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Hard Time: A Brit in America's Toughest Jail
Most people are happily ignorant of the difference between the term 'jail' and 'prison.' And since you don't learn the difference until after you've been arrested, ignorance is indeed bliss. Jail is where prisoners are held while their cases are pending. If convicted, prisoners are sentenced and shipped off to prison, where they serve out their time.
Most prisoners, whether in jail or prison, are not inclined toward literary endeavors. Which pretty much explains why so few jail or prison memoirs are published. Of those that are published, only a few are good. Two 'good' ones that immediately come to mind include Kenneth Hartman's Mother California and Jimmy Lerner's You Got Nothing Coming.
A third one can now be added to the list - Hard Time.
Hard Time is the true story of Shaun Attwood. Attwood was born and raised in England. After taking a degree from Liverpool University, Attwood migrated to Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked as a stockbroker. Attwood flourished in his career, bringing home $500,000 a year.
When he wasn't making money, Attwood was raving. Raving is a combination of Halloween, earsplitting rock n' roll music and, of course, drugs and alcohol. Drug-fueled, non-stop wild partying is another way to put it. And for Attwood, it was not only fun, but also a stress reliever. His drug of choice was Ecstasy, but pretty much anything would do in a pinch.
Eventually, Attwood quit his day job - which had been very, very good to him (he was rich) - and concentrated on buying up large quantities of drugs and partying. Since his parties lasted for days and included all the free drugs anyone could want, he had a lot of friends. Life was good for Shaun Attwood.
Then everything went to hell in a handcart. The police arrested him and tossed him into Maricopa County Jail, which is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is also known as "America's toughest sheriff." Sheriff Arpaio's reputation is well-deserved. He is tough. However, he is also the most sued sheriff in America, because of his jail's deplorable conditions, extreme violence, and prisoner death-rate.
Shaun Attwood spent twenty-six months in Sheriff Arpaio's jail. Welcome to Hell on earth. Attwood's life in jail makes Dante's Inferno look like a Sunday school picnic at the beach. For the jail was awash in sewage, cockroaches, food unfit for human consumption (you wouldn't feed it to a dog), contraband drugs, and brutal violence. This, despite the fact most of the prisoners held there were - supposedly - innocent until proven guilty.
Attwood tells his story in sparkling prose that flows like ferociously goosed up electricity. For example, "A topless man with WHITE PRIDE tattooed across his midsection barged past Billy. Everything about him screamed king of the jungle. Size. Aura. Blond mane. 'Wattup, dawg! I'm Outlaw, the head of the whites.'"
Besides his knack for telling a story and his yummy use of the English language, what makes Hard Time so interesting is that jail changed Shaun Attwood. He went from being a spoiled rotten rich kid to a mature, thoughtful human being. In other words, living in the middle of a twilight zone teetering on the edge of the Abyss had a modifying effect on Attwood. And watching the metamorphosis take place is a large component of Hard Time's attraction. For the reader, it's like watching a chameleon change color.
Before arriving in jail, Attwood's life revolved around money and pleasure. In jail, his focus expanded. He began reading literature and philosophy, trying to understand the human condition, his condition. And he took the first baby-steps toward becoming an author, writing letters and articles, and blogging.
Hard Time is an accomplished literary work that moves along like a thriller. It has tension, humor, a plot, and snappy dialogue. At the same time, it's a story about real people, who although flawed are still human beings. And buried underneath the primary story is a scathing indictment of the U.S. penal system.
On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (really bad) to 5 stars (really good), Hard Time gets 5 stars.
The American Patriot's Almanac
William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
The American Patriot's Almanac is both an academic resource and a story book. Bennett and Cribb have given Americans a beautifully written keepsake of mementos reminding us why we should be proud to be Americans.
The book is divided into months of the year. Each month tells a different story of America, for example: starting in January with the Flags of the Revolutionary War, continuing in June it includes the Declaration of Independence, and ending in December with State Flags, Facts, and Symbols.
No historical event or document is missing. The book reinforces well known facts, and then introduces unknown information that surprises readers. This makes the book interesting and fun for all ages.
As a former middle school history teacher, I would recommend The American Patriot's Almanac as a classroom resource. If only textbooks were presented to students in this format, students would be enticed to study American history.
I also recommend this Almanac for every home in America. The format enables a family to easily read the monthly entries on a daily basis. What an exciting way to promote the American Patriot in us all.
Rhett DeVane and Robert W. McKnight
1094 New Del Haven St, Suite 100, West Consohohocken, PA 19428-2713
Though Accidental Ambition is a thriller, the novel also qualifies as political satire, poking fun at Florida where "people can't run an election without some kind of weirdness" to save their souls. After the 2000 presidential elections, few would argue with that observation delivered by authors Rhett DeVane and Robert W. McKnight.
DeVane is known for her southern fiction, primarily two novels set in Chattahoochee, The Madhatter's Guide to Chocolate and Up the Devil's Belly, and most recently a southern vampire spoof, Evenings on Dark Island, which she co-authored with Larry Rock. In Accidental Ambition, McKnight, a retired state senator from Florida, lends his insider knowledge of political intrigue to the plot. The result is a delicious, fast-paced thriller spiked by bursts of wit.
As the novel opens, the shoo-in candidate for Florida senator is Republican Brad Silver. When his plane crashes near election day, the Republican governor is forced to appoint Brad's wife Eleana to fill out the remainder of his term and run in his stead. The GOP plans to ask this shallow socialite to step down soon after the election so they can appoint another of their choosing and thus hold onto the seat. As a new senator, the politically inexperienced Eleana stomps on many toes with her Jimmy Choo shoes. Ignoring nearly all advice, she decides she might like to hang onