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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 8 August 2010 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Donahue's Bookshelf Edward's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Janie's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Kiplinger's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Louise's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Rayman's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf
Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Tracy's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age
Daniel Pink
Riverhead Books, a member of the Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9781573223089 $24.95

Vicki Adams

In the grips of globalization and rapid changes occurring in the twenty-first century, Daniel Pink provides compelling and provocative reasons as well as a plan on how a shift to expand human capabilities from the left side of the brain to the right side of the brain is necessary. Each hemisphere has "significantly different approaches to guiding our actions, understanding the world, and reacting to events". Pink's six aptitudes, referred to as the "Six Senses", are the human attributes required for success in the Conceptual Age.

The author's style is informal and simple, with an added bit of right-brained humor to illuminate, delight, uplift, and inspire readers. In this second person detailed account on how "left brain" thinking, reasoning, and problem solving that once powered the Information Age are still needed in the twenty-first century but will no longer be sufficient by themselves to sustain future success in the Conceptual Age. Pink light-heartedly takes the reader to task to understand that the once "thought frivolous 'right-brain' qualities increasingly will determine who flourishes and flounders in a Conceptual Age".

Pink structures his position by dividing the book into two sections. "Part One - the Conceptual Age - lays out the broad animating idea" about the reasons for the shift in thinking. Chapter 1 discusses the key differences in the left and right hemispheres. Chapter 2 is the "left-brained appeal why three huge social and economic forces - Abundance, Asia, and Automation are nudging us into the conceptual age". Chapter 3 "Explains the ideas of "high concept" and "high touch" and how persons who have successfully mastered these abilities will "set the tempo for modern life".

Pink presents three questions to consider: 1) Can someone overseas do what you do cheaper? 2) Can a computer do it cheaper? 3) Is what you are offering in demand in an age of abundance? Affirmative answers to those questions provide the basis for his position to move to the right... right side of the brain. The jobs of the Information Age (left-brained) are moving to Asia where workers perform them for a much lower cost. The automaticity of computers is eliminating the jobs of (left-brained) white-collar professionals while over-satisfied material needs (abundance) has people searching for meaning.

Part Two is a detailed explanation of the "Six Senses": Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning, and thus is divided into six chapters with an Afterword. These six aptitudes create harmony with left-brained thinking to develop a whole new mind. Each aptitude has a left-brained counterpart. Design must go beyond functional into something that is "beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging". An argument that is convincing will need to evolve into a compelling narrative Story. Specialization and focus will need to move to Symphony, synthesis, and seeing the big picture. Logical and analytical thoughts will need tempered with Empathy or the ability to understand the human existence. For our well-being in work and life, seriousness will yield way to Play, while the accumulation of stuff will have us pursuing purpose or Meaning. At the end of the explanation for each aptitude, a portfolio of ideas, practice, events, and reading suggestions provide experiences to work the innate features of right-brained thinking back into shape.

The illustrations and photographs support Pink's informative presentation of the difference between left-brain and right-brain thinking as well as his beliefs on society moving into the "Conceptual Age". The most memorable illustration, in the Symphony chapter, is a self-portrait that Pink draws of himself as he begins a one-week art course on drawing on the right side of the brain. At the end of the chapter, the self-portrait, drawn at the conclusion of the week class, amazes the eyes! The change is unbelievable! Pink did not become an artist, but rather learned to see the big picture of his face instead of drawing with the symbols that the left-brain has assigned to the different parts of the face.

Daniel Pink's last job was the chief speechwriter in the Clinton administration for Al Gore between 1995 and 1997. He left that job in the pursuit of happiness by practicing what he preaches. He himself has in-fact mastered the "Six Senses". He has authored four novels, the latest is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Both A Whole New Mind and Drive have reached the bestseller's list and combined have been translated into 28 different languages. Pink lives life as an entrepreneur writing for many business journals including the New York Times and speaking at universities and business venues around the world.

The title supports what the book delivers... a whole new mind! A Whole New Mind, in a left-brain sense, is a detailed left-brain account on the formation of a new mind while the shift in thinking, in a right-brain sense, is the acquisition of a whole new mindset.

Foxy, My Life in Three Acts
Pam Grier
Hachette Book Group
9780446548502 $24.99

Annie Slessman

Pam Grier, author of Foxy, My Life in Three Acts, spent her childhood moving from place to place due to her father being in the service. While this was good for Pam in many respects, it proved hard for her to maintain lasting friendships. She also found herself being the victim of sexual abuse at the tender age of six. This experience was the beginning of her stuttering problem.

Pam Grier was her happiest when she was at her grandparents farm. Due to her riding ability her Uncle gave her an elderly draft horse which established her love of horses.

Ironically, when Pam rode horses, she didn't stutter.

Her mother was her model and set a great example as an independent black woman when the world still insisted that blacks couldn't ride buses or drink from the same fountain as whites. Her mother studied to be a nurse, saved her money and bought their first home with her earnings.

As Pam entered the world of Hollywood, she took roles in several B movies and eventually moved up the ladder due to her "aura" and work ethic, found herself playing opposite Paul Newman on the wide screen.

Pam's love life seems to always have been in flux. While she was a partner in many different relationships, she continues to seek the right partner to share her content and happy life.

A cancer survivor, Pam shares her fears and joy as she fought this dreaded disease.

This is a book that is full of interesting and relevant stories. From the succession of the black community to a woman fighting cancer, Pam Grier offers an inspirational story that will appeal to any reader.

Inner Space
Merlin Fraser
A.& I.G. Associates Ltd.
9781445791791 $12.95;

Barbara TenBroek

This novel, which marks the beginning of a trilogy, has elements of multiple genres that blend well to make a cohesive story. There are elements of mystery starting with a murder-suicide by a prestigious British police officer. Why does a man who has dedicated his life to enforcing the law make it his last act to break the law? His co-worker, and friend, Nick finds the facts so improbable that he sets out to find the truth even though his investigation is against the rules.

Inner Space has elements of romance with the introduction of a green eyed woman, Jilly, who beguiles Nick - and, against her own inclinations, is beguiled in return. My one frustration was Nick's repeated reference to Jilly as a "scared little girl". She is a competent woman who works in the academic setting. While bemused by her unexpected attraction to him, she is definitely a grown woman. Woman enough to keep him confused.

The elements of science fiction are blended so well with the new age philosophy of astral projection that it doesn't seem to be fiction. The science is well thought out and introduced from the academic setting. The contrast between the hero's reality, dark and danger filled, and the heroines', learning centered and protected, was well done. It is true that those in academia tend to think in straight lines without considering how their information or invention could be used in the hands of criminals.

The police procedures and criminal elements give the American reader insights into the day to day operations of a British police force as well as the driving force that shapes the hero.

No matter what genre, this book was a page turning success. I was as confused by the action as was the leading characters. The humor and emotional intensity kept me turning the pages to the stunning but greatly satisfying conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and eagerly look forward to reading the authors next offering.

People Buy You
Jeb Blount
9780470599112 $21.95

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

According to Jeb Blount (Power Principles), the answer to becoming a top seller does not lie in the latest technologies such as Business Tools 2.0, e-mail marketing, social networking. Instead, it lies in good old fashioned skills such as listening, being likable, solving problems, and building your personal brand. Using these skills are the keys to selling more and the premises for Blount's highly-anticipated new book, "People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business."

While much of "People Buy You" is dedicated to developing active listening skills, refuting urban legends such as friends only buy from friends, and even using enthusiasm as your motivator, the book doesn't really zing until the very excellent chapter titled "Solve Problems." In the chapter, this founder of shares one of the most important keys to selling. For those salespeople wondering why prospects show enthusiasm for first meetings and then never return a phone call or e-mail again, this chapter will show you why.

Blount's book is not earth-shattering. Instead, it advises readers to rely on some familiar old school principles; principles that should be common sense for most experienced salespeople. Perhaps Blount is on to something here, since he is the CEO and founder of one of the most popular sales-related websites in the world and a sought after speaker.

"People Buy You" is the type of book you first hand to a recent college graduate who had decided he wants a career in sales. It's a book that applies common sense to navigating an overcomplicated career field. But because it doesn't rely on fads, it should stand the test of time. If you're looking to get back to basics or build a new sales foundation, this practical book is definitely for you.


Relatively Famous
Jessica Park
Amazon Digital Services
Kindle price approx. $1.99 (hard copy $TBA)

Lori Gondelman

Dani McKinley is your typical fifteen-year-old Midwest girl. She wants to wear make-up, get her ears pierced (with cool danglies versus the plain silver studs her mom makes her get) and have her very own cell phone. She has known her best friend Samantha since kindergarten and they do just about everything together. She lives with her mom, Leila, and her chef boyfriend of the past five years, Alan. The one thing Dani doesn't have is a dad. While she has never met him, nor does she even know his name, it hasn't been an issue for her; her mother has always been all that she needed and Dani has a wonderful father-daughter type relationship with Alan. Then her whole world is turned upside down when she arrives at school one day to an army of paparazzi taking her picture and shouting "How does it feel to know action star Mark Ocean is your father?" The secret her mother tried so desperately to keep is not so secret anymore. And now that she knows who her dad is, Dani begins to wonder just what she may have been missing all these years.

Mark Ocean isn't the big time movie star he used to be. Sure, he may still have his gorgeous looks, he may date one bimbo after another and girls may still swoon over his poster they have hanging on their bedroom walls, but his movies have gone from instant hits to instant duds. He needs to do something -and fast - to resurrect his once hot career. And after at first denying that Dani is his daughter, he soon realizes that bringing her into his life, and creating what would appear to be the perfect family, could be just what his dying career needs.

Dani heads off to Hollywood to meet her father for the first time and to see if she can fit in in the land of fame and excess. Her room in Mark's house is more like a mini condo than a bedroom; with a kitchenette, Jacuzzi tub, and a loft filled with pillows and a flat screen TV. The following day, before a carefully plotted TV interview that is to attempt to show him as the doting new father, Mark gives Dani her very own Pretty Woman moment, taking her shopping and spending money on her hand over fist. Anything she wants, she gets. Mark also hooks Dani up with the Kayla Dodd, the daughter of a film producer he's trying to impress. He figures if Dani & Kayla become good friends, he might just get that lead in Evan Dodd's new film, and begin the resurrection of his career. What starts out as a one week visit, ends up as a summer-long stay. Dani has a blast with Kayla, her sister Ava, her brother Nathan and the other new friends she's introduced to. Not to mention the easy-on-the-eyes Jason. But can Dani truly fit in with this materialistic lifestyle or can her newfound friends like her for who she truly is and not what she has? Can she find love with the player Jason or is the more down to earth surfer boy what she really needs? Can Mark put an end to his player ways and settle down with a "normal" woman? Will he begin to see his daughter as the young, beautiful, mature young woman she is instead of just a means to an end? Both Dani and Mark spend the summer trying to get to know each other, and almost as importantly, themselves. But will one overheard conversation shatter the relationship that they've just begun to build?

Jessica Park brings us right into the lives of Dani and Mark, so much so that you feel as if you're sitting poolside with them, enjoying the sun and fun of LA. She has created a wonderful and loveable character in Dani, a girl you will root for from page to page. She makes you both hate and love Mark all at the same time. Jessica Park, known for the cozy books she co-wrote with her mom Susan Conant (see the Gourmet Girls series) has found a new niche with the young adult genre. Both adults and teens will thoroughly enjoy this book. She certainly hit this one out of the park. Even though Relatively Famous has just been released, I can't wait to read what she has in store for us next.

Last Day Blues
Julie Danneberg
Illustrated by Judy Love
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main St. Watertown, MA 02472
9781580891042 $6.95 1-800-225-3214

Lauren Hamaty

Last Day Blues is a lively, heart-warming story about Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell's students. The children are preparing for their last day of school with weary hearts, but decide to give their teacher a present to show her how much they appreciate her. Entertaining, emotion-filled drawings engage the reader as the children speculate about which present to get for Mrs. Hartwell. The final result is something from the heart that Mrs. Hartwell can treasure as she remembers her class and prepares for her own vacation. Children can relate well to this engaging and perhaps familiar story about school ending for the summer.

Thinner than a Hair
Cinnamon Press
Glan yr afon,
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, LL41 3SU
9781907090035 $TBA 01766 832112

Moa-Aaricia Lindunger

"Daughter, lover, illegal immigrant, and now a broken prostitute. How in God's name have I managed to do this? As if I'm a pebble that a boy once flung across a river and it only touched the water in four places."

Already in the prologue of Thinner than a Hair, Adnan Mahmutovic's vibrant and poetic language pierces my heart. The sense of helplessness is striking. Not only that of the protagonist Fatima in her Bosnian context of the 1990s, but also in general. The words seem to suggest that, no matter how hard we try to persuade ourselves the opposite, we are all small pebbles uncontrollably hurled to and fro over an enormous ocean. Yet, at the same time, the reader cannot but be overwhelmed by the warmth, and astonished by the stoicism, faith and love that abounds Thinner than a Hair from prologue to epilogue. The novel requires a careful read. Not because its plot is extremely intricate or its language too complex but because each and every word is pregnant with profound emotions and meaning.

Mahmutovic, who was born in 1974 in northern Bosnia, invites his reader on a magic walk over Bosnian landscapes and through its history. He shows its rainbow colours rather than the army green, which we were used to see in the global broadcasts in the nineties. He gives voice to Fatima, who tells a story about coming of age in rural Bosnia and finding love in a sun burnt cornfield. Fatima grows up as an only child. Her father is "like a tree trunk, like a country" and her mother hides her loving warmth behind a cold facade as if for fear of the inescapable consequences of love. When she is seventeen Fatima meets Aziz, who is working for her father, and they fall in love. Then, in 1992, the war begins. Fatima and Aziz flee their small town and end up as refugees in Zenica, Eastern Bosnia.

The Balkan war is characterized by the splitting of the Balkan people along the lines of religion, ethnicity and gender, but Mahmutovic highlights the inessentiality of such categorizing. Fatima says, "Fools, they can't see the rain for the water, let alone the rainbow for all the colours." While Mahmutovic clearly depicts the Serbian aggression on Bosnia, it is as if he is trying to show that whether we are Serbs or Bosnians; Muslims or Christians; women or men or something in between, at the end of the day we are all human beings.

As if opening a babushka doll to find her core identity, Fatima peels off every layer of culturally created layers until she is totally exposed to the readers. Yet, this exposure, this vulnerability is also comforting because it shows that the essence of a human being has the capacity to survive every humiliation and distress even though it is thinner than a hair.

So Grows the Tree: Creating an Ethical Will
Jo Kline Cebuhar, J. D.
Murphy Publishing
P. O. Box 65370, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265-0370
9780966185133 $29.95

Richard Blake

Leaving a Legacy of Beliefs, Values, and Hopes

Jo Kline Cebuhar defines an Ethical Will as that which you believe, what you know, and what you hope for. Her book "So Grows the Tree: Creating an Ethical Will" outlines for the reader a number of possible plans for creating a personal Ethical Will.

Kline also helps the reader understand why it is important to create their own Ethical Will, how to make your story come alive, and a time frame for creating an Ethical Will.

Her suggestions include ideas for using quotations, thumbnail essays, and embellished journals. She talks about three dimensional Ethical Wills using photo albums, scrapbooks, and genealogies. She incorporates the use of the computer, with digi-scrapbooks, power point presentations, video, audio, and music in your preparation.

The provision for "notes to self" spaced throughout the book proved personally helpful in getting me started on organizing my own Ethical Will by making an inventory of photos, memos, documents, and writings that define my own life lessons learned, values, and beliefs. I thoroughly enjoyed the quotes from well known biographers, national leaders, contemporary personalities. These concepts add credence to Cebuhar's writing.

"So Grows the Tree - Creating and Ethical Will" is an important work. Every life coach, financial planner, and legal advisor should provide a copy for each of their clients.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
9781595551382 $29.99

Sonia P. Mohr

It has been sixty-five years since Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a young and brilliant Lutheran theologian sacrificed his life at the hands of Nazi Germany in his struggle to thwart the forces of evil that consumed his beloved country.

The author, Metaxas, dramatically presents Bonhoeffer who, early on, in 1933 when Adolph Hitler assumed the office of Chancellor of Germany, warned of the dangerous use of the "Fuhrer Principle" which Hitler exploited to set himself as God. He spoke against the "Aryan Paragraph" in a series of statutes by which anyone of Jewish descent would lose his job, and all pastors and church members with Jewish blood would be excluded from the Church. As time went by, amidst the unimaginable horror and cruelties that occurred, he vigorously and fearlessly wrote and preached against the Nazis, and invoked the living truths of Christianity through the different roles that he lived: as a pastor, preacher, teacher, writer, and crusader against German nationalism that turned unspeakably evil.

National socialism was born out of German patriotism--a desire to restore the pride of the German people after the crushing defeat and sufferings that followed World War I. It was to this end that the country embraced Adolph Hitler as their Fuhrer, until many Germans realized that the Fuhrer was a false one who would doom their country and cause the destruction of civilization.

Bonhoeffer was from an educated and cultured elite of German society. At 21 years of age, he earned a doctorate in theology from the Berlin University and at 24 years was a Sloan Fellowship scholar at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He possessed a wide span of social and ecumenical sophistication having lived in Barcelona, London, and New York. He had worshipped in Rome with Catholic Christians of all races, as well as, with African-Americans in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York City where he also taught Sunday school. He was well-traveled: to the deep South of the United States, for a better insight to America's racial problems, as well as to Cuba and Mexico. Members of his family, friends, former students and co-prisoners remember him as brilliant, gentle and kind, courtly, generous, humble, and with a happy temperament.

He possessed a deep and irreversible belief in the dignity of all men, regardless of ethnic origin and that it was the duty of all Christians to act and uphold this fundamental right even at the cost of one's life. He believed in faith coupled with discipleship; that it is the duty of Christians to live their faith and act, to be true disciple of Jesus Christ, to stop the forces of evil, to help the helpless regardless of their religion. To "merely wait and look on, to close their eyes and ears to the injustice around them is not being a Christian."

This call was initially directed to the German Church in which many pastors acquiesced to the Nazis. The church struggle resulted in the formation of the Confessing Church which took a clear stand against the Nazis as laid out in the Barmen Declaration.

Through his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr, the German Military Intelligence Agency and the center of the resistance against the Nazis. As a double agent, he would avoid the military draft, continue his pastoral works, and work with the conspirators. His assignment was to travel outside Germany as a courier and ambassador for the purpose of seeking international support for a new government after the elimination of Hitler and for peaceful terms of surrender.

His arrest in 1943 was for minor charges: assisting the Jews to escape to Switzerland, speaking against the Nazis, and money laundering arising from Switzerland's demand for currency in exchange for the Jews. On July 20, 1944, while he was in prison, the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler and carried out by Klaus von Stauffenburg failed. The investigation implicated him and others in the conspiracy, culminating in his execution on April 9, 1945 at Flossenburg Prison two weeks before the Americans liberated it.

Bonhoeffer was a man who accepted his fate "throwing himself completely in the arms of God." His faith and trust in God was overflowing as can be gleaned from a prayer he composed and distributed to co-prisoners at Tegel Prison in 1943: "Thy ways are past understanding, but Thou knowest the way for me." (Letters and Papers From Prison)

A witness at Flossenburg Prison who saw him at the gallows in 1945 and who learned his identity only afterwards, said:

"Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying to his God. I was deeply moved by the way this loveable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer, and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

Metaxas calls Bonhoeffer a prophet likened to Jeremiah, though he, more appropriately, depicts a "voice in the wilderness" like John the Baptist in his struggle with the German Church and later the Confessing Church to stand up and fight Nazism. He is also called a martyr, one who suffered greatly for his religious belief. But to call him a martyr is open to controversy. Although he is commemorated as a martyr in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Church of England, and the Church in Wales, many individuals consider his complicity in the murderous plot on Hitler's life as a factor that deprived him of the name "martyr." After all, among the fundamental tenets in the lives of Christians are: "Thou shalt not kill", "Love your enemies", "Do not be overcome by evil."

It is doubtful that a deeply spiritual man like Bonhoeffer resolved to kill, although he had full knowledge of the others' plan to assassinate Hitler. A statement Metaxas attributes to Bonhoeffer- "that he could have killed Hitler himself with his own hands" (page 388) has no cited authoritative source. More characteristically, a military officer who had easy and direct access to Hitler asked him, "Should I shoot?" Bonhoeffer replied that "he could not decide this for him" (page 426). When his sister-in-law whose husband was engaged in the plot prodded him about "letting the non-Christians do the dirty work for the Christians," he replied, "no one should be glad that anyone was killing anyone else." (page 359)

A very strange turn in the narrative occurred when Metaxas tried to depict Bonhoeffer as a peaceful anti-Nazi crusader who shifted into an active participant in the conspiracy, and all because, Metaxas contends, that he was obeying the voice of God. "Bonhoeffer would get his hands dirty not because he had grown impatient, but because God was speaking to him about further steps of obedience" (page 361). Metaxas further interprets Bonhoeffer's Ethics as reaching a conversion to violence necessitated by, "The evilness of the Nazis [that] could not be defeated via old-fashioned "ethics," "rules," and "principles."( page 469). He based this conversion to violence on Bonhoeffer's theology that we are human beings living in the world with God being in the center of our lives. It is a speculative and erroneous interpretation of Bonhoeffer's theology on man's relation here on earth to God. When one invokes the voice of God to spearhead a criminal plot, one is treading on dangerous and heretical grounds that betray the life that the pastor lived.

The numerous excerpts from Bonhoeffer's writings, poems and letters, though, at times, unnecessarily and mistakenly elaborated upon, succeed in fostering interest in his works, among which are: The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, The Testament To Freedom and Letters and Papers From Prison.

Truly the Nazi years were extraordinary times when the gates of hell opened and unleashed the chariots of Satan into the world. The conspirators resorted to extraordinary means to murder a tyrant, a result that many would have applauded. However, the claim is dubious that Bonhoeffer conceived a theology of personal justification for such an act. Indeed he seriously weighed a visit to Gandhi in India in early 1935 in furtherance of his engagement with Gandhi's development of the principles for non-violent activism.

Ann's Bookshelf

Margaret Wild
Illustrated by Ron Brooks
Allen Unwin
PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742373195 AU $22.99

Fox is a beautiful book. The rich colours and textures of its illustrations are dramatic and satisfying and the hand lettering is interesting and unusual, although it may be a problem for some early readers. The story it tells is unusual and open-ended in a way that stimulates the imagination.

The story is simple and the language sometimes complex but not daunting. A dog finds a magpie with a broken wing and takes it to his cave to nurse it. Dog has only one eye. Magpie has only one useful wing. Together they help each other. Magpie flies through the air on dogs back and acts as Dog's missing eye. Then Fox appears. Fox entices Magpie away and runs with it to the desert where it leaves it to make its own way home. The final illustration is of Magpie jiggety-hopping away from the fiery red sun.

There are lessons here in friendship, loyalty, trust and deception, but nothing is spelled out and the vivid illustrations are a major part of the joy of the book.

Fox was first published ten years ago and has since won numerous awards. This anniversary edition is suitably sumptuous for a book which widely is regarded as an Australian classic.

The Princess and her Panther
Wendy Orr
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Allen Unwin
PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742374246 AU $27.959

The Princess and her Panther is a very different kind of picture book but children will identify with the princess and with the panther, both of whom are real children in dress-up clothes.

The first illustration shows panther having whiskers painted onto her face, and the garden inside the front and back covers is ordinary and familiar. The story begins one afternoon with an imaginary trip to the desert of the garden sand-pit. Princess is confident. Panther is nervous. The paddling pool becomes a wide blue lake and the garden tree is the wood where Princess pitches her tent. As night falls, the world becomes black, and strange noises begin, Panther tries again and again to be brave. Finally, "Enough is enough". Panther finds her courage and the frightening, spooky night creatures are banished. The book ends with the sisters and their cat sleeping happily in their tent until morning and breakfast appear.

The story is simple but dramatic and there is plenty to discover in the illustrations on each page. A good bed-time story.

The Journey of Anders Sparrman: A Biographical Novel
Tom Geddes
Per Wastberg
9781847081308 A$49.99

"On the 28th of January [1774] we penetrated into the southern regions as far as we could possibly person before us had had the frozen honour of being further south." So wrote twenty-six-year-old Anders Sparrman, who was sailing as an assistant zoologist, botanist and physician on Captain James Cook's ship, Resolution. It was typical of his honest recording of the natural world that he also noted: "I could smell rotten penguin meat".

Sparrman's diary entries describing the light, the noise, the terror and the beauty of glacier-filled Antarctic seas are amongst the most compelling in this book. Yet this voyage to Tahiti, the Antarctic and to New Zealand was not his first venture into unmapped territory, and this description is only one of many of his vivid, acute and fascinating observations of the natural world, the people and the cultures which he encountered on his travels.

Anders Sparrman was a most remarkable Swedish natural scientist, whose early travels had taken him to both China and South Africa before he boarded the Resolution. He was just fourteen when he left the countryside where his great-grandfather, his grandfather and his father had all been church ministers, and went to Uppsala with his older brother to study medicine at the university. There he became the youngest disciple of the great Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, who commissioned him (at the age of nineteen) to travel to China to collect and observe the natural phenomena. Since early childhood, Sparrman had been fascinated and absorbed by the world of nature, so he was superbly qualified for this task. And he continued his biological observations all his life, although he travelled little after the age of thirty.

After returning from Antarctica, Sparrman sailed once again on Linneaus's commission. This time he ventured far into unmapped territory in Southern Africa, mapping and collecting specimens, and observing the natives and the Boer settlers as he went. In his surviving diaries, he give us a delightful picture of himself trekking into the bush to "observe the lilies on the ground and the daughters of the land" with a "whole regiment" of insects pinned around the brim of his hat because his insect box was full. The collection which he sent back to Sweden at the end of his trip was "the largest ever sent from Africa to any country" but his notes on the culinary delights of such things as fried elephant's trunk, rhinoceros flesh and hippopotamus-fat soup, would horrify modern conservationists. His observations of the people he met, their cultures, customs and illnesses, are as acute as his descriptions of the country and its botanical specimens. Most of all, the horrors and cruelty of the slavery which he encountered and recorded made him a passionate abolitionist.

On his return to Sweden at the age of thirty, he set up practice as a doctor and midwife, and was given a 'pension' as the Keeper of the Museum at the Academy in Stockholm. Later he was elected to the Swedish Academy of Science and paid a stipend, which allowed him the time to order and describe his collection. Subsequently he was appointed Curator of the Cabinet of Natural History, a position which he held against strong opposition until just before his fiftieth birthday. In contrast to the freedom of his early childhood and the independence and adventure of his early life, these appointments exposed him to bureaucratic corruption, pettiness and social commitments which he scorned. Fortunately, it also brought him into contact with Lotte, a young woman with whom he shared love and friendship until his death in 1820.

Per Wastberg's weaving together of the strands of Sparrman's remarkable life from his books, diaries and letters, and from Wastberg's own empathetic imagination, rescues a good and modest man from obscurity. His achievements in botany, the important part he played in the abolition of slavery, and his lifelong work for the ordinary, poor people whose doctor he chose to be, all make him a man who deserves to be remembered.

This book is not always easy to read. Wastberg's prose, initially, seems rather abrupt but his descriptions of nature are lyrical, and gradually his 'voice' begins to seem natural to his subject. The excerpts from Sparrman's own diaries and letters are always absorbing and often funny. They offer a clear picture of a sensitive, intelligent, determined and honest character whose heart, always, was attuned to nature and who viewed all humankind as equally deserving of respect. This is a book to savour slowly - and to remember.

The Book of Lost Threads
Tess Evans
Allen Unwin
PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742372334 A$27.99

Moss's life is complicated by the fact that she has two mothers, Mother Amy and Mother Linsey. And life becomes complicated for her father, Finn, when Moss seeks him out years after her birth. So much for guaranteed anonymity for sperm donors! Clearly, one determined offspring can find ways around this, which is exactly what Moss (Miranda Sinclair) has done.

Flynn, who leads a reclusive sort of life trying to come to terms with having killed an anonymous young woman in a traffic accident, is wary of Moss. His story unfolds alongside hers, but so, too, does that of his elderly neighbour, Mrs Pargetter, who has found a role for herself in life by knitting tea cosies for the United Nations. How she came by this occupation is a story in itself, but we learn that it is not the only thing which makes her life very different to that of other people.

In fact, there are many stories in this book and Tess Evans weaves their threads together with great skill, giving each of her loosely connected characters enough depth for us to want to know more about them. So, there is plenty of variety and plenty to enjoy.

We hear about Moss, Flynn, Mrs Pargetter and her dog, Errol, and we meet kindly and worldly-wise Benedictine monks, a puzzled police sergeant, a run-away teenager, Kosovo refugees, some unusual United Nations employees, the townsfolk of Opportunity, and many others. The great strength of this book is Evans's ability to show realistically and sensitively the psychological complexity of her characters as she draws us into their uncertainties, their emotional ups-and-downs, the mistakes they regret and the relationships they develop with each other in unexpected situations.

Evans is a good story-teller and her gently insistence on the tolerance and the kindness of ordinary human beings is what makes this book a joy to read.

Also, there is also a large sticker on the front of the book which says that if you don't "Love it" the publishers will give you your money back. My guess is that there won't be many who will want to take them up on their offer.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Please, Ma'am
Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
2246 Sixth St., Berkeley, CA 93710
9781573443883, $14.95,

A women with power is sexy. "Please Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male Submission" is a collection of erotic stories focusing on the men who want to be dominated and controlled by women who want to dominate and control. A fine collection for those who are very much into this sort of thing, "Please Ma'am" is very much worth considering for any erotica collection.

The Memoirs of Virginia Lord
Marianne Pilgrim
Privately Published
9781452802749, $14.95

Life has changed, and love has most definitely changed. "The Memoirs of Virginia Lord" is a story of love in the 1930s, as Virginia Lord, a woman traveling abroad and her romantic endeavors with not only American men, but one Englishman who seems to catch her eye. An enticing read of love and courtship in a way that has long gone past, "The Memoirs of Virginia Lord" is a read that shouldn't be missed.

The Miserly Mind
Elise Cooke
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750459, $19.95,

The best way to make money is not to spend it. "The Miserly Mind: 12 1/2 Secrets of the Freakishly Frugal" is a guide to becoming a millionaire through not spending like one. Avoiding expenses, finding the best deals, saving money, and raising money, Elise Cooke comes to readers with plenty of thoughtful wisdom. "The Miserly Mind" is a thoughtful read with plenty of advice.

Avner Hershlag
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440183874, $18.95,

Children can be the joy of lives, but they can also be a dreadful omen. "Misconception" tells the story of Dr. Anya Krim, a woman who is uncertain of her own willingness to become a mother as she deals with the women of high level politics and their own mysteries of fertility, as the First Lady has a child of unknown origin, a comatose senator's daughter becomes pregnant, and more. "Misconception" is a medical thriller circling around pregnancy, a riveting read.

Blood and Silk
Carol McKay
Privately Published
c/o Kelley & Hall (publicity)
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9781439207628, $25.95

Jesus may have been divine, but he was also a man. "Blood and Silk: The Hidden Love Story of Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth" looks at the human side of Christ, who embraced Mary Magdalene as more than a simple following of his preachings. Reflecting on the times of their lives and drawing much upon research of the era, "Blood and Silk" is a fascinating and riveting read, recommended.

Here, Now
Cinnamon H. Lofton
Loving Life Foundation
c/o Trafford
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781426917325, $14.99

The power of oneself is only limited by oneself. "Here, Now" is an uplifting book from Cinnamon H. Lofton as she urges people to take control of their lives, and develop their own discipline which frees them from addiction and other controlling factors. Each page contains one message, designed to give wisdom in small doses, and proving effective. "Here, Now" is a top pick for anyone trying to change their life for the better.

Laurel Saville
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440161070, $16.95,

A mother she never really knew, she had quite the story to uncover. "Postmortem" tells the story of Laurel Saville and her mother, Anne Ford. Anne Ford seem destined for success at first, beauty queen and fashion designer. But her life took a sour turn, and she ended up murdered as a derelict. Laurel Saville, her daughter, tries to uncover this story and makes parallels to her own life along the way. "Postmortem" is a remarkable read, solidly recommended.

The Blue Light of Portland
Sadie Van Rae
Black Rose Writing
9781935605201, $16.95,

A double life is sometimes something hard to maintain. "The Blue Light of Portland" is the tale of Criminal Attorney and Exotic dancer Stacey, who keeps her two professions very far apart. But when crime pops up in her dancing career, she finds that the lines are fading and with romance in the mix, Stacy's life gets a lot more interesting. "The Blue Light of Portland" is a fine and exciting read, highly recommended.

Hidden History of Hilton Head
Alice E. Sink
The History Press
9781596298484 $19.99

Grounded heavily in interviews and research, Hidden History of Hilton Head is not a strictly chronological or comprehensive history, but rather an eclectic collection of fascinating historical anecdotes, trivia tidbits, and more about Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. From brief, biographical profiles of extraordinary and noteworthy residents, to amazing "believe it or not" stories, Hidden History of Hilton Head lives up to its name with insights into the unexpected. Black-and-white vintage photographs and images from the Library of Congress enrich this thoroughly accessible tour. Highly recommended for pleasure as well as for research reading.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Sleeping Mermaid
Rob Couteau
Privately Published
9780980188059, $15.95

Novelist and literary enthusiast Rob Couteau brings readers part of his love with "The Sleeping Mermaid", a book of flowing poetry and thought that asks plenty of questions and offers plenty of answers. "The Sleeping Mermaid" is a poetry collection well worth considering. "...Muse...": She is constant/like a steady stream;/only my cup/may falter.

Richard Henegan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440166037, $24.95,

Children are something that drives people to insanity. "Gestation: Unborn Hostage" tells the tale of nurse Wendy Malloy, and her forceful care of Annatha Wolcott, a pregnant teen with an unwanted pregnancy. While the pregnancy is unwanted, Annatha finds that she isn't about to let her child be forcefully taken by the desperate Wendy. An intriguing story of the yearning for a child and the love of mothers, "Gestation" is a fascinating and exciting story, recommended.

