinking companions' genetic makeup, so you picked up your pint and left the barroom.

"Those are jackaroos, lad," the gentleman said when you reached his table.


"You must be a Yank. Here, have a seat with us. Jackaroos are like American cowboys. You don't want to mess with them. They live on a ranch for three months at a time, with no women and no alcohol allowed. When the owner of the sheep station finally flies them to the nearest outpost of civilization after three months in the outback, there are three things they want to do."

Probably the same three things I want to do most of the time myself, you thought.

"First, they want a bit of a poke," he said, smiling apologetically at his wife and daughter. "Second, they want to get roaring drunk. And third, they want to have a punch-up with the nearest stranger. And you, young man, are the first Yank they've ever set eyes on, a strange and alien life form to them. They've never punched up a Yank before, so I wanted to get you out of there before they had a go at you."

And throughout this memoir, you will discover that, indeed, these three things were exactly what Jerry enjoyed doing. He did discipline himself, however, to write, to meditate and to pursue his spiritual studies. And in closing allow to quote from page 233:

"A palpable weight lifted from your shoulders. For the first time in your life, you were truly at peace. This was your real spiritual calling. You were put here by a higher power to write, to do the best work you could, to turn within for guidance, to find inspiration and strength, to give thanks to your Creator for the talents he had given you and use them to the best of your ability. The search would never end; it wasn't supposed to. No one had all the answers, and it was up to each of us to keep looking in the hope that we would find answers to some of the big questions as we grew older, understanding that we would never be fully satisfied until after we died . . . if then, maybe then. This was the only religion that made any sense to you. . . ."

And that is exactly what Jerome Tuccille did and continues to do–write. He is a consummate author with honed skills and a talent for telling the down-and-dirty truth about life. He has written more than twenty books, including the biographies of Donald Trump, The Hunts of Texas, Rupert Murdoch and Alan Greenspan. As a memoir, Heretic is unique from multiple perspectives and to be savored for its quality of writing and craftsmanship. I highly recommend the book, but you must decide for yourself.

Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . In Six Acts
Marion Kramer Jacobs, Ph.D.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE
ISBN: 0595372600, $15.95, 152 pp.

I receive quite a few self-help books to review and have written one myself, Ladies Are You Lost? Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships. But, Dr. Jacobs's book is exceptional and stands out from all the rest. It's exceptional on many different levels–for its content, for the years of experience Dr. Jacobs shares with us, for its presentation and creative style. It is well-organized, well-written and designed to be a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to making constructive changes, of any kind, in ones life.

Marion writes, and I quote from page 5:

"Without getting technical, Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . In Six Acts connects provocative findings from brain research with the best of my clinical knowledge. The result is a book that explains the dynamics of how people change and offers you, the reader, an easy-to-follow, carefully mapped out, six-act program for overcoming emotional resistance to change and successfully guiding yourself through the change process.

"Beyond changing any specific pattern of thinking or behavior, the overarching message of this book is that you can change the whole tenor of your life by adopting what I like to call a take-charge living perspective. That perspective says, as long as more than one way to handle a situation exists, the way you go about it as well as how you think, feel, and act is a choice you are making. Because many of our ways have become so habitual, it may not feel like a choice. But it is. . . ."

"Changing can be an exciting journey. I very much hope you will choose to make that journey with me. We only get one life, so please do not squander yours on endless mental dress rehearsals. The time to move forward is now."

Quoting from the rear cover:

"Dr. Jacobs is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Laguna Beach, California and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at UCLA. She was Coordinator of UCLA's Psychology Clinic for 19 years as well as Co-Director of the California Self-Help Center at UCLA. . . ."

For anyone looking to make a positive change in their life, I would highly recommend this book.

Angels Fall
Nora Roberts
G.P. Putnam's Sons
New York
ISBN: 0399153721, $25.95, 440 pp.

Angels Fall is Nora Roberts's new novel. Allow me to quote from the cover:

"Reece Gilmore has come a long way to see the stunning view below her. As the sole survivor of a brutal crime back East, she has been on the run, desperately fighting the nightmares and panic attacks that haunt her. She settles in Angel's Fist, Wyoming–temporarily, at least–and takes a job at a local diner. And now she's hiked this mountain all by herself. It was glorious, she thinks, as she peers through her binoculars at the Snake River churning below.

And then she see the man and woman on the opposite bank. Arguing. Fighting. And suddenly, he's on top of her, his hands around her throat . . . .

Enjoying a moment of solitude a bit farther down the trail is a gruff loner named Brody. But by the time Reece reaches him and brings him to the scene, the pair is gone. And when authorities comb the area where she saw the attach, they find nothing. No signs of struggle. No freshly turned earth. Not even a tire track.

And no one in Angel's Fist seems to believe her. After all, she's a newcomer in town with a reputation for being jumpy and jittery–maybe even a little fragile. Perhaps it's time to run again, to move on.

Reece Gilmore knows there's a killer in Angel's Fist, even if Brody, despite his seeming impatience and desire to keep her at arm's length, is the only one willing to believe her. When a series of menacing events makes it clear that someone wants her out of the way, Reece must put her trust in Brody–and herself–to find out if there is a killer in Angel's Fist, before it's too late."

If you don't know who Nora Roberts is, you don't live on planet Earth. She has written over 300 novels and is a consummate writer of many different genres. In Angels Fall, a psychological mystery thriller, she captures so realistically the internal battle, pain and conflicts of a woman struggling to reclaim her life and sanity after surviving a serial killers's rampage. For all the many novels Nora has written, her stories are always new and her writing is always fresh. If you're a Nora Roberts's fan, you know . . . she'll never disappoint you. She never does!

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Riddle Dancer Press
P.O. Box 231129, Encinitas, CA
ISBN: 1892005026, $17.95, 212 pp.

This is not a new book and it is not a POD published book, but it is a significant book for the times in which we live–violent times. Dr. Rosenberg has been working for many years to help people communicate in positive ways. He founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) in 1984, and it has grown into an international nonprofit organization which provides training in 30 countries around the world. CNVC offers workshops for educators, counselors, parents, health care providers, mediators, business managers, prison inmates and guards, police, military personnel, clergy and government officials.

His NVC Model has four simple components: 1) observation, 2) feeling, 3) needs and 4) request. The NVC Model: The concrete actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being; how we are feeling in relation to what we are observing; the needs, values, desires, etc. that are creating our feelings; the concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives. In other words, you observe something, think about how you feel, determine what your needs are and make a request. However, it's a little more complicated than that and explaining what these four words mean is what this book is about.

Allow me to quote from the back cover:

"Nonviolent Communication is the lost language of humankind, the language of a people who care about one another and long to live in harmony. Using stories, examples and sample dialogues, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. provides everyday solutions to perplexing communication problems. Dr. Rosenberg has brought these simple, yet revolutionary, communication skills to tens of thousands of people on five continents."

As I mentioned in my June review of Aurora Borealis by Kristin Shoemaker, violence is the No. 1 killer of teenagers and young adults in major cities. The disease-causing agent is not a microbe but a thought. Gary Slutkin, founder of the Chicago Center for Violence Prevention, thinks violence is unhealthy behavior which can be changed. It would be my hope that these two leaders in the fight against violence might join forces and help each other. I highly recommend this book, as does Deepak Chopra, MD, John Gray, Ph.D. and Vicki Robin.

Nolan C. Lewis
PublishAmerica, LLLP
ISBN: 1413712150, $19.95, 200 pp.

Do you like classic murder mysteries?. . . John Dunning's Bookman's Wake; Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels; Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress; John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee or John Sanford's Lucas Davenport. If you do, then you'll want to add Nolan Lewis's Ankus Tom Hill and girlfriend Sherry to your list. Nolan's quality of writing and style are right up there with the best, plus Tom and Sherry are very human–sometimes fearful, just as you or I would be.

The heart and the fun of reading Mauled was meeting Tom, a freelance writer who was asked to cover a murder story for the local paper in a small Washington coastal town. Tom is quite the character from the beginning and I quote from page 7:

"Remembering the feel of a few minutes ago, I rolled over and snuggled against the warm body next to mine and ran a hand under the arm to explore. She is in at least one man's opinion, a great example of how to distribute a hundred thirty-five pounds on a five foot four female frame, in order to attain the most tantalizing package possible. Sherry said, "Damn, didn't you take care of that last night? Why don't you go put a pot on like a good boy," as she turned firmly onto her stomach.

Knowing full well I was going to get nowhere, I gave up and rolled out into the cold air. First things first, a brief stop in the can. I couldn't resist a look in the cloudy mirror as I washed my hands–I'm definitely not improving with age.

Blue eyes, rimmed by red from last night's debauchery, in an elongated face that was much in need of a shave, peering out from between what I liked to call laugh lines. I never could figure why a beard should be so black in just twenty-four hours, when hair on top of the head was dishwater brown.

I shivered across the living room/office/kitchen to the sink to do as requested. A glance out the mildew-rimmed window and I knew why it was still half dark. Just the usual coastal weather for November: Wind and rain."

To the end, quoting from page 195:

"We watched as the three were led off and the police cars vanished, one by one. I closed the door and turned. Sherry wrapped me up in her arms. I held her as she went from shivering to quiet and I thought it was over. Then I became aware of the wetness on my chest. She was crying quietly. Meaning to comfort, I wiped her face with my handkerchief and said, "It's all over now. They won't be coming back. We won't have to worry about somebody busting down the door any more."

"Damn fool. Can't you tell when I am happy?"

Women's logic. Sometimes it escapes me. After a suitable interval I steered her to the bed. Some cuddling and she relaxed so I began to explore. I got no real objections until she murmured, "That's all you ever think of."

I couldn't let it pass. "That's because that is all I ever get . . . to think about it."

You'll have to read the book to find out 'who did it' and 'does he get it.' And I'd certainly recommend it.

Nolan Lewis is an experienced writer with a rich background–newspapers, TV news and magazines. Besides Mauled he's written Ione - Circa 1930 and his latest novel, Clouds Are Always White on Top, (an amazing story) which I reviewed in June.

The Dark Knight of Lancashire
P.J. Kerti
Llumina Press
ISBN: 1595265996, $13.95, 195 pp.

The British Zorro of the American Revolution - a mild-manner businessman who becomes the courageous Dark Knight in this fight for freedom - has lost his heart to Deborah McMasters, a petite, non-ladylike little fighter. Deborah is torn between her feelings for the gentle, loyal friend Christopher and for the mysterious Dark Knight. The only thing she fears is love.

The Dark Knight of Lancashire is a fun, page-turner. I read the entire book in one night. The historical perspective is interesting/informative and the romance builds throughout as Christopher and Deborah come to realize their love for each other. The rhythm, pace and tension pull you right along. The only place where the author lost my belief in the fantasy she was weaving was when the petite Deborah took the place of the large Dark Knight. The cover is dark, mysterious and attractively enticing. To provide a sample of Pamela's writing I quote from the epilogue:

"The Dark Knight was never to be seen nor heard from again, except in legends. Some say that he had come from the dark mist of the marshlands and returned there until he would arise once again to continue his tasks. Some say that he had returned to hell, where he was born. Still others say his ghost can still be heard on dark, dreary nights as he rides along the old marsh road, laughing his deep menacing laugh, with his evil smiling mask.

Yes, he was indeed spirited away - by an obligation he still had for his true home and country, America, and by the love of a beautiful woman who came into his life when he thought he had no reason to live."

I would recommend this book to young women who like historical romances on the light side and to anyone who enjoys Zorro-type stories. Pamela J. Kerti has been writing since childhood. The Dark Knight of Lancashire is her debut novel and a fine accomplishment.

The Devil in the Details
Julia Eaton
BooneDog Press
PO Box 17247, Seattle, WA 98107
ISBN: 0970510632, $14.95, 232 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"What if the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible is a literal prophecy but those who preach it don't have the interpretation right? Take a bizarre journey through an Apocalypse that doesn't go as planned in Julia Eaton's novel The Devil in the Details."

If you enjoy fictional stories about religious themes, you may enjoy this book. The author is an accomplished writer and the book is well-written and edited. Julia Eaton has been writing most of her life. Her first novel Annabelle's Shoes was published in 2002. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, daughter and their dogs.

That Day in September
Artie Van Why
Van Hughes Publishing
New York, NY - Lancaster, PA
ISBN: 978-1411683150, $9.95, 108 pp.

That Day in September is a well-written memoir of Artie's experience before, during and after September 11, 2001–why he was there, what he saw and did and how it affected him. Artie has also written the script for a one-man play with the same title which played in New York City, at the California Lutheran University, at the Celebration Theater in Los Angeles and then back to New York where it opened Off Broadway for a limited run. Allow me to provide a sample of Artie's writing, quoting from page 33:

"The middle floors of the tower blew outward in a massive inferno of bright orange flames and dense clouds of black smoke. Time stood still for just a second, as if we all were suspended in disbelief. In the next beat, pandemonium broke out. Screaming, panic, mass confusion. I, along with everyone in the street, just started running, literally running for our lives. Twisted metal, glass and other debris were raining down on us. I ran towards Fulton Street, thinking, at one point, that I was going to run right out of the loafers I was wearing. As I turned east onto Fulton, I slipped and fell to my hands and knees. Some people stepped on top of me, pushing me to the ground, and I thought for one brief moment, that I was going to be trampled to death. But I got back on my feet, started running and stepped on someone, myself. I remember running and saying out loud, "God save us all."

To my right, I saw a man scrambling to get under a van. He was dressed in a suit and was lying on his back, desperately trying to slither beneath the protection of the vehicle. I remember glancing at his face, and our eyes locked for one brief second. The look of sheer terror on his face was so contorted that I almost laughed out loud. I don't know why I didn't."

And from page 84:

"During my limited lifetime, I've learned to accept, and not be ashamed of, who I am. I've learned to admit being powerless over some things. I've learned I don't have to regret my past, or shut the door on it. I've learned to ask for help–from others and from whatever higher power this is beyond myself.

And now as I learn to live for today: I will remember all the goodness that we are capable of, that we displayed to ourselves and to the world. I will know what it means to show courage when I think of the men and women who died–while trying to help others live. I will know that only through feeling can healing begin. I will believe that those who are gone would encourage us to live. I will trust that they are smiling down on us as we each try the best we can to do just that. No, I will not forget what I lived through, what we all lived through, that day in September. And to honor those who are gone, I will not forget to live."

You decide for yourself.

Artie moved from New York to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after the last New York production of That Day In September.

Ione - Circa 1930 - One of the Damn Kids
Nolan Lewis
Pen d'Oreille Press
PO Box 793, Ione, WA 99139
ISBN: 0975508806, $11.95

This historical memoir is about the small town of Ione, Washington . . . "In the Nineteen Thirties Through The Eyes Of One Of The Damn Kids, and not everyone saw it the same way as I. For the enlightenment of those who don't know, Ione, Washington, was a town of 500 then, that has grown to 400 now, in the far north east corner of the state. Thirty miles farther north and we would be punctuating our sentences with "hey," twenty miles farther east and we would be advertising spuds on our license plates."

