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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 8 August 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Afrika's Bookshelf Andrew's Bookshelf
Anthony's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Betty's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clay's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Geoffrey's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Mark's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf Terrilyn's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf Zinta's Bookshelf


Reviewer's Choice

The Scent of God
Beryl Singleton Bissell
Counterpoint, a member of the Perseus Books Group
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
9781582433615 $15.00 www.perseusbooks.com http://www.berylsingletonbissell.com

Aaron Paul Lazar
Reviewer

The Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell is a work of fine art, reminiscent of a painting by Rubens or a haunting Saint-Saens melody. The beautifully crafted memoir offers words that glisten like gems on each page. Lush imagery, redolent with heady scents and vibrant color, transports the reader to locales ranging from the sanctified to the exotic. Readers will savor every chapter of this alluring tale.

The story begins in 1947 in Saddle River, New Jersey. Beryl, one of four siblings in a Catholic family, catalogs her mortal sins at an early age and is riddled with guilt when her mother serves meat on Friday or the family misses Mass. Her father's binges and the rage and panic his drinking elicits in her mother, cause Beryl to seek comfort in nature. With her siblings, she happily tramps through the lakeside woods - swimming, fishing, tobogganing, and exploring abandoned farmhouses. In sixth grade, Beryl begins attending a private boarding school run by Catholic nuns who teach her about a God of unconditional love. This knowledge calms and thrills the young girl, who longs for stability and acceptance.

When Beryl is thirteen, her father's drinking causes him to lose his position as vice-president of a New York bank, but he is offered an alternate position in Puerto Rico. When the family relocates to the tropical island, Beryl draws inward, avoiding friends and life outside the home. Beryl's sister's popularity and her mother's critical harping about her weight increase her sense of displacement. Witnessing the drowning of a young boy, however, brings her face to face with her own mortality and the superficiality of earthly success. This new knowledge, in combination with a mystical experience of God's love and the breakup with her "first love" -- a handsome young Puerto Rican boy -- set her on a course toward a life of commitment to God whose love is eternal and unchanging.

At the age of eighteen, and in spite of her parent's initial disapproval, Beryl enters the Monastery of Saint Clare in Bordentown, New Jersey. With visions of becoming a saint, she thrives on the simple goodness of the daily processes in the cloistered nunnery, enjoying working in the bakery, her daily prayers, and the quiet camaraderie of her sister nuns. Her experiences in the monastery are lovingly and honestly recounted, providing a rare glimpse into this life.

Twelve years later, Beryl is deeply ensconced in the tranquility of the monastery when she receives the news that her father has taken ill, and that she needs to return home to assist her mother with his care. Returning to the island reawakens her senses.

"I woke that morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below, the pink and gold of the rising sun playing across my face. Despite my father's condition and my mother's frailty, I felt a wild surge of happiness. Eight floors below my window, a receding wave shimmered back toward an oncoming breaker, leaving a froth of bubbles to mark the edges of its ride. A solitary man jogged along the beach, the wet sand forming silvery halos around his footprints."

In the course of caring for her father, and in the most delectable and surprising twist of this true story, Beryl meets Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest who preaches at the local church of Saint Jorge. At first irritated by the man, Beryl slowly finds herself falling in love as she gets to know him better, igniting the most painful yet wondrous struggle of her life.

It would spoil the story to reveal more. Suffice it to say that the segment of the book involving Vittorio is sensual and captivating, never offensive, and completely addictive. Be forewarned that The Scent of God will lodge in your heart and invade your dreams for years to come. Thankfully, the author is working on a sequel to The Scent of God. This reader anxiously awaits the next chapter in Beryl's delightful true-life saga.

The Reckoning
D. Mikels
Xlibiris Corporation
9781425731531 $20.99 www.xlibris.com

Ana M. Gomez
Reviewer

The Reckoning, by D. Mikels, is a superbly written novella that seduces you along the apocalyptic ride with John Morrison to his journey to self-enlightenment. Even though the main character is a detached father and an alcoholic, you can't help but become attached to this flawed man and his demon-filled adventure and with it, his journey to self-realization.

This fast paced, rewarding story taps into the fears of societal destruction held deep within many citizens of the United States post-9/11. That subconscious fear provides the fuel and the desire for John to vanquish the demons both around and within him. Yet it's carefully planned twists and turns leave the reader not with fear, but inspired and at peace.

Mikel's is a gifted author, with keen insight and a knack for creating powerful emotion with words; for example, "He was so unlike me." John's words were empty – an arid vacuum that sucked away all emotion. As you read, you join the characters in their fear coupled with the familiar knot in the pit of your stomach as the story unfolds. Your pulse will race because you can't shake the feeling that if he survives, somehow so will you. It all depends how you define survival. Not since Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three, have I felt so overwhelmingly caught up in a story.

Waking Spirit, Prose & Poems the Spirit Sings
Shirley Cheng
Dance With Your Heart Publishing
PO Box 146, Wappingers Falls, New York
9780615136806 $14.97 www.shirleycheng.com

Christina Francine Whitcher
Reviewer

Inspiration can sometimes be difficult to find. If it is, look in quiet places. The brave are not always found in the spotlight, nor are they typical. They're the ones that see the cup as half full.

It is all, perhaps "one art" – mastering loss, mastering grief, self-mastery. Cheng has a familiarity with loss. She is blind and physically disabled, the obstacles she's had to endure enormous. Through years of physical pain during her childhood, she never lost her zest for life. The largest threat to her happiness was a system that wanted to separate a child from her mother. Juliet Cheng lost custody twice in America because she disagreed with the doctor's recommended treatments. "This would have ended my young life," Shirley says. "They took me out of her loving arms and trapped me inside their gloomy hospital rooms in order to force the unwanted, harmful treatments on me" (52 Cheng).

Shirley Cheng cone again gives rise to and quickens reader's thoughts. Waking Spirit, Prose & Poems the Spirit Sings' combines her story with empowering poetry. This book matters because it reminds us to pay attention to the simple gifts of life. All we need is a little inspiration from the brave who've endured extraordinary hurdles, and then whisper the secret to how they did it. That is what readers will find in this book. Warm, luminous, and an easy pleasure.

Shirley received Honorable Mention in the poetry category of the New York Festival Competition. She has also been a finalist in the national Indie Excellence 2007 Book Awards.

Hungry Hill
A Memoir
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781558495890 $19.95 www.umpress.usmass.edu 1-800-537-5487

Elaine Winer
Reviewer

Carole O'Malley Gaunt lost her mother when she was thirteen. The four years that followed, as she, her father and seven brothers tried to get through life day by day, are the subject of the honestly written and intense memoir Hungry Hill.

It is spring, 1959. The O'Malley family are at the funeral of wife and mother, Betty O'Malley, dead of lymphatic cancer at 33. As she watches her father cry beside the casket, Carole, 13, thinks "Do I need to take care of him too? I can't be the "strong Carole" my aunt has asked me to be. I will imagine my mother on a cushioned chaise lounge in a backyard part of heaven that is saved for me and my family, where she is drinking a Manhattan and smoking a filter-tip cigarette. No kids' fighting in heaven. No crying in heaven. No yelling in heaven. No Cheerios, no Franco-American spaghetti. I don't really see how my brothers and I have a prayer of getting in. Interrupting my fantasy, my father taps me on the arm and asks me to take Joey downstairs to the bathroom."

As unaffected and straightforward as the writing seems, this "wise prose" (as Frank McCourt terms it) involved me completely, translating me to Springfield Massachusetts, and to an Irish-Catholic working class area called Hungry Hill. There, thanks to Ms. Gaunt's stunning recall of minute details, I lived with the young Carole in her chaotic world as the stricken family struggled back to life. I realized how involved I'd become when, seeing there were family photographs in the center of the book, I couldn't wait to match them with the people I had, without realizing it, come to care about. Carole's pretty, I thought, and yes, Betty, her mother, really was beautiful, and just look at her handsome father and all those boys!

Carole O'Malley Gaunt has created a sprawling, lively Irish American family, complete with aunts, uncles, and friends. They inhabit 21 Lynwood Terrace, and while you are reading this memoir, you live there too. Two year old Tommy naps in the driveway, Stevie, Bobby, Joey, Danny and Gerry fight, play, and torture each other; Michael, the eldest at fifteen, looks down on them all with an oldest brother's disdain; and their father, an alcoholic, drinks. Caught up in their daily lives, one worries with Carole about her sweaty palms and bad skin, about her brothers' constant battling, her father's drinking, and her own constant sense of shame because, no matter how hard she tries, she can never be Good, or at least good enough to take her mother's place.

When her father dies a few years after remarrying a cold and egotistical woman, Carole tutors students, finds jobs, finally decides to go to college; she builds a future that includes a successful marriage, children, and a profession. This memoir is written with such understatement, that the reader hardly recognizes that it is a stirring coming of age story in which Carole, through courage, hard work, and intelligence, lifts herself out of her past and into a happy and secure future.

Scattered throughout the memoir are acute observations that go beneath the even, story-telling tenor of the surface. Talking about what she has lost when her mother died, she says it was not only support and love, but the tension between mother and daughter that is as important as love to teach a daughter what it is to be a woman. Or, talking about her father's remarriage and subsequent death at 47, she understands suddenly that he had married Mary (the stepmother they all disliked) to take care of his children so he could drink himself to death.

In the epigraph, Ms. Gaunt explains why her section of the city was called Hungry Hill, and finishes with the sentence, "Back when I grew up on Hungry Hill, I was suffering from an emotional hunger." It is perhaps this hunger she tries to satisfy in the few chapters she goes into the future to confront, among others, her dead father, her stepmother, and her mother. These were the least effective parts of the book. They don't match the clear, strong, honesty and passion of the rest --we can't make the past turn out all right, even if we write the confrontations ourselves.

What can be done with that unsatisfiable pain? If we are Carole O'Malley Gaunt, we write a memoir as good, as painful, as involving, as Hungry Hill.

The Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism
Leon H. Charney and Saul Mayzlish
Barricade Books
185 Bridge Plaza North, Suite 308-A, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
1569803005 $22.95 www.barricadebooks.com 1-800-592-6657

Dr. Fred Reiss
Reviewer

The Hebrew word Kaddish means sanctification, and it appears in several forms, including, the Scholar's Kaddish, Half Kaddish, Full Kaddish, and Burial Kaddish. Whenever a member of the Jewish faith says, "I'm going to say Kaddish," there is only one unambiguous meaning, "I'm going to say Mourner's Kaddish." According to Jewish mysticism, when the body dies, the soul wanders for seven days between the cemetery and its Earthly house, and does not fully understand what happened. (Mirrors are covered in the house of mourning so that the soul cannot see itself without the body and become further frightened.) On the eighth day, the soul is brought before the heavenly court. There, its life is examined for eleven months and a judgment is rendered either to send the soul to Gan Eden (heaven) or Gehenna (hell). The mourner recites the Kaddish for eleven months along with the community. Together, they show support for the soul. In effect, those alive, through the Kaddish prayer, come to the aid the deceased. Later, when needed, the living will return to the gravesites asking the dead to intercede on their behalf.

Authors Charney and Mayzlish focus their book, The Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism, on all the forms in two parts. Confronted with the death his mother, Charney wanted to "explore how one of the most integral prayers of the Jewish people is practiced in different communities and cultures under various rabbinical interpretations." In order to accomplish this, the authors take us, in the first part, on their personal journey of discovery from the Middle East, to Europe, and then to Asia Minor. Along the way, we meet people who have a special, perhaps even mystical, connection with the Kaddish.

For example, they heard various melodies of the Kaddish in Tel Aviv, and learned from the cantors and congregants how these melodies added to the prayer's intensity. In Jerusalem, the authors visited the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva where they come away understanding that the Mourners' Kaddish "offers us a recipe for life, teaching us that we may not delay our assigned tasks and the demands made upon us. It reminds us of an hour glass, where the sand inexorably runs down, where things which might appear to be minor are major and vice-versa." After a trip through the Holocaust Museum, also in Jerusalem, they went away recognizing that the Kaddish prayer, in the post-World War II world, is the ultimate acceptance of God's actions. In Poland they saw how people reacted to the prayer through the eyes of the late Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, who perceived the Kaddish as personal contact with God. The Kaddish became a longing for the re-establishment of the Temple in the Czech Republic, and in Turkey it was a search for meaning, as a person "may even question the very existence of God, the same God who took one's dear one; yet ultimately arrive at the truth, and faith in the justice of the Creator." The authors' extensive travels between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East allow us to conclude that the meaning of the Kaddish prayer is as personal as the one reciting it.

Charney and Mayzlish propose, in the second part, the idea that the Mourner's Kaddish became significant during the time of the Crusades and Black Plague. It was during these eras that thousands and thousands of Jews were killed from cruelty born out of religious fervor and from unknown natural causes. Looking for ways to give solace to families, particularly orphans, the rabbis looked to their Christian neighbors and adopted the ritual of communal prayer as the formal grieving process. To find that prayer, the rabbis needed to look no further than the Kaddish. To add the communal element, they required a minyan, a group of ten or more men, for Mourner's Kaddish to be recited. The idea is interesting, and certainly consistent with our knowledge that by the thirteenth century Mourner's Kaddish was already part of community prayers.

Originally, the Kaddish was not associated with prayers. Sometime between the First and Second Temple periods, the Kaddish developed as a poem of praise. Teachers recited it at the conclusion of study and before dismissing the pupils with the hope, through prophetic verses, of the speedy arrival of the Messiah. The Scholar's Kaddish asks its listeners to praise God for the world as He created it; asks God to quickly establish His kingdom (implying that the Messiah needs to be sent immediately); profusely gives honor to God's name; asks God to accept the prayers and supplications of the Jewish people, especially those dedicated to the teaching and learning of God's laws; and to grant them peace, mercy, nourishment, and salvation; and concludes with a plea for a time of peace.

Since the Kaddish was not intended to be a prayer, it was spoken in Aramaic, the language of the people at that time, rather than the holy language of Hebrew, which is the custom followed to this day. Slowly, as the synagogue and prayer supplanted the Temple and its sacrificial system of service to God, the Half Kaddish became a prayer that separated minor parts within a service and the Full Kaddish marked the end of the service. The Burial Kaddish and Mourner's Kaddish came much, much later.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, Pharisaic Judaism became normative Judaism, and along with it came the belief in reward and punishment after death. Subsequently, Judaism adopted the idea that a father could be saved from the tortures of Hell if, after death, his son would recite the Kaddish and the congregation would respond with the praise of God's name. During the early period of the Gaonim, the sixth and seventh centuries, the Scholar's Kaddish took on eschatological significance. At the end of days, God would reveal a new Torah to the pious, and Zerubbabel (the grandson of Jehoiachin, last King of Judah; leader of the first wave of Jews returning from the Babylonian Captivity after the destruction of the First Temple; and the one who laid the foundation of the Second Temple) would recite the Scholar's Kaddish "with a voice reaching from one end of the world to the other; to which all mankind will respond 'Amen.'" Lamm, in his well-written book, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, said that it became accepted to recite the Scholar's Kaddish at the death of a scholar, and then overtime came to be applied to everyone.

Although the Mourner's Kaddish reflects pain and anguish, it does not mention death. Instead, like the Scholar's Kaddish from which it is derived, it begins with the command to exult and sanctify God's great name, to which all within ear shot replied, "Amen." Then the prayer continues," in the world that He created according to His will." Now, a scholar's frame of reference differs from that of a mourner. For the scholar, how the world operates is an intellectual exercise, for the mourner, the Kaddish is the highest pronouncements of realism and love. The mourner, in effect, declares that even though I know that suffering and death are inevitable, and I don't understand why this is happening to me, now, I still praise and sanctify You, God. The prayer is said in Aramaic, except the last line, which is said in Hebrew. "May the One who makes peace in the heavens, also make peace for each of us and for all the People of Israel, and let us say, 'Amen.'" Thus, the prayer ends with a wish that God, who keeps our complex universe running harmoniously and orderly, grant a time of harmony and tranquility to those saying and hearing the Kaddish, as well as for all Jews, everywhere.

The Kaddish, according to the authors, ranks as one of three fundamental prayers of Judaism. The other two being the Shema, which declares the oneness of God and the Amidah, the set of eighteen blessing that makes up the major portion of the four required services, the morning, afternoon, evening, and additional Sabbath services. The conundrum of the Kaddish is why do we hope in a world that presents untimely death and unspeakable suffering? Perhaps one answer, which is inescapably implied in this book, is that if Jews say the Shema to declare their belief in the unity of God, then they recite the Kaddish to reaffirm the belief in their unity with God.

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Random House, Inc
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0345410017 $13.95 www.randomhouse.com www.randomhouse.com 1-800-726-0600

Justin Roth
Reviewer

The fictional piece Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, has won numerous National Book Awards and has been in print for more than 50 years. I will be reviewing Bradbury's book by pointing out its pros and cons, as well as explaining what he was trying to get across and the accuracy of it, albeit a fictional piece.

In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury creates a fictional world in which a police state exists and has existed for many decades. The government has brainwashed the people with censorship, and corrupt, misleading information. The importance of human life has become a thing of the past and the only thing sought after is to have a pleasing life without any disturbances. Instead of putting out fires, firemen start fires in houses where books have been reported present.

Ray Bradbury's passion shows in his work and he could not have done a better job on Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury, being a father, lived a busy life and dedicated his time to writing in public libraries; where he got his idea to write a story about burning books. Bradbury stated that he loves books so much that he would sometimes spend countless hours wandering libraries. I believe the reason he wrote this book was because of the fear it would give him to see everything he loved disappear. He wanted to show his feelings by writing about the burning of books and how much hurt it would cause him and the world. It almost seems as though Bradbury meant to give the book a satirical coat of paint.

Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 gives great insight into a world where our personal freedoms have been obliterated; not only by the government, but by the people themselves. Bradbury has a writing style that entwines the reader in his words. He has a very broken way of getting his words across to the reader, which allows you to fill in the empty spots with your own imagination. The book suggests that the future is not kind to humans and that humans are not kind in the future. The people are very selfish and thoughtless, literally. Intellectual thought and politics have been deemed worthless and anyone who speaks out is either shunned, murdered, or put in jail. Bradbury sends the message that he'd hoped to open the eyes of his audience. He wanted show just how serious we should be when it comes to censorship and our freedoms. The never-ending war(s), crime, and disrespect is a respected thing in Bradbury's crazy world.

I believe that Fahrenheit 451 is comparable, if not more enjoyable than George Orwell's 1984. Fahrenheit 451 seems to be more set in reality and that helps the reader relate a bit more. Reading this book helped open my eyes to the injustice that is happening-not only the U.S., but also throughout the world. The things that are happening in today's world could easily be twisted to fit Fahrenheit 451, which is a sad thing to think about.

I highly recommend Ray Bradbury's book and consider him a very accredited author. The book is very blunt, sometimes confusing, arises questions, and gets your blood pumping. I am glad I had the pleasure to read Fahrenheit 451 and would not be the same person I am today if I had not (believe it or not, it is that powerful). His words speak for themselves and create a world of their own for you to enjoy. Fahrenheit 451 is a work of art and deserves every award it has received, if not more. See for yourself and give it a read.

A Mind Full of Scorpions
Katherine Tapley-Milton
Booksurge Publishing
9781419640230 $12.99 www.booksurge.com

Liana Metal
Reviewer

Very Highly Recommended

Katherine Tapley-Milton lives in Sackville, New Brunswick. She graduated from Mount Allison University with a B.A. in the areas of psychology, sociology, and history and then got a two year Master of Theological Studies degree from Tyndale Seminary in Willowdale, Ontario in 1981. She has been a freelance writer for the last 25 years and has been published in over 70 periodicals. Katherine is a member of the Canadian Mental Health Association's National Consumer Advisory Council

A MIND FULL OF SCORPIONS is the personal story of Kathy who has been suffering from mental illness for almost 50 years. As the author says:

"You may find that some of the scenes depicted in this book are disturbing, but I have tried to tell it like it is because I feel that society shouldn't continue to stick its head in the sand when it comes to mental illness. Come with me as I take you through my inner space odyssey as I show you my struggle with schizoaffective disorder."

The story starts with the author's childhood years and her early experiences of mental illness that consequently lead to her social isolation. It is a moving story that will touch the hearts of a wide audience and help dispel the prejudice, that still prevails in small communities, against mentally ill people.

Kathy is a survivor that has the courage to tell her own story to the public so as other people can learn how to live better. At the back of her book the readers can find helpful information and read some of her articles that have been published in the media. This book caters to adults who wish to be educated on the issue of mental illness, which many times is regarded as a taboo. Kathy tries to cross the borders and get her message across to all the people:

"I hope that in reading my book you have a better understanding of those of us who live in the shadow lands of serious emotional illness. Let's stop the barbarism and treat mental health consumer/survivors as descent human beings. "

Empowered by Empathy (audiobook on CD)
Rose Rosetree
Women's Intuition Worldwide, LLC
116 Hillsdale Drive Sterling, VA 20164-1201
0975253816 $49.00

Lisa Wechtenhiser
Reviewer

"Jen's upset about something." my co-worker said about our receptionist. I looked up from my paperwork and replied "How can you tell that just by how she walks down the hallway? " "I don't know. I just can. Can't everyone?

Actually, no. Only one in twenty of us are empaths - those of us who "identify with and understand another's situation, feelings, and motives" (American Heritage dictionary). If you are someone with those gifts, this audiobook is well worth the time invested in listening to it.

Rose Rosetree, teacher, author and yes, empath has written and recorded a very unique guide for those of us with these wonderful skills in "Empowered by Empathy". Not only does she explain the various forms of empathic knowing (emotional oneness, intellectual shapeshifting, etc.) but she goes on to offer a variety of techniques specifically designed to assist in working with these gifts rather than being hindered by them.

My co-worker, mentioned above, is exquisitely attuned to what others are feeling. Yet, she's had to all but turn that ability off in order to stay afloat emotionally. Because of her centered and calm demeanor, others are drawn to her and she often finds herself drowning in their "stuff". If you've been there, as I have, you know it's not a fun place to be. Rose teaches skills that will show you how to turn down the empathy dial so you can still be present for others but take care of yourself at the same time. She also gives you real life examples to clarify her points and shares her answers to questions the reader might have (based on her years of working with empaths).

The six cd set runs a bit over seven hours and is great to listen to in the car. Rosetree's voice carries her clear and positive intent as a teacher of this wonderful work. I listened on my way to work and felt uplifted by the twinkly energy in her voice. I read the book a couple years ago but listening to it allowed me to catch things I missed by reading and also jogged my mind about techniques that were relevant to my own inner work. One of the things I like most about all of Rose's books is her ability to speak to different levels of the audience without losing anyone by being too technical nor boring anyone by being too basic.

A wonderful adjunct to the printed book, "Empowered by Empathy" audiobook is a good way to learn how to fine tune your empathic skills and have a little fun with it.

Whale Song
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Kunati, Inc.
6901 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 150, Largo FL 33777 USA
9781601640079 $12.95 www.kunati.com (727) 230-1912

Mayra Calvani
Reviewer

Whale Song is a beautifully written novel that deals with a controversial subject and combines elements of myth, legend, and family drama.

The story begins when thirteen-year old Sarah Richardson moves with her family to Vancouver Island, leaving behind her old life and best friend. In spite of the fact that not all of her new classmates offer her a warm welcome, Sarah soon makes a good friend, a native girl called Goldie. A white girl where most of the people are Indian, Sarah soon experiences prejudice and racism. Her escape is her loving home, her friendship with Goldie, and her love for the killer whales that inhabit the island waters. From Goldie's grandmother she learns many legends and Indian myths about these magnificent, intelligent mammals.

Then disaster strikes and all that Sarah holds dear is snatched away, leaving her enveloped in a dark vortex of confusion and loneliness. As her life abruptly changes, the issue of racism is replaced by a much more controversial one. Does the end justify the means? Does love justify breaking the law?

The story is told in the first person by Sarah herself; the reader is drawn into an immediate intimate rapport with the young protagonist. The language, in its simplicity, heightens the strong moral conflicts which carry the plot. In spite of the family drama, no silly sentimentalism mars the prose, and Sarah possesses a strong voice that is both honest and devoid of embellishments. The author has managed to create a sense of serenity and beauty that has to do with the mythical setting and the 'parallel' presence of the killer whales and wolves.

Consider this excerpt taken from the prologue and which sets the tone and mood for the rest of the story:

I once feared death.

It is said that death begins with the absence of life. And life begins when death is no longer feared. I have stared death in the face and survived. A survivor who has learned about unfailing love and forgiveness. I realize now that I am but a tiny fragment in an endless ocean of life, just as a killer whale is a speck in her immense underwater domain. (p.9)

A sad yet uplifting novel, Whale Song is about the fear and innocence of a young girl and about coming to terms with the shocking and painful truth one often must face. Above all, it is a novel about forgiveness and forgiving oneself.

The Assault on Reason
Al Gore
The Penguin Press
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594201226 $25.95

Peggy Tibbetts
Reviewer

For those of you who were sleepwalking through the past 6 years and don't understand how the US democracy and planet Earth came to be on the brink of disaster, The Assault on Reason by Al Gore, is your Cliff Notes for the 21st century. More than a history lesson, generously sprinkled with anecdotes and famous quotations, this book is a re-enactment of the derailment of our democracy and the destruction of our environment in an easy-to-read format.

Gore introduces us to the mind-numbing power of television, which has robbed us of our marketplace of ideas. Americans spend more than 30 hours a week watching a TV that feeds them information and images without any means of interaction or exchange of ideas and opinions. He reveals research that shows how television can produce "vicarious traumatization" for millions of viewers, making it a powerful tool for fear mongering.

He takes us back to Galileo's trial in the 17th century to examine the importance of reason to our survival as human beings, that without science and law – the "twin daughters" of reason – we are left with fear and blind faith. Then through his careful analysis of the events leading up to the Iraq War and the war itself, he makes it easy to see how, in their all-consuming need for power, members of the Bush Administration, have released the floodgates of fear and blind faith to drown out reason.

But he's just getting warmed up. The gloves come off as he rails at how the government has been privatized by corporations and conglomerates have taken over the media, reducing the arena of the free marketplace to a chosen few. Almost breathlessly, one-by-one Gore exposes the lies heaped upon us these 6 years and the resulting erosions of our civil liberties and national security, all in the name of a Neverending War on Terror.

Gore brilliantly ties these political manipulations to their effects on global warming. In a nutshell, the wealthy oil companies are in cahoots with the Bush Administration and they could care less about reducing carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. They actually go out of their way to pay for fake research to counter the truth about global warming, while they destroy the planet in their lust for profits and domination.

You could say that Gore makes a strong case that the Bush Administration is responsible for bringing democracy and the planet to this brink of disaster. Instead he points out there's plenty of blame to go around. Yet it's clear he believes the Bush Administration has led the charge of the lemmings – with apologies to the lemmings.

For those of us who have been wide awake all along and horrified at the War on Terror's War on Reason, and the lack of checks and balances, Gore's anger over the dismemberment of democracy is cathartic. His passion for reason is infectious.

Yet he saves the best for last. He gives us answers and solutions. At long last our collective consciousness is awakening to reason. He holds up a mirror to the best in all of as individual human beings. All over the world eyes are opening to the need for drastic changes. He shows us how we are already using the Internet to defend ourselves against the assault on reason. How we can embrace the rule of law to overcome the corruption that dominates governments – from the national level to the local level.

Al Gore truly believes that we, the people, have the moral courage and the strength to stop this train wreck and change history. Now I do, too. There is a future and it's up to us to create it.

Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind
Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth
University of Chicago Press
1427 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL, 60637 USA
9780226102436 $27.50

T.B. Robbins
Reviewer

Humans have minds. We know this indirectly, or a least we think we do. By examining the actions and vocalizations of others we seem able to infer, or at least to guess at, the mental states of others. If we witness some moral degenerate kicking a cat out a window while yelling "%$!# cat!" we may assume that the kicker had a negative mental attitude towards the now plummeting feline. In such cases humans engage more in "mind inferring" than "mind reading." As of now we seem capable of little else, for other's mental states sit locked in the Fort Knox of their minds. Not much hope there. So what about other animals? Do they infer thoughts from actions? How could anyone prove this? The authors of "Baboon Metaphysics" take up this challenge and follow Darwin in their choice of "brute" to study. The father of modern evolution, Darwin was also a budding metaphysician. He thought that baboons provided a good model for the early evolution of the human mind. The authors agree and so begin with the premise: Baboons, like humans, have minds. Building off this, they then ask a series of questions: Can baboons infer the mental states of other baboons? Do they feel empathy? Do baboons have a sense of self? What do baboons "know" about their environment and their existence? Do baboons utilize an internal or external language? And, finally, what do the answers to these questions tell us about human minds?

In the first chapter the authors divide the book into three sections: Chapters 1 through 5 discuss general information on baboons; chapters 6 through 11 delineate scientific research carried out on a group of baboons in the Okavango Delta in Botswana; Chapter 12 summarizes the research findings and explores the implications of these studies for the human mind. After a short historical survey of baboons, which includes the eyebrow raising tale of a baboon "hired" as a railroad track switcher and the equally intriguing Ahla the goat-herder, the book delves into baboon culture. They have rather stressful lives. Lion attacks. Crocodile attacks. Uncertain and dangerous water crossings. Not to mention the wandering alpha males. When a female with an infant sees a new male enter into her social network, she runs away as fast as she can. And who can blame her? Males dominate each other, and thus increase their reproductive success, not only by rigorous wahoo contests but also by killing the infants of previous alpha males. Given the data presented, Shakespeare could have penned a gripping baboon drama. While the males dominate, procreate, and murder, the females hold together an intricate, almost inexplicable, social nexus. With a dizzying complexity that would make Godel proud, the women maintain numerous social strata, protect their infants via platonic male friendships, and maintain a steadfast, almost chivalric, loyalty to their kin. Their main stressors remain changes in the social rank, which creates uncertainty, wandering power hungry alpha males, and loss of a loved one through predation or infanticide. The text reveals some startling correlations between baboon and human life, which peaks when a member of the royal family visits the research site. After they relate baboon life and social rankings to the young aristocrat, she screams with glee that baboons provide evolutionary proof for her own elevated position. "Shortly thereafter," the authors relate, "she returned to her entourage, spirits lifted, leaving us to ponder the wider implications of our work." Did the authors point out to her that alpha male baboons typically reign for only six to seven months? Then, like ancient kings, they get deposed by a bigger wahoo.