Rolling with the Punches
Jamie Kerrick
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432754471, $14.95,

Life is mostly how to react to it all. "Rolling with the Punches" tells the tale of Joey Douglas, a man coming to term with who he is, and how it's what he didn't want to be. A homosexual who hated his orientation and found himself depressed because of it, it looked bad for Joey, but coming to terms with who he was is the first step in living his life. A fine and gripping coming of age tale, "Rolling with the Punches" is a choice pick.

The Gathering Storm in the Middle East
Robert Thomas Fertig
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432752262, $18.95,

The need for passion doesn't go away because one is on an important mission. "The Gathering Storm in the Middle East: Intrigue, Passion, and Love at the Crucial Turning Point of the Crisis" is a romance set in the crisis of the Middle East as one agent finds himself driven between three women, one that would sell out his country, one that seems to appease his primal needs... and then there is his wife of decades. "The Gathering Storm in the Middle East" is a fascinating read that shouldn't be missed by romance readers.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Robert Bedick
Privately Published
9780557260683, $16.70

To look into someone else's life can bring a new perspective on your own. "Tomas" tells the tale of Paul Weber and his biography of artist Alfred Tomas. But the life of the eccentric Tomas makes Paul question his own station and happiness with his wife and son. "Tomas" is a thoughtful look at life and our comparisons, highly recommended.

Public Schools are Archaic
M. R. Ussery EdD & S. R. Pargman
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758059, $11.95,

For four hundred years, education has been mostly unchanged. "Public Schools are Archaic" is a discussion of the modern failings of public education and the problems that plague them. WIth ideas on how to modernize and fix what plagues our educational systems, Dr. M. R. Ussery and S. R. Pargman give readers plenty of thoughtful solutions and make for quite the fascinating read. "Public Schools are Archaic" is not a read to be missed by those concerned with education.

The Thirteenth Apostle
Arkady Povzikov
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452003603, $16.95,

In a search for truth, one must be prepared to endure the worse. "The Thirteenth Apostle" follows Sasha Komarov, searching for his family's history, traveling around the world to do so. Becoming involved with terrorists, his search for truth not only puts his life in danger, but the truth he finds may just change the world forever. "The Thirteenth Apostle" is a riveting thriller, not to be missed.

The Conversation That Matters Most
DeWitt Rowe
Privately Published
9781439268933, $9.99

Talking is what makes humans different from other animals, and is key to making that bond. "The Conversation that Matters Most" is a guide to encouraging more conversation in our lives, stating that conversation with friends, family, and the people we encounter every day imbues us with more knowledge and understanding of the world, and leads to a better quality of life. "The Conversation that Matters Most" has a powerful message, highly recommended.

The Problem With Being Perfect
Wayne Chan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449093549, $26.95,

Perfection isn't perfect. "The Problem with Being Perfect" is a collection of humorous essays and thoughts from Asian-American writer Wayne Chan as he gives readers a tour of his own challenges of perfection and the need to attain it. With charming comics dotted throughout his work, "The Problem with Being Perfect" is a fine read, sure to lighten many a day.

Evenings on Dark Island
Rhett DeVane & Larry Rock
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741459312, $17.95,

Just because you're undead doesn't mean life gets any easier. "Evenings on Dark Island" tell the story of vampires and life, as a new vampire faces the realities of unlife on an island filled with your not so typical vampires trying to get by. "Evenings on Dark Island" is a humorous and fun read that takes a break from the cliche vampire and gives readers a diversion and an offbeat take that shouldn't be missed.

White House Interpreter
Harry Obst
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452006154, $17.95,

The president is usually a wise man, but not often multilingual. "White House Interpreter: The Art of Interpretation" is the memoir of Harry Obst, as he reflects on his years as an interpreter for the White House, serving many presidents in dealing with their language issues when dealing with foreign emissaries. "White House Interpreter" is a fascinating read that gives much insight on the rules and standards of the translations in the white house.

Hell's Too Good for Some People
Larry Ivan Vass
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450216630, $19.95,

Through it all, the will to survive is a powerful one. "Hell's Too Good for Some People" tells the story of tells the story of a family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the constant stream of challenges that assault them. Near death experiences, debilitating viruses, and the power of love and survival, "Hell's Too Good for Some People" is a remarkable tale, highly recommended.

Let Your Innate Sing
William A. Kriva
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432733902, $18.95,

If you go against what is meant to be, you'll always be miserable. "Let Your Innate Sing: The Key to Finding the Life of Your Dreams" is an urging from William A. Kriva to follow one's dreams, even with the risks. Abandoning a stable job for his own pursuit, he gives advice for readers to do the same. "Let Your Innate Sing" is a positive and uplifting read for anyone who hates their life for thinking they've abandoned what they want.

Bible Stories for Adults (Old Testament)
H. Richard Neff
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162185, $16.95,

The Bible is the one universal source of faith, yet few Christians ever read its text. "Bible Stories for Adults (Old Testament)" is H. Richard Neff's urging that adults pick up the Bible and read for themselves, and presents a study guide and story guide intended for them as they make their own journey through the thousands of years old work of faith. "Bible Stories for Adults" is a worthwhile pick for any adult seeking to study the Bible.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Scott A. Annan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440194511, $19.95,

No one is in charge of you but you. "AIMbitious: A Life of Enlightened Self-Leadership" is a philosophical and uplifting read on the importance of driving oneself and keeping one going through their own determination and leadership. Aiming higher, Scott Annan wants readers to take his advice and use it to push themselves further to a better life. "AIMbitious" is a top pick for those who want to pick their direction in life and stick to it.

Passage from England
Frank Zajaczkowski
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781450549905, $9.99,

The new life of America is never how it's advertised. "Passage from England" is a memoir of Frank Zajaczkowski, telling his story of immigrating to America in the 1950s, and how with an alcoholic father, the land of opportunity seemed as anything but. A fascinating and thoughtful read, "Passage from England" is a poignant and insightful read, highly recommended.

Flybait's Lament
Danny D. Langone
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781615827442, $16.95,

Small towns almost always have something to hide. "Flybait's Lament" tells the story of a small town with it's only outward claim to fame being a large assortment of pests that hove around the fertilizer factory. But when an infant is found abandoned, the town is faced to realize it has far worse problems than the swarm of insects that linger everywhere they go. "Flybait's Lament" is an intriguing read, not to be missed.

The Object of Evil
Chris Duryea
Privately Published
9781450585538, $23.99

Evil is at its worst when it comes from within. "The Object of Evil" tells the story of Daryl Tempest, a man who falls into a downward spiral after committing one ghastly act and his downward spiral from that act. Facing the ghosts of the past, he must overcome what he has done, and "The Object of Evil" is a riveting read that is well worth considering for thriller fans.

Finding Your Own Truth
Reed R. Critchfield
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450039390, $19.95,

Finding and understanding oneself is the true first step to happiness. "Finding Your Own Truth: A Consultation to the Journey of Self" is a guide to finding oneself in a time where the world just seems to be spiraling out of control. With much in the way of inspirational spirituality, "Finding Your Own Truth" is a fascinating and riveting read of the importance of self in today's world.

The FuFus Go to New York
Bob Spalding
Privately Published
9780971106840, $19.95,

Being in a new strange place is always intimidating, and being hunted for profit never helps things. "The FuFus Go to New York" tells the story of the FuFus as a disaster dumps them from their homeland into New York City. Hunted by a jeweler with money in his eyes, these charming creatures must hold their own and find their way back home. "The FuFus Go to New York" is a fun read for younger individuals, highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Relatively Crazy
Ellen Dye
L&L Dreamspell
Spring, TX
9781603181662 $14.95

Wanda Jo Ashton grew up in a small town in West Virginia with one goal in mind: to get as far away from her penny-pinching life as she could. Twenty years later, on her 40th birthday, Wanda Jo, who now calls herself Ashton and lives in San Francisco, is expecting an expensive birthday gift from her attorney husband, Reed, only to be rejected by him on a popular TV talk show. Reed, choosing to assume the role of boy toy to a wealthy elderly woman, leaves Wanda Jo destitute and desperate. With her 16-year-old daughter in tow, Wanda Jo returns to her hometown and eccentric family, where she tries to figure out what to do with her life while expecting her husband to eventually rescue her. But what Wanda Jo thinks she wants may not be what she actually gets.

Filled with fun characters and witty dialogue, Relatively Crazy starts off with a bang and doesn't let up. This humorous tale of a woman's journey as she deals with a broken marriage while beginning a new and completely different life than the one she led is heart-warming and thoroughly entertaining. There's a touch of romance, which spices up the story, along with a refreshing dose of camaraderie among some of the women characters. A book readers will truly enjoy.

Gone Tomorrow
Lee Child
Bantam Dell
New York, NY
9780385340571 $27.00

Jack Reacher, riding a New York subway in the early morning hours, notices a woman passenger acting strangely. Reacher watches her, ticking off the 12 points identifying her as a suicide bomber. When Reacher approaches her, she pulls a gun and kills herself. Since Reacher was the last one to speak to the woman, he's taken to the police station for questioning. When the feds show up, Reacher suspects there's more to this story than a depressed woman committing suicide. This is confirmed when he's approached by governmental and foreign organizations wanting to know what the woman passed to him before she died. Curious about what everyone is looking for, Reacher begins his own investigation which puts him at odds with law enforcement and leads him to the White House and its past connection to the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the '80s.

Lee Child's 13th offering in the Reacher series is a tense thriller with plenty of bad guys and ample graphic violence. Reacher is a dangerous man confident in his abilities and with his own sense of justice. He isn't timid when dealing with the FBI, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and terrorists, all of whom are after him. His brusque, at times edifying narrative, as always, carries the plot forward in an intriguing, entertaining way, and readers will root for Reacher to take care of matters in the way only Reacher can.

Under the Dome
Stephen King
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439148501 $35.00

Iraq veteran Dale (Barbie) Barbara is on his way out of Chester's Mill when an invisible shield drops down, running along the small town's boundaries. Planes, cars and birds crash into it, people run into it, and no one can figure out what it is. The US military's calculations are that a large force field in the shape of a dome has settled over Chester's Mill, cutting the town off from the rest of the country. Their efforts to destroy the dome are fruitless, as are their attempts to figure out who did this. The president places Barbie in charge of Chester's Mill but that doesn't set well with second selectman Big Jim Rennie, who likes being a big fish in a small pond and isn't about to let anyone else assume control. Besides, Jesus told the sanctimonious Big Jim that he's the one in charge. In an effort to keep Barbie from taking over, Rennie maneuvers behind the scenes, manipulating the people of Chester's Mill with the aid of his new police chief and several newly appointed deputies. As the air turns bad and greenery dies, Big Jim's focus remains on using Barbie as a scapegoat for several unexplained murders, while Barbie and several others, on the run from Big Jim and his minions, try to put an end to the dome.

This lengthy novel is well worth the time, reminding this reviewer of King's best novel, The Stand, following the same basic concept: good versus evil, although this battle is among humans. The large cast of characters works well; each is well-developed and essential to the storyline. The thrilling plot is fast-paced, filled with suspense and action. Absolutely one of King's best in recent years.

Hamilton Swoop: Wizard of Green Ridge
L. Stewart Hearl
L&L Dreamspell
Spring, TX
9781603181129 $16.95

As a youngster, Hamilton Swoop apprenticed under Master Wizard Obsidian. At 20, subsequent to Obsidian's death, Hamilton returned home after being stripped of his magic by the Wizards Guild. Forty years later, he owns his own antiques business and lives a paltry life with a cat as his only companion. But his life changes when he unpacks a trunk purchased at an estate sale containing a mysterious orb, cloak and the bones of Obsidian. Hamilton sets out for Center City where he intends to turn Obsidian's bones over to the Wizards Guild. Once there, he learns the new Guildmaster of the Guild of Magic Users and Wizards has been waiting for his return, hoping he will destroy a magical dragon wreaking havoc on the city. Hamilton is reluctant to help an organization that turned its back on him, but when he is offered his magic back, he agrees. From that point, he faces extreme danger as he tries to find a way to battle the dragon and a mysterious, very powerful wizard.

Hamilton Swoop is an interesting character, a passive man with powerful magical abilities. The plot moves quickly, with moments of great suspense. The telepathic communications Hamilton shares with his cat lend humor to this intriguing story. Consider this one of those unique books for youngsters and adults alike who enjoy an exciting story filled with magic and suspense.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

First of State: a Prequel to the CJ Floyd Mystery Series
Robert Greer
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2607
9781556439155 $27.95 1-800-788-3123

Time warps in science fiction writing have brought us "Back to the Future" and its sequels, but rarely do we have a time warp in the form of a prequel of a mystery written by an award-winning author like Robert Greer in "First of State."

This fast-moving story begins with the career of C J Floyd when he returned from Vietnam and tells of his liaison development during his formative years as a bail bondsman and detective.

When you read his early works there seemed to be a void in character development, but that did not detract from the action or involvement of the reader. Swiftly, readers became enmeshed in the characters as they appeared and when the story unfolded it was easy to grasp what this talented author was conveying.

"First of State" is clearly the tying together of all relationships C J had during the five year span this story covers. Knotted together with a firmly tied list of players we watch as he unravels them one-by-one as Floyd picks his way through leads in an attempt to find the killer of a man who he met when he first returned from the war. Covering this five year period from when C J came back after serving two years in 'Nam, Wiley Ames, a recent acquaintance was shot. Additionally, a Chinese man was also shot dead in cold blood at the same time. At the time of these, murders the police investigated, but were unable to adequately solve the deaths to the satisfaction of Floyd. The case remained open and he was always nagged by the prospect of finding resolution in bringing the perpetrator to justice.

During the ensuing years Floyd, was mentored by his Uncle Ike in the learning of the bail bonding business. Also, he came upon the realization he was a crackerjack detective. Uncle Ike was ailing through most of the story and could not assist him in the sleuth pursuits, but he called upon his boyhood chums who readily backed him up, even though they engaged in other pursuits for their livelihoods.

Readers are introduced to the intriguing world of antique collecting through the passionate appreciation of certain rare license plates which Floyd collects. He is an eclectic who gathers many objects and holds them for possible financial rewards. However, he is a real collector in the true sense of the word. He is an expert when it comes to the years, types, conditions, and Greer conveys this information throughout the book. The story revolves around Floyd's quest to find extremely hard to find license plates in mint condition and at the same time attempts to solve several murders.

This book is due out in the fall of 2010. A must read for the person who enjoys a good mystery or a great gift for the holiday season for the reader who likes a stylish 'Who Done It.'

Victory Over Your BIG FAT Body
Mike Shane with Wes Bagby
M. Shane Publishing
9780984466405 $9.95

Eating less and living longer is the theme of this newly published work by Mike Shane. Food which is the right combination of nutrition and causes your body to find your ideal weight is what caused the author of this book to consider his life as a miracle. Over the past five years he was able to recover from 3 strokes, prevent a 4th, and at the age of 69 found himself fit without the wonder drugs of the 20th Century.

Simply setting forth his plan for weight loss is only part of the knowledge that is imparted by this road map to better health. The combinations of foods, eating habits, and exercise make up for a transformation which will give greater odds on a longer, better life. Following the simple premises given by Shane at this time in your life you will achieve a lengthening of your years here on earth. The return is 2 times the hours of exercise completed. This will include walking 2 hours a day. That is 4 hours extra you will survive.

Shane advocates less salt, good dental hygiene, exercise, and a review of your dietary habits so that you eliminate those harmful processed foods in exchange for heart-healthy veggies and fruits. Not a vegan book by any means, but is a look at those foods which are harming your system's ecology. Switching to chicken, fish and veggies is the way to achieve your goal.

Certain foods, when eaten in reasonable quantities, will actually burn more calories; they are called Negative Calorie Foods by Shane and include apples, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and several others. Under the section of Belly Fat Fighting Foods are those foods containing flavonoids, some are pears, apples, tea, and very dark chocolate.

Mike Shane should have expired 5 years ago from several serious ailments he had which included strokes. He has lived a miracle, according to him. Many of his self-realizations come from what has worked for him. They may not work for everyone, but easy tips with regard to dental care, exercise, and diet will help all.

Youngsters will feel invincible as they meander through their lives until the day comes that taking care of their bodies should have been a lifelong project. Death can be cheated out of taking you too soon. As Shane describes the Angel of Death as 'Uncle Jerry', the one whose job is to escort the deceased to the after life; Behavior Modification is put forth as a concept to outwit this feared Angel.

This book is highly recommended as a way to ease into a new lifestyle of eating and feeling good about yourself as you escape from the clutches of 'Uncle Jerry.'

The Last Estate
Conor Bowman
The Permanent Press
9781579622039 $26.00

Author Conor Bowman spent many summers in France which influenced his writing this compelling book "The Last Estate" about a young boy becoming a man.

This is a bittersweet story of 16 year old Christian Aragon. He narrates this tale about his life in the southern part of France in a small village called Gigondas after World War I. It is 1920 and Christian is about to graduate. When his older brother Eugene had been killed in action during the war, Christian's future life was changed forever. His brutal father expected him to take over the family vineyards, but he did not want anything to do with his father's estate.

Christian Aragon had plans of his own. His interests were not about wine at all, but were directed only to the beautiful and kind Vivienne Pleyben, his geography teacher. Ms. Pleyben became more than his teacher as they fell in love with each other.

Christian dreaded the end of the school year because he knew he would have to make a choice. This young man had to make a very big decision, either he would stay and run the family business, or leave his hometown with Vivienne so that they could share their future together. He was angry his brother died and that he was now chosen to be the one to stay as the family winemaker.

The story changed dramatically when the student and the teacher began their mutual love affair and suspicions became relevant. They may have been in love, but they were not prepared for a murderous crime committed in their town and the dire consequences that disrupted their lives. You will need to read the book to find out what happened. A surprise twist ending awaits the reader.

Modern day romances are emulated in a story about the 1920's. Choices we make in our lives today are just the same as those which faced Christian and Vivienne when their story unfolds. The consequences faced by them make a poignant narrative. Conor Bowman has penned an endearing tale of a young man who you will not soon forget. As you share in his experiences, he will bring back our memories that we often reminisce about. Here is a story that will tug at your heart with colorful characters.

Bowman lives and works in Ireland. His previous books, published in Ireland, are: "Wasting by Degrees" (a novel) and "Life and Death and in Between" (a collection of short stories). His next novel, "The redemption of George Baxter Henry" will be published in 2011.

Conor comes from the tradition of Irish storytellers, who have been recognized as outstanding, and you are highly encouraged to read this book.

The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennet
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312427641 $12.00

Literature is a Commonwealth

Five stars are just too paltry for this book. Awesome, bright, clever, droll, only begin the list of adjectives that could be assigned to it. The plot is a blatant, if delightful, vehicle for Alan Bennett's philosophy of reading. The Queen, her very self, meets one of her pages in the traveling library. Norman takes her on a jolly trek to becoming "a reader". She finds that the briefings from her staff in preparation for her tours and travels are 'terse, factual and to the point'. 'Briefing closes down a subject, while reading opens it up.' Norman shows her how to read for pleasure, not just for enlightenment. When told that security had confiscated her current book from the carriage and likely exploded it, she is indignant. 'Exploded? But it was Anita Brookner.' She muses, "A book is a device to ignite the imagination."

Inevitably, her secretary Kevin, the Prime Minister, the household in general and even the Corgis find that the Queen's reading is causing disruption. She's tardy for luncheons and openings. She perfects reading in her coach, keeping the book below the window level so as to maintain the royal wave as she travels. She prefers discussing books with her tea party conversants rather than their method of travel and how far they came. Foreign dignitaries are unprepared as she discusses their nation's authors. Walkies no longer include ball-throwing.

Perhaps as Bennett shows the Queen becoming enamored with reading, the rest of the world will catch on. So, turn off the TV, put away the iPhone, unplug the Wii and pick up a book-or even a kindle. Be encouraged, the thumbwriters of the world may yet discover adjectives and adverbs. Alan Bennett is the quintessential Englishman. Read An Englishman Abroad or rent the DVD for even more of Bennett's wonderful take on the psyche of the English. Most importantly, buy this book, save it, savour it, quote it, and realize for yourself what an extraordinary gift it is to be able to read.

7 Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin
James Sullivan
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
9780306818295 $26.00

James Sullivan pulls no punches when he writes about the rise of George Carlin in "7 Dirty Words", words that the United States Supreme Court ruled were patently offensive to be said on the airwaves as regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Historically, this is a good book, which talks about Carlin's rise as a comic from being a class clown to performing in Carnegie Hall. This is an adult biographical chronology which includes those infamous words, but they are only run together three times throughout the book so as to soften their shock value. Skipping through those words to follow the heart of the story is easy. Clearly, Sullivan is an accomplished author who is able to demonstrate how comedy changed when new faces entered the scene in the early l950's. Lenny Bruce was one of the first who would use the words as a part of his act and when he achieved success, others, including George Carlin, followed.

If you are unfamiliar with the words that cannot be used on television or radio because of exposure to minors, just remember what got children's' mouths washed out with soap. Also, you really knew the words as a child, but learned very quickly they were never to be used in public.

One of the most outstanding features of this biography is the behind-the-scenes glimpses of the interrelationship between the comedians who were famous and how they would help aspiring hopefuls achieve their day in the spotlight.

HBO was a setting where Carlin was able to use some of his 'words', but they too had limitations on what they felt their audience could take. Johnny Carson's Tonight Show was another venue where he was surprisingly able to host the show without offending the network censors. In fact, Sullivan points out; Carlin had hosted the show 105 times during his career before Carson had retired.

George Carlin was a brilliant and articulate man, but, unfortunately he was addicted to cocaine and pot throughout most of his career. He would do the unexpected by providing money to new comedians so that they could survive during tough economic times without his expecting a reward or recognition. He was by no means a saint and at times was a sinner, but he was a humanitarian for the benefit of his craft. Ironically, he in later years had become the voice heard by many children in voice-overs which he did for various animated characters after he had given up his addictions and became rehabilitated.

Carlin died in June 2008 after having many bouts with a failing heart. James Sullivan has written a lasting tribute to this icon of American humor which was well researched, annotated, and most of all, entirely believable.This book is highly recommended for adults who want to have their memories refreshed about comedians of the past and present.

The Bourne Objective
Created by Robert Ludlum
Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central Publishing
9780446539814 $27.99

Jason Bourne was originally created by Robert Ludlum who died in 2001. Carrying on in the spy-tingling tradition of fast-paced action has been Eric Van Lustbader who has written so many books it is impossible to list them all and have space left over for a column.

In the current series of Jason Bourne adventures, "The Bourne Objective" is the conclusion of a trilogy which had as its second installment, "The Bourne Deception" and the first being "The Bourne Sanction."

Followers of Jason Bourne know his skills, methods, and how he has interacted with the bad guys. He is rough and tough, trained to be the best of any spy characters, and has that intuition which has saved his life many times as he ducked bullets, dodged fists, and all this even though he had lost his memory in this trilogy series. He goes by several pseudonyms in "The Bourne Objective", but despite his best efforts, he is always recognized as the well-known, Jason Bourne.

Interestingly, there were some amusing instances when he met with former friends who he did not recognize because of his amnesia. Despite the fact that he also got involved with enemies, caused him consternation as he had to extricate himself from danger many times.

Van Lustbader has the ability to write compelling dialogue which thrusts the reader into action and descriptive passages which give a feeling of watching a movie. Matt Damon played Jason Bourne in past films and it is likely he will be selected to do so again. Without being sexist, this book is more a man's story than a woman's. Blood and guts are the norm, rather than the exception. Terse adult dialogue is also interspersed throughout, but the words make the story believable.

This book is self-contained and is separate from the others, but Lustbader brings you up-to-date with past characters, and the events blend into a page-turner. Be prepared to spend a few hours at a time reading as this entertaining novel is an obsessive-compulsive adventure you cannot put down. Few books have the effect of capturing your imagination in such a vividly-graphic manner that you feel as though you are actually witnessing shootings, explosions, and the words being exchanged between characters.

One of the most outstanding features of Eric Van Lustbader's writing is how he blends so many players in each chapter without interfering with the plot. He has developed each individual in such detail that it was not difficult to follow them and their roles which were played out in various countries. Exotic Bali and its beauty is contrasted with drab Moscow and its gray buildings which appear to look alike. Washington DC and its suburbs were described realistically.

Clarity of expression makes this suspenseful novel a great spy mystery. Blending historical facts into this fictional tale has an aura which keeps you guessing how apparently disconnected parts can result in a climatic ending which is logical. As you can tell, this book is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Siege
Stephen White
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525951223 $25.95 1-800-845-5515

I selected this book because the plot intrigued me right upon my reading the cover jacket. I love thrillers, and I especially enjoyed the opportunity to read some one new to my library of detective, suspense, mystery, and thriller novels no matter what genre' they fall into on the outset. Sometimes I get surprised to how the plot unravels the story, and then the characters fill into our mind-set of people we like. The rest we can't know their perspective or purpose in the story, until it is clearly demonstrated in the action.

The setting is Yale campus and the building is the tomb known as Book and Snake which harbors the secret societies that keeps happenings and what else goes on a secret. Now the plot thickens where over two dozen students vanish and it turns out they held hostage in the tomb vault, and the first student Jonathan Simmons starts the beginning of the end for which is going to be a very stressful moment when he comes out warning of his eventual death by a bomb. The negotiator Christine Carmody of the New Haven Police, Sam Purdy, a suspended Boulder police detective and FBI agent Christopher Lance Poe along with CIA analyst Deidre Drake are all separately woven in this story. The have to do their roles while being surprised by the changing events of the students exiting the tomb vault each a different outcome. Purdy and Poe along with Drake desperately try to solve the riddle of the mind games and false signals of what is going on for real. The riddle displays a pattern that becomes evident who is to die or not as the students keep coming out of the vault building, and what is the purpose. The terrorists exploit weaknesses and dictate the rules of the maneuvering engagement by using the student as hostages. A true cat and mouse game formed by the terrorists, which the three different agencies are working hard to solve based on observations, and pooling of information learned through the process. The plot suggest different possibilities of our global polices, that might change the entire picture and leave our children or those in other countries vulnerable to demands of neighbors expanding possibly worldwide. The plot twists is plenty to keep everything interesting. It allows the reader to enjoy a good experience of a good tale, but also insight to the strained workings of the human psyche.

The Last Lie
Stephen White
Published by Dutton
A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780525951773 $26.95 1-800-845-5515

After The Siege I was given an opportunity to read the latest thriller by Stephen White. It depicts his characters from the Alan Gregory Series. It is a suspense thriller set in Boulder Colorado. It also contains the detective Sam Purdy. It gives me a glimpse to see what White has been writing up to his last novel. I was not disappointed by this welcomed chance.

Alan Gregory is faced with a major crime situation by his new next door neighbors, and this threatens his peace of mind for his entire family's safety. Although his wife and him are not invited to the new neighbor's dinner party including some of his friends; it becomes apparent that one widow eventually becomes a victim an assault.The widow then becomes treated by one of Alan's supervisee Hella Zoet for psychological treatment. Alan role is most experienced psychological therapist supervisor learns about this through Hella supervising her in discussions of her mentoring. She is one the most advanced graduate students. She had asked Alan to supervise her practice after just getting her shingle of beginning practice in Boulder a few blocks from Alan. Alan eventually gets curious and learns more by investigating the situation further through his friend Sam Purdy. Sam alludes to this case by one example of Kobe Bryant where prominent and celebrity people use lawyers to hide indiscretions, that their clients are accused of doing to make them go away. He happens to learn about something by several strange events occurring to him by almost being run over by a van upon walking the dogs. He is kept from information privy to Lauren's job as she is a deputy DA for Boulder County. She only tells him minor disclosures and just sketchy details. She lets Alan know that Sam Purdy and a sheriff investigator were visiting across the shared lane up their hill's to the subdivision. Alan probes Sam as to the relevance of his visit. Both Lauren and Sam are not bound to discuss too many details, and in their own way tell him to back off. Lauren for her office being involved in the situation and Sam because he is privileged to some police knowledge. It gets pointed out that the case is out of Sam's pursuing jurisdiction, and he is assisting the sheriff's investigators. Alan is working on this case through his own unraveling the puzzle, but an important witness is murdered to obviously cover someone tracks to the widow's assault. His concerns drift closer to his own peace of mind especially his wife and kids. It also includes other witnesses to the crime, that danger returns nearby, and is lurking way near their home. It unravels as Lauren, his son Jonas, and Alan get into a very dangerous altercation that puts the stakes up very high.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Christine Falls
Benjamin Black
9780312426323 $15.00

Christine Falls' death would have passed mostly unnoticed by Quirke if he had not stumbled down from the nurse's going-away party and caught his brother-in-law, Malachy, at Quirke's desk, looking at the girl's autopsy report. Mal, a star in the world of obstetrics, some floors above in Holy Family Hospital, had no business rifling through files in the pathology lab. But Quirke, who registered all this through a drunken fog, was left to piece together the puzzle of Mal's behavior after he'd sobered up. Sobriety is not a regular state for Quirke, a likable man who sloshes through life nursing old losses--his wife's death, an apparently never consummated love for her sister, Mal's wife. Making the story of his family's politics more complicated, Quirke was all but adopted in his youth by Malachy's father, Judge Griffin, saved from the horrors--alluded to but never spelled out--of the orphanage for which the Judge served on the board of visitors. It can't have been easy for Malachy, whose father clearly preferred Quirke to his own son.

Somehow the Christine Falls business bothers Quirke enough to conduct a desultory investigation. It isn't much: he's no go-getter of a detective. But it's enough to attract the attention of people interested in her death, and it lands him in some trouble. At the end of the book, Quirke, as a result of his involvement, is a changed man. He is arguably a better man at the book's end, but in an interesting twist readers may like him less the more they learn about him. It's a tribute to the depth of Quirke's character that our feelings for him are so mixed. Some three quarters of the way into the book a nurse, referring to a third character, recently dead, asks Quirke, "Do you think Mr. Crawford was a bad man?" "He was a man, Brenda," Quirke said. "That's all. And now he's gone." Quirke, like Crawford, is neither all good nor all bad--though some men are better than others, and Quirke lands on the better side of the continuum.

Readers looking for the excitement and tidy endings of a traditional mystery should look elsewhere. Christine Falls is literary fiction that happens to be wrapped around a mystery, more about character than plot. If you go in with these expectations I don't think you'll be disappointed. I certainly will be interested in following Mr. Quirke's career in subsequent installments in the series.

The Ark
Boyd Morrison
9781439181799 $24.99

The end of the world scenario Boyd Morrison has imagined in his thriller The Ark is a clever one: a madman, Sebastian Ulric, intends to update the story of Noah and the flood for the modern age, wiping out most of humanity and starting over with a cadre of hoodwinked disciples. The means of destruction he concocts to carry out his plan isn't flood waters, but it is connected with the biblical ark, which an archaeologist working with Ulric has managed to discover after a lifetime of obsession. When the story opens, the archaeologist is missing, and his daughter Dilara, also an archaeologist, is given a message that sets things in motion. She tracks down ex-military engineer Tyler Locke, and together they set out to save the world, figure out what happened to Dilara's father, and fall in love.

In a word, the book is okay. The prose is unproblematic, but neither does it sparkle. The plot is competent, I suppose, but it fails to thrill. The characters are generic. Ulric is the wealthy genius with an escape pod. Dilara is the attractive, athletic, intelligent heroine who can translate ancient documents and decode their secret messages with a speed that would make Dan Brown's Robert Langdon gasp appreciatively. Tyler is the equally attractive, athletic, etc., hero with the really cool job and a heart that's been broken by his wife's death. There's basically nothing the man can't do: Pilot a jet? Check. Disarm bombs? Sure thing. And he drives race cars and takes out armed insurgents with his bare hands and perfectly remembers building schematics he hasn't seen in years and he has a cool house that looks "like it could have been featured in Architectural Digest." Turns out it's all because he likes to keep busy:

"'I get bored easily. Sitting around ain't my thing. I'm a doer--working, playing with my cars, racing, flying. Anything that gets me out of the house.'"

Right. The characters in Boyd's novel are skin deep and nothing we haven't seen before. If you read the book, you probably won't hate it, but you won't remember it a week later either.

Something Missing
Matthew Dicks
9780767930888 $14.00

Matthew Dicks' Something Missing is an unusual book, in a good way. The story's unexpected hero is Martin, a brilliant but socially awkward thirty-something whose preternaturally acute attention to detail is a great asset in his career. Martin has a stable of clients--upper-middle-class married couples without young children, dogs, or alarm systems--from whose houses he regularly "acquires" things, a pound of hamburger here, a few cups of laundry detergent there. And every now and again, very occasionally, he'll pick up the odd piece of jewelry. Martin approaches his larceny like a business, indeed, like a particularly well-run business. He carefully tracks what's in his clients' cabinets so as to know what items are in stock and can be safely acquired.

Martin is one of the most interesting characters I've ever run across: he's Adrian Monk without the crippling phobias, Tom Ripley with a conscience. And it's his conscience that provides the storyline, as Martin's unusual familiarity with his clients' personal lives puts him in the position of being able to render them anonymous assistance in a series of predicaments, increasingly more serious and more dangerous. The whole business, which starts with the smallest interruption of Martin's otherwise very strict routine--the merest flap of a butterfly's wings--leads to a drastic change in his circumstances. He emerges at the end of the story a changed man.

Much of Something Missing is spent describing Martin's modus operandi. I suppose some readers out there will find these lengthy descriptions slow going, but to my mind they are not only required to build Martin's character, but they are utterly fascinating. This is a great, great read. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Murder at Hotel Cinema
Daniel Edward Craig
Midnight Ink
9780738711195 $15.95

In this second installment in Daniel Edward Craig's Five-Star Mystery series, hotelier Trevor Lambert has moved to LA to work as general manager at a hip new, Hollywood-themed hotel. It's a bad fit for Trevor. The owner is more interested in attracting trend-setters and nightclubbers than in serving up a top-notch hospitality experience. And the possibility of the hotel enjoying the sort of reputation Trevor would like is lost on opening night, when drugged-up starlet Chelsea Fricks washes up dead in the hotel pool. As with the other books in Craig's series (Murder at the Universe, Murder at Graverly Manor), Murder at Hotel Cinema is more about Trevor's experiences trying to marshal the staff and deal with crises than it is about amateur sleuthing. This time around, however, a second, more personal mystery, unrelated to the hotel murder, is laced through the story.