Nolan Lewis's writing style has a Mark Twain flavor, and it doesn't take much imagination to see similarities between Nolan's misadventures and those of Huck Finn's, and I quote:

"He would keep us after school for fighting, then let both sides of the fight go at the same time so I would have to defend myself again to get out of town to go home. The guys would blame me for telling the teacher and getting them in trouble and the fight would be on. Ida would tell the teach again the next day, and I was in trouble again for fighting.

After several of these, with threats getting more and more dire, the teacher decided to use corporal punishment. I don't remember it applying to the others, but he made me bend over his desk and took out his favorite persuader. It was a piece of rubber hose about two feet long, which he applied liberally to my backside at the front of the room in front of the class.

If left me sore enough to not move easily, but I toughed it out for a couple of days until my brother say my bruises that went from my belt to the middle of my thighs. He told mom. She made me drop my pants and show her. She took me to school and made me drop my pants and show the teacher. She then informed the teacher that if he ever touched another of her kids she would come to school with a baseball bat and use it on him. My mother never used much profanity so it surprised me when she several times used references to his ancestry that inferred his mother was of the canine family. He must have believed her as life got a little easier. In fact I never saw the hose used on anyone else again either."

This little book is not just the history of Ione, Washington. It's a true story of a hard-working family as remembered by the oldest son of four children, as they lived and played during those difficult times. If such stories are of interest to you, you can purchase this book from: Nolan Lewis has traveled many miles but returned to Ione, Washington. Other novels by this author include Mauled, a humorous mystery, and his newest, Clouds Are Always White On Top, based on his WWII experiences while flying B-24s over Germany.

Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within
Kenny Werner
Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc.
PO Box 1244, New Albany IN
ISBN: 156224003X, $20.00, 200 pp.

More than an instruction or how-to book on learning to play music, Effortless Mastery is a spiritual journey to the higher Self, and once there, you are but the instrument through which the music will be expressed. The concepts presented here are applicable to every aspect of life where there is a need for free-flowing, effortless thinking. And I quote from page 185:

"I recently read a quote by Samuel Smiles that inspired me greatly. It said:

Sow an act, reap a habit,
sow a habit, reap a character,
sow a character, reap a destiny.

If you are building new patterns of success in your life, BE PATIENT. There is a time delay between planting new messages and their coming into fruition. A farmer does not go into his fields to tug on the shoots of his crops. He knows that growth happens in its own time.

During the middle and late eighties, I started to practice new patterns of thought that would eventually yield the successful results I had craved all my life. When new opportunities came my way, I maintained my interest in self-improvement, higher consciousness and growth in general, and those opportunities came to fruition.

I then knew that the curse was finally over! I could attract abundance and success into my life! Lo and behold, it works! I'm functional! I can Learn!"

Kenny Werner is an accomplished pianist who began performing at age 4. He was inspired by masters of the craft to rethink the technical aspects of creativity, as well as the spiritual aspects. If you are a musician or thinking about becoming one, you could benefit by reading this book. Effortless Mastery was recommended to me by Ed Fotheringill, author of Lanterns in the Mist, who is also a drummer in his jazz group Ten Directions.

Kaye Trout, Reviewer

Lowe's Bookshelf

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel
Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116
ISBN: 0618477942, $19.95, 240 pp.

Fun Home A Family Tragicomic is the latest work from the highly skilled, insightful, neurotic and wry-humored pen of Alison Bechdel, best known for her "Dykes to Watch Out For" comic strip. (One of the longest-running queer comic strips, "Dykes to Watch Out For" is over 20 years old, has been syndicated in hundreds of papers, released in over 10 books, and is available online via the author's website.) Fun Home is Bechdel's graphically rendered account of growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1960s and 70s with a particular focus on influences of her father's life and death.

Beginning with some of Bechdel's earliest memories of her father, readers meet a man who was an intelligent, emotionally distant yet volatile, narcissistic perfectionist who struggled with secrets. Trapped in the town not only of his youth but that of his ancestors for several generations, Bechdel's father worked in the family business, a funeral home (known in the family as the "Fun Home") established by her great-grandfather in the 19th century. In addition to his interest in local history and historic preservation, Bechdel's father was a closeted gay (or bisexual) man who had a string of affairs, primarily with younger men, throughout his life.

Divided into seven chapters, each of which deals with particular themes in her childhood, Fun Home contains a strong emphasis on literary references. Chapters weave back and forth in time, revealing aspects of Bechdel's childhood and details of her father's death. Books and literature were an important influence in Bechdel's life growing up. Her father taught English Literature at the local high school while her mother studied theater and performed in community plays. The gothic revival home the family lived in (and which her father had restored) boasted a library. At one point Bechdel admits, "I employ these [literary] allusions … not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms" (66). It becomes apparent that literary discussion was one of the primary modes of communication between herself and her father.

Bechdel came out to her parents via a letter in the spring of 1980. Her declaration prompted her mother to point out to Bechdel that her father had been having affairs with men for years. Initially, this information appears to have been news to Bechdel, who reflects, "I'd been upstaged, demoted from protagonist in my own drama to comic relief in my parents' tragedy" (58). This "upstaging" is revealed as a theme in Bechdel's life as childhood milestones, such as her menarche, were overshadowed by the family preoccupation with and response to her father facing charges of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor." Apparently, her father's extramarital activities added strain to the family. Her coming out was further upstaged when her father died in a questionable "accident" (it may have been suicide) just four months after her letter.

Bechdel spent years feeling shut down yet very guilty regarding her coming out and how it may have influenced her father's death. Fun Home details the results of Bechdel's intellectual and emotional processing of her father's death, and her relationship with this complex, intelligent, conflicted, and often remote man. A powerful example of her self awareness includes her admission, "[evidence that he was considering suicide months before Bechdel came out] would only confirm that his death was not my fault. That, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all. And I'm reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond" (86).

Book-length graphic stories are not a mainstay of this reviewer's reading. However, Bechdel's clean, distinctive illustration style with its wry observations and amusing details is fun to read and examine, and drew this reader into her story quickly. Indeed, it's regrettable that this review can only include quotations and not excerpts of Bechdel's drawings. Several delightful and revealing images are included, such as her grandmother chasing a "piss-ant," her early identification with Wednesday Addams, the summer of the locusts, her teenaged diary entries, and several aspects of her own adolescent self-discoveries. One cannot help but identify with Bechdel. However, despite the pain and struggle Bechdel has had facing her father's life and death, the book is neither morose nor depressing. The author has found peace with herself in regard to her father, her childhood, and who she is today. As she says in the dedication (to her mother and brothers) " We did have a lot of fun, in spite of everything."

Fun Home is a wonderful graphic memoir that is engaging, heartrending, funny, and thoughtful. Readers will definitely want to stop by the Fun Home for this viewing.

Queer Quotes: On Coming Out and Culture, Love and Lust, Politics and Pride, and Much More
edited by Teresa Theophano
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
ISBN: 0807079065 (cloth) $15.00, 192 pp.
ISBN: 0807079251 (paper) $10.00

Queer Quotes: On Coming Out and Culture, Love and Lust, Politics and Pride, and Much More, edited by Teresa Theophano, is a delightful collection of GLBT-related quotations. Divided into 16 topics, including "All Things Queer," "Naming Ourselves," and "Queer History," with quotes range from the touching to the bitingly funny, with some healthy stops along that way that prompt a reader to think. However, all the quotes have a positive slant. Theophano in her introduction explains that she has "avoided including sound bites from homophobes. We already know what the Trent Lotts, Jerry Falwells, and Fred Phelps of the world think of GLBT issues. …Let's be utterly, joyously, and quotably queer!" (10).

On the currently timely topic of "Love and (Gay) Marriage," Liz Langley states "Gay marriage should be legal if just to raise the standard of dancing at receptions" (29).

Political issues are the focus of "Out of the Closets, Into the Streets" with this from Barbara Grier: "It is the closet that is our sin and our shame." (81) And a chilling quote from Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the US, reads, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door" (77). Milk was assassinated in 1978.

In "the Arts" there are a number of humorous entries as well as two quotes for the queer bibliophiles from Dorothy Allison and Nancy Garden, respectively:

"If I'd taken up with a gospel band or rock and roll, I'd make a whole lot more sense to my family. But to write books. …I'd come home with books and they'd stare at me like I was crazy. That was the thing most queer about me" (37).

"[Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness] became my bible. I read it and reread it over and over again. And I vowed at that point that I was going to write a gay book that ended happily, a book about my people" (40). The author of dozens of award-winning children's and teens' books, Garden wrote Annie on my Mind, originally released in 1982, a groundbreaking novel concerning love been between two high school girls.

Theophano has included a biography section for the over 270 speakers quoted. This handy appendix provides brief biographical summaries, frequently listing best known titles if the person is an author, and an explanation of their notability. This section is particularly useful given the broad range of personalities quoted -- from Sophocles and Oscar Wilde to Melissa Etheridge and Calpernia Addams. Regretfully, not all these entries include a year of birth (or death). There appeared to be a few minor errors and the reader should cross-check the biographic information if using it for more than casual reference. (For example Rita Mae Brown's groundbreaking novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, is listed as originally released in 1983 rather than 1973). This reviewer would have liked the biographical data to have included the names of some long-term relationships, especially when the partners also appear in the volume as with Kate Clinton and Urvashi Vaid.

However, these shortcomings pale compared to the value of the section. Further, the editor has provided an index to the hundreds of quotes allowing the reader to find all quotes by a particular person. These last two sections result in a collection that is valuable to researchers as well as fun for the casual reader.

A well-organized, thoughtful, and fun little book, Queer Quotes is the most comprehensive title of its kind and would be useful for libraries and others who might use quote books, as well as being a size and format that make it a charming gift book.

MJ Lowe

Magdalena's Bookshelf

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
ISBN: 033036426X, $32.95, 492 pp.

Markus Zusak's The Book Thief has one of the most original and striking narrators since Julian Barnes introduced us to the canny perspective of a woodlice in History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. There's no caginess about it. The first word of the first chapter's title makes it clear that the narrator is a personified Death: the not so grim reaper. Having Death as the narrator for a book set in Germany at the start of World War II starts the book on exactly the right blackly humorous tone which continues throughout. It's a very Jewish type of humour. I'm thinking of the classic Borsch belt comedians like Sholem Aleichem, Milton Berle or perhaps even later comedians like Billy Crystal or Woody Allen. As Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse quoted in her Radio National piece on Jewish Humour, Saul Bellow calls "characteristically Jewish" a story in which laughter and trembling are so curiously mingled that it is not easy to determine the relations between the two, or as Death puts it: "A final dirty joke. Another human punchline." (12) This is part of the power of what Zusak does in The Book Thief.

In the story, death plays many roles. Of course he is the classic reaper pictured on the book's cover. He carries off the souls of the departed, and the departed are unusually abundant during this period of history. On the one hand, he is reluctant participant in the events which unfold before the reader - an active party to the destruction and pain of the Holocaust. On the other hand, Death is an omniscient and more or less fair and impartial spectator. He doesn't cause the pain or the destruction that drives the book. He just cleans up the mess. Someone else is making the events happen. Is it Hitler? The protagonist? The author? The reader? These semantic questions all add depth to a novel already pithy through Zusak's superb control of characterisation, setting and a gorgeous command of the metaphor. Death is also the book's narrator, and his reasons for the narration are part of what drives the narrative forward. He has a longing, and artistic eye which sees human life in terms of colour. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Death is, as is often classically depicted, aligned with time. He is out of the picture in one sense, since he makes it clear that time frame of this story is already long past. He is recounting a history which is both still vital and yet already finished. In that sense he is directly aligned with the reader and as this extraordinary novel progresses, the reader has the sense that perhaps, in some way, Death the narrator is the also the reader, a point confirmed later in the book when he tells the reader: "You want to know what I truly look like? . . . Find yourself a mirror." It creates a shivery feeling, which is compounded by the simple and powerful story of the protagonist, young Liesel Meminger, the book thief.

Although The Book Thief succeeds on the most post-modern of levels, its impact on the reader is as much due to superb old fashioned plot and characterisation as anything else. It is, afterall, simply a beautiful and painful story of a young girl as she deals with an important and tragic point in history. Liesel is nine and her younger brother six, when her mother takes her and her brother to Munich to be given to foster parents. En route her brother dies: "When the coughing stopped, there was nothing but the nothingness of life moving on with a shuffle, or a near-silent twitch. A suddenness found its way onto his lips then, which were a corroded brown colour, and peeling, like old paint." (20) Liesel is then thrust into a nightmare/dream existance which involves the thieving of a book, the development of a relationship with her foster parents, Rosa and Hans Huberman, and her growing sense of self as she ages during this period. Liesel's coming of age is a key part of the plot, and it is possible to read the book as simply the story of Liesel. Certainly Liesel's characterisation is enough to carry the story. When Liesel arrives at the Hubermans she is scared, almost mute, and refuses to get out of the car or into a bath, but we have already begun to love her through the lens of Death's sympathy:

For Liesel Meminger, there was the imprisoned stiffness of movement, and the staggered onslaught of thoughts. Es stimmt nicht. This isn't happening. This isn't happening.

And the shaking.

Why do they always shake them

Yes, I know, I know, I assume it has something to do with instinct. To stem the flow of truth. Her heart at that point was slippery and hot, and loud, so loud so loud. (21)

Her one important possession is her first theft The Gravedigger's Handbook stolen in the desolate moments after her brother's burial. Although she doesn't yet know how to read, the book holds specific meaning for her, which Death spells out in one of his introductory headings. It was the start of her intense relationship with words, the power of which Liesel instinctively understands and ultimately penetrates as writer. The love/hate relationship with the power of words is one which the reader comes to share. Liesel walks through the timebomb of her youth (something our omniscient narrator doesn't hesitate to remind us of), finding love and meaning in unusual places, including her hungry lovestruck friend Rudy, Max, a Jewish refugee who hides in her basement, her wonderful Papa Hans, and even in her foster mother Rosa. All of these people reach her through words, acts of courage and sacrifice, and Leisel matures as she comes to understand all the nuances of their gifts, although often too late.

Rosa is one of the most humorous characters of the book. She has the demeanor of Mrs Joe Gargery, Pip's ferocious sister in Dickens' Great Expectations, and her foster father Hans is not unlike Joe. Liesel first begins to feel like part of the family through Rosa's foul mouth, including the liberal use of the Swabish sounding words, "Saumench" and Saukerl, which mean something like a pig person or filthy pig. Rosa uses the words in a negative way when angry, but also as terms of endearment, something not inconsistent with her personality. By the end of the book, Rosa's great snores and curses become almost the subject for nostalgia (at the very least they seem minor offenses amidst other great evils), and one feels the kind of grudging concern for this woman you might have as your mother, but not neighbour. Both Hans and Rosa provide Liesel with the one thing she needs--presence. Or as Death puts it: "Not leaving. An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children." This is one of the great truths that Liesel comes to understand, and the key gift provided to her by Hans and Rosa. But Hans does more than not leave. He sits at Liesel's bed each night, teaches her to read, and gives her the music of his accordian. Zusak's descriptions of this father-daughter relationship are pure poetry:

Hans Hubermann would sit sleepy-eyed on the bed as Liesel cried into his sleeves and breathed him in. Every morning, just after two o'clock, she fell asleep again to the smell of him: a mixture of dead cigarettes, decades of paint, and human skin. When morning came in earnest, he was a few feet away from her, crumpled, almost halved, in the chair. (38)

Another key character is Max, who, although Death doesn't spell this out, seems to pervade the part of the book left unwritten. He is the man between Himmel Street and Sydney. It's a big jump, and in the gap is partially filled by his wonderful cartoon book, The Standover Man, which he writes and illustrates, Lunig-like, for Liesel during his stay in the Hubermann's basement. It's a link between the world of Himmel Street where Liesel lives with the Hubermann's, and Liesel's own lost book The Book Thief.

Death's own role as a character is a strong one, and he hints at a conflicted inner life. In some ways he makes himself a slave of humans – dealing with the impact of their wars and atrocities: "The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more." He talks about the impact of so much loss on his own frail state:

They keep triggering inside me. They harass my memory. I see them tall in their heaps, all mounted on top of each other. There is air like plastic, a horizon like setting glue. There are skies manufactured by people, punctured and leaking, and there are soft, coal-coloured clouds, beating like black hearts.

And then.
There is death.
Making his way through all of it.
On the surface: unflappable, unwavering.
Below: unnerved, untied, and undone.(331)

An afterlife is hinted at very subtly, but never clarified – bodies go cold and melt and sometimes warm again as their souls are gently removed. That's all the reader gets. The rest is left open to imagination, as is the direction that Death as character might be moving in. He's allegorical in one sense, but so real in his sensations, longings and emotions, that it isn't hard to imagine some kind of progression for him. As character, he may not be nice, but he has his charms, as typified by the last line in the book. Death's most striking punchline is delivered at the very end. And like the best Jewish humour, it works by turning both fear and convention on its head, in this case, making humans the 'other' haunting entity. It also places the final spotlight directly on life, and the celebration and triumph of it, even in the face of man-made hatred and horror. The Book Thief is a wonderful book, full of beauty, pain, longing, joy, and sensuality. It never skirts the horror of war, death, or pain, nor does it flinch at the very real tragedy it immerses itself, sometimes graphically, in. But even at its ugliest, this is a story of the beauty and celebration, however fleeting, of human life.

Luke Davies
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 1741148685, $22.95 AUD

Davies' first novel Candy became a cult classic when it was released in 1997, and it's not hard to see why. At face value, it has a grungy, sexy appeal, featuring the gripping, through the keyhole details of a serious heroin addiction, and two attractive main characters who have lots of sex, and experience a welter of often orgasmic pleasure and intense pain. It's an easily read, fast paced bildungsroman which offers a satisfyingly vicarious experience. But Candy is more than a sad love story or a novel about drug addiction. The sweet attraction of the title may be simultaneously heroin, sugary substances, and the novel's beautiful subject, but the story is about more than simply the desirable substances that drives the narrative forward. This is a novel about the universals of human need. Davies is first and foremost a poet, and the linguistic tautness of the book reflects this. Although the narration is cool, set in the detached context of a distanced memoir, there are italicised passages prefixed with the title "truth" that take the reader below the skin and bones of the linear narration and move us into a place which is timeless:

Adrift. At times it seems that I am floating in the beauty of docility. Pulling the needle from my arm, I succumb again and again to the lucious undertow of the infinite spaces between atoms. My arm, an estuary of light in which all rivers gather. (171)

Although the entire book is written in the first person, the narrative voice changes fairly dramatically as the novel progresses, which has the effect of creating an internal motion that is more profound than the passing of days. The book is divided into three sections, which follows the protagonist's internal journey. Beginning with "invincibility" the story begins with exuberance, and a sense of immediately as the narration happens in the present tense. This sets up an instant immediacy as the reader becomes an uneasy confidante and accomplice in the new affair as the beautiful Candy is drawn into the world of heroin:

She's just finding out what I found out a few years back, the thing that heroin does to you the first few times. She is over the moon. She's in the Miranda zone - O wonder! O brave new world! Things are good beyond belief. I envy her that innocence. Nowadays, when it really works – which is beginning to be not always – what I get from hammer is a kind of deep comfort. An absence of this and an absence of that. Absence of everything that prickles and rankles.

What Candy's getting is the angelic buoyancy, the profusion of colours. Good luck to her; it won't last long. (4)

The narrator is matter of fact and comfortable in this section about what is happening. He is happy and in love and he wants to make Candy happy. There's no malice, even though his justifications might suggest a niggling sense of guilt which he finds relatively easy to push away in the simple mechanics of his growing collaboration: "We're just having a bit of fun right now, and soon, I suppose, it'll be time to stop." (8)

The descent in this chapter is slow and steady, moving one step at a time as Candy and the narrator try to maintain their addiction. There is the single trick which turns into a brothel job; a single scam which turns into regular theft. A few gruesomely funny situations such as the incident with the crabs:

Within twenty minutes we had created a scene of bucolic bliss. All around the edges of the lake of blood were gathered like cows a hundred docile and happy crabs. Traumatised by the ordeal of the scissors, they drank in bliss from the healing depths. (128)

But mostly throughout this section, Candy and the narrator move towards a pattern of regularly, which, as the narrator kids himself, there's some kind of routine, a reasonable amount of money, and as many good times as bad. It's easy for the couple to imagine themselves as a normal, happy couple with a minor addiction. It's easy for the narrator to see Candy as a free agent having a bit of relaxed fun before the responsibility of marriage and children set in. There's no attempt at eliciting pity, or even self-analysis, because none seems needed. As readers, we are conned along with the narrator. Candy's luminosity and beauty blinds us.

The blinkers come off quickly however, as we reach the second part of the book. The author begins the section with his first truth segment. These poetic passages are very close, charting the narrator's own pain and sense of responsibility for what he is creating. They contrast sharply with the deadpan narration of other chapters with their immediacy and intensity: "I would vomit up my life if I could." (154) Candy's stillbirth and her violent outburst with the ashtray start to show more than simply a growing discontent. The narrative simplicity in these chapters makes the intensity of the experiences more powerful:

I reached my hands to the back of my head and cut my fingers on the chunk of glass that was lodged there. I pulled out the glass and felt a stab of pure pain. There was an explosion of blood from my head. I could feel its hot flow through my h air and down my neck. All this, in its own strange way, was less cloudy than the preceding seven hours of arguing. I was in that sweet realm where drama has a resolution in violence.(167)

The novel is richly detailed, and both the nameless narrator, and Candy come across as rich, full bodied characters. Although we get very little of the narrator's backstory, we nonetheless feel we know him as he undergoes change, becoming very slowly aware of his part in destroying Candy, and himself:

And if, and only if, you're very, very lucky, then one night in the silence, in the deep heart of the dark, you'll hear the distant trickling of the blood in your veins. A weary world of rivers, hauling their pain through the dark heat. The heart like a tom-tom, beating the message that time is running out. You'll lie there strangely alert. You'll actually feel the inside of your body, which is your soul, or where your soul is, and a great sadness will engulf you. And from the sadness an itch might begin, the itch of desire for change. (238)

Candy's backstory is revealed only in the tiniest hints throughout the first two sections, but it is revealed in the last chapter. Because it comes so late in the story, the reader, along with the narrator, begins to sense that Candy has her own story, which then spreads beyond the pages of the novel. Despite the exuberance of the early part of the book, the implications of Candy's fall begin to become clear, both to the narrator and the reader. As Candy writes angry words across the wall in lipstick, the readers sympathises with her, and begins to take on the narrator's guilt at finding the early sections - the violations and prostitution - a light thing. The reader grows along with the narrator as the truth becomes clearer. Candy is an easy book to read, but not an easy one to deal with. It leaves the reader feeling shattered, as if he or she had been through a similar experience. The verisimilitude in characterisation, setting, and in the great detail of the activities of the narrator and Candy are all part of why this book weaves its spell on the reader. With the nostalgic resonance of a story simultaneously halcyon and horrific, the reader feels the power of the great love felt by the narrator for people, sensations and places lost forever. Despite the ugliness of its subject matter, and often graphic nature of its detail, this is a beautiful story of love, loss, and self-awareness.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

1001 Ways to Market Your Books, 6th ed.
John Kremer
Open Horizons
P.O. Box 205, Fairfield, Iowa 52556-0205
ISBN: 091241149X, $27.95, 700 pp.

If you were able to choose only one book on book marketing today, this would be definitely it. This 700-page monster has all the information any author or publisher will ever need to market and promote books, and to create a "state-of-the-art" marketing plan. In spite of the huge amount of information Kremer offers, the book is well organized and the subjects easy to find, either from the table of contents or index. The author also includes articles by experts on various subjects, as well as an amalgam of up-to-date links and resources.

What sets this book part from others in the field, besides the amount of information, are the details. There are many books on promotion out there, but few go as deep as this one. In this sense, this is an invaluable reference work.

Though it is impossible to list all the subjects covered, following are some of them: basic fundamentals of book marketing, planning, distributors and wholesalers, major book reviewers, arranging print/radio/TV interviews, book tours, book signings, advertising (direct mail, finding lists, telemarketing, print ads), offbeat marketing, book fairs and conferences, catalogs, internet promotion, selling to bookstores, libraries, gifts shops and many other retail markets, subsidiary and foreign rights, and much, much more.

Kremer explores each subject in depth and offers clear, pragmatic advice on how to succeed at each level of promotion. Have your highlighter, pencil and Post-its ready, as this is a book you'll want to dissect and examine section by section. A book that should be not on your shelf but on your desk at all times, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Double Daggers
James R. Clifford
Dan River Press
PO Box 298, Thomason, Maine
ISBN: 0897542177, $16.95, 196 pp.

Double Daggers is a fascinating story revolving around the infamous Eids of March coin - the very first coin Brutus had minted after his assassination of Julius Caesar. The novel spans the ages, from 44 BC to the modern times, and offers the reader an intriguing glimpse into the lives of four different men - Marcus Brutus, a knight during the crusades, a lieutenant working for Hitler, and a Wall Street trader - as they become into contact with the "cursed" coin and their lives mysteriously take a turn for the worse.

Clifford's language flows beautifully, engaging the reader until the end. The characters, with their sinister motivations, are well drawn, and the well-researched historical background add color and credibility to the story. With each lead character, a distinct, vivid world is presented. Combining history with a touch of the paranormal, Double Daggers is an original, well-crafted - and dare I say strange - story that will be enjoyed by all. Strongly recommended.

Steve Alten
Forge Books / Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0812579577, $7.99, 523 pp.

Resurrection compasses many years - from 2012 to 2033, and ultimately deals with the eternal conflict of good versus evil. The premise begins with a 500-year old prophesy: Hero Twins will be born to fight The Underworld and save humanity from destruction. On December 21, 2012 - the end of the Mayan calendar - Jacob and Immanuel are born, both genetically-gifted and azure-eyed. But on the same day another being is born - Lilith. She's just as genetically gifted and azure-eyed as the twins, but, unlike the twins, she's the embodiment of evil. In order to save humanity, the twins must resurrect their father from the underworld, but first they must battle Lilith, whose immense power comes from the Dark Lord himself. Will the twins succeed in fighting off evil and save their father and the world?

Though a fan of Steven Alten's novels, I found this book disappointing. Though the theme is ambitious and the author obviously did a huge amount of research, the myth and legends and how they were interwoven with the plot is sometimes abstract and confusing. I found myself skipping over long "information" paragraphs to follow the story. Unlike MEG and The Loch, where the author revolves the action around a main character the reader can identify with, Resurrection has many characters of equal importance, none particularly sympathetic, making it impossible to identify with just one hero or heroine. That said, this is a novel that might interest those readers passionate about SF mixed with Mayan culture and myth.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Creatures of the Night
Stephen J. Brooks
Roger Wilson, illustrator
Purple Sky
PO Box 12013 Parkville, MO 64152
ISBN: 0976901714, $16.95

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

Creatures of the Night begins as long shadows form, day is ending and night is soon to come. The moon and stars appear, daytime animals seek shelter and night creatures venture out. Raccoon, a regal barn owl, field mice, crickets, and singing toads and frogs all join the nighttime adventure. Dancing lightening bugs, a coyote, a mother opossum and her babies, and swimming muskrats walk and jump and run. At last the night creatures begin to seek safety, the sun is returning and day will soon begin.

Author Brooks and Illustrator Wilson have produced a delightful work for children. Creatures of the Night is a 32 page picture type work. The narrative is told in verse. Illustrations are child friendly.

I took the book to school to read to my fourth grade: they are my resident critics. They take their job as critical listeners very seriously. The children expressed curiosity, regard and interest in the book. They liked the poetry, the narrative and the illustrations. One girl felt the smiles on faces of the insects were inappropriate…. 'real' insects do not have smiley faces, however she felt the illustration was appropriate for this book, 'it IS for little kids.'

While the target audience for the Creatures of the Night is more targeted to the 3 – 7 set, it is a work that holds appeal to the 8 – 10 group as they choose a book to read to younger brothers and sisters. Creatures of the Night is a read-to for the younger set ages 3 – 7, a read alone for the 8 – 10 group.

I too enjoyed the narrative, the illustrations and the poetry. Because I live 'out in the country' the critters mentioned in this book are all very familiar to me. I am finding Creatures of the Night to be a worthwhile addition to our class library shelf. Creatures of the Night is being taken for 'free reading' time by youngsters who are reading and enjoying it for themselves as they ready themselves to read to the kindergarten children each Monday. Creatures of the Night is a good addition to the homeschool reading curriculum, the classroom library and children's personal reading shelf. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Great-Looking 2X4 Furniture
Stevie Henderson & Mark Baldwin
Main Street, a division of Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.
Lark Books
387 Park Avenue South, New York City, NY 10016
ISBN: 1402714661, $6 - $15,

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

Great-Looking 2X4 Furniture is another in the writers' how-to book series. This one too is filled with step by step directions, lustrous snapshots, and a layout of a variety of furniture pieces to be made by utilizing a minimum of tools, readily accessible woods and a minimal measure of furniture making aptitude.

Catching my eye is the stunning chest showcased on the cover of the issue. The chest is sturdy and attractive.

Opening the work is a 23 page section featuring 'Tips and Techniques,' 'Tools,' including a listing of Basic Tools, Optional tools and Advanced Tools. The necessity for level working surface is explained. For the novice there are photos and simple description of hand tools, clamps, measuring tools. Line drawings indicate how to mark a rip cut and marking a crosscut. Various measuring tools; straight edge, T-bevel, Squares, and how to use level to check that edges are straight. Drills and bits, staples and staple guns and cutting tools are all shown and explanation for use is given. Photos and hand drawn illustrations are provided to explain by example good lumber and various problems to watch for when selecting woods to use for projects, warped, cupped, split and knotty planks are included.

A small two page section titled The Projects discusses things to know, things to consider and a detailed explanation of how the project schematic is set out for each project are included. The skill level code is explained: drawings of hammers are used. One hammer and the project is easy, two hammers means it is a bit more difficult and three hammers save for last. Schematics will include Special tools and Techniques, Materials and Supplies, Hardware, Cutting List, and a Final Tip.

Project plans include House Number-skill level 1 hammer, Victorian Table - skill level 1 hammer, Tiled Lamp - skill level 1 hammer, Planter for Cuttings - skill level 1 hammer, Bathroom Wall Rack - skill level 1 hammer, Upholstered Ottoman - skill level 2 hammers, Padded Headboard - skill level 1 hammer, Butler's Chest - skill level 2 hammers, Wall Cabinet - skill level 2 hammers, Desk Organizer - skill level 2 hammers, Multiple Planter - skill level 2 hammers, Occasional Table - skill level 2 hammers, Sun Lounge with Planters skill level 2 hammers, Tiled Kitchen Table - skill level 2 hammers, Desk Cabinet - skill level 2 hammers, Buffet Table - skill level 2 hammers, Chaise Lounge - skill level 2 hammers, Rustic Armoire - skill level 3 hammers, and Corner Cabinet - skill level 3 hammers.

Written in lucid, ordinary language Writer's Henderson and Baldwin have again put their ability to good use. The pair have created an excellent book meant for the do-it-yourselfer who may not yet have too much expertise. The copious illustrations, easily grasped directions and photos of completed projects stirs the reader to want to grab a hammer and lumber and begin a project.

Great-Looking 2X4 Furniture is a super book for looking through carefully, keeping on the work bench AND using. Great-Looking 2X4 Furniture is meant to be used. Cover and pages sturdy keep on the work table. As with others in the series the reader, per the fine print at the front-piece of the book, is permitted to make copies of the plans if they wish. The Butler Chest and The Chaise both have caught my interest! Maybe when the weather gets a little cooler I'll tackle one or both.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. Great-Looking 2X4 Furniture will be a fine addition to the home library, the do-it-yourselfer gift package, or home school library and school library as a book to stir the interest of young men who may be reluctant to read a 'story' book and young women who are unwilling to do only 'girl' things.

Cactus Island: A Stan Turner Mystery
William Manchee
Top Publications, Ltd
ISBN: 1929976364, $14.95

Exciting Read …….. Recommended …. 5 stars

The narrative opens on March 8, 1991. Stan and his are in the midst of sorrow as they attend the funeral of Peter Turner, Stan and Rebekah's third child. Six months earlier Stan's law partner Paula Waters accepted a divorce case against her better judgement. Stan found himself caught up in defending one of Peter's friends who was accused with murder. The murder was based on the fact that Scouts Peter, Steven and Jimmy were involved in an auto crash that killed Jimmy. Steven claimed he had seen a spaceship and that is what caused him to lose control of the vehicle. Paula's case goes from bad to worse when her client's soon to be ex husband goes missing. Despite no evidence and no body, Police are sure Cheryl Windsor has killed her wayward spouse. Stan's case too is becoming rocky as tabloid newspapers flock to Cactus Island where there is supposed to be evidence of alien presence. Cheryl Windsor's children are abducted. When a charred body is found the authorities feel they have rock solid case against Cheryl. Things begin to heat up when Stan learns that Jimmy Falk is actually the missing Martin Windsor's son. Paula makes a trip to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to check on a bank where Windsor money may be hidden. That trip turns out to be a big mistake and Stan finds himself with the Windsor case dumped in his lap. Space ships, covert action, mysterious disappearings all are a big part of he tale.

With Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery William Manchee offers another riveting tale in his ongoing Stan Turner series. The reader is hooked immediately from the Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery first line in this gripping, keenly portrayed story theme. The narrative is told in the first person, chapter by chapter by Stan and law partner Paula Waters. Initially I had a little problem deciding who was talking, but I soon had that figured out and zipped right into the story. Transitions are handled well, I wondered how Manchee could pull plot and sub plot together in a believable manner, and found that Manchee has done it again with wit and adroit writing. As always Manchee's characters are uncontrived, well portrayed and plausible. I have found with Manchee's character there is no middle ground, we really like the likeable, and really despise those deserving our aversion. Colloquy flows naturally as the characters work to unravel problems. The plot zenith and outcome are handled with usual Manchee aplomb. I have no problem believing that Stan would have dealt with the situations he faced in Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery precisely as is drafted by author Manchee.

Writer Manchee has set together another great milieu of engaging, convincing characters, predicaments and blunders. The tale Manchee weaves in Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery brings us another great romp with full time lawyer part time sleuth Stan Turner and his law partner Paula Waters. With the character Doc Verner and his insistence that aliens have landed on Cactus Island, Manchee has added a little plot twist to titillate and surprise the reader. Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery is a well-written tale filled with many of the characters we have come to enjoy from the first works in this ongoing series. The Turner children are now nearly grown up we see Stan, Rebekah and their family much as our own. And that is in part what makes this series so engaging.

Cactus Island : a Stan Turner Mystery is a good choice for those who enjoy well written, fast paced Mystery Thrillers in the fashion of Gresham and Queen. Good choice for the personal pleasure reading list, and high school library shelf. Little profanity makes this a good choice for the mature teen as well as adult mystery reader. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Best of Amish Cooking
Phyllis Pellman Good
Good Books
PO Box 419 Intercourse, PA 17534
ISBN: 0934672709, $15.95

Informative Read …….. Recommended …. 4 stars

This is not a story book, it is a cookbook. Recipes include Traditional and Contemporary Recipes Adapted from the Kitchens and Pantries of Old Order Amish Cooks. Before directions for preparing dishes the author gives us an introduction into who the Amish people are, and tells us their Food Tradition in the New World. Recipes are groups into One-Pot and Mainstay Dishes, Soups and Stews, Meats, Vegetables, Salads and Greens, Pickled and Relishes, Sweets and Sours. There are also recipe for Breads, Pies, Cakes and Cookies, Puddings, Dumplings and Desserts as well as Fruit Butters and Jams and Jellies. Cheese, Beverages and Candies round out the recipe offerings. Before ending the book the writer provides Menus for Special Occasions. A Wedding Dinner, A Wedding Supper, Sunday Church Lunch and A Funeral Dinner are included in the Menu section. Endnotes, Readings and Sources, an Index and a bit about the Author round out the work. I particularly enjoy the Potato Soup, Baked Corn, Cinnamon Flop, Ginger Cookies and Cottage Pudding. The recipes are easily prepared and are eaten by children and husbands.

Writer Good is a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She writes and edits books related to the Amish and Mennonites. Considered to be a leading expert on Amish cooking Good highlights traditional and contemporary recipes adapted from kitchens of Amish cooks. Before beginning the work on The Best of Amish Cooking Writer Good interviewed Amish women and prowled through old books, recipe boxes and diaries. The recipes offered in the book are those often served on Amish tables in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area.

Writer Good offers the reader a peek into the religion and day to day lives of a people who are often considered strange or odd by those who do not know them. She explains why Amish folk prefer to live close to the land and eschew many modern conveniences. Readers may be surprised to learn that Amish folk population is on the increase, they live in one Canadian province and many states across the United States and not only in Pennsylvania. The Amish developed and retained a food tradition that is identifiable and because they are a living group menus do continue to change over time.

The Best of Amish Cooking is a collection of dishes that go back as far as 80 year-old-members of the Amish church can remember or find in old hand scripted cookbooks belonging to their mothers. Some recipes are prepared in old fashioned method, while others are adapted to modern days and products available from the grocery store. The old handwritten recipes were often only a listing of ingredients with no reference to measurement or procedure. Writer Good offers measurements and procedures for the recipes found in this work. Historical notes and asides are included along with recipes for specific dishes.

The Best of Amish Cooking is a good choice for a gift for Mom or Aunt, a must have for those who collect cookbooks, and for the Newlywed. The Best of Amish Cooking is a fine choice for the pleasure reading list of those who enjoy learning a little about other cultures, Social Studies and History Teachers will find a use for the work in the classroom when studying various ethnic groups here in the US. The Best of Amish Cooking

The Best of Amish Cooking is a cook book, history book and social studies lesson wrapped into one. It is a book to be read for the enjoyment of learning about another culture and for using to make good wholesome dishes for the table. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Confederate Women Beyond the Petticoat
Bell Irvin Wiley
Barnes & Noble Books
675 Sixth Avenue New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 1566193788, $7.98

Informative Read …….. Recommended …. 5 stars

Confederate Women Beyond the Petticoat in particular details lives of three Southern women who were members of the Southern aristocracy. Mary Boykin Chesnut, Southern Intellectual, Virginia Tunstall Clay – Clopton, an Alabama Belle and Varina Howell Davis, First Lady, Wife and Mother. Photographs include the ladies mentioned as well as children of Jefferson and Varina Davis, Mrs Phoebe Yates Pember, Georgia Confederate Women on visit to their husbands, a Mississippi widow, Rebecca White Barfield of Mississippi and Cpt Sally L Tompkins the found and head of Military Hospital. This is not a story book. It is a work illustrating the lives of Confederate women. Mary Boykin Chesnut is well known to historians because of the notes/journal entries she kept before and during the war years. Much of what we know today of day to day life for those living in the desperate South is due to the Chesnut notes.

Mrs. Chesnut was a bit of a equivocation; she hated slavery, she enjoyed the benefits and comforts it furnished. Virginia Tunstall was born in Nash County, North Carolina. She grew up in Alabama, was a popular Belle, buried two husbands, and lived to enjoy her 90th birthday. Varina Howell was also Southern born; Natchez. She traced her roots to ancestors who fought in the Revolution. Both Virginia Clay – Clopton and Varina Howell were married to politicians and spent time living in Washington DC. The chapter entitled 'Women of the Lost Cause' recounts actions of many women whose names are lost to history. Women of all classes worked in factories, planted fields, cut firewood, cared for the living and buried the dead while their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers were off fighting for the South. A little realized fact today is that most in the south were not slave owners, women born in the south were quick to encourage males to enlist in the fight for the south, not for slavery. Women smuggled arms, medicines and scarce items under their hoop skirts and carried information to military leaders. A few women disguised themselves as men, enlisted and fought alongside male troopers. Others accompanied husbands to the battlefields, or made clothing for the soldiers, or labored in hospitals caring for the wounded and ill.

On the pages of Confederate Women Beyond the Petticoat Writer Wiley presents a well organized, easily read record of a number of Confederate women. He offers the reader a peek into the lives of three women of privilege as well as a glimpse into the thoughts, actions and behavior of a great many women throughout the south during the war years. Women, places and deeds all come alive under the skillful pen of Wiley. What might have been only set of dry facts laid upon a previous layer of drier facts springs to life for the reader. We are carried into Mary Boykin Chestnut's frustration with those around her or the distress Virginia Clay experienced as she sought to bear a child. We feel the pain and tiredness, the worry and fear of common women as they struggle to provide for themselves, their children and await the husband and other family who are far away fighting the hated 'yankees.'

Excellent choice for the pleasure and study reading list. 'Civil War Buffs' will find the book of particular value. Those who enjoy reading historical works for the sake of history will like Confederate Women Beyond the Petticoat no less. Confederate Women Beyond the Petticoat is a good choice for the high school history teacher. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Mona's Bookshelf

The Real Bush Diaries
Peter Clothier
Virtual Book Worm Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 1589398432, $18 .95, 536 pp.

The culmination of these entries, are his personal accounts, observations, and views of politics, art, and the world, in general. They are riotously endearing and, sometimes, heartbreaking as well. They include his poems, political leanings (of course), and questions for President Bush as an official and as a human being.

Peter Clothier began a weblog to discuss his concerns about the world he was living in. But, this was to be no regular weblog. Instead, Peter Clothier wrote as though he was having a conversation with the President of the United States, Mr. George W. Bush. While reading through the entries, a reader may expect to see some "Bush-bashing", none appears. Clothier tries to be quite patient with his Muse (Bush) despite their clear disagreements. He not only discusses politics, but also his family, and the reader receives a portrait of Peter Clothier, the writer, poet, art writer, husband, father, friend, and, yes, liberal.

"The Real Bush Diaries" is just as the title suggests: a diary with a year of one man's life spent writing each day, following the news, the events, questions the decisions, and feelings the daily frustrations we all feel. Clothier writes with passion, humor, and compassion in a world often lacking these needed treasures.

Girls Most Likely
Sheila Williams
One World Books
ISBN: 0345464761, $13.95, 285 pp.

Sheila Williams entertains readers with her enchanting story of four girls destined to be lifetime, best friends. Three meet in the fifth grade and soon the fourth joins them. Vaughn, the writer to-be, maintains the peacekeeping skills necessary to settle almost all disputes. Irene Keller, the heartbreaker fascinates all she meets of the opposite sex until one day a mistake threatens the quartet's harmonious friendship. Susan (Su) Penn, destined for fame later finds being just a "face" not as glamorous as she once thought. Audrey Taylor, always the perfectionist, a planner in one hand and coffee in the other.

In the 1960s, these four girls would grow into beautiful, African-American women, facing obstacles such as family issues, men mistreating them, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, eating disorders, divorces, only to name a few. Although their friendship was strained at times, the childhood bond that held them together always came through.

Williams writes a coming of age story which all audiences can relate to given her personal style. Her realistic dialogue, humor, sense of place, context, and time engages the readers immediately into the story. It is not before long, the audience begins to feel they recognize themselves some part in either one or all of the four characters. This is a novel for the universal masses.

Mona Lisa Safai

Norton's Bookshelf

The Visible Employee
Jeffrey M. Stanton and Kathryn R. Stam
Information Today, Inc.
143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750
0910965749 $24.95 1-800-300-9868

"The Visible Employee" presents the results of a four-year research project concerning prevailing workplace security measures and their side effects. On the one hand, deliberate or accidental employee misuse of information systems can cause havoc; on the other, too much monitoring and surveillance of employees can provoke conflict on all levels of hierarchy and cause drag on the efficiency of a business. Chapters present the perspectives of Information Technology professionals, managerial perspectives, employee perspectives, the pros and cons of different approaches to the quandary of balancing security against efficiency, and much more. Numerous appendices from employee interview protocol to a recommended password policy ("never use a dictionary word for a password" or "never send a password using email") and an index round out this valuable guide to businesses trying to successfully compete in a rapidly evolving and interconnected world.

Mental Agility
Robert L. Jolles
Capital Books, Inc.
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166
193310225X $21.95 1-800-758-3756

"Mental Agility: The Path to Persuasion" is an outstanding self-help business guide to learning to think on one's feet under pressure, whether showcasing a product, giving a press conference, interviewing for a job, or speaking to the public. Written by master corporate trainer Robert L. Jolles, "Mental Agility" is meant especially to aid business professionals but the advice, tips, tricks, and techniques are useful to readers of all walks of life. Sample exercises to increase one's mental agility, learning how to better understand the thoughts of those one is trying to persuade, mastering conversational skills, techniques for being persuasive and much more fill this excellent self-training guide to sharper thoughts, faster reactions and rapier wit. A very highly recommended addition to personal and professional self-help, self-improvement reading lists.

The Restaurant Dream?
Lee Simon
Altantic Publishing Company
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474-7014
0910627835 $21.95 1-800-555-4037

Every year thousands of people venture into the restaurant business, either establishing their own independent restaurants or through purchasing a franchise from one of the established restaurant chains. What sets "The Restaurant Dream?: An Inside Look At Restaurant Development, From Concept To Reality" apart from the many "how to" books about starting up and operating a restaurant is that it is written in the form of a story, interweaving educational material with real-life experiences, including all the unexpected twists and turns that author and restauranteur Lee Simon personally encountered. Laid out for the reader are the aspirations, emotions, planning, deceptions, camaraderie, frustrations, risks, and lawsuits that were a part of the restaurant development and operations experience. Readers will see the strategies employed, the logic engaged, the successes and the failures that any aspiring restaurateur can learn and profit from, thereby improving their own prospects for success. Although specific to the restaurant business, The Restaurant Dream? has much to commend it to the reading lists of anyone considering an entrepreneurial venture in establishing a small business regardless of the product or services to be provided the public. Very highly recommended and invaluable reading!

Attorney Liability In Bankruptcy
Corinne Cooper, editor
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
1590315820 $94.95 1-800-285-2221

"Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy" is a "must-have" resource for every practicing attorney whose work takes him into the sphere of bankruptcy law. Filled from cover to cover with up-to-date (as of 2006) critical letters and forms needed to comply with recent legal changes and the imperatives of the new bankruptcy law, Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy covers everything from dealing with creditors' lawyers to bankruptcy ethics issues to reaffirming debt after bankruptcy and much more. An accompanying CD-ROM with letters that can be quickly modified to suit appropriate situations and jurisdictions, Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy is easy-to-use, utterly invaluable resource, and also recommended for lay readers seeking to brush up on legal changes before consulting an expensive bankruptcy attorney. No general practice law office can afford to be without a copy of "Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy" in their professional reference library.

Oliver Norton

Paul's Bookshelf

Armed Madhouse
Greg Palast
E.P. Dutton
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
ISBN: 0525949682, $25.95, 366 pp.

Here is another compendium of political and corporate con men who would sell your future and your children's future to the highest bidder (or give it away to their political friends).

Everyone thinks that George Bush had a secret plan to seize Iraq's oil. Actually, there were 2 secret plans. The neo-con/Pentagon plan involved privatizing, or selling off, Iraq's vast oil reserves to foreign companies. When all those oil wells start pumping, ignoring their OPEC quota (insurgency? what insurgency?), the world market would be flooded with oil, causing the price to plummet. OPEC would be forced out of business, and, coincidentally, Saudi Arabia, the real target, would be forced to its financial knees. A problem with this is the assumption that the oil fields would remain undamaged in an American invasion. Also, it would be silly to think that Saudi Arabia would sit back and let this happen. Whenever other OPEC countries have ignored their quota, the Saudis have opened their oil spigots, flooding the market and causing the price to drop, forcing the offending country into bankruptcy. Also, the major oil companies made it very clear that privatizing Iraqi oil would not be acceptable. But they had no problem with the privatizing of the rest of Iraq, including the sale of banks and water companies, big tax cuts for wealthy Iraqis, a complete elimination of tariffs and new copyright laws protecting American companies.

The State Department/Council on Foreign Relations plan involved keeping the Iraqi government as is, especially the state oil monopoly. It also envisioned the removal of Saddam Hussein as taking no more than THREE DAYS. Hussein would be overthrown, some Iraqi general dismissed by Hussein in the 1980s (it didn't matter who) would come in by parachute, he would be given the keys to Iraq's political and security apparatus, and snap elections would be held in 90 days to legitimize everything. Simple, no? Once the Pentagon got wind of it, the three-day part didn't last very long.

Saddam Hussein's "crime," the reason he was removed from power, had nothing to do with being a tyrant, or WMD, or gassing the Kurds of Halabja. When it came to oil production, one week he would suddenly decide to support the Palestinian cause, and not pump any oil at all. The next week, he would forget about the Palestinians, and pump right up to the Oil for Food limit. Singlehandedly turning the world oil market into a yo-yo upset Big Oil and the Council on Foreign Relations, among others. It's all about control of the oil market, and Hussein was not cooperating.

This book is about much more than just Iraq. Palast goes into great detail about how the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen by the Republicans. Any number of methods have come to life, from using supposed lists of felons, to sending not enough machines to black districts, to machines in those same districts that miscount or don't count votes at a much greater rate than in white districts, to uncounted paper ballots in the tens of thousands. In Native American districts in the Southwest, if one accepts the "official" results, many Native Americans would drive miles and miles to the polling place, and specifically NOT vote for President. What are Democrats doing about this, if only to be sure that it never happens again? Little or nothing. This book also covers subjects like globalization, New Orleans, No Child Left Behind and Enron.

By themselves, any of the chapters in this book are worth the price of the book. Put them together, and this book easily reaches the level of Wow. It's an extraordinary piece of journalism, and is extremely highly recommended.

Jack McDevitt
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0441009387, $22.95, 403 pp.

A couple of hundred years from now, a routine survey mission to a neutron star picks up a few seconds of what seems like a transmission of alien origin. The reception wasn't long enough to determine where it came from or where it was going. The next step for the neutron star is to turn into a black hole, so there shouldn't be anyone or anything in the vicinity. After probes again pick up the signal, a special mission is sent from Earth to investigate.

With pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchinson, the crew are not the usual scientist types, but members of the Contact Society, a group of rich people who fund research into extraterrestrial life. This is important because after 200 years of diligent searching for other civilizations, the results have been very disappointing. Following the signal from one star system to another, the humans find the same type of stealth satellites in orbit around various planets. Even by the standards of interstellar distances, this is a huge relay system. Attempts by companion ships to bring one aboard to study end in disaster.

The crew encounters a planet inhabited by humanoids with wings, who bear a striking resemblance to angels. Hutch is the only one who thinks that landing and establishing contact with the natives is not such a good idea. The "angels" show themselves to be uninterested in contact when they attack the humans with claws and sharp teeth, killing two of them.

Around another planet, the humans find a giant asteroid which is actually an alien spaceship. After much exploration, they determine that it is some sort of automated archaeological survey ship, picking up bits of other cultures from throughout the galaxy. The satellites signal when a culture is sufficiently advanced to warrant a visit. This is a gem of a book. It's nice and mind-blowing, the author does a fine job throughout, and the science is kept to reasonable levels.

Ship of Fools
Richard Paul Russo
Ace Books
375 Hidson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0441008933, $6.50, 370 pp.

The multi-generation starship Argonos has aimlessly wandered the galaxy for hundreds of years, searching for any signs of life. Its original mission and destination have long ago been forgotten. Returning to Earth is not an option, for it has become a toxic, irradiated wasteland.

A mysterious signal draws the ship to an abandoned colony on an Earth-like planet. Nikko, the ship's captain, barely averts a mutiny as several hundred passengers would rather take their chances on the planet than stay on the ship any longer. The planet's attraction suddenly disappears when several hundred humanoid corpses are discovered in an underground room. The colony is abandoned because the inhabitants were slaughtered.

Later, the Argonos comes upon what looks like a huge, derelict alien ship. Bartolomeo, Nikko's friend and advisor, advocates exploring the ship thoroughly. On the other hand, Bishop Saldana, Nikko's rival for the captaincy, is all for putting as much distance as possible between the ships. He is not the only one who feels malevolence, if not actual evil, from the alien ship.

Room after room is explored on the alien ship, most of them being empty, with little or no sign of aliens. The decision is made to attach the two ships together, and tow the alien ship to an intelligent civilization (there has to be one somewhere) as a peace offering. Then, several hundred more humanoid corpses are discovered on the alien ship. Even Bartolomeo is convinced that the sooner they get away from the alien ship, the better. Now, the alien ship comes alive, refusing to let go of the Argonos. This is a really good, well-done story looking at the concept of evil. The author does a good job with the characters, and it will certainly keep the reader interested.

The Coming
Joe Haldeman
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0441008763, $6.95, 288 pp.

In the middle of the 21st Century, Aurora Bell is an Astronomy professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. One day, she receives a message from outer space ("We're Coming") that seems to herald the arrival of alien visitors. The alien ship is traveling at just under the speed of light, and will arrive on New Year's Day, three months from now.

Earth of the mid-21st Century is not prepared for any sort of invasion. Global warming has begun to alter Earth's climate. Much of Long Island is under water, and in Florida, going outside for any length of time without sunscreen is a bad idea. Europe is again on the brink of war. The American President, Carlie LaSalle, is an airbrushed creation of the political consultants and media managers. She tends to look at everything in terms of a conspiracy against her; the general consensus is that she has approximately six working brain cells.

LaSalle orders the deployment of a space-based laser carried on a shuttle to destroy the alien ship if it starts firing on Earth. Such a laser could also be pointed downward, like at some European city, getting Europe very upset at America. If They (whoever they are) have light-speed space travel, and intetrstellar capabilities, won't they have defenses against orbiting laser systems? Even worse, if Earth gets them angry, won't they have the ability to severely damage, or destroy, the Earth? On the other hand, who ever heard of a one-ship "invasion?" Grayson Pauling, the President's Science Advisor, is totally opposed to LaSalle's plan, opposed enough to sneak several pounds of plastic explosive into a Cabinet meeting. Amid all this, Bell is less and less convinced that aliens are coming. A longer message, detailing just where and when they will land, is in present-day colloquial English. Something is heading for Earth, but what?

This is another solid, you-won't-go-wrong story from Haldeman. It is more about Earth several decades from now than about Alien Contact, but it is still a gem of a novel.

Metal Sky
Jay Caselberg
Roc Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0451459997, $6.99, 308 pp.

Private investigator Jack Stein has set up shop in the town of Yorkstone. It's a town on the move, literally (it really is a moving town), and it's a programmable town. For instance, one change the furniture in a room just by telling your computer. Jack's appointment book is empty, until Bridget Farrell walks into Jack's office. She is a very beautiful woman who knows how to use her beauty. She asks Jack's help in finding a metallic tablet inscribed with ornate symbols.

Farrell had a colleague/competitor in the field of obtaining rare objects, a man named Talbot. Unfortunately, he got too close to the business end of an energy weapon, and is now very dead. The Yorkstone police are now very interested. A rich industrialist named Landeman is also interested in the tablet.

Jack is a psychic investigator; he works from hunches or "feelings" gained from objects, other people or dreams. He meets Talbot in his dreams and is told to go to a planet called Mandala. A major archaeological dig is underway, uncovering what was a major city. In his dreams, Jack sees the city as it was a millennia ago. But he is no closer to discovering the answers to his growing list of questions.

Back in Yorkstone, Billie, Jack's teenage "ward" and an expert information finder, learns that the object is made of a metal unknown to science, and probably came from Mandala. It could be an object of great power, or the key to some advanced civilization. Jack begins to piece it all together; a potentially "huge" object like this would be worth a lot of money to some people. This works really well as a mystery story and a science fiction story. It's just weird enough, and it also has echoes of famous tales like The Maltese Falcon. Either way, it's worth reading.

Ill Wind
Rachel Caine
Roc Books
375 Hidson St, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0451459520, $6.99, 337 pp.

Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden, someone who can control the weather at will. She is part of a secret group called the Wardens Association, people who control earth, fire, wind and weather. They have been around nearly forever, keeping Mother Nature from wiping humanity right off the map. At the moment, Joanne has a much more immediate problem.

She is on the run from the Wardens, accused of killing Bob, a Senior Warden. He may have been an arrogant you-know-what who few people are sorry to see dead, and it may have happened in self-defense while Bob was transferring an alien being into Joanne's body that is slowly taking her over, but Joanne is still in deep trouble. Her only hope is Lewis, the only Warden who can control earth, fire and weather. But, he is also on the run, having stolen three bottles of djinn (the only being more powerful than a Warden), which makes him the most wanted person on Earth.

During Joanne's mad dash across present-day America, followed by all sorts of "freak" weather, she meets David, your average cross-country hiker. But he is actually a djinn, who may or may not be working for the Wardens. The big confrontation comes in an average-looking house in Oklahoma City, with Lewis and Estrella, an old friend and former Fire Warden, who has her own agenda.

This one is quite good and it is worth reading. It has plenty of action and tension, and the possibility of human control over Mother Nature will keep the reader thinking. It certainly puts the local weather forecast in a whole new light. Keep an eye on this series.

S.L. Viehl
Roc Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN: 0451460294, $23.95, 312 pp.

Part of a series, this novel is about the planet Kevarzangia Two, and its water-breathing inhabitants. The Hsktskt slavers have been pushed out of the quadrant, so the four sentient races, who call themselves the Allied League of Worlds, meet on K-2 for a peace conference. The participants, two air-breathing races and two water-breathing races, don't particularly like each other. When an ambassador's shuttle is attacked prior to the conference, Sublieutenant Burn mu Znora stops the attack and rescues the ambassador's daughter, Liana (some younger 'Zangians, like Burn, have been surgically altered to be able to survive in the air for hours at a time). Having drawn the pleasurable duty of guarding Liana during the conference, Burn realizes that she knows a lot more than she is letting on, and that someone wants this conference to fail.

Meantime, the 'Zangians have a natural enemy called a mogshrike. Think of a creature bigger than a great white shark, with a lot more teeth and a much more nasty disposition. The mogshrikes have been moving into warmer and shallower water, where the 'Zangians live. They are defenseless against the mogshrikes, so the radical idea is considered of catching one to study. Dair, an elderly 'Zangian, is totally against the idea, but Teresa, his Terran mate, agrees to participate. The battle of wills gets to the point where Dair tells Teresa that they are no longer mated. A baby mogshrike is captured, and it is discovered that they have been doing some pretty radical evolving.

This is a fine piece of writing. It's got good world building, the characters are very well done, and it's a first-rate story. As with any series, reading previous books will help, but this does a really good job of standing on its own.

Stealing Magic
Tanya Huff
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
ISBN: 1894063341, $13.95, 250 pp.

This book consists of 2 separate sets of fantasy stories, with different back-to-back covers (reminiscent of the old Ace Doubles). On one side are stories of Terazin, top-notch thief. To join the Thieves' Guild, one does not simply knock on the front door and ask for an application. It is necessary to break into the building and make it to the inner sanctum deep underground, avoiding the traps set up along the way. Terazin does so, and is given an initiation test. She must bring the braided hair of Swan, a famous female warrior who will not take kindly to getting a sudden haircut. Other stories feature Terazin finding herself in the middle when it comes to internal Thieves' Guild politics.

Going the other way are stories of Magdalene, the world's most powerful (and laziest) wizard. She is an apprentice to Adar, a castle wizard. She unknowingly dismantles his most powerful spells like they don't even exist. She gains Adar's powers, just before he is turned into a pile of gray ash, and decides to leave the castle. Traveling with H'sak, a demon trapped inside a mirror, she finds that the most bucolic villages have the most unique customs concerning wizards, like welcoming them with axes or chains and manacles. It doesn't help that Magdalene, a redhead with a very healthy libido, doesn't wear a pointy hat like normal wizards. She is summoned to various kings and wizards, and her attitude is like, "Yeah, yeah, let's get this over with."

I really enjoyed these stories. They're lighter, fast reading, and they show that Huff is a veteran fantasy author. The reader won't go wrong with this strong, well done group of stories.

The Courtesan Prince
Lynda Williams
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 Canada
ISBN: 1894063289, $20.95, 453 pp.

Set approximately one thousand years from now, this is the story of the first two interstellar Earth colonies. They were abandoned by Earth after the failure of early attempts at faster-than-light travel. The problems were solved, but ideological differences concerning genetic engineering caused outlaw scientists to sever all contact with Earth and set up their own worlds.

The Reetions of Rire regulate every aspect of their lives with advanced computer technology. The Sevolites of Gelion are much more of an honor-bound people. The wearing, and using, of swords in public is a normal part of daily life. It is also a rigidly class-defined culture, where one is expected to use the proper pronouns when speaking "up" or "down" to someone else. The two civilizations fought a major war about 200 years previously, which left large regions of space uninhabitable. Despite severing all relations with each other, another war between them is increasingly likely.

Ann, a Reetion pilot, meets, and falls for, Von, a Sevolite male courtesan and sword-dancer (who Ann calls Beauty), who may be an actual Prince. Ranar, a Reetion archaeologist with dark skin (a novelty in Sevolite society), meets Di Mon, a high-ranking member of Sevolite society, who is also in love with Von. Unintentionally, perhaps they can prevent another major interstellar war. This is a good piece of society-building. Since this is not the usual sort of new world, this novel will require some patience on the part of the reader (it takes a while to get going). It is also the first of a projected ten-book series. It's very much worth reading.

Tesseracts Nine
Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
ISBN: 1894063265, $16.95, 390 pp.

Here is the latest in a yearly collection of speculative fiction stories and poems from north of the border, in Canada. At an isolated research station in the north, one story concerns talking lemmings who are looking forward to being eaten by other predators. There is a modern-day vampire story. Mother Teresa moves into an elderly woman's home, and turns it into an orphanage. A group of aliens about to terraform Earth are totally enthralled by the singing of an elderly eskimo woman who knows that she has reached the end of her life. There is a near-future computer-controlled war story. A man wakes up one morning to find himself conscious, but physically unable to get out of bed. Then he finds that he has turned invisible. His wife, who thinks that he left her in the middle of the night, goes into a deep depression. Then civil order collapses as thousands, then millions, of people similarly disappear.

There is a wide variety of stories here; something for everyone. Read this an example of the state of speculative fiction in Canada, or read this as simply a group of really good stories. Either way, read it.

Forbidden Cargo
Rebecca K. Rowe
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
ISBN: 1894063163, $14.95, 354 pp.

Set in 22nd Century Earth, this is the story of two young women caught in the middle of a power struggle regarding the future of human evolution.

The Order has set up a research facility on Mars, where they have created a race of nano-DNA hybrids called imagofas, thought by many to be the next step in human evolution. The Council, on Earth, considers imagofas to be a crime against humanity. The idea is hatched to bring back evidence from Mars of the order's activities, to put them out of business, once and for all. The two women, Sashimu and Thesni, are kidnapped from Mars and brought to Earth as "evidence", after which their life spans will be short and very unpleasant.

Something goes wrong at the Earth spaceport, and the two manage to escape, though separated from each other. In the meantime, Creid Xerkler is the inventor of a virtual reality system called Molecular Advantage Machine, or MAM. It allows instant access to all of Earth's knowledge, but the connection is made through the wearing of a special suit. Another reason why Sashimu and Thesni are considered evil is that they can access MAM without the suit. Xerkler is very implicated in this anti-Order plan, but he spends much of the book in an artificially-induced coma (someone wants him out of the way).

While staying away from the Council, the two meet some interesting individuals. The Cadet is an expert gamer and finder of information, and Prometheus is a MAM meta-intelligence looking for sentience. It becomes clear that Xerkler is the key, but the only way to reach him, and fix whatever is wrong with him, is from the inside, through MAM.

This gem of a book has it all. It's got virtual reality, technology and imagination. It also has an interesting story, with which the author does a fine job. This is not just a really good first novel, it's a really good novel.

The Tower at Moorkai
H. David Blalock
P.O. Box 2399, Bangor ME 04402-2399
ISBN: 1591135133, $14.95, 196 pp.

Here is the third in a series about the island of Adylonis, and the Houses vying for control of the island. After many years of vacancy, Andalarn Thran, leader of House Thran, is named Ascendant (in effect, Prime Minister of the island under the Emperor on the mainland). This is guaranteed to upset a lot of people, starting with House Suum, a military House who makes no secret of its desire to become Ascendant, and wipe House Thran off the map.

At the end of the previous volume, Thran's son, Daepar, who was left in charge of House Thran, is found dead. Thran vows revenge on House Suum, the most likely suspect, with or without the consent of the Council at Moorkai, Adylonis' governing body. War is declared, and after many have died, Thran is presented with evidence that Suum really is innocent. The real culprits are the verni, an ancient reptilian race with their own agenda. Thran resigns from the Ascendancy, knowing that it will be given to House Suum.

Years later, Andalarn the Younger occupies a senior position on the Council, but watches as the Ascendancy goes to House Djemo. Andalarn discovers that Djemo has gotten assistance from some dangerous, and very illegal, sorcery. He is offered the Ascendancy in exchange for his silence. An attack is launched, with Andalarn at its head, against Moorkai, Adylonis' capital, and Djemo's headquarters. He has imposed martial law on the city, and has plenty of weapons against an attack. This is another strong, well-done fantasy story. It is interesting, with good characters, and the reader will not be disappointed.

Cerulean Blue
Wray Miller
Miller Write Inc.
2875 Northtowne Lane #302, Reno, NV 89512
ISBN: 0972394818, $18.95, 508 pp.

This story is about a near-future Earth, totally changed by a new species of algae called Cerulean Blue (years are no longer denominated in AD - Anno Domini, but acb - after cerulean blue). Among its unique properties are the ability to slow the aging process for any animal, including humans, that ingests it. The algae also contains plenty of oxygen, so a person could live very easily in a vat of it, once they get over their drowning reflex. It also puts the person to sleep. Since Earth is on the verge of environmental collapse, a radical plan is hatched by Reginald Erlichmann, head of the United Nations Corporation. Much of the Earth's population will be placed in storage for 30 years, in order to give the Earth a chance to cleanse itself. The politically correct are eager to take part. The reality is very different.

Those who end up in a Type I facility are the genetically pure elite (sound familiar?) who will be resurrected in the future. A Type II facility is for those who will never be resurrected; perhaps they will be used for cloning purposes in the future. The vast majority of the population of "the West" (Asia and Africa pulled out of the U.N. years before) end up in a Type III facility. Think of a Nazi concentration camp with computer-controlled lasers to do the killing, instead of gas.

There are some who want no part of this new world; among them are neighbors Harold Womack and Greg Baldwin, and their families. Womack's daughter, Lynn, a scientist for UniCorp, accidentally discovers the truth, and is able to warn her parents just before UniCorp police come for both families, and just before she disappears. They take off to the South American jungles, where they undertake an active rebellion, not knowing if their daughter is alive or dead. This is an excellent piece of near-future society building. It's interesting and plausible, it's a good story and it will give the reader plenty to consider.

The Cattle
Greg M. Sarwa
Ampol Publishing, Inc.
656 N. Convent #104, Bourbonnais, IL 60914
ISBN: 0976620219, $23.95, 212 pp.

As part of the Real ID Act of 2005, the National Identification System is created for American citizens as an anti-terrorism measure. The government goes into overdrive, collecting personal information to be stored in a highly secured database. Another part of the law mandates the injection of a RFID (radio frequency identification) chip in all American citizens, and all visitors to America, where that information will be stored. There are all sorts of safeguards in place to prevent misuse of the system, headquartered in a secure portion of O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

The system also has a much more evil, and extremely Classified, purpose, one which is accidentally discovered by mid-level systems analyst Brian Warburton. He copies the information on to a CD-ROM, and manages to get rid of it, just before he dies of a "stroke." This happens on the day before the law, and the mandatory RFID injection, is supposed to take effect. It falls into the hands of Jacob Reed, local TV reporter. Along with Anna Tabor, a young woman who flew in that day from Poland, and into whose luggage Warburton put the CD-ROM, he keeps one step ahead of police and federal agents looking for them. Can Jacob and Anna get this information on TV to warn the American people in time?

This book certainly gives new meaning to the phrase "ripped from today's headlines." It's a very spooky, and very well-done, story that will give the reader plenty to think about. It is recommended for everyone, but especially for those who think that implanting people with RFIDs, as an anti-terrorism measure, or as the next step in personal information storage, is a good thing.

The Wave
Walter Mosley
Warner Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446533637, $22.95, 212 pp.

For the past few nights, Errol Porter has been harassed by strange crank phone calls. One night, the caller says that he is Errol's father. In the middle of the night, Errol breaks into the cemetery where his father was buried several years previously. There he finds GT, who looks, talks and acts like a younger, healthier version of his father. Errol takes him home for a shower and a change of clothes, if nothing else (Errol's girlfriend, Nella, thinks that is a bad idea).

Along the way, GT tells Errol things about his family and about growing up that no one else could know. Errol's first thought was that his father had another family, and this is his illegitimate son. GT also points Errol to a handwritten confession written many years previously. Errol's mother was having an affair with a local man. Errol's father murdered the man, and buried him under their garage, where his body is found. Slowly, but surely, Errol is convinced. One night, GT disappears, and Errol thinks that this is the end of the story.

That is, until Errol is kidnapped by government agents and taken to a secret facility. There, he is shown hundreds of people, risen from the dead, all with amazing powers of recuperation. He watches as what looks like a six-year-old girl regenerates an arm that has just been amputated. The head of the facility, Dr Wheeler, is convinced that this is the beginning of some sort of alien invasion. GT returns, and Errol learns that millions of years ago, a cellular intelligence came to Earth via a meteor. It recently found a life form it can use, dead people, and wants to peacefully coexist with the people of Earth. It also wants to give humans a storehouse of ancient wisdom, which looks a lot like a pool of black slime. But all Dr Wheeler can hear is Alien Invasion!

Mosley may be better known as a mystery writer than a science fiction writer, but this is a really good science fiction story. It's a very contemporary tale, with just enough Stephen King and Arthur C. Clarke in it. This is a pretty fast read that will keep the reader's interest.

Paul Lappen

Roe's Bookshelf

John Audubon, Young Naturalist
Miriam E. Mason
Patria Press Inc
ISBN: 1882859510, $15.95, 115 pp.

Born Jean Jacques Audubon in the West Indies Island of Haiti, our hero was a true nature lover. Birds of all kinds fascinated him and occupied his time as a young lad. When his father, Captain Audubon moved the lad and his sister to France, Jean's life improved immensely. With a lovely step- mother to love and care for him, he continued his studies of the feathered creatures that filled his days. Eventually traveling to the US, he was determined to record every bird species in North America.

A fascinating account of the life of one of our Naturalist heroes, John James Audubon, written in the vocabulary of children, it is easy to understand and entertaining. This book would make a wonderful first chapter book for any child being both educational and easy to understand.

Author, Miriam Mason has written more than 50 books for children during her career as an elementary school textbook consultant. She was recognized as Indiana Author of the Year in 1971, just before her death. The Young Patriot Series was devised from her original Childhood of Famous Americans Series and should be a part of every school library.

Silent People: Hearing the Call of the Dodder
Yvonne Jerrold
ISBN: 1905237707, $24.95, 237 pp.

As a child, Hebe loved the forest and the forest creatures. Her childhood friend, the wild 'dodder' boy was her constant companion. Although very different, they formed a close bond and wiled away the hours together. But fate intervened and Hebe left Dodder's Well and her wild and mysterious friend. Years later she returns and attempts to find him and regain that feeling of belonging that was always missing in her life.

A hidden race of people, the Dodders are born from seed and live close to nature all of their lives. They have no need for material things, egotistical successes or interaction with humans. Are they real or simply a product of a lonely child's imagination? Can Hebe ever really fit in? Is she perhaps one of the Dodder people herself? You will have to read Silent People for answers to these questions and find a fascinating world of imagination, fantasy and wonder. This book leaves the reader pondering many possibilities that lay beneath the conscious mind.

Author, Yvonne Jerrold was born in the US but educated in Dublin and Cambridge. She continues to live in England where she is planting a small woodland of native trees. A true lover of nature her knowledge of horticulture shines in this novel. A lovely, easy read for a sunny afternoon.

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

Slessman's Bookshelf

If Harry Potter Ran General Electric
Tom Morris
A Currency Book Published by Doubleday
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385517548, $24.95, 247 pp.

Tom Morris has done it again! His latest book, If Harry Potter Ran General Electric, is an inexpensive means of obtaining Morris's great wisdom. It is likely that Tom Morris will join the ranks of the great stoics. No wonder the book has already hit a couple of bestseller lists, including the Wall Street Journal List!

Those who thought the Harry Potter books are unfit for their children to read should see Morris' take on the books. Where some think only of the trickery of witchcraft and magic, Morris looks at the wisdom, character, and the morality to be gained from reading Rowling's works. It is a study that would make a better corporate environment for anyone who implemented Morris' lessons into their work and everyday life.

Morris touches just about every realm of the human mind with clarity. He takes into account the bad with the good and suggests a means of turning the bad into good scenarios. My mother used to say, "Be a problem solver, not a problem maker". Apparently, Tom Morris and JK Rowling had some of the same type of education from their parents. This book ranks six stars out of a field of five stars. Every board room in the world should have it available to their management personnel. It is a real winner. Don't miss out!

Mariah Vampire The Redemption Book I
John Blosser
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
ISBN: 1424105722, $24.95, 296 pp.

A note added to the publication info of Mariah Vampire, The Redemption Book I by John Blosser states "At the specific preference of the author, PublishAmerica allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input." I would certainly hope so! Blosser has managed to take the writing field to an all time high level with his beautiful imagery and mastery of the English language.