Next, the book takes a decisive philosophical turn. The authors turn their focus from baboon life and biology to baboon theory of mind (the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others), self-awareness, social intelligence, communication, and language. To what extent are baboons "aware" of their standing in the world and their relation to other baboons? By measuring glucocortocoid levels, an indication of stress, and performing sound experiments within the group itself, the authors draw several conclusions, though several require further experimentation. Baboons don't seem able to attribute mental states to others. As such, empathy seems beyond them. Though the authors do find some evidence for attribution of basic intentions. Looking at language, baboons use grunts and vocalizations, but not in the way that humans use language. Both humans and baboons do possess great amounts of social knowledge, and the authors argue that this intelligence provides a possible foundation for language. The basis of this argument lies in "the language of thought" that the authors claim predated spoken language. Over time mental concepts relating to objects, events, and relations in the world became vocalized. Thought first, then language. Thus, baboons may represent a living model of our evolutionary linguistic development. From this basis humans evolved into beings with a theory of mind that then spurred the development of language and vocabulary. Recursive thought then allowed our ancestors and us to form mental representations of themselves, others, and even of thoughts (i.e., we can think about the thoughts of others).

Accessible enough for most general readers, "Baboon Metaphysics" does not assume prior knowledge of baboons, biology, or philosophy. Anyone dedicated enough can pick it up and digest its fascinating contents. Nonetheless, the book has its challenges as it prods into new territory and the mental states of animals. Doubtless others will follow the path that this book has trodden and build upon the experiments and observations of a team that spent fourteen years with a group of baboons in Africa. Anyone seeking appreciation of the complexities of both animal and human life will find it here. Rev up your recursive thinking abilities and dive in.

Swap
Sam Moffie
UEL Enterprises
4180 Lockwood Blvd Youngstown, Ohio
0978606205 $14.95

Rocky Reichman
Reviewer

A Compendium of Useful Knowledge and Undoubtedly the "It" Book for Baseball Fans and Movie Mavens. Swap is a book with an interesting and compelling story. It's a compendium of little known facts and useful knowledge. The book is an extraordinary work that covers many aspects of life, all in one volume. The writing is great, and Moffie especially shows talent when showing the reader some of the challengers that Sheldon, the protagonist, faces. The author builds suspense with well thought out plot twists. Moffie has done an enormous amount of research in order to make the book perfectly accurate, and for that he is to be praised. The author is undoubtedly a movie maven, and is on his way to becoming a writing maven too. The book's writing is not descriptive enough, and times the story seems to jump around and skip certain elements that are key to the book. Because of the organization of the book, the plot makes you seem as though you are constantly going in circles. While more fitting to an older, more mature audience than a general audience, it is nevertheless recommended as a book that many people can enjoy.

The book not only gives an interesting story but also delves deep into the lives of its main characters, serving as a novel and memoir all wrapped in one book. The story is about a baseball player whose life seems to be going down the drain, until he comes up with an ingenious idea to save his life: Swap wives with his best friend and fellow baseball player. Anyone interested in baseball or movies will be able to garner a lot of helpful information from Moffie. Moffie's writing reflects that of a great author with literary skill that is beyond the mundane, and the knowledge he delivers to you will leave you turning page after page, hoping the book never ends.

Would I swap this book for another? Not a chance.

The Miracle of Water
Masaru Emoto
Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Lower Ground Floor
14-16 Suakin Street, PYMBLE NSW 2073, AUSTRALIA
1582701628 $39.95 AU www.simonsays.com

Rose Glavas
Reviewer

'The Miracle of Water' is well presented as an A5 size pretty looking book. Pretty, perhaps not doing it justice! Looking into this title is like examining a body of still water.... it runs deep.

Masaru Emoto has written several other titles examining water including 'The Secret Life of Water', 'The True Power of Water', 'The Hidden Messages in Water', and 'Messages from Water, volumes I-III'. After reading this current book, I would love to have a look at his others.

The author's background as a researcher, lecturer and graduate of the Yokohama Municipal University as well as his certification as a Doctor of Alternative Medicine helps in the professional, clear and well-written style language used in 'The Miracle of Water'. Profound ideas and theories are presented in an amazingly easy to read way.

This title looks at the relationship between words and water... I admit that at first this didn't sound all that interesting to me. That is until I saw the effects of various words and phrases on the development of water crystals captured in the fabulous photography presented in this book. How can words affect water? That is the first thing I though of when looking at the photographs: Emoto presents his theory on how language has developed and in turn how this affects the crystals within water. He presents many other ideas clearly and in an easy to understand way that will get you looking at your next glass of water in a very different way than you have in the past.

'The Miracle of Water' is more than just about the water in and around you. It also gives you good reason to stop and think about the type of language is used on an everyday basis, and it's effect not only on your drinking water but also on the people around you. My favourite chapter was 'Understanding Vibration and Resonance' which goes into explaining how our words vibrate and resonate between ourselves and others.

As well as the effects of words on water, this title touches on the environment that water is surrounded by. For example the water crystals shown on page 98 have been left exposed to various environments and the effects clearly shown by the photographs. Water exposed to the electromagnetic field of a mobile phone, left sitting in front of a television for four hours, and water left sitting in front of a computer for four hours are some examples of different environments. The results are definitely thought-provoking.

In summary, although presented and written in a deceptively modest way, 'The Miracle of Water' is a real eye-opener and presents ideas that are thought-provoking. If you are interested in making a difference to not only yourself, but others as well (not to mention the world), then this is a must read for you.

The Perfectly True Tales of a Perfect Size 12 A Novel
Robin Gold
Plume Book
375 Hudson St New York, NY 10014
9780452288126 $13.00 www.penguin.com

Sharame Vodraska
Reviewer

Robin Gold's character Delilah White is fabulous and funny. Gold's book and Delilah show us the behind the scenes action involved with making a television show about domestic life, especially in New York! Some of Delilah's heroines are Mrs. Fields and Martha Stewart. Delilah White's sidekick Sophia Trawler helps her out of several scrapes throughout the book. The head of production on the TV show, Agnes, is going to resign. She announces that she is going to pick the next producer, Delilah or Margo. Margo becomes very competitive. Margo has always been jealous of Delilah's ease with Agnes but never saw her as a threat because of her size 12 stature. Margo begins to sabotage Delilah. However, Sophia happens to overhear Margo talking about how she is going to ruin Delilah's chances at the promotion. She decides to keep an eye on Margo during the Trawler annual 4th of July Celebration weekend.

Graffiti Girl
Kelly Parra
MTV/Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416534617 $9.95 www.simonsays.com 1-800-223-2336

Stacie Penney, Reviewer
raspberry-latte.blogspot.com

Summary: Angel Rodriguez wants to take her art further and the school's competition for painting a mural seems to be the place. Angel isn't selected as one of the three finalists, but finds herself torn between the good boy who was and the bad boy who should have been.

The Take-Away: I loved how Angel was positioned between the good kids and the bad kids. When Nathan Ramos -- the good guy -- and Miguel Badalin -- the bad boy -- both try to lure her into their own worlds of art, Angel has to make tough decisions about who she is and what she stands for. Her feelings of alienation from her mother and best friend force her to decide without guidance from those she cares about. Angel, in spite of her name, is one tough kid. Reading about her decision will captive the teen in us all.

One unique aspect of the title was the introductory lines to each chapter. Angel's intimate thoughts about her growing graffiti career give the reader insight to the slang used by graf artist as well as providing the reader with a sneak peek of what's to come in the chapter. They were probably my favorite part of the book. My recommendation: Get this one for the teenage girl in your life.


Afrika's Bookshelf

Women of a New Tribe: A Photographic Celebration Of The Black Woman
Jerry Taliaferro
Jerry Taliaferro Photography
9780979730900 $49.95 http://www.blackartphotoart.com

Five Stars Rating

The Women of a New Tribe project is a homage to the physical and spiritual beauty of the black women we see everyday. It is an attempt to see in a new light and in a new way an incredible group of women. For good reasons it has been called "powerful", "uplifting" and "long overdue". This book is more than a collection of photographs, it is an experience.

Women of a New Tribe is a spectacular, powerful, uplifting, dynamic and inspirational photographic exhibition about the beauty and representation of black women. I think that Mr. Jerry Taliaferro did an excellent job depicting black women and I was very fascinated by overall layout of the project. I think that this project is very essential and universal. It serves as a reminder of how black young women should be represented. I believe that some black women undermine the essence of themselves and leave themselves open to be called out of their gender.

Mr. Jerry Taliaferro meticulous usage and well crafted black and white photography, is very detailed and comprehensive. I believe that Women of a New Tribe is an excellent homage to many women who have stood before us! Congratulations on your project!

About the author: Mr. Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. Almost a year later he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated four years later as a member of the Class of 1977. His real interest in photography began when he was posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the Special Forces Officers Course in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest photography continued to grow and in 1985 he was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. After returning to the United States in the Summer of 1985, Mr. Taliaferro began doing assignments for advertising and design firms. In July 1988, he left the military and began his pursuit of a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. His one-man exhibition Women Of A New Tribe premiered at the Afro-American Cultural Center in Charlotte NC on 14 June 2002 and is now a traveling exhibit. For additional information visit

Women of a New Tribe is available at amazon.com and Black Book Plus.

Black People: for Entertainment Purposes Only
W.Ivan Wright
Able Journey Press
9781934249468 $15.95

Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only, is a suspenseful fiction thriller that introduces seasoned characters and humorous dialogues to the reader. The main character, Jurney Swiftwood, has written a book whose title infers that the purpose of black people, is for America's entertainment. Jurney's book has placed him in the cross hairs of community dissension, media scrutiny and family angst. The outcry from an offended public has also placed an unsuspecting Jurney on the hit list of a politically controlled assassin. In the midst of his troubles, Jurney discovers that he is the father of a precious, yet abused nine-year-old girl! Situations and conversations present an entertaining vehicle that serves to remind all communities of the importance, and awesome power of perception.

Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only is Ivan Wright's first novella and in his book, Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only, he deals with many threads that African Americans experience. I believe that his main character was captured well and plot was very well depicted from the beginning to end. I believe that was caught my eye the most was the cover of the book, Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only. The cover says a lot and designed very well. Congratulations on your accomplishment and thank you for giving me the opportunity to review your book, Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only!

About the author: Ivan Wright was born and raised in Trenton, NJ where he attended Trenton's public school system. His affinity for the sciences led him to Indiana University of PA where he received his Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy.

Writing began for Ivan while in college and continued as a "serious hobby" for many years. His formalized literary work and fiction novel development began several years ago and has resulted in two novels: Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only (publication release April 2007) and Indentured Scholars: The Inner City Scandal (publication release September 2007).

Ivan's books deal dramatically and humorously with the many threads of the African American experience. His characters are rich in content and speak to the interests of the seasoned and introspective readers. Woven within the pages is the appreciation of human values that were once common pillars in all communities. Through "ancestral whisperings," we are reminded that love, family and acceptance, name us all.

Be it romance, suspense, violence or relationships, Ivan's novels will give the reader a chance to laugh, shiver, cry of just reminisce. Most of all, his stories will offer all an opportunity to continue the dialogue regarding our wondrously dynamic African American journey! For additional information about the author, visit www.ivanwright.com

Excerpts can be viewed at http://www.ablejourneypress.com/chapter_excerpt.html

Black People: For Entertainment Purposes Only is available at amazon.com, atlas bookstore, and www.ablejourneypress.com

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney
Reviewer


Andrew's Bookshelf

"I'm a Hero Too"
Jenny Sokol
Authorhouse
9781425989859 $12.49 www.authorhouse.com

"I'm a Hero Too" is a lovely little children's book written for the sons and daughters of our deployed Marines, Army, Navy, and AirForce. Jenny Sokol is the wife of a Marine and mother of two, so she knows the ups and downs of dealing with children during Dad's deployment.

Sokol's book is written simply and elegantly in a style that lends itself to being read to small children, or having an older (7+) child read it to him or herself. Her experience as a mother and writer is demonstrated as she'd done up the book in a picture-book style, which lends itself to easy and interesting reading.

But it's in the text that Mrs. Sokol's talent as a writer surfaces. She writes of how children feel as their father's leave on deployment, and she lets her young readers know that tears are OK. A child's feeling towards hearing news about "the war" and "terror attack's" on the television are also discussed, as are problems fitting in at school, as well as growing up when Dad is away fighting. Her text is simple enough that children of all ages will fully understand and appreciate the sentiments and problems that the book addresses, with the important result that the children realize that their private fears are actually shared by many others in their age group.

This is simply a lovely little book that should be given to the family of every one of our deployed warriors. Highly recommended.

Guiding the way from Middle Neebish
Edward T. Cook
Bookstand Publishing
9781589093621 $13.95 www.bookstandpublishing.com

This book should be 200 pages longer. Author Edward Cook has written a 48 page book on his grandfather's years as a lighthouse keeper on the Middle Neebish Lighthouse Station, on one of the Great Lakes. With minimal attention to detail, Cook recounts vignettes of his family's life on the island, along with some equally sparse details covering his father's schooling and growing up.

There are many excellent photos embedded in the text, which fortunately provide more detail and description to the book's era than does the large-print text. In view of the family photos Cook takes pains to include, one can only wish he'd made the same effort to describe his grandfather, his father, and their lives as lighthouse keepers during one of the most interesting times in the commercial history of the Great Lakes.

The Coveted Black and Gold
LTC J.D. Lock, USA, ret
Fenestra Books
1587363682 $31.95 www.fenestrabooks.com

It's not easy earning the coveted title "Ranger" and it's accompanying Ranger shoulder tab.
Author John Lock, a former Ranger, takes the reader on a 9-week journey through the hell of ranger training, where 5 hours is considered a good night's sleep, and 2 meals daily is appreciated, as opposed to expected.

LTC Lock wisely takes the time to explain the Ranger 'mystique' to the reader. The Rangers history began back in 1757, with Maj. Robert Roger's "Roger's Rangers" fighting in the French & Indian Wars. He traces their history through WW2, Korea, and Vietnam, although one wishes he'd done so in more detail.

But most of the book describes the nine-week Ranger training program, and how (then) Cadet Lock dealt with it. He describes the physical and mental stress to which the trainees were subjected, the 0400 timed runs in the Georgia humidity, the always sore muscles, trying to stay awake in class on 3 hours of sleep, and the knowledge that success or failure depended on mental toughness more than physical strength.

As one of the participants, Lock does an excellent job describing how difficult it is to complete the Ranger course, and why it is the most demanding of it's kind in the Army. He's able to explain how the Rangers channel this mental and physical toughness into the Army's elite fighting force, as well as parlay this success into their lives afterwards. For those readers who strive to succeed, or wish to become part of something bigger and more important than themselves – this is the book for you.

Mission Al-Jazeera
Josh Rushing
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781403979056 $24.95 www.palgrave-usa.com 1-888-330-8477

With America losing the information and public relations war around the world today, "Mission al-Jazeera" is a fascinating and timely book that should be required reading by the many Administration Public Affairs and press secretary's.

Author Josh Rushing first came to the public's attention in the award-winning documentary "Control Room." He was the young Marine Lieutenant Public Affairs Officer dealing with upstart Arabic television station Al-Jazeera in early days of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Using these exciting days at Centcom's headquarters in Qatar, Rushing's book has two main themes interwoven throughout the story.

The first theme is how important it is to use media properly in order to influence international public opinion; or at least to fight the international media war to a draw.

Assigned as the Al-Jazeera liaison because all his senior officers preferred to deal with the western heavyweights like ABC, NBC, and the BBC, Rushing was notable for his even-handed views of the war, and his foresight in realizing that positive and honest media relations might be the key to "spreading the word" into the Arab world. Unfortunately the senior leadership did not share these same view and Rushing describes how Centcom's lack of interest in dealing with the various Arab media organizations hurt the United State's efforts to "sell the war" to the Arab world. He explains in detail how marginalizing Arab media only serves to diminish American influence in the Middle East. Western concepts of strength are too easily construed in the Arab world as humiliation, and that pictures of dead Iraqi soldiers can also viewed as pictures of dead relatives – which lead to still-occurring consequences.

Author Rushing also begins to discuss the relationship between the military and the media. On a strategic level, both sides need each other; the military has a story to 'sell', and at the same time the media needs a story to 'buy." But it's on the tactical level that Rushing begins to tell the story as he discusses the media's infatuation with the military and how the Administration was able to use their softball-style of reporting to it's best advantage.

Finally, Rushing describes Al-Jazeera Television and it's role in the world today. With offices in most major international cities, and distribution throughout most countries except the United States ( including such western bastions as England, Germany, and Israel ), Al-Jazeera English is part of a multi-media organization that includes a children's channel, several sports channels, a documentary channel, and a C-SPAN-like channel that focuses on debates and current events.

Written in an informal, yet informative style, Josh Rushing digs into his background of Texan, with 14 years in the Marine Corps, as he discusses covering a war from both the Arab and American point of view. Rushing has produced an invaluable book on the importance of dealing with international media, instead of just chatting with the TV folks from your hometown.

Andrew Lubin
Reviewer


Anthony's Bookshelf

Hillary
Dr. Thomas Moore
Alphar Publishing
130 Church Street, #413, New York, NY 10007
0978602404, $16.95 www.alpharpublish.com

Hillary Clinton becomes President after befriending Gena, the granddaughter of the man who first blows the whistle on government deceit. Gena is a prostitute who marries an aristocratic gypsy engineer and publisher, Tony, who has been bribed to vilify Hillary, vilifying her so as to corrupt her presidential bid. But Tony discovers a different and insidious corruption that is rampant.

"Hillary could declassify national secrets. I want you to produce a Hillary book that will destroy her credibility. Democracy is too fragile a flower to risk in the hands of a woman, especially a woman who is a bitch."

Dr. Moore reveals why there is no secret that will not be exposed. He writes sparse and spine-tingling prose with an eye for character and detail.

Wanderlost
Ben Olson
Alphar Publishing
130 Church Street, #413, New York, NY 10007
0978602412, $19.95 www.alpharpublish.com

"WANDERLOST" by non-generation author BEN OLSON is a fast journey across America, on the rails, which records what happens beneath the cracks. Here is a straight shooting voice who speaks to those disenchanted readers under twenty-five, and who is destined for an impact in American literary circles.

"The book is a backlash to this dumb culture taken over by a crassness of people who are all passionately apathetic," says Ben, a young prophet howling at the American landscape. "Stealing a handful of napkins and a pen from the cocktail waitress when inspiration hits is more real, more organic, therefore more important...."

Finding himself flat broke, ten miles from the nearest town, at 1:30 a.m., after bailing on the truckers, it was time to go home. "I knew that was the climax. It was the weirdest it could get, and the best it could get."

During his trip, he found old friends, partied like only someone in their twenties can, and moved on. "There's something about the motion that gets my mind in gear. It never matters where I'm going, or what for, it's just the idea that I'm on the move. It helps because it quiets down the restless urge I always get when bored and jaded in one place."

Ben Olson has an unerring eye and penetrating gaze, but also has too tight a hold on story, and a disdain for romance... perhaps even for modern human relationship.

Anthony Chaytor
Reviewer


Bethany's Bookshelf

Celebrate Italian Style
Jacqueline Miconi
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434307385, $16.95 www.authorhouse.com 1-800-839-8640

A third generation Italian American, cookbook author Jacqueline Miconi draws upon years of personal experience and expertise with home-made Italian cuisine to compile the recipes in "Celebrate Italian Style". The authentic Italian dishes are combined with colorful anecdotes of her life, family and friends, along with more than one hundred photographs. The result is a wonderful book to browse through and to cook from. The recipes range from Italian Wedding Soup; Pepperoni Pinwheels; and Portabello Mushroom Sandwiches; to Italian Steak & Cheese Subs; Fusilli with Fried Zucchini & Sausage; and Fried Baccala. Also available in a hardcover edition (9781434307378, $22.95), "Celebrate... Italian Style" is a welcome and highly recommended addition to personal and community library ethnic cookbook collections.

A Thief of Strings
Donald Revell
Alice James Books
238 Main Street, Farmington, Maine 04938
9781882295616, $14.95 www.alicejamesbooks.org

Award-winning poet, translator and critic Donald Revell presents A Thief of Strings, his tenth collection of poetry. The brief, free-verse poems revolve around humankind's apparent liberation from conscience, with potentially earth-shattering results. At times a lament for man's inhumanity to man, at times an inquiry as to whether consciousness itself is drifting away, A Thief of Strings compels the reader with its visceral evocation of raw sentiment. "The Wisdoms": What happened? I was one / Gladly suffered the believing I am I. / A cut tree weeps a stream of ants from its wounds. / Not two feet away, sage and verbena thrive / In a cascade of blue differences / Over the lizards and dirt. / La di da. To matter to me, / Time was, a man or woman had to love me. / That was America / That was a chief concern. / What happened is my eyes have no color. / I love the way a flower steps away / From a dead tree. / Broken glass is alive too, / In the colors. In them, I was a republic."

My Feet Aren't Ugly
Debra Beck
Beaufort Books
c/o Maryglenn McCombs
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9780825305429, $12.95 www.beaufortbooks.com

Author Debra Beck shares her experience in serving as a mentor to teenaged girls in My Feet Aren't Ugly: A Girl's Guide To Loving Herself From The Inside Out, a self-help and self-esteem guide written especially for young women. Chapters cover choosing friends that treat a girl right; looking after one's physical health by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep; the problems of drug abuse and teen suicide; the heavy price one pays for engaging in sex; and much more. "Is there a price to pay [for sex]?? YES!!! Pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), having to tell the man you love and want to marry that you have had many sexual partners, that you have a sexually transmitted disease that he is going to get, and that you'll both have it for the rest of your lives! And then there's living with an STD. Absolutely there is a price to pay. Sexuality is big! It is such an important link to our self-esteem." A handful of black-and-white illustrations, as well as "think it over and journal" sections where girls can write down their thoughts on blank lines round out this helpful and encouraging guide.

Barefoot
Lizann Bassham
Booksurge
5341 Dorchester Road, Suite 16, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419652745, $14.99 www.frontporchspirit.com

Playwright and musician Lizann Bassham presents Barefoot, a novel for all ages about a young girl, only seven years old in 1963 when her mother dies in a freak accident and her father sends her to be raised by her grandmother in a backwoods, mountain community of northern California. A coming-of-age novel of family secrets, surviving in hard times, and the young protagonist's search for the answer to her question: "Is it possible to do something really terrible and not get abandoned by your family?" Gradually, she learns that abandonment has happened to other family and friends she knows and trusts. Ultimately a novel of building spirit, hope, and character in a supportive community, Barefoot is particularly ideal for young adult reading lists, junior high and high school libraries, and classroom study, concluding with thirteen questions for discussion such as "Several characters exhibit different kinds of prejudice, what are they? There are also incidences of acceptance and tolerance, what are they?"

Susan Bethany
Reviewer


Betty's Bookshelf

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.
Myra Cohn Livingston.
HarperCollins Children's Books
10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
0060230088 $13.89 http://harpercollins.com

This collection of poetry for children contains fifty poems divided into three chapters, which give the book its name. The poems themselves feature the small things in life that often only children really notice: insects, seeds, toys, dust motes, a puff of winter-frosted breath. It also includes a table of contents, an index of authors and translators, an index of first lines, and an acknowledgment list (which comes in handy if a reader wants to know which book a particular poem came from). It is currently out of print, but it would be worthwhile to find a used
copy for your favorite little poetry lover.

Livingston herself is a fine poet, but you'll have to take my word for it, since she only includes one of her own poems here, "Trees: The Seeds", in the Vegetable chapter. However, she also has a good eye for the poetry of other writers and cultures, from Langston Hughes and Arnold
Adoff to Carmen Bernos de Gasztold and William Shakespeare.

I'd have made a few changes myself (including choosing a different poem from de Gasztold's Prayers from the Ark), but overall she did a nice job. I especially liked the Chippewa poem "To a Firefly" that calls its subject a "flitting white-fire insect", Felice Holman's "Oriental Poppy"
that compares a poppy petal to Japanese origami and William Sharp's "The Wasp", which includes these lines: "Yellow and black, this tiny thing's a tiger soul on elfin wings".

Hundred-Dollar Baby
Robert B. Parker
G. P. Putnam's Sons
Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Atreet, New York, NY 10014
0399153754 $24.95 http://www.penguin.com

When April Kyle walks into Spenser's office, he doesn't even recognize her. In his mind, she's still the teenage runaway he rescued from sexual slavery (in Parker's book Ceremony) and sent to a high class New York City bordello to be cared for by a madam friend of his. He hasn't even
seen her since saving her again a few years later from a lover gone bad (Taming a Sea-Horse).

But here she is, in his office, and despite the new maturity, the high class looks, and the new job – madam of a franchised house in Boston – things haven't changed much. She's in trouble again. It's hard for her to tell Spenser (her hero) that she needs help again, but once she does, he
and Hawk jump in feet-first to bail her out. Pro bono, at that.

However, as time passes, it becomes obvious that April (and probably everyone else involved in the case) is lying to Spenser. Guessing at and digging for the truth, dodging thugs trying to kill him, traveling back and forth between New York City and Boston, and getting psychiatrist
girlfriend Susan's input on what may be going on is taking up all Spenser's time. Can he shake the truth loose in time to save April from her enemies? Or, in the end, is she her own worst enemy?

Once again, Robert B. Parker has hit one out of the park. Spenser, Hawk, Susan, and the other characters that inhabit the pages of the Spenser series live and breathe, quip and curse, and laugh and cry, while making any suspension of reality totally unnecessary. A reader could almost
believe that if she went to Boston and looked in the phone book, she could place her troubles in Spenser's capable white knight hands, as April does in Hundred-Dollar Baby.

If she did, though, she should not forget one important fact: Spenser won't quit until the case is solved, no matter who or what gets in the way. Even if the obstacle is his client.

Betty Winslow
Reviewer


Bob's Bookshelf

Ocean Titans: Journeys in Search of the Soul of a Ship
Daniel Sekulich
Lyons Press
P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
9781599210384 $24.95 www.GlobePequot.com (800) 962-0973

Anyone who is fascinated by merchant ships will find Daniel Sekulich's "Ocean Titans: Journeys in Search of the Soul of a Ship" riveting read. As he delves into the world of container ships and bulk carriers, the author travels to the massive shipyards in Korea where the vessels are created, a boardroom of wealthy ship owner, and the Indian graveyard where obsolete ships are broken up for scrap.

Along the way Seklulich shares the trips he took on various cargo ships and his numerous interviews with crew members. As he seeks to understand the ageless appeal of ships and the sea, the Canadian writer tries to answer a single question, "Does a ship have a soul?" He gets some interesting responses from the men and women he meets but I'll let him share the general consensus of the maritime community on whether or not these seagoing behemoths are more than just a mass of steel and cutting edge technology.

With plenty of facts and anecdotes, "Ocean Titans" offers a highly entertaining account of life aboard the ships that supply us with so much of what we use today. The only downside to this very readable volume is that it would have been even more enjoyable if more photos would have been included to flesh out the author's narrative.

It
Joseph Roach
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472069361 $19.95 www.press.umich.edu (734) 764-4388

In "It" Professor Joseph Roach investigates the genesis of that hard-to-define quality possessed by abnormally interesting people.

Roach traces the origins of "It" back to the period following the Restoration, persuasively linking the sex appeal of today's celebrity figures with the attraction of those who lived centuries before.

From King Charles II, Flo Ziegfeld, and Clara Bow, the famous "It Girl" of film, to Johnny Depp, and Lady Diana, this engrossing study crisscrosses centuries and continents with a deep playfulness that entertains and enlightens.

Roach writes that "It" is the power of apparently effortless embodiment of contradictory qualities simultaneously: strength and vulnerability, innocence and experience, and singularity and typicality among them. He continues, "The possessor of It keeps a precarious balance between such mutually exclusive alternatives, suspended at the tipping point like a tightrope dancer on one foot; and the empathic tension of waiting for the inevitable fall makes for a breathless spectatorship."

Although he can sometimes be a bit pedantic, overall Roach keeps the tone light enough that most readers won't mind these occasional lapses.

Bob Walch
Reviewer


Buhle's Bookshelf

How to Win Every Interview!
Raymond B. Bogardus
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
TCI Smith Publicity
532 Old Marlton Pike, Suite 154, Marlton, NJ 08052-2075
9781424133628, $14.95 www.smithpublicity.com publishamerica.com

Author Raymond B. Bogardus draws upon his 36 years of professional experience as an executive, interviewer, and successful job applicant in How to Win Every Interview!, a step-by-step guide to putting on a winning performance in the interview process. Chapters walk the reader through essential preparations before the interview, how to handle oneself on the big day, proper etiquette for interview follow up, and much more. "Don't leave a single person you talk with without reminding them that you really hope that you have the opportunity to work with them and that you are sure you will be successful in the job... Then, thank them for their time and that you have thoroughly enjoyed your conversation. Then, leave! Don't dawdle and make small talk! Don't ruin the great impression your thoughtful answers have created by making a mistake at the last minute." An absolute "must-have" for anyone in the modern job market.

The Gods of Business
Todd Albertson, MBA, Ph.D.
Trinity Alumni Press
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615138008, $19.95 www.lulu.com www.trinityalumni.org

Written by international business expert Todd Albertson, MBA, Ph.D., The Gods of Business: The Intersection of Faith and the Marketplace is a very straightforward introduction to the basic guiding principles of the world's major religions (Confucianism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Secular Postmodernism) and how those principles affect individual adherents, particularly in the realms of commerce and ethics. The Gods of Business spells out the a condensed yet balanced portrayal of each faith in plain terms, immediately accessible to lay readers, and is enthusiastically recommended for anyone preparing to embark upon business ventures among those of different faiths, or simply seeking to quickly grasp a better understanding of how religious diversity shapes different culture's worldviews. "Jewish ethics are summed up in the Ten Commandments and in the philosophy of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' The latter sounds harsh today, but it was an enormous advance on the take-no-prisoners ethics of the societies that surrounded the Jewish people in the days of Moses. The non-Jewish principle of the time was a life for an eye, and if I cannot kill you, I will get a member of your family. This was the whole basis of feuding, which was widespread even in the West until recent history." A 'must-have' primer for anyone unfamiliar with basic tenets of world religions in today's era of globalization.

The Spirituality Of Bread
Donna Sinclair
Northstone
9590 Jim Bailey Road, Kelowna, BC, Canada, V4V 1R2
9781896836850, $34.00 www.northstone.com

"The Spirituality Of Bread" by Donna Sinclair is a superbly illustrated and deftly written multi-cultural history of bread -- why we make it, how it is made, the memories, concepts and iconic associations we have with bread ranging from the mythology of Demeter (the Hellenic goddess of grain) to Jesus and its metaphysical meaning to Christians. Inspired and inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking, as engaging as it is entertaining, "The Spirituality Of Bread" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library collections.

Friends on the Farm
Ruth I. Ufkes
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533154395, $8.95 1-212-736-1767

Friends on the Farm is the true-life memoir of author Ruth I. Ufkes, who grew up working on an Illinois farm in town of only 4,000 people. From the cat, dog, and horse that were her childhood friends, to education in a one-room schoolhouse, to learning to distinguish "town" girls from "city" girls, and the excitement of her first big trip away from home, Friends on the Farm is a heart-touching tale sure to resonate with animal lovers everywhere. Highly recommended.

Willis M. Buhle
Reviewer


Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Upside-Down Year
Marc C. Crump
Round Top Publications
11125 Old Woods Rd., Cloverdale, OR 097112
9780977316809, $18.81 www.oregoncoast.com/marccrump

The debut western novel of equine, firearm, and Old West enthusiast Marc C. Crump, The Upside-Down Year is an action-packed saga set in the late 1800's. A classic struggle of good versus evil unfolds in a time and place when life could be as cheap as the cost of a single bullet. Enthusiastically recommended, The Upside-Down Year is an adventure written by a Western fan, for Western fans, and piles the excitement high to the very last page.

You've Got Male
Bari Auerbach
Kelly & Hall Publicity
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9781598007213, $9.95 www.kellyandhall.com

Journalist and mother of two Bari Auerbach presents You've Got Male: On-Line Dating Exposed, an anthology of real e-mails from supposed men in cyberspace. From misspellings to ridiculous promises to the rare uplifting or flirtatious email that can make a gal's day, You've Got Male explores the gamut along with helpful tips and tricks for online dating. "Help! The MILF hunter is after me!! (MILF stands for 'Mothers I'd Like to... you can figure out the rest!) Even though Demi and Ashton have made it somewhat more mainstream for older women to be with younger men, I think it's probably safe to say that the majority of under-30 guys are mostly oversexed and not overly into having intellectually stimulating conversations. I've also received countless messages from men my age who look 20 years older - or actually do qualify for the senior citizen movie ticket!" From sexist emails to narcissism-clogged "all about me" emails to emails with ludicrous questions ("Didn't I see you on bay watch or should I say babe watch?") and much more, You've Got Male is sure to bring a smile to the face of any woman who has perused the online dating scene.

A Farm In The Firelands Of Ohio
Dayton A. Williams
Next Friend Press
12699 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106-3332
0974793701, $19.95 1-216-225-1829

"A Farm In The Firelands Of Ohio: Memories Of The Post-Civil War Period" is a fascinating and informative of what it was like to grow up on a family farm in Lyme Township, Huron county, Ohio. Dayton A. Williams was born in 1874, graduated in 1899 from Kenyon college (where he captained the last football team to beat Ohio State) and then some fifty years after he left the family farm, wrote a series of letters which included essays on Decoration Day at the country church and on Christmas celebrations at the church in town. Here are personal memories of peddlers, tramps, boyhood inventions for easing farm work, descriptions of the farm machinery of yesteryear mid-America, and even a quiz for readers to test themselves on their knowledge of the 'farmer business'. Deftly edited by Dayton Williams grandniece Anne Southworth McFarland (who began her own correspondence with Dayton when she was child on the farm with a pony and grew up to become a law librarian and author), "A Farm In The Firelands Of Ohio" is a superbly presented and engaging memoir that is as entertaining as it is thoughtful in presenting life on a typical Ohio farm in the latter part of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. As original source material, "A Farm In The Firelands Of Ohio" will prove to be of especial interest to both scholarship and non-special general readers with an interest in American History.

John Burroughs
Reviewer


Carson's Bookshelf

Simple Signing With Young Children
Carol Garboden Murray
Gryphon House
PO Box 207, Beltsville, MD 20704
9780876590331, $24.95 www.ghbooks.com 1-800-638-0928

In "Simple Signing With Young Children: A Guide For Infant, Toddler, And Preschool Teachers", preschool teacher, special education instructor, early interventionist, parent educator, nursery school and childcare director, and sing language workshop presenter Carol Garboden Murray draws upon her more than 17 years of experience and expertise to write a thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual for parents, teachers, and care-givers to teach very young children how to communicate through sign language. Detailed photographs aptly demonstrate how to execute each sign while written directions provide a methodical and step-by-step guide for educators and parents. Comprehensive, authoritative, and superbly organized, "Simple Signing With Young Children" is the ideal introductory instruction manual and very highly recommended for anyone having to teach sign language to very young children at home, in a daycare center, or a community preschool program.

Everyday Herbs In Spiritual Life
Michael J. Caduto
Skylight Paths Publishing
Sunset Farms Offices, Route 4
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781594731747, $16.99 www.skylightpaths.com 1-800-962-4544

The use of herbs has been an integral part of religious and spiritual practices since the dawn of recorded time. Herbs have been part of rituals and ceremonies for Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Native Americans, and aborigines around the world. Expertly written and illustrated by author, storyteller, educator, and ecologist Michael J. Caduto, "Everyday Herbs In Spiritual Life: A Guide To Many Practices" is presents information on herbs with respect to their medicinal, purification, and celebratory uses; the aesthetic and symbolic uses; their holy day and holiday usage; and their usage with respect to memorials, bereavement, weddings, and blessings. Of special note are the sections on herbs with respect to 'Cosmic Herbals', 'Reflection and Meditation', and 'The Practical Realm'. Enhanced with an informative foreword by experienced herbalist Rosemary Gladstar; a list of sources for herbs, seeds, and herbal supplies; a glossary and an index of herbs and flowers; a list of herbs for healing, aesthetics, giving thanks, in celebration of the 'Circle of Life'; cosmic herbs flowers and fruits; as well as herbs for meditation and reflection, "Everyday Herbs In Spiritual Life" is an enthusiastically recommended and thoroughly 'reader friendly' addition for personal, professional, academic, and community library reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

In an Elevator with Brigitte Bardot and Other Appreciations
Michael Lee
Wordcraft of Oregon, LLC
PO Box 3235, La Grande, OR 97850
1877655503, $15.00 www.wordcraftoforegon.com

Marine Corps veteran and experienced journalist Michael Lee presents In an Elevator with Brigitte Bardot and Other Appreciations, a selection of essays interspersed with humor, memories, searing personal insights into daily life in Cape Cod. "Great poetry can be change-your-life stuff. Or sometimes it's just change your pants stuff. But then the next Bill Collins gets up there, living out loud and dragging poetry, kicking and screaming, onto the actuality of the blank page. Then you can't help but get excited about poetry." Each essay is only a few pages long, yet each strikes the heart of its topic with a deft flick of the wrist. A treasury to savor a bit at a time, or all at once.

Michael J. Carson
Reviewer


Christy's Bookshelf

Brother Odd
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books/Random House
9780553804805 $27.00 www.randomhouse.com

Odd Thomas sees dead people. Although they are unable to communicate with him verbally, he feels it his duty to help them resolve their reasons for staying in this world so they can move on to the next. Odd has taken refuge at St. Bartholomew's Abbey in California's High Sierra Mountains, where he hopes to find peace among the monks and nuns that reside there, caring for children who suffer from physical and mental disabilities. Having never seen snow before, Odd is intrigued when a snowstorm is predicted for the mountains. While staring out the window, waiting for the snow, he spies an inhuman creature outside the abbey. When he goes outside to investigate, he stumbles over the inert body of one of the priests but is knocked unconscious before he can help the man. The next morning, the priest has disappeared and his body is nowhere to be found. To add to Odd's anxiety, bodachs—evil spirits that foreshadow carnage and the bloodier the better—are crawling all over the abbey. When the snowstorm hits, it quickly becomes a squall, and Odd, the monks and the nuns find themselves engaged in a fierce battle to save the children from a deranged scientist and the evil creatures he has created.

Odd Thomas is an interesting character with an ancient spirit and witty sense of humor. The series started with a bang, seemed to lag with the second book, but is now gaining momentum. Odd is strong enough to carry forward through many more sequels, and Koontz's talent as a storyteller, along with his creative imagination, will continue to ensure he remains on the bestseller lists.

Lisey's Story
Stephen King
Scribner
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743289412 $28.00

Two years after the death of her husband, celebrated author Scott Landon, Lisa (Lisey) Landon finally faces the challenge of cleaning out Scott's study. While doing so, she is forced to face memories of their life together in this world and in another, alternate world Scott would retreat to from time to time, a place he called Boo'ya Moon. During this time, Lisey resists pressure from a professor to donate Scott's papers to his university's library. She cannot be bothered with this; her sister Amanda has gone into a catatonic state over the marriage of her boyfriend to another woman and Lisey needs to find a health care facility for her. Lisey receives a phone call from a man calling himself Jim Dooley, warning her that if she does not donate the papers, he will hurt her. Although Lisey ignores the threat, she soon finds Dooley in Scott's study, where he physically assaults and mutilates her. Recalling Scott's healing trips to Boo'ya Moon, Lisey goes there to mend herself. When she returns, she knows where she needs to take Amanda to cure her mental illness and where Jim Dooley must die.

This lengthy story transits from the past to the present and back to the past again, in an entertaining way that keeps the reader engaged and eager for more. Lisey is a strong woman mourning her husband's death who finds herself not only caretaker of her sister Amanda but also the person her family turns to in times of crisis. Reminiscent of King's earlier works, Lisey's Story is an electrifying read, with in-depth characterization and a plot that demands the reader's constant attention.

The Devil's Racket
Tom Wallace
Salvo Press
Portland, Oregon
1930486677 $16.95 www.salvopress.com

Homicide detective Jack Dantzler has a perfect solve rate with the Lexington, Kentucky police department. His secret: Dantzler prides himself on outsmarting the criminals he's after. But his ideal record is threatened when an evil darkness comes to Lexington, the likes of which Dantzler and his partners have never encountered.

When a woman and two of her three daughters are brutally slain, Dantzler is not only puzzled but also angry. He knew the woman and her daughters and can think of no reason why these three would be slaughtered so senselessly. Dantzler's investigation leads him to New York and back to a horse farm in Lexington, where young women are disappearing. What Dantzler uncovers during his investigation is evil incarnate that puts his own life in danger, as well as his friends and other investigators.

The Devil's Racket is a chilling thriller, packed with breath-taking suspense. The gritty, fast-paced plot holds the reader's interest from the first page to the last. Dantzler is an engaging character, a talented tennis player with a genius IQ whose investigative techniques are infallible. His developing relationship with detective Laurie Dunn adds a warm touch to a disturbing, albeit galvanizing, storyline.

Trouble
Jesse Kellerman
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group
9780399154034 $24.95 www.penguin.com

Medical student Jonah Stem works more hours than not, but accepts this as his fate, as he is determined to become a doctor, regardless of the sacrifices. One night, Jonah stumbles across a murder-in-progress and steps into the midst of a knife battle between a man and woman. In an effort to protect the injured woman, Jonah kills the knife-welding man. When Eve, the woman he saved, shows up at his apartment to thank him, things between the two of them quickly spiral out of control and they become involved in an intense sexual relationship. However, Eve's sadistic tendencies and increasing pressure for a masochistic lover are discomfiting to Jonah. When he tries to break off their relationship, Eve begins to stalk him outside his apartment, at the hospital where he works, and at his parents' house. Jonah obtains a restraining order against Eve, which motivates her to send to him a video clip that proves this mentally deranged, manipulative woman is a force to be reckoned with.

Kellerman's unique, schizophrenic writing style and confusing similes, along with the subject matter he addresses, make this familiar story a somewhat difficult read and one some readers may find disturbing. Jonah comes across as an immature, naďve man who is weak and ineffectual and can't seem to stand up for himself to anyone. Eve is portrayed as evil and narcissistic, a much stronger character than her counterpart Jonah. The ending seemed a bit implausible and hurried.

Christy Tillery French
Reviewer


Clay's Bookshelf

The Ghost on the Brooklyn Bridge
David Fango
Publish America
111 E Church St Frederick, MD 21701
9781413795561 $19.95 www.publishamerica.com

Debby and Sue our two female heroines looking for fun on Halloween night disguise themselves as men to go out on the town to see what adventures they will find. Rich, smart, mathematicians taking a break after college graduation and before entering the "real" world. Little did they know how far disguising like men would take them. They dance out arm in arm quoting from their favorite poet Emily Dickerson "A little madness in spring/ Is wholesome even for the King".

Their fun leads them to a bar where the participants seem to be leftovers from the seventies the bodyguard/owner at the door has purple hair going by the name of Cool Dude selling far out glasses that at first claims to have made which to enter the club you must buy. Turns out some Wiccan witch had made them as Cool Dude admits he's not that creative. The girls/guys asked how they see into the astral plane and Cool Dude replies that when the time comes they will see, as our heroines enter attempting to look through the world through their spirit glasses.

While this is going on we have Robert who has inherited a grand fortune from the deaths of his parents. Robert has chosen on this Halloween night to dress in 19th century garb, cape and all to pass out money, paying people to allow him to smash a pie in their faces. Robert is extremely depressed and so is going from bar to bar to play out his grand fun. As he only seems happy smashing pies in unsuspecting faces with these antics provides plenty of humor. Needless to say he has been kicked out of several places as he is on his pie smashing spree. In one place he comes across two strippers and pays them to wear seventeenth century Spanish maid of honor costumes, and carry his pies on trays as they go from place to place.

Robert is a member of a men's only suicide club that caters to emotionally disturbed men that glorifies the drug culture and dead musicians who have died of drug overdoses of the sixties and seventies and plays the "Grateful Dead" music with the philosophy of "it's great to be dead" where he has decided to spend the rest of his inheritance in order to finish his life in a grand suicide.

Finally Robert meets up with our girls/guys and Sue feels she must save poor Robert's life and so they agree to join the suicide club. Debby meets a fellow mathematician that she falls for and feels he must be saved too. So our girls/guys-heroines set out on a mission to save the emotionally disturbed men. But how far are they really willing to go…..

Will love be found and lives saved? Just who is the ghost of the Brooklyn Bridge? And what role does Emily Dickerson and the spirit glasses play in all of this? So if you enjoy mystery, science fiction, fantasy, poetry and the philosophical side of life than enter into the dark side of the drug scene and read this cleverly written twist of an anti-drug culture tale.

The ghost on the Brooklyn Bridge is an amazing tale of what drugs will lead to- "an end of all dreams", an excellent anti-drug message. The author David Frango does an amazing job with this descriptive tale as the characters and scenes come alive in excellent word picture form. This fiction novel is based upon the death of a classmate of David Frango's and two female mathematician students, graduates of the University of Arizona who team together to write this memorial tribute to their friend. The novel is written in a modern style of nineteen century literature that this reviewer found refreshing. Also really great is the tie in of some awesome poetry from Emily Dickerson to T.S. Eliot. An awesome teaching tool and must read for all mature teenagers, young adults and adults. You won't want to put this page turner down wondering what is to happen next and ponder upon the philosophical and metaphorical teachings this tale holds.

The book is a print-on-demand but is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million and through the publisher Publish America. But wherever you find it don't pass this one by!

The Quantum Enzyme Code: The Woman Who Discovered the Cure for Aids Or Harmonic Synthesis
David Frango
iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Rd Suite 100 Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595393817 $29.95 www.iuniverse.com

The year 2020; bold, confidant twelve year old Dianna Utterson learns of science and math at her Uncle John's knee. She towers over her fellow students but doesn't mind the teasing for she has a gentle heart and sweet spirit. Loner, child prodigy, genius, member of GTS (Gifted Talented Students), confidant enough to notify her science teacher she would make amino acids align themselves into a perfect protein. Actually what she does is create a protein using musical synthesis, during this same time her Uncle John dies of aids. Determined twelve year old Dianna Utterson prays that some day she would find the cure for aids.

The year is 2033 and Dianna is attending Charles Carroll University. The University has given her the space, equipment and assistants and notably Sarah Hamilton studying for her PhD just like Utterson, to develop her cure for aids. She meets Ben Cashman; rich, arrogant and determined to steal the cure for his future pharmaceutical company. He's attending Thomas Jefferson University on his way to be a M.D. Jealousy and power drive him but at the same time loves Dianna but she just sees him as a lost soul needing spiritual help – or does she…..

But hold on that's just the beginning! The storyline in it's self is amazing but the complexity of the uniting of math, science and music is outstanding. If you hold a fascination for math and science this is a must read. But even if you are not like this reviewer you will be captivated by the storyline and information. Don't be intimated if not into math and science for there is something here for everyone as this book contains romance, science, thriller and intrigue. So many subplots and even religious complications between the Vatican, Pythagoreans and Papists is intriguing, A definite read for high school, college students and those in advanced studies in the math and science fields for the extreme detail of information this novel holds. This book reads more like a biography than a fiction novel and you'll find yourself even learning a thing or two along the way.

This amazing tale is the second novel by the author David Frango with the first being "The Ghost on Brooklyn Bridge" which is also an excellent read. "The Quantum Enzyme Code ", has already won an Honorable Mention in the Science Fiction category from ForeWord Magazine (reviewer of independently published books), proves this to be a timeless tale that teaches an appreciation of science and the secrets it holds. With two excellent books this reviewer feels David Frango is someone to watch to see what is next from this extremely talented author.

Taking Woodstock
Elliot Tiber with Tom Monte
SquareOne Publishers
115 Herricks Rd Garden City Park, New York 1104
9780757002939 $24.95 www.squareonepublishers.com

Born Eliyahu Teichberg, poor Elli struggles to break what he calls the “Teichberg Curse” and changes his name to Elliot Tiber—hoping that would break the curse. Always on the brink of financial ruin and trying to hide his deepest secret, he dreams of the miracle that would change his life.

In 1969, he got that miracle. Manager of his Jewish parents' failing resort hotel El Monaco in White Lake, New York on the weekends, Elliot runs during the week to Greenwich Village where he can live the life he chooses as an interior designer and meeting the likes of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Robert Mapplethorpe—all the while keeping his gay life a secret from his family. That is, until June 28, 1969, when he finds himself at the Stonewall Inn and the famous "Stonewall Riot" that would revolutionize the gay culture breaks out. With a newfound boldness, he finds out in July that the town of Wallkill has revoked the permit for the Woodstock festival. So he contacts Mike Lang, the concert’s promoter, to offer his 15 acres for the concert. While Elliot hopes this is the miracle he has been waiting for, Mike Lang and his entourage arrive by helicopter but they end up feeling that the swampland of his resort hotel won't work for the concert. Tiber assures Lang and company that, since he has been the president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce and has held a concert and art show for the past few years, he can get the necessary concert permit. Quickly, he calls his good friend Max Yasgur—who supports everything Elli does and only lives four miles up the road—and asks him to hold the concert. Elli explains to Mike that Max has a dairy farm on a hundred acres—more than enough to hold a concert. Arrangements are made and, before he knows it, Elli is caught up in the magic that will change his life forever. He is introduced to the hippie scene where everyone is accepted no matter who or what you are and learns he can love himself.

Whoa! Totally awesome and even far out and groovy! This book is absolutely amazing! This reviewer couldn’t put it down—in fact, read it twice before writing this review. If you’ve ever dreamed of being at Woodstock or even if you were there, the author Elliot Tiber will take you back. The Sixties will come alive and you won’t want the trip to end! But that is only part of the story, as Elliot takes you through the time of his troubled past and describes in perfect word pictures the struggles of his secret life, his childhood, the insanity of running the hotel resort, and dealing with bigoted locals who persecute him because of his Jewish heritage. In the end, you’ll feel you know everyone and that you were there, too.

See Woodstock through the eyes of someone who lived it, who helped bring it to life – you’ll never look at this period of history the same again. Don’t pass this one by, as this autobiography guarantees to be one of the best reads of 2007 and is to be released just in time for the media's annual August remembrance of that great music festival. Also an awesome unique feature that this reviewer really likes is the reversible dust jacket—one side conservative, the other psychedelic. This feature, according to Square One’s publisher Rudy Shur in Publishers Weekly, represents “The notion of duality [that] has been a central theme throughout Elliot’s life, and we wanted the book to represent that notion of difference in a very direct and colorful way." So whichever trip you decide to take, this is one you’ll never forget.

Cheri Clay
Reviewer


Debra's Bookshelf

Skulduggery Pleasant
Derek Landy
HarperCollins
9780061231155 $17.99

After 12-year-old Stephanie Edgley inherits her uncle's estate she discovers that the eccentric author who doted on her had a lot more going on in his life than she could have imagined. As it turns out, the novels Gordon Edgley wrote about "horrible monsters and scary stuff and bad people doing worse things" were based largely on his own real-life experiences. Alone in Gordon's house, Stephanie is suddenly and violently introduced to the world he wrote about, and saved, not for the last time, by Gordon's old friend Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery is a skeleton who manages to look less conspicuous when the situation requires by wrapping himself up, Invisible Man-like, in a coat and scarf, a frizzy wig and wide- brimmed hat. He is also a detective, investigating transgressions in the magical world he inhabits, and Stephanie becomes in due course his assistant. Dangerous adventures ensue, with nothing less than the fate of the world at stake.

Skulduggery Pleasant is the first in a new series featuring Stephanie and the skeletal detective. It's easy to imagine a successful string of books following from this introduction: more magic and monsters; Stephanie's exploration of Skulduggery's world and of her own abilities; the "normal" world's incomprehension of and even hostility toward magic. There are some superficial similarities between Landy's story and the Harry Potter books: a pre-teen protagonist with as yet unrealized powers and some kind of magical birthright is thrust into a supernatural realm that exists alongside our own reality. But the world Landy has created is not as complex as the Potter universe, and his characters are unlikely to inspire debate among adult readers about their motivations. But unfair comparison with Rowling's oeuvre aside, Landy's Skulduggery is a well-written and above all charming book. What makes it shine is the playful interaction between Skulduggery and Stephanie:

"You can't leave me alone," she said, following him into the living room.

"No," he corrected, "I can. You'll be perfectly safe."

"The front door's off!"

"Well, yes. You'll be perfectly safe as long as they don't come through the front door."

He pulled on his coat, but she snatched his hat away.

"Are you taking my hat hostage?" he asked doubtfully.

The relationship is fun to watch because of the banter and because Skulduggery, while the older of the two by far, is not above being childishly irresponsible. Landy also occasionally ratchets up the tension. There are a great many fight scenes, with the good guys using their various powers to combat different sorts of monsters. But the best bit of suspense--it certainly got my 11-year-old excited about the book--comes near the beginning of the story, when Stephanie so unwisely spends the night alone in Gordon Edgley's creepy mansion. You know that can't end well....

Landy's Skulduggery won't assume the Potter mantle--if such a thing were even possible--but it is highly readable and funny, a charming page-turner for the YA crowd.

Annie Cheney
Body Brokers
Broadway Books
9780767917339 $23.95

A human head might bring in seven or eight hundred dollars, a spine at least as much again. Shoulders, knees, bones, brains, various viscera--pretty much every part of a dead body can be sold off if the corpse is fresh enough. The demand for material is high: medical schools and medical device companies and surgical skills workshops need bodies or body parts for dissection, and willed body programs don't produce enough corpses to go around. That's why, shocking though it is, there is apparently a robust underground trade in human remains--in the U.S., in the present day.

Annie Cheney explores the gruesome subculture of modern-day body snatchers in her book Body Brokers, which grew out of an award-winning article she wrote on the subject for Harper's. She discusses in detail how bodies en route to their final resting places can be harvested for parts--by pathologists' assistants, for example, or corrupt funeral directors, or crematorium operators. She discusses also the various markets for body parts, including institutions that need bodies for instructional dissection as well as factories that transform human tissue into products--"injectable bone paste" and the sorts of things you might find in Home Depot, screws and dowels and wedges, except that they're made out of human bone. ("It's all precision tooled....") Cheney also provides a chapter on the "Resurrection Men" of the 19th century, men who, like their modern-day counterparts, did the dirty work of supplying corpses for a price. But the Resurrectionists usually had to dig up fresh graves to get their material.

One comes away from Cheney's book impressed at the apparent extent to which this gruesome business is going on, and impressed also with how many people seem to be able to sleep comfortably at night when they've got a refrigerator full of heads in the next room. It's interesting to note also how efficient the business is: when possible, bodies are dismembered and their parts sold off individually.

"The three of them went on in this way, methodically moving from body to body, part to part. Tyler removed Ronald King's elbows--one slice on the forearm and two swift strokes forward with his saw until the bones snapped in two. Then his hands and knees. One slice on his calf and his thigh, a few cuts of his saw, and the leg came right off. Then his head. Tyler plucked out King's brain like a smooth boiled egg from its shell."

This makes perfect financial sense, of course. Why supply a class full of gynecologists with perfect corpses, for example, when the students can just as well practice on limbless, headless torsos?

"Over the next couple of days, Brown hung around in the conference room, watching the gynecologists as they probed the vaginas of the dead women. When a torso needed adjusting, he noticed, the doctors called on Tyler to help. Tyler gingerly moved the chilly flesh into the right position, raising or lowering it so that the doctors could get a good view. When the dead ladies began to smell, Tyler spritzed them with deodorizer. At the end of the day, he packed them into Igloo coolers. The next morning he brought them out again."

As you can see, Cheney's book is deliciously gruesome in parts.

Body Brokers is readable and seems very well researched. The author documents her sources in the book's notes and bibliography. My only difficulty with it is that, although it's quite short--the narrative ends, a little too abruptly, after 193 pages--it is difficult to keep the names of the various characters and companies straight. (Cheney provides a list of characters at the beginning of the book, but it's still a bit confusing.) Otherwise, Body Brokers is an interesting and certainly an eye-opening read. It could make some people change their minds about leaving their bodies to science.

Meet Me in Venice
Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin's
9780312364472 $24.95

Precious (Preshy) Rafferty and her cousin Lily Swan have never met. Both women happen to own antique stores, but they have little else in common. Precious is an American living in Paris, single but surrounded by supportive friends and family. Lily is Shanghainese, and she is wed to her work, driven by her desire for wealth after having grown up in poverty. She supplements her income by trading in stolen antiquities, a dangerous business that involves handing wads of cash over to hoodlums in the middle of the night. She has few friends, and the person she most relies on, her assistant Mary-Lou Chen, proves to have been poorly chosen. The lives of these three women, Preshy, Lily, and Mary-Lou, are all affected in the course of Elizabeth Adler's novel by one particular antique--a necklace whose pearl was stolen from the grave of the Dowager Empress of China--and by the charming sociopath, Bennett Yuan, who will do anything to get his hands on it.

Meet Me in Venice may not be the best book you'll read this year. Adler's villains are two-dimensional, and she tends to spill her characters' back story onto the page without great subtlety.

"While Lily's father played the tables, her mother attempted to make a living selling cheap copies of antiques. Somehow the family scraped by. When she was sixteen her father died and Lily left school and took over the business. Her mother died five years later. Lily was alone in the world with no one to rely on but herself."

I found references to Preshy's friend Daria's "Super Kid" cringe-inducing. And I wondered at Adler's decision to give her main character the name "Precious": it is so unusual that one cannot help but be reminded of another literary Precious, Mme Ramotswe of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. (It's rather like naming a character "Sherlock." You're certain to distract readers by calling to mind that other Sherlock.)

I came away from Adler's novel, however, reminded of how delightful an escape reading can be. Meet Me in Venice is a solid romantic mystery, light on character, perhaps, but with a decent plot. Adler makes you root for her protagonists and boo her bad guys and hope that the right people wind up together in the end. I'm glad I read it.

Debra Hamel
Reviewer


Gary's Bookshelf

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Lee Goldberg
Signet
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451220974 $19.95 www.penguin.com

Like many fans I love the whole concept of Monk, whether it is the show on USA network or this series of novels. This one is a dream come true tale that would make a great episode. Sharona, Monk's first assistant reenters his life and causes complications for Natalie. That's only part of the story that is the best novel so far by Goldberg. Adrian solves numerous cases along the way in typical Monk fashion. This is also the first hardcover title. Monk is a gem and Goldberg captures the essence of all of the characters from the hit program

What's So Funny?
Donald E. Westlake
Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York NY 10020
9780446582407 $24.99 www.HachetteBookGroup.com

Dortmunder and the gang are recruited to steal a very pricey chess set that is stored in an underground office vault. There are many complications that make the story much more interesting than the last several capers of this group of thieves. Back are Andy Kelp and Stan Murch. There are several new characters as well. The one complaint I have is that Dortmunder, Kelp, and Murch are not in the story very much like other titles in the series. At any rate the book is fun and has a great ending.

Blackmailer
George Axelrod
Hard Case
299 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843957723 $6.99 www.HardCaseCrime.com

The screenwriter for the movies "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and "The Manchurian Candidate" tells a revealing story of the publishing world. Several individuals claim they have a best-selling authors last manuscript before he died. They approach a publisher to see his interest in bringing this last work to print. What follows is a series of mishaps, several manuscript copies and a trail of dead bodies that make a delightful mystery that holds up today. Hard Case is the new pulp publisher that is bringing back some great reads that have been out of print for a long time.

Badge 149 "Shots Fired"
Gary P. Jones
Infinity Publishing.com
1094 New DeHaven Street Suite 100
West Conshohocken, Pa 19428-2713
9780741432445 $18.95 www.buybooksontheweb.com 1 877 BUYBOOK

Jones writes about the real world of cops by presenting short venues that have questions at the end of each. This approach is more a role-play that makes readers understand what cops face everyday on their beats. Also of interest is that these are all pulled from real situations that happened in the mid 1970s in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. What he shows is that nothing has changed. The cities and years can be different but what cops face is exactly the same. This would be a great teaching tool for police courses and academies throughout the nation.

The Lunar Boy Book One
Jarrett B Williams
1847289436 $19.95 www.lunarboyland.com

This is a graphic novel that has a lot to say about a person's place in the world and how they deal with it. I like how the writing and art come together very well to tell the story. Williams is a very talented artist writer who has a great career ahead

Orion the Skateboard Kid
Juanita S. Raymond and Leland F. Raymond
CyPress Publications
P.O. Box 2636, Tallahassee, Florida 32316-2636
067258502 $9.95 www.cypress-starpublications.com

The authors have used things kids are interested in to teach them about the solar system. Orion, one of the writer's characters. is almost hit by a car while skateboarding in a private parking lot. She and her friends want a place to skateboard safely. This is the beginning of the story. Through a series of observations by Orion and her friends they learn in an interesting way all about astronomy. The book is a fun, easy read that teaches all about our universe.

Cafe Wisconsin
Joanne Raetz Stuttgen
The University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Madison Wisconsin
0299201147 $19.95 www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress

Finally there is a book that shows where some of the best dining can be found. Of course you have to go to the state of Wisconsin to experience it. These are the places we all know and love that are considered hole in-the-wall eateries. The author is your tour guide to some of the best food served anywhere. She tells who the owners are, what types of food are served and the general feel of each place. She breaks the state of Wisconsin into sections and shows maps for each area. This is your number one resource for when you travel to Wisconsin.

Cafe Wisconsin Cookbook
Joanne Raetz Stuttgen and Terese Allen
The University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Madison Wisconsin
9780299222741 $24.95 www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress

This one is a little different. It has recipes from many of the restaurants talked about in "Cafe Wisconsin." If you can't get to the places listed in the previous title, then this is the second best way to taste the food that makes these places so great. You can make your own by following the directions the authors have provided here. Many of them sound mouth watering.

Hurricanes
Seymour Simon
Harper Collins Kids Publishing
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061170720 $16.99 www.harpercollinschildrens.com

Though this is a kid's book about hurricanes, it is very educational. Even I learned some things I was not aware of. The pictures add a dimension to the chilling information the author provides.

Life in the Meridian
James Allen Starkloff
Broken Pen Publishing
9780979044502 $8.99 www.starkloff.com 386 454 0559

Through a series of adventures from a different era the author shows how different the country was.. The book is easy to read with generous doses of humor. Starkloff is a master of the word and has readers feeling like they are right there with the situations.

Secret Society
Miasha
Pocket Star
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
9781416546757 $7.99 www.simonsays.com

I won't reveal what the secret society is but I will say the writing and the characters draw the reader in from the first page until the very end. Miasha has delved into a world that is under our noses and done a very good job of portraying what it's like to be in it. The pacing is very fast and will have readers begging for more novels from this fine author.

Gary Roen
Reviewer


Geoffrey's Bookshelf

The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler
First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
A division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0394758285, $12.95 234 pages www.randomhouse.com

As Hard Boiled As A Three-Minute Egg

I haven't read a single Chandler novel until this book, nor have I seen the movie. And though I know that Humphrey Bogart plays the story's narrator, detective Philip Marlowe, in the screen adaptation, it didn't matter. I forgot Bogart about as quickly as a smile vanishes when an unasked-for bucket full of cold water is thrown at it. After all, what kind of hard-boiled macho knows interior design, alludes to Marcel Proust, or can resist the desperate advances of a naked woman?

For example, here's how Marlowe describes Eddie Mars's place: "It was wainscoted in walnut and had a frieze of faded damask above the paneling." Damask? Get outta here. Marlowe does this repeatedly, and by the mid-way point, I concluded that Marlowe is about as hard boiled as a three-minute egg.

Regarding Chandler's style, it could be argued that he overuses the simile because this device sometimes calls attention to itself. For example, "The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men" is the third of four such similes in a single long paragraph in chapter 2.

Nevertheless, this book moves so rapidly you'd better be wearing a seatbelt. A bigger mystery seems to loom behind every solved one leading to a surprising conclusion.

Shakespeare
Anthony Burgess
Carroll & Graf Publishers
An Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group Incorporated
161 William Street, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10038
0786709723 $15.95 256 pages

Shakespeare's Ghost

Anthony Burgess's biography of Shakespeare makes for riveting reading. However, the reader arguably learns more about Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex than about the elusive Mr. Shakespeare.

In fact, Shakespeare makes only occasional and shadowy appearances in this bio as if he were the ghost of Hamlet's father (which he is, in a sense). Burgess doesn't hesitate to put his own stylish and imaginative spin on what little we know about Shakespeare, though if he were to shed any more light the shadow might disappear.

Nevertheless, by coupling his considerable breadth of learning with documentary evidence, Burgess manages to accomplish what I think he sets out to accomplish in writing this book - that upon completion the reader will say with near certainty, "Shakespeare did exist."

Animal Farm: Centennial Edition
George Orwell
A Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf
A division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
www.randomhouse.com/everymans
0452284244 $13.00 128 pages

Chilling

Animal Farm successfully works as a chilling distillation of human behavior gleaned firsthand by George Orwell during the Spanish Civil War. He had become -for a time - one of those useful idiot intellectuals, like Hemingway and Dos Passos, who thought fighting for the Loyalists against Franco in the Spanish Civil war was the cat's meow.

However, it wasn't long before every socialist and anarchist brigade on the Loyalist side was being coordinated, staffed and equipped by Soviet Stalinists who first purged their own, and then became every bit as brutal and inhumane as Franco's Nationalists. At least Orwell and Dos Passos saw the error of their ways.

Where the allegory fails, however, is that Orwell puts the literate pigs at the top of the heap and makes less-than-bright barnyard animals unwitting dupes when we all know that super-schooled egghead types on both sides of the political aisle so often fall for utopian mumbo jumbo.

Geoffrey Smagacz
Reviewer


Gloria's Bookshelf

Love Kills
Edna Buchanan
Simon and Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780743294768 $25.00 www.simonsays.com 1-800-223-2336

Britt Montero, the Miami News police reporter protagonist in this popular series, is recovering from personal tragedies on a remote island, far enough away from her native Miami to perhaps allow her to recover from the sudden death [three books ago, in The Ice Maiden] of the homicide cop who was her fiance. She is urgently called back by the Miami P.D.'s Cold Case Squad after the discovery of a body unearthed by a bulldozer in the Florida Everglades when the deceased turns out to be Spencer York, a professional kidnapper who was a hired gun for divorced fathers, dubbed the Custody Crusader. Britt was the last one known to have seen him alive, nine years prior when she interviewed him after he was released on bail and then disappeared. A second thread evolves after Britt and her best friend, photographer Lottie Dane, find a camera on the beach which contains photos of a honeymoon couple, who have been reported lost at sea. The handsome and seemingly grief-stricken husband is rescued a few days later, his wife presumed dead. But all is not as it would seem, as it appears that this is not the first time the man has been widowed immediately following marriage. In fact, it is the sixth. Is the serial bridegroom also a serial murderer?

Britt's conversational style at times comes across more like journalistic writing, and less than natural. Nonetheless, Love Kills is an interesting and entertaining novel. The juxtaposition of the two cases, the Cold Case Squad working on the Custody Crusader murder, and Britt trying to prevent another woman from being murdered by Marsh Holt, keeps the reader involved in both, although perhaps a little less so in the case of the former, the solution to which strained credulity a bit for this reader; the latter, however, leading to a suspenseful and satisfying conclusion, one which leaves the reader wondering what the future [and the next book] will hold for Britt, whose life is about to take a sharp turn.

A Thousand Bones
P. J. Parrish
Pocket Star Books
c/o Simon & Schuster, 1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10010,
9781416525875 $7.99 1-800-223-2336 www.simonsays.com

From the tantalizing prologue [not everyone's favorite thing, but in this instance a brief few pages serving as a segue way to events that transpired in Michigan in late 1975], I was hooked. In this new novel, for the first time P.J. Parrish's protagonist is Joette ["Joe"] Frye, first introduced to readers in A Killing Rain, the sixth in the Louis Kincaid novels. Joe is the only woman detective in Miami-Dade's homicide division. But the events described took place when she was a rookie cop in the fictional town of Echo Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan, thirteen years prior. The discovery of three small bones in a heavily wooded area leads to the uncovering, literally and figuratively, of the fate of young girls gone missing years before. Joe, perhaps, sees something of her younger self in the picture that begins to form in her head of a willful high school girl determined to get away from the small town of her birth, "…thinking about some nameless girl who wanted to break free of the monotony of suburbs, small minds, and straight sidewalks that led to nowhere."

Her mother, herself a former cop in days when female police officers were expected to wear skirts and do nothing more involved than writing parking tickets, when Joe discusses the mystery of a missing girl with her, urges her to do more than just identify her: "I'm not talking about just IDing her. I'm talking about finding out who she really was." Joe does not need much encouraging, and fights for a significant role in the investigation.

The writing is solid, the book fast-paced and the setting very well-drawn. The book is by turn suspenseful, taut and ultimately harrowing, portraying events devastating to Joe. Louis Kincaid makes only brief appearances in the Prologue and Epilogue, but Joe Frye makes a fully realized and vivid protagonist in her own right. I have only read one or two earlier books by P. J. Parrish, but will certainly seek to correct that in short order – I thoroughly enjoyed A Thousand Bones and highly recommend it.

Requiem for an Assassin
Barry Eisler
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780399154263 $24.95 www.penguin.com 1-800-847-5515

A former adversary, who knew enough thereby to respect John Rain's abilities, has determined to both use him and to thereafter eliminate him. And he is wise enough to know that one of Rain's few vulnerabilities is his friend, Dox, and therefore decides to use Dox as bait, or more correctly as the means to exert pressure on Rain, who has no choice but to comply—other than his own plan to free his friend and ultimately exact his own revenge, of course.

John Rain, dubbed the contract killer with a conscience, had determined to get out of that life. But when Dox is captured, all that is changed.

Rain has been living in Paris, together with Delilah, the Mossad agent introduced to readers previously, whose continued work in "the life" makes his leaving it even more problematical, as well as necessitating that they live separately, security being a prime consideration. He fears that since his decision to 'retire' his skills and instincts are not as sharp: "Situational awareness for countering potential street crime is one thing. The fever pitch alertness required to survive professionals who are patiently, dispassionately, specifically, maneuvering to take your life, is something else. If you're addicted to the latter, and maybe I was, the former is no more than an occasional dose of methadone in the face of a long-term cra ving for heroin." Rain ricochets between his "better self," as it were, and his more feral, cold-blooded one, who he comes to think of as "the iceman."

Mr. Eisler's writing is just as wonderful, the suspense just as taut and nerve-tingling, as in the prior five books in the series. And John Rain is as intriguing a protagonist to this reader as is only Lee Child's Reacher, just as magnetic, fascinating and heroic [for an anti-hero], and that's high praise indeed.

Dead Connection
Alafair Burke
Henry Holt & Co.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010, 646-307-5095
978080507785-8 $19.95 www.henryholt.com

The murder of two women, exactly one year apart, both of whom were connected to a popular online dating site, is enough to get the attention of Flann McIlroy, a homicide detective with a reputation as an eccentric, publicity-seeking cop. McIlroy in turn brings in rookie Detective Ellie Hatcher on special assignment to the NYPD homicide task force. Ellie's job? To enter the high-tech world of stolen identities and on-line dating, where no one is who he or she claims to be. Anonymity, safety and privacy are what are promised, but these turn out to be the killer's protection, not that of the women who are his victims. The stakes are raised when another woman – like the others, a thirty-something Manhattan resident – is killed.

This is an intricately plotted and well-written novel, and the story line certainly a timely one. The author, who has written three books in the Samantha Kincaid series involving a Manhattan ADA, has created another gutsy female protagonist in Ellie, whose life has been shaped by the death of her Wichita, Kansas cop father when she was 14 years old, dead--the police department says--by his own hand in the aftermath of his failure to track down a serial killer sought for the murder of at least eight young women, such finding of suicide making her mother ineligible to receive any death benefits – life insurance or pension. Ellie is determined to vindicate her father and prove that he was another victim of the same serial killer he tried to capture, now finally in prison. One would assume this will be the subject of the next book in this anticipated series, which I will happily look forward to reading. (And I loved that Dave Robicheaux, the estimable fictional creation of the author's father, James Lee Burke, makes the briefest of cameo appearances, as does Laura Lippman by way of mention of one of her most recent books.) An engaging novel, and recommended.

Silence
Thomas Perry
Harcourt
15 E. 26th St., New York, NY 10010, 212-92-1000
9780151012893 $25.00 www.HarcourtBooks.com

Thomas Perry, the author of the wonderful Jane Whitefield series, the protagonist of which helps people in trouble 'disappear' and make new lives when their old ones were in peril, has now given us an outstanding new standalone built around a somewhat similar premise.

The book's attention-grabbing opening chapter describes a brutal and nearly-fatal beating delivered to Wendy Harper, young and successful Southern California restaurateur, as she arrives home in the early morning hours after work. Having survived the event, a terrified Wendy turns to ex-cop and now-p.i. Jack Till and pleads with him "that the only hope she had of staying alive was to try to live elsewhere," and prevails upon Till to help her. Six years later, nothing having been heard of or from Wendy in the intervening time, her former lover/business partner is charged with her murder, as evidence has suddenly surfaced pointing to him as her killer. Till believes that the person who wanted her dead six years prior is trying to lure her back to finish the job, and Till feels he must now track her down himself before that can happen.

Till is an intriguing protagonist, and his backstory makes him a very human one as well. Just as fascinating creations as Till are Paul and Sylvie Turner, forty-something tango dancers who moonlight as hired killers. Or maybe it's the other way around. [There was something very unsettling about a high-powered attorney regularly arranging murder-for-hire, but then I guess murder is an unpleasant business at best, any way you look at it.] Paul and Sylvie are a particularly pathological pair, and unlike your run-of-the-mill hired killers are not just cold-blooded murderers, but ones who entertain homicidal thoughts when merely really annoyed at someone, and their homicidal urges are frequently fatal.

The novel moves swiftly and surely to its conclusion, with the suspense constant almost from page one, like a rubber band slowly being pulled more and more taut. Recommended.

Scots on the Rocks
Mary Daheim
Wm. Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 212-207-7000/800-242-7737
9780060566531 $23.95 www.harpercollins.com

This is the 23rd entry in Mary Daheim's Bed-and-Breakfast series, and the first one I'd read. This time, instead of the Pacific Northwest, Judith Flynn and her cousin, Serena [known to one and all as Renie] Jones are in Scotland, where their husbands, retired cop and psychologist, respectively, are indulging in their love of fishing. Joe Flynn has arranged with a policeman friend who is to join them fishing the Scottish waters for the women to stay in a remote village near Aberdeen, where they soon find themselves "at loose ends…What else can we do with no car and our husbands off fishing? We're bored. We Yanks enjoy excitement." Excitement is soon found in the form of an ex plosion on the beach near the castle and a man's body found nearby. If that isn't enough, the castle is said to be haunted, and indeed a strange voice is heard from time to time, its source undiscovered. The dead man is the grandson of the caretakers to the castle and the estranged husband of a local oil heiress. There is a large cast of local residents [to the extent that I had difficulty keeping track of the various characters]. Judith has a habit, as readers of the series know, of finding dead bodies, to the extent that she says "sometimes I feel like the harbinger of death." For her part, Renie has a habit of occasional violent urges, though relatively harmless ones. They both are given to using expre ssions such as "gaga" and "neener-neener" and Renie at one point refers to her husband as a "nut doc," which struck me as particularly off key.

I must admit that cozies are not my favorite things, although that said, the book makes for a light summer read. I found it a bit corny, e.g., one character has the following phone conversation: "The Eagle has flown. The Jackal is trapped. The Leopard? Very well." From the To Stupid to Live department, at one point the women accompany a stranger. who had used subterfuge to get them to meet him and was a possible suspect, to his cottage, and then discuss at length the murder and their investigation, not to mention the fact that they fell for his ruse in the first place. But the book and Renie have a charm to them, not unlike Mrs. Marple in her time.

Songs of Innocence
Richard Aleas
Hard Case Crime, c/o Dorchester Publishing, 200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 1001
9780843957730 $6.99 1-800-481-9191 www.dorchesterpub.com

John Blake is a young man haunted by the death of a woman he'd loved and the near-death of another, and the certain knowledge that he had failed to protect them both, and has been consumed by guilt in the ensuing three years. In the aftermath he left the p.i. job he'd had at the time, and is now an administrative assistant in the creative writing program at Columbia University in NYC. When Dorrie Burke, a stunning your woman taking the writing course with whom he'd been very close [in every sense of the word], is found dead, an apparent suicide, John becomes convinced that her death was staged and that she was in fact murdered, and makes a promise to the dead woman that he will find out who killed her and why. Dorrie [nee Dorothy] had led a double life, involved in the city's thriving sex trade, and the possibility is certainly strong that someone she'd met in that life had killed her. Initially he believes that his adversary is the most formidable and feared man in the NYC criminal underworld, with good reason – he is a brutal, ruthless killer. Blake's quest at that point seemed rather foolhardy to me, as he is one physically unimposing civilian seeking out a merciless gangster. But on some level he understands this: "A psychologist might even tell me I'd been wishing for this outcome. You go to a zoo and walk into the lion's cage, you can't complain when he bites you." He finds the man he seeks and manages to survive the event, much the worse for wear but alive. And then things get even uglier, more and in more ways than one could have imagined.

This is the second in the John Blake series. The book's title, fittingly enough, is derived from the title of a poem of pure empathy by William Blake [a line from whose poems prefaces each section of the novel]. John Blake is a man consumed by empathy, to his peril. The flavor and feel of New York City is perfectly rendered, the grim mood of the city and its effects on its more vulnerable residents palpable. I'm uncertain how exactly 'noir' should be defined, but whether Songs of Innocence fits that definition exactly or not, it is an absorbing page-turner, with an ending that is nothing less than stunning. Highly recommended.

Thunder Bay
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books
1230 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10020
9780743278416 $24.00 www.simonsays.com 1-800-223-2336

The author sets the scene for his readers on page 1 of this newest book in the Cork O'Connor series: "Iron Lake is glass. East, it mirrors the peach-colored dawn. West, it still reflects the hard bruise of night. Tall pines, dark in the early morning light, make a black ragged frame around the water." And again, shortly thereafter, describing Lake Superior: "It was a beautiful August day. The lake looked hard as blue concrete. Sunlight shattered on its surface into glittering shards. Far to the east, where the pale wall of the sky hit the water, the horizon was a solid line, the meeting of two perfect geometric planes. To the west rose the Sawbill Mountains, covered with second- and third-growth timber. The road often cut along steep cliffs or ran beside a shoreline littered with great slabs of rock broken by the chisel of ice and time and the relentless hammering of waves." The book opens in Aurora, Minnesota, where Cork, after turning in his Sheriff's badge, has returned to his hometown of Iron Lake, just north of Aurora. He has opened a burger joint and, to ke ep himself "occupied and out of mischief," gotten a p.i. license. Cork is devastated when he is told that Henry Meloux, the nonagenarian who has been more than a friend and mentor for over 40 years, is dying. Henry is Ojibwe, as was Cork's maternal grandmother. He asks Cork for one final favor: to find his son, born over 70 years ago, whom he has never seen except in visions – he doesn't even know his name. Cork traces Henry's son to Thunder Bay, just across Lake Superior and over the border in Canada. Henry extracts a promise from Cork to try to find his son and bring him to see him before he dies. The fact that his son is apparently a wealthy recluse doesn't deter Henry, who tells Cork simply: "You will bring me my son." But his quest has unexpected and deadly consequences.

This book, for the first time, tells of Henry's early life. This is a compelling tale [which fact will be no surprise to fans of Mr. Krueger and this series]. Henry has always been a fascinating character, enigmatic and mysterious, and his backstory makes for wonderful reading. The novel is all about new definitions of the love of a father for his child, and what the author calls the tyranny of love. The beauty and lyricism of the writing makes Thunder Bay a novel not to be missed.

Gloria Feit
Reviewer


Gorden's Bookshelf

Beach Road
James Patterson & Peter De Jonge
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316159786 $27.99

Patterson has a distinctive style of very short chapters, some only a page long. In this book, changes in first person point of view happen with the chapter changes. The result is a very choppy narration that takes nearly half of the book to get familiar with. The original idea of creating a story from the view point of multiple individuals is good. But with this story the technique distracts more than it helps the storyline.

Tom Dunleavy is a local ex-jock turned part-time lawyer. After a pick-up game of basketball, three of his friends are executed in a particularly gruesome way. A young NBA hopeful is arrested and charged with the murders. Tom is asked to represent the young man. This is more of a job than he has the skill for. He enlists the aid of his ex-girlfriend who is a great lawyer. The case explodes into national news and more violence and killing occurs the deeper Tom examines the case.

'Beach Road' is a lawyer/action mystery with a final twist. The twist is well hidden but is so well hidden it leaves an unsettling taste. It makes the reader feel manipulated. It is a solid tale with a surprise ending but some readers might find the choppy narration and manipulation too contrived.

4th of July
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Warner Books
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0446613363 $9.99

Unlike a few of Patterson's books, 4th of July is not over written. It is a smooth detective mystery with solid narration. Patterson pairs with various other writers. They produce a variety of stories. The major distinguishing feature is very short chapters. With some pairings, the short chapters produce a choppy narration but with this story the frequent chapters are lost behind a fast paced storyline.

Police Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer is in a late night shootout with murder suspects. The suspects turn out to be rich children. Lindsay and her partner, Jacobi, are both wounded. The two suspects are shot by Lindsay. The young girl is killed and the boy is crippled. The family wants revenge and brings civil charges against Lindsay. Recovering from her wounds and on leave from the San Francisco Police Department until the trial is over, Lindsay decides to house sit for her sister in Half Moon Bay, a small picturesque town on the coast. A string of murders has the town in turmoil. The murders are reminiscent of Lindsay's first rookie unsolved murder case. The killings escalate as Lindsay's trial start. Each incident seems to come closer to Lindsay.

'4th of July' is a smooth satisfying detective mystery. Its strength is its balance. There are no unnecessary writing twists or tricks. It is fast paced but not breathless. It has grisly murders but doesn't overdo the gore. It is a perfect short novel for the weekend read.

S.A. Gorden
Reviewer


Greenspan's Bookshelf

John Stark
Ben Z. Rose
Treeline Press
PO Box 79118, Waverly, MA 02479
9780978912307, $19.95 www.amazon.com

"John Stark: Maverick General" by Ben Rose is the story of one of the American Revolution's most colorful and brilliant battlefield commanders who led the New England militia in unconventional combat in the battles of Bunker Hill and Bennington. John Stark was born to Scotch-Irish immigrants in colonial new Hampshire, survived devastating epidemics and capture by hostile Native Americas as a young man, joined the colonial militia group known as Rogers Rangers, fought a guerrilla style campaign during the French and Indian War, and enlisted in the Continental Army at the age of 15. A superbly written, impressively research biography, "John Stark: Maverick General" also reveals the people that influenced this remarkable man who at one time rivaled George Washington for the leadership of the Continental Army. A very strongly recommended addition to community and academic library American Biography collections, "John Stark: Maverick General" is as entertaining as it is informative and ideal for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Colonial American History in general, and the American Revolution in particular.

Steps to Stardom
Paul Picerni
BearManor Media
PO Box 71426, Albany, GA 31708
9781593930820, $24.95 www.bearmanormedia.com

Steps to Stardom is the autobiography of Golden Age of Television star Paul Picerni, best known for his starring role in the crimebusting series "The Untouchables" with Robert Stack, as well as the romantic lead in the 3-D horror movie "House of Wax". Picerni applies his folksy, conversational style to bring to life what it was truly like to work with Hollywood legends from John Wayne and Errol Flynn to Burt Lancaster, Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and more. Steps to Stardom celebrates Picerni's sixty dedicated years in the acting profession, and includes a copious amount of vintage black-and-white photographs of Picerni's life and career. An index rounds out this behind-the-scenes "must read" for fans of Picerni's work.

Foam Reality
Bill Cornish
Desert Bloom Press
PO Box 670, Cortaro, AZ 85652-0670
9780962145261, $16.95 www.desertbloompress.com

Written by practicing doctor Bill Cornish, Foam Reality: A Novel of Ideas is the story of a seemingly ordinary man besieged by the religious right on one side, and the politically correct left on the other. From close scrapes with close-minded authorities in the South, to the mountains of the west where a woman about to give birth demands a Rocky Mountain high, to travels through Europe, Africa, and Mexico, Foam Reality reveals just how tenuous the connections between ideologies of all spectrums and humdrum reality truly are. A tongue-in-cheek satire with a core message about the importance of learning to think for oneself.

Journey of the Spirit
John Foxjohn
L & L Dreamspell
PO Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549-1984
9781603180047, $16.95 www.lldreamspell.com

Vietnam veteran, former police officer and teacher John Foxjohn presents Journey of the Spirit: Crazy Horse's Epic Struggle to Defend the Lakotas' Existence, a historical fiction novel following the life of legendary Lakota warrior and leader Crazy Horse. Told through the eyes of a fictional white boy named Andy, Journey of the Spirit follows the Lakota struggle to save their land and the rise of Andy's adoptive Indian brother, who earns the new name of Crazy Horse. Vividly told, Journey of the Spirit is an engaging novel that captures the essence of the moment, whether that moment is in the heat of battle or the peace of sharing family bonds.

Builder's Guide to Stucco Lath & Plaster
Max Schwartz with Walter F. Pruter, contributing editor
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92011
9781889892726, $49.95 www.craftsman-book.com 1-800-829-8123

Written by expert civil and mechanical engineer Max Schwartz, Builder's Guide to Stucco Lath & Plaster is an in-depth manual especially for field professionals to plaster base (lath) and stucco's use as a versatile exterior finish. Chapters cover mixing and application basics, decorative plaster work, assorted properties of plaster from structural to thermal, cost estimating, typical causes and remedies of plaster failure, and more. Step-by-step instructions, black-and-white illustrations, and a CD-ROM filled with files in Adobe Acrobat format round out this all-purpose, user-friendly guide enthusiastically recommended as reference and "how-to" resource.

Able Greenspan
Reviewer


Harwood's Bookshelf

The Reason-Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For?
Robert Price
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
1591024767 $24.00

The Reason-Driven Life is a point-by-point, chapter-by-chapter, refutation of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life. Robert Price gets to the heart of the matter (p. 91) when he asks whether Warren's book is "a caricature of religion, or the real thing? Or is the real thing a caricature?"

In evaluating biblical passages that endorse Warren's concept of humankind as the domesticated livestock of a slavemaster in the sky, Price points out that, "God's grace was not much different from Nero's—sometimes he gave the 'thumbs up' sign, and you praised him for his gratuitous magnanimity" (p. 278). "Have you ever considered, however reluctantly, that it was time to break off an abusive relationship? Maybe that time has come with God" (p. 132). "Slavery, even slavery to God, is degrading to human dignity" (p. 282).

Warren cited King Saul's genocide of the Amalekites in obedience to an order from Samuel, and touted Saul as the poster boy for the way Christians should blindly accept the dictum, "When God orders it, it's not evil." Price asks, "Can we really believe a true and existing God told the ancient shaman and his client warlord to exterminate every single Amalekite baby? … Apologists have too often come off sounding like Nazis at this point" (p. 128). Price's response to the fundamentalist dogma that right and wrong are whatever their various bibles say they are is, "It is absolutely crucial to a reason-driven life that one shall regard nothing as morally wrong that seems to have no destructive effects on self or others" (p, 263). He declares, "My guess is that The Purpose-Driven Life appeals to readers who are afraid of taking responsibility for the direction of their lives and would therefore prefer to take someone else's orders" (p. 25).

On the evangelicals' incurable conviction that they alone have The Truth, Price suggests that, "most people's tenacious loyalty to the beliefs they were taught as children … is the same as what happens to baby ducks. It's called 'imprinting.' … What are the chances that only you, and not, oh, say, some Buddhist in Burma, were born with the one true religion?" (p. 44) "An evangelical is a fundamentalist who'll let you go to the movies" (p. 45). As for Warren's certainty that, to be a "child of God," or "a true Christian," one must be a born-again fundamentalist, "who will adopt a particular seventeenth-century pietistic idiom and devotional style…. The outrageous arrogance of this insane boast never seems to dawn on him" (p 157). He observes that, "In my experience, the born-again Christian life is one of narrow-mindedness, and narrow-mindedness raised to the status of a virtue, not a vice" (p. 12). "Born-again Christians are basically Jehovah's Witnesses who believe in the Trinity" (p. 329).

In giving his own evaluation of biblical religion, Price points out that, "First, the Bible certainly teaches mortalism: no life after death. It teaches it right out of the starting gate, in the Garden of Eden story, which seeks to account for the dismaying fact of death, offering no comforting hints of postmortem hope…. And there's nothing saying, 'Stay tuned for the complete reversal of this verdict later in the book'" (p. 54). And in response to Warren's brainwashing that his "God" must be loved unconditionally—or else! —Price offers the comparison, "It is as if a man approached a woman and asked for a declaration of love while pointing a revolver at her face. What's she going to say? Sure, but is she going to mean it? She better hope the guy is stupid enough to believe her. But is God so stupid? Are you?" (p. 42)

Price asks, "What difference could it possibly make to an all-sufficient Being whether I worship him or not?" (p. 90) "How about a bumper sticker that says JESUS IS MY IMAGINARY FRIEND" (p. 100). "Any God who could torment hapless mortals for failing to believe in a savior of whom there is no proof, for not belonging to a sect of whose superiority there is no evidence, is no better than the devil…. You wouldn't be a member of a club that banned Jews from membership. Is it any better belonging to a religion that bars non-fundamentalists from eternal life?" (p. 159) "If you believe the Bible is an infallible authority because your pastor said so, then he is really your infallible authority, isn't he?" (p. 233)

Ultimately, after a lifetime of studying the evidence, including the fatuous ramblings of brain amputees like Warren, Price writes, "I believe Freud was correct: maturity depends on realizing there is no Creator, no divine lawgiver, no author of destiny and meaning, and no giver of eternal life" (p. 17). "What are the chances that Kant, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Nietzsche are wrong, but Rick Warren is right?" (p. 356)

Nonetheless, The Reason-Driven Life is basically an exercise in futility, for some very good reasons.