I didn't enjoy this installment in the series quite as much as I did the other two. In part I think this is because the hotel itself is a less interesting character: the Universe, in Craig's first book, was a much more interesting locale. Parts of the book, too, were over-long, and while the resolution of the main mystery was interesting, the ending was a bit over the top. I'm beginning to think that Trevor should settle down in a single hotel so that he can be surrounded by a larger cast of recurring secondary characters. Currently the book's only regular characters, other than Trevor himself, are Trevor's mother and his colleague Shanna Virani. They're okay, but neither is really compelling. If Trevor were to stay in one place--provided that the setting is a special one--the stories could come to him--Love Boat-like, say--rather than the reverse, and we'd get to know and care more about the supporting cast.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Donahue's Bookshelf

When I Lived in Modern Times
Linda Grant
c/o Penguin Putnam
0452282926 $18.00

Linda Grant's book, When I Lived in Modern Times, is an informative, well-written, and engrossing narrative framed in 1946 Palestine. The narrator is a young woman, Evelyn Sert, who begins a journey that takes her to one of the most conflicted regions and time periods in modern history. Her story begins in London as the only Jewish child of a single mother. Evelyn witnesses the bombings of the London Blitz and the subsequent death of her mother. These events lead her to begin life anew in a new region of the world; in a new, burgeoning country. Thus, 20-year old Evelyn commences her exciting, suspenseful, and historically illuminating journey to Palestine in April of 1946. The analogy of her coming-of-age, modern, burgeoning life with that of Israel, is clear; but life for Evelyn who has "the soul of Zion, but the customs of the British", can be daunting and disillusioning. Conflicts exist everywhere for Evelyn: the conflict of her Britishness with her loyalty to her Jewishness when she discovers the British are the oppressors in Palestine; Evelyn's conflict with her own identity when she enters Palestine as a Christian tourist and poses as one to work as a hairdresser for British women; Evelyn's conficts with the socialist ideals of the kibbutz experiment she is introduced to; and, finally, Evelyn's conflict when she takes on a lover from the infamous Irgun terrorist organization fighting for the State of Israel. The narrative is told with verisimilitude and passion; the themes of modernity and youth underscore it all. This book won the Orange Prize for fiction and deserves it. I am surprised I haven't heard more about this book written in 2002. An inspiring read for those historical fiction lovers, and a most recommended read for those who love a good story.

The Member of the Wedding
Carson McCullers
Bantam Books.
0553250515 $5.99

This tiny book packs a psychological punch. Ostensibly about a 12-year old girl's emotional hardships with growing and change, this fine-toned story relates to any age. Carson McCullers's novella is rich with characters, all finely wrapped within beautiful prose. Frankie, the 12-year old protagonist, ". had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid." What happens to Frankie? The author brilliantly captures our interest in Frankie's achingly sweet journey to look for something missing in her life. She looks in the wrong places, wanting desperately to belong---to be a member of the wedding--a keenly sensitive metaphor for belonging. All of us feel like outsiders now and then, and Carson McCullers poetically embraces the essence of that feeling-no matter what age.

Set in a Faulkian town in the South--in the heat of August--during the 2nd World War, it is a time and place that witnesses death, racism, and disappointment. But for Frankie, it is her time for change.

Women authors from the 1930s and 40s should be (in this reviewer's thinking) resurrected. Ms. McCullers is known for her psychological depth into the human condition, and this book is a testament to that; but her prose rivals the Faulkners, the Hemingways, and the Steinbecks of early 20th century America. Can be read in one day, but will not be forgotten.

Gay Donahue

Edward's Bookshelf

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson
Alfred A. Knopf, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307269997 $27.95

This novel, the final book in a trilogy by the late Mr. Larsson, continues the adventures of Lisbeth Salander, a young adult, super hacker and child-like figure, accused of a triple homicide and an assault on her father, Alexnder Zalachenko, former Russian spy and currently a gangland leader.

The story opens with Lisbeth and Zalachenko in the same Swedish hospital recovering from wounds inflicted on each other during a battle at Alexander's rural home; a fight that took place at the conclusion of Larsson's "The Girl Who Played with Fire."

Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth's friends and former lover, is gathering evidence to prove her not guilty of all charges. As an editor at Millennium Magazine, he marshals his resources and enlists his friend, Dragan Armansky, owner of Milton Security to pursue this objective.

In the course of his investigation, Mikael meets inspector Monica Figuerola, a beautiful Amazon-like detective assigned to "shadow" him as part of a police action. He explains his belief in Salander's innocence and they work together on the case. Ultimately, there is a mutual attraction and they become lovers.

An ad hoc "section" of the Swedish Secret Police wants Lisbeth found mentally incompetent and incarcerated for life to protect their interest in Zalachenko. Simply stated, she knows too much.

Blomkvist and his people work diligently to unmask the "section" leaders and bring them to justice. Mikael's sister, Annika, a lawyer, defends Lisa at her trial and brilliantly dismantles the state's case against Salander.

This is a big novel, in scope and complexity, and should be considered Larsson's magnum opus. The plot and subplots engage the reader's interest with a parade of fascinating characters and flashes of unexpected violence.

The riveting climax of the story has Lisbeth pitted against Zalachenko's right-hand man, a huge homicidal maniac, Ronald Niedermann, in a deserted factory owned by her father. The result of this physical confrontation is stunning.

This was Stieg Larsson's last book. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack shortly after delivering the three manuscripts to his publisher. He will be missed terribly by his millions of devoted fans worldwide.

The Lion
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446580830 $27.99

The Lion is Asad Khalil, a Libyan terrorist traveling to New York City three years after the attack on the World Trade Center. His mission: to kill certain Americans who survived his last visit, a few years earlier.

At the top of his list is John Corey, former NYPD detective, now a member of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, then his partner and wife, Kate Mayfield, an FBI agent, Corey's superior, Captain Vince Paresi and Tom Walsh, FBI, who is in charge of the Task Force.

The story opens with an attempt by Asad to murder Kate during a skydiving exercise by her and Corey in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Convinced he has killed Kate, he escapes with a promise to Corey to save him for last.

The author creates a complex and riveting story of an evil killer and the attempts of the Task Force to anticipate his plans and capture him. They always seem to be one step behind the mad genius.

The characters in this novel are wonderfully drawn, starting with the risk taking John Corey, who approaches all forms of danger with an attitude of black humor, his supportive and brilliant wife, Kate and the cunning and totally focused Asad Khalil.

A deadly knife fight between Asad and his former mentor, Boris, a Russian emigre, which takes place in the large office of Boris' Brooklyn nightclub, is one of the great action sequences in modern crime fiction. That confrontation drives the narrative forward the ultimate showdown between Corey and the Lion.

Asad Khalil plans to kill John Corey and then end his "visit" to America by exploding a massive bomb on the site of the former WTC. John Corey's attempt to apprehend the Lion lends to a stunning climax to the story.

Mr. DeMille, once again, displays his masterful storytelling skills, which rank him in the upper echelon of our current writers of fiction. I highly recommend this novel.

Edward Smith

Gary's Bookshelf

Andrew Gross
William Morrow
10 53rd Street New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061655951 $25.99

Gross is back with another nail biting suspense thriller that begins with the brutal murder of a family. Ty Hauck the main character of several other novels by Gross is back this time it's personal because he knew one of the victims. He conducts an investigation that reveals conspiracy and world financial collapse that has many players world wide. As always the writing is fast with many twists and turns. Gross is at the top of the list for this type of suspense novel.

Get Real
Donald E. Westlake
Grand Central
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780446566636 $7.99

John Dortmunder and the gang are back for one last outing and it is one of the funniest in the series of comic capers that the author is best known for. This time the gang is to do a heist for a reality TV show. The story gets complicated but is a laugh out loud tale that is fitting to be the last of these characters by the author who died a while ago.

Reflections of a Successful Wallflower
Andrea Michaels
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432749095 $34.95

I'm not sure what this book is about. I have no idea what the author does and very little knowledge of who she is. The writing is a hodge podge of things that have happened to her but there is nothing that ties anything together. Whether it is fiction or non fiction writers have to tell a story with a beginning middle and an ending. This title reinforces why self published works receive such negative attention.

All things at Once
Mika Brezinski
Weinstein Books
345 Hudson Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10014
9781602861114 $24.95

Many of us have seen her on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC but knew very little about her until now. Brezezinski talks about the industry of television news. She tells how being in a family of a famous person can help or hurt your career. She talks about her jobs at CBS as well as NBC. The book is interesting and shows many sides of this fascinating woman. Readers will appreciate the job she does on the air even more than before.

The Green Hornet
Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson
OTR Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 52 Whiteford, MD 21160
9780982531105, $29.95

This is the biggest best book about the character "The Green Hornet." The authors trace the history from the radio show, movie serials, to the 1960s TV program. They reveal the many problems there were, and they also talk of the many stars who have played the role. With the interest in the new movie this book is the perfect resource for anyone who wants to know more about the world of the character.

Passion's Evidence
Barbara Fifield
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432753573 $33.95

This is a fine collection of poems by a very talented writer. There are several subjects the author tackles and she has an interesting perception on each one.

Route 66 the Television Series 1960- 1964
James Rosin
The Autumn Road Company
Philadelphia, Pa
9780972868426, $19.95

Rosin has written another fine behind the scenes title about a classic show that has recently made it to DVD. Fans of the show will love the interviews and things the author discloses about the series Seeing the episodes on DVD will be a pleasure and the book will add so much to that feeling.

Laugh Lines
Ben Bova
Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, New York 10471
9781439133248 $7.99

Ben Bova shows science fiction does not always have to be so serious with this great collection. There are two novels about the entertainment industry and numerous shorter pieces that have one thing in common. They will all have you laughing out loud. Bova is one of the best writers in the field and this collection shows why.

Pork Chop
David Edminister
Outskirts Press Inc.
Denver, Colorado
9781432753450 $15.95

This is a children's book that has a lot of good messages for kids to learn while reading a fun story of a pig who has interesting adventures. The author uses terms that are pig related like Porkland, Pygsylvania and Porter that will have readers laughing out loud. All kid's books should be this much fun.

The Conservative Comeback How to Win the Battle for the Soul of America
Todd Long
Creation House
600 Rinehart, Road, Orlando, Florida 32746
9781616381455 $12.99

People like Long are amazing. He talks about less government and that conservatives stand for the American people. He blames Liberals for all the problems that have messed up the country. Then in the same breath he talks about how the Republican Congress of 2001 to 2006 and President George W. Bush were not true conservatives because they spent, spent, and spent. Let us not forget in their campaigns they all talked about less government and the same conservative values Long is expressing. Long makes arguments for us to listen to him and the Tea Party people that are not sound. He attacks Liberals and continually says the past few years of Republicans are not part of being a true conservative. Where has he been? After reading this book I have to ask, why do we want to give Long who is running for Congress and the Tea Party people another chance to screw things up even more?

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Black Cat
Martha Grimes
c/o Putnam
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670021604 $25.95 800-847-5515,

In his 22nd appearance of this wonderful series, New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury is trying to deal with the awful consequences of the auto accident in which the other driver was killed and which left his lover, "the incomparable, commanding, relentless" D.I. Lu Aguilar, hospitalized with devastating injuries as the book opens. [Actually, the accident took place a few weeks prior in time, at the end of the last book in the series, "Dust."] But he has little time to grieve over her fragile condition as he has been called in to assist in the investigation of the murder of a young woman, whose appearance is most notable for her beauty and the obvious costliness of her attire: Yves St. Laurent gown and Jimmy Choo shoes. The murder took place in the village of Chesham, on the grounds of a pub, the eponymous Black Cat. And in fact a plethora of black cats populate the novel. [Well, if three can be called a plethora.] For that matter, the book is filled with various animals bearing whimsical names: a horse named Aggrieved, a goat named Aghast, and a dog named Aggro, among others, and all those black cats.

Jury, who pines for a cigarette frequently through these pages as he has "for the thousandth heartbreaking time in three years," and is described as a "high-ranking detective with the Metropolitan police, but without much feeling for rank, and who'd climbed the ladder without much feeling for the rungs," remains thoroughly endearing, as do his mates, among them the debonair Melrose Plant, Lord Ardrey, if you please; Harry Johnson, nominally his nemesis but with whom he shares a decidedly ambivalent relationship; and Dr. Phyllis Nancy, his good friend-cum-paramour. In addition to all the running characters in the series, the author creates tiny little portraits of incidental characters, bringing them to perfect life. A familiarity with the earlier books in the series will be helpful to the reader, as there are several references to prior events, but is not at all necessary to a thorough enjoyment of the novel.

Other murders occur, but in London, nowhere near Chesham, and the feeling persists that the murders are both connected and not connected. It takes the persistence and brainpower of both the human and non-human characters to figure out just what that means, taking the reader swiftly to the unexpected ending. The book is, at the very least, a tutorial in designer footwear, filled with delightful humor and charming prose, and is recommended.

Night of the Living Deed
E. J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425235232 $7.99 800-847-5515

Alison Kerby, newly single mother of a precocious nine-year-old daughter, has returned to the town where she grew up, Harbor Haven on the Jersey Shore, after having purchased a house over a century old, planning to turn it into a guest house. The extensive renovations leave her undaunted. Until, that is, she becomes aware that the house is inhabited. Unusual enough, perhaps, but even more so when she discovers that the inhabitants are ghosts, who apparently only she can see and hear, a man and woman whose bodies had been found in her new home, and who believe they were murdered. Only the official cause of their deaths was listed as suicide. Strange indeed, as the woman, "Maxie," still in her twenties and with a definite attitude, was a former owner of the house, and the man, Paul, was a private detective in his mid-thirties who had only recently been hired by Maxie to find out who was making death threats against her. They implore Alison to "find out who killed us . . . It's the last wish of a man who's already dead. You're special - you can see and hear us. You're the only one who can help . . . I can't spend eternity wondering what happened to us."

The majestic beach house, which has seven bedrooms, several of them with wood-burning fireplaces, is located on a large plot that was a prime target of a local developer intent on bulldozing it en route to building a huge complex of McMansions. The suspects include but are not limited to the developer and the members of the planning board which had to approve his proposal. When Alison herself becomes the recipient of death threats, she has no choice but to agree to investigate, under Paul's p.i.-trained guidance. Fittingly, all of this takes place a scant two weeks or so before Halloween.

Personally, understanding that your mileage may vary, I never particularly cared for, nor believed in, ghosts, fictitious or otherwise. Then again, neither does Alison. But there they were, the two of them, undeniably. The reader just can't help going along for the ride, and a delightful ride it is. The plot is well-developed, as are the characters, and the whole is funny, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable. It appears that this is the first in a planned series, and I look forward to the next installment. Recommended.

Nobody's Angel
Jack Clark
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843963274 $7.99 800-481-9191

Eddie Miles is a cabdriver working the night shift in the city of Chicago. He doesn't have much of a reaction to the spate of recent killings of local streetwalkers or cabbies, until it becomes personal: He notices a prostitute on a street corner, little more than a child, who he later finds has become the latest victim of the man who has been preying on the working girls. That was bad enough. But when a good friend is the fifth cabbie to be murdered, that does more than just get his attention.

In an interesting touch adding authenticity to the tale, each chapter is preceded by one of the Rules promulgated by the Public Vehicle Operations Division of the Chicago Department of Consumer Services. Not that authenticity is lacking in any respect. Indeed, the reader will come away from the book feeling as though he or she could navigate the streets of the town easily, so thorough is the geography provided by the author. And of course he comes by his knowledge legitimately, as the book was written while Mr. Clark was working as a Chicago cabbie. He describes the scene at the after-hours eatery where the cabbies congregate after their shifts, when the streets are populated by "the cops and the cabdrivers, and the drunks heading home," and they share their stories, which become embellished with repetition.

The city is laid out for the reader warts and all, with no attempt to hide the more unsavory areas. Indeed, the reader is reminded not infrequently of the areas to which many, if not most, cabdrivers will not even venture for fear of being robbed, or worse. But the protagonist's, and the author's, pride in the Windy City is evident as well.

This is noir fiction at its best, with spare, realistic writing, a sympathetic protagonist, and a fast-moving plot. Highly recommended.

Simon Wood
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing, 200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016, 800-481-9191
9780843963670 $7.99

One innocent meaning of the term 'terminated' has to do with losing one's job; as we all know, there is another more ominous one. Those two very different definitions become intertwined as a workplace decision becomes life-threatening in this fast-paced tale of suspense by Simon Wood, who has already shown that he is a master of the genre.

Gwen Farris could have had no idea that her critical performance evaluation of Stephen Tarbell would have the effect it did. Not that poor evaluations are ever expected to be gracefully received, but no one could have predicted the potentially lethal fallout from this one.

Employed by a pharmaceutical company for the last eighteen months, six months ago Gwen was promoted to the position of Manager of Quality Assurance, a promotion Tarbell believes should have been his. Now, his very job may hang in the balance. Not satisfied with threatening Gwen with a knife if she doesn't change the report in his favor, Tarbell determines to take apart Gwen's life as she knows it, and perhaps take her life, literally, as well.

Gwen, happily married and with an adorable three-year-old daughter she adores, has faced mortal danger before. She was the survivor of a violent crime fifteen years prior, the man who kidnapped and attacked her [leaving her for dead] coming up for parole as the tale opens, which only adds to the feeling of vulnerability which threatens to undo Gwen.

The suspense continues to mount, and just when the reader feels the worst of Gwen's ordeal might be behind her, the author manages one twist after another to keep the pages turning. Another winner for Simon Wood, and it is recommended.

Thomas Perry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780151015221 $26.00 617-351-5003

Manco Kapak is the owner of a dance club and a couple of strip clubs, among other shady enterprises he runs, and he has been the victim of an armed robbery [the take being the cash receipts from his various enterprises]. In point of fact, two armed robberies, since the scenario is repeated one short month after the first one. Joe Carver is a recent transplant to Los Angeles, and the man Kapak is convinced robbed him. Jefferson Davis Falkins, another newly minted Angeleno, is the man who actually did rob him. Thus is the groundwork laid for some of the most intriguing bad/good guys [for they each have scruples, of a sort], and some of the best writing, encountered this side of Elmore Leonard.

Kapak, of Eastern European origin, is now sixty-four years old and is afraid he might be losing his touch. But he is determined not to let the robber, who has wrongly been identified to him as Carver, get the best of him. Carver is a man who knows all the back doors and alleys and side streets of LA, and his knowledge serves him well, allowing him to elude Kapak, while trying to convince him he is not the man he's looking for. And Jeff just continues to try to keep robbing Kapak, like the old-time bank robber who, when asked why he kept robbing banks, said it was because that's where the money was.

There are also a couple of really crazy ladies, including Jeff's new girlfriend, Carrie, who is, as he puts it, "weird about guns and . . . a woman who never lost an argument." He has no idea.

Mr. Perry is the author of, among other highly-acclaimed works, the terrific Jane Whitefield series, although he displays here a wonderful ironic humor that I didn't remember being present in those books [all of which I loved]. "Strip" is a thoroughly entertaining novel, and one which is highly recommended.

61 Hours
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385340588 $28.00 800-726-0600,

In an ironic twist, Lee Child's iconic protagonist, Jack Reacher, is a passenger on a bus otherwise occupied by tourists when the bus crashes somewhere in the middle of nowhere, or more correctly in the middle of South Dakota, in the dead of winter. [No intent to cast aspersions on South Dakota here, but the town's residents speak of it exactly that way.] The irony comes in because the crash is precipitated by a driver who is a conspirator in a plan to kill one of the town's residents, an elderly woman who witnessed a crime and will be the prosecutor's whole case when it comes up for trial, one month from the time the tale begins.

Reacher is forced to stay in the town as the highways are all closed down due to the snowstorm which has just reached the area. And from the first page till nearly the last, the eponymous countdown begins, with the reader being regularly reminded how much time remains, until the cliffhanger ending that has been much discussed and in some circles criticized as sort of a cheap trip. Of course, YMMV, but I for one always finish a Lee Child book feeling like I can't wait for the next one anyway - the anxiety is just that much greater in this instance.

I thought Reacher is perhaps best described by one of the characters as "the sort of guy who sees things five seconds before the rest of the world." At one point he is more or less appointed as being in charge of the witness' safety, when he isn't off chasing clues or bad guys, with several of the players placed in jeopardy, Reacher not least among them. A potential love interest comes into play as well, despite the fact that Reacher and the woman in question have never met. No, it's not online dating: They have much in common, including the fact that she now heads an elite unit within the government of which Reacher was the first, and founding, CO.

The book is written with the wit and intelligence and gripping suspense that one expects in any Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel, and finding it there in ample supply is just as gratifying and pleasurable as always, cliffhanger notwithstanding. Recommended.

Die Twice
Andrew Grant
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312540272 $24.99 646-307-5560

David Trevellyan, introduced to readers in this author's "Even," makes his second appearance in this satisfying follow-up. After wrapping up his work at the consulate in New York in less than stellar fashion, the British naval intelligence officer has been dispatched to Chicago for his next assignment: making a "hard arrest," a euphemism for killing the person in question: "A hard arrest. The kind that involves body bags rather than handcuffs. They're usually reserved for known terrorists and hostage takers who somehow slip every other kind of net. But they're also applied to our own people, gone bad . . . They put you up against a highly motivated individual with the same background and training as yourself, but generally with an added dose of craziness." Then at some point the job turns out to be somewhat different from what was expected, namely, finding a bunch of murderous kidnappers armed with biological weapons.

The author begins each new chapter with an anecdote, usually from his training days in the service, each with its own moral or lesson tying into the next part of the unfolding story. It all takes places within a four-day period. There is a lot of excitement and interesting plotting to be found here, although at times the manner in which Trevallyan and other agents offhandedly dispatch people without giving much thought to an alternative becomes almost cartoonish, not necessarily a bad thing. With a couple of implausible aspects, the tale moves along to an almost abrupt, not altogether unexpected conclusion. It is, in any event, a good summer read.

Half-Price Homicide
Elaine Viets
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451229892 $22.50 800-847-5515

In the latest entry in her Dead-End Job Mystery Series [the other being the popular Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series], Helen Hawthorne, 41 years old, has been working at Snapdragon's Second Thoughts, a high-end clothing consignment shop in South Florida. When a customer is found dead in a dressing room, apparently hanged with - what else? - a designer scarf around her neck, the owner prevails upon Helen to help find the killer, as the notoriety is killing her business [pun intended]. There were several people in the store at the time, including one of Helen's neighbors, a prominent local politician and a wealthy developer and his wife [among other women he apparently knew intimately].

The dynamics of the consignment shop are interesting, its customers comprised of women who want to look richer than they are, buying designer fashions brought in by "desperate housewives. Well-dressed women who need cash." And hopefully the members of the first group never meet the members of the second group, especially when wearing recognizable outfits/shoes/accessories.

Complicating things for Helen are the fragile state of her mother's health [she's been in a coma for three months with a very poor prognosis], and the reappearance of her ex-husband, who tries to blackmail her. But Helen perseveres in her investigation, aided by her p.i. fiance. Then a second murder occurs, only heightening the stakes [especially since the victim was a suspect in the first murder].

I thought the book could have been tightened up a bit as I found a lot of repetitious exposition. Nonetheless, this entry in the series, as its predecessors, is a light-hearted and breezy book, and an excellent beach read.

Thunder Beach
Michael Lister
Tyrus Books
1213 N. Sherman Ave., Unit 306, Madison, WI 53704
9781935562047 $14.95 620-258-0079

Merrick McKnight is a recent victim of the downsizing of The Democrat, the newspaper published in his town in the Florida Panhandle. As the tale opens, he finds himself in a somewhat questionable relationship [although that might be glorifying it a bit] with a married stripper working one of the apparently numerous stripper bars and like establishments in the area. The area itself, Panama City and Panama City Beach, at the moment finds itself inundated with bikers there to attend its annual spring biker rally, the eponymous Thunder Beach. The author describes the Hathaway Bridge, giving onto the port of Panama City, as something which "connects two worlds - - one of dreams, of paradisiacal fantasies, of concrete condos, giant houses built on sand; the other, of small town sensibilities, deep South traditions, of papers mill and port and public Protestantism." The "feel" of the Florida Panhandle is wonderfully evoked.

McKnight, fortunately, still teaches two classes at the local college, one in writing, one in philosophy, although he won't be able to sustain any kind of existence if that doesn't change soon. Dealing with his professional and personal problems is only complicated when a young woman who he cares about deeply finds herself in jeopardy, and he will go to any lengths to protect her.

The author effectively doles out tidbits that are intriguing, before furnishing the reader with more backstory information on his protagonist. Suffice it to say that things are not always as they initially appear. Another interesting technique has been implemented in that there are no formal chapters, only a couple of lines of extra space added at appropriate junctures.

The book ultimately turns out to be quite a page-turner, one which I unexpectedly consumed in only several hours after I opened it, and it is recommended.

So Cold the River
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown
c/o Hahcette
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316053631 $24.99 800-759-0190

Michael Koryta's latest novel starts out innocently enough. Eric Shaw, in his recent former life an LA cinematographer before that career crashed and burned and now in his early thirties, has for the past two years lived in Chicago, trying to make a living filming memorial videos for presentation at funerals. He is approached by a beautiful young woman who asks him to prepare such a video in honor of her father-in-law, a famously reclusive billionaire, ninety-five years old and near death in a hospital. She offers Eric a very generous amount of money to travel to Southern Indiana to trace his early years in furtherance of the project. The only artifact of her father-in-law which she can provide is a small flask of water which derived from underground mineral springs, now apparently defunct, and known as Pluto Water, which had been touted as having nearly miraculous healing powers.

Before leaving, Eric visits the old man in the hospital. Initially unresponsive, the first intimations of what is to come occur when what Eric sees through the viewfinder of his camera are not what his eyes had just seen, but instead the essence of that on which, or who, they focused. Enigmatically, the old man says to Eric, "so cold the river." Or does he?

Eric goes to the town in question, West Baden Springs, and finds himself unable to resist tasting the water from the strange little bottle he has been given. The results are immediate, chaotic, and nearly addictive, and his life, and the book, goes off in strange, surreal directions. In the aftermath Eric, who has a history of psychic tendencies, has visions, encounters dead people, and sees scenes from the past apparently reenacted before his eyes.

Throughout, there are ominous signs of an impending storm of perhaps historical proportions.

Somewhat daunted by the book's sizeable heft, and by my usual aversion to most things Gothic or which invoke the supernatural, I nonetheless found the pages turning rapidly, completely swept up in the tale the author has spun, so masterful is the writing, and I recommend it highly as another terrific book by Michael Koryta.

The Ninth Step
Gabriel Cohen
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312625016 $25.99 646-307-5560

In his fourth book in the series, author Gabriel Cohen brings back Jack Leightner, a fifteen-year veteran of the NYPD's Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force. Jack is called in to investigate a homicide, an apparently random murder of one man by another in a small deli, although he is quickly preempted by an agent with Homeland Security, who tells him he is taking over Jack's case. And what initially appeared to be "another rinky-dink slaying, like a thousand others," very soon turns out to have far more sinister aspects.

The second story line has to do with an incident in the more distant past, 1965 to be exact, when Jack's 13-year-old brother, two years his junior, was killed in a senseless street incident by a young black teen, two feet from where Jack was standing. Jack has been guilt-ridden over all of the intervening decades. As the book opens, Jack finds a stranger at his door, following the directives known to most readers as the Twelve-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, who is there to follow the eponymous Ninth Step: to make amends, as he tells Jack that it was he who killed his brother. In the conversation that follows, he makes it clear that he was hired for the purpose by a white man, whose name he never knew.

The action takes place in 2005, and the events of September 2001 are still very much on the minds of all New Yorkers and those entrusted with their safety. Although warned off any further investigation into both the current and the incident of decades before, "ancient history" as he is told by all those he questions, he cannot be dissuaded and continues both inquiries, and the fast-paced, well-researched novel goes down unexpected paths

I have to add that as a life-long resident of New York, most of that time spent in the borough of Brooklyn, the book engaged me and resonated with me to perhaps a greater extent than others. But this book's appeal is by no means confined to New Yorkers - its strength lies in the tale itself, the wonderful writing, and the universal need for forgiveness within all of us imperfect humans, all of whom make mistakes, and some of whom commit acts of heroism. Highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Percy Jackson & The Olympians
Rick Riordan
Hyperion Books, an Imprint of Disney Book Group
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011-5690
Percy Jackson & The Olympians Box set Books 1-3
Battle of the Labyrinth, Book 4
9781423101499 $7.99
The Last Olympian, Book 5
9781423101475 $17.99

The Percy Jackson series can be read as a set of individual books but is better considered as a larger book in five volumes. The story has a similar format to the better known Harry Potter series. A young boy finds that there are parallel worlds overlapping each other, one of mythology and one that is real. The changes between the two different series are both minor and major. Camp Half Blood is a summer camp while Hogwarts runs through a normal school year. Percy is a demigod half human and half an immortal god while Harry is a wizard...

The differences are what makes this series unique while the similarities make it a more comfortable read. Percy Jackson & The Olympians is a stronger teen read from beginning to end. There is less background and more action in the story giving it a stronger young male audience. The biggest fun in the story is the modernization of the Greek mythologies. This brings a freshness to the tales that are too frequently lost with the normal summarizations that are usually done to the myths in today's literature.

The series starts out with Percy as a twelve year old suddenly discovering that he is a demigod when monsters start attacking him. Someone has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt and nearly everyone thinks he has done it. Percy is pushed out of the normal world and into the myths. The young hero learns about himself, the world, and the parallel mythological world while fighting to survive. The young hero's various quests bring both the reader and him into a greater understanding.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians is a great young teen book and a great book for adults. It structures the ancient mythologies into a relevant tale for today. The series is well worth looking for and will be a steal in a few months when the books start appearing on the used book shelves. The only two weaknesses in the tales are a lack of progression between the twelve year old psyche to a young teen as Percy grows older in the stories and a slightly too sweet ending after the many dark passages within the series. Riordan does add a hook to the ending hinting at the possibility of further stories but the series is complete as it stands.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed
Richard Carrier, Ph.D.,
Lulu Enterprises, Inc
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh NC 27607
9780557044641 $28.96

Immanuel Velikovsky wrote an endorsement of biblical fantasies so far removed from reality that astronomers for a long time refused to dignify it with a rebuttal. That caused a segment of the unlearned masses to imagine that Velikovsky had not been rebutted because he could not be rebutted. Eventually Carl Sagan recognized the problem and wrote a detailed response to Velikovsky's masturbation fantasies that blew them out of the water.

Robert Turkel, alias J.P. Holding, is no Velikovsky, a genuinely learned man whose addiction to the god delusion led him to unprecedented doublethink but did not prompt him to write conscious, unmitigated lies. In contrast, Carrier points out (p. 14) that, "The tactics, behavior, and . incompetence of J.P. Holding as a scholar are documented on a website . 'Highlighting the Depraved Apologetics of J.P. Holding.'"

Did Turkel/Holding need rebutting? Since (p. 9), "professional Christian apologists seem inclined not to associate with him," the short answer is No. Carrier continues, "I suspect they don't want to be seen as endorsing his shoddy research, unprofessional demeanor, and unrepentant reliance on fallacious argument. Indeed, he insults whoever exposes his errors, and often responds by simply making things up." And in case that was too ambiguous, he clarifies (p. 399), "And in my opinion, Holding simply outright lies."

Nonetheless, if Holding needed to be exposed as a lying, inflexible dogmatist who knows as much about Christian origins as Sarah Palin knows about Etruscan (which has never been deciphered), it should have been done by a scholar whose objectivity is not called into question by his use of Christian archaisms. For example, Carrier refers (p. 9) to "Jesus Christ," a title that implies that Jesus was really the fairy tale character he imagined himself to be, analogous to calling Gautama "Buddha" or calling Mohammad a "prophet." Also (e.g., p. 17), he uses the offensively Christian dating system, "AD," that even theologians have abandoned in recognition that 5.5 billion non-Christians resent being told that they are living in the "year of the master." The scientifically neutral equivalent is "CE" for "Common Era." Carrier clearly knows that, since he quotes a scholar who uses "CE" (p. 221). So why does he persist in insulting the majority of his readers?

Carrier suggests (p. 177) that the anonymous author of Luke, "trusts . the Gospel of Matthew, or Matthew's sources." I am confident that Carrier is aware that the Q gospel was a common source of Matthew and Luke, but he might have made himself clear on the issue.

However, his swallowing (p. 144) of Stephanie Budin's argument that there was no such thing as a sacred prostitute (actually temple nun-prostitute is a libelous synonym) shows a lack of discernment in judging the validity of sources. He thinks a village named Nazareth already existed in Jesus' lifetime (p. 64). Rene Salm's The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus could have enlightened him. As for his statement that, in Romans 9:5 (and nowhere else), Paul called Jesus God (p. 370), I can only quote The Fully Translated Bible's rendition of that verse: "And from them the Khristos, in conformity to the protoplasm. The god is eulogized above everyone." Carrier's translation is theoretically possible, but it is incompatible with the reality that Paul did not see Jesus as a god. While none of Carrier's conclusions are indefensible, he really should read God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion.

Nonetheless, it does not take a Nobel Prize winner in geography to rebut the Flat Earth Society, and it does not take a biblical scholar of the stature of Robert Price or Bart Ehrman to rebut an unlearned ignoramus like J.P. Holding. Carrier quotes questions Holding considers unanswerable, and answers them at such length that his chapters can be compared to using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

For example, in response (p. 17) to, "Who Would Believe in a Crucified God?" instead of simply citing Innana and Attis and writing a clarifying paragraph, Carrier devotes 33 pages to that one question. In doing so, he raises the question: Who is he writing for? Certainly not for believers who already know that Holding is an embarrassment to their cause. Does he think Holding can be cured of his delusions? Given the man's unparalleled ignorance, it is unlikely that he would find Carrier's comments even comprehensible, let alone convincing. Carrier's own answer is that he was writing for persons whose only source of information was Holding. Whether anyone who could take Holding seriously is curable, is a point on which we disagree. But if Holding's readers are capable of processing new information, writing for them is certainly justified.