Whether you believe vampires walk our Earth or not, Blosser's vampire characters are believable. His ability to take his readers inside the heads and bodies of his characters is a work of witchery in itself. His two main characters, Coyote and Annaliese live and breath inside the readers head and heart. Annaliese comes to the readers in many forms. Whether she is Dona Ana, a world renowned matador or, Sister Annie, a minister of a church of frenzied snake worshipers - she makes a long lasting impact.

Coyote has a chameleon's ability to change form. As Coyote he can be both vicious and lovable. As he changes into animal form, he learns his first lesson in love. His journey home begins at the beckoning of the old ones. No reason for this journey is given other than it is of earth shaking importance. As the reader takes the journey with Coyote they are left breathless with an intense desire for more. This is intriguing reading and I hope Blosser is already working on his second volume. It would be a shame to stop now. More Mr. Blosser, we want more!

Gypsy Horses and the Travelers' Way
John Hockensmith
Hockensmith Fine Arts
146 E. Main St., Georgetown, KY 40324
ISBN: 1599755971, $49.95, 184 pp.

While this is John Stephen Hockensmith's first book, it won't be his last. This beautiful book is what most would categorize as a "coffee table" book with one exception - Hockensmith's brilliant prose. One has to wonder why this man hasn't published before now. He writes as if he is having an intimate talk with his readers. And he hits the mark if this was his intention. You will find after reading and perusing this book that his poems continue to live within your heart and mind.

John Stephen Hockensmith is well known in the Midwest for his photography skills. He has photographed the Kentucky Derby Winners' Print and Winners' Circle prints since the year 2000. He owns an art gallery in Georgetown, KY which exhibits equine and animal images sought after by collectors throughout the world. This book is a treat for the reader's eyes as well as a great source of information on the Romani Gypsies and their beautifully bred Gypsy Horses. The imagery is without comparison and the prose is well written and quite visual in itself. The quality of this work dictates that it will surely outlive Hockensmith.

As the reader journeys through the images and prose of Gypsy Horses and The Travelers' Way they will find it hard not to be lured by the gypsy way of life. Their mysterious cavalier ways seem quite enchanting when compared to nine to fivers. The test -- can a reader find their way back home after visiting this work? Read it and find out!

Ann Allyn Slessman

Sullivan's Bookshelf

What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
John Markoff
ISBN: 0670033820, $25.95, 310 pp.

The creation saga of the personal computer was chaotic. Many people were involved. All were brainy and mostly nerdy types. Some individuals had graduated from college, many still attended, others were college dropouts, and a few still studied at nearby high schools. But they all were located, or came to be, at San Francisco, California's Midpeninsula region, specifically the Stanford University area. Today, the nearby part of the state is known as Silicon Valley, virtually the computer industry's home.

In and around Stanford, at various labs, most connected to or financed in part by the university, computer aficionados began working on their beloved equipment. Because the men in those early days had to use the big, main frame, time sharing computers, engaged in that lab's designated work, such as artificial intelligence or research of one kind and another, the men had to also come in late at night to have any chance at using the machines for unofficial purposes. Much, therefore, of their computer work and play occurred in the wee small hours of the night.

Little by little one computer guy told another, and soon the Stanford area became a magnet for people from across the country thrilled about computers' hardware and software and their potential. These men, and with few exceptions it was primarily males, had the passion and vision to be working on seemingly insurmountable problems like robotics and how to make a mouse clicker for the bulky, seeming unwieldy, computer.

Perhaps the most famous names at different times in the development of the personal computer, were Myron Stolaroff, a Phi Beta Kappa at Stanford with an engineering degree whose career took off when the tape-recording business soared. He had the notion, with others, that with computing it was possible to expand the power of the human mind. Douglas Engelbart, an electrical engineer, shy, prophet, bookworm, who took up folk dancing as a way he could meet girls, and Fred Moore, a short and skinny motorcycle enthusiast, pacifist, protestor, Berkeley dropout, who, according to the author, shared Engelbart's "belief that computing could change the world, were the most significant to this story."

The book, also, discusses the contributions of numerous other colorful individuals deeply involved in the development of the computer. Among them are the more familiar names of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Gordon Moore, and various members of the Homebrew Computer Club.

So many people are mentioned in this book that, without a scorecard, readers may have trouble keeping track of all the characters. But don't worry! The reading adventure carries one along. And thanks to the handy index, any individual discussed in the volume can easily be traced.

Much of the goings on took place during, in and around, the drug culture. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, musicians that became the Grateful Dead, LSD experiments, and all the rest are a backdrop to the story. The computer geeks were never far from that scene.

Then there were the frenetic, sometimes irrationally violent, anti-war Vietnam uprisings at many universities, including Stanford. Much of that was ignored initially by the computer guys. But eventually they were overwhelmed by it. Some places had to be shut down, people got disgusted and moved off, and change was in the air. The development of the personal computer, however, only zigged and zagged for awhile to other interesting places (e.g. MIT, Xerox, PARC, and many government agencies). Stanford University and environs would be rejuvenated as the Mecca of the personal computer world.

The book's title is an allusion to lyrics in the Grace Slick, of the Jefferson Airplane, tune, "White Rabbit" from 1966. In it, she sings about what the dormouse said, "Feed your head!" The author is apparently referring to using study and logic as it related to building computers. But maybe that's not what is meant. Each reader can determine that for him or herself.

"This book" writes the author, "[] about the extraordinary convergence of politics, culture, and technology that took place in a period of less than two decades and within the space of just a few square miles. Out of that convergence came a remarkable idea: personal computing, the notion that one person should control all of the functions of a computer and that the machine would in turn respond as an idea amplifier. By the late 1960's, that idea was already in the air on the San Francisco Midpeninsula."

A senior writer for The New York Times, John Markoff has penned other books, notably: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw. San Francisco is the author's home. Recommended!

Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America
Paul S. Martin
University of California Press
ISBN: 0520231414, $29.95, 250 pp.

The first part of this book is full of crap: mammoth dung, giant buffalo doodoo, horse manure, and bird droppings. But mostly it's about giant ground sloth poop!

The author, Paul S. Martin, a professor emeritus of geosciences at the University of Arizona, seeks out and examines deposits of animal excrement all over North and South America. He's happiest, seemingly, when he's up to his eyebrows in the stuff. He's even willing to, and does, risk his life getting to hidden away and hard-go-get-at deposits of the crude. And he's made a whole career out of it. Talk about dedication...!

He likes to pick through that yuck and count the plant pollen in it. This gives him clues as to what that particular pre-historic and/or extinct creature liked to eat, where it lived, and when it moved to other locations. He, along the way, has had to have the excrement carbon 14 test dated, too.

During his working career, which continues, Martin became embroiled in a couple of scientific controversies. First, he and other scientists were seeking answers as to why so many big animals died out in the recent Quaternary Period, around 13,000 years ago, in the Western Hemisphere. Many of those academics concluded that dramatic weather changes led to this extinction.

Martin, however, using information derived from his work with crap, didn't believe that scientific conclusion. For one thing, the weather changed very slowly. Moreover, the animals had died out more suddenly. Instead, he found very convincing evidence that these large animals disappeared just after humans first inhabited a particular area. His study of this phenomenon wasn't limited to this hemisphere, either. He looked at the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, and Europe. Each investigation showed animal extinction, particularly of the bigger animals, megafauna so-called, just after homo sapiens came on the scene in that specific place.

Though his evidence was circumstantial, not unlike what his peers mustered for the climate change explanation, Martin's facts were consistent no matter where on the planet he looked. His theory for this extinction is called 'overkill.'

In layman's terms, North American megafauna's 13,000 year-old fossils of mammoths, mastadons (both elephant like), camelids (camel and llama like), equids (horses and burro like), and what have you, strongly support the idea that mankind over haunted and over killed to the point of the animals' extinction. Needless to say, Native-Americans today are not pleased with Martin's conclusion for it gives their ancestors a bad image.

The author writes, "[...] In what paleontologist have begun to call 'near time,' the last 50,000 years, datable by radiocarbon, the world lost half of its 200 genera of large mammals (those weighing more than 45 kilograms or 100 pounds). Beyond the living bears, bison, deer, moose, and other large animals familiar to us now, an additional 30 genera and over 40 species lived in North America, and even more in South America. Most of the Western Hemisphere's charismatic large mammals no longer exist. As a result, without knowing it, Americans live in a land of ghosts."

The other science controversy involves the more recent anthropological discoveries in the Americas of sites that indicate humans were living here much longer than the approximately 13,000 years that was originally thought. In other words, people, based on recent digs and dating techniques, apparently lived here before the Siberians came over the Bering Straits landmass to North America. These people are referred to as the Clovis era inhabitants (for Clovis, New Mexico where their unique projectile points were discovered).

Martin disputes that there were older inhabitants. Proof on either side of this argument is inconclusive. Of course, if there were older inhabitants in the Americans, it could call into question Martin's theory about 'overkill.' The last half of the book is devoted to Martin's interest in 'rewilding' America. In short, because many animals that once roamed this land are gone, we should make every effort to re-introduce related animals to their former natural habitats. He also wants to see more plants, which formerly grew in various places where they don't anymore, reintroduced.

Perhaps his foremost suggestion for rewilding is that Asian elephants, distantly related to mammoths, should be introduced to the mammoths' former stomping grounds in those regions of Central and South America where they would have a real chance of thriving today contrary to what's happening to them currently in their present habitats. Paul S. Martin is a foremost scientist in his field, but maybe a shy one. Not even his photograph appears on the book flap. This volume, even through it's full of crap, is recommended!

The Trouble with Tom: The Stranger Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine
Paul Collins
ISBN:1582345023, $24.95, 278 pp.

After Tom Paine, the English immigrant to the American Colonies who penned Common Sense, the rousing pamphlet that helped spark the American Revolution, died in 1809, he was buried in New Rochelle, New York on land that had been given to him. And soon the young nation's memory of him and of his contribution to the cause was all but forgotten. His apparent atheism had not endeared him to fellow American citizens.

But in 1819, another Englishman, William Cobbett, dug up Paine's bones. Cobbett packed them in a box and took the remains with him. Originally Cobbett, a loyal subject and admirer of King George III, had hated Paine and everything he stood for. But after Cobbett had served a two-year goal term in England, on a trumped-up charge of treason, he lost all respect for the king and had a newfound sympathy for what Paine had experienced. Now Cobbett wanted to honor Paine in his original country. He certainly, after all, wasn't being revered in America.

Alas the best of intentions sometimes don't succeed. Cobbett, through years of personal wrenching problems, kept Paine's bones in hopes of one day erecting a monument in which to bury the remains. Cobbett died before completing his wish.
Eventually, the bones came into the possession of another person, then another, then another, and on and on. Most were sympathetic to Paine and his writings about freedom, liberty, democracy, politics, and religion. The stories of all these various and interesting characters fills most of this read.

The unusual meandering of Paine's bones around England and environs makes for an intriguing story. Along the way, any and every one with access to Paine's bones felt free to take a souvenir or two, including his skull, now lost but last seen at a medical school. Eventually, no bones were left. During the remains' travels, someone had also helped him or herself to Paine's shriveled up brain. Incidentally, many of those individuals, through the ages, who possessed that souvenir brain, died young or soon after seeing it.

In any case, eventually, a monument, an obelisk, without any remains, was erected in New York to honor Paine. After many years, the monument was forgotten and the landowner covered it over with earth. But it was later disinterred, resurrected if you will, and in 1905 put up again. At the rededication ceremony that year, a copper bust of Paine was added to the monument's peak. Before this was done, however, the famous man's brain had been found in a copper box, and added to the interior portion of the monument.

To the present day, that obelisk containing Paine's brain and his bust still stands in New Rochelle, New York commemorating the grand old man who wrote for the American, English, and French Revolutionary causes.

"[...] When I first began to trace the route of his [Paine's] bones," writes the author, "I was struck by the extraordinary coincidence of how they fell into the hands of activists for everything from abolition and women's rights to vegetarianism and pacifism. But that such people would place themselves in his path was no coincidence at all. Like saint's relics, Tom Paine has passed from one idealistic reformer to another over the years: his travels are those of democracy itself. Who else could have brought together a Manhattan physician, a Virginia minister, a Surrey farmer, and a London publisher? They always came back to that call to common sense-to our sense of rationality, of hope, of kindness-against tradition and fearful irrationality. And now they are the past themselves: we are the unseen future that they progressed toward, the inheritors of all the struggles they began."

Paul Collins is an editor for McSweeney's books. His previously written volumes include Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism, Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books, and Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World. Despite flaws: frequent jumping back and forth in the narrative between the historical period being discussed and the present day, and some unique, occasionally disorienting, paragraph indentation, this volume is strongly recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Volk's Bookshelf

Living The Good Life On God's Good Earth
Edited by David S. Koetje; Foreword by Ronald J. Sider
Faith Alive Christian Resources
2850 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560 1-800-333-8300
1592552927 $11.50 83 pages

"Living the Good Life on God's Good Earth" is a collection of essays on issues of Judeo-Christian attitudes and teachings with respect to earth stewardship. Contributing authors include academicians Mark D. Bjelland (Associate Professor of Geography from Gustavuas Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota), Christiana deGroot (Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender Studies, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan), Paul Heintzman (Assistant Professor of Leisure Studies, University of Ottawa, Ontario), and many more. A wide variety of backgrounds and locations of the contributors help to diversify and enrich the offerings and value of "Living the Good Life on God's Good Earth" for the reader. A key concept referred to in several of the chapters is the idea of "shalom." This is clearly and beautifully defined in chapter 10, 'Seeking Shalom" by John R. Wood and Stephen C. Bouma-Prediger, quoting Neal Plantinga's "Not The Way It's Supposed To Be A Breviary of Sin:" "The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts are fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be (p. 10) (p. 80)." The expanded definition leads to the facing of hard questions about our daily life choices and patterns of energy and resource consumption. One of the prominent questions raised is "What, in sum, does it mean to seek shalom in the practices and activities of our everyday lives? (p.81)" And the final list of questions for reflection and discussion, taken from the texts of all the chapters, contains this idea: "Chapter 2 suggests that we make shlom, rather than profit, the guiding principle of our lives and work, with the goal of living sustainably and at peace with the creation. What are some societal issues - as opposed to personal issues - that prevent us from achieving shalom (p. 83)?" "Living the Good Life on God's Good Earth" is not the comfort literature of staid Bible study groups; it is instead a challenge to redefine and rediscover what it means to live according to the highest, earth and life sustaining principles.