1 Writing a whole book to annihilate Warren's infantile drivel is like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

2 By writing a rebuttal, Price implies that Warren's self-delusion has sufficient face validity to warrant a response. Unlike Velikovsky, who benefitted from scientists' refusal to acknowledge his existence, thereby generating the false impression that he could not be rebutted (until Carl Sagan did so), Warren has written nothing new or significant, and ignoring him probably is the best way to send the message that he is a nobody whose book is a waste of a perfectly good tree.

3 Persons capable of recognizing the validity of Price's rebuttal already know that there was nothing of value to rebut.

4 Persons who agree with Warren, or imagine that his doublethink is profound, are beyond the reach of human reason, and therefore cannot be cured of their pathological delusions.

5 Since Price's book is written for persons with functioning human brains, and Warren's target audience is persons who do not fit that description, the number of persons who will read both probably would not fill a one-room schoolhouse.

6 A full and sufficient rebuttal of the unreasoned fantasizing of a non-scholar such as Warren would have been, "Don't you think you're a little old to have an imaginary playmate?"

Even so, Price's arguments are definitive, and anyone who is confronted by a Warrenite will find The Reason-Driven Life a useful source of counter-attacks, even if all they can achieve is to make the propagandist go away and bother someone else.

The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave
Robert M. Price & Jeffery Jay Lowder, editors
Prometheus Books
159102286X $30.00

I am writing this introduction at noon, Wednesday March 14, 2007. As of now I adhere to the following conclusions: Jesus the Nazarene was a real person from history. He was essentially a nobody who did nothing, and only chronic self-delusion could have convinced him that he was anything else. He was executed in 30 CE for starting an uprising against Roman rule that might be termed the Ten Minute War. Less than twenty-five years after his execution, Paul of Tarsus was writing letters declaring that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. And that raises the question: Why?

That the revivification of a dead man was a fact of history is nonsense. While I expect this book to confirm that it is nonsense, that will not strike me as new information. So where did Paul get such an absurd idea? Admittedly there was ample precedent for a god rising from the dead. But Paul believed that the Jewish god was the only god, and his letters leave no doubt that he did not view Jesus as a god. In fact nobody called Jesus a god until he had been dead for a full century. My current thinking is as follows.

The fourth gospel referred to a "student Jesus cherished." That Beloved Disciple was also a person from history. His name was Nathanael, and he was mentally handicapped. (see "Was Nathanael the Beloved Disciple?" in A Humanist in the Bible Belt.) Parts of the Beloved Disciple's (presumably dictated) memoir of his relationship with Jesus were incorporated into the fourth gospel, written by an anonymous author who was almost certainly not named John and who was not himself the Beloved Disciple. The Beloved Disciple's memoir reports that, on being told that Jesus' tomb was empty, Jesus' student Peter and the BD ran to the tomb and verified that it was indeed empty. The BD then came up with an explanation that brainwashed disciples could readily believe, but only a retard could have concocted: "He is risen."

So that is my starting point. The rest of this review will be written after I read the book. Will I have modified my conclusions? That remains to be seen.

I'm baaa-ack!

Not surprisingly, The Empty Tomb discusses more important questions than whether there really was an empty tomb—and if so, why? The book is essentially a rebuttal of the allegation that a dead man came back to life. As Robert Price notes in his introduction (p. 13), "If apologists themselves did not realize the difficulty of their case they would waste no more time with skeptical objections to the resurrection than they do refuting, say, beliefs that Jesus was a space alien." He continues (p. 15), "The real issue of the debate ought to be whether there was a historical Jesus at the core of all the mythology. And indeed one would find vigorous debate among the contributors to the present collection on that issue."

Price declares of the scholars whose papers are included (p. 16), "We do not hate the Bible or view it as another version of Mein Kampf, as some critics of religion have." He is certainly entitled to that opinion. My view is that the Bible makes Mein Kampf look like a plea for moderation by comparison.

Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are probably written in English. But for all the sense I could make of them, they might as well have been written in Etruscan or Linear A. Consider: "Individuals who are [psi] at a given time are unable to [phi] at any time thereafter." Come again?

Consideration of the empty tomb hypothesis begins with chapter 5. Richard Carrier writes (p. 105), "The evidence suggests the first Christians, at least up to and including Paul, thought Christ's 'soul' was taken up to heaven and clothed in a new body, after leaving his old body in the grave forever. The subsequent story, that Jesus walked out of the grave with the same body that went into it, leaving an empty tomb to astonish all, was probably a legend that developed over the course of the first century, beginning with a metaphorical 'empty tomb' in the gospel of Mark, most likely written after Paul's death."

I will not dispute the plausibility of such a hypothesis, but it leaves unanswered the question of why a resurrection myth about a man not already regarded as a god arose at all. Carrier recognizes the problem, and theorizes (ibid) that, "The Christian religion … began with visions, dreams, and interpretations of scripture and, possibly, things Jesus was believed to have said. There could not have been any physical evidence to back up [bodily resurrection], which is why none is ever mentioned by Paul or indeed in any of the epistles. It had to be taken on faith." The virtue of such faith has been promoted from the time of Tertullian, who argued that Christianity's central myth should be believed precisely because it is unbelievable.

While Carrier's chapter contains much information about the more than thirty mutually hostile Jewish sects that existed in the first century, he appears to exhibit undue credulity toward certain gospel propaganda. He writes (p. 108), "The Pharisees were the one sect against which the Christian sect was most opposed, and least like." My hypothesis is that Jesus was indeed hostile to a powerful Jewish sect: the Sadducees, who denied the afterlife and related beliefs that Jesus shared with the Pharisees who once saved his life (Luke 13:31-33). The author of Mark, whose discernable purpose in writing the first gospel was to convince Vespasian that the Christians were not a sect of the Jews with whom he was at war, but an independent religion similar to the Mithraism to which the Emperor was favorably disposed, reported Jesus' vitriol against the Sadducees, but pretended that it was aimed at the Pharisees responsible for the war, thereby making Rome's enemies also Jesus' enemies. Since Rome's other enemies were the Zealots and their militant wing, the Sicarii/Iskariots, he invented Judas's betrayal for the same purpose.

In chapter 6 Peter Kirby argues "The Case Against The Empty Tomb." He declares (p. 233) that, "the empty tomb narrative is the invention of the author of Mark. This conclusion will be supported by showing that all reports of the empty tomb are dependent upon Mark." He points out (p. 234) that, "Paul nowhere mentions an empty tomb in his letters." He offers logical arguments for rejecting the empty tomb hypothesis, and points out (p. 256), "Surely God could have made sure that the evidence was unilaterally in favor of the empty tomb…. So even if the evidence concerning the empty tomb of Jesus is uncertain, that very uncertainty discredits the idea of a miraculous resurrection." Let us keep in mind that what The Empty Tomb is really debunking is not a theologically insignificant empty tomb, but the whole resurrection fairy tale.

Chapter 7 is a rebuttal of "the foremost contemporary defender" of the empty tomb's historicity (p. 261). Jeffery Jay Lowder states that, "While I tentatively agree with [William Lane] Craig that Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus' body in a tomb that later became empty, I shall argue that Craig has not shown that the resurrection is the best explanation for that emptiness." My own position is that plutocrat Joseph, unwilling to allow the body of a holy man to remain uninterred through Passover, lent Jesus' disciples his own tomb, with no intention of allowing the body to remain there permanently. At the conclusion of Passover, Saturday evening, Joseph sent his slaves to embalm the body and move it to its permanent burial site. While I like my reconstruction better, Lowder's is no less plausible. At the very least, he destroys his opponent's ten arguments for believing that the empty tomb story is supported by evidence

Chapter 9 consists of Richard Carrier's expansion of the point (p. 349) that, "Even if the empty tomb story is not a legend, it is not necessary to conclude that only a genuine resurrection would explain it." Amazingly, that reality does not strike apologists as self-evident. In chapter 10 Richard Carrier asks (p. 369), "Was Christianity begun as a mistake?" What he means is that, if Jesus' body was not where his disciples expected it to be on Sunday morning, they may have jumped to the conclusion that it had been resurrected. He concludes (p. 385), "We are now [following several pages of possibilities] left with a plausible explanation for reports of an 'empty tomb,' which may have sparked the entire Christian faith." As aforementioned, that is precisely what I believe did happen. And in chapter 11, Duncan Derrett raises the hypothesis that resurrection was promulgated by early Christian preachers to whom its possible truth was irrelevant, for the same reason it is today preached by televangelists to whom its possible truth is irrelevant: parting fools and their money.

Chapter 13 by Keith Parsons makes a strong case for the hallucination theory as the primary cause of Christianity's beginning. He points out that in the 1970s and 1980s, a significant number of persons claimed to have been abducted by aliens. While 99 percent of such claims were either blatant lies (Travis Walton) or fantasies put into the minds of suggestible patients by self-styled therapists and touted as recovered memories (Betty and Barney Hill), the residual one percent can be accepted as hallucinations, just as all non-fraudulent ghost sightings can be attributed to hallucinations. That early Christians had hallucinations in which they saw or even conversed with a man they were emotionally incapable of recognizing as irreversibly dead is a virtual certainty. Such a theory is neither dependent on nor incompatible with the empty tomb hypothesis, and I am in full agreement. Certainly Paul's confession that his conversion to Naziritism (which he later abandoned in favor of a gentile religion of his own invention called Christianity) was triggered by a hallucination can be accepted as truthful. This is probably the book's most useful chapter.

In chapter 14 Michael Martin examines an apologist's arguments for the probability of a literal resurrection, and concludes (p. 466), "Swinburne's defense of the Resurrection in terms of confirmation theory fails. All of his probability estimates are either unrealistically too high or too low. Once these are corrected, the probability of the Resurrection is well below 50 percent." I agree—about 50 percent below 50 percent. Chapter 15 by Evan Fales rebuts the special pleading of apologists that biblical passages cannot be evaluated by the same critical standards applied to all other ancient documents.

In chapter 12 Robert Price, after discussing other points, writes (p. 421), "That vented, let's turn to the empty tomb story. As elsewhere, the apologist's task is one of harmonization of 'apparent contradictions.'" Like several of the book's other authors, Price aims his arguments at the convoluted logic of William Lane Craig, unnecessarily in my view, since Craig assuredly deserves the description of "lightweight." A point Price does not raise (an omission he has rectified in The Da Vinci Fraud) is that so many empty tomb myths existed in various cultures long before the story was applied to Jesus that, just as the resurrection was clearly plagiarized from fifty other virgin-born saviors who rose on the third day, plagiarism is also the Occam's razor explanation of the empty tomb element. Consequently, for the reasons Price spelled out in The Da Vinci Fraud, I am less confident of the role of an empty tomb in the origin of Christianity than when I wrote Mythology's Last Gods. The problem that will not go away is that all other explanations of why Paul came to believe in such an un-Jewish concept as resurrection are even less probable than an empty tomb. I am now agnostic on the issue.

Nonetheless, I am obliged to report that nothing in The Empty Tomb has caused me to modify my conclusions. As an attempt to show that there was no empty tomb, this collection of papers cannot be deemed a success. But its demolition of the resurrection myth is definitive. Unfortunately, that will have little impact on the general reader, since much of its logic, while valid, is difficult to follow. And it will have no effect on Christian apologists whose intractability was demonstrated when they rejected the James Cameron movie about the discovery of Jesus' tomb, not because the evidence it presented was purely circumstantial (a valid objection), but because an unresurrected Jesus is as unthinkable to the Christian Taliban as a sense called "sight" was unthinkable to the inhabitants of the Country of the Blind in which incurable god addicts continue to live.

William Harwood
Reviewer


Kaye's Bookshelf

Girls Only: No Strokes Allowed!
Lisa Bernstein
Llumina Press
PO Box 77246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595267337 $11.95 www.llumina.com

Girls Only: No Strokes Allowed!, an unusual title, is a memoir of Lisa Bernstein's experience of suffering a Vertebral Artery Dissection (cerebellar infarct) at the age of thirty-four.

Lisa tells us what her life was like before her stroke, during the stroke and her recovery. She briefly describes eight different types of strokes and provides a list of twenty contributing risk factors, some quite surprising, such as: yoga, having your hair done, blowing your nose, painting a ceiling, cracking your neck, stretching your neck too far to one side, holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder, oral contraceptives, minor trauma to the neck, judo, chronic headaches, spinal manipulation, deep tissue massage . . . to name a few. She stresses that her list is not complete as the simplest tasks can disrupt your life in a matter of days.

Lisa has written this little book to share her stroke experience, what she learned and how she recovered. Her story is well written, informative, inspirational and a heads-up to us gals working to take care of our bodies. She currently lives in Texas with her husband and spends her time speaking publicly for stroke awareness.

If you want to know more about strokes, Lisa's memoir may be of interest to you.

Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles
Lucy Kavaler
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
059543679X $22.95 www.iuniverse.com

Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles is a fascinating book! One might not think so from its title and though it is not filled with beautiful pictures of the subject matter, Lucy Kavaler does an exceptional job of organizing and narrating her subject to the point that it is difficult to put down. This scientific book is organized into six sections: Fungi and Mankind, Fungi as Food, Fungi and Your Health, Fungi and Our Crops, Fungi and the Things You Use, and Fungi and the Conquest of Space . . . and then into sub-chapters.

As fungi are an integral part of our lives, this book should appeal to just about everyone. Would you like to know about edible mushrooms, the Irish potato famine or the mold that changed medical history? How about mind drugs (LSD-25) or the search for life? Lucy Kavaler has covered all facets of fungi and presented this information in a most readable manner. Her book is well written, well edited, and here's a sample of her writing style from page 167:

"The cult of the sacred mushroom moved to the United States as a result of its shattering effect on Dr. Timothy Leary, a handsome thirty-nine-year-old Harvard lecturer on psychology. While visiting in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in the summer of 1960, Leary was given a mushroom which a friend had bought from a native woman called 'Crazy Juana.'

"'I realized that I had died,' he said after recovering from the effects, 'that I, Timothy Leary, the Timothy Leary game was gone. . . . I went back in time in an evolutionary sense to where I was aware of being a one-celled organism.'

"Leary returned to Harvard with a sense of mission. He was in a position to influence others, being no crackpot, but a possessor of a Ph.D. in clinical psychiatry. He had left a position as director of psychological research at the Oakland (Calif.) Kaiser Foundation to join Harvard's Center for Research in Personality in 1959. His experience with the mushroom struck him as being remarkably similar to those described by Aldous Huxley in his book, The Doors of Perception. Huxley's visions had been induced by mescaline, a drug derived from the peyote cactus and also used for centuries by the Mexican Indians. Under its influence, Huxley said that he could see in a small vase of flowers 'what Adam had seen on the morning of creation.' Leary discussed the nature of the drug experience with Huxley who was at that time a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

Interested? . . . want more? Read Lucy's book . . . it's absolutely fascinating.

Beyond Jack Squat
Pat Frank
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595267108 $11.95 www.llumina.com

Beyond Jack Squat is a historical novel about a young boy, Jack, born into poverty, left by his parents to be raised by his Uncle Clive who has to leave after breaking the law. Jack must choose between the orphanage or going on the road with his hobo friends. The road and Jack's adventures with the people he meets are the heart of this novel.

In some ways, the telling of this story reminds me of Mark Twain's tales of Tom Sawyer's and Huck Finn's adventures, but with a contemporary twist. Pat Frank's writing style is straight forward and fast paced with a touch of colloquial dialogue . . . never a dull moment and thoroughly entertaining. Her chapters are short, and her characters are simple people with strong feelings, beliefs and real problems.

It is my opinion that Beyond Jack Squat could appeal to just about any reader for its storyline and Pat Frank's quality of writing.

Kaye Trout
Reviewer


Margaret's Bookshelf

Choices Made
Christine McMahon
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
9781425109370, $22.50 www.trafford.com 1-888-232-4444

The sequel to "Choices Made: The Street Years", Choices Made: Fathers and Sons is a novel continuing the saga of former gang leader Jamy MacGregor and his search for a stable life. When the Witness Protection Program relocates him in the hometown of his biological father, he seeks reconciliation; but his biological father wants nothing to do with him and betrays Jamy's location to the men who want him dead. After a harrowing brush with death, Jamy must return to St. Louis and confront his step-father, despite their adamantly bitter history. Further complicating matters is Jamy's relationship with his own toddler son, whom he loves dearly. An involving book about difficult choices, family ties thick as blood or thin as water, and the circumstances that can force a man to decide that the brightest future is one with no connections to the past.

Known to All
Gloria Gay
Booklocker.com, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601451507, $15.95 www.booklocker.com

Set in Regency England, Known to All: A Regency Historical Novel is the dramatic story of an beautiful yet illegitimate girl's struggle to rise above her past and secure lasting happiness for herself. Young Violet's father is sufficiently moved by love to marry her mother, who was formerly his mistress, and publically acknowledge Violet as his daughter - a rare and daring occurrence in those times. But society will not forgive Violet her past, in which she was briefly forced to become a man's mistress at the tender age of thirteen. Though she longs to live a normal life, and holds love and marriage in high regard, powerful men charmed by her beauty strive to possess her as at best a mistress, at worst an object. An emotionally charged tale of passion, the search for a meaningful life, and the desire to escape sexual relationships tantamount to slavery.

Edgewise
Darlene F. Wofford
AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425982997, $19.99 www.authorhouse.com www.darlenewoofford.com 1-800-839-8640

Although a work of fiction, "Edgewise: An Assignment To Remember" is the gripping novelization of real life events personally experienced by the author, Darlene Wofford. In January of 1984 she discovered her son, Collin, drowned in their backyard pool. Three weeks after this tragic event she was abducted at gunpoint by two men who sexually assaulted and then abandoned her. The psychological impact of these events left her traumatized and in a deep depression that Carl, her husband and her two remaining sons, Kenneth and Cory, could not help her overcome. She went under the care of a psychiatrist who, after several months of unsuccessful therapy, gave her an assignment -- to write about her first memories. The first memory that occurred to her when complying with the assignment was that of her father and herself as a little girl. Over the next several months writing about the people and events in her past and present were to bring her out of her depression and restore an appreciation for her life, her family, and herself. In this novelized account the main character of Delaney is the author's alter ego. The names of all the other characters were changed to protect the innocent -- and the not so innocent as well. A candid and engaging account of both the tragic and the triumphant, "Edgewise: An Assignment To Remember" is deftly written and very highly recommended reading. The first volume of a planned trilogy, "Edgewise" an inspired tribute to the strength of the human spirit, and of eventually being able to overcoming the wounds that life can inflict upon us without warning.

The Estrogen Underground
Cheryl O'Donovan & Tom Wolferman
A Better Be Write Publisher
713 Glenside Road, Suite 210, Millville, NJ 08332
9780976773276, $17.95 www.abetterbewrite.com

Cartoonist Cheryl O'Donovan and satirist Tom Wolferman combine their talents in The Estrogen Underground: Join the Mid-Life Revolution, an irreverent, chuckle-inducing look at issues affecting over-40 women in today's society. From dealing with disinterested, dour, dazed or doofusy young male clerks ("Tell him Santa will bring him a plasma screen TV if he checks the inventory stock for you") to reasons why one should not engage in plastic surgery ("Some people die while undergoing plastic surgery" - general anesthetic can potentially be fatal) to new age meditations for old age, The Estrogen Underground combines its mirth with humorous black-and-white sketches and photographs. A first-rate giftbook especially for beloved mothers, aunts, and grandmothers with a hearty sense of humor.

The Estrogen Underground
Cheryl O'Donovan & Tom Wolferman
A Better Be Write Publisher
713 Glenside Road, Suite 210, Millville, NJ 08332
9780976773276, $17.95 www.abetterbewrite.com

Cartoonist Cheryl O'Donovan and satirist Tom Wolferman combine their talents in The Estrogen Underground: Join the Mid-Life Revolution, an irreverent, chuckle-inducing look at issues affecting over-40 women in today's society. From dealing with disinterested, dour, dazed or doofusy young male clerks ("Tell him Santa will bring him a plasma screen TV if he checks the inventory stock for you") to reasons why one should not engage in plastic surgery ("Some people die while undergoing plastic surgery" - general anesthetic can potentially be fatal) to new age meditations for old age, The Estrogen Underground combines its mirth with humorous black-and-white sketches and photographs. A first-rate giftbook especially for beloved mothers, aunts, and grandmothers with a hearty sense of humor.

Margaret Lane
Reviewer


Mark's Bookshelf

Power Points! How to Design & Deliver Presentations That Sizzle and Sell
Harry Mills
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814474693, $24.95, 224 pages

At first, I thought a book on PowerPoint presentations would be rather dry. But, the author Harry Mills who has penned many business books including Artful Persuasion and The Rainmakers' Toolkit, delivers a must-have book on making presentations and utilizing Powerpoint for every business and professional who makes presentations once a year or week. Mr Mills spends the first chapters talking about being an effective speaker in general, and later brings on the not-so-basic steps in creating a knock-out PowerPoint presentation. I was impressed, as a speaker myself, how much good, thorough material was in this new book.

Chapter titles are: Define Your Purpose, Profile Your Audience, Map and Structure Your Story, Add Drama and Impact, Rehearse Until Perfect, Deliver with Style, Review and Revise, How to Optimize the Persuasive Impact of PowerPoint, Say it with Color: Tapping into the Power of the Rainbow, Bullets, Bullets, and More Bullets: How to Write, Use, and Lay Out Compelling Text, Compelling Charts: How to Put the Wow into Pie, Bar, and Line Graphs, Diagrams, Photos, and Cartoons: How to Inform with Impact, and Present and Sell: The Ultimate PowerPoint Sales Presentation. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, a comprehensive set of appendix's, about the author and an index.

The overall design of Power Points! features humorous business-related cartoons, colored quote boxes from famous people through-out time and numerous graphs. Printed in a large font size, peppered with short paragraphs that cut to the information chase, Mr. Mills created an easy to read book, that allows the reader to go straight to the information they need. This book is required reading for any business-school student, as well as CEO's in for or not-for-profit organizations to summer interns, nervous about making a presentation for the first or hundredth time.

Tri Power: The Ultimate Program for Triathlon Success
Paul Frediani and William Smith
Hatherleigh Press
5-22 46th Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, NY 11101
9781578262441 $16.95

TriPower is written by Paul Frediani and William Smith, both possessing impressive resume's in Triathlon training and experience. Mr. Frediani, is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach and Mr. Smith was a Division 1 Collegiate Strength Coach. There latest book (Mr. Frediani has authored many fitness books) takes the reader step-by-step through performance enhancement and injury prevention for triathlons, which have been increasing in popularity across the US. Embraced my by many has a great training vehicle, triathlons are emerging as the new marathon competition for weekend fitness enthusiasts.

Chapter titles are: The Program, Strength and Flexibility Assessment, Components and Warming Up, Phase:1 Foundation and Adaption, Phase 2: Building, Phase 3: Power, Phase 4: Maintenance, Fixing the Weak Spots and Recovery. Additional features include acknowledgments that cover; Frequently Asked Questions, a Glossary, Triathlon Education and Equipment Resources, Triathlon Resources and Sources, and an introduction

The book is chock-full of black and photographs illustrating the exercise or technique being discussed in the adjacent text. Tips by the authors are placed in shaded "Tri-Dog Says" boxes. My favorite section covered the four phases the reader will learn to properly train your body to maintain its optimal condition. A home-run for the novice or expert, it will prepare you for the best race of your life, without the hype, just experienced knowledge from years of experiencing the triathlon first-hand.

Mark Nash
Reviewer


Molly's Bookshelf

Act Normal: A Stan Turner Mystery
William Manchee
Top Publications
12221 Merit Drive STE 950 Dallas, TX 75251
1929976402 $14.95

Interesting read … Recommended … 5 stars

The narrative opens with Stan sitting in his office pondering his being recruited by the CIA following the abduction of his son Peter by aliens from a planet called Tarizon. The date is August 1992, Stan is trying to follow the directive to act normal, although, in view of the recent circumstances what IS normal? A year has passed since Peter disappeared as part of the Tarizon Repopulation Project. When the telephone rang it was Ben Stover, a long time friend and client. Ben's statement that he had a problem was followed by a telephone call from Mo, the man who had recruited Stan for the CIA. These two incidents were to set in motion a chain of events from which Stan muse he might ever recover.

Stan must help with a 'botched extraction.' It was staged as a parental abduction, but a nosy PI is causing problems and the Tarizon, Kulchz, has come to Stan with an unsettling command. Stan must represent the woman and stop the private detective. Kulchz knows that if the detective continues he just might stumble over the real reason for the disappearance, and if that takes place the Tarizonian measures will need to be undertaken. And that might be the man being exiled to Tarizon or having his memory erased. Stan is going to have his hands full. The prosecutor for the district attorney's office is Stan's partner Paula's husband. Kulchz won't take no for an answer, Stan must represent Charlotte Wenzel and that is that. Charlotte Wenzel took out a two million dollar insurance policy on her husband just days before he and their children disappeared. The policy also includes $200,000 for each of the children. Not only that one of the Wenzel neighbor's says the Wenzels were having marital trouble; Janet Kaufman told the police that Mrs Wenzel often seemed disoriented and complained of having blackouts.

Paula's husband Bart loses his job, Stan's wife Rebekah is in the doldrums since the disappearance of Peter, Gary Shepherd is undermining everything he can, Stan tries to help old friends who have just suffered loss from an embezzling employee, Stan's daughter Marcia is having a hard time coping with life now that her parents are drifting apart due to Peter's disappearance, and to top it all off, late at night Stan gets a call from Walter Stanley of the Collin Commons Homeowner's Association; one of the townhouses has burned, the fire department say arson and Stanley is the first best suspect. Things just go from bad to worse in this latest Stan Turner mystery. Paula's husband joins the firm, Tehra, a Tarizon is sent to serve as Stan's intern, Stan tells Rebekah the truth concerning their son Peter's death, the CIA muddles into the situation and the Tarizon's seem able to track Stan's every move.

Author Manchee's writing just continues to get better and better. I had wondered how he would pull together a tale peopled with out of world and earth characters and told in alternating chapters first by Stan and then by his partner Paula; however, he manages and very well. Writer Manchee continues to grow as a writer. ACT Normal is a highly developed original. Hard hitting fast paced dialogue is filled with compelling nuances and serves to propel the narrative forward in plausible manner. The narrative moves smoothly from Stan to Paula as they delve into personal situations, interactions with clients, CIA operatives and Tarizon agents. Writer Manchee has managed another great environment filled with forceful characters, dilemma and gaffes.

The tale Manchee weaves on the pages of ACT Normal compels the reader forward as part time detective/full time lawyer Stan Turner and his law partner Paula Waters try to unravel the tangles and snares, keep their marriages intact and not lose their touch with reality. As always Manchee has a story to share, and he does so in the fast paced, action packed thriller we have come to expect. There are plenty of twists and turns to please and perhaps hoodwink even the most. perceptive reader. Watch those red herrings! Don't be caught napping.

ACT Normal is a good choice for the personal pleasure reading library as well as the high school library shelf. Minimal profanity and modest reference to sexual intrigue makes this a good choice for the mature teen as well as adult mystery readers. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Peace I Ask of Thee Oh River
Lyda Phillips
iUniverse, Inc.
Pine Lake Road Ste 100 Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595361724 $10.95 www.iuniverse.com

Chapter 1 entitled 'Back From Civilization' brings the reader face to face with 'Eleanor'. 'My mother is making me write this." El does not want to get out of bed. Mom is determined to get her daughter on her feet and moving. First she came got El's PJs to put into the wash, she tried to get El downstairs, and now she has returned with a pen and a journal.

El is struggling with the events of the summer. As a child El Campbell spent her summers at Camp Nichia and this summer she was camp counselor. El will teach the campers all Nichia's traditions, rituals and the like. When camper Tiffin Ramsey appears El's perfect summer quickly slides down hill.

The summer started pretty normally, in fact everything was going pretty great. El looks forward to a summer filled with fun and the joys of being accepted as an adult. El and best friend Katie drove to the camp grounds together, together with all the other counselors they receive their cabin assignments, and a little 'background' information concerning one camper. According to reports Tiffin is perhaps headstrong and 'a little spoiled.'

Tiffin Ramsey; Tiffin, twelve years old, angry, out of control, daughter of the man campaigning to be the state's governor is a not a happy camper. She bites a fellow camper during the first hour.

El and Katie are soon embroiled in summer romances, riding herd on their charges and trying to figure out what makes Tiffin tick. Tiffin makes no attempt to follow rules, she is found pushing the head of the camp pet chipmunk under water, she will not participate in camp rituals, she won't take her turn at K.P., leaves her cabin during rest period, she won't play basket ball, she wanders away from the group and terrifies a small child, she casts blank stares and offers a cold attitude to everyone, and, she vandalizes one of the cabins. El's happy summer filled with lighthearted fun spirals into a nightmare.

The worst part of the summer El realizes after she returns home and begins writing in the journal her mother gave to her; is the fact that while she is not responsible for Tiffin's actions, she did not befriend this disagreeable, cheerless girl who was willing to do nearly anything to gain the notice of parents who appear to be too busy to notice the desires of their child.

On the pages of Peace I Ask of Thee Oh River Lyda Phillips has proven her resourcefulness as a writer. Phillips has produced a novel acclaimed first place winner of the 2006 Writer's Digest International Self-Published Books awards for Children's Fiction.

Writer Phillips' command of the English language carries this easy to read, well-told tale in a manner calculated to keep the reader turning the page. This is not a fun storybook about teens coming of age amidst the raucousness of summer camp. It is a compelling read sure to cause the reader to take a moment to reflect how they might have handled Tiffin and her self destructive manner. The lack of empathy exhibited by campers and counselors alike is disconcerting.

Peace I Ask of Thee Oh River lends itself to discussion with high school aged readers as to how they might face having to deal with a person having psychological problems. The book is a quick easy read, which can be used to help upper elementary and teen students gain a better perceptive as regards the quandary and conduct of others through this a narrative vehicle.

From the camp coordinator who was too willing to not see what was happening, to the young adult counselors who did not want to deal with, nor have the training or experience to deal, with a desperately lonely, in need child to the campers who might have shown more empathy had the adults taken the lead, to the child herself; each character is developed into a full fledged, warts and all, very convincing individual.

The clueless denial of the camp director was particularly unsettling to read because she was a mature woman who should have known better, the self absorbed behavior of the teenaged counselors as well as the matter-of-fact portrayal of disenchanted campers was presented in reasonable fashion.

The disturbed little girl was particularly hard for me to read about; for me a teacher, and a parent, children with problems are the ones most in need of serenity, compassion and acceptance. She was very unlikeable, was very needy and received little that she yearned for. Thought provoking read, happy to recommend.

Not for everyone, some situations and some language presented will cause some school librarians and/or parents to not want kids to read the book. Peace I Ask of Thee Oh River can be an excellent choice for counselors and educators who are willing to guide the reading and not get hung up on what is often the actual behavior and language presented by many in society.

Out of Patience
Brian Meehl
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019
9780385732994 $15.95

The narrative opens with twelve-year-old baseball player Jake Waters' getting beaned with a toilet plunger. That plunger was followed by another, and another. Jake's stepmother Wanda has had it with Jake's dad and his obsession with all things toilet. She is leaving; it was Wanda who for good measure heaved the plungers and a heavy wooden toilet seat from the second story window. From that beginning we follow Jake on his quest to leave the little Kansas town Patience. Patience was founded long ago by Jake's g-g-g- grandfather Jeremiah. Jake's plumber dad Jim is determined to open the first ATM – (The) American Toilet Museum and put dying Patience back on the map.

From that beginning we follow Jake in his quest to be the first male Waters' to escape tiny Patience, Kansas. Buried treasure, cow pies, the nearby manure plant – fertilizer plant, thunderstorms, antique commodes, more toilet plungers, impassioned discussions between neighbors, as well as tornadoes, 8 player workup baseball, the seventh inning stench, toilet, sanitary plumbing, memorabilia collected over the years and the PLUNGER OF DESTINY, the Scepter of Satan, all figure in the tale.

According to local legend the town is cursed: the final destruction of Patience will take place when the Plunger of Destiny is brought back to the town. Jake is horrified to learn that his father has actually ordered the thing from eBay. Jake knows he must stay on his toes – for any signs that he curse is taking place. He doesn't find a curse, but he does find a real live thief and a situation to cause the EPA shudders.

I enjoyed the subplot threaded through the narrative as Jakes's ancestor brings the first flush toilet to the town. Outhouses, progression of mechanical equipment, social mores, false notion concerning toilets in general are all intertwined.

Jake's friend Sira, a girl born in Pakistan is fun to read. She loves trivia and is busy memorizing facts, speak a number and she immediately has a fact to go with that year, 1868, 1908, 1932, Sira has something for each one.

Writer Meehl has taken a not oft used subject: toilets and their history, and has woven a fast paced, easily read tale filled with tension, absurdity, an adequate amount of crass situations and events to satisfy the target audience of middle grade readers. Notions of camaraderie, accountability and family trace through the plot without appearing as preachy or overpowering.

A mischievous narrative voice combined with well fleshed settings, convincing characters and keen-witted dialogue move the reader quickly from the opening raining plungers scene to the last page where we find the town recovering from the First Annual Curse of Cass Festival held the day before. All in all Writer Meehl has crafted a fun read sure to appeal to the target audience.

Out of Patience is a must read for the middle grade reader, will be a good addition to the personal reading shelf. Not for everyone, some parents and librarians may be put off by an abundance of manure/toilet humor.

Enjoyed the read; I was the Hobby and Collectibles superintendent for the Kern County Fair, Bakersfield, California for many years, and know full well that for every gizmo, tool or whatsis ever devised there IS a collector who believes it wonderful. I have no doubt that somewhere there is a person collecting toilet memorabilia as we speak. Happy to recommend.

A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic
B Jill Carroll
The Light, Inc.
26 World Fair DR Unit C Somerset NJ 08873
9781597841108 $13.95 www.thelightpublishing.com

Thought Provoking Read … Recommended … 4 stars

Writer Carroll states in the introduction that prior to a trip she made late in 2004 she was unaware that the organizers of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog based in Houston, Texas as well as the organizers of the trip itself were members of a community of people inspired by the notions of Fethullh Gulen, a Turkish Islamic scholar. Reading further we find Carroll's intent in this book is to 'place the ideas of Fethullh Gulen into the context of the larger humanities. Chapter titles are 1: Gulen and Kant on Inherent Human Value and Moral Dignity, 2: Gulen and Mill on Freedom, 3: Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on the Human Ideal, 4: Gulen, Confucius, and Plato on Education, 5: Gulen and Sartre on Responsibility. Kant's belief was that humans have inherent value, Gulen spoke of the transcendent value of human beings. Mills' assertions that the tyranny of the majority must be met head long was presented from his viewpoint of the nineteenth century Briton. Gulen avows that 'freedom allows people to do whatever they want, provided they do not harm others and they remain wholly devoted to the truth.' An intriguing 'trialogue' regarding the human ideal is constructed by Writer Carroll between Gulen, Confucius and Plato in chapter 3. Chapter 4 addresses the mastery of the Book of Songs - music and poetry as vital to self development, leadership and service of family and leadership.

A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse presents the query 'what is the level of resonance between Islam and the West?' That the twenty-first century has become an episode of heretofore unnoticed quandary is obvious. Up until 9-1-1 few worldwide really gave much thought to anything other than their own viewpoint. Writer Carroll finds significance can be gleaned an awareness of the theoretically divergent views of Gulen, Turkish Muslim scholar and those of Immanuel Kant, Confucius, Plato, John Stuart Mill, and Jean Paul Sartre regarding critical hypothesis including intrinsic ethical pride, creature significance, learning, autonomy, and accountability. The reader may be surprised to find out these figures who are separated by centuries in time, as well as oceans or continents have a propensity toward speaking the same language.

Writer Carroll's attentive writing style has produced a judicious and timely work, she is knowledgeable, presents her thesis in readable manner and holds reader interest. Not for everyone, if you are looking for a lighthearted, 'story' book for a quick afternoon read A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse is not that book. If you would like to learn a little more about Gulen and his notions of education and dialog then A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen's Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse will prove an eye-opening read.

Educational read, happy to recommend for those who are hoping to learn something of an interesting thesis.

The Complete Screech Owls (anthology 4 titles)
Roy MacGregor
McClelland & Stewart
79 Shelbourne Street Toronto Ontario Canada M5A 2P9
9780771054976 $15.95

Exciting Read … Recommended … 4 stars

The Complete Screech Owls is a four-in-one edition including 'The Secret of the Deep Woods,' 'Murder at the Winter Games,' 'Attack on the Tower of London,' 'The Screech Owls's Reunion.' The reader is carried along on tour with the Screech Owls as they compete world wide. Team captain, Travis Lindsay, is our guide and will let nothing: not terrorism or murder, sabotage, theft, kidnapping, or anything else stand in the way of the team on their quest for acceptance and success. Founders of the team were Muck Munro and Don Dillinger, Muck who came home to Tamarack, Canada when his junior hockey career was stopped short because a badly broken leg did not heal properly, serves as team coach assisted by his able associate Larry 'Data' Ulmar. The team has included players Travis Lindsay, Liz Moscovitz, Simon Milliken, Sarah Cuthbertson, Andy Higgins, Gordie Griffith, Derek Dillinger, Fahd Noorizadeh, Jesse Highboy, Dmitri Yakushev, Wayne Nishikawa, Lars Johanssen, Wilson Kelly, Samantha Bennett, Willie Granger, Jenny Staples and Jeremy Weathers may be the best to date. The Secret of the Deep Woods opens with defensive play Wayne Nishikawa, Nish, wondering if he might be pregnant… his swollen stomach and retching nausea are causing him deep concern. The Screech Owls are on a summer camping/canoe trip in Algonquin Park. Nothing goes quite as they expected.

Murder at the Winter Games opens with Travis who has placed a green jelly bean in his nose. Nish is in charge of the gross out Olympics and things may get a lot worse before they get better. The Screech Owls are now spending a week at summer hockey camp. A body hidden in the boathouse is definitely worse and the Screech Owls are caught up in trying to locate the murderer and solve the mystery.

Attack on the Tower of London opens with Travis passing out cold right in front of the rest of the team. Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day in England may prove to be their undoing. Nish would like to be immortalized in Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors, after all he is 'Wayne Nishikawa, the world's most twisted and evil hockey player. The Screech Owls practice to become top notch as in-line hockey players and find themselves embroiled in another murderous mystery.

The Screech Owls's Reunion: Travis now teaches high school in Tamarack, Sam has a son, Muck, The Screech Owls are no longer kids, and they no longer play hockey as a team. A decade has passed, the kids are living their own lives. Data runs a computer business with Fahd. Sarah is captain of the women's Olympic hockey team. Wilson is a police officer. As unbelievable as it may seem; Nish is in Las Vegas, where he is a member the well know group; The Flying Elvises. The team finds itself embroiled in another murderous mystery when they gather for a reunion in Tamarack and learn a gambling casino looms on the horizon.

Writer MacGregor has crafted a long running Canadian series which has garnered many awards and acclaim among young ice hockey readers. Each of the four books included in this compilation is well written, fast paced filled with action and just enough gross to intrigue middle grade readers. The mysteries are integral to the tales, the kids are believable in their behaviors and manners.

I received a soft bound single edition for review, and would like to see some of the single editions. I plan to take this volume to my classroom come fall. I think the work will have appeal for the boys in the class and for many of the girls as well. I am considering separating the four books into individual ones so that four kids at a time can be reading rather than just one. The compilation is ideal for the home library. A must have for the active young reader. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Road Map To Rich
Joseph Michael Dickerson
Ovation Books
PO Box 89107, Austin TX 78758
9780979027505 $16.95

Intriguing Read … Recommended … 4 stars

The Road Map To Rich, comprised of 16 chapters and 137 pages, offers the reader tips for accumulating wealth. Write Dickerson works from the premise that 'many people want to be rich, yet most are not.' Chapter titles offer the reader an overview of the book. The Road Map To Rich is presented as a guide for those interested in building wealth by starting a business and investing in real estate. Entrepreneurship is describes as a person who sets up a business. Writer Dickerson offers suggestions for the reader on how to Become an Entrepreneur. An important chapter entitled What You Really Need to Know When Starting Your Business guides the reader to understanding how to know and control costs, know the profit potential, know your customer and the competition, know the industry, employees and cash flow. The Real Estate Road, and Types of Real Estate are discussed as a means for Becoming a Millionaire in Fifteen Years Starting with only $10,000. Finding Real Estate Opportunities, Evaluating Real Estate Opportunities, and Financing Your Project move the reader to a better understanding for how to reach financial success. More on Creativity in Real Estate, Negotiating the deal, and Complex Structures explain the necessity for realizing the potential in a piece of property, the importance for negotiating with the person in charge and various types of business structures. Chapters outlining How it Works in the Real World, How to Handle Yourself in Business, Setting Up Your Business Plan, Charting Your Road Map, Putting the Plan into Action all continue moving the reader toward the ultimate goal of attaining wealth.

The Road Map to Rich will educate the reader for becoming a millionaire in real estate through the use of time and a little money. Author asks the question: Why do some people get rich, while others don't? Writer Dickerson directs readers on an exciting voyage in the pursuit for making a fortune through real estate.

Dickerson is a successful attorney who has the track record needed to convince the reader that his plan can work. The Road Map to Rich is easily understood, to the point, and not given to 'lawyerese' as is found in many similar books. Writer Dickerson has a nice writing style, the information presented is done so in short, well written chapters. The introduction sets the tone by stating clearly what the writer intends to present. Charts and diagrams are added to aid in reader understanding. Dickerson cautions against throwing caution to the wind, 'Don't quit your day job (yet)' is good advice. He follow that with another succinct note, ' start with small steps, but start. Many people never get anywhere because the do not start with that first step to somewhere. Writer Dickerson offers encouragement to the reader as well, 'once you complete your first deal, you will find that future deals become easier and easier.'

The Road Map to Rich is a must read for those who are contemplating beginning a business or becoming involved in real estate as a way to financial security. The book is an excellent addition to the personal library, high school guidance counselor or financial planner. Intriguing read, happy to recommend.

Mama, I'll Give You the World
Author: Roni Schotter, Illustrator: S. Saelig Gallagher
Schwartz & Wade
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019
9780375836121 $13.22

Motivating read … Recommended … 4 stars

Luisa remembers when her Papa lived with her family. That was when Mama loved to dance. Now that Papa is gone Mama does not dance. Now she works at Walter's World of Beauty. Luisa visits the shop everyday after school. Mama doesn't often smile, she seems lost in her memories of a time when she danced. Tomorrow is her birthday and Luisa has a secret. She has whispered her secret to each of the patrons there at the beauty shop. And for her birthday Mama dances.

My resident critics enjoyed the book. The kids take their job as critics seriously. Settling down to listen to the story they eyed the book with nods of approval. They liked the pictures and they liked the narrative. They did ask whether Luisa's papa had died or if he had gone away. I'm sorry the story did not make clear why papa is not with his family. Several of the students in my class, 4th grade, come from one parent homes and they were especially compassionate when expressing their thoughts concerning Luisa and her mother. And, they agreed that it is likely that Papa died, although they did not delve into why or how that had happened.

Mama, I'll Give You the World has proven to be a true discussion starter. The children agreed that the illustrations are great, the narrative is interesting. They felt the book may be aimed at a target audience of 4 – 8 year olds, but the actual reading will be done by adults or by perhaps 4th graders as they read to younger siblings or go to read to the Kindergarten students for cross grade reading activity.

The real discussion centered around the circumstances of Luisa. Writer Schotter has taken a subject well understood millions of children in the United States, 13 million + are living in single parent homes, others live in a home having two parents, however the two parents are not necessarily their own parents. I think the children in my class may have chosen to believe that Luisa's Papa had died rather than face a bleak notion that she, as many of them feel abandoned by a parent who is no longer there. It is sometimes easier to have hope for one child, even one on paper than it is to admit the feelings of abandonment that a children may harbor when parents choose not to be together.

Mama, I'll Give You the World is a story of hope and love and compassion. The book is a good addition to the class library shelf, the personal reading list and the school library. It is a read -to book for the younger set: 3 – 6, read-with-help for strong age 7 – 8 readers and read-alone for the 9 – 11s. This is a book I will be keeping for my classroom. Happy to recommend.

Wanna Know Why You're Still Single
Joseph Kandel
Bridgeway Books
PO Box 80107 Austin TX 78758
9781933538846 $11.16

Enlightening Read … Recommended … 4.5 stars

This 129 page book is presented by the author to 'offer a very unique perspective into today's dating world and how so many people are trying to figure out how to find their soul mate.' The work is divided into seven chapters including the Intro, in which the author explains his notion that the experts who are avidly attempting to help singles unite are looking at dating with too clinical an eye. Kandel tenders advice based on his own dating experience.

Chapter 2 THE REALITY OF DATING directs singles to home in on what was good in past relationships and build from there rather than bemoaning the bad. Kandel does propose that he believes too many people put too much emphasis on first meetings. He advises to go with hopes and not expectations rather than setting up the meeting for failure by having too many high expectations.

Chapter 3 AIMING TOO HIGH is filled with lots of good counsel. The Author tries to steer singles toward thinking more in reality and less toward knights in armor upon charging steeds. I particularly liked the author's statement that 'People have their own reasons for what they look for in a person.' Kandel also touches on the subject of appearance; his personal view is that when looking at the physical in a prospective partner; 'cute' lasts longer than 'beautiful.' Now that should offer hope to many readers who do not view themselves as particularly beautiful.

Kandel also suggests what many folks skirt when thinking about a life partner; the person who does not present some physical appeal for you is not the person you will want to strike up a conversation with. In the words of the writer; 'if you want a great intimate life to go with a great life partnership, you have to be stimulated by the other person. Nicely said, and wisely stated as well. Kandel advocates the more cues the single can pick up from the other person; the more likely they will know whether or not compatibility can be achieved, rather than just focusing on one aspect of the first date as good or bad. Reality and realistic expectations go a long way when looking for a life partner says Kandel. Rather than hoping for the movie hunk or the Victoria's glamour gal; be realistic regarding the person you are likely to meet.

Chapter 4 THE NEW DATING: DOS AND DON'TS I found very interesting. From my standpoint, married it seems forever and with grown children, today's dating is much different than that experienced a generation ago. Internet and newspaper personal ads are used by singles. Kandel offers cautions about sites that seem to offer an abundance of names and personalities and it is only after you pay huge fees do you learn that few of the singles who interest you live close enough for the two of you to consider a meeting.

Kandel also mentions that some apparent singles may be married, his view is that one reason 'singles' may shy from placing a photo on their Internet ad may be because they are unattractive, another is because they are married and don't want to be caught by the spouse.

In this chapter Kandel also puts forward a suggestion re single parents, do not shove your child down the throat of a prospective relationship. The prospect is in fact dating you, not your child, he/she may well be very accepting of your child, however the prospect will want to know first whether he/she is compatible with you. I enjoyed Kandel's admonition to be honest especially when placing a photo on your Internet page. Using a friend's photo because he/she is better looking really does not make sense.

Chapter 5 THE FIRST MEETING discusses the 'talk' we all tend to do with ourselves as we prepare for a first meeting with a prospective relationship. Kandel discusses who pays for dinner, dressing, compliments, and having a stock of questions to fall back on should the conversation falter.

Chapter 6 WHAT DO THEY REALLY WANT discusses the need to understand yourself and what you want in a partner before you begin lining up prospective partners.

Chapter 7 TIPS AND TARGET DATING Kandel homes in on the notion that if looking for a choirboy don't look on a barstool and vice versa. He suggests that singles take a cold hard look at what it is they are truly looking for and then look where that particular person might be found. Seems elementary, however, the number of broken relationships in this country seem to indicate the notion is not taken to heart too often.

Writer Kandel has had a varied resume over the years, he has enjoyed success in retail, television news and business. Today he is teaching common bonding, how to break down human defense mechanisms and business motivation in real estate. By drawing on his own life experiences he shares his understanding of the human psyche with others.

Wanna Know Why Your's Still Single is a well written, easily read work meant to open the eyes of those who may have had a string of poor relationships but keep coming back with high hope and expectation. Kandel uses his own life experiences, as well as illustrations gleaned from interviews with others concerning their relationship failures to craft a book which can open the eye of the reader and perhaps help them view dating and relationships in a more productive, satisfying manner. I like the format.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. Wanna Know Why Your's Still Single is a must have for the therapists library, the personal self help reading list and libraries. I would suggest to high school guidance counselors and teachers for use with their teens who are preparing to graduate and set off on a long and hopefully happy life journey. I was sent a trade paperback for review.

Juliette Ascending
Rosemary Poole-Carter
Top Publications
12221 Merit Drive, Suite 750, Dallas TX 75251
9781929976416 $13.00 www.toppub.com

Nostalgic Read … Recommended … 4 stars

In old New Orleans the years following the War Between the States have wrought changes never considered a decade before. We come across Juliette standing on the balcony of her home in the French Quarter. Homes in the Quarter are tall, narrow, walled and gated. Tomorrow night will be Juliette's first ball. Despite Federal troops continuing to occupy and govern the city, Carnival has returned. As a surprise, using yards and yards of blue silk and a silvery voile to drape the shoulders, Grandmere has made Juliette her first ball gown. Standing in the shadows Juliette overhears her aunties and her grandmother discussing the ball, her gown and Pierre Revon. Maman assures Grandmere and the Tantes that Juliette will do her duty. 'I will tell her where her affections must lie.'

Dancing lessons, acting the part of mannequin to display jewelry Papa has to sell, a walk with Matilde, Juliette's old nurse, Juliette, only a tiny girl less than six years old at the time of the war cannot remember when the town was not occupied by yankee soldiers. She has grown up hearing stories of 'Beast Butler' and his misconduct toward the citizens of New Orleans. A visit to the pharmacy to pick up items on the list Matilde carries from home, Grandmere has written each item and even underlined carmine three times. Maman and the pharmacist both consult Matilde for the same reason; her knowledge of voodoo. Monsieur Longet allows his customers to order potions from him rather than their having to call on a voodoo priestess.

A chance meeting in the garden behind Monsieur Longet's pharmacy sets in play an unexpected circumstance that will have a surprising effect upon Juliette. Papa has been asked for Juliette's hand in marriage, and he has consented. Juliette has yet to meet the man doing the asking. And, Juliette's life moves inexorably forward.

Throbbing with post War detail every page of Juliette Ascending is a ablaze with the ambiance of Old South New Orleans. The French Quarter, Creole ladies and tradition slamming hard against the new reality are brought together in a work rich in sensual idiom, elegant standards and a romance against all odds. The tale unfurls as a rose; one petal at a time.

Writer Poole-Carter's command of language is keen, her characters are charming, well defined and compelling. Settings portrayed in rich detail draw the reader into them. Interest is held from the opening lines as we stand with Juliette on her balcony, follow her on the dance floor with the man Papa has bartered her betrothal and continues when we finally join Juliette as she marries and in happiness begins a life of her own.

Juliette Ascending is a good choice for a long lazy afternoon spent in the porch swing reading, a tall glass of sweet tea nearby and the sound of bees buzzing in the mimosa and nearby jasmine.

A nice addition to the personal pleasure reading collection, Juliette Ascending has a place in the school and public library and for use as a tuck-in nicety in a gift basket prepared for a favorite sister or auntie.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend. I received a trade paperback for review.

Classroom Under Construction
Rich Grimes
Night Owl Publishers
PO Box 800252 Valencia CA 91380
9780977689675 $12.30 www.richgrimes.com

Didactic Read … Recommended … 4 stars

Classroom Under Construction Building the Foundation for Creative Classroom Instruction is a 107 page, 12 chapter hand book for the new teacher, the tired teacher and all those in between. Practical ideas to pep up and boost instruction as well as celebrations for all the good things teachers do are offered on the pages of this work designed to help teachers improve their classroom effectiveness.

Writer Grimes presents his 'workshop in a book' with chapter 1 Beliefs and Decision-Making. A teaching philosophy is essential to support and frame underlying teacher practices. Grimes says a teaching philosophy is a personal vision and sense of purpose for teaching. Chapter 2 What's in a Name? Names and what teachers do with them is important. Asking a child what name he prefers is a good way to attack the name issue. Chapter 3 Pouring the Foundation Grimes tells us that the classroom is a happening place, it is busy, bustling and noisy. It is characterized by joy or anxiety, boredom or stimulation, uproar or silence. Chapter 4 Time Is Your Friend – And Your Foe Grimes discusses a well known truth to all teachers TIME RULES THE SCHOOL, the day, the week and the year. Chapter 5 The Doctor Is In Grimes points out that never before in our history has so much been expected of teachers, and it is expected that teachers will willingly educated themselves and be under compensated even as they may be berated by non teachers. 1903 George Bernard Shaw set the tone: He who can does, and He who cannot teaches has been quoted often and loudly by many. Grimes also points out Shaw was not a teacher and did not know what a teacher is about.

Chapter 6 Making the Grade Grimes states that grading mechanisms, including rubrics are needed, however they are mechanical tools. Grimes points out that while student attendance may be a requirement of law, his attention is not and that teachers must be able to create meaningful compelling work for students. Grimes suggests that D and F grades be done away with and material re-taught until students achieve A B or C grades. Chapter 7 This Class Sucks Grimes affirms that when students act out the reason for their behavior may have nothing at all to do with either the class or the teacher. Teacher's must be perceptive to what is happening with their students, not jump to conclusions, and address problems in a win-win mode rather than blaming and creating problems where had existed before. Chapter 8 The Dog Won't Eat My Homework the issue of homework is often fraught with emotion and irritation. Grimes provides a peek into how homework may be incorporated successfully into the learning process and offers a description of how homework impacts students, teachers, and parents. Chapter 9 Cooperation In Learning And Living Grimes discusses the importance of cooperative learning as a time when children are working in concert with their teachers and one another while providing a degree of civility to the competitive forces that are inherently present in schools.

Chapter 10 You Make The Call Grimes addresses those grey areas when good decisions must be made based on judgment, understanding of school law, and common sense. Chapter 11 Lest We Forget Grimes offers teaching strategies and activities that will facilitate perpetuating the memories of people and events important to our national history. We stay connected as a culture when we know, share and remember our shared heritage. Chapter 12 Get A Life Grimes discusses the need for balancing professional and personal aspects of life. He points out that teachers who work in a year round setting tend to have a more positive outlook about themselves, their homes and social lives and their teaching than do teachers who teach in a traditional setting.

Rich Grimes' Classroom Under Construction speaks to the core of successful teaching practices. Grimes discusses procedures meant to aid teachers as they bond with each student with the understanding that teacher-student bond is predictable as a requirement for student's academic success. He explains how the teacher's personal belief system will dictate the teacher's attitude toward students, toward assigning of homework and toward presenting grades. Grimes presents suggests teachers are like to attain more success with their students by learning the correct pronunciation of the student's name and using it often when speaking with the student.

I like his idea of homework that goes beyond the student and includes getting parents and other family members involved, energized and motivated because family interest in school and child is a definite contributor to student incentive for learning and doing well. Grimes offers a number of activities that promote student participation.

As a teacher I found Classroom Under Construction to be a valuable tool for beginning or not so beginning teachers. I do have 3 suggestions to make the book more useable: spiral binding will aid in keeping the book open to a particular page, larger print and darker print will be useful for those who may have older eyes. Many new teachers are not 20 somethings, they are part of the over the hill bunch who are looking into a second career. The book has so many valuable suggestions it is a pity it may be cast aside simply because print size and boldness of letters make it more difficult to read.

A must have for every beginning teacher of any age Classroom Under Construction has much to offer those of us old war horses who have been at it for a while. I was sent a trade paperback for review. And will be keeping this edition for my own library, if a spiral bound comes along that will be even better. I will suggest this book for my student teachers as they come to my classroom. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Show and Tell
Karen Vanderlaan
PublishAmerica
9781413746372 $24.95

Karen Vanderlaan was born in Paradise … home was a four hundred acre dairy farm in the remote Vermont village of West Newbury. Life spent on Milky Way Farm was idyllic. A pale yellow farm house, apple trees, riding her pony, caring for a series of fawns rescued by her Dad, working on the farm, carrying cups of hot coffee out to the milking barn to help warm up their Dad, attending a one room school and enjoying the beauty of fall all left their mark on Vanderlaan. Years passed, seasons came to create memories of a time when all was right in her world sledding on feed sacks, separating calves from their mothers so the milk could be sold, maple sugar time, Christmas and Halloween, town get-togethers filled with music and fun, time seemed to stand still and Vanderlaan wished it might continue forever.

'One of the reasons my mother later gave for leaving Milky Way Farm was that she wanted a bigger, better life for us.'

Memory of family with siblings and Dad and Mother, supper together and older her sister relating how a trusted family friend had molested her are part of the memory. The loss of the one hundred year old house that served as family home was followed quickly by the birth of Vanderlaan's third sibling, this was not a planned pregnancy and Vanderlaan's mother was not at all happy with the birth of Teresa.

'Truth was the tempo of all our lives perpetually rose and fell according to the whims of our eccentric, high-strung, self centered mother.'

When her parents began fighting because the farm was making no money Vanderlaan's mother had come to the end of her endurance. Her mother's relationship with motorcycle riding Bunny was a turning point, and not for the better for Vanderlaan, her siblings or their father.

Show and Tell is not a fun little feel good story, it is one that Karen Vanderlaan had to write. Her words will leave readers pondering the resiliency of the human spirit. The years she spent on a Vermont family farm came to an end the day that her mother abandoned her husband and moved the children away from their father and the farm.

Author Vanderlaan investigates her agonizing past, holds fast to the concrete, potent, memories that helped pave the way to her increasing effort to set things right. The cruelty exhibited by the woman named Bunny is hard to fathom, harder to understand is Vanderlaan's mother's acceptance of the cruelty. Vanderlaan is a strong woman capable of facing down whatever demons life chose to pile upon her before finally reach a turning point toward a life filled with caring, hope and joy.

Physically and mentally abused by Bunny; Vanderlaan and her siblings lived in poverty and anguish and unending neglect and abuse. She sought what all children need, love and affection and a sense of belonging. These needs are heightened for an abused child. Her horses provided one way for Vanderlaan to escape from the pain.

On the pages of Show and Tell and despite so many pages filled with sadness and misery; writer Vanderlaan has crafted an inspirational work. Vanderlaan experienced far more abuse and misery during childhood and then during her early adult years than most of us realize is possible, notwithstanding that, she has managed to renew herself and create happiness and worthwhile activity for herself as single parent, rescuer of neglected horses and educator of emotionally disturbed children.

Show and Tell is an excellent addition for the therapist's shelf and for those who find comfort and solace through reading an inspired and inspirational work. Inspiring work, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin
Reviewer


Paul's Bookshelf

Hydrogen Steel
K.A. Bedford
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
PO Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7, Canada
1894063201 $19.95 www.edgewebsite.com

Zette McGee is a private investigator, and former cop, in a habitat on Ganymede. She abruptly retired from the force, rather than risk exposure of a personal secret. McGee is called out of retirement by a frantic phone call from android Kell Fallow, who knows her secret, and who swears he did not kill his family. Before Fallow can reach her, he is killed by a bomb in his gut.

At every step in the investigation, McGee, and Gideon Smith, a friend with a shadowy past, are stopped cold. It is the work of a firemind called Hydrogen Steel. Think of an artificial intelligence that has had eons of time (about a hundred years in human time) to grow and evolve. It can do a lot more than just read minds, for instance. Wherever they are, it can disable their ship, leaving them stranded in space. It can infect their neural implants with all sorts of major viruses. It can send an android that looks identical to McGee to destroy her residence. It can create intruders out of thin air, then disappear into thin air, to kill anyone it wishes. Hydrogen Steel can also infect McGee and Smith with bombs identical to the one that killed Fallow, forcing them to get quantum scans of their brains, and those scans downloaded into new bodies.