"Who Would Follow a Man From Galilee?" (p. 51) Again Carrier takes 33 pages to answer a question that only an intransigent as intellectually bankrupt as Holding would even have asked.

"Was Resurrection Deemed Impossible?" (p. 85) Certainly not to the Greco-Romans who believed that Orpheus not only had returned from the Land of the Dead, but also would have succeeded in bringing Eurydice back with him if he had not violated one of the rules of the game. Again, Holding's asking such a question says more about the firewall around his brain to keep out reality than anything in Carrier's response.

Carrier devotes forty pages to refuting Holding's allegation that, if the claims made by the early Christians were false, they would have been investigated and exposed and the new religion would quickly have disappeared. Mormonism stands or falls on the pretence that Native Americans are the "lost tribes of Israel." Recent DNA comparison has shown that natives of America and natives of the Middle East have had no common ancestors since several thousand years before the "lost tribes" disappeared by integration with the conquering Assyrians. By Holding's argument, that discovery should have wiped out Mormonism. Observable reality says that it has not. Similarly, Scientology doctrine insists that aliens called Thetans settled on earth several billion years before the Big Bang that brought the universe into existence. Yet there are still 50,000 Scientologists-more than the number of Christians at the end of the first century.

Carrier sets out to refute Holding's incompetent arguments, and succeeds beyond reasonable dispute. So does that make his book worth recommending? No matter how thoroughly it succeeded in doing so, would I recommend a book that set out to refute the claims of the Flat Earth Society? Despite the Velikovsky/Sagan analogy, I have to conclude that treating Turkel/Holding as if he were a scholar who needs rebutting grants him an undeserved dignity. Not the Impossible Faith is best viewed as a practice run for Carrier's next book, On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. My recommendation is: wait for Carrier's non-trivial book.

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
Ariane Sherine, editor
Friday Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10023
9780007322619 12.99 Brit. pounds

An Atheist's Guide to Christmas is a collection of trivia, and not particularly memorable trivia. Its unifying theme is the disparate circumstances that led its authors to become nontheists, none of which involved the study and evaluation of biblical myths at an advanced level. The line I found most memorable was in the opening essay, by a Dubliner named Ed Byrne (pp. 6-7): "What nearly made my wife and I weep genuine tears of actual sadness was the fact that they were selling single slices of Christmas cake."

"Made I weep"? I know that North Americans habitually use the nominative case pronoun "I" in the accusative case for the logical reason that correct English has been a foreign language since World War Two. But I assumed that persons who went to school in the British Isles would be free of such illiteracy. Apparently I was wrong.

Catie Wilkins writes (p. 24), "When I heard that the money from this book was going to the HIV charity Terry Higgins Trust, I was really glad it was going to such a fantastic and worthwhile cause. And it seems appropriate that money raised from a book by atheists is going towards humans helping humans." It will surprise no atheist that we are as moral, compassionate and charitable as any believer in religion's fairy tales. But try telling that to religion's brainwashed Manchurian Candidates. "You're an atheist? Then without a sky fairy to tell you right from wrong, you must be a child rapist."

Simon Le Bon, perhaps better informed than his co-authors, writes (p. 29), "One of the foundation stones of all religion is people's fear of death and non-existence. People will do anything and believe anything if they can think, 'You don't really die. There's somebody up there who says you carry on and go to heaven.'" In other words, moral cowards believe in an afterlife because it gets them past their terror of death and enables them to get through the day without having to be institutionalized and diapered. The same essayist also writes (p. 30) "I believe in marriage - I doubt the institution of marriage would have existed without religion. To some extent, religion has upheld essential morals and modes of behaviour. There are some really important values in all religions." No there are not!

Zoe Margolis (p. 37) concludes that, "Anyone who would allow a child to be forced to sing 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!' is a sadist, not a deity. (I am assuming God is not into S&M.)" I suggest that she read a bible sometime. The character mistranslated as "God" in English bibles is the most subhuman sadist in all fiction.

Richard Dawkins' short story, told through a first-person narrator whose philosophy largely reflects Dawkins' own, strikes me as modeled after, perhaps even a homage to, Arthur C. Clarke's Tales From the White Hart. While it does not compare to Dawkins' nonfiction, or to his satirical "Geriniol", it may nonetheless be the most entertaining chapter in the whole book. I wonder if he has ever considered trying his hand at a novel?

Phil Plait's essay on the Star of Bethlehem could be useful to persons whose acquaintances continue to imagine that some real astronomical event might have triggered the myth. It did not. As Plait writes (pp. 66-67), "I see that same story of the Christmas Star resurrected, an undead story that won't stay down. And people keep looking for the evidence. But they won't find it. They can't. It's just a story."

Nonetheless, Plait makes the same mistake as the Star-seekers when he assumes that the story was part of the Jesus myth early enough for his citing of astronomical events that occurred at the wrong time of year or were otherwise inadequate to have annihilated it. Let me hypothesize that, when the anonymous gospel author decided to borrow the myth of astrologers following a new star to the birthplace of Zoroaster, folk memory of spectacular astronomical events a century earlier (Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions in 7 BCE; Halley's comet in 12 BCE) might have encouraged him to imagine that one of those events coincided with the birth of Jesus. If it had, that would be a coincidence, but not a meaningful coincidence. Even before Zoroaster, a new star allegedly foretold the birth of Abraham.

Another of Plait's points (p. 63) is worth repeating: "Back then astronomy and astrology were pretty much the same thing, even if today they are as different as real medicine and homeopathy, or stage magicians and psychics, or... well, you get the point."

Adam Rutherford cites the reality (p. 70) that only 7% of the members of the American National Academy of Sciences, and only 3.3% of the UK's Royal Society, believe in God. He explains (p. 71) that, "Science as a way of acquiring knowledge certainly predisposes one toward ruling out the inconsistencies and irrationality inherent in religion." And he concludes (p. 76), "So whatever the real number of egghead godheads is, the fact that there are any at all reveals not a weakness of science, nor a strength of religion, but the fallibility of people."

What Nick Doody's essay on Christmassiness was supposed to be satirizing or parodying, I cannot guess. I can only assume that it was intended to be humorous. It was pointless and unfunny.

Matt Kirshen, a recovered Jew, writes (p. 115) that, "dairy products and meat products must be kept separate... Cheeseburgers are out too, because they're nice. Essentially, the Jewish God hates the delicious."

Mitch Benn makes a comment (p. 142) worth repeating: "We as free-thinkers recognize that human morality is not derived from religious ethics (it's the other way round)."

Andrew Mueller indicates that he is a magazine columnist. What he is not is a biblical historian. That explains his reference (p. 152) to "Jesus of Nazareth." Like most of the human race (other than Greeks and scholars) he is unaware that the Greek words used to describe Jesus in the gospels constitute a sectarian title, not a geographical one. "Jesus the Nazirite," as The Fully Translated Bible translates his designation, indicates a member of a sect called Nazirites. No village named Nazareth existed until several decades after Jesus' death. Mueller cannot be criticized for not knowing that. But in order to avoid being corrected in future, if he is reluctant to use a title he cannot affirm from his own expertise to be accurate, he should substitute "Jesus of Galilee." If it was good enough for the Emperor Julian... However, his reference (p. 155) to "the Holy Land," as if such a description were anything but religious propaganda, is indefensible. It is one thing to agree that "Christmas" exists as an observable reality. It is quite another to parrot the pretence that there is such a place as a "Holy land."

Also indefensible in a book written and edited by nontheists is Kapka Kassabova's reference (p. 223) to, "God and His reassuringly ordered universe." Is she unaware that capitalizing possessive adjectives referring to the god of religion has long ceased to be correct English, and even theologians have abandoned the practice? Is she afraid that a nonexistent Sky Fuhrer will zap her with a thunderbolt if she fails to kiss its butt? The only worse violation of objectivity is the use by nontheists of the offensively Christian dating system, "AD," instead of the scientifically neutral, "CE." Fortunately I did not find that abomination anywhere in the book.

I seriously doubt that anyone will be able to read this whole book. Somewhere between pages 100 and 200 I stopped reading every word and started skimming for highlights. Soon after that I reached the conclusion that, having invited 42 writers to donate their services in support of AIDS research, Sherine was too embarrassed to tell any of them that their contributions added nothing to what was already there. If she had told half of them, "Thanks, but no thanks," her book might have been less trivial and more readable. As it is, buy the book and think of it as a charitable donation.

The Invention of the Jewish People
Shlomo Sand
20 Jay Street, Suite 1010, Brooklyn NY 11201
9781844674220 $16.95

As early as the seventeenth century, biblical scholars started noticing that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Judeo-Christian bible, was permeated with doublets: separate, separable, self-contained accounts of the same incident, often told from contradictory viewpoints. The next discovery was that one set of narratives referred to the Jewish deity as Yahweh, while the other set called the deity Elohim. For that reason, historians gave one of the authors the name, "the Yahwist" or J (from German Jahwist), and the other, "the Elohist" or E. Later still, it was observed that the Elohist stories themselves contained doublets, and a third author, P, the Priestly author was identified. By the twentieth century it was widely recognized that the Torah was compiled by interweaving narratives by J (10th century), E (8th century), D, for "Deuteronomist" (7th century), P (7th century), and R, for "Redactor" (5th century).

Now we learn from Shlomo Sand that the three centuries of biblical scholars who reached those now almost universally accepted conclusions are all incompetent idiots. The reality is that the concept of a "Jewish nation" did not exist prior to the Babylonian Captivity, and the Torah/Pentateuch/Tanakh was composed in post-Babylonian times for the purpose of pretending that there had been a Jewish nation dating back to the time of a petty king of Jerusalem named David. Sand did not construct that conclusion after examining the evidence and offering a cogent, logical argument for its validity. Rather, he started from the assumption that everything in this paragraph is accurate, and proceeded to a construction of history that could be legitimate only if that initial assumption was valid.

Sand maintains that the composition of the Tanakh was not begun any earlier than the sixth century BCE, that its account of earlier history was newly-concocted propaganda that was not copied from significantly older documents, and that such characters as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon originated in sixth-century imaginations. Since J and E play no part in his thesis, he makes no attempt to explain why J showed Isaac pandering his wife to King Abiymolokh of Gerar, whereas E showed Abraham pandering his wife to king Abiymolokh of Gerar. (Explanation: E's Isaac was sacrificed as a child, so to include stories of the adult Isaac told by J, E had to transfer them to Abraham.) Sand's index (there is no bibliography) lists the originator and propagators of the no-older-documents theory (T. Thompson, I. Finkelstein, N. Silberman), but makes no mention of proponents of the Documentary Theory (P. Ellis, R. Friedman, W. Harwood, G. Larue), perhaps in the hope that ignoring the most widely accepted theory of the composition of the Torah can make it go away. That is not the way history works. Offering plausible arguments against the J-E-D-P-R theory might be legitimate. Ignoring it is sheer incompetence.

So can Sand's thesis of the retroactive invention of a "Jewish nation" be taken seriously? "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Since the bible starts from the assumption that the earth is flat and the universe is less than ten thousand years old, accepting any part of such a piece of fiction as worthy of consideration would be ill advised. And since The Invention of the Jewish People starts from the assumption that the findings of three centuries of biblical scholarship are nonsense, treating any part of it as worthy of consideration would be equally ill advised.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Marc Mayer, editor with essays by Fred Hoffman et al
Merrell and Brooklyn Museum
9781858945194 $29.95

The African-American, Hispanic, and also Haitian sources of Basquiat's art can be seen in its color, imagery, and jazz-like energy. Most broadly, however, and formally, his art displays a "semiotic imagination." As Kellie John clarifies in the critical essay "Lost in Translation - Jean-Michel in the [Re]Mix," this is what differentiates Basquiat's art from graffiti; though he has been reflexively lumped into this field of edgy, exotic urban art as an especially inspired graffiti artist. The art critic Okwui Enwezor cited by Kellie also places Basquiat within a broader framework by seeing his art as "an attempt to construct exotic, non-Western aesthetic systems on the margins of modernism."

The three other critical essays heavily illustrated with relevant paintings similarly seek to find motives, aesthetic strategies, and accomplishments accounting for Basquiat's influence and artistic success not only in contemporary art, but for the field and the history of art. Marc Mayer is explicit in this in his essay "Basquiat in History". The two other essays titled "In the Cipher: Basquiat and Hip-Hop Culture" and "The Defining Years: Notes on Five Key Works" respectively relate the artist to a predominant, heterogeneous urban cultural style and closely examine early works for techniques, practices, and interests giving the art an identity and playing out over the artistic career.

Between the heavily-illustrated essays and sections between them with 30 or so paintings each, the number of Basquiat paintings is well over 100. While not definitive because the essays are each in their separate ways so penetrating and revealing and the paintings are not ordered or documented as in a catalog raisonne for example, this edition of this leading modern, urban artist brings Basquiat into focus while offering continually unexpected insights, connections, and biographical and cultural topics.

A Penny for the Violin Man
Eli Rill
Circle of Life Publishing
Canoga Park, CA
9780615338071 $24.95

Norman Schecter's long life of 105 years provides the arc for this sweeping, generational narrative of America facing different challenges over this time and how everyday persons were affected by and responded to these. World War I, the Depression, and World War II were the major historical episodes of this period from 1900, when Norman was born to the first years of the 21st century. At the end of the narrative, Rill brings in 9/11 and the early phase of its aftermath as the most recent wrenching historical events compelling changes in the lives of individuals.

Rill has reached into his own wide and deep background and his own interests and commitments for the substance of this historical novel. With Elia Kazan and Arthur Penn, Rill founded the Actor's Studio Playwright Unit in New York City. In his career in theater and film, he has worked with top actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, and Shelly Winters. The reader sees this experience in the true-life characters created by this novelist. In World War II, Rill was a Marine in the South Pacific. This experience gave him a feel for both the external and internal sides of historical events and change. The author's leading role in organizing individuals with common interests to pursue these goes into Norman Schecter's actions of trying to organize a Teacher's Union during the Depression which is central to the narrative. The main character's life before this activity leads up to it; and his life following it plays off of it.

Rill avoids the offputting, frequent flaws and lapses found in many novels taking on momentous historical episodes and related social and personal issues by a committed author. This work is not preachy or didactic; nor do its characters appear as wooden foils for ideas or perspectives--which style or lapses make a novel seem an exercise in persuasion. Rill invariably gets the right touch--as if directing a drama about real characters--for an engaging, memorable work about the intersection of sweeping historical developments and the particulars of the lives of the main character Norman and multiple others.

The reader soon falls into the rhythm of Rill's style of observant and reflective scenes with recurring passages which seem to sweep time away to uncover timeless human concerns--as when during the Depression in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, "Hopelessness and apathy sat side by side on the wooden park benches, in hopes that the May breeze warmth or November's bracing chill, could touch a distant time of faith, and resolve...and work."

Henry Berry

Janie's Bookshelf

Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Mysteries #11)
Donna Andrews
Minotaur Books (an imprint of MacMillan)
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312377175 $24.99 646-307-5151

Interestingly, all of the eleven Meg Langslow Mysteries have a bird in the title, usually as a pun. The latest, Swan for the Money, is no exception. And temperamental black swans do make an appearance. But Donna Andrews' mysteries also chock full of other animals including Meg's own dog, which she refers to as the Small Evil One. But Swan for the Money also has Tennessee belted fainting goats---I am not kidding! These unusual beasts either keel over or are frozen rigid when they're startled. They also figure prominently into this cozy mystery.

Here Meg finds herself in charge of the local Virginia garden club's rose show, and it happens to be held on the property of one of their members, Mrs. Winkleson, a dictatorial aristocratic loon who insists that everything in her house and on her property are either black, white, or gray. This includes her livestock: black swans, black and white cows, black horses that aren't allow out in the sun for fear their hide will get bleached, and the goats that are black with a white band completely circling their middles. Mrs. Winkleson enforces her color code with a vengeance as she lords it over everyone about everything else. Needless to say, she isn't well liked. When a woman is found stabbed in the goat pen, even the police think someone's finally stopped Mrs. Winkleson's clock. But it's a near miss and Meg and a band of very colorful characters, including her animal rights activist grandparents, are off to find who did it.

Donna Andrews once more has whipped up a romp among Virginia society. Swan for the Money is witty and absurd and quite a good read. When you close the covers on this one, you're certain to reach for Andrews' next, just to have a good visit with these oddball folks.

Otis Redding: RESPECT Live 1967
Director: D.A. Pennebaker
Shout Factory
2042-A Armacost Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025
ASIN: B001P5Q6I4 $14.98 310-979-5880

Shout Factory brings rare footage from two concerts just before Otis Redding's tragic plane crash in December 1967 in a 1986 DVD, Otis Redding: RESPECT Live 1967 Shout Factory. This recording has parts of two concerts that Redding did that year. One was part of the European Stax/Volt Tour, where Redding appears on the bill with Sam & Dave. Both of them are backed by Booker T. & The MG's with The Mar-Keys. The other concert is from Redding's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967.

The Stax/Volt concern is from a black and white video tape that was filmed in Norway, possibly from a television program because there are large TV cameras every where and some two camera shots that were popular at the time. It is very well preserved and offers Redding in an intense but slightly more reserved performance. He sings "My Girl," "Shake," the Stones' hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and one of his signature tunes, "Try A Little Tenderness."

Booker T. & the MGs performed one instrumental, "Green Onions," and Sam & Dave do two numbers, "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and "Hold On." The Mar-Kays, a horn trio, backed up Sam & Dave. With their choreography and the passion behind their vocals, this duo just gave everything they had, especially on "Hold On." It was a riveting performance that I don't think today's entertainers could do without a semi full of pyrotechnics and a dozen scantily glad dancers behind them. These guys entertained. Period.

The Monterey Pop Festival concert had been originally filmed in color and the DVD rendering still showed some problems with trying to just convert that to a digital format. There were sections where only blank white frames appeared, and one place showed burned film, which often happened with the medium back then. Since the DVD was done in 1986, obviously in a commendable effort to preserve these concerts, Shout Factory had only the technology of the times. Today, if the originals were still around, a lot of this possibly could be fixed. Wisely, though, the filmmaker kept these visual blocks in so that the audio portions would flow evenly.

Still, Redding's Monterey Pop Festival was Redding at his most relaxed and giving up his most soulful performance. Once more viewers see Redding perform "Shake" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," but they are also treated to "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and his original "Respect" that Aretha Franklin brought to every household in America. (And, by the way, Redding never spells the word RESPECT. He just sings it.) But it was Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness," backed by footage from women on the festival grounds that made it for me. This is the Ottis Redding I remember hearing on the radio.

Between the two concerts, documentary filmmaker and director D.A. Pennebaker placed stills of Redding behind a recording of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," which was released after Redding's death.

Otis Redding: RESPECT Live

Janis Joplin: Her Final 24 Hours
MVD Visual
H-840 North Circle Drive, 422 Business Center, Oaks, PA 19456
ASIN: B0034KVTLC $14.95 800-888-0486

MVD Visual and Cineflix International has released a brand new series of biographies of musicians and people in the news. Called Final 24, the series attempts to put together the last 24 hours of a noted celebrity's life, trying to find reasons for their tragic early deaths. One of the first, Janis Joplin: Her Final 24 Hours, is a compelling look at what led up to Janis Joplin's fatal overdose.

Cineflix International, which has offices in Toronto, London, and New York, produces documentary television programs for a global audience. Some of those shows include American Pickers, Property Virgins, and Urban Legends.

Using concert footage, home movies, interviews, and reenactments, Janis Joplin: Her Final 24 Hours offers a broad portrait of the rock/blues singing sensation. The interviews offer insight into Joplin's psyche, detailing her low self-esteem, the ostracism of her home town (even when she returned at the height of her fame), and her own struggle with substance abuse and a sense of belonging. The DVD explores her meteoric rise in the music industry, her struggles with critics and finding the right band to back her up, and her own troubled personal life.

When I first received this DVD and others in the series, I thought this might be tawdry tabloid fare. But it wasn't. It was sensitive and frank and gave me a much better portrait of a singer whose voice I had always admired. I'm hoping the other titles in the Final 24 series are equally as compelling.

Janie Franz

Karyn's Bookshelf

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316042673, $17.99

Debut authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl swirl onto the teen fantasy scene with "Beautiful Creatures," a impressively crafted tale of age-old magic, small-town witch hunt hysteria and irrepressible young love, set in a tiny southern enclave with deep Civil War roots. Soon to turn 16, Lena enrolls at Jackson High School hoping for a chance at normality. But with a deeply twisted family background of colliding light and dark magic, that's unlikely. Meanwhile, even before he sets eyes on her, classmate Ethan Wate senses a mind-to-mind connection with Lena in life-like dreams. That connection deepens as Lena and Ethan meet and their relationship grows. Some of the book's best moments are conversations Ethan and Lena hold in their heads, sometimes when they are sitting next to each other, sometimes when they're separated by great physical distance. As the two desperately seek a way to stop Lena from being claimed by dark magic on her 16th birthday, they magically see back in time to the Civil War, where tragedy struck another pair of young lovers on the grounds of a once grand, now ruined local estate. The key to Lena's fate rests with knowing the end of that Civil War era story, and in thwarting the adults who think protecting her from that ending is in her best interest. Great storyline complexity comes in the form of the local librarian and best friend of Ethan's recently deceased mother, who aids in their search of an ancient spell book that might have answers; Ethan's increasingly unbalanced father and spirit-calling housekeeper; and Lena's variety of spell-caster relatives. Unlike in some teen fantasy novels, were you need a glossary to keep track of the various magical elements, Garcia and Stohl thankfully don't get too complicated. They offer readers just enough verbiage about spell casters to lend significant depth to the story, but not enough to overwhelm. And a continuous sprinkling of just-in-time humor, that particularly pokes fun at members of the local Daughters of the American Revolution and their teenage daughters, nicely balances out the more intense moments. An all-around success with follow-ups, hopefully, to come soon.

The Freedom Business
Marilyn Nelson, author
Deborah Dancy, illustrator
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431
9781932425574, $18.95

Poet Marilyn Nelson pointedly notes in a preface to "The Freedom Business" that 18th Century African-American slave Venture Smith was "wholly destitute of all education," having never had a chance to attend school as a boy. Readers must keep reminding themselves of this as they progress through his gracefully worded memoir, that begins before his capture at age six and transport to the United States and ends in his old age, after he has worked his entire life to buy his freedom and that of his family members. The memoir, set on alternating pages with Nelson's poetic interpretation of Smith's life in-between, is an uncommonly heroic tale of a man who, despite a lack of education and seemingly insurmountable odds, spent his entire life working long hours on a master's plantation, then worked additional hours in off-plantation jobs in order to pay white masters to free him and his family. Smith's straightforward narrative style is contrasted with Nelson's poems, which chronologically progress alongside the fact-driven memoir. The poems effuse more emotion than the narrative, trying to get at what Smith might have been feeling, not just empirically experiencing. After Smith's capture and sale to the United States, Nelson writes that he had the "same face, same eyes but (was) inside utterly transformed, harmed past healing by the cheapening of human life." Illustrator Deborah Dancy's drawings require study and quiet contemplation, helped by a note at the end of the book which explains how they are not so much an illustration of the storyline, but a response to the emotions drawn out by the poems. Without the poetic and illustrative contributions, Smith's memoir might have been lost to time. But Nelson and Dancy's efforts elevate it, bringing out things that were too difficult - grammatically and/or personally - for Smith to put into words.

Andy Shane, Hero at Last
Jennifer Richard Jacobson, author
Abby Carter, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763636005 $14.99

In the latest installment of the popular series, likeable elementary schooler Andy Shane returns in "Hero At Last." The book's four chapters, which Andy spends thinking of ways he might become a hero, (rescuing a cat from a tree... tossing a rope to someone who has fallen into the river), are filled with warm humor. The black and white illustrations, also warm and funny, are a perfect compliment. As the story progresses, Andy's heroic aspirations alternate with his desire to win a bike decorating contest that is happening in conjunction with a local festival parade. Ultimately, he has to choose between making it to the judge's stand for the post-parade bike decorating contest or saving the day by rushing a dropped drumstick to a high school bass drum player. Without a drumbeat the high school band is falling into disarray, threatening to derail the entire parade. Of course, Andy chooses to pick up the drumstick and sacrifices the contest. The plot is simple yet satisfying, filled with child-centered situations that young readers will relate to, and a conclusion they'll smile with.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

MIND U - Stories from a different school of thought
J.D. Guinness
Outskirts Press, Inc.
Denver, CO
9781432746357 $27.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"MIND U is an anthology of adult humor, satire, fantasy, sex comedy, and sci-fi. Stories that take things to a higher intellectual plane; via celebrity gossip, slapstick humor, busty women, and action-packed, ridiculous detail. MIND U takes you to London, Paris, Hollywood, New York, Hawaii, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Back to the beginning of time, then all the way forward to the end of time, and then back again to the present day. You'll meet some very beautiful, amazing people and witness some very intimate, adult secrets. You'll go places and have adventures that'll get your blood going, your mouth laughing, and your heart singing. Buy the book, take a seat, open the book and prepared to enter...MIND U! WARNING: Some readers may find sections of the book offensive. Other readers may put these same sections on their 'to-do' list."

I couldn't have said it better or more succinctly. MIND U is an unforgettable read...lots of fun, craziness, and extreme imagination put together by the accomplished, intelligent, witty writer of The Famous Fakes, J.D. Guinness. If you like Kurt Vonnegut-type humor, you'll love JD. Allow me to quote from the beginning:

"Welcome to Mind U: a different school of thought; a university of the mind, a place for contemplation of what might really be going on out there.

"I find contemplation of 'what might really be going on' very useful. After all, from the time we're born we've got to decide what's real and what isn't.

"I'm middle-aged, and I still have trouble making that distinction. I mean, I basically understand how some things work, I just don't understand why.

"To this day, nobody knows why we're born, grow up, grow old, and die.

"What sets this journey going? Maybe it's not so much a journey as a fall. That means we're falling, vertically, through our lives, getting bumped and bruised on our long, long, way down, only to become a spread-eagled, lifeless bag of bones at the very end....

"The best way to deal with your fear of the unknown is to enroll in Mind U. Right Now."

Yes, I highly recommend MIND U for a unique, adult read and also, if you haven't, The Famous Fakes which I reviewed March 2006.

The Journey Through Illusion
Glenn Willoughby
Aventine Press
San Diego, CA
1593306636 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Jamison Everett is an ex-cop struggling to put his life back together after a series of tragic events cost him his career. Drifting through life, he is hired by his late grandfather's distribution company to locate Michael Reyes, a corporate analyst who has missed a crucial research deadline.

"At first, every lead appears to be a dead end, but it doesn't take long for Jamie to spot a shadowy figure tracking his every move. Then Reyes's research is linked to a possible cover-up within the company. With questions beginning to outnumber answers, and whispers of a connection to his grandfather's untimely death beginning to swirl, Jamie vows to get to the truth no matter what the cost. But when a group of thugs try to take him out in a crowded mall parking lot, he realizes that the culprits will stop at nothing to keep things quiet."

The Journey Through Illusion is a fast-moving, ex-cop/mystery read, well written and basically well edited. Author Glenn Willoughby is a consummate, creative writer and has done an excellent job. If you like mysteries with lots of descriptive detail and convolution, this might be a mystery for you.

Kaye Trout

Kiplinger's Bookshelf

Creeping Shadows
Alan Draven, Brandon Ford and Jessica Lynne Gardner
Pixie Dust Press
9780981021317 $14.95

If you have not read the work of these three authors, do yourself a favor and pick up Creeping Shadows. This is a collection of three novellas, each by Draven, Ford and Gardner that are easy to digest and even easier to get pulled into.

Leading the pack is Alan Draven's take on Jack the Ripper, Vengeance Is Mine. A retelling of the events surrounding the Whitechapel Murders of 1888, Draven does take some creative liberties, but the story is true to form as he tells us about a young student named Vincent Fowler (the Ripper here, or is he?) who exiles himself from London - after many disquieting events - but promises to return to exact his revenge on the city. Return he does and the prostitutes' mangled bodies start turning up.

Draven certainly has a way with words and especially appreciated here is the writers description of what transpires during the murders:

With one sweep of the knife, he severed her throat in two cuts, from left to right. He knelt beside her, to the right of her head as the blood from her wound splattered against the fence. He severed her left carotid artery. Then moved to her abdomen. Slicing it open like one would a dead cow. He reached inside her and pulled out her intestines and part of her stomach. He laid the intestines above her right shoulder and pieces of her stomach above her left shoulder. - --Vengeance Is Mine, page 37

Taking care to wrap things up, Draven ends this with a satisfying finale that fits the tale.

Brandon Ford's Merciless was inspired by true events and begins alternating the tale of teenagers Kyra and Claire. Each girl has problems of her own, but Kyra's problem overshadows the other problems; she is pregnant. When Kyra receives news of her acceptance to college, by a school she really wanted to go to, she finds herself indeed alone with her problem.

Claire is not dealing with unplanned pregnancy, but she is dealing with familiar family problems. All of the responsibilities of the household have fallen on her. Her mother is an alcoholic and perhaps bipolar. Claire is also dealing with not having a father around.

Merciless is the story of two teen girls getting kidnapped by a crazed murderer with nothing to lose. This is also the part of the story that brings the two girls together. With a descriptive pen, Ford spends a lot of time setting the story up. Readers are introduced to the characters with a steady voice which illuminates a diligence for characterization. Readers will feel comfortable with this story and will feel comfortable with the ending.

Said the Kitty to The Cat
Vincent Spada, Illustrated by Steve Whitlow
Top That! Publishing
Suffolk, IP12 1AP
9781849561013, 6.00 Brit. pounds (UK)

Just when you thought you would never find the kind of book you desire, along comes Vincent Spada's latest book, Said the Kitty to The Cat. Even though this is a children's book, it will also appeal to adults who like a well metered, rhymed, tale.

Early in the story, the cat and the kitty notice that a box of chocolates is on the same couch as they are relaxing on. Soon, the focus of the tale is on the box of chocolates and whether the kitty and cat should open the box.

"On the couch was a box

full of sweets, itty-bitty.
Still sealed. Oh no!
What a shame, what a pity!"

--Said the Kitty to the Cat, Page 4

As the tale commences, the cat and the kitty try to think of someone who can open the sweets. Could they ask the bird? No, the bird is asleep. How about the dog? No, they reasoned. The dog is outside.

'Let's ask the fish,'
Said the cat to the kitty.
'She's ever so clever,
And really quite witty!'
But the fish was too busy!
'What a shame, what a pity!'
Said the kitty to the cat,
Said the cat to the kitty.

Said the Kitty to The Cat. Pg 10

When the two get finished talking about the fish, they hear a noise and find that their owner has returned. Will she give them the sweets?

Vincent Spada began this book project by writing a poem for his two young nieces, a long ago valentine. He says, "I thought the poem might make a nice children's book, so I submitted it to publishers, and, well, the rest is history...

The illustrations, by Steve Whitlow, are in pastel colors. They are very entertaining and complimentary to the text. Readers will feel the softness of the pages as they read through the text.

This book could be read by first or second graders. It could also serve as a bedtime book.

Christina Kiplinger

Logan's Bookshelf

Backyard Deer Hunting
Wm. Hovery Smith
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449084363, $19.95,

Venison, it can be what's for dinner for much cheaper than beef or chicken. "Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting Deer to Dinner for Pennies per Pound" is a step-by-step guide to hunting deer for the use of food consumption. With everything from licensing permissions, preparing deer for consumption, storing for the future, as well as recipes for deer and other things to hunt. "Backyard Deer Hunting" is a must for anyone who wants to get into hunting with practical intent.

Concrete Construction
Ken Nolan
PO Box 6500, Carlsbad, CA 92018
9781572182370, $28.75,

Concrete is a highly durable substance that can withstand the ravages of time. "Concrete Construction: The Professional's Guide to Forming, Reinforcing, Pouring, Finishing, & Curing" is a reference to the power of concrete, outlining many details on how to use it effectively for strong buildings built efficiently and without bloating costs. Complete with OSHA requirements, "Concrete Construction" is a resource that shouldn't be missed.

The Essential Organizer
William O. Lytle
Privately Published
9780615300887, $34.95,

No one is immortal, and leaving documentation behind can make things flow a lot smoother. "The Essential Organizer: What Your Family and Friends Will Need to Know" is a workbook meant to serve as an easy means of covering one's will in the event of death or other event that makes your clear mind's will be known. Designed to record one's wishes on life support, funeral plans, what to be done with the home, inheritance, and more, William Lytle provides a useful resource with many aspects of the situation covered. "The Essential Organizer" is a read not to be overlooked, highly recommended.

Rooms of the Mind
Terry M. Brown
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755126, $12.95,

The teacher has possibly the most important role in a child's education. "Rooms of the Mind: Quadrants for Success" is an advisory for teachers and administrators who often have contact with children, giving them advice and tips on how to encourage and flourish their educations on the matter. A thoughtful read with plenty of sage advice on the matter, "Rooms of the Mind" is a top pick for any teacher.

Changing the World One Invention at a Time
Richard Edward Rowe
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450219839, $17.95,

An idea is a terrible thing to waste. "Changing the World One Invention at a Time: Acting on Your Ideas Using the Creatively Inventing Framework" is a guide to making one's ideas come to life in the business world. Making one's ideas come to life is a great experience and a motivating factor in helping one push their place in their business life further. "Changing the World One Invention at a Time" is a solid inspirational business text, highly recommended.