Let Me Tell You Where I've Been
Edited by Persis M. Karim, Foreword by Al Young
University of Arkansas Press
201 Ozark, Fayetteville, AR 72701 (479) 575-3246
1557288194 $49.95 380 pages

"Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing By Women of the Iranian Diaspora" is a totally new first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora. Revealing unique outlooks in a formerly male dominated, patriarchal literary tradition, these vivid works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction give authentic artistic voice to the silence of the veil stereotype frequently perceived by the West. Over one hundred selections are presented by more than fifty authors, some famous and some unknown. Two thirds of the works are previously unpublished. The authors selected are a diverse group who represent a cross section, or a complex community of intelligent, sensitive, articulate women in a rapidly changing world. The voices of these writers have been named "Allegories of our enriched nation... the real thing," by Zohreh T. Sullivan, author of "Exiled Memories: Stories of the Iranian Diaspora." A list of the contributors include Tara Bahrampour, Susan Atefat-Peckham, Firoozeh Dumas, Farnoosh Moshiri, Azadeh Moaveni, and other less familiar writers such as Leyla Momeny, Gelareh Asayesh, Niloofar Kalaam, and Farnaz Fatemi. Certainly many kudos are owed to Professor Persis Karim, teacher of English and comparative literature at San Jose State University, for amassing this wondrous, stunning collection. The selections are organized by theme into six different main areas: Home Stories, For Tradition, Woman's Duty, Axis of Evil, Beyond, and Tales Left Untold Subjects include differentiating dual and multi-cultural identities, sexuality, love, traditional expectation and its failure, politics, gender, blood and suffering, and the desperate poignancy of silence. There is so much to absorb in this collection, it is so very rich. It is certainly a fragrant beginning to enable Western to grasp the barest outlines of the complexity and courage of these women and their worlds and cultures. It is impossible to read any part of this book and come away unchanged. "But she wants to step into/the whiteness of this inferno/and search Madison/for someone in his life/with the power to change him:/daughter, father, wife./She would become that person/undress him in the daytime/stand naked in front of him./say, look at what we've wrapped in./See this soft scraped creamy dark thing? It/s life." Farnaz Fatemi (p. 240)

Hidden Heritage
Barbara Marshak
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 216, Edina, MN 55439-2129 (952) 829-8188
1592981356 $19.99 256 pages

"Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche" is the riveting biography of an amazing Lakota musician who only discovered his native American origin as an adult. Paul LaRoche (whose adoptive surname was Summers) has founded an entire identity and successful career as a musician partly as a result of finding and embracing his Lakota roots. For those readers who are familiar with the award winning New-Age Native American band 'Brule', the story of Paul's adoption and upbringing in southwestern Minnesota with the subsequent discovery at age 38 that he was born to a woman of the Lakota tribe from South Dakota may be familiar. Brule is a famous band whose sound has literally paved the way for other Native American/New Age bands to find a listening audience and succeed. What "Hidden Heritage" accomplishes in addition to tracing the fascinating discovery of one man's ethnic identity and how knowledge of it changed his life is it traces the evolution of the family band, Brule. The moving moment in the book when Paul receives his Lakota name, sponsored by tribal chairman Mike Jandreau is pivotal: ""Paul has been away since he was very little. He sought and found his way back home to Lower Brule, through God's mercy. He is therefore named Advocate of the Burnt thigh.' Mike paused between sentences, relaxed and unhurried, a noticeable speech characteristic in the Native dialect. 'Put the eagle feather on... become a sacred man of God's creation. Carry the feather proudly among your people, your tribe. Represent a man of dignity, like our forefathers,' he said (p. 215)." This is exactly what follows in Paul's momentous rise with his family band Brule. He develops a new synthesis of healing music to bring two diverse cultures together so there can be peace and harmonious thinking between them, and so they may lend strength to each other. In addition to being a fine spiritual biography, "Hidden Heritage" presents a choice amount of Native American history and cultural lore to further educate the reader. Author Babara Marshak has achieved a notable balance between perspectives, both Lakota and white, with a feeling of the reader's sharing experiences on both sides of the dialogue.

Carol Volk

Zinta's Bookshelf

Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke
Dean Kuipers
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 1596911425, $24.95, 304 pp.

Surrounded by forces in blue, and most every other color of uniform, Rainbow Farm blazed in a fury of flames while guns were trained on the two owners as they emerged: first, Tom Crosslin, 46, then his much younger lover, Rolland "Rollie" Rohm, 28. Crosslin was shot through the forehead by a FBI sharpshooter. Rohm emerged into the open field 12 hours later and, after setting fire to the farmhouse where he had lived with Crosslin since the early 90s, was hit by the bullet of a Michigan State Police sharpshooter. The bullet first split the butt of Rohm's rifle before entering his chest, splattering him with blood but leaving him on the ground still alive. Or so some say. After that, questions arise, still unanswered.

"The most intriguing stories take place under our very noses," says Dean Kuipers, author of Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stone Utopia Went Up in Smoke, when I spoke to him recently during his book tour, making a stop in Kalamazoo. Kuipers, deputy editor at LA City Beat in Los Angeles, California, but with deep roots in southwest Michigan, couldn't let go of the story since he first read about it in the Kalamazoo Gazette in September 2001. He is a well-trained journalist; good stories eat away at him until transformed into print.

"The news tends to focus on the crime and the alleged criminals," Kuipers says. "But a crime story involves an entire community. The Rainbow Farm story involved everyone: the gay and straight communities, the evangelical and the atheist, every spectrum of politics. Every community is a mixed bag, and I wanted to dig into the community in and around Rainbow Farm, go deeper than the media had, and explode it out like a flower."

Kuipers took four years to explode out this flower of every imaginable type and perspective on what some referred to as "our own little Waco." He returned to his home grounds and conducted several hundred interviews in and around Cass County, specifically Vandalia, Michigan, where the farm was located, and around Elkhart, Indiana, 30 miles south, from where Crosslin and Rohm had come.

"People were very reticent to talk to me," Kuipers says. "I had to work hard for this, knock on a lot of doors."

Eventually, trust in the reporter from Los Angeles grew and Kuipers started to piece together the story of "a hippie campground famous for peace, love and weed." As the story took shape, Kuipers wrote an article in 2003 that appeared in Playboy Magazine. He wrote: "On the day that he purchased Rainbow Farm, Tom Crosslin said destiny had led him to the place. By the late 1990s the farm would become a well-known stop on the hippie trail, a scenic overlook for the migratory flocks of travelers and Phish fans who crisscrossed the country. For thousands of blue-collar pilgrims who stopped there looking for a few days of fun and freedom in Michigan's vacation lands, it was a benevolent little campground. And on any other Labor Day they would have been there: thousands of happy stoners setting up tents for Crosslin's annual marijuana-legalization fest, a party he'd named Roach Roast."

Crosslin, Kuipers writes, "came from a world of muscle cars, factory work, girls and getting stoned." He'd quit school around 10th grade and had been working ever since - at a little bit of everything. He was a factory worker and a truck driver, he managed a car wash, worked in construction, started his own string of businesses, and purchased property as investments. He married, then divorced, coming to the realization that he was gay. He loved a good, raucous party, and he was known for his cookouts, well lubricated with cases of beer, serving vegetables he grew in his garden. Fun-loving and easygoing, Crosslin was known to be rather promiscuous… until he met Rollie Rohm. The two fast became something of an odd couple. While Crosslin was then 34, Rollie was all of 16 years old, a school dropout too, sporting a first moustache to match his long blonde hair. In spite of his youth, he had already fathered a son, Robert, married briefly, more out of a sense of responsibility than love. Rollie had grown up being bounced from foster home to foster home, and it was undeniable that Tom Crosslin was something of a father figure to him, taking him under his protective wing. They became inseparable.

Eventually, the two moved from Elkhart, Indiana, to Vandalia, Michigan, because Crosslin had found what seemed like his and Rollie's utopia - a farm that could be home to both of them and the little boy, Robert, as well as a place where all would be welcome. The party that would never have to end. A beer-swilling and pot-smoking good ol' boy, Crosslin saw this farm in the country as a place where they could gather with friends in peace while getting on a buzz, harmless fun, and keep it all legal because he had firm rules about no selling, no dealing, no hard drugs. The mission statement of Rainbow Farm, according to the Web site for the campground, reads: "Rainbow Farm supports the medical, spiritual, and responsible recreational uses of marijuana for a more sane and compassionate America. They also encourage the vast agricultural and industrial uses of the natural substance cannabis hemp as an environmentally safe alternative to thousands of synthetic products now being mass consumed in this country at a tremendous cost to our environment. Above all, [Rainbow Farm] supports freedom in America."

The two were well liked, for the most part, in their rural community. Crosslin was always ready to share his wealth, accumulated mostly from his real estate investments. He purchased toys for area children for Christmas when they had none. He invested in lunch programs in the area schools so that no one would ever go hungry when attending school. It was hard not to befriend him, although he did occasionally lose his temper in a bar brawl, having one too many.

The festivals the two men threw on the farm were for fun, sure, but they also had political purpose. It was this, no doubt, that most drew the ire of law enforcement. Crosslin set up booths during his fests that passed out brochures urging the decriminalization of marijuana use. Those manning the booths gathered signatures on petitions to get an amendment on the Michigan ballot.

Complaints about the festivals were mostly about noise and litter, not about drug use. Rainbow Farm had its own security system patrolling the grounds, including the Michigan militia, although without use of weapons, relying only on presence and the ever-watchful eye. Crosslin would not give in to use of hard drugs because he understood that this was crossing the line, not something of interest to him personally, and would endanger his property.

The Cass County prosecutor, Scott Teter, known to be a conservative Republican, (interestingly enough, Crosslin and Rohm shared this political party affiliation with Teter), was not amused. Teter was known to be law enforcement strictly by the book, and Rainbow Farm was all about testing the limits. More than one area resident referred to the tension between the two forces - the county prosecutor and Rainbow Farm - as the head-butting of the Dukes of Hazzard and Boss Hogg. It would only get worse.

Kuipers writes about the escalating tension between Rainbow Farm and law enforcement, specifically Teter, with a journalist's professionalism. He states the facts, quotes the witnesses, interviews all who are willing. He cites the war of lawsuits and filed complaints, contained to paper until it no longer was. Teter eventually filed documents threatening forfeiture of property if Crosslin and Rohm would not back down on their annual festivals, gathering many hundreds under the sweet stink of marijuana clouds. At one point, the young boy, Robert, Rohm's son, by then 12 years old, was taken from school into custody and placed with a foster family. It was surely, if not the last straw, one of the very last. Court orders were filed forbidding festivals on the farm property, and others that paved the way for seizing the property as a public nuisance. Charges were made after searches on the property turned up potted marijuana growing in the farmhouse basement and firearms were found in the house. Crosslin and Rohm were charged with a felony, and events were fast coming to a head.

Crosslin was defiant, he had made the war on drugs his own, and he was going down fighting. As law enforcement tightened their circle around the farm, he and Rohm drew up wills, passed out belongings, and loaded their guns. The day they were to show up in court to face the charges, they instead set fire to the farm. News helicopters circled overhead, smelling a messy story, and the FBI and state police were called in as reinforcements.

As the final day dawned, 120 law enforcement officers surrounded the farm. Friends tried to convince Crosslin and Rohm to surrender - themselves and the farm - even as the smoke rose from the various buildings, but Crosslin stood firm. He was in this for the long haul. When coffee ran out, he headed towards a neighbor's farmhouse on a path out back, brought the coffee back, then, deciding he needed the coffeepot, too, he headed back. It was on this second return trip that the FBI shot Crosslin; stories conflict on who shouldered their weapon first.

Rohm was alone at the house, and what exactly happened next varies even more than the stories woven around Crosslin's death. A miscommunication? Too quick a draw? Rohm had agreed over the phone to surrender after dawn. Just before he emerged, the farmhouse began to burn, smoke and flames rising, and Rohm came out carrying a firearm. Reports say he appeared frightened and confused. He wasn't used to making decisions without his partner. Running from the house, he seemed to stop in confusion, changed direction to run back to the house again. A state police vehicle appeared, and someone said Rohm shouldered his weapon, ready to fire, but never did. Instead, a bullet from a state trooper's firearm brought him down. He was handcuffed, still alive, maybe.

Kuipers writes: "The official version of events - that Crosslin and Rohm both raised their rifles - was soon disputed. Within days, investigations were launched by the families, the prosecutor, the state's attorney general, the state police, the FBI, even the Michigan militia. The lawyer handling a wrongful-death suit for Rohm's estate says the state police account of Rohm's death is seriously flawed… the police case is forensically baseless."

Adding fuel to the Rainbow Farm fire is a finding later in an autopsy done on Rollie Rohm. His testicles were missing, recently, it seemed, cut off. Why? By whom? For what purpose? The wrongful-death case is still pending, and readers of Dean Kuipers's book, Burning Rainbow Farm, will find themselves intrigued, perhaps even rethinking the war on drugs and how far we are willing to take it.

Kuipers says his purpose in writing the book was not out of wanting to push a political agenda - he doesn't smoke marijuana himself - as much as to show "that your neighbors are all right. This is a book about neighbors. About tolerance in a community. And how intolerance that often comes from outside the community can bring it to ruin."

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary
Metropolitan Books
ISBN: 0805075402, $23.00, 288 pp.

When we speak of war fatalities, of those who have fallen, of those who have offered themselves up as sacrifices for the purpose of... but to what purpose? We think of fallen soldiers on the battlefield, yet far behind those front lines that so often are saluted in honor with parades and holidays -- are the women. Throughout the history of humankind, women of all ages have been treated as the prize of the conquerer. To the winner go the spoils, and the spoils are women.

A Woman in Berlin is a journal kept over a two-month period of time in 1945, when Berlin was overtaken by the Russian (Soviet) Army. The author, dubbed simply "Anonymous," is rumored to be a German woman named Marta, well educated, perhaps a journalist who has seen much of the world... but not in this way. For eight weeks she chronicles the battle of the woman in war. Over 100,000 women are raped over this 8-week period in Berlin. Not once, but over and over again. The diarist writes of this time in a way that perhaps only a journalist could, keeping emotions in check, remaining clear-eyed, intelligence evident, apparently using her writing as a tool of survival. If the horrors of war are indescribable, the horrors of what women have had to endure as the human spoils of wars over time has had little examination, little if any punishment (arguably this behavior has even been encouraged), and even less understanding. This book is important reading to anyone wishing to understand war. Any war.

Who will pin purple hearts on these women for their suffering and degradation? Who can measure the wounds that never heal and their lifelong consequences to invidividuals and to societies? These are the unsung heroes who are forced to submit, yet so often rise up first to rebuild what war has torn apart -- homes, families, lives.

The first time this diary was published, it was not received as the heroic work of a survivor. The diarist was ostracized, because so often people turn away from and deny what hurts most, what reminds us of the depravity in mankind. She gave instruction to not publish these pages again until after her death, which arrived in 2001. But this is a timeless book, because women are being used and abused as the spoils of wars today. Witness Bosnia and Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq, and the list goes on to include every battle in which man has raised a weapon, himself becoming a weapon of destruction. Essential reading.

Zinta Aistars, Reviewer

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

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