Hydrogen Steel's mission is to prevent any release of information regarding how the Earth disappeared years before. There wasn't any rubble from its destruction, just "poof." Another firemind, Otaru, finds out the truth, but knows that it will not survive the expected battle with Hydrogen Steel.

This is a gem of a novel. It's a really good mystery/thriller; how does anyone deal with an entity that can reach into your DNA, and do something nasty? It's also quite mind blowing, and is very much worth reading.

Alphanauts
J. Brian Clarke
Edge Science Fiction and
Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7, CANADA
1894063147, $14.95 www.edgewebsite.com

A small group of explorers have just returned to Earth after a several year trip to an earthlike planet of Alpha Centauri. They find, to their dismay, that they, literally, can't live on Earth at all. Anyone who has been away for at least 3 full years contracts a murderous disease called Earth Allergy Syndrome, or EAS. Also, relativity has reared its head; the toddler daughter of one of the explorers is now a middle-aged grandmother. The explorers are forced to return to Alpha Centauri, to what is now called Genser's World (after one of their group who succumbed to EAS).

Back on Genser's World, the colonists find the de-evolved descendants of another spacefaring race, and their empathic symbionts. Think of the symbionts as flying creatures the size of a hawk, with the face of a cat, and they love to be petted and scratched. They form bonds with humans almost instantly, a bond that becomes impossible to break. The colonists also come into contact with two cyborg intelligences, and a computer intelligence which is about to evolve into something that could easily wipe out the humans.

Suddenly, all contact with Earth is lost. By this time, the intelligences have modified the colonist's ship so that a trip of several years duration back to Earth has been reduced to several weeks. A group of colonists returns to Earth, and finds a scene of total devastation. Just before "The End," an asteroid was hollowed out and turned into a colony ship. It was launched toward Genser's World, with over 500 people on board. Their intention is to turn Genser's World into a fascist utopia.

This is a first-rate planetary colonization story with lots of science. Engineers and scientists will enjoy this book; so will everyone else who likes good, interesting writing.

Tesseracts Ten
Robert Charles Wilson and Edo von Belkom
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
1894063368 $20.95 www.edgewebsite.com

Here is the latest in a yearly compendium of new speculative fiction stories from north of the border, in Canada (eh?).

In the early 20th Century, Halley's Comet collides with Earth, causing nuclear winter. A planetary habitat is under attack by a sophisticated computer virus, which is spread by a cybernetic house pet. In a world where everyone gets their fiction beamed directly into their brains, a woman on a train picks up an actual book left by someone else. A new form of punishment for condemned criminals involves the surgical removal of body parts; first it's an eye, then a hand... There's a story about human resourcefulness in the face of an otherwise certain death on the surface of Mars.

A man who runs an oriental restaurant does not know what to do about his father. Even though he died several days previously, the father's ghost is still holding court, entertaining customers and old friends. What does one do with aliens who act exactly like drunken, horny teenage humans? Human organs for transplant can now be grown like house plants.

This is a first-rate collection of stories that deserve much greater exposure. These authors may not yet be household names; they also deserve much greater exposure. The reader will not go wrong with this book.

The New Space Opera
Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
Eos Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060846756 $15.95 www.eosbooks.com

Space opera has been defined as "colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict." These new, never before published stories are tales of aliens and alien cultures, not just interstellar war stories.

A pair of human researchers change their species to investigate a scientific anomaly on another planet. A group of traveling Shakespearean actors give the performances of their lives for the aliens who have conquered and enslaved Earth. A human society which has barely conquered the airplane has less than 100 years to live; their sun is in the path of a destructive stellar phenomena. An experienced interstellar traveler urges/pushes them into a crash course in spaceflight. He has to deal with what the society has become.

An alien ship the size of Jupiter has been turned into the ultimate cruise ship, on an eons-long trip around the galaxy. After a hijack attempt goes wrong, a number of passengers are trapped outside the ship and are forced to create their own society on the ship's hull. A very rich man on Mars decides to bring Art and Culture to the miners who live there. He spares no expense to build a theatre with imported walnut paneling, and advertises on Earth, for actors who are ready to emigrate to Mars.

I really enjoyed these stories. Each of the authors in this collection very much knows what they are doing. This is a formidable group of tales, and is essential reading for all science fiction fans.

We, Robots
Sue Lange
Aqueduct Press
P.O. Box 95787, Seattle, WA 98145
9781933500119 $9.00 www.aqueductpress.com

Set in a near future Earth where fully functioning robots are available at the local Wal-Mart, this story is about the coming of the Singularity. It is the point at which artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence.

Knowing that robots could enslave humanity, if they so wished, humanity has come up with a grand plan to control the robots through pain and fear. All robots are to receive a pain interpreter. Instead of knowing intellectually that placing a hand on a hot stove, for instance, is a really bad idea, the robot will now be able to feel the pain and hurt from the hot stove.

This story is narrated by an AV-1 (one of the rules is not to name your robot). Its owners are a married couple named Dal and Chit, and Angelina is their newborn daughter. The robot is to be a live-in day care provider, while Dal and Chit work as domestics to rich humans. After Angelina reaches school age, the robot escorts her to school, through their bad neighborhood in New Jersey, levitates to the top of the school building with the other robots, then escorts her home at the end of the day.

After the installation of the pain interpreter, the narrator, who Angelina calls Avey, becomes a conflicted being, experiencing love, pain and anger. Part of the deal for the robots is that they voluntarily hand themselves over to be recycled, and their parts made into new robots. Almost at the same time, robots everywhere, including Avey, decide not to go along; they like their present existence. Many attempts are made by humans to "convince" the robots that recycling is a good idea; some robots are disassembled, in front of other robots, without removing their pain interpreters first. It doesn't work. There will be no new robot models. Some humans have taken to physically modifying themselves to become part of the Singularity. These transhumans, looking forward to dominating Earth, are now out of a job.

It suddenly becomes popular for humans to neutralize their pain interpreters, to become more like robots. Taking advantage of their new ability (or disability), those who deserve to be removed from the gene pool, helpfully do just that. Humanity otherwise becomes quiet and docile. Without pain as a teacher, people won't grow or know what questions to ask. Millions of years of human instinct are in danger of disappearing in a generation. Humanity becomes posthuman, without a single neural implant.

This is a short novel, about 100 pages, but it says a lot about concepts of humanity. It is easy to read, and very much worth reading.

To Save the World
Heather Hayashi
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781933538358, $21.95 www.bookpros.com

On the planet Arhka, Teregians and Vampires, two humanoid races with plenty of reason to hate each other, are forced into a temporary alliance against a new, alien enemy, the yukai mi. In the middle of this are dropped three people from present-day Earth; a teenage girl named Stephanie, Elise, her mother, and Eris, Stephanie's best friend. They got there due to a magic ring kept by Elise's father. When Elise was Stephanie's age, she spent some time on Arhka. Back on
Earth, she tried to tell her family about it and was subjected to twenty years of psychiatrists,
institutions and psychotropic drugs. Elise is not happy to be back.

Arhka is run by a sort of magic that revolves around a strange energy called ith'rya. During her previous visit, Elise got pretty good at manipulating it. She refuses requests to stay and help the Vampire-Teregian alliance, and takes the two girls back to Earth. Elise and Eris are ready to forget that Arhka exists, but for Stephanie, the transition back to high school is not so easy. After an unintended demonstration of ith'rya in the middle of her school cafeteria, and after yukai mi spaceships invade Earth, looking for the three of them, a trip back to Arhka is now a requirement. Whether they like it or not, Eris, Elise and Stephanie are now involved in a bloody, interplanetary war. After a night of basic training, Stephanie shows that her abilities with ith'rya are as strong, or stronger, than that of her mother.

Here is a novel that is quite good. First of a series, it has all the elements of good science fiction epic tales, with strong female characters. The story might take a bit of time to get going, but it's worth reading.

The Chosen of Azar
Carol Kluz
WestBank Publishing
4408 Bayou Des Familles, Marrero, LA 70072
9780978984007 $14.95 www.westbank.com

In the Fifth Age of Life, it is time to prepare for the long-prophesied battle between the forces of the gods Azar and Condragon. The Chosen of Azar, five young people who were chosen at birth, and have no idea of their status, are brought to a castle called Haven's Hold for training. Among them are Jenda, who believes that rules are made to be broken (or severely bent), and Beni, whose magic is wild and untamed, but may be as powerful as that of Mo Demz, a nearly immortal wizard who is leader of Haven's Hold. As time goes on, everyone realizes that when Beni says that danger is coming, the warning is taken very seriously.

As part of their training, the Chosen are sent into the wilderness, in small groups, to find their talismans. These are small items, about one or two inches square, that will help them in the coming battle. The Chosen have no idea just where the talismans are, but feel a sort of spiritual magnetic field when they are getting close. Naturally, the talismans are not just sitting on the ground, or on a rock, waiting to be found. They are well hidden, and are guarded by hideous creatures like churls. These are man-sized beasts that are all sharp teeth and claws, and can kill a person in an instant.

Meantime, Condragon is not idle. Zorad, one of his disciples, is already spreading evil throughout the land, so the training of the Chosen, back at Haven's Hold shifts into high gear. Part of the prophecy is that everything will be decided by an ultimate battle between Condragon and one of the Chosen.

Part one of a series, this is surprisingly good. It has good characters, and an engaging story. This is also a fine book with which to introduce young people to the rest of the fantasy field.

The Mars Run
Chris Gerrib
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781411699731 $12.94 www.lulu.com

In the last half of the 21st century, Janet Pilgrim has just graduated from high school, and is looking forward to college. That is, until her father, who invests in one get-rich-quick scheme after another, tells her that he is bankrupt. Not wanting to face her friends, and after considering joining the Army, Janet signs on to a cargo ship to Mars. Being a working astronaut is the lowest form of life in the Universe, but one cargo run will fund several years of college.

Somewhere between Earth and Mars, the ship on which Janet is traveling is seized by space pirates, killing the three other members of the crew. Janet is taken prisoner, and given a choice; willingly join the pirates, or get a one-way trip through an airlock. It is not a hard decision. Janet has several moments of doing what she has to do to stay alive.

Mars is sparsely populated, so Janet's first escape attempt does not get very far. She gets a metal slave collar affixed around her neck, and spends more than one night in a cage. On the way back to Earth, another ship is seized, but, this time, there are casualties among the pirates. To turn their booty into cash, several members of the crew land in the Central African Empire, your average corrupt African regime. The Emperor makes it clear that if they don't become leaders of his new space pirate fleet, they can forget about getting any payment for their pirate activities. Back in space, they attack a larger passenger ship, which has the nerve, and the ability, to fight back.

This is a first novel that is actually pretty good. In space, sometimes man is the biggest enemy. It is not a young adult novel, and it is worth reading.

The Woman and the Raven
Marlene vor der Hake
Booksurge LLC
7290B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419660603 $12.99 www.booksurge.com

Based on Icelandic myths, this story takes place in the distant past, when trolls and elves still walked the earth. A woman lives alone in a cottage, far from anyone else. It is full to overflowing with books, parchments and scrolls, many written in languages that were dead even back then. She yearns to return to the stars, but her broomstick refuses to function, for she has lost the magic.

A raven-wizard gives her three tasks, in order to help heal a broken world. The woman must return a runic sword to its proper owner, a knight who has been dead for many years. She must, single-handedly, defeat a hideous wyvern living in a huge lake (think of the Loch Ness Monster, but with a nastier disposition).Then, the woman must find and return a large blue gem, the Stone of Antariel, to its rightful owners, a race of elves. It's not as easy as it sounds; the forces of evil are keeping a close eye on the woman and her progress.

This story has a different, almost mystical, feel to it, and it's really good. It's a short novel, about100 pages, and anyone who enjoys ancient, mythical stories will enjoy this one.

A Mortal Glamour
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Juno Books
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809557943 $12.95 www.juno-books.com

Set in 14th Century France, times are hard at the convent La Tres Saunte Annunciation. The plague has come, killing many of the area's residents. The Catholic Church has two popes; one is in Rome, while the other rules from the French city of Avignon. The convent is doing the best it can, offering a meal and a bed for any passing travelers.

Aungelique, one of the sisters at the convent, is a headstrong young woman, and the daughter of a Baron. She is there only because of a huge disagreement with her father over whom she should marry. Aungelique has discovered the pleasures of the flesh (a major sin for a nun), and runs away from the convent, twice. She wants to live with, and learn from, Comtesse Orienne,
the most sexually accomplished courtesan in Europe. Each time, she is convinced to return to the convent by Orienne.

Soon, screams of pleasure and pain are heard from behind the door to Aungelique's room, accompanied by bruises and scratches all over her body. It is as if she is being ravished by some invisible demon. She is ordered to fast, and keep all-night vigils, praying for God's assistance, but it does not help. In fact, the "disease" spreads to other sisters, one of whom becomes pregnant, and dies in childbirth. An investigator is sent; he thinks that the best way to drive the demons out of the nuns is by physically beating them. He and Orienne cross paths; after a
night of passion, he turns from an arrogant person convinced that he is right into feeling like the
biggest sinner who ever walked the earth. The last resort for the authorities is to destroy the convent, and take everyone involved away to be burned at the stake.

An abridged version of this book was published in the mid-1980s. Here is the unabridged, author-approved version, and it is very much worth reading. It is quite dark and spooky (at which Yarbro is a master), and is a really well-done story.

Angelos
Robina Williams
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664;
1933353600, $16.95 www.twilighttimesbooks.com

Here is the second novel about a rural friary somewhere in Britain. Among its inhabitants is a
strange, dimension-jumping cat that (depending on which dimension you inhabit) is named Leo or Quant (short for Quantum).

The brothers of the friary are getting a new leader. Their previous leader, Brother Fidelis, practically jumped at the chance to be transferred to a tough, inner city parish. His belief that a cat did not belong in a friary probably had something to do with his sudden departure. After getting used to his new surroundings, his replacement, Brother Aidan, re-imposes supposedly much needed discipline at the friary. He is going through a spiritual crisis, feeling that God has abandoned him. Aidan feels that the only way to re-discover the path to the Lord is to
go, for lack of a better term, back to basics. The brothers are as religious as anyone else, but, prayers several times a day, choir practice every day (attendance at both is not optional) and no leaving the friary without signing out, gets old very quickly.

Through some sort of quantum shift, the Minotaur (of labyrinth fame) is brought forward several thousand years, and lands in a gardening shed on the friary grounds. Far from being a carnivorous beast, the Minotaur is actually a vegetarian who didn't like eating all those Athenians. Leo/Quant convinces one of the brothers to fix a tray of food, and leave it at the door of the shed, without asking questions. The Minotaur is told, by the cat, that leaving the shed would be a very bad idea. Meantime, one of the brothers, Brother Jerome, is sent back in time to the labyrinth (in ancient Crete) and is loudly calling for rescue by Quant. Before the travelers are returned to where they belong, Jerome asks the cat if a short tour of Crete might be possible. Along the way, he meets
Deiphobe the Sibyl, St. Jerome and Androcles (and the lion).

This is a "quiet" book, but a really good book. As with any series, reading Part One (Jerome and the Seraph) is a good idea. The story is just weird enough, and is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen
Reviewer


Richard's Bookshelf

Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
Donald S. Whitney
NavPress Publishing Group
3820 N. 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80904
9781576830963 $11.00

How to Perform a Diagnosis of Your Spiritual Life

Donald S. Whitney in "Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health" provides the reader with a test to help them grow in their desire to know God intimately. He parallels a diagnosis of the spiritual life with the approach a physician uses to determine physical health. Whitney asks probing, thought provoking questions and provides self tests to help the reader diagnose their own spiritual condition.

Whitney discusses three kinds of spiritual thirst and the significance of each. He illustrates ways of discerning God's presence and explains why we need to get deeper into God's Word and how to develop Christian love and a response to the needs and concerns of others. He talks about exercising spiritual disciplines, remorse for sin, forgiving others, and practical holiness as a lifetime commitment.

This is an exceptional study for Bible study classes, study groups, and individual use. "Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health" is
an excellent devotional book, or study guide, for motivating growth in your Christian life. Whitney's writing is challenging, introspective, and practical.

Other titles by Whitney include: Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church: and How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?

Unsung Patriot: Guy T. Viskniskki
Virginia G. Vassallo
Krazy Duck Productions
PO Box 105, Danville, KY 40423
9780977673926 $21.95

A Tribute to a Patriot

Every generation has its' heroes. Many of these receive medals, and ribbons to honor them for their service to our country. Others receive plaques, trophies, and acclaim for personal accomplishments in business, sports, or entertainment. There is also that myriad of heroes who never receive the accolades. These are the "unsung" heroes serving behind the lines while others receive the applause.

This is the biography of Guy T. Viskniskki, the founder, and first editor-in-chief of "The Stars and Stripes" newspaper, published during the fighting months of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I during 1917 -1919.

At age forty, Guy put a successful career in newspaper editing and publishing on hold and responded to a sense of patriotism by enlisting in armed forces. He hoped to be placed on the frontline with the troops in Europe. However, he was assigned to General Headquarters guiding newspapermen throughout the American zone in France. While traveling through France he conceived the idea of a newspaper written "by and for the soldiers" of the A.E.F. He saw this as a need to raise morale among the troops.

By November in 1917 Second Lieutenant Guy T. Viskniskki was press officer and censor at the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). Already a veteran of the Wheeler Newspaper Syndicate, and former editor of the Bayonet, a camp newspaper of the Eightieth Division, Camp Lee, Virginia Guy was asked to develop his idea and to explore the feasibility of publishing a newspaper for the AEF.

Once it was determined that an AEF newspaper could be produced in France, Viskniskki became the first managing editor of "The Stars and Stripes." Guy successfully faced the challenges of staffing, paper shortages, and maintaining editorial control with integrity. "Stars and Stripes" became Guy's legacy. After the war he again resumed his newspaper career, served as editor of several newspapers, and as a consultant in the publishing field.

Proud of her heritage and of her Grandfather's accomplishments Virginia Vassallo produced this book as a tribute to honor his memory. What started as a few notes and memories to preserve some family history for her grandson became a monumental project. Her fascination for one more bit of information drove her into writing this thoroughly researched and well documented monument to this "Unsung Patriot: Guy T. Viskniskki".

Virginia used her grandfather's unpublished memoirs, various internet sources, interviews with family members, and numberless newspaper articles, and correspondence to research the background information this book. She contacted Jim Mayo, President of the Stars and Stripes Museum for help. Jim was eager to assist her in this project and provided additional valuable resource information.

Guy T. Viskniskki will long be remembered for his patriotism, integrity and perseverance for the things he valued. The book will provide inspiration to small town newspaper editors and the editor-in-chiefs of newspapers across the world. Veteran's Associations, Sons of the American Revolution, and members of the American Legion will remember Guy's indefatigable efforts for their causes. As readers they will applaud this tribute to a tireless mentor and for his advocacy for the peoples of United States of America.

Virginia's respect and admiration for the accomplishments of Guy T. Viskniskki came through beautifully. She masterfully created well-rounded word pictures of this dynamic, yet complex, man whose legacy is the "Stars and Stripes." Virginia is very articulate, her words are well chosen. Her organization is meticulous, and her presentation is convincing. I say "Bravo!"

Richard R. Blake
Reviewer


Sullivan's Bookshelf

Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish
Tom Shachtman,
North Point Press
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003
9780865476875 $25.00 www.fsgbooks.com 1-888-330-8477

This is a nonfiction account of what it means to be Amish (Old Order). The author follows the life experiences of several Amish young men and women They live primarily in Northern Indiana, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

The book centers around the time of 'rumspringa.' That's the Pennsylvania Dutch word for a period of life for the Amish from age 16 until baptism into the Amish religion. Such a rite, or commitment, usually occurs in a person's early 20s.

The term rumspringa translates as 'running around outside the bounds of,' according to the author Young people raised in Amish homes are allowed to do whatever they like during that special time of their life. Amish parents hope, and surely pray, it means tame social gatherings of their young people at which they will sing, play approved games, and generally frolic harmlessly.

But rumspringa can, and typically does, also mean consorting with those outside the religion, referred to as 'English.' That normally translates into partying, smoking, drinking, sex, drug taking, dancing, rock n' roll, watching movies and TV. And perhaps most appealing to these young folks is dressing English and driving a car. Neither can be done by baptized Amish.

"As the party gets into full swing," writes Shachtman in this highly readable book where he discusses one of many gatherings in the remotest corners of a farmer's back 40, "and beer and pot are making the participants feel no pain, a few Amish girls huddle and make plans to jointly rent an apartment in a nearby town when they turn eighteen, as some of the older girls have already done. Others shout in Pennsylvania Dutch and in English about how much it will cost to travel to and attend an Indianapolis rock concert, and the possibilities of having a navel pierced or hair cut buzz short. One bunch of teens dances to music videos shown on a laptop computer; a small group of guys, near a barn, distributes condoms."

The Amish use horse drawn vehicles only. They also dress plainly, women wear bonnets and the men grow beards though not mustaches. Electricity from the power grid cannot be used in the home or on the farm. So they don't watch TV, listen to radio, use computers, or drive tractors. Not surprisingly, most Amish kids run riot during their rumspringa.

Originally, the Amish, part of the Anabaptist movement that broke away from the Mennonites in the 17th Century, were farmers. But fewer and fewer farms, Amish or otherwise, continue in use in the U.S. And so, many of the young and a great many of the older Amish, nowadays, work at factories and shops owned by outsiders.

The reason the Amish, who are considered to be quite strict in their Christianity, allow this rumspringa is to give their kids a taste of the other side of life. Then the parents trust that the kids will see the fruitlessness of the English way, tire of it, and return to their type of lfe and become baptized in the Amish faith. Amazingly, for 80 to 90 percent of the youngsters who go through rumspringa, this works.

Once baptized into the Amish religion, a member can no longer go to the wild side. He and she must follow the rules and traditions of their faith. For the few who become baptized but break Amish rules, after numerous warnings, that person, if he or she continues on the wrong path, will be banned, shunned in other words, even by spouse, children, parents, and friends. None of them will look at, talk to, or have anything to do with the person banned. Many are shunned like that for life. For those who mend their ways, however, the ban may be lifted.

Strangely, many who opt to leave the Amish faith for good often end up choosing another religion that is more strict than the Amish.

Tom Shachtman is principally a documentation. In fact, this book is based on his video documentary entitled THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, which aired in 2002. He has also written numerous other books, some alone and others with collaborators. Not only has he penned nonfiction but also fiction and children's books. Recommended highly!

Blasphemy How The Religious Right Is Highjacking Our Declaration Of Independence
Alan Dershowitz
John Wiley & Sons, Inc
9780470084557 $22.95

The religious right is trying to prove, in fact they are insisting, that the U.S. was founded on religious principles, and not just any religious principles, but those exclusively of Christianity. This is having a negative impact on the nation's political scene. It's particularly troubling in the primary American concept of 'church and state separation.'

To validate the Christians' point, they site, not the Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence. Why? Because the U.S. Constitution, with which this nation is governed, does not mention God. However, within the Declaration of Independence, which is not governing law, the words 'Nature's God,' 'God of Nature,' 'the Creator,' 'Supreme Judge,' and 'Divine Providence' are mentioned.

Dershowitz shows conclusively that Thomas Jefferson, a deist, developed, and/or borrowed, most of those Nature's God ideas. Some founders on the Declaration writing committee added a few more such words. Many of the founders were deists, like Jefferson. Washington, Adams, Madison, Franklin, Paine, and Hamilton to name a few. (Deists believe that God, or the First Cause, created the world, set it in motion, and instituted its physical laws, but He does not intervene in the world or with its creatures, namely mankind.)

Jefferson did purposely use those seemingly religious words to 'trump' any future individual from changing what the Declaration says. For who could or would have the temerity in the years ahead to change 'Nature's God?'

The author writes, "Many on the Religious Right are sincere and decent people who deeply believe they are doing God's work. And maybe they are, but they are not doing Jefferson's work, or the work of our other founders who strongly believed in the separation of church and state. The good people who are using the Declaration to Christianize our nation have a very different conception of governance from that of the founding generation, and it is wrong for these historical revisionists to rewrite our past in an effort to change our future."

This brief volume, like all Dershowitz' books, is well reasoned and legally tight in argument. Nevertheless, this read will rattle many on the religious right, especially the evangelicals.

Alan Dershowitz is a Harvard law professor. He has written several prominent books: among them CHUTZPAH, WHAT ISRAEL MEANS TO ME, and THE CASE FOR ISRAEL. The author does a lot of legal appellate work and is actively involved in civil rights efforts. This volume is recommended.

Mere Anarchy
Woody Allen
Random House
139781400066414 $21.95

Ten of the 18 short funny essays filling this slim book were originally published in THE NEW YORKER magazine. So you know it's quality reading and humorous material. Woody's writing never changes. And no one would want it to. His stories, as usual, borrow heavily from Yiddish, Jewish, and New York City type humor. He uses comical names for his characters, too.

Allen's stories, after perusing them all, seem a tad derivative of S.J. Pearlman, another funny New Yorker writer, now gone. His writing was densely packed with words and ideas as is Woody's. One almost needs a Ph.D. in philosophy, history, literature, and mythology to get all the jokes. But everyone will understand, regardless of formal education, and who's lived more than a fortnight on this planet, especially if in the New York City area, though other American locations won't exclude you from most of the punchlines. Of course, a majority of the stories are just plain silliness, and that's what makes this volume so enjoyable. One caveat however: Do not! This reviewer repeats--do not even try to read more than one story per sitting. If you do, it'll be too much! The book's funny spell will be broken. Your funny bone could get damaged, also.

Perhaps the lavatory is the best site in the house for going over this volume. Time is usually limited there. And few family members or visitors in other parts of the house can hear your laughter, guffaws, etc.

Of the dozen and a half stories in this volume, only one proved unenjoyable. But the fun in reading all the others has made this reviewer forget the unfunny piece.

Here's an example of Allen's humorous stuff. In his essay entitled "How Deadly Your Taste Buds, My Sweet," he begins with: "As a Private Eye I'm willing to take a bullet for my clients, but it'll cost you five hundred Benjamins per hour plus expenses, which usually means all the Johnnie Walker I can knock back. Still, when a cupcake like April Fleshpot totes her phermones into my office and requests servicing, the work can magically become pro bono."

Woody Allen who started as a humor writer, and remains one as this and numerous other books prove, has been a standup comic, TV performer, movie star, and famed film writer and director. He's also renowned as a jazz clairnetist. Recommended.

Jim Sullivan
Reviewer


Terrilyn's Bookshelf

All Together Dead
Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441014941 $24.95

Sookie Stackhouse, lovable telepath from Bon Temps, Louisiana, is back in her 7th adventure, All Together Dead. Charlaine Harris brings together characters from many of the previous six novels to meet at a vampire summit north of the Mason-Dixon line in the big city of Rhoades. Sookie is excited to travel and looks forward to spending time with her new squeeze, Quinn, the weretiger, but she is less than thrilled over the prospect of using her telepathic talents to spy for the Vampire Queen of Louisiana in her upcoming trial for killing her new husband and Vampire King of Arkansas, Peter Threadgill (Definitely Dead: Book 6, 2006).

Several characters are explored and broadened within the story, and the reader will be left satisfied that she knows more about individual characters and their relationships. Combined with the former characters who reappear in this book are new creatures, called Britlingen, who are super body-guards from another dimension brought in by the King of Kentucky to keep him safe. Harris expands the definition of supernatural by including these extra-terrestrials who turn out to help Sookie more than she realizes.

All Together Dead has plenty of mystery, a few erotic overtones, a lot of suspense, great action sequences, and tons of sarcastic humor that make this book a must-read for every Harris fan.

The Good Guy
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019
9780553804812 $27.00

Dean Koontz's latest novel, The Good Guy, is a bumpy thriller that can't quite match the speed of previous novels such as Intensity or Velocity.

Tim Carrier lives a low-key life in Northern California, using his masonry skills to build walls. His life takes an exciting turn when one day, while enjoying a beer in the local tavern, a man with a manila envelope mistakes Tim for a hired killer. When the real killer enters the bar moments after the mysterious man leaves, Tim makes a snap decision to offer the $10,000 as a no-kill fee, and to warn the woman, Linda Parquette, that someone is out to end her life. Tim and Linda have no idea that they are dealing with a tenacious killer who will stop at nothing to rid the world of Linda, Tim, and anyone else who gets in his way. Tim enlists the help of his police-buddy, Pete Santos, who then also becomes a target of the hit man, to find out as much as possible about who the killer is.

While the plot is fast-paced, there are numerous character flaws that Koontz ignores by creating a "mysterious" background for the killer. The readers are never given a name for him, as Santos discovers that he has several false identities, the only continuity of which is the initials RK. Even RK refers to himself with several different names including Rudyard Kipling and Romulus K. Koontz doesn't explain how RK became a hit man, first for the mob, and now for a mysterious organization RK refers to as The Gentleman's Club, a group of support people who help RK maintain his ability to complete his murderous tasks. Koontz paints RK as charming enough to fool most people, but as a person who is ignorant of his own background, being unable to remember anything prior to being 18 years old. RK is a socio/psychopath in the first degree, having no sympathy or empathy for other people including having the desire to kill everyone in the world. He is a homeless man who loves the coziness of a clean home, but has to break into homes every day in order to shower, eat, and enjoy the home life. The reader is teased with getting to the truth of who the killer and the mysterious organization he works for, but Koontz denies the reader a full understanding of RK. While the story is definitely about Tim and why he chooses to sacrifice his own life and family, if necessary, to protect a woman he had never previously met, the reader is left unsatisfied with the explanation of pure evil as exhibited by RK. The character has a quality of paranormal abilities without actually being drawn as a paranormal. It is as if Koontz is trying to write a thriller without supernatural elements, but is not completely successful.

Less of a problem, but still as frustrating, are the characters of Tim's mother, Mary, and of Linda Parquette. Linda lives a solitary writer's life, obsessed with the American depression era. Koontz has a disjointed explanation of her background, how her parents had been wrongly accused of molesting their day-care children, and both died in prison while Linda was sent to her evil great-uncle to live. Her strength of character is supposedly from enduring this terrible childhood, but her acceptance of her fate doesn't jibe with how she has chosen to react through writing her depressing novels. Koontz intimates that Mary's strength of character is inborn, and that is where Tim gets his from, but again, this isn't explored in a satisfactory manner.

As Tim and Linda struggle to keep one step ahead of the killer, Santos discovers the hit on Linda has something to do with The Cream & Sugar murders that happened the previous year. Santos and his Golden Retriever, Zoey, a staple in nearly any Koontz novel, join with Linda and Tim at the penultimate scene in order to defeat the killer and learn who The Club is and why they exist.

The conclusion is a bit too pat, the explanations a bit too thin, and the sometimes disjointed style with which Koontz writes this novel may leave readers unsatisfied.

Killer Weekend
Ridley Pearson
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154072 $24.95

Pearson's new series stars Walt Fleming, Blaine County Sheriff near Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho. The prologue is a fast-paced a scene regarding Fleming saving a judge when he was just a rookie beat cop. The story slowed down as it moved to the present day with the same judge planning to announce her candidacy for President at an important business conference held in Ketchum. Fleming is put on her guard detail and has a hard time convincing the other guards that she is in imminent danger of being assassinated during her upcoming speech. During the day of the speech (the last 1/4 of the book), the pace speeds up again, and it once again becomes exciting.

Fleming has a lot of same qualities as Lou Boldt, Pearson's other detective series set in Seattle. Like Lou, Fleming is getting divorced from his wife Gail. Like Daphne, the police psychiatrist in the Boldt series, in this new series there is also a pretty single woman, Fiona, who is a photographer for the local paper and who also helps photograph crime scenes on occasion, to whom Fleming is attracted. Like Detective LaMoia in the Boldt series, Fleming works with deputy Brandon who is a womanizer and currently sleeping with Fleming's soon-to-be-ex-wife. Like the Boldt series, in this novel Pearson explores the landscape, weather, and fauna particular to south-central Idaho. Pearson leaves the reader with a good understanding of the atmosphere of Ketchum, Idaho.

For readers familiar with Pearson, it is easy to discover the bombs he plants in this novel that will influence plots of future books: Fleming's divorce, his attraction to Fiona, his simmering anger at Brandon, and the death of his brother, Bobby. Community characters such as Akers, the vet, uber-rich Patrick Cutter and his recovering addict-brother, the good-looking Danny Cutter, and Fleming's alcoholic father, Jerry, will probably make appearances in upcoming novels.

Terrilyn Fleming
Reviewer


Theodore's Bookshelf

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal
Eric Van Lustbader
Warner Books
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446580373 $25.99 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com 800-222-6747

The adventures of Jason Bourne in this novel are typical of the series--he gets pummeled and beaten and stabbed and shot—but goes right on and on and on. His disguises and chameleon persona, of course, permeate the plot. One of the keys to the story is his blank memory following the death of his wife.

However, the memory loss is compounded by a terrorist plot to confuse him. He is injected with substances to force him to take unwise actions upon receiving various stimuli. That makes his task more difficult. Bourne is called in by the head of the intelligence agency (by which he is considered a rogue) to rescue his good friend, Martin Lindros, who was captured by the terrorists while tracing the makings of an atomic bomb.

Fans of the Bourne series will recognize all the hallmarks of the preceding novels--his escapes, double-crosses, knifings, shootings and heroic efforts. They fill the pages one after the other as Jason plows on.

Vineyard Stalker, a Martha's Vineyard Mystery
Philip R. Craig
Scribner
1230 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10020
9780743270458 $24.00 www.simonsays.com 1-800-223-2336

It is unfortunate that the author of this well-done series—this novel is the 18th—died during May of 2007, leaving at least two completed, as-yet-unpublished books and having been in the middle of another one. Vineyard Stalker is an intriguing tale, full of clues and red herrings to mislead the reader until its unexpected conclusion.

J.W. Jackson, former Boston cop now a Vineyard resident seeking the simpler life, is living a bachelor life while his wife and kids are visiting "America." [i.e., the mainland] He's bored and accepts what seems to be a simple task: stake out someone's home that is being systematically vandalized and identify the culprits, which he accomplishes the first night on the job. But then the plot thickens, when a murder takes place on the victim's land. Were the vandals responsible? If not, then who? There are several possibilities, and Jackson gets involved and begins his own investigation in this well-written and -plotted whodunit. Recommended.

Double Take
Catherine Coulter
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780399154249 $25.95 www.penguin.com

In a cannily crafted contribution to this series—it is the 11th—set in San Francisco, this novel brings back Special Agent Dillon Savich and his FBI wife Lacey Sherlock to help solve several murders amid the otherworldliness of the professional world of psychics.

It begins with Julia Ransom, just beginning to recover from the murder of her husband, a well-known and –respected medium, standing on a pier near Fisherman's Wharf. She is attacked in an obvious murder attempt, but saved by another FBI agent, Cheney Stone.

Mrs. Ransom was the only real suspect in her husband's death, six months before, but no case could be made against her. Stone now takes an interest in the case, and begins investigating. Meanwhile, Virginia Sheriff Dixon Noble receives a call from his father-in-law, informing him that someone in San Francisco saw his wife, who disappeared three years before, who he believes to be dead.

Thus converge the two themes of this mystifying story. Stone becomes convinced the attacks on Julia, the murder of her husband and perhaps the fate of Dixon's wife are all inter-related. But how to prove it? The unfolding of the saga is ingenious. Recommended.

The Night Ferry
Michael Robotham
Doubleday
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385517904 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

Sikh Detective Alisha ["Ali"] Barba returns in this gripping tale after having recovered from the severe injuries she suffered in Lost, the author's previous novel. Also appearing is retired DI Vincent Ruiz. Attending a school reunion, Ali sees her best friend, from whom she was estranged eight years before. Shortly thereafter the friend and her husband are run over in what appears to be an accident, but Ali believes it to have been deliberate. Just before the accident, her friend had handed her a cryptic note indicating "they" were taking her baby away from her. While the friend appeared to be pregnant, subsequent examination showed that she had just been wearing padding.

Later, a young boy is found suffocated in a transport with Ali's name and address sewn in his clothes. He was one of a number of aliens being smuggled into Great Britain. From this potential murder investigation, the story progresses as Ali attempts to piece together what has transpired. She discovers various illegal enterprises, including false adoptions, surrogate pregnancies and orphans from various countries forced into prostitution. The trail takes her to Amsterdam and a tour of the infamous Red Light District.

The plot twists back and forth, boggling the mind, as the novel progresses sharply ahead to a most surprising conclusion. Recommended.

A Welcome Grave
Michael Koryta
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780312340117 $23.95 www.minotaurbooks.com 212-674-5151/646-307-5500

There are many common characteristics in the typical PI novel. Among them are: the protagonist gets beaten up one or more times; he has love affairs; he is confronted with many false clues; he runs afoul of the police. Lincoln Perry is no exception in this exquisitely tantalizing story that begins with his former fiancee asking him to find her stepson after the murder of her husband. Perry, who beat up the husband years before, is immediately suspected of the murder by the police.

Instead of refusing the widow's over-generous promise of so much money he virtually can't refuse, Perry travels to Indiana and locates the stepson, who commits suicide in his presence. Now the Indiana police suspect him of a second murder. Perry and his partner work assiduously to clear his name, but mounting evidence—he claims a frame-up—keeps pointing to his guilt. The question is who is planting false evidence and why; also, what occurred in the past to gi ve rise to the present situation.

The story progresses skillfully toward a conclusion the reader shouldn't be able to fathom until nearly the end. Recommended.

Blood and Circuses
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590582350 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com 800-421-3976

This novel is the 11th (although the sixth written, in chronological terms) of this charming series to be published in the United States by PPP. The indomitable Phryne Fisher is asked to investigate strange happenings at Farrell's Circus. Accidents, a murder and other events have stalked the enterprise, with attendance down and money lost. Meanwhile, one of the troupe is murdered in a rooming house bringing the police into play.

Phryne goes into deep cover, joining the circus as bareback horse rider to solve the mystery in her customary unflappable manner. While she undertook this caper because she was bored, the adventure keeps the reader wholly interested.

Innocence
David Hosp
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10069
9780446580144 $24.99 1-800-759-0190 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com

Legal thrillers usually take place in a courtroom, but in this novel, written by a practicing attorney who applies all the skills of both lawyer and novelist, the story goes beyond to police corruption, street gangs, physical violence and detective work. Scott Finn quit life at a Brahmin Boston law firm to reap the highs (and lows) of a solo criminal practice where his talent shone. Then one day an associate at his old firm asks him to assist in freeing a man from the jail in which he has been incarcerated 15 years for the attempted rape and shooting of a female police officer.

When Finn argues the motion, the judge expresses doubt that the conviction could (or should) be reversed, but grants two weeks to obtain a DNA analysis. Finn and his investigator associate are not sure of the prisoner's guilt or innocence and after a week they want out. But Finn neglects to withdraw from the case. Then the original attorney is brutally murdered, leaving Finn no choice but to continue despite the danger to himself and the seeming impossibility of learning what really happened a decade and a half before.

With only five days remaining, Finn and the investigator proceed to learn about the circumstances of the original conviction, with their lives at risk, to establish the man's innocence in a final, dramatic courtroom denouement which provides an outstanding example of his legal skills as well as unanticipated conclusion. It is a compelling story, especially well-written, about innocence and guilt.

The Water's Lovely
Ruth Rendell
Crown Publishers
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307381361 $25.95 www.randomhouse.com 800-726-0600

The haunting memory of seeing her sister, Heather, soaking wet and her step-father lying dead in the bathtub pervades Ismay's mind for the ensuing 13 years. Was it an accident or did Heather kill him? Their lives (and loves) are colored by the memory for all the years following. And it is a contributing factor to the actions of others as well.

Not until the end of the novel do we learn what really happened since the girls never discuss that fateful day. In the meantime the story builds to a dramatic conclusion with all sorts of side plots and psychological ramifications in keeping with the author's past novels. The suspense is carefully constructed with the display of human emotions throughout, the writing superb.

City of Fire
Robert Ellis
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780312366131 $24.95 www.stmartins.com 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

Five years earlier, Lena Gamble discovered her musician brother's dead body in his car in a Los Angeles street while she was on patrol. Now a detective with the elite Robbery Homicide Division, she is part of a hunt for a serial killer. Somehow, along the way her brother's murder crops up as his friend and co-lyricist is found murdered, the scene reflecting the MO of the serial killer. But something doesn't ring true.

In a nutshell, the hunt is on for the serial killer and the chase is on to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder of the two musicians. Lena pursues both with a determined effort. And she proceeds until the plot takes an unexpected turn to reveal the truth. An excellent read.

Eye of the Beholder
David Ellis
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780399154331 $24.95 www.penguin.com 800-847-5515

Paul Riley, former Federal prosecutor now the chief assistant county prosecutor, is in charge of a serial murder case in which the perpetrator literally falls into the hands of the police. It is open and shut: The bodies of six mutilated females are found and the murder weapons and forensic evidence are in his basement. Weirdly, each victim was killed in accordance with the lyrics of a song. The murderer was convicted, despite pleading insanity, and eventually executed. But just before he is gassed the convict mouths the words: "I was not alone."

Sixteen years later more murders occur in accordance with the lyrics of the second stanza of the same song. The two cases seem related. By now, Riley has long been in private practice having basked in the glory of the Mansbury Massacre. His main client is the billionaire father of one of the original victims. He enjoys litigation and has built a large law firm. Strange notes start arriving at his office and he is drawn into the investigation both by the police and by the current murderer. Why? What's the connection?

In a suspenseful development in which Riley eventually has to make judgments—based both on knowledge and intuition—he slowly pieces together the mysteries of past and present murders, questioning everything.. He is convinced the original prosecution was justified—but what Is missing? Was there an accomplice? In an unusual finish, Riley has to face the ultimate test in this tightly plotted and well-written novel.

The Secret Servant
Daniel Silva
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780399154225 $25.95 www.penguin.com 800-847-5515

Gabriel Allon returns in this gripping tale in which the danger of radical Islamic terror facing the world provides the files of a murdered analyst who was an Israeli asset. While there, he discovers a plot to take place in London. The U.S. ambassador's daughter is kidnapped and Allon narrowly misses foiling the event.

The kidnappers demand the release of a Sheik held in a U.S. prison or the girl will be murdered. And the clock begins to run. With all the resources of American, British, and Danish intelligence departments, it boils down to a sole Israeli operation, with Allon in the forefront in an effort to rescue the girl.

It is a frightening tale, a realistic portrayal of what may be in store for the West, which slowly is becoming more Muslim as the population multiplies. One estimate has Europe being Muslim by the end of the century. The real question raised by this extremely well-written novel is: can terror be fought with terror. The Israelis, of course, follow that course, striking back quickly and secretly.

And Murder for Dessert
Kathleen Delaney
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590584231 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com

The editor-in-chief of PPP says" 'It's hard to find….'intelligent' cozies." This reads like exactly that. It is a good mystery, made "cozy" by Ellen McKenzie's love life with chief of police Dan Dunham. After a divorce from her husband of 20 years, she is afraid of making a commitment to marry again, and her ambivalence runs through the novel despite her obvious love for the man.

As for the mystery, a noted chef is found murdered during the debut dinner conducted by Ellen's niece and her husband at a winery for which he is newly hired as the wine master. The cast of potential perpetrators is several. While this reader was able to detect the killer early despite the lack of clues, that in no way detracted from the story. For the genre, it is well-written and constructed.

Exposure
Kurt Wenzel
Little Brown & Company, 237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9781316093972 $23.99 www.hachettebookgroupusa.com 1-800-759-0190

The future is here in Los Angeles, as technocrats and anti-techs are pitted against each other, overwhelming the senses with overexposure of advertising and publicity images. The main characters are involved in the movie business—a screenwriter, a motion picture idol, a top agent and others.

Billboards surround the city casting larger than life pictures from every conceivable surface. A Mr. Black and a book called, appropriately enough, the Black Book take up the task of tearing down the technology. Groups of young people take up the challenge, destroying the moving billboards, as they are called. No one knows the true identity of the author, but everyone wants to know, especially the aforementioned agent and a young TV anchor.

Then a female movie star dies of a mysterious disease, followed by the death of the motion picture idol. His best friend, the screen writer, runs amok on drugs and alcohol trying to unravel the secrets. It is a far out book, confusing, as it probably should be because of the plot, encompassing the forces involved: the industry, celebrities, and the complexities involved.

The Gold of Thrace
Aileen G. Baron
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590584309 $24.95 www.poisonedpenpress.com

The antiquities trade and its unsavory side - stolen artifacts - is the theme of this fast-reading mystery novel. When a mosaic floor disappears from a Turkish excavation site, archaeologist Tamar Saticoy embarks on a quest to discover who is responsible for the theft. She travels to Basel, while her associate goes to Berlin. Each of the cities is believed to a center for illicit trade.

Two members of the excavation team are murdered, and Tamar finds herself in the midst of all kinds of intrigue, deceit and fraud. Is she in danger as well? Will she find the missing mosaic floor?

The author's knowledge of the subject is obviously deep, contributing to the authenticity of the plot. Her descriptions of the various cities in the story are detailed and interesting. The novel was a pleasure to read.

The Tin Roof Blowdown
James Lee Burke
Simon and Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10020
9781416548485 $26.00 www.simonsays.com 800-223-2336

The power and majesty of hurricane Katrina are reflected in this latest saga of Dave Robicheaux and his sidekick Clete Purcell. It is a song to New Orleans, a city the author knows only too well. In wake of the storm, Dave and half the New Iberia Sheriff's department are deployed in the ravaged city. Thus begins Dave's involvement in the quest to discover a missing priest as well as the investigation of a couple of murders and a break-in of a gangster's home in which thousands of dollars in counterfeit bills, diamonds and a pistol were stolen.

Meanwhile thugs appear in New Iberia seeking the perpetrators of the theft and the loot. One of them, at least, is a psycho who threatens Dave's daughter Alafair. The novel is tautly written, with vivid scenes of the devastated city and the plight of its citizens. It is as powerful as the force 5 storm itself. Highly recommended.

A Nail Through the Heart
Timothy Hallinan
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061255809 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com 1-800-242-7737

Poke Rafferty is a writer living in Bangkok with a former bar girl and a young girl he wishes to adopt. But he becomes involved with the seamier side of Thai life when he is asked by an Australian woman to find her missing uncle. That leads him to another dangerous woman, a member of the former Cambodian Khmer Rouge who pays him to find the person who stole something from her.

The two assignments lead to all kinds of violence and mayhem. The author describes the sex trade and street life of the Thai capital with vividness. It is an exciting story, well-written and fast-paced. A good read, and recommended.

Theodore Feit
Reviewer


Victoria's Bookshelf

Armed and Dangerous
William Queen and Douglas Century
Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9781400065776, $23.95

The is the story of ATF Agent William Queen and his search to find a mountain man slash drug dealer in the wild San Bernardino Mountains outside LA. The man he wants, Mark Stephens is a loose cannon who's getting closer every day to committing murder. Whenever the mood strikes, Stephens comes out of the mountains and attacks anyone in his way. The guy is a devotee of high-powered machine guns and he's not afraid to use them.

Queen's problem is catching the creep before he can wreak more mayhem, but it's no easy task as Stephens makes his home in remote and treacherous terrain. The local cops have all tried to get this guy, but have failed. Queen's bosses are of little help and time is running out as Stephens becomes bolder. How in the world can Agent Queen stop him?

The authors get your attention and keep it as they take you on a journey that often makes you think you're reading a fictional thriller, but it's real and it happened. William Queen has also written Under and Alone.

A Reunion to Die For, A Joshua Thornton Mystery
Lauren Carr
Five Star Mystery
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594145483 $25.95

Two cheerleaders die while still in uniform. One is an apparent suicide while the other is a murder. Is there a connection between the two? There's a problem for the crimes occurred over twenty years apart. Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton must try to solve both cases, but head Detective Seth Cavanaugh is in charge of the current case. Cavanaugh's self-centered and bent on discrediting Joshua and ruining his career. The prosecutor soon becomes suspicious of the detective's motives, especially when Joshua himself becomes a suspect.

There's a few other problems such as old girlfriends stalking him and a wanna be girlfriend intruding in his life. The guy needs a flyswatter to fight them off. Thornton hasn't a clue about women and it shows in his actions. There were times when I wished I could reach inside the story and give him a thump on the head.

Dead bodies start stacking up and Prosecutor Thornton needs to find the killer before they kill again. He's a man with a lot on his plate. Being a widower with five children, he has to fill the role of father and mother to his brood and it's no easy task.

The story drew me in with its sense of warmth, humor and complexity. It's a mystery that I would recommend to anyone searching for a good read in that genre. Lauren Carr's book A Small Case of Murder is the first book in the series.

Persuader
Lee Child
Bantam Dell
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780440241003 $7.99

Persuader is another story starring that wonderful character Jack Reacher. This time Jack runs into someone from the past who he thought was dead. Jack's determined to right an old wrong and he's willing to risk everything to achieve it. Along the way he becomes involved with DEA agents who are off the clock and seeking their own justice. I don't want to tell you too much because I'll give the story away. Part of Jack's charm is his ability to surprise us. He's almost a mythical type figure in the way he deals with problems unlike the rest of us mere mortals.

As usual with a Jack Reacher Novel, you'll glue yourself to the book and keep turning pages to find out what Jack will do next. Reacher never disappoints me, he has his faults, but they're nothing like yours or mine. If they were I'm sure poor Jack would have died in the first tale that Lee Child ever spun about him. Jack is one of the most intelligent characters around and he's addicting.

Some of the other novels in the Jack Reacher series are: Killing Floor, Without Fail, Running Blind and Tripwire.

Victoria Kennedy
Reviewer


Zinta's Bookshelf

The Brotherhood of the Unicorn
Wilfred LB Fraser
Hibiscus Publishing
0955265505 7.99 Brit. pounds www.hibiscuscommunications.net

Do dreams have expiration dates? For some, never. Wilfred L.B. Fraser, author of The Brotherhood of the Unicorn, is one of those who knows no expiration date. Born on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1935, Fraser emigrated to England at age 21, hoping to someday become a writer. He would have loved to have been a sports journalist, in fact, but life never goes quite as it is planned, and Fraser married, started a family, and worked instead at the post office. But if there is ever a time for dreams to resurface, for Fraser that time was retirement. His family obligations complete, his work obligations packed away, he enrolled at Hackney College in England and completed courses in English literature and creative writing. The Brotherhood of the Unicorn is his debut novel, but surely not his last.

Nor does it read like a first. With simple, elegant language, Fraser draws us immediately into the story of 8-year-old Jerry Slade on the first page:

"Jerry Slade was on his way to fetch fresh bread as he did every morning except Sunday. It was his last chore before breakfast, which he would have as soon as he returned. Then it would be a quick change and on to school.

"Sister Ju had woken him as usual at seven o'clock, and he had already swept the yard clean of all the cedar blossoms that had fallen during the night and joined his older brother Ambrose for their morning dip in the river, which was mandatory except when it was raining.

"This morning, he ran behind a metal hoop, which he propelled and controlled with the aid of a stick.

"Running close behind and all around him was a white mongrel pup with occasional brown patches. His name was Sparkplug."

What the two friends find that morning, encircled by curious onlookers, is something called an "obeah" – "a concoction of herbs, spices, fruits, flowers, and strangest of all, coins of different denominations." Everyone fears touching this concoction, as it speaks of magical spells, and surely then to come in contact with any of it would be inheriting "whatever malady or mess" from which someone had wanted to rid themselves by using it. Gaping and circling, no one does, until a mysterious man with a slight limp approaches who disdains all such superstition, picks up the coins, murmuring something in a foreign language, and walks away.

As a reader, I was hooked: bait, line, and sinker. This reminded me of the many books I had read in my own childhood, in my native European language, complete with that overseas ambiance and flavor that sent a shiver of sweet nostalgia through and through me. I read enthralled with Jerry's childhood struggles, a young boy whose mother had left to work elsewhere, hoping to save the family of 11 children from poverty, whose father died far too young, molding the boy's character with strength and courage to face a life that would not coddle him. Set in the 1940s community of Sauteurs in Grenada, we read of a group of boys, Jerry's friends, and his extended family and neighbors, who live simple lives but are spared no test or trial life might offer. Their lives are rich with experience, predating our contemporary days of childhood (and, alas, adulthood) spent in front of television and computer screens. These boys play and scamper with mischief, forming a brotherhood based on "magical powers by association," gained by looking into the eyes of a unicorn, and if none is momentarily available, into the eyes of someone who has looked into the eyes of a unicorn. They develop their mettle in a real, rather than virtual, environment. We read of their neighborhood football and cricket games, of dealing with bullies, adult as well as child, of 'liming,' (elsewhere is known as "hanging out"), of first loves, of broken and patched families, of new life and harsh death, of grief and healing and comfort and finding renewed strength for another day.

One of the most moving scenes in this story is when Jerry loses his beloved pup, Sparkplug, and once again, when the mysterious man that appeared at the beginning of the book, later become the young boy's mentor and friend, Leopold, of Portuguese descent, breaks out of his usual lone ways to help the boy deal with his grief by sharing his own. I confess, it brought tears to my eyes.

But such is the impact of a good writer. If Wilfred L.B. Fraser began writing late in life, then he brings to his creativity nuanced levels of vintage understanding that a younger writer may not yet have available for the written page. Look into the eyes of the unicorn – perhaps there is something to that "magic by association." I'm sure I felt it.

Marcus Aurelius – The Dialogues
Alan Stedall
Shepheard-Walwyn
9780856832369 $17.95 www.myspace.com/zeenythe

It was that kind of Sunday. Slow and easy, just warm enough spring breeze, dappled sun between first pale green leaves across my deck, and hours of quiet solitude stretching ahead of me. Perfection. The kind of day that begs a good read. I settled into a deck chair with Alan Stedall's Marcus Aurelius – The Dialogues, a slender volume with an eye-appealing cover: a drop of water just before it enters a pool of clear blue, sending off ripples. I wondered, as I opened the book, would the text, too, send off ripples?

I knew within a few lines this was going to be treasure. The kind of book that demands a pencil in one hand, checking off this, underlining that. These are words I want to remember. Yes, Stedall is a word master, and without any cheap tricks or somersaults, he had me instantly intrigued. Outlining his personal search in the Introduction for that eternal question surely we all ask (or should) about the meaning of life, Stedall ponders what might Marcus Aurelius have said on the matter. Called "one of five good Roman Emperors" (AD 121-180), Marcus Aurelius was known for his philosophical Meditations, a treatise he had written about his own search for meaning, for the definition of right and wrong without religious constraint, and for the value of a good man. Centuries later, author Alan Stedall finds himself pondering the same questions, wishes the Roman emperor had written more about his own answers, then imagines what those answers might have been, had he been overheard discussing such matters among his closest confidantes. This slender volume is the result of these imaginings.

My pencil tip checked off a line and I was still only in the Introduction: "The concept of a life and cosmos without purpose is one I find fundamentally obscene." And is that not what many of us say ails our society today? A lack of a value system? As if having values was in and of itself politically incorrect, or, worse, unfashionable? I sensed I'd found a compatriot in philosophical arms here, and read eagerly on…

To have a value system means that first we must examine our lives with an unflinching inner eye. Stedall had been attracted to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations for their "vigorous engagement in life," rather than living a life by default, and by his reputation for being a good man, yet not made so by a faith outside himself. Without a divine power handing down to us a series of commandments to follow, defining good and right, can these concepts still exist? If we have no fear of hell and no desire for heaven, only a wish to live a life of value, what might those values be? What makes a good man good?

My pencil was no longer making checks in the margins. I was underlining.

"Increasing the richness of the tapestry of one's understanding must inevitably increase the comfort (or discomfort) or our awareness of the material world. Knowledge, therefore, is not only power but, of its nature, it modifies action and behaviour."

You cannot know and not respond to that knowing. Even to do "nothing" with one's newly acquired knowledge, or awareness, was, after all, a choice, a decision made and acted upon. But any knowledge adds richness to life, and so I read on, this engaging series of discussions of a somewhat fictionalized Roman emperor in friendly debate with his friends and military comrades. From chapters headed "On the Brevity of Life and the Need to Seek Meaning," "On the Pursuit of Purpose," "On the Supreme Good," and "On the Pursuit of the Virtuous Life," I was drawn deeper and deeper into the simple but solid reasoning. My pencil seemed by now to have a life of its own, drawing entire rectangles around paragraphs, marking dancing plus signs in margins, scribbling squiggly lines alongside already favorite passages. Stedall's imagined dialogue had me fully in the present, and, as he writes, it does not matter if life is brief or long, for all that any man truly has is the present.

On the pursuit of purpose, Aurelius contemplates if there is such to a man's life, and concludes, in clean forward-moving lines of reason, that there is. Without giving away candy for free – how he arrives to a conclusion that life is and must be purposeful, "…for a person to be a worthwhile member of society, he or she must have a contribution to make to it. It follows that a life led without social purpose is, from the perspective of one's fellow man, worthless." Based on reason alone, a man must do good, and not only please himself, but care for his cohabitants of the planet, and in caring for them, do most good for himself. It is a refreshing view in a modern time so often sunk in the throes of hedonism. With one generation referred to as the "Me" generation, another merely as "X," as if merely blind organisms bumping into each other in the dark, it is high time we think beyond our own immediate gratification, alas, so soon imploding on its own emptiness into dissatisfaction. The contented and happy need not read on. For the rest, there's delicious more:

What might that purpose be? Same for all? In equal proportion? But we are all wonderfully unique, in unique configuration of idiosyncrasies and talents, and in ignoring our own individuality, we only steer towards purposelessness. Aurelius argues that for a man to follow his own being is to follow his own purpose, identifying with that measured introspection just what it is that he does best – and then doing it. Therein lies satisfaction, not only for the individual, but for the society of which he is part.

So now I'm circling. Large loops. As we delve into supreme good, and what brings a man deep and lasting contentment, Aurelius tries on for size his friends' guesses. Perhaps good health? Or might it be great fortune? Does pleasure add real good to our lives? Would it be love that so often fades and is disappointed? It is a blessing, Aurelius teases, that cannot perish, not even in death. When at last we come upon it, I loop my pencil around the reply – and laugh out loud. Of course! "Once this treasure is our complete possession, no loss of fortune, wealth or health can trouble us. Death itself will not disturb us…" and I realize he is right. Reader, you may find this little book worth its price for this alone, and I will not give away the answer here.

But what of value? If we have purpose, and we have blessing, what do we value? As for those who value nothing, Aurelius remarks pointedly: "If nothing is valued, one does not risk losing anything of value. However, it seems to me that this philosophy promotes an unbecoming lack of engagement with life, a general retreat from life. Indeed, such a philosophy would perhaps hold it best not be born in the first place… engagement places us at risk of disappointment in our endeavors, and grief at our loss of persons and things we love, but this is the price we pay for being born with natural gifts and accompanying obligations."

A life well lived is not measured by success in our endeavors, in fact, but in the endeavoring itself. It is the journey, and not the destination. It is the process, and not the end result. The blessing that does not perish is what comes from a life so lived, and is, finally, unscathed by success as modern society would measure it.

Now Aurelius sinks his teeth into the meat of the issue: values. And from those values – morals. He does so with no holds barred.

"The judgments of others are fickle. Today's acclaimed hero will soon be cast down by public opinion as yesterday's fool or villain. The only judgment we need to consider is that of our own conscience… If others conduct themselves badly, so be it. The condition of each man's soul is his own responsibility."

If any reader thinks that is letting you off easy – no burning hell fires to consume the wrongdoer – think again. There is no harsher master than one's own conscience, certainly not when one has a working mind. It sees all, and it forgives nothing. Aurelius (that is, Stedall) takes on the dissection of good and evil here, and it is fascinating to watch the concepts take shape without various religious laws to fall back upon. He does it skillfully, with reason as his tool of precision, and there are few things more beautiful than logic falling neatly into place like an intricate puzzle. There is room here for pain, and there is room for tragedy. That inevitable question of "why me?" is addressed as well. Joy has its place, and so does peace, as each sends out ripples to begin another ripple in neat succession.

By end of Epilogue, my pencil, worn down to the nub, could only scratch out: Bravo!

Zinta Aistars
Reviewer


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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