Santa Fe
David Vokac & Joan Vokac
West Press
PO Box 99717, San Diego, CA 92169
9780930743116, $5.95,

Santa Fe, New Mexico isn't the first thing that comes to a tourist's mind, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a lot to offer. "Santa Fe: City of Enchantment" is a guide for experiencing historic Santa Fe, a city with a unique architecture and style not often seen elsewhere throughout the United States. Lodging, restaurants, attractions, and history are all discussed, and make "Santa Fe: City of Enchantment" a fine pick for anyone planning a trip to the city.

In Pursuit of Love, Spirituality and Happiness
Gita Audhya
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781440139895, $14.95,

The pursuit of Happiness, a constitutional right, is not an easy right to exercise. "In Pursuit of Love, Spirituality, and Happiness" tells the story of a young man trying to make on his own separate way from his corrupt father and pursuing a Hawaiian beauty, but seeing that there is nothing easy about getting what he wants. A fine story of chasing one's goals, "In Pursuit of Love, Spirituality, and Happiness" is a fine pick, highly recommended.

Raising Superman!
Howard L. Rodgers
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449084899, $14.95,

Nothing is set in stone, even the life of an Autistic child. "Raising Superman: Real Life Secrets, Shortcuts, and "Cheat Codes": Needed to Win the War Against Autism" is a parenting guide from Howard L. Rodgers who applies his own experience living as a father to an autistic son, whom doctors said had one of the more severe cases he has seen. Through his work, he states that autistic children can be taught, and taught well, making "Raising Superman" a treasure trove of knowledge for parents of autistic children.

Guardian's Alliance
G. R. Holton
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451213638, $9.95,

When the universe expands, so do the opportunities for evil. "Guardian's Alliance" tells the story of the Guardian's Alliance, a unity of planets throughout the Heledrium galaxy who unite to fight the piracy and cruelty that reek throughout the lawless outer space. A fun science fiction adventure, "Guardian's Alliance" is a fine read, well worth considering for science fiction fans. Also from G. R. Holton in Science Fiction and in his Heledrium universe, are "Soleri" (9781451200447, $9.95), and "Journey to the Edge" (9781426920301, $9.95).

Carl Logan

Louise's Bookshelf

The Big Short
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10110
9780393072235 $27.95

If you really don't understand what happened back in 2008 when the world of finance collapsed, have a go at Michael Lewis' book, The Big Short. He has found the few people who actually made a profit as the rest of the world was in shreds. How did they do it? Credit Default Swaps. You've heard the term, now listen to what they are and what they do. The big problem with the banks, etc in '08 and long before was their investment in subprime mortgages. We knew that, but what we didn't know is that one clever fellow took a whole mess of those mortgages, no one knows how many or from what source, bundled them up, called them Collateral Debt Obligations and sold them on the bond market--which no one on earth understands! When the even more clever (and well west of left field) fellows saw what he had done, they wanted to bet against the CDO's survival. They did this by buying what effectively is an insurance policy, now called Credit Default Swap. Most of those were written by AIG and when the bottom fell out, guess who had to pay? AIG wasn't the only one dragged down, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, RBS among others. In his honesty, I give Lewis a lot of credit; he explains that no one ever really knew, nor knows now, which instruments exactly are in a CDO. Those who really raked it in also shorted the backers of the CDS. You do have to have a high degree of lunacy to get into this, but oh my, the winnings are awfully nice!

Michael Lewis has been in the financial world for twenty years and he is so good at explaining things because he, too, was thrown into the field with no background or knowledge of finance. That seems to be the leading peculiarity of those who end up making obscene amounts of money. The fact that almost no one working in the bond market really understands what was going on helps us, not so much to comprehend, but to accept that we may never know. He gives us a very good hint at the makings of CDS's and CDO's and that's a start. What we really understand now is that there are people out there who can devise the most diabolical forms of investment imaginable and profit from them. Even Michael Lewis can't deliver an "aha moment" on this one.

The Pursuit of Love
Nancy Mitford
Vintage Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780375718991 $15.95

I have to give The Pursuit of Love five stars. Love in a Cold Climate is usually included as a sequel, but it doesn't quite measure up. The first is just hilarious, sort of P.G. Wodehouse without the slapstick. The Radletts are a looney family with little to do but think up fun mischief to amuse themselves in their country life between the wars. Take for example, the child hunt. Two of the children take off across the estate trying to mask their scent by walking through the creek or mingling with a flock of sheep. A couple hours later the bloodhounds (not the "hounds" used in fox hunting) are turned loose with the riders in close pursuit. Of course the dogs eventually find the girls and are handsomely rewarded--with marrow bones.

There are so many laughs in their insular little Cotswold world, most of them inside jokes, most of them terribly snobby. The Raphael and Carravagio paintings are just "country house bedroom pictures"! Uncle rails against the use of words such as notepaper, perfume, mirror and mantelpieces! "It is called writing paper you know - don't let's hear any more about note, please." The bolter is the narrator's mother, who tends to run off quite often with someone or other. Children in large families tend to invent their own universe, sometimes good, sometimes not so, often based on misbegotten facts or one's vivid imagination. The Mitfords did it with hysterical style.

Nancy Mitford does such a wonderful job of showing the lives of this family which, by the way, just happens to be wealthy. Mitford is so quotable: "Poor old thing, I suppose she likes him, but, I must say, if he was one's dog, one would have him put down." It's not their fault they're rich and they don't really pay any mind to it, any more than poor or middle class children know their economic status. They really only know their own lives and usually tend to be happy. It's only when they're exposed to the rest of the world, via modern communication devices, that the realization hits that they might be missing something. I guess what I'm saying is that your normal is not my normal; same thing with the rich and poor and cultures the world around. They are just different. It doesn't hurt anything, unless you let it.

Louise Leetch

Margaret's Bookshelf

Lost Devil's Throne
Kristin Stefanos
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780557319619, $16.50,

It's never easy to learn that everything you know is a lie. "Lost Devil's Throne" tells the story of Alexandra Drakis, as everything she has dismissed as myth and legend becomes real, finding vampires and not knowing who to trust. A read of fantasy and shades of gray, "Lost Devil's Throne" is a choice and recommended pick.

She's My Dad
Iolanthe Woulff
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432743772, $19.95,

One's heritage can come in the strangest ways. "She's My Dad" tells the story of Nicke Farrell, a transwoman who finds that she may have an unknown son from her days as a man in college. This revelation becomes clouded as she finds that intolerance has powerful forces that may threaten her life as well as the college she has started teaching at. "She's My Dad" is an exciting read of tolerance and revelation.

Don't Learn 4 Exams! Ten Exam Secrets of Highly Successful Teens
Laura Lyseight
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450034470, $15.99,

Hardcore last minute studying is never the way to go. "Don't Learn 4 Exams! Ten Exam Secrets of Highly Successful Teens" is a guide to beating tests and exceeding one's own expectations through test taking skills and figuring out what works for you as an individual. "Don't Learn 4 Exams!" is worth considering for any teen feeling the pressure of exams.

Panic Child
Carol D. Levine
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449050290, $19.99,

Abuse all too often sends children on the wrong paths in life. "Panic Child: A Harrowing True Story of Sexual Abuse and Neglect" reflects on her own terrors as a child growing up and the tragedies visited upon her. Hoping to inspire her readers and other people who have had these atrocities inflicted on them, she wants them to break the all too common pattern. "Panic Child" is a thoughtful and poignant read that seeks to inspire those who have been hurt.

Safe Hormones, Smart Women
D. Lindsey Berkson
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Milton Kahn Associates (publicity)
PO Box 50353, Sanata Barbara, CA 93150
9781450217255, $22.95,

Hormones are the reasons why a woman's body can change from one day to the next. "Safe Hormones, Smart Women" is a discussion of hormones and how to understand them, and what they can do to affect a woman's day to day life, and most importantly, how to control them . Weight issues, breast health, diet, and more, "Safe Hormones, Smart Women:" is an advisory of how to get one's biology under control, highly recommended.

Twins x 3
Fran Pitre
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441550019, $28.99,

One set of twins is daunting enough, but three? "Twins x 3" tells the story of a mother of three different sets of twins, and relates her struggles with infertility and pursuing treatments. Along with her faith, she found herself going from no children to two at a time. Reflecting on her unique pregnancy experiences, her many motherly woes, and the constant challenges that three sets of twins can bring, "Twins x 3" is a fascinating read, highly recommended.

Reflections of a Successful Wallflower
Andrea Michaels
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749095, $34.95,

It's one thing to be a successful entry into an industry; it's another to create an entirely new industry. "Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business, Lessons in Life" is a memoir of Andrea Michaels as she states how she got started in the special events industry, making her own niche and place in the business world, making a path for others to follow. Personal and profound, "Reflections of a Successful Wallflower" is an intriguing and inspirational read, highly recommended.

Body Parts
Janet Cameron Hoult
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755980, $10.95,

When your body falls apart, doesn't mean your life has to go with it. "Body Parts: A Collection of Poems About Aging" is what the title says as Janet Cameron Hoult reflects on the challenges of living and life as age rears its ugly head and the weakness of the human form shows - but it doesn't mean you can't keep a good attitude about it. "Body Parts" is a fine collection, not to be missed. "Time to Die": I want to die with dignity./Not how the system plans for me./Not in a hospital bed/with many tubes about my head/My body undergoing tests/When all I really need is rest./For I'll know when and I'll know why/The time has come for me to die.

Narcissistic Predicaments
Renee Pittelli
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750442, $22.95,

An abusive environment is no place to call a family. "Narcissistic Predicaments: A Biblical Guide to Navigating the Schemes, Snares, and No-Win Situations Unique to Abusive Families" discusses these abusive and dysfunctional families in the context of Christianity. Encouraging families to use the Bible to heal the wounds of abuse and hate through one's blood. "Narcissistic Predicaments" is a fascinating read and a top pick, not to be missed.

Christine Bryce
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426926099, $13.00

In all of us lies something beautiful. "Manifestation: The Jewel In You" is a philosophical and inspirational writing from Christine Bryce who wants readers to delve into themselves and find what is truly special and unique about them in the world. Saying not to fear the darkness in one's search for light, "Manifestation" is a fascinating read which shouldn't be overlooked for spiritual readers.

M. J. Davis
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162598, $12.95,

Life as a woman in the old west was one filled with tragedy. "Penelope" tells the tale of the titular character as she faces the grief of her parents death to typhoid, and how she lives alone. Along the way, she's reunited with her brother, and a native American whom she soon marries. One charming episode does not immunize her to what lies ahead, however. "Penelope" is a poignant tale, not to be ignored.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Raging Silence
Amanda Stone
Synergy Books
9780976498117 $14.95

Amanda Stone's Raging Silence opens one morning, November 1964. Melena Dupree Starling is nineteen, standing on the front porch of an old log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. Ernest Starling, Melena's young husband is on his way down the mountain where he will have lunch and attend a Ranger's meeting. Their baby, Blackwell, is inside the house.

With this introduction we have met three of the central players in this drama which will trace the lives of all three, plus those of Blackwell's siblings and into the generations that follow theirs.

Melena has high hopes that her marriage and family are going to be long lived, filled with love and much happiness.

As time continues more children are added to the growing family including another son Luke and a daughter Elizabeth. An undercurrent begins to form in Melena's happy plans, Ernest is non attentive due in part because he is driven to establish himself as a successful businessman whose is beginning a family dynasty to pass down to sons, and due in part because he is not faithful to his marriage vows.

Melena's anger driven inventory of Ernest's transgressions both the real and those which are suspected along with her irritation and disenchantment with her situation, her children, and her husband continue to increase over time.

Ernest and Melena separate amongst recrimination decide not to see it to the end, set about to maintain their marriage at least for keeping a good image for family and society.

Family dysfunction continues, until several years following their initial decision to divorce, and now filled with so much anger, hatred and inability to curb their behavior the pair finally divorce. And the dysfunction continues.

Over the years Melena, her children and Ernest too continue lives which often swirl pretty much out of control, until at last as they deal with those life altering, predictable changes that accompany divorce, but also maturation and life itself; the family members make changes of their own. Some of these changes are positive, some are not. Some changes are revenge, dysfunction, or maturation driven and all are vagaries of life as is experienced by all living humans who do not remain static, but do face life and become well, bitter or otherwise different.

Writer Stone has set down a disquieting narrative that investigates how the statistic that in the US; half of all marriages can be expected to end in divorce, and in some parts of the country the statistic is even higher, included in this dynamic is the realization that most of those divorces will take place and uproot the lives of children. A second discouraging statistic addressed by Stone; that someone is assaulted in the US every 3 or so minutes, is interwoven into the narrative as Stone delineates how these two elements singly or together serve to tear families apart and destroy lives.

Raging Silence is not an easy little frothy type read. It is a sequence of events beginning with heart felt hopes and aspirations, treachery and duplicity, and secrets. The secrets are frequently hidden in the silence often found in families who cannot or will not face reality and present to the world the behaviors and actions which they deem proper or right or pleasing to others.

A work of fiction based in large part in actual happenings, Raging Silence addresses major social issues and accomplishes the goal to share a touching family account. While I found the work to be disturbing at times, it is a tale that is written in a readable manner, presents insight into some of the problems facing so many today and can perhaps serve to aid others in gaining an understanding of these problems.

Happy to recommend Amanda Stone's Raging Silence for those who enjoy a slice of life type work and especially for therapists, teachers who do face the product, children, of these dysfunctional family groups, and others who may work with children or adults in a therapy type setting. A work for the high school, college and public library shelf, Raging Silence is not a book for a lazy afternoon but is a worthwhile peek into what lies behind the dysfunction so prevalent today.

Never Let You Go
Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson
9781595547507 $14.99

Erin Healy's Never Let You Go introduces us to Lexi Solomon who has immersed herself in her 9 year old daughter Molly for some seven years.

The narrative begins at the back of the red Rocks Bar and Grill on an icy March evening as Lexi closed the restaurant as she did every Monday, Thursday and Friday. The trek down the alley to her car was always fraught with a bit of fear that single light illuminating the corridor would quit in mid step, it did. But, thankfully it came back to life, but with it came an unwelcome denizen from her past.

And, from that beginning the reader moves with Lexi into a frightening situation taking her from the day to day struggle she has faced since her beloved sister Tara was murdered, her druggie husband left and an acquaintance Lexi from her past, an acquaintance she had hoped not to see again reappears. Warden's reappearing is followed quickly by that of Grant, her husband, gone but not divorced, also unexpected, also not welcomed. Not only that, Norman Von Ruden, the man who murdered her sister is now up for parole.

The seven years of anger, feelings of being deserted, estrangement from her own mother and need to protect her child have not been easy for Lexi. Lexi does have a roommate, Gina, and her daughter Molly to help cheer the time, but the struggle to just keep herself and her child clothed, fed and housed is beginning to take its toll.

As re-stirred memories of occurrences along with people from the past again enter Lexi's life Lexi must face them. Slowly Lexi comes to understand that choices made, whether our own or those of those in our lives have impact upon us, shape our own outcome and cannot be ignored.

Learning to accept the past as that, past, forgive what needs to be forgiven, and move on; must be done in that order, was difficult for Lexi to accept. However as Lexi began to understand that she could not continue to nurture the hurts of the past if she were to enter the hope of the future she is more able to come to grips with that past and to face a more hopeful future. In time Lexi begins her journey of self-examining, leading to her beginning to understand the healing of forgiveness.

I found writer Healy's characters to be well detailed, the rogues are really iniquitous while the others tend to be very real, on the whole likeable and people we feel we can identify. As do we all; Healy's characters make both good and poor choices and frequently discover the consequences are not always to their liking.

As the tale weaves back and forth from the present to the past Lexi's determination for survival grows stronger. Because this work is listed as a Christian thriller, writer Healy does weave a good bit of God's working in lives into the narrative. For those having a religious background Biblical reference and theological rhetoric are understandable and clear, for those without religious background some of the Christian theme may seem less understandable and less necessary.

As a Christian novel the reader can expect to find a good versus evil theme running throughout. Again, those with religious background will find the theme acceptable and understandable, others may not accept it quite so well.

I enjoyed the read, writer Healy has crafted a nicely ground, well written work, because she is billed as a Christian writer and Never Let You Go is billed as a Christian Suspense; I find the Biblical reference, and Christian themes to be fundamental to narrative and essential to the work.

Happy to recommend Erin Healy's Never Let You Go.

Sculpting the Heart's Poetry While Conversing with the Masters
Joyce White
3131 RDU Center Dr STE 210, Morrisville, NC, 27560
9780557223718 $TBA

Joyce White's Sculpting the Heart's Poetry While Conversing With the Masters offers first some thoughts regarding Feminist Mythology.

Setting the tone is the first poem entitled Women in which all nuances of women are introduced from the kisses and tears, to rivalry, Caffeine, Nicotine and Prozac to an understanding that women have too many dimensions to simply set down on paper.

Poet White explains in Bird of God how she goes about constructing her rhythmical pieces.

Interspersed among the poetic odes in the work Sculpting the Heart's Poetry is found artwork including pen and ink drawings, photography and artwork created by the Masters. I found one photograph in particular to be particularly compelling, entitled A Family's Hands we see a grouping of hands including one of a baby and continuing on to the veined and conceivably arthritic hand of perhaps the oldest member of the family.

What daughter, I ponder might not find something with which to agree or to enjoy while reading the words of the four stanzas entitled Turning Into Mom.

Birthdays, Happy Children, and Becoming a Poem are some of the gentle, well crafted odes comprising Chapter 1 Feminist Mythology.

In the second Chapter of the book is found a collection of writer White's conversations with the Masters. From Zeus, Hermes, Dionysus and the First New Year Baby to Saint Raphael, and Madonna and Jesus and angels; poet White talks of love and flowers, and feeling loved, the thousand artists eyes. She tells of Artists who write and paint and create.

White tells of Raphael who comes to heal, and of angels who bless with celestial knowledge and of Jesus and the melodic music of Mozart and how angels fly and, Hermes. Hermes, the keeper of the in between, is chosen to report, record, and transport the dead.

Picasso is discussed in Chapter 3. That Poet White harbors a good bit of interest, caring and perhaps love for this artiste is very evident as the reader undertakes the works included in this series.

Picasso was born in Spain, moved to France and enjoyed a reputation as a renowned theater designer, draftsman, and sculptor, and, he was likely the greatest printmaker of his era and beyond.

White tells how Picasso's paintings fill her head, she relates that the artist's favorite model was Olga, and tells us something of that woman from her 22 inch waist to her dancing to unheard melodies, and while she looks a little odd in her cubic form, HE, no doubt, thought her perfectly constructed.

And one of my favorite paint artists, Van Gogh, is addressed in Chapter 4 which is introduced with a Chagall collage presented in muted magenta and lavender and is created by versifier White herself.

'There is beauty and bravery and achievement in Van Gogh's Starry Night.' I must agree.

Aphrodite and Venus and Marilyn Monroe, and Botticelli all become part of what we females are, we are women.

Chapter 5 leads the reader to Drama, Drama, Drama and tears like pollywogs, I think that is one of my favorite lines in the this section, and maybe even the work as a whole. Tears like pollywogs, what visual portrayals fill the senses. That, and poet White's assertion that if it looks and sounds like a poem, it is cause a smile. There is hope for all of us then, isn't there?

Money, Grammar and Endless love and barking Yorkies and graying hair and lips that taste of chocolate, White weaves visions with words.

Only a bard would recognize so easily that moths live, work and die much as do humans. She watches a spider spinning a web, and plays what if with white on white.

White pigeons hide from white cats and white birds search for white worms, and, she asks the question could we learn if white chalk wrote on a white chalkboard. We CAN live without a good many things we think we just have to have, but, can we actually live without red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black and brown?

I have cats, I particularly enjoyed the Ballet of Cats, 'by day they sit and stare in unison. They achieve lift off, twitch tails, and maybe even hiss ad stew. They are, cats by day and tigers by night.'

And Chapter 6 is filled with The Circle of Life. Works include evocative narrative of An Alcoholic, the delicate lilt Blossoms Praying, and mischievous First Dirty Word summing up a youngster's growing up, a Cowboy's Moonlight Ride, Hermit Poets and Ribbons, Bows and Lace present a slice of life across generations, times, places and gender.

Who should live and Who should die is a thought provoking discussion especially for those of us who have had, or may have soldier fathers, brothers, husbands, or today moms and sisters.

Growing Love, and The glass Dancer complete the work.

Rhymster White has crafted an eclectic, balanced work trailing across a myriad of themes. The work is wordsmith in content, wordsmith in beauty. That White has come through sorrow, enjoyed beauty and finds worthwhile in much is evidenced in her odes, stanzas and poems.

Lyricist Joyce White has strengthened herself using spiritual standards directing the core values set down in use of art therapy for sculpting the heart and thus the emotional wellbeing of the self. White employs these values creatively as a way to promote healing and growth and self awareness.

Renewal of verve, optimism, self discovery, moving on following tragedy or even a happy life changing event are all recurrent themes running through her work. White's Sculpting the Heart's Poetry thrusts wellness and good heartedness to the forefront. Sharing pain, hurt and happiness is therapeutic, liberating and cathartic White fosters integrity and wellbeing through the curative acts of creativity.

God focused dreams, work and doing embracing a belief of duality, harmonizing radiance and dark through verse and conversing with our spiritual leader fills our essence with the healing, joy and motivation to move forward with renewed vigor and self awareness in the face of the upsets we all face in life.

Filled with a poignant, ethereal quality the written works offered by White are counter balanced nicely with various depictions of art work including sculpture, pictures of various medium and photographs, all in all she has taken an eclectic set of materials and woven them into an affirmation of women in whole and the individual woman who may be reading.

Happy to recommend Joyce White's Sculpting the Heart's Poetry while conversing with the Masters.

For review I received an ARC from the author.

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Care and Feeding of Sprites
Diterlizzi & Black
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1416927573 $15.99

Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's The Spiderwick Chronicles Care and Feeding of Sprites is a Simon & Schuster book for Young Readers.

The authors do note that at times they did question the wisdom of keeping faeries as pets, the have come to see that people who love sprites are as unique as the sprites themselves.

And the pages that follow feature first a two page spread showing a Bearded Hopper and a page explaining terms and images used in the book.

Next comes a full page graphic of a Leatherwing, showing antenna drawings for both male and female with a page of text regarding the Magnificent Sprite. A sidebar box cautions Do not attempt to keep a sprite if you have not acquired The Sight, the ability to see faeries.

At the bottom of the page is another memo noting that some insect sprites are not only beautiful but very intelligent as well. Conversation with such sprites the notation, continues, can be quite stimulating.

Section two begins with a two page spread, on the left is a detailed listing of the Anatomy of a Sprite while on the right is a line drawing of the Basic Sprite Body carefully annotated a la a scientific drawing.

And, the work continues, tongue firmly in cheek, packed with lovely, full color, graphics of various sprites and a page of notes regarding how to select the sprite, obtaining the sprite, and even beings often mistaken for sprites, but that are not sprites and how to tell them apart, how to discover whether your sprite is a girl or a boy, housing the sprite, proper nutrition for the growing sprite, accessories to get for your sprite, grooming your sprite, how to maintain well being of sprites and how to understand the moods of sprites.

Sprites detailed in the book include; Common Orchid Sprite, Flower Head, Agile Hopper, the beautiful moth winged Orchid Sprite, Dancing Pondneedle, Little Blueberry Sprite, cherubic Rackhams Sprite, Graceful Thicket Sprite, Royal Orchid Sprite, Sprout Sprite, Devil's Spur and the Glowing Toadfly closing out the work are the Flower Winged and Beetle Winged Sprites.

What a fun book for middle grade readers who are often a tricky tribe to persuade into reading anything. The books in this series are so beautifully wrought, filled with whimsical notes and graphics to tickle the imagination.

I like the notion of through the looking glass type fantasy and these charming sprites fit that idea nicely. I found when teaching 4th grade for two years that the girls in particular were fascinated with this particular book and the possibilities sprites offer as motivation for writing. I did find the boys too enjoyed thumbing the books for ideas for their own drawings and even pseudo scientific notations.

Happy to recommend Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's beautifully illustrated and detailed, The Spiderwick Chronicles Care and Feeding of Sprites especially for middle grade readers, including classroom usage, but also for anyone with a sense of whimsy and whimsy in their soul.

Skinny Is Overrated: The Real Woman's Guide to Health and Happiness at Any Size
Danielle Milano
Synergy Books
9780984235834 $15.95

Danielle Milano's Skinny Is Overrated: The Real Woman's Gude to Health and Happiness at Any Size is dedicated to the memory of the author's mother,' an amazing cook, who was committed to keeping her family healthy through nutritious food. She was ahead of her time.

The Table of Contents sets the tone for the book. Chapter One: If You Put a Bulldog on a Diet, You Don't End Up With a Greyhound lets the reader know immediately here is a writer who has some good sense and handle on reality.

Writer Milano, MD notes that obesity and diabetes are decimating many of her patients, and from all reports much of the citizenry of our nation. Dr Milano notes that during a short walk we see people young and old who have poor teeth, young adults using canes, middle aged folks in wheel chairs, and many who are not just big, they are very big.

Milano discusses the fact some folks are naturally thin, many don't gain even when they want to while others have a hard time slimming down and remaining slim. Thin people according to Dr Milano eat to the level of their hunger.

Other chapters include importance of identifying with our heritage, genetics do play a part in all aspects of our size whether weight, height or whatever. Getting motivated is important, per Dr Milano, included in chapter 3 is a chart to help readers decide whether they are at normal weight, overweight, obese, or very obese. One problem with such a chart is pointed out by Dr Milano and is the fact that for the thin person eating to hunger ideal is easy to accomplish, for the overweight it is not.

Dr Milano has noted that among her patients who are obese there are many who fit into typical categories including the slave who feels they must cook one meal, a healthy one, for themselves and another for their family, because the family may not want the healthy food. Reality is if mom and perhaps dad are overweight it is likely kids are overweight too and all would benefit from the healthy diet.

Self Medicators are those who eat to ease upsets, depression, nervousness; 12 step programs use HALT, are you drinking because you are hungry, angry, lonely or thirsty. Dr Milano takes HALT further and has expanded it to HHAALTT, is the overeating because the eater is hurt, hungry, angry, anxious, lonely, tired or thirsty.

The 'I'll Start My Diet Tomorrow' Procrastinator is self explanatory as is The Food Addict, The Doormat, The Caretaker and The Self Defeatist who does not believe in herself or the power she holds over her own life.

The Sensitive Soul is the one who eats what every one around her is eating so they won't realize she is on a diet. The Accountant in Dr Milano's view thinks healthy diets are too expensive while The Housewife devotes much time to housework and not take time for themselves.

Setting goals are important when going into a healthy diet and life style, prior to beginning to set the goals it is good to know where you are and then along with the goals it is time to put your body on a schedule to teach the body to expect normal sized meals at normal times.

Dr Milano does not ignore that active people are less likely to be obese than are those who need to Get Moving! The Road To Obesity Starts at Your TV. The right frontal cortex of the brain is less active in obese persons than it is in the eat to hunger folks. Scientists are beginning to believe that this part of the brain may be responsible for motivating both the person wants to sit and do little as well as the gung ho out for a run type.

I found Dr Milano's twenty four chapter, 243 page work to be highly readable, very informative and motivational. On the other hand I am one of the eat to hunger and stop types, and can see that folks who are the eat to full group may not be so willing to read, nod in affirmation and be willing to accept that Dr Milano is on to something of greater worth.

Dr Milano does not espouse starve to thinness, she does encourage health whatever the weight, and she encourages those who are obese to begin changing life style so that obesity, diabetes and stroke do not be the way of life for more of her patients.

This is not a diet book per se, Dr Milano does offer some food related information as well as several tasty recipes for the reader to consider. She offers suggestions for organizing the kitchen, lists some essentials needed for cooking, and encourages a healthy life style rather than a body weight BMI number or fads to make us thin.

All in all I found Dr Milano's skinny is overrated: THE Real woman's Gude to Health and Happiness at Any Size to be informative, well written and well worth the reading. Filled with chapter notes, chapter work, recipes, discussion of food components, what they are, how they behave, why they are important is important. A handy index rounds out the work.

Happy to recommend Dr Milano's skinny is overrated: THE Real woman's Gude to Health and Happiness at Any Size.

NOTE: I do not keep all the books I receive for review, Dr Milano's skinny is overrated is one work that I will add to my book shelf. I won't keep it because I fear obesisty for myself, but each of us eat to hunger or eat to full do need to know more about what we are eating, and perhaps why and I learned something about specific foods that I had not before considered, garlic on broccoli for one and will continue to refer to Dr Milano's book so that I remain eat to hunger and not eat to full.

For review I received an ARC of this book from a publicist.

The Mud Hogs
Dalton James
Outskirts Press Inc
9781432745608 $13.95

Dalton James' The Mudhogs is a fun read both written and illustrated by Dalton James.

My resident reviewers, Osage County First Grade settled themselves as always to listen carefully and then voice their opinion of the work. They were doubly fascinated to be reviewing a book presented by a child author little older than they. Eight year old Dalton James presents his book Mud Hogs.

On the first page Little Reader's were intrigued with the first illustration featuring a barn. We live in a rural area where barns, and paddock or barnyard fences are common, hay up on the hay loft is readily recognized and an open door with hay showing on the floor is something even Little Ranchers are familiar with.

Writer James' tale begins with Fangs, the tick who lives on Piggy's leg. Fangs is our spokes critter. Introducing Piggy we find this porker to be short and fat, is the leader of the group and is smart. Little Listeners leaned in to check out the graphic and within moments announced they could see Fangs, and so they did. There he was right on Piggy's leg.

The narrative continues as Fangs introduces Piggles, and then Piglet.

Now, the Mudhogs like to meet at the Barnyard Break to take breaks and roll in the mud. However, it has not rained for months and there is no mud. The image of cracked soil there in the barnyard is something Little Reader's recognize too, sad to say.

The Mudhogs decide to do something to make it rain. And the story continues as Writer James and his little Mudhogs give it there best try, no rain. Next they set out to search for mud, and after traveling for several weeks and finding no mud they set out for home. Do they ever find mud?

Osage County First Grade pronounced the illustrations to be ones they 'really, really good.' They especially liked that the artwork so resembled children's work. I like it too. Writer Illustrator James' one page spreads are filled with line drawings which appeared to be colored using colored pencils. Osage County First Grade enjoys using colored pencils now and then, and readily recognized that these fun drawings may well be exactly that. James' simple artwork is perfect for this narrative.

Each of the Mudhogs is an individual having their own body image as well as attributes setting them apart from the others in the group. The fun attempts to create rain brought smiles and giggles as did their search for mud.

James' whimsical sense of humor is evident especially during the mud search, town and country names brought more smiles and giggles. I especially liked Piggsburg where the town sign states No ham allowed. Osage County First Grade easily recognized the outline map of Pighoma, before eyeballing our map on the wall to check out the shape of three more states including New Hog.

Little Reader Listeners enjoy taking The Mudhogs as one of their DEAR choices during DEAR reading, and Mudhogs is frequently chosen as an overnight take home for reading at home.

Twenty two thumbs up from Osage County First Grade, Happy to recommend Dalton James' The Mudhogs.

Dangerously Innocent
Nesrine Joseph
2/14 Merivale Street, S Brisbane, Queensland 4101 Austrailia
9781921300417 $14.85

Nesrine Joseph's Dangerously Innocent opens with a prologue. Showering, Jo Beth Eaton is calling through the door to her husband Mitch to hurry and dress. She does not like to be late. Stepping into the bedroom to put on the suit Jo Beth had laid out for him to wear was the last thing Mitch was to do.

Thursday, 1 June 2006, Detective Senior Sergeant Luther James eyes the autopsy report tossed onto his desktop by Detective Sergeant Rochelle Trevelyan.

The pair has another homicide to consider, this one died about 3 hours before his body, sans hands, was discovered.

Bill Edwards is the third in the string of Slicer cases the pair have before them. The ringing of the telephone brings the number to four.

First to die was an Asian immigrant, 2 blows to the head, his heart had been removed, second was Paul Davidson. Smashed in the face the university student's tongue had been ripped from his mouth. Next was photographer Edwards who was missing his hands. Mitch Eaton's body was missing; his head was left in the trunk of his wife's car.

Children playing in the park make a horrible discovery after two people wearing long coats and gorilla masks throw something into dumpster.

From that point both detectives find themselves hurtling forward as the baffling case becomes a little stranger, a little more baffling.

Four people dead, nothing to link one to another, a nosy neighbor, an affair, a man who wants to tell his wife about the affair, and the amour who thinks that is a bad notion, a newly minted surgeon, one possible suspect, perhaps two, an uneasy feeling about who the murderer might be, nothing to tie the murder victims, motive hazy at best keeps the detectives up at night puzzling over the case, and during the day questioning those involved with the case.

And, another body is found, this one appears to be a priest, identification will be difficult, part of his face seems to be ripped away. Luther and Rochelle now find themselves facing a deadline, the Police Commissioner wants results, he leans on the Inspector in charge, Chuck Collins lays down the ultimatum, the detectives have a week to find the killer.

It does get worse, not only was Father Andre's face hacked away, closer examination reveals his genitals too are gone.

On the pages of Nesrine Joseph's Dangerously Innocent we follow a treacherous pair and the police detectives who are trying to track them down through a murderous psychodrama overflowing with out of the ordinary, often astonishing characters, meticulously detailed backdrops, milieu and settings, enough slaughter, mayhem and gore to satisfy the taste of those who want their serial killers seriously deranged.

Spanning a time period between 1 June and 5 June the murders continue to mount, both Rochelle and Luther are captured by the duo of demented slayers who are planning the pair will be added to their growing list of prey. Before carrying out their maddened plan; the killers will explain their motivation, it does make sense in a warped psychosis driven sense. And, despite the seeming dissimilarity of the victims there is a link tying them not to each other, but to the murderers themselves.

Dangerously Innocent is a fast paced, well written tale presented with skill by a talented writer. I can see this one becoming a CSI type episode on television.

Happy to recommend Nesrine Joseph's Dangerously Innocent for readers who enjoy unraveling a thorny situation as it unfolds on the page.

4/5 stars

A New Mother's Prayers
Jayne Jaudon Ferrer
Loyola Press
9780829417692 $12.95

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer's, A New Mother's Prayers is a petite, 6.5 x 5.3 x 0.5 inch collection of some thirty five prayers presented in poetic manner.

The table of contents sets the stage for what is to come: there are Prayers for Moments of Gratification and Prayers for Moments of Exhaustion. Prayers for Moments Trepidation is sandwiched between Prayers for Moments Fascination and Prayers for Moments of reflection.

A Mother's Prayer is a lyrical ode beginning Sing a song of softness, a lullaby of love to the angel in the cradle, rocked by angels up above. The elegy continues on through the childhood and maturation of the newborn as a mother ends her prayer for her child 'so when her sojourn here is done, she will look back and smile.'

Other titles in this section of prayers in this grouping of seven includes The Best Job In The World, Love Song, and Shared Credits.

Prayers for Moments of Exhaustion offers 7 additional works all dealing with the reality of parenthood. 'God, it's been one of those day.' Begins the prayer entitled Hazard Duty. Superwoman's Lament, Second Thoughts and Time out are more titles for the parent to consider. My Mother's favorite saying was This, Too, Shall Pass, I enjoyed poet Ferrer's thoughts on the subject. 'Okay, God, here I am for the sixty fifth time this week, wiping pureed carrots off the wall.' Does bring a smile to the lips of those of us who have had this experience. Abyss and the overpowering terror of losing a toddler at the mall brought back memories of my own feelings of being an 'irresponsible fool' when my own little person wandered away and we spent hours searching.

The next collection of seven prayers is found in the section entitled Prayers for Moments of Fascination. I particularly enjoyed 'To Love Is To Lead.' Other works in this section include Nature's Way, One to Grow On and Required Listening.

Prayers for Moments of Trepidation opens with Fearful Reflections which concludes "I know I got me into this, God, but please, will you help me get through it?" I think every parent, if honest has such a moment now and then. Other titles in this section include: First Farewell, as mom takes a break, Countdown, as mom tries to leave the classroom door on the first day of THE FIRST DAY of school, as a teacher I have often seen this parent whose bright and dry eyed child says goodbye to teary eyed mom, and Losing Papa as mom faces losing her own parent to death.

After September is a poignant read initiating Prayers for Moments of Reflection. Growing Pains, A Word, (or Two) from the Wise, and My Do It are also found in this section.

I enjoy Jayne Jaudon Ferrer's writings. In this work, Ferrer has gathered a charming compilation of thirty-five odes regarding the myriad emotions a new, and all mother's experience.

Presented as small prayers; each verse is as a talk with God to articulate the weariness, delight, marvel, aggravation, and even confusion experienced by those of us who have shared our homes and lives with children of any age.

The mind-set and portrayals communicated through these earnest words are those that mothers, teachers, caretakers, and everyone with an interest in motherhood can attest.

Ferrer presents her notions, ideas and values as the deeply held emotions we begin to experience with the birth or adoption of a child and covers the gamut of delight, bemusement and even times of sorrowfulnesss that motherhood brings.

Happy to recommend Jayne Jaudon Ferrer's A New Mother's Prayers as a tuck in shower gift, hospital basket gift and just for giving and reading.

The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ
Christian Nseka
Millennial Mind Publishing
An imprint of American Book Publishing
5442 So. 900 East, #146 Salt Lake City, UT 84117-7204
9781589825628 $22.00

Christian Nseka's The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ per the author, is centered on task of the Messiah, which for those calling themselves Christian revolves upon Jesus and His return or Second Coming.

The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ is a work of 200+ well written, heavily researched pages. Divided into five chapters Nseka delves into The Heart and the Mission of Jesus Christ, The Messiahship of the Lord, A New Perspective on the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, A New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ, and The Second Coming of the Messiah.

Nseka explains how his book came about; 'This book is a compilation of my life experience with God, His will and His word. It is not written to convert anybody; it is written to enlighten the reader about the mission of the Messiah centered on Jesus and the Second Coming, and also to enlighten the reader about God's word and will, and humanity's responsibility in relation to the Messiah.

Using the inspirations I have received from heaven together with my humble understanding of the Bible and the teachings of the Unification Church, I have put together this book to help anyone, Christian as well as non-Christian, religious as well as non-religious, to understand the mission of Jesus, his heart, his Messiahship, his rise from the dead, and more.'

I liked that Nseka stated early on that his book was not written with a view toward converting anyone to or from the religion they hold dear, but, is written to provide some clarity for readers who may hold strong belief, but may not really understand how others who also hold strong belief fit into the scheme of things.

I found The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ to be very understandable, attention-grabbing and packed with the consequences of the writer's investigation.

In addition to the perceptions presented in the five text chapters; Nseka has added appendices, as well as a very helpful index listing the page(s) where to find a specific person, concept, thing, or place.

Nseka presents not only a tie to Christianity, but also provides the reader with passages from religious writings of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism all pointing to the idea that The World's Major Religions embrace deity in one guise or another in addition to having a concept of Messiah. From earliest days, people have sought to explain what they cannot easily explain via the belief in deity, and Messiah whether Messiah is referred to as Avatar, Bodhisattva, Christ, Imam, or Maitreya.

Nseka shows the perception of Messiah is a common theme. The term Messiah is generally linked to Christianity through Jesus wherein The Messiah is the chosen one, anointed by God, whose purpose is to liberate the human race as the world is freed from the grasp of Satan.

It is Nseka's belief that Christianity should serve as a bridge between Jesus Christ and other religions.

A good bit of the work deals with what Nseka terms to be connection of the heart, the role it plays and why it is important. Connection of the heart, according to Nseka, is the providing of indispensable, perhaps even obligatory, as well as categorical support when it is critically needed.

I enjoyed reading The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ. While Writer Nseka is believer in Jesus as Messiah, the book is written in manner that whatever the religious background the reader will be able to read and understand each of the various concepts, including the role of the disciples and apostles who followed Christ, the earthly mission of Jesus Christ, The Messiahship of Christ, another perspective regarding the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, another perspective regarding the revivification of Jesus Christ, as well as the return of the Messiah. put forth by Author Nseka.

Happy to recommend Christian Nseka's The Messiahship of the Lord Introducing a New Perspective on the "Resurrection" of Jesus Christ for those who would like another perspective regarding Jesus, Messiah and religion in general, as well as for those who are avid Bible scholars and enjoy learning more of their own and other religions and how and why various religions may have come to their own understanding of Messiah and the impact of Messiah upon all humanity.

Little Miss Straight Lace
Maria Romana
Publisher Smashwords
9781452385259 $TBA ($4.77 amazon kindle edition)

Maria Romana's Little Miss Straight Lace set in North Carolina introduces readers to biostatistician Josie Natale and the world of pharmaceutical data research and pharmaceuticals created for introduction to the public.

Fortunes can be made or lost all at the results of the research data and the honesty of those who are checking and depending upon those results.

Set in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina Little Miss Straight Lace opens as Shawn McKenna, Dr McKenna that is, scientist, Hormonal Product Division, eyes the Warriors of God in Christ email. Wasn't the first one. All carry a threat.

Independent contractor Josie Natale, is a no nonsense, dedicated scientist who will search out and report any and all aberrant research data, she owes allegiance to the public who will ultimately be the recipients of the medications being tested, to herself and to no company. This dedication while causing her to be highly respected by most and widely sought after by many, has not made her too popular with those who attempt to seek a shortened path to FDA approval.

Josie, her best friend Maggie McKenna and Shawn have known and respected one another's work for years. Shawn knows something has happened between Gary Goldman of Goldman pharmaceuticals and Josie, but he does not know exactly what it is. That it likely centers on Josie, her unswerving dedication to her research and her honesty Shawn is pretty certain.

When Progestilone data begins to show a sudden side affect increase from computers housed in a wide variety of offices and locations Josie smells a rat.

Unmarried Josie tries to balance her work, the good hearted meddling of Maggie, and others including Dr Toral and his wife who are producing some of the research data trials through their women's clinic, as they strive to introduce Josie to marriageable males, and, her current boy friend Henry Clarkston, a slight fellow whom Maggie detests.

The sudden attack upon Dianna McKenna O'Shea working alone, after hours at Triangle Women's Medical Center where Progestilone tests are being conducted raises Josie's suspicions even more.

The story heats up when RTT contracts with Chilean computer security expert Nicolas Remedian, in an effort to locate the suspected virus or whatever it is that is affecting the company computers and is causing the Progestilone data to show such strange results.

Nic quickly becomes acquainted with, and then, very friendly with the McKenna's and Josie herself as the search into the source of the data problem continues.

Psychologist Robert Prescott, specializing in cults and other anomalous groups, the Latta Lakes Country Club, a shadowy cult in the mountains of Virginia, a desire for revenge, a man with a spider tattoo, and a sweetheart who may not be all as appears are all part of the tale.

On the pages of Little Miss Straight Lace, Maria Romana has adroitly crafted a saga filled with more than enough deception, maneuver and stratagem to hook readers into the tale and keep them turning the pages from the first lines right down to the last paragraphs.

While Romana weaves a convoluted tale comprised of multiple threads including, friendship, deep personal issues seated in a less than happy teen aged violation, cult mentality, and even romance, in addition to the major theme of the corporate chicanery, espionage and greed within the pharmaceutical industry; the various twists and turns are handled with skill, are easily followed, and add depth and dimension often lacking in many works provided by newer writers.

Romana's characters are portrayed with skill, each is a credible person filled with the foibles, warts and gaffs as are live flesh and blood humans. Settings are detailed, overflowing with features, elements and specificity meant to create an aura in which the reader feels what the characters feel, see what the characters see and understand the ambiance as the characters understand the ambiance.

Maria Romana's Little Miss Straight Lace is a fast paced, keep 'em guessing and turning the page type read sure to intrigue readers who enjoy good writing, a bit of romance, a lot of action and a downright good read for these long hot summer afternoons when sitting on the porch, sipping tea and reading, is a most enjoyable activity.

Happy to recommend Maria Romana's Little Miss Straight Lace. 4/5 stars

Note: Not for everyone, some reference to sexual activity, and some profanity may startle the more knot in the knickers group, all others will see that the writer uses no titillation or langue that is not germane to the situation portrayed.

In All His Glory
John Howard Reid
9781411674967 $19.95

John Howard Reid's In All His Glory indicates in the Prologue that The Lord God was angry with King Solomon and had raised up a rival to Solomon; one Jeroboam who was actually one of the king's servants. Sadly, Solomon after all his closeness to God and having been blessed with unparalleled wisdom had allowed himself to be drawn away from the God he had long served.

Through the prophet Ahijah, God told Jeroboam that it was he and not one of Solomon's sons who would be given kingship over 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Needless to say Solomon was anxious to see power retained by his lineage, thus Jeroboam was forced to seek sanctuary by escaping across desert sand into Egypt where he appealed to the Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak.

Thus, the narrative opens with Jeroboam's musings regarding the prejudices Egyptians held against the Israelites. Jeroboam's exile has been a lonely one, initially it seemed that Shishak had been welcoming, but for a year Jeroboam has been well cared for physically, however he now sees no friends, no one with whom he can share thoughts, or conversation or friendship. He cannot even find solace in religious activity; the Egyptians are followers of Ammon-Ra.

Jeroboam was more than startled when a guard came into his room and without a word began propelling him through the doorway and along a corridor. Down a flight of stairs, past a marketplace, into a chariot, and through the main gates of the temple of Ammon-Ra served only to confuse Jeroboam. His Egyptian was none too fluent, didn't much matter, the Nubian propelling him forward wasn't talking anyway.

Nearly becoming lunch for sacred crocodiles, meeting Counselor Methyethy who needs a dreamed explained, and then meeting the high priestess of Ammon-Ra and Habu the priest and keeper of the temple brings no more clarity than did the silent trek.

From that beginning the reader is moved into a rush of intrigue, duplicity, being lost in tombs where there is little light and less hope for getting out of the thing. Accusations, seeming reprieve, more accusations, finally respite, marriage, a child, and then more chicanery are in store for this man for whom the throne of the ten tribes awaits.

The ruler in Egypt at the time Moses' story was beginning was a Libyan, Shishak, who had actually assumed the throne, and it was to him that Jeroboam fled for safety. Historical data, including biblical reference indicate that Jeroboam's relationship with Pharaoh Shishak alternated as one of either close friendship or suspicion filled semi banishment.

While the biblical reference is pretty scant, Writer Reid puts his research and understanding of social mores and literature of Ancient Egypt to good use to add depth to the tale of Jeroboam and Shishak.

Reid has crafted a highly detailed, vibrant tale filled with excitement, credible action and characters to portray a relationship filled with notable highs and lows. Once affable to the extent that Shishak even allowed marriage between Jeroboam and one of own daughters; the two became distant to the point that Shishak attempted to assassinate Jeroboam prior to allowing Jeroboam to return to Israel.

He who had become refugee to Egypt was named the ruler of 10 tribes of Israel.

Reid's adroitly drawn characters dashing across the pages in this fast-moving, incident-packed narrative are set against a backdrop of ancient Egypt so portrayed to grip the reader from first to last.

It is not necessary to be a student of Ancient Egypt or to be a Bible scholar or to be a religious person in any manner to understand this particular narrative. Reid is an excellent story teller, has produced an action packed thriller set in ancient times and portrays a tale in most excellent fashion. In All His Glory is a fast-moving thriller certain to appeal to every person who enjoys a great read.

Happy to recommend John Howard Reid's In All His Glory. 5/5 stars

Note while this Jeroboam is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Kings, Jeroboam was a somewhat common name, as were others listed in the Bible. At times it is a little difficult to figure out which is which even when the reader is well versed in the Bible.

I like Writer Reid's adaptation of the story of Hebrew Jeroboam and Libyan usurper Egyptian Pharaoh; it serves as a nice introduction into some of the chronicle of the time and place which might otherwise be lost to those who may not have spent years in study, and may or may not be Bible readers.

Murder in the Mist
Willard Scott with Bill Crider
9780451192981 $TBA

Willard Scott's Murder in the Mist co written with Bill Crider is a cozy type mystery filled with intrigue, murder, chicanery, duplicity and lots of interesting situations, characters and fun.

The narrative opens as a somewhat reluctant Stanley Waters is being reassured that his Confederate Uniform is a good fit for him. As with many who are not reenacting diehards; Stanley is a tad uncomfortable. Passionate reenactors enjoy the dressing in period garb, sleeping in tents while wrapped in quilts and laying on the ground. Setting up the Yankee and Confederate camp site is as much of the living history as the battle reenactment itself.

Stanley Waters, the former weatherman now is the owner of a B and B in the fictional town of Higgins, Virginia where he has become good friends with various of the denizens of the town. Virginia was key to the Confederacy as well as to the beginning of the nation itself.

Whatever Stanley's concerns might be he found that the reenactment was fine, up to the minute he got shot. Stanley knew the story of the Battle of Higgins, his grandfather had related the story often during Stanley's childhood. Reenactors do not use live rounds, nothing could go wrong.

So how did local business man Rance Wofford get killed and Stanley wounded?

Stanley, retired weatherman has a new avocation; he worked with local police to solve a murder not long ago and is ready to lend a hand this time too. While he does not have official status, in fact he is viewed with less than enthusiasm by most of the police force as he bumbles is way to the truth. Of course, his on again off again semi romance with the local police chief does keep Stanley out of too much trouble with the balance of the small police force.

As Stanley moves about town talking to folks readers follow along, clues emerge, some are real, some are red herrings typical of the cozy genre. Peopled with a whole flock of enjoyable characters from Stanley's Uncle who lives in a 'home' to various of the townsfolks the members of Stanley's cast of acquaintances emerge with all the warts and quirk, tics and idiosyncrasies as do we all. That Rance Wofford was a rather loutish fellow who may well have needed getting shot becomes apparent, that some of Stanley's old TV cronies are pretty normal human beings, jealous, petty and out for themselves becomes apparent, that the murderer is going to be caught also becomes apparent. What is not apparent is just who that person is and why the murder took place. Interesting twist there.

Weatherman turned author Willard Scott, in tandem with writer Bill Crider, creates a small town feeling on the pages of Murder in the Mist. His Bed and Breakfast, complete with three housecats, and a housekeeper cook, does not have television in the parlor; rather the old upright radio is brought into play. Stanley offers guests opportunity to listen to tapes of Fibber McGee and Molly and others of the fare of the day found during the decades when families did gather around the radio to listen and laugh or gasp depending on the program of the moment.

Writing teachers always tell student write what you know; it follows that Scott would write about a TV Weatherman, Stanley Waters and his life following retirement.

As an appealing cozy set in the foundation state of the Confederacy and the nation, Murder in the Mist offers a skillfully wrought story line fleshed nicely with detailed settings, characters and notions. Filled with loads of Southern hospitality, notions and a nice y'all come feel Murder in the Mist is an enjoyable read sure to keep the reader chuckling, turning the page and pondering why someone did not do Rance in a whole lot sooner.

Happy to recommend Willard Scott's Murder in the Mist co written with Bill Crider. 4/5 stars

Note: I found the small illusory skirmish fought at Higgins during The War, as a setting for a re-enactment to be excellent. Civil War Buffs enjoy reenactments large and small, and every skirmish, tussle and actual battle will have those who are sure it must be studied, reenacted and discussed. As a person who has attended reenactments, helped with reenactments and taken part in reenactments; I enjoyed reading of the one carried out as the starting point in this highly entertaining work.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nicole's Bookshelf

High on a Mountain
Tommie Lyn
9781451539301 $15.99

Suspense novelist, Tommie Lyn enters the historical fiction genre with her latest release, High on a Mountain. She delves into her ancestral roots setting the story in 18th century Scotland. The protagonist, Ailean MacLachlan, is a young man desperate to make a name for himself as a warrior before he locks eyes with the red-haired shepherdess, Muirne. While love conquers ambition, Ailean, as a new husband, remains restless.

His refuge is being high on a mountain where he "surveyed the land below like a king on a throne." Yet Ailean's father warns him about the danger of clinging to fantasies telling his son, "It looks beautiful from up here on the mountain, but you must remember that your life is lived down there in the glen. And sometimes, life isn't so lovely when you're in the midst of it."

Death and sacrifice are inseparably linked with glory in the life of a warrior - a heartbreaking lesson Ailean comes to learn firsthand. A runner carrying a fiery cross summons the members of Clan MacLachlan to fight for the deposed Scottish heir, Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The clan suffers heavy losses at home and on the battlefield thanks in part to traitors such as Ailean's arch rival, Latharn Cambeul. As boys they battled playing the Scottish game, camanachd; as young men they fought for the heart of Muirne and as warriors they each seek the death of the other. Yet it is Ailean's words to Muirne that ultimately shatter his soul, "If I hadn't married you, I'd be free to do my duty without worries. I wouldn't have become this ... this half way warrior."

Part II takes place in the New World when Ailean is sold into slavery. After a harrowing journey, he arrives at a South Carolina rice plantation. He escapes into the northern mountains residing with a tribe of Native Americans. After employing his camanachd skills during a similar native game, he wins the respect of the people. A tribeswoman named Kutahyah guides Ailean to the summit of a nearby waterfall where he is once again able to find a lofty place where he can think clearly. It is on this precipice that he is forced to confront his pent-up guilt over Muirne and the blood lust of Latharn's revenge.

Overall, historical fiction readers will welcome Tommie Lyn's entry into the genre with the traditional Scottish greeting "Hello, the house!"

Full Moon at Noontide
Ann Putnam
Southern Methodist University Press
P.O. Box 750415, Dallas TX 75275-0415
9780870745553 $22.50

For anyone who has walked side-by-side in the culminating steps of the life of an elderly person, Ann Putnam's Full Moon at Noontide is a healing balm. She understands. She's been there three separate times. Her Uncle Henry. Her father. Her mother. Being with someone in their final years, days, hours is both a hardship and a privilege. She explains, "... pure love becomes when it is distilled through such suffering and loss - a blue flame that flickers and pulses in the deepest heart."

The shared episodes are poignant. They involve handicapped seating, Maalox glasses, falls, and catheters - "the fragility of it all." The three senior citizens begin to function as one unit. While backing the car out of the driveway, her mother drives, her uncle looks left and her father looks right while shifting gears. Yet their teamwork is not enough against Mother Nature. During a winter blackout, they are without heat and electricity for five days. Safety in numbers is no longer a guarantee.

The house is sold and the trio is uprooted to University House, an upscale retirement community near where Putnam lives. It is considered a "dangerous business" to make friends when "death was a fall, a sneeze, a heartbeat away" so they "kept their attachments light." Putnam is honest about her role in their lives. When her uncle nearly loses her father's wheelchair into oncoming traffic while leaving church, Putnam feels guilty about not making the effort to take them herself. However, she knows that it will tie up her entire day serving as chauffeur and running errands. She presents a realistic picture by admitting to her own shortcomings.

Uncle Henry was also difficult - "the evil twin." When Putnam's daughter describes him as "another grandfather." He responds, "But then that would mean I'd have to have had sex with your grandmother." He had a high appreciation for shock value. Putnam goes on to say, "My uncle was so difficult those last years, and my parents gave up so much to have him there. It had seemed so anguished at the time, but in fact it has left no bitterness. For the last twenty years, my uncle came along everywhere they went, how they couldn't bear to leave him behind."

Putnam's memoir beautifully chronicles their final moments. While Uncle Henry is dying in the ICU, her father is being treated above him on the sixteenth floor. She is comforted by the words of the ICU priest, Father Bill when asked how he can stand working in a hospital: "Oh, but this is a luminous place. It shimmers, if only you can see it. There's a thin membrane separating the physical and the spiritual. We should walk with one foot in each place always. This place reminds me to do that. It's a thin place."

Putnam recounts witnessing Uncle Henry's final moments. "Now his breathing changes. Two little puffs of breath, then a long, breathless silence that stretches out between one world and another until he catches it up again and pulls himself back into this life. He's emptying the body of air. But there is no gasping, no death agony, just little puffs of air, little commas of breath, the sweet, soft sound of the spirit going someplace else. His eyes are open. The light has not gone out. All the times I had left him, and gone home to eat or sleep, to take up the threads of my life as best I could, and I thought please let go, please let this all be over, please just slip away softly into the night. Now I am grateful to be here and think how easily I might not have been."

Putnam is also there when her father enters the death fugue as explained by a nurse - "What you see when you look at him is not what he's experiencing. He's not really in his body like you think. He's someplace else now and doesn't want to be called back." Terror drives Putnam from the nursing home during the death vigil. She has a failure of nerve and panics. Upon her return, the hospice chaplain arrives. "Go away! I want to scream, but polite to the end, I hold my tongue. They think I need company for this final stretch. They don't know I've been here already. They don't know how strong I've grown. I didn't know it myself until now. This is sacred space, and I want it all to myself. I have no need for interpreters now. Father Bill is all I need, and he's hidden safely inside. 'We are not our bodies. We are not our minds. We are not our emotions, though they are all part of us. Our truest self is a spirit place that has always been there. He's going toward it now. Everything else is falling away.'"

She is also witnesses her mother's death. "After my father died she took to studying the obituaries in the paper. 'When I read that someone died after a short illness, I think how lucky that person is. I'd be grateful for those words after my name.' I know she's thinking of how long my father took to die. Just after midnight, my practical, no-nonsense mother dies. I watch her spirit leave her body within moments, watch her face change into a death mask before me and become someone else. It's all right. She'd wanted to be out of her body for so long - no ambivalence here, not a moment wasted going where she wants to go. Come on up, the twins say. It's great up here. My father reaches down to give her a lift."

Overall, this is a must-read for anyone who has witnessed firsthand the passing of a loved one.

The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society
G.F. Skipworth
Rosslare Press
7660 SW Oleson Rd., Portland, OR 97223
9780982471074 $14.50

What is G.F. Skipworth's "The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society?" Its founder is Farika Zingarella, a nun who was kicked out of the convent for the hefty sum she won in a 1862 poker game since "a deck of cards was a Stradivarius in her hands."

She didn't just invest her winnings, she amassed the wealth of a small nation. In order to manage the funds, a "literary society" (a name that does not give off "the odor of greed and ungodliness") was formed in the tiny community of Simpering, North Dakota.

Its female stockholders are known as "The Mighty Five." They are brazen enough to hold a world economic summit in North Dakota (without inviting the United States) and travel the globe in order to further pad their portfolios. They are:

1. Edielou Zingarella - think Katherine Hepburn. Daughter of Farika. Leader of the pack. Too rational for romance. Supreme organizer whose main goal is to continually increase the society's net worth. Doggedly pursued by the romantic sensibilities of a passionate Italian financier, who yearns to protect her. The subject of Lady Astor's cruise ship entertainment. Targeted by the evil machinations of Fascists determined to prevent her from buying what remains of post-WWI Europe through a kidnapping plot, gunfire, car chases, etc.

2. Mary Beth Tomes - think Harry Potter's Mrs. Weasley. A simple housewife with a heart of gold. A devoted schoolteacher. Takes Europe by storm with her recipe for cherry pie. Missing a toe on her left foot. Full of good old country sense. Goes toe-to-toe with the sophisticated verbal repartee of a corrupt French official. Teams up with her rifle-toting, frontiersman husband to rescue Edielou from imminent danger.

3. Priscilla Thistlewaite - picture a more eccentric version of Emma Thompson. A complete Anglophile. Enamored with the British theatre. Would love to inhabit the life of a fictional character rather than her own. Referred to as "Her Ladyship." Saved a child in Simpering from a runaway carnival bear. An upturned nose is her most distinguishing feature. Known for her self-produced monologues.

4. Gillian Bolzner - think Marilyn Monroe. The daughter of a world-famous variety act. A beauty queen. The object of men's desires. A soldier's pin-up girl. A blond songstress whose theme is "Sunny Is As Sunny Does." Loved by all. Knows nothing but show business. Wishes to leave the limelight behind. Attracted to a man who has no idea who she is.

5. Ida Bolzner - picture an older version of Wednesday Addams. The twin sister of Gillian, but her polar opposite. Gothic, dark, gloomy, brooding. A feared seer - her second sight is always on target, when she chooses to divulge what she knows. Loves rainy days. Favors Transylvania and the remote parts of Russia during her European tour. Jealous of Gillian. Meets her soul mate along the way.

Overall, a fictional feminine undercurrent is added to the power structure of U.S. history.

Lingering Spirit
Marilyn Meredith
Timeless Love
9781892343697 $12.95

Marilyn Meredith captures the essence of an untimely death in her paranormal romance, Lingering Spirit. Police officer Steve Ainsworth is gunned down during a routine traffic stop. His 28-year-old widow, Nicole, is left alone with their two daughters, first grader Kimberly and 4-year-old Sarah. However, hearing the doorbell ring at 3 a.m. wasn't entirely unexpected.

Four months earlier, Steve had experienced a premonition. He foresaw his death on the job. To escape this fate, he moved the family from the heavily populated city of Channel Harbor to the secluded wilderness of Quail Meadow. But he never anticipated that the violence he envisioned would become his destiny regardless of location.

Meredith does an excellent job depicting the series of events that family members endure immediately following the loss of a loved one. Co-workers and neighbors filling the house. The funeral home negotiations. The lack of sleep. The mental fog. The arrival of out-of-town relatives. The bending to the point of breaking. Yet Nicole's grief isn't limited to burial preparations and the acceptance of condolences. She is visited by Steve from beyond the grave.

Nicole experiences moments with Steve, similar to Sandra Bullock's character in the movie, Premonition. Finally, she drifted off into a troubled sleep. "Nicky." Steve nuzzled her neck. Good. He was home. She turned over and he kissed her, his lips warm and sweet - the kiss a promise of lovemaking to come. "Mmmm, Steve." She held out her arms to him, but nothing was there. And then she remembered, Steve was dead. But it had seemed so real. She heard his voice, felt him touch her, kiss her. But it wasn't possible.

The incidents increase in frequency. Dresser drawers open and close. Books fall to the floor. Lights are turned off and on. While in their beds, the children see their father bend down and kiss them. After Nicole shares what is going on with her father, they both witness an armchair move. Her father goes on to say, "Unless he's trying to tell you something, trying to get you to do something. Maybe he just can't leave until he can make you understand what it is he wants you to do." This explanation is similar to the cult classic Ghost starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.

Nicole decides to move back to Channel Harbor. Though she didn't know what it meant, the rappings, bangings, and furniture moving ceased. She no longer felt as though someone followed her. Hopefully, whatever had been holding Steve back had released him. But she couldn't help wondering if the feverish energy she expended in the packing had driven him away. Maybe he was upset with her decision.

Purchasing an older home, she slowly tries to rebuild her life for the sake of her children. However, things don't go smoothly. Longing for Steve had become a part of her existence. Neither time nor activity lessened the ache. She heard a bang, and raised up her elbow. Frowning she listened intently. It happened again, a noise she recognized. Staring into the shadowed corner of the room, she watched as the big highboy that had once been Steve's but now held her sweaters, T-shirts, and jeans, rocked violently back and forth. That hadn't happened since she'd moved back to Channel Harbor. This would definitely be a case for Jason and Grant of the SyFy Channel's Ghost Hunters.

Nicole's father offers an alternate possibility. "Because you haven't experienced any of these goings on since moving here, perhaps it's another ghost making itself known ... a ghost of someone who used to live in this house." But Nicole disagrees with his assessment. "Because, I'm not frightened. If it was a ghost I didn't know, surely I'd get some bad vibes ... but I didn't. It was just like all the times things happened in Quail Meadow." Yet her father persists saying, "But it isn't natural for a spirit to hang around this world for such a long time." But Nicole responds, "I don't know. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe eventually he'll do something that will help me understand."

Steve is trying to tell Nicole something. This final message upends the life she thought she would lead after his death. A connection is established to someone who recently entered her life. A person who will reshape the outlook of her future in a way she never imagined.

Meredith is a master of characterization. She fully rounds out the facets of her protagonists' personalities and richly develops the details of the supporting cast. She does not hit any false notes with her dialogue and builds strong relationships among her characters. She realistically describes what a young widow would go through following the tragic death of her husband.

Overall, uncovering why this spirit lingers is an incredibly moving experience.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back
Kevin and Hannah Salwen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547248066 $24.00

This is the true story of one family's decision to actually do their bit to make the world a little better.

The Salwen's live in suburban Atlanta, in a $1.5 million house, but they are veteran volunteers through the local Habitat for Humanity. One day, fourteen-year-old Hannah has a Eureka! moment. In the car with her father, she sees a shiny Mercedes car next to a homeless man. She realizes that if the Mercedes driver was driving a lesser car, the homeless man could have a meal. This leads to a decision by the family, not an easy decision, to downsize into a smaller house, and give half the proceeds to the poor.

The first decision to be made was who they should help. There are many worthy charities and causes out there; the decision was made to focus on poverty in Africa. The next decision to be made was how they should help. Simply throwing money at the African continent will not help; in fact, it may just make things worse. The family was very methodical, researching a number of smaller charities, and meeting with representatives of their top 4 choices to hear their "sales pitch." The Salwen's eventually decided to assist a couple of villages in the country of Ghana, traveling there to see the results of their generosity, up close and personal. The only problem in their whole plan was that their house went up for sale right in the middle of the housing crisis, so it was on the market for a very long time.

Along the way, the Salwen's learned, the hard way, that not everyone will "get it." Even friends and relatives interpreted their generosity as a comment on their lack of generosity (we're better than you are). Perhaps a bit of discretion is not a bad idea.

Obviously, not everyone can downsize into a smaller house, and donate half the proceeds to the poor. Find something you can do. It can be as simple as halving your TV or computer game time each week, and spending that extra time volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen. This is an inspiring story of how one family gave back to others, and it will inspire others to do likewise.

Walking Man
Tim W. Brown
Bronx River Press
3820 Dyre Avenue, #44, Bronx, NY 10466
9780978984700 $15.95

Written as one of those celebrity tell-all biographies, this novel is about Brian Walker, publisher of the zine Walking Man.

Set in Chicago of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Brian seems to have a genetic need to walk everywhere, which he writes about in his zine. He works in the copy room of a downtown law firm, which is a godsend for any zine publisher. He is friends with Tracy Minister, a gorgeous woman who is temping at the firm while she pursues her dream of becoming an actress.

One day, while crossing a downtown street, Brian is already in the crosswalk, when a BMW tries to drive between him and another man also in the crosswalk. In an instinctive reaction, Brian kicks the BMW and dents it. Both men are arrested, then released, and the BMW driver sues Brian for damages. As the case waits for its turn in court, Brian becomes an ardent defender of pedestrian's rights, and a national celebrity.

He goes on a national lecture tour, causing the law firm to terminate his employment. Speaking at college campuses, he gets a positive reception, and sells lots of copies of his zine. Later, Brian travels to a national zine conference in San Francisco, where he also gets a generally positive reception. The exception is when another zine publisher publicly accuses Brian of selling out zinedom's guerrilla, do-it-yourself philosophy. Because of Brian's fame, he can no longer keep up with the demand for Walking Man. It is now printed by a printing company, the cover is 4-color glossy paper, and there is a (gasp) bar code on the back (the mark of the Antichrist in the zine world).

Meantime, Tracy has gotten an acting job. It's in a local production, and it requires her to be naked on stage. That lasts for a few months, then she gets a job as a Production Assistant on a local TV talk show. Brian freaks out, accusing Tracy of being a sellout; they don't see each other for a while. Does Brian stand up for pedestrian's rights by winning his court case (which finally sees the light of day)? Do he and Tracy get back together, and ride off into the proverbial sunset?

Here is a really interesting look inside zine culture; anyone who has ever published a zine will enjoy it. It's also a good story of an average person suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

The Domino Men
Jonathan Barnes
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061671401 $24.99

This contemporary fantasy novel is about a file clerk suddenly thrust into the middle of a life-or-death battle over the future of Great Britain.

Henry Lamb is the sort of average person who exemplifies the term "civil servant." One day, he is taken to the giant ferris wheel called the London Eye, where he meets a humanoid being named Dedlock living in a tank of amniotic fluid. Henry is forcefully recruited into The Directorate, one of those super-secret organizations that doesn't officially exist.

For the past century and a half, The Directorate has been fighting an all-out war against the British Monarchy. Queen Victoria agreed to a "deal with the devil"; she signed over London and all its inhabitants to a multi-limbed being called Leviathan. Dedlock, who was one of the Queen's advisors, vowed to use any means at his disposal to stop it. Now the bill is coming due.

Henry was recruited because his grandfather, now hospitalized in a deep coma, was a former high-ranking member of The Directorate. All Henry has to do is to find a woman named Estrella, who is the key to everything, in time to keep Leviathan from rising out of the Thames, and destroying London.

In a cellar of 10 Downing Street, in an ultra-secure prison cell, are the Domino Men, the most feared serial killers in British history. They are two young men, who dress like British schoolboys, and who think nothing of killing large numbers of people, giggling the whole time. They seem to instantly know a person's deepest fears and insecurities, and enjoy exploiting the heck out of them. The Domino Men say that they know where Estrella is, and are taken out under very heavy police guard. They don't stay in custody for very long. Can Henry find Estrella and stop Leviathan before it turns London into a giant insane asylum?

Here is a wonderful piece of writing. It's nice and strange without being too strange, it does very well as a thriller and it will certainly keep the reader's interest.

Jack McDevitt
Ace Books
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441014330, $24.95

This far-future novel is about mankind's attempt to learn the truth behind mysterious lights in space called moonriders.

Space travel and industrialization just has not paid off the way humanity had hoped. The search for intelligent life has been disappointing. On Earth, there is a growing call to cut the space exploration budget, and focus on domestic issues, like global warming. In a last-ditch effort, the Academy puts together a mission to investigate moonriders, once and for all. The modern equivalent of UFOs, they have been seen by many, but no one has gotten a close look at them.

The mission takes on added urgency when an asteroid misses Earth by a whisker (in astronomical terms), and no one knew it was coming. A luxury hotel under construction orbiting a nearby planet is destroyed by another asteroid. Both incidents are blamed on moonriders. The mission, including the journalist leading the campaign to cut the space fleet, discovers that the incidents blamed on moonriders have a much more Earthly origin. They also see, up close and personal, that the moonriders are not to be trifled with, when they attack a supercollider, thousands of kilometers long, under construction many light years away.

Here is another gem of a story from McDevitt. It's an intelligent piece of space opera, it does a good job of combining ideas and action, and it is recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
HarperCollins Publishers
10 E 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061726804 $17.99

It's her senior year and Sam Kingston has clawed her way to the top of the heap at Jefferson High. She and her bffs, Lindsay, Elody, and Ally are the popular girls. They are also feared because they maintain their superstar status by viciously mocking others for their own amusement. February 12 is Cupid Day at school. The contest is always about who collects the most roses. Much sniping occurs, a beer party happens where the girls drink too much and a cat fight erupts. On the way home, Sam is killed in a car accident.

In a nightmarish twist she lives that day seven times over. But each time she discovers opportunities to alter the day's events through acts of kindness and consideration toward others instead of thoughtlessness and cruelty. But can she really change the outcome of her own fate?

Lauren Oliver has written about the seven virtues as the pathway to heaven carefully cloaked in a story about high school dramas, friendship, and true love. Sam's soul searching is a well-crafted spiritual journey toward what really matters most in life. Though sometimes difficult to read, this book is fascinating and impossible to put down.

Global Warming for Young Minds: A Global Warming and Sustainability Guide for Young Children
Flemming Bermann
Eloquent Books
PO Box 333, Durham, CT 06422
9781609114688 $17.50

"Global Warming for Young Minds" is a unique primer on global warming, covering all aspects of the issue in a way that's interesting and easy to understand. Topics, including carbon dioxide, impacts on animals, recycling, and many more, are explained with familiar examples from our daily lives. The photos and artwork enhance the text and contribute to our understanding. Each topic is followed up with a short Q&A titled Dean's and Lisa's Learning Check, which encourages comprehension.

Bermann employs information and solutions rather than fear tactics. Instead of dire warnings about the melting polar icecaps, he challenges readers with a melting ice experiment, then points out the impact of melting ice on polar bears and penguins. This hands-on approach, combined with the Fun Break pages and puzzles interspersed, invites readers to get involved. More than fun and games, "Global Warming for Young Minds" is an exceptional educational tool and should be part of every elementary classroom library.

Hardrock: Crazy Jake's Fish Bomb
L. Bracken
New Flight Books
PO Box 30, Silt, CO 81652
9780615337067 $20.00

Colorado's population in the 70s was an eclectic stew of cowboys, miners, hippies, corporate execs, celebrities, college kids, and desperados, all mixed together.. But there were also families like 12-year old Lisa Joe and her parents and foster brother who were searching for a simpler way of life. As the new managers of the broken down Quartz Creek Inn, they don't necessarily find a simpler life, but it's way more exciting than suburban Houston. Nestled among 14,000-foot peaks far from civilization, what the tiny town of Hardrock lacks in creature comforts, like grocery stores or malls, it makes up for with an abundance of creatures and characters.

Even though Crazy Jake's shenanigans, including his infamous fish bomb alluded to in the subtitle, are some of the most entertaining, the truth is, Hardrock is home to a whole tribe of misfits. Even the wildlife act weird. While the antics of Boris the menacing Russian, Rat Man, wacky Esmerelda Peevil, Enis Snapbinder and his pea fowl, and the notorious Pickanaxe Pete are a constant source of amusement for Lisa Joe and her best friend Alex (Joe and Al), they do a bang up job of conjuring up their own brand of mischief and rollicking adventure. The girls' hair-raising slide down Dark Mountain is one of the funniest scenes in the book.

Reminiscent of Patrick McManus, Bracken tells these tall tales with such deadpan humor and wit, you don't even care if she's pulling your leg. Once you hang out with the inhabitants, you'll want to return to Hardrock for more fun.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Rayman's Bookshelf

Echoes of My Footsteps
Ivan Z. Gabor
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
9781449053192 $22.95 800-839-8640

'War boy' story needs told on the big screen

There is no surrealism in my findings in this Holocaust survivor's life, other than the word or a form of it has been used so many times in this book; I began to choke! Ivan Z. Gabor's autobiography as told to and written by Jeffrey Beal, "Echoes of My Footsteps" became, on one hand a page turner for me because I skipped over some parts - constant layers of what a reader knows is next, but Beal has to tell every little twist, turn and thought. I don't want to read a textbook.

I suspect on the other hand as Ivan told his story, such as after being spared from firing squad (Page 80), the safe haven they fled to secure their war-hunger bodies, and then the food discovery, regardless of it being cake batter, I cannot imagine a young boy, a seven-month with child woman, and an old woman debating on the cooking process: "By unanimous proclamation we committed ourselves to enduring the baking process." (Page 85) Too many "cake layers" and there is much more of it throughout the book.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ivan was not spared by luck. The day will come when he will know the truth, but what I also know is that he is a real life Holocaust survivor, and comparable to accounting procedures, Beal has successfully detailed every 'finger-licking' action leading up to the outcome.

What Gabor has endured in his boyhood days by the leadership of that torturous slim that slaughtered so many of God's children - a horrendous tragedy does not even come close as a label. However, what comes in Gabor's future journeys, although much more different ups and downs, I suspect Ivan, the man in 1963 could have easily attested that his Father's excerpted words from a letter, meant for a boy of 13 then, "...I hope that God will keep you healthy and happy for many years to come," has undoubtedly been proven.

Further in my evaluation, I did enjoy the flip-flop from past to Miami - it kept me inhaling the Beal-Gabor huge bumper crop of thoughts. Frankly, I have this itching feeling, "Echoes of My Footsteps" could be another "Katie Morosky-Hubbell Gardner" big screen smash.

Al Riske
Luminis Books
13245 Blacktern Way, Camel, Indiana 46033
9781935462323 $16.95 317-250-9539

Master storyteller 'crumbs' are delicious

I have this friend who is quite an exceptional artist with a specialty in cartooning. After reading "Precarious" by Al Riske, I envisioned myself as a general practitioner in family medicine. One of my patients - let us call him Casey, who has a genetic history of hypertension that has brought on erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, he cannot take any mediation to bring on the "salute" when duty calls because of the potential damages to the heart valves.

Picture a comic strip with the doctor standing and patient Casey sitting on the examining table in conversation.

"Doc, have you come up with a pill yet for you know what?"

"Yes Casey, but not in pill form.

"What is it Doc? I am willing to try anything!"

"So am I Casey, but I am no scientist, however follow my instructions."

"Take my low dosage aspirin and read what Doc?"

"Precarious by Al Riske. This author pens mental visions so vividly and after you read "Don't Stop Now" - you will be doing the same.

Although sex is only one topic woven in this book of 15 dynamic short stories, Riske writes dialog so compelling that it mentally transports the reader from their easy chair or bed to hear, such as "A breeze rustles through the ravine." to see "The morning clouds burn off." to smell "her own subtle scent."

Of course, I have found author Riske's stories do not necessarily rest on the visual laurels of human intimacies; those which are bound to intrigue readership solely upon eye catching buzz words on the cover, including those review blurbs, but I must strongly admit he lives up to his written art form by delivering fabulous fables - soaps of life that sink their hook into get up, get out, get a life and could of-would of-should of- "All My Children", "Falcon Crest", "General Hospital", "Dynasty" readers.

Crackers and Al go well regardless of your chosen reading location because his savory sensations will charge your mental faculties with the "crumbs" that are left behind.

Ben Rayman

Regis' Bookshelf

Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism
Temple Grandin
Vintage/Anchor Books
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0307739589 $15.00

One of the characteristics of Temple Grandin's autistic psyche was "I always hated to be hugged." In Thinking in Pictures she says she hated the experience because it involved just too much stimulation - overload - a "fight or flight" response. What she craved most was not hugging, but body pressure in a confined space. She used to wrap herself in blankets or wedge her body into confined spaces to enjoy the sense of pressure her body craved.

For most people without autism, many of Grandin's peculiar behaviors are hard to comprehend. Grandin says that while visiting her aunt's ranch in Arizona, she saw cattle held tightly in a squeeze chute so they would remain inactive while being vaccinated. What surprised her most was the calming effect the gentle squeezing had on the cattle. The pressure definitely calmed them.

Because she longed for this same sensory effect, Grandin built her own human squeeze machine out of plywood panels that would push in against her sides while she lay on her stomach with her head through a halter to anchor it in place. While this may seem grotesque and terrifying to some people, Grandin would often spend thirty or more minutes in her squeeze machine until her anxieties and/or panic attacks could be controlled. It was this gentle bodily comfort that helped her transfer kindness and gentleness to people and animals. She admits her feelings "are much more like the emotions of a child than an adult."

Author Grandin reveals a lot about the traits of persons with autism. She specifically titled her wonderfully written book Thinking in Pictures because those three words describe her brain's thinking mechanism. Grandin thinks in pictures. Without them, her life would be turmoil. When her family and educators began relating to her through pictures, Grandin's superior intellect took flight.

During infancy and continuing until she began to speak and then read, the author remembered ideas, concepts, and thoughts by associating them with pictures. A photograph of a cow told her she saw - cow. But slowly, the association of the letters c-o-w to form the word "cow" eventually let her communicate on a more verbal level, but always - always the pictures remained in her mind - they came first.

Thinking in Pictures tells of Grandin's love for animals. She understands animals because, like her, they think in pictures. At an early age, she became concerned with the way cattle were treated on their way to and through slaughterhouses. Her mental pictures gained by touring cattle ranches and meat packing centers tortured her. She watched cattle being driven, sometimes mercilessly, up until their moment of death. Dying to her, including animal slaughter, should be a sacred moment - peaceful, quiet, and respectful of the life taken.

When herded into unfamiliar pens and chutes or dip vats to remove bugs, cows were terrified by their surroundings and would refuse to move. Often, electric prods were used to jolt them along. By placing herself at a cow's eye level, Grandin studied what frightened these animals as they were prodded along. Her mind photographed what she found frightening. In one instance, it was a flapping yellow ribbon at one end of a narrow passage that kept these huge beasts from using that walkway.

Eventually, Temple Grandin became not just an advocate for animal rights, but also a sought after expert who would make life in slaughter houses and meat packing plants much more productive; but what's more important, so much more humane for both animals and workers.

One of the unforgettable parts of Thinking in Pictures is a chapter titled, "Stairway to Heaven." As she was leaving a Swift Meat Packing plant, the author began to think of all the changes the company had put in place to eliminate the utter fear and discomfort cows face, not because they know they will die, but because plants and workers did not know how to manage them properly. Swift had followed her advice and made multiple changes in their vast operation. They built pens and chutes designed by her, and followed her operating procedures.

Because of her improvements, she now pictured the Swift plant as the stairway to heaven for these beasts because they no longer spent frightening hours in terrifying surroundings. Now the animals entered the plant calmly and in comfort. When their end came, it happened instantly while standing at ease in a huge cow-sized squeeze machine similar to the one she had first used on her own body. This meat packing facility became the stairway to heaven for the animals slaughtered each day.

For readers seeking to understand and help a person with autism, Thinking in Pictures is an unforgettable story. Temple Grandin freely exposes her own thinking comparing it to the way animals think which she believes is in pictures. But her book also discusses other types of autism and provides helpful clues for parents suggesting actions they might try to help their own child.

Her warning at the extreme end of the book is stern. She says that there is no magic cure for autism. She wants parents to beware of extravagant cure claims because, in the end, the best cure is to combine every approach that seems to work.

Crack Between The Worlds
Carmen Stenholm
Red Engine Press
203 Federal St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212
0980006473 $28.95

There is a Crack that runs beneath the feet of all families that ties one generation to the next. It is like a long fault in the earth's surface. Sometimes it appears ominous - wide - as if to swallow up those caught in its path. At other times, it provides a fractured map line through time where ancestors struggle to carve out some meaningful reason for their very existence.

In Crack, through very artistic colorful writing, Stenholm paints the lives of four generations, each of which dares to walk along and cross the crack of fractured past history. Her tale is a glimpse into the hardships and delights of overlapping lives as they journey along from generation to generation: Johanna, Mia, Ella, and young Karen - great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and daughter.

Stenholm's descriptive tale about these four women begins in 1871 when Johanna narrowly escapes death during a murderous raid on her small village, Werda. Her parents were not so lucky. Adopted, now Johanna must face a world with shocking memories of that hideous outrage where her parents were brutally killed.

But like Johanna, Crack tells how each succeeding generation faces its own harrowing hardships: two World Wars, the bombing of Dresden, the birth and death of loved ones, the dissolution of marriages, the trip to America. Yet each woman manages to survive. Crack is an emotional ride; at times filled with horror, regret, sorrow; but then relief, joy, and a dose of happiness, as its characters develop strength to live on.

The story cannot help but be realistic because Stenholm's characters were real people. It is fascinating to watch needy young girls grow into independent women who are strong enough to reach some semblance of happiness and a satisfying way of life. Crack will be a fascinating addition to any collection of attention-grabbing novels.

The Time of Eddie Noel
Allie Povall
Comfort Publishing, LLC
8410 Pit Stop Court Suite 132, PO Box 6265, Concord, NC 28027
193536104X $13.99

The year was 1953. Lu Ethel Noel worked at the honky-tonk store of Willie Ramon Dichard. The honky-tonk was quickly filling with both black and white customers for an evening of dance and drink. Lu Ethel Noel busily filled the drink orders of the black clientele because at that time in Harland Creek, Mississippi, "no white man . would wait on black men."

Lu Ethel Noel appeared to be owned by Willie Ramon Dichard. To her real husband, Eddie Noel, this just did not seem right. He hated the hours he spent alone during evenings while his wife, Lu Ethel, worked at the honky-tonk store/bar. He despised even more the idea that his wife and the honky-tonk owner were lovers.

At his wits end, Eddie Noel courageously confronted the bar owner stating he came to take his Lu Ethel home. Outraged, Dichard said Lu Ethel would work until closing time and then he'd escort her home. Noel ignored the white man and took his wife by the arm and started for the door. The bar owner, a larger man than Eddie, stopped the pair and a wrestling match began. Eddie was carried outside and thrown off the honky-tonk porch by Willie Dichard.

Eddie would not give up his fearless obsessive fight. Regaining his feet, he slid out a rifle from his automobile and hid it beside his leg. This time, when Willie Ramon approached him, Eddie aimed his .22 directly at Ramon's chest. In the year 1953, people were certain of one thing: "A black man would never shoot a white man. Never." Willie Ramon told Eddie to put down his rifle. CRACK-Eddie's rifle talked; he had enough chatter from the dying honky-tonk owner.

A reader can only imagine the manhunt that ensued after the killing. Immediately afterward, Eddie Noel's car was trapped in the darkness by two autos coming from opposite directions. A crack shot, Eddie killed one pursuer and blew out his tires. His accurate aim kept both parties hidding at a distance until he escaped on foot into the woods.

Circling back to his home for supplies, clothing, and a blanket to keep himself warm, another battle took place when men surrounded his cabin. A Time for Eddie Noel tells in exciting detail how he triggered his way out and disappeared. Within the next few days and weeks that followed, Eddie was hunted by sheriff's posses, groups of whites ganged together standing shoulder to shoulder at times.

What happens to Eddie Noel is now past history for the reader of this outstanding book to uncover. The Time of Eddie Noel is surely an indictment of America's racial conscience more than fifty years ago. One can only read this remarkably researched story with a feeling of loathing for the hatred that white America imposed on black people.

There is a second element to this book. It is the tale of Hazel Brannon Smith whose newspaper carried the details of Eddie Noel's exploits. But far more importantly, her editorials decried the flouting of the law under the banner of justice and alleged equality. Hazel's words stripped naked the conscience of America, showing how laws were irrationally and unequally enforced for blacks and whites.

By now, I have written reviews for over one hundred books. I would highly recommend The Time of Eddie Noel as one of the top five books I've reviewed to this date. The personalities of Allie Povall's characters are depicted with a realism that one can only appreciate from reading this somewhat grisly tale. I know what many of them felt like--I lived with them in 1953.

I would sincerely hope that blacks and whites, particularly the younger generation, will read this book so they might understand what segregation does to a person's conscience. Segregation has no equal. It dehumanizes human thinking; it brutalizes behavior. It is the utter and unreasonable revulsion of another race for no other reason than the taught belief that skin color determines a person's intelligence, beauty, humanity, worth, and goodness. I take off my hat to Allie Povall and The Time of Eddie Noel.

Soldier X
Don Wulfferson
Speak Publishing Company
c/o Penguin Group, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
0142500739 $6.99

Can you even begin to imagine what must have gone through the minds of very young soldiers who fought in Hitler's army as Russia began its overwhelming repulsion of the Nazi war machine from Russian soil? I could not until I read Soldier X: Trapped behind Enemy Lines.

Young Soldier X finds himself alone-but alive-in a long deep trench. Aware that the Nazi war front is crumbling in Russia, he continues to obey military instructions imbued with the idea that he must fight to the death for his mother country. Vaguely aware of the atrocities committed against Jews, he has been brainwashed into believing that Jewish people are a stumbling block to the Nazi ideal of world conquest. Yet, in spite of this Nazi upbringing, Soldier X's conscience begins to challenge those beliefs.

As he sits in his trench fully aware that the approaching Russian tanks and infantry are unstoppable, he questions why he must remain in this forward position. His commanding officer has instilled an appalling fear in his heart that if he dares to run or retreat he will be killed by his own officer. Such is the loyalty to the Nazi war effort led by notorious Hitler and his regime.

Overrun in his trench, he stays in place. To his good fortune, a Russian tank stalls directly over his trench caught up in volumes of barbed wire placed by Nazi retreaters to stop the onslaught of the, now, Russian offensive. Every Nazi soldier around him is dead. What saves Soldier X is the stalled heavy Russian tank sitting directly above his head.

With no alternative, Soldier X exchanges his Nazi uniform for that of a dead Russian soldier. Then, when he hears the battle distancing itself away from his position, he abandons his trench with a large piece of shrapnel embedded in his leg, a piece large enough that he cannot remove it. Seen in his Russian uniform, a dying German commander shoots Soldier X and he goes down

Within minutes as a Russian speaking imposter, Soldier X is hauled off by Russian infantry for immediate medical aid as a heroically wounded fighter. After surgery, he finds himself in a Russian hospital nursed back to health by a young nubile Russian girl. Ever so slowly they fall in love, yet ever so slowly, she wonders about Soldier X's background. He claims amnesia, but she begins to have doubts.

In a counter attack against the Russians by the Nazis, Soldier X and this loving nurse are forced to desert their hospital. They flee eastward. As the land beneath their feet exchanges "ownership" several times, these two loving individuals find themselves trapped in the killing fields between the Russians and Germans.

What ultimately happens to these two unlikely lovers-Soldier X, a Nazi German, and his loving companion, a Russian Jew-I will leave to the reader. In this story you cannot help but become involved in their lives. In spite of how you probably feel about German soldiers during the Nazi attempt to strike out at the world, still the lives of these two brave, pitiable youths trying to keep one another alive in the killing zone between two powerful military forces will seize you, haunt you, possess you, until you find out if either, or both, or neither survive their horrific environment.

This is an extremely easy to read young adult book. It is relatively short and would make an exceptionally good book for high school students to read and discuss among themselves if led by an enthusiastic teacher. What the Nazis did to the civilized world has changed forever the thinking of decent human beings.

But the feelings of Soldier X can at least give us a glimpse of what a demonized hatred-cult can do to euthanize a young mind. More importantly, it can show how the human spirit, in spite of intense brainwashing at a young age, when left to its own devices, this spirit can recognize that it is the soul of each person-be they German, Jewish, Polish, Russian-that makes them worthy of the title, "Human Being."

One might think this book is just for the younger generation of males. Wrong! I would recommend it for everyone because if we are not to repeat history's past mistakes, we must recognize the thinking that caused them. Soldier X reveals the mental torture one youth suffered as he deals with his own misled thinking.

Regis Schilken

Sandra's Bookshelf

Every Natural Fact
Five Seasons of Open Air-Parenting
Amy Lou Jenkins
Holy Cow Press
PO. Box 3170 Mount Royal Station, Duluth, Minnesota 55803
9780982354513 $14.95

It is said we are all products of our environment. Amy Lou Jenkins wanted more for her son DJ than playing video games, watching TV, being on the computer or talking on the phone. She wanted to create a stronger bond with him, and to help him to learn some of life's lessons he would be facing someday. That was the beginning of their nature walks together, across Wisconsin.

With each new trip or adventure DJ was learning to love the magic of nature. Watching a bird that had been on the endangered list, or learning about plants and seeing trees as they changed was something DJ came to love. The history of an area or the folklore fascinated him.

When Amy would talk about her family or different experience's, she was teaching him the importance of not only family but of man and nature to connect. That it is our responsibility to take care of our planet. To ensure it is just as beautiful for the next generation to come.

They also enjoyed the fun they had just being together. Laughing and learning new things on each trip they took. To me, what I enjoyed so much was the descriptive way the author talked. I was able to learn also. This book is a great read for anyone.

A Sister's Secret
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing, INC
P.O. Box 719 Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597892261 $10.99 1-800-852-8010

Grace Hosteller was a young Amish woman who returned home after being gone for two years during her Rumschpringe. She soon settles down to the conventional Amish life. She is baptized into the Amish church and marries a kind and gentle young man in her community.

One thing Grace does not want her husband or parents to know, is the many secrets she has kept about the two years she lived in the English world. But then one day her past caught up with her and her world would never be the same.

This is the first book of, "Sisters of Holmes County." I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next book in the series.

I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage
Mary-Ann Kirby
Thomas Nelson, Inc
P.O. Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214
9780849948107 $19.99 1-800-251-4000

This book took me by complete surprise. I had never even heard of the word Hutterite, let alone know that it was a religious sect. Or that there were colony's of Hutterite's.

Once I began to read this book I could not wait until the next page. The author gives us a history lesson as well as the understanding of what life was like, living in a Hutterite Colony. While it was a very structured environment, it was also one filled with love.

Mary-Ann's father had butted heads with the senior minister more than once. One time he asked to borrow a vehicle so that they could get to the hospital and sign the papers needed for their son to have emergency surgery. They were denied and by the time they did get to the hospital it was to late to save their son's life.

It was with much sadness that her father decided to leave the colony and moved into the English world. Yet he felt it was best for his family.

Life was totally different for her family on the outside. They had many obstacles that they had never had before. Where once they never had to worry about food, clothing or a place to live now they did.

The change from Hutterite schools to English schools was hard for Mary-Ann and her siblings. English kids made fun of the way they dressed and even what they brought to eat for lunch. That left them with a longing to return to the colony.

I have really enjoyed this book. I have learned about a way of life that I never knew existed. Some lessons that I think we could all benefit from today. And a wish that the author will someday continue on with her life story.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet
Karen Speerstra
Conari Press
Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781573244596 $14.95

"Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves - or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth."

~ Ayn Rand

The world in which we live in is a majestic place to live. Its beauty can be found each day as the sun rises. In order to preserve this beauty it is our duty to respect our land and live by the philosophy that the way to love anything is to realize that it may one day be lost.

From the first pages of The Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet you will discover a book that is a dedicated to showing how precious the earth is to our existence. It provides an overabundance of quotes, prayers, and chants that remind us to live ever hour to the fullest. The soothing mint green font that the book is printed in allows your eyes to relax as you begin to feel the peaceful presence that is encompassed throughout the pages.

One of the most fascinating articles I found in this book was written by Andrea Thompson and Ker Than, from their website It provides a timeline of what the earth will look like in the next 200 years. This timeline starts at 2008, and reveals shocking facts that have already come true since it was published.

The Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet is a book that overflows with the beauty of the earth. It will give anyone a deeper appreciation for how precious the world we live in is; unless mankind realizes that they hold the power for future generations to experience this greatness the world as we know it could one day be in jeopardy.

Karen Speerstra's writing has opened my eyes to how much I have to do to preserve our world for future generations. I feel others who read The Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet will also gain an eye opening experience. This one book could literally change the way we live in our own existence.

Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss Into the Best Thing That Ever Happened To You
Susan J. Elliott
Da Capo Lifelong Books
Eleven Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
0738213284 $14.95 1-800-343-4499

Books have a way of coming into your life when we need them the most. This past January I suffered a breakup that left an empty place in my heart. It was difficult ending something that I felt should have lasted longer than it did. Still hurting I wanted to jump back into another relationship, before I realized that I was not completely healed from the last one.

It was during the time of my breakup that I was asked to review Susan J. Elliott's Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss Into the Best Thing That Ever. This one book was my lifeline in rebuilding my shattered heart. It showed me how to deal with the emotions I was experiencing, and how to move forward and discover how to not make the same mistakes twice.

What sets this book apart from other self help titles is the fact that the author has suffered the same type of heartache. The compassion her writing shows will quickly warm your heart. If you are getting over a failed marriage, or a breakup of a relationship, then this is the must have book that will get you past your pain and suffering.

Books like Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss Into the Best Thing That Ever Happened To You offers hope to those who are suffering. It will show you how to change a life altering experience into something that will change your life for the better.

Rachel's Garden - Pleasant Valley Book Two
Marta Perry
Berkley Trade
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425232361 $14.00

It has been a year since Rachel Brand lost her husband Ezra. His untimely death was attributed to an accident. His memory still lingers fresh in her mind each time she looks into one of her three children's faces.

Rachel is determined to do whatever it takes to save her dairy farm. She readily accepts help when her Amish friends offer her assistance. Gideon Zook was Ezra's best friend. He was with him the day that he died and his memory is still haunted by that horrific day.

Gideon offers to fulfill a promise that Ezra had made to Rachel, to build a greenhouse. With a heavy heart she accepts and allows him to being building. Her family is against her starting a nursery; instead they insist she sale the farm.

Gideon is plagued that he was able to survive the accident where as Ezra lost his life. Working at Rachel's farm he sees her for the beautiful woman that he has always known her to be. The daily interaction has both of them experiencing feelings they never thought possible. Will they be able to put the past behind them and focus on the future?

There is one who is intent to see the young widow is driven to sale. With each hardship Rachel experiences they grow closer to seeing her lose her farm. Will this madman succeed in driving Rachel away from her land?

Rachel's Garden - Pleasant Valley Book Two is second in the Pleasant Valley series. Once again Marta Perry has done an exceptional job in writing a riveting book that is assured to keep you glued to your seat. I look forward to the next installment in this highly addictive series. The simplistic life of the Amish lifestyle mixed in with an element of greed makes for one outstanding novel.

iPad: The Missing Manual
J. D. Biersdorfer
O'Reilly Media
Sebastopol (Corporate Headquarters)
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472
9781449387846 $24.99 (800) 998-9938

Since its unveiling three months ago, the iPad has hit the world by storm. It has sold three million units and 11,000 iPad apps have been released; along with 225,000 that are already compatible with the device. Computer analysts predict that by 2012 there will have been over 100 million sold.

Through J.D. Biersdorfer's iPad: The Missing Manual I gained a deeper appreciation for all this one device can offer. I was skeptical if I was ready to purchase an iPad or stay with my beloved iPod Touch. After reading/reviewing this book, there was no doubt that I would be joining the millions of people who have already made a purchase.

This book fills in the blanks the owner's manual fails to provide. It is geared towards the new owner, the experienced user, and the advance programmer. No matter what you skill level, there is something to be gained from reading this book.

No stone goes unturned in iPad: The Missing Manual. The author has done an outstanding job in allowing you to learn the tips and tricks needed to get the most out of your iPad. I was impressed that a whole chapter was devoted to learning how to download ebooks to the system. Being a book reviewer, this was a subject that I was interested in learning all that I could in order to enable me to use this device in my book reviewing. After reading this book, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain the maximum results out of their new system.

In my opinion, the iPad is the greatest invention since the computer. From its sales it stands to reason that it is here to stay. I predict it will be one invention that is assured to change the way mankind mixes business with pleasure.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Six Graves to Munich
Mario Puzo [writing as Mario Cleri]
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451230591 $14.00 800-847-5515

Mario Puzo wrote this novel in 1967 using a nom de plume following publication of two books which had received critical notice but few sales, and two years before the hugely successful "Godfather." Little attention was paid to it and it quickly went out of print until it was found by his Polish publisher and has now been brought out in paperback.

Certainly no blockbuster, but definitely a workmanlike effort telling the story of a young man serving as a clandestine intelligence agent near Paris who is captured by the Gestapo on D-Day when transmitting on a secret radio. Taken to Munich with his pregnant wife, he is tortured and interrogated by seven men in an effort to get him to reveal the allies' secret codes. Ultimately, they shoot him and believe he is dead.

However, he survives, is treated in VA hospitals, and to some extent recovers. Eventually making a substantial amount of money in the computer industry, he embarks on a journey to exact revenge for what was done to him and his wife. This is the story of how he tracks down his tormentors and his plan to kill them.


Blue-Eyed Devil
Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399156489 $25.95 800-847-5515

This is the third western written by the late Robert B. Parker, and we can, and do, lament his passing on reading it. The novel typifies Parker's talents and style, whether the plot is based in Boston or Appaloosa: short chapters and snappy dialogue. We will miss him terribly.

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch return to Appaloosa, where they formerly were marshals, to find Amos Callico now chief of police. An ambitious man, Callico has his eye on higher positions including the Governorship and Washington, right up to the White House. Meanwhile, he runs a "protection" racket, extorting money from bar owners and other merchants in exchange for police visits when trouble brews.

Callico asks Cole and Hitch to join him, but they politely decline. Instead they are hired by the bar owners to keep the peace and manage to do so until the young son of a wealthy, politically connected landowner draws on Cole, who is forced to kill him. As in all westerns, there is a showdown, but not typical - - one would expect no less in a Parker novel. Highly recommended.

A Question of Belief
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802119421 $24.00 212-614-7850

A heat wave engulfs Venice in this, the 19th Guido Brunetti mystery, and the Commissario is looking forward to a vacation in the cooler Alps with his family and even makes it onto the train. But four hours into the trip he is called to return to the city to solve the murder of an official involved in a complicated scam. At the same time, Brunetti is attempting to assist his sidekick who fears his favorite aunt is being bilked by a charlatan.

The aunt has delved deeply into astrology and her family has noted that she has been withdrawing money from the bank. Her family's efforts to find out what she is doing with the cash have been to no avail, so Brunetti agrees to surreptiously get to the bottom of the mystery. Also, unofficially, he has been supplied with information that certain cases at the local court are being unduly delayed, usually benefiting one party over another.

This novel is filled with all the charming characters who inhabited those that have preceded it in the series. The atmosphere of Venice is, as customary, portrayed to benefit the reader. And for a mystery novel, the conclusion is truly different. The book is recommended.

It should be noted that simultaneously with this novel, Atlantic Monthly Press has published "Brunetti's Cookbook," with recipes by Roberta Pianaro and culinary stories by Donna Leon. The cookbook recreates many local and seasonal recipes based on meals from the series along with original essays by Donna Leon to give Brunetti fans much pleasure.

The Dark Horse
Craig Johnson
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143117315 $14.95 800-847-5515

When a woman is housed in his jail, Sheriff Walt Longmire is not convinced she is guilty of the murder of her husband. Even though the murder took place in an adjoining jurisdiction and she confessed, with the murder weapon in her lap, something doesn't smell right to Walt, who undertakes to conduct an investigation undercover.

Walt goes to the small town in which the incident took place in the guise of a representative of an insurance company because in addition to the murder, a barn with six horses and the house in which the murder victim was found lying in his bed burned down. He encounters a diverse set of unusual characters, as well as a series of dangerous adventures. Along the way he comes to the conclusion that nearly everyone in town wanted the victim dead.

The plot, as usual for this author, unfolds against the rugged Wyoming landscape, and is written in the sparse style of the previous four novels in the series. After 24 years as Sheriff, Walt is running for another two-year term, but is too busy to campaign. The story flashes back and forth between Walt's efforts to get the accused to help him learn what happened, and his actual investigation. The casual humor of Walt's under-deputy, together with the sharp repartee, provides a light touch to the otherwise grim tale. As the story progresses, the reader is kept guessing right down to the final chapter.


Scott Turow
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446562423 $27.99 800-759-0190,

This novel is really two books (three if you include the predecessor "Presumed Innocent" which, of course, is an important, but not vital, factor in the plot). For the second time in 20 years Rusty Sabich is tried for murder by Tommy Molto, who is now acting Prosecuting Attorney in Kindle County, and defended by Sandy Stern. The similarities between the cases are eerie. The original case had Rusty up on charges he murdered his lover. Now he is charged with killing his wife.

Much of the novel concentrates on setting the scene for what Turow does best, i.e., the trial, as well as delving into the minds of Rusty and his son, Nat,.and the motivations for their actions and decisions. The rivalry between Rusty and Tommy seems to be a running joke, and the inclusion of Molto's assistant PA as a driving force spurring Tommy on despite his misgivings seems a bit mechanical, as does the conclusion.

It is unfortunate that I can't comment on what I believe to be a major question concerning the novel because it is a major part of the plot. But, again, this element seems to me to be contrived and way far out. A Turow book is always interesting, however, and well-written. And "Innocent" is no different.

A Darker Shade of Blue
John Harvey
Arrow Books
9780099548249, $11.99 CA
Wm. Heinemann
9780434020331, 18.99 BPS

Of the 18 short stories in this collection, four feature Charlie Resnick, seven north London detective Jack Kiley, and one in which they both appear. Each, of course, is a well-known protagonist featured in prior John Harvey novels. And their characters come through even more strongly in a short story.

As Mr. Harvey writes in an introduction, the short story form gives an author greater latitude to experiment with an idea or character to learn whether or not use can be made later in the novel format. The extremely well-written, well-constructed short stories are a prime example of that observation.

Not lost in the shuffle is Harvey's fascination with the world of jazz, nor his descriptions of London and outlying areas, especially the more depressing aspects of English life and the world of crime.

Highly recommended.

The Big Bang
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston MA 02166
9780151014484 $25.00 617-351-5003

Aficionados of Mickey Spillane (this writer does not include himself in the group) should welcome this long lost novel he wrote about three decades ago but never finished. Be that as it may, this review addresses the novel on its own terms rather than one's individual tastes and prejudices. Apparently, Spillane began the novel and then set it aside, giving it to Collins "for safe keeping" in 1989 together with an outline and discussing the ending with him, enabling the co-author to finish the work.

The novel is pretty much a Mike Hammer plot, full of wise-cracks, violence and sex. Of course, that is to be expected. The story begins with Hammer returning from Florida where he went to recuperate from a knife wound. Set during the 1960s, the plot revolves around the rising tide of drug addiction. What sets Hammer off is encountering a couple of petty drug dealers assaulting a young boy, and treating the assailants in typical Mike Hammer fashion.

One thing leads to another, and various attempts on Hammer's life spur him on, chasing rumors of a huge drug shipment about to hit the streets of New York (which have gone dry after anonymous tips have allowed the authorities to intercept several shipments).

If you liked Spillane and Hammer, you will enjoy "The Big Bang." It perhaps seems obvious that it's not my cup of tea (much less shot of scotch). But then maybe it's yours.

Rolling Thunder
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Books,80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605980898 $25.00 212-504-2494

There are many "too good to be true" protagonists in crime fiction. The fashion, of course, is to present a hard-boiled PI or a brooding Scandinavian, types very popular today. So in this latest John Ceepak mystery, we again are treated to the boy scout cop on the Jersey shore, together with his idolizing side-kick, Danny Boyle. They are, indeed, refreshing characters.

At the inaugural run of a new roller coaster, the wife of the owner apparently has a heart attack and dies while sitting in the first gondola. Soon, however, suspicions arise, especially with the death and dismemberment of a young woman who apparently participated in sex and fun with elderly leading citizens of Sea Haven. It is up to the not-so-dynamic duo to uncover the town scandal and the murder, all in good time.

Despite the calmness of the pair, there is plenty of tension in the plot, with lots of curves to keep the reader off balance. The count and counterpoint between Ceepak and Boyle is not only idealistic but often very humorous. A perfect summer read, and recommended.

The Nearest Exit
Olen Steinhauer
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312622879 $25.99 646-307-5560

This follow-up to the well-received "The Tourist" finds Milo Weaver at the end of his tether with absolutely nothing to lose. He is induced to return to his old life as a "tourist" [a secret CIA subdivision] but first has to prove his "loyalty" to the organization. This is accomplished by a series of assignments, many of which are unpalatable to him.

Milo performs all but the last job, that of disposing of a young girl, instead plotting to save her life by arranging to hide her only to see her escape and be killed. The action then begins, as Milo becomes entwined in all kinds of intrigues, including international spy activities, a possible mole in the tourist organization, sex crimes and whatever else the plot can conjure.

All this makes for an exciting adventure, as Milo weighs the good and bad, plotting to make everything come out to his satisfaction.


Supreme Justice
Phillip Margolin
Harper, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061926518 $25.99 800-242-7737

What does an author do when he "falls in love" with characters in a novel he completed? Why he just writes another using them again. But the characters here brought down a President, proving him to be a serial killer, in "Executive Privilege." So, what to do?

Just try to kill a Supreme Court Justice, have the CIA involved in an illegal drug scheme, actually have the President blackmailed by a powerful attorney [formerly head of the CIA] to force him to nominate a woman for a court vacancy, as well as several murders in attempts to cover up the mess. How's that for a fast-moving plot?

The carefully crafted story also includes insights into some of the top court's workings, written with authority. The author, a lawyer, actually has argued at least one case before that court as a young practitioner. His legal skills contribute much to moving the plot ahead, as clues are sought. And though it doesn't at first seem that there is a surprise in store at the end, there certainly is one.


No Going Back
Lyndon Stacey
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780727868831 $27.95 800-830-3-44

There are plenty of protagonists who are ex-cops turned PIs. On the other hand, there is but one former handler of police dogs who was forced off the force and now drives a truck delivering animal feed. Throw in a horsey atmosphere, a la Dick Francis, and you have the makings of a first-rate British mystery, which
"No Going Back" certainly is.

Daniel Whelan, a ten-year veteran of the police force, was frozen out by his fellow workers after he disclosed detrimental information about the loss of evidence. He not only lost his job, but his marriage as well, and is also separated from his eight-year-old son. His only constant companion is Taz, a German shepherd retired as a police dog after being injured. Sort of a Rin Tin Tin and Lassie all rolled up into one, Taz is a super-dog in the grand tradition, and of course plays a major role in the novel.

Daniel is called one day by a distraught "father" who asks him to bring his dog to locate his missing daughters, lost on the moor. Reluctantly, he helps, finding the younger of the two sisters before giving up the hunt. Not satisfied, Daniel returns the next day, locating the other missing girl, but, frightened, she runs off. Somehow, they ultimately reconnect, and gradually Dan gets some information from the girl leading to a thrilling plot, with lots of danger to all.

A very enjoyable read, and recommended.

Fire and Ice
J. A. Jance
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10023
9780061239236 $7.99 800-242-7737

In previous novels, J.A. Jance introduced separately two appealing protagonists, J.P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady. In "Fire and Ice," both play inter-related roles while pursuing apparently different cases, his in the Pacific Northwest, hers in Arizona. Who said the twain will never meet?

Discovery of a murder in Washington State leads Beaumont to investigate the grisly deaths of six young women, while in Bisby, AZ, Brady and her deputies are looking into the death of a caretaker in an ATV facility. Meanwhile, one of her detectives has a sister missing. Is one of the victims up north that sister? Are crimes in two different jurisdictions related?

Tightly plotted and full of suspense, Jance has written a powerful tale, gripping in detail. The insights into her characters are deep and psychologically intriguing, and the book is recommended.

Blindman's Bluff
Faye Kellerman
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10021
9780061702419 $7.00 800-242-7737,

The Rina Lazarus-Peter Decker series in the past has been filled with various lessons in religious teachings, especially orthodox Jewish tenets and requirements, and this latest novel is no exception. However, the Biblical allusions in the plot include the usual references to Kosher meals and the like, and harken back to Genesis.

Decker is awakened at 3 AM one night to learn that a billionaire real estate developer Guy Kaffey, his wife and employees have been murdered at Kaffey's ranch and his son and brother wounded. It would appear to be a botched robbery. Meanwhile, Rina is serving on a jury and meets a blind translator who overhears two men speaking about the murders. The intertwining of this chance meeting, which places Rina (and the blind man) in jeopardy, complicates Decker's efforts to solve the case and protect his family, much less the blind man.

The novel is replete with the usual point and counterpoint give-and-take between Rina and Peter, as well as a well-ordered police procedural. Another exciting if somewhat drawn-out Faye Kellerman novel, filled with lots of food and assorted personal conflicts between Peter and Rina, two loving but strong personalities, and one which is recommended.

Stettin Station
David Downing
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003, 212-260-1900,
9781569476345 $25.00

The chronicle of journalist John Russell begins in Nazi Berlin a week before Pearl Harbor in this, the third novel in the series [with a fourth, "Potsdam Station," to come]. The descriptions of Gestapo tactics and the beginnings of the "final solution" are eerily chilling.

Russell is ostensibly a correspondent for a San Francisco newspaper, allowing the author to describe the machinations of the Nazi censors and propaganda machine with vivid detail, while his protagonist acts as a go-between between German and American intelligence agents, carrying messages back and forth. He even obtains proof that the Gestapo is removing Jews from Berlin and planning to gas them, even though he can hardly publish the story.

As conditions worsen, Russell has to find a way to get out of Germany, hoping to bring his long-time girlfriend with him. It is a tale of terror with a thrill-a-page pace. Descriptions of wartime Berlin and the police state remind us of a period many may have forgotten, but of which we, and they, should perhaps be reminded.


Bodily Harm
Robert Dugoni
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416592969 $25.00 800-223-2336

Combining the elements of a thriller and a courtroom battle over a defective toy which apparently has resulted in the deaths of two young children, this novel marks the return of Seattle's David Sloane, "the lawyer who does not lose." The plot includes various subplots, including corporate greed, espionage and an adoption battle over Sloane's step-son.

In the beginning, Sloane wins a big malpractice case arising out of a leading pediatrician's apparent mishandling of one of the two boys. However, Sloane has misgivings when a toy designer tells him he is responsible for the child's death. This sets off Sloane's quest for the truth, bit the disappearance of the designer makes proving the toy's flawed design nearly impossible.

The ups and downs as the novel progresses take the reader for a wild ride, with enough tragedy and triumphs to keep one's interest. The courtroom scenes, both in the case of the toy hearing as well as the custody case, are extremely effective, and the book is recommended.

Death on the Aegean Queen
Maria Hudgins
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594148620 $25.95 207-859-1000,

The third Dotsy Lamb Travel Mystery takes the protagonist on a cruise among the Greek islands, along with her friends and Captain Marco Quattrocchi, the Carabinieri captain she previously met in Florence in an earlier installment. Early on Dotsy discovers a pool of blood on a deck, and when no other answer presents itself, a passenger is presumed to have been murdered and thrown overboard.

Another plot theme involves illegally stolen antiquities, some of which are on display on the ship in showcases. What should have been a relaxing cruise turns out to be one continuous trial about murder and theft, all coming together on Crete where, of course, Dotsy puts it all together.

This is the third novel in the series, all of which are quick reads, simple but well put together, although kind of cutesy. But that is the character Dotsy is supposed to be, so one has no quarrel with that.


The Lion
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
9780446580830 $27.99

The plot is pretty much simple and straightforward. It picks up three years after the conclusion of "The Lion's Game." The Libyan terrorist known as the Lion returns to the United States intent on completing his reign of terror by killing the last remaining pilot involved in the 1986 bombing of Tripoli in which his mother and siblings died, as well as his KGB teacher and of course, detective/special agent John Corey and his wife, Kate Mayfield.

As opposed to The Lion's game plan, of course, we have Corey's determination to finish off the killer. A dramatic start to the novel is The Lion's attempted murder of Kate, and Corey's dramatic rescue of her in midair while all three are free-falling from a plane before a parachute landing.

The rest of the novel is, in effect, merely details until the final confrontation between The Lion and Corey and, as in the past, the New York cop's ability to save the world. (Previously he prevented a nuclear holocaust.] Written with DeMille's customary panache, the reader is kept moving forward with interest and anticipation.


Murder on Lexington Ave.
Victoria Thompson
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515,
9780425234372 $24.95

The Gaslight Mystery series is an enchanting glimpse into a bygone era, while providing the reader with engrossing crime plots, and of course, two very appealing protagonists, midwife Sara Brandt and Detective Sgt. Frank Malloy. This novel is the 12th in the series, each set in a different part of New York City at the turn of the century.

The plot revolves around the murder of a wealthy businessman in his office, and the man's aversion to the use of sign language for his deaf daughter. Malloy, as the father of a deaf son studying signing, is assigned to the case. Sarah becomes involved when the widow, being interviewed by Malloy, shows sign of being about to give birth to a baby and the policeman sends for her. There are various suspects and there are many clues for Malloy (and Sarah) to follow.

While the murderer's identity may occur to the reader, this fact does not preclude the enjoyment of the unfolding of the tale. Unlike past entries into the series, there is very little in the way of descriptive material about Little Old New York, but there is plenty of information about the teaching of deaf people to communicate, either through signing or lip reading.


The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 800-223-2336,
9781416583691 $24.00

Vish Puri, the Indian private investigator, who made his amusing and wonderful debut in "The Case of the Missing Servant," makes another delightful appearance. This time a good friend is apparently murdered by an apparition of the Hindu goddess Kali, and Puri is asked by his friend Inspector Singh to help solve the crime.

This gives the author a clear field to investigate the "corruption at the heart of the political system," as well as the average Indian's susceptibility to the illusions of the many self-proclaimed holy men and their scams. At the same time, Puri's mother and wife undertake their own investigation of a robbery of their friends' "kitty party club."

While writing a fairly standard mystery, Hall captures the life of New Delhi and the Indian culture vividly, at the same time that "Chubby" Puri's appetite allows him to describe a tantalizing array of Indian cuisine. The novels certainly reflect the complexity of Indian life and the country's culture, for better and worse.


The Burning Wire
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439156339 $26.99 800-223-2336

Any Lincoln Rhyme novel is all in the details. Lots of details. And this book is no different. There is more information about electricity, and how it is created and distributed, its effect and dangers, than you could possibly wish for. The plot involves a series of attacks, initially when an "arc flash" is triggered from a substation of Manhattan's electrical system, hitting a parked bus and killing a man about to board.

Other attacks, and murders, occur, accompanied by demands for the electric grid be reduced or shut for periods of time. Enter Rhyme and his team, collecting and analyzing evidence recovered from the various crime scenes. Clues vary, motives are unclear, and the work goes on with few results. Meanwhile, a subplot involves an old adversary, the Watchmaker, who is reported to be in Mexico City.

With the usual fact piled on fact, Deaver builds the story to a surprising conclusion. In fact, there is an earlier surprise, as Rhyme goes through some serious introspection regarding his severely limited physical condition. Presumably, more to come in later entries in the series.


The Ice Princess
Camilla Lackberg
Translated by Steven T. Murray
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605980928 $25.95 212-504-2494,

This novel deals with life in a small Swedish town, and events a quarter of a century earlier which ended in at least two deaths. A woman, her wrists slashed, bleeds to death in her bathtub, covered with ice, preserving her body until it is discovered. Subsequently, an outcast ne'er-do-well artist, her boyhood friend and possible lover, is found hanging in his flat. Both apparent suicides are subsequently determined to be murders, and therein lies the beginning of a tale.

The book is nominally a murder mystery. However, so many extraneous sub-plots and characters clutter it up that the reader becomes bogged down in unnecessary verbiage and unrelated information, slowing down the reading and detracting from the otherwise excellent story. If only a sharper pencil or even a re-write had been applied to the novel, it would have been far superior to the book as published. Nevertheless, it is still worth reading because the main plot and the unfolding of the investigation are well-done. Which is more than can be said for the character development.

Writer Erica Falck seems merely a foil in place of the author, and her new boyfriend, Patrick Hedstrom, is more wooden than alive. As for the police superintendent, he's not even funny, as it appears he is supposed to be. Most of the other characters merely fill in blanks. Given the fact that Lackberg has written seven books that have dominated Stockholm bestseller lists, these observations surely are surprising. That said, the novel is recommended.

The Rule of Nine
Steve Martini
William Morrow
c/o Harper
10 E. 53d St., NY, NY 10022
9780061930218 $26.99 800-242-7737

Paul Madriani is a criminal lawyer, but in this installment of the series, there are no legal angles, courtroom scenes, office consultations, briefs or other indication of his profession, other than a reference or two to the closing of his office. Instead, we have a thrill-a-page saga in which he becomes the embodiment of Superman.

The plot involves a couple of mercenaries, one engaged in preparing to bomb a national landmark, the other an assassin known as the Liquida or the Mexicutioner. Paul, his daughter, partner and investigator are all targets of the assassin, and have to go into hiding. Yet Paul and his investigator must chase the mercenary to discover how to find the assassin to remove the threat, and then to unveil the bombing plot.

All in all, the story moves at a rapid clip, albeit with plenty of detail on advanced weaponry. And finally, there is a little sex play for Paul, 15 years after the death of his wife. All in good fun.


Theodore Feit

Tracy's Bookshelf

A Measure of Disaster
Alan Tucker
MAD Design, Inc
212 Fair Park Drive, Billings, Montana 59012
9780982686409 $3.99

A Measure of Disorder by Alan Tucker is a wonderful foray into fantasy and imagination. Technically a young adult book, the book is just as likely to appeal to middle-graders as the heroine of the book is a fourteen-year-old eighth grader name Jenni Kershaw.

Jenni and her eighth grade science class are on a field to a nearby campground to collect plant samples for a science project. Suddenly, after lunch, the entire class finds themselves going unexpectedly sleepy. A mist rolls over the lake they are picnicking near and when everyone awakes they discover they are now in an alternate reality that is very different from their own.

Slowly, as time goes on Jenny and her classmates find themselves surrounded by strange people and new and threatening circumstances. One after another Jenni's classmates begin to change, some for the better; others for the worse. Then two distinct camps are developed. One wishes to live in peace, but the other seeks the destruction of the peaceable camp. What will the outcome be?

What follows is an excerpt from the story, taken from approximately midway through:

"Rodrin lowered himself down and returned shortly with a small Nomenstrastenai girl, and a tiny flying Faerstrastenai that immediately sped over to Jenni and landed on her shoulder, hugging her neck.

"Oh Jenni! I'm so glad to see you!" the Faerstrastenai said in a soft voice that sounded familiar.

Jenni let the hug continue for a few seconds, then offered her hand to step onto so she could see the Faerstrastenai face to face. She apologized and buzzed to Jenni's hand. Jenni thought first of Rachael, but her features and hair were different.

"Deena!" Jenni exclaimed. "Oh my gosh! I wish I could hug you back!"

Deena laughed. "Me too."

"Deena, this is Ba'ize. He's the mayor of Seren'naie"

Deena performed a curtsy in midair and Ba'ize smiled. "A pleasure to meet you Deena," he said. "And who has come along with you?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Deena ushered the girl forward. "This is Feeder, she's from Crank's village."

The girl sniffled and bowed to both Ba'ize and Jenni. As she straightened, Jenni saw tears in her eyes. She had blond hair, like Crank, and wore a simple tan dress, typical of her people, but it was soiled and torn. She also looked incredibly tired. Jenni then recalled this was the girl she had seen tending the tamed birds in the village while they were there.

Jenni looked back to Deena, "What happened? How did you get here?"

Deena proceeded to tell the story of the transformations of Mrs. Minch, Mike, and Scott and the subsequent attack on the village. The Gobinstrastorai had arrived and camped around the village for two or three days, then somehow managed to destroy the defense mechanism that protected the Nomenstrastenai. Deena and Feeder had been able to slip out during the battle and hide. The next day when they had seen the devastation of the village, the two had decided to follow the trail of Ms. Pap and the class, and make their way to Seren'naie.

Feeder began to cry and Jenni sat on the floor, holding her. Ba'ize sat in a chair, trying to make sense of their story.

A few minutes later, Crank arrived back from his errands, and the painful tale was relayed to him. Feeder ran to him and Crank absently comforted her while he sat in shock at the realization that his mother and father were dead."

Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra's Last Hope
Elizabeth Isaacs
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450217033 $9.99 sc 9781450217026 $21.95 hc 1-800-Authors

Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra's Last Hope by Elizabeth Isaacs, is a refreshing and enchanting expedition into a fascinating and well-developed land of fantasy. Isaacs has developed interesting characters who come vividly to life on the page, as well as a funny and refreshing romance that teaches young adult's the value of waiting until marriage for intimacy.

I absolutely love Isaac's characters, and her pages are populated with them. There is Edna, the wonderful woman who raised her when she was abandoned at eight-years of age by her alcoholic father. There's her love interest, Gavin, who is an Alfar, or what we would call a light-elf. He is surrounded by his family, Rena, an artistic soul who takes Nora, our heroine under her wing and teaches her the rudiments of art. There's Tark, who is Rena's mate and who becomes closer to Nora during some time the three spend together in the wilderness. Then there is Elias, a taciturn, but loyal friend of Gavin and finally, Elaine, Elias' warm-hearted and fashion-savvy mate. All of these characters play ever increasing roles in the story and become key characters for the novel's sequel.

In Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra's Last Hope Isaac's paints a picture of true love and mutual respect that should form the basis of any marriage. By bringing a different culture into the picture she helps highlight how our traditions should be, without throwing any stones.

Isaacs's makes excellent use of foreshadowing, both through hints dropped throughout the novel and visions occurring at strategic moments. These events truly help to move the story along building the pace and anxiety toward its natural conclusion.

The first half of Light of Asteria: Kailmeyra's Last Hope is very interesting and contains lots of necessary back-story and details of interest. It introduces the Dokkalfar, what we would call a dark-elf and explains their history and some of their purpose here. It shows the ongoing conflict between the two groups of man, and the spill-over to humanity. It shows that the Dokkalfar have grown stronger and can now plant their evil thoughts directly into the minds of humans. It makes you understand how critical the battle raging between the two people is. It also makes you realize how important Nora, as Gavin's source and his one chosen love, is. Unfortunately, Gavin's mother has other plans for him.

The second half of the story takes place in another land, where customs and lifestyles differ and our heroine Nora finds herself striving to fit in. there are many challenges, not just for Nora but also for Gavin. Along the way it is revealed that Gavin's "family" from his time in the human world has now become the clan of Nora and him in fact. Each member of the clan is given a key role to play in the future of the kingdom and in the very existence of the elves.

What follows is an excerpt from the book:

"Foreign woods and black silhouettes smothered out the orange; the memory so strong, adrenaline rushed through my veins. A painful spear of fear stabbed the pit of my stomach.

"When did you dream this?" he whispered.

Early this morning... Gavin, what's going on? His blank eyes refocused; he stood and went to the window.

"When the elves of darkness find one of our kind, they track them until they find the source that feeds their power, and then they destroy the source. The evil ones cannot recognize the cause of our strength, and so they must wait until we draw from it. Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, patience, gentleness and self-control - these are our sources of energy. We are strongest with pure love flowing through us. We can only perish if our energy is drained, until we are physically as weak as a human." My heart jumped to my throat.

"What happened to you the morning I found you?" I had to know. I remember the pain you were in. I've never felt such despair. His emotions were hot and blistering, but I concentrated on listening, instinct screaming to pay attention.

"I was attacked by the Dokkalfar. We have been tracking their leader for quite a while. He came back to this area several months ago. When you said you were spending the night on campus, I stayed to make sure you were not harmed."

Lights washed against the windows as a car pulled into the drive. Gavin hesitated for a moment. I walked to him, putting my hand in his.

"If it hadn't been for you, I would have died."

"Me?" What did I do?

"You took my pain when it was unbearable. I was practically beaten to death, and your compassion gave me the strength to survive." I just stared at him. He laced his fingers with mine.

The doorknob turned, and I jumped, my jumbled nerves were suddenly in a knot.

"My family is here." The mammoth door creaked open. Gavin kissed my forehead making my pulse speed, and self consciously, I turned to find four pairs of jewel-toned eyes staring back at me."

Diary of a Mad Gen Y'er
Marcus Dino
SummerTime Productions
9780615305004 $7.00 eBook

DIARY OF A MAD GEN Y ER by Marcus Dino is one of the most delightful reads I've had in a long time. It is a bit hard to classify as it could be intended for Young Adults, but would probably be a good read for anyone from the middle grades through adult age ranges. The main character is a creative and imaginative twenty-five-year-old actress named "Fifi" Larouche. Fifi, whose real name is Cheryl though you'd best not call her that, is working as a waitress at "a greasy spoon diner" while waiting for her big break.

Fifi is from the Midwest. Los Angeles presents its own challenges and joys for Fifi. Her wonderful imagination and fanciful dreams enliven this great story. Join her as she travels through her dreams into mysterious realms or as she joins the author, whom she refers to as a "glorified typist" in a trip to the fictional Kingdom of Sumon, in the Middle East. Regardless of where her travels take her, Fifi is always filled with joy, hope and strength of character.

Fifi isn't the only interesting character in this book, although she is certainly the main one, she has many friends chief among whom are Alocki the alien, Fifi's boyfriend Biff and an Englishman named Dirk, who although he only appears in two stories, made a powerful impression on me. Flifi, Fifi's alter ego fairy also has her own section dedicated to wise advice to people. Flifi is also in the Kingdom of Sumon story and uses a warning about her unique fairy talent to let the Sultan of Sumon know when he's gone too far.

DIARY OF A MAD GEN Y ER is made up of Fifi's "Silly Stories", Fifi's "Silly Poems" and Fifi's blog. It also contains Marcus' "A Visit to the Kingdom of Sumon" and Flifi's "Thoughts and Tips" as well as a brief and amusing "Introduction."

I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed DIARY OF A MAD GEN Y ER by Marcus Dino. If you read only one book for pure fun this summer it should be DIARY OF A MAD GEN Y ER. What follows is an excerpt from DIARY OF A MAD GEN Y ER:

"I'm rubbing my shoes. I'm rubbing my shoes. I'm rubbing my shoes and the next thing I know I'm wearing this colorful, old-fashioned looking dress and black shiny high heels. I've got my hair all put up in a bun and I'm in this beautiful night club. I see all these nicely dressed ladies entertaining handsome young soldiers and sailors. There's this big band playing such beautiful songs. The girls are serving the GI's coffee and sandwiches and all kinds of goodies and they're also dancing with them.

The next thing I know, omigosh, I see a fella I recognize as a big name actor from the 40s all dressed up in a nice suit and tie. We'll just call him John. He comes up to me and says, "Shake a leg honey. Grab that tray of doughnuts. The boys are hungry."

Well he may have been a big name 40s star but I don't care, the nerve of the man talking to me like that.

"Excuse me, my name is Fifi, not 'Honey.' I have no idea where we're at, but you sound like you should be in the Neanderthal exhibit at the local museum of natural history. You may be a big shot movie star, but I will not be addressed in such a demeaning way."

John looked at me and chuckled. "You got a lotta spunk in ya kid. All right I didn't mean to be so crude? Will you please, Fifi, serve the soldiers these doughnuts? Fifi huh? Just the like the French poodle. I knew a gal whose name was Fifi a few years back. A French girl, a cute little actress, I don't know what happened to her. She went back to France a few years ago and of course I hope she's okay. You know with the occupation just ending."

"The occupation? Omigosh are you talking about the German occupation of France? So I've gone back to World War 2? What day is today?"

John gave me a curious grin. "Are you okay kid? Maybe you've been out in the sun too long. Of course we're talking about World War 2. What other war is going on right now? It's Dec. 7, 1944, the third anniversary of Pearl Harbor."

Alumanaya: A Tropical Story about Living with Tranquility
Steve Ludwigs
Palm Canyon Wellness Group, LLC
P.O. Box 64, Cotteville, Missouri 63380
0976711206 $12.95

Alumanaya: A Tropical Story about Living with Tranquility by Steve Ludwigs is the story of Rumbi, a young island boy, being taught the principles of the island way of life by Makena, the village's Kamua, or healer. Makena is also Rumbi's grandmother or Nanua.

Through Makena's teaching Rumbi is taught the basics of living in harmony with life through the application of the five island principles of ocean; wind; sand; palm tree and light. Rumbi is taught how each of these five principles can be applied in life to help him and to face difficulties when the need arises.

Young Rumbi dreams of being a great fisherman among his island people. Rumbi lives with his great aunt, or Anate and awakens one day full of rambunctious energy, after spending some time with the village artist and the village musician Rumbi goes to Lookout Rock to decide what to do with the rest of his day. While he stares out at the ocean from Lookout Rock Rumbi decides it is now time for him to become a fisherman. He wants to surprise his grandmother and his aunt with his great skill so he tells no one of his plans. He takes a small outrigger from the village and trying to remember what learned about using a canoe; he sets out on his adventure.

Along the way many trials and storms come Rumbi's way. When faced with difficulties he must find his own inner resources and strengths in order to face them. He must help not only himself, but others he meets along the way. Will Rumbi ever find his way safely back to his village?

Ludwigs shows remarkable story-telling skills in Alumanaya: A Tropical Story about Living with Tranquility. Time and time again he builds the readers' interest and anticipation until you find yourself genuinely interested in Rumbi's adventures as well as the application of the underlying foundation of the applications of the five life principles being artfully demonstrated. I was deeply interested in Rumbi's plight, and his resiliency throughout the story. I found it was a wonderful to teach the basics of the five principles without making it seem as though the reader was being "taught" at all. There was no pressure to change, to take in an overwhelming abundance of information or any of the other aspects that so often go along with "self help" books.

What follows is an excerpt from Alumanaya: A Tropical Story about Living with Tranquility:

"Rumbi had been in a canoe only a few other times. Always with Nanua or Anate. They had never gone out very far, always staying within the harbor where the water was calm. Occasionally, they had let Rumbi paddle. His little arms would try to pull the big, carved stick through the water, but the canoe would barely move. They had always instructed him on the proper way to hold the paddle and encouraged him to keep trying. They knew that someday he would be much stronger and would be expected to contribute to the fishing like the other villagers.

Rumbi tried to remember those lessons now as he dipped the paddle into the water and pulled hard. The canoe barely moved. What's wrong? he thought doesn't this thing work? He looked over the side and noticed the flat part of the paddle was turned the wrong way. Twisting it around a little, he tried again. This time the canoe moved forward.

"Here we go!" Rumbi shouted as they were off through the waves. We're going to catch the biggest fish Nanua has ever seen!"

An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility
Steve Ludwigs
Palm Canyon Wellness Group, LLC
P.O. Box 64, Cottleville, Missouri 63338
9780976711223 $12.95

An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility by Steve Ludwigs sends you on a relaxing inner voyage to the tropical island of Alumanaya, first introduced to readers in Ludwigs Alumanaya: A Story about Living with Tropical Tranquility. With An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility, Ludwigs continues to explore the five basic principles of ocean, wind, sand, palm (as in the tree) and light. But, before exploring these concepts and their greater meaning, Ludwigs take you on a "tour" of Alumanaya that is so extensive, and realistic that between it, and the five principles, you'll find yourself wondering if Alumanaya isn't a real place where Steve, and his wife Renee actually live. Let me clear that up right away, despite it's wonderful detail, Alumanaya is a state of mind, not a place and Steve and his wife live in Missouri. Still, having had months of living the Alumanaya lifestyle, as I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy, I can tell you "island living", at least the Alumanaya way, beats anything I've experienced prior to it.

An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility is as unique as its previously mentioned predecessor was. An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility presents the five principles of "island living" without any recrimination of where a person may be at that point in his or her life. There is no judgment of any person or way of thinking. There is no talk about "God" or any other deity. There is the simple presentation of easy methods to restore balance, tranquility and harmony to your life.

The five principles are each presented as separate sections of the book. Each section is dedicated to the principle under discussion and applications of that principle in various kinds of ways that can be directly related to life are given.

An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility seeps into your mind and bones, making a nesting place there. I realized, quite some time after reading the book that I was applying the principles and the wisdom connected to them without even being aware of the fact. Once my attention was drawn to the matter I was surprised to note how frequently I did this. In my case the two elements I used most often were wind and light. I really liked the way the principle of wind was related in the book and the number of circumstances in which it applies is beyond imagining. The principle of light reminded me that energy and light are all around us even if things appear dark.

An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility presents a new and different way of looking at the world. The physical description of the island is so vivid and realistic that you'll find yourself closing your eyes and remembering it, just as you would remember a wonderful memory from a past vacation. In fact you may enjoy it more because you didn't have to leave home to find it, there were no high credit cards bills after it and you didn't return home needing a "vacation from your vacation" as is so often the case in real life.

The island is as real as any tropical paradise you could imagine. Ludwigs brings to vital, pulsing life on each page of An Island Perspective: Finding the Path to Tropical Tranquility. What follows is an excerpt from the book:

"Later that day I was sitting on our deck overlooking the ocean. The sun was low on the horizon and the crashing waves threw millions of sparkling diamonds into the sky. The big green sea turtles were floating just below the waves, munching on the algae and the sea grass around the lava rocks.

I thought about our adventures up the mountain to the canyon. I thought about how the fog had obscured our view and had kept us from seeing the splendor that was right there in front of us. The canyon was there, just temporarily concealed. So much beauty, but we couldn't see it. Then, for a moment we got a glimpse of unlimited magnificence.

As I watched the sun slowly dip into the ocean, I thought about how the fog in the canyon is similar to the fog in our minds. How we often only perceive the clouds right in front of us and rarely see the beauty beyond.

I was reminded about how it sometimes felt like I was close to getting a clue about life. How an idea would be out there drifting around, hazy and unclear in the swirling mind clouds. Occasionally, a brief flash of clarity would allow me to almost get it, but then it would quickly fade back into the midst, beyond my grasp and understanding.

I wanted to see more. I wanted to clear away the fog and experience the amazing scenery inside of me.

Thus began my journey into creative imagination and the island of Alumanaya."

Tracy M. Riva

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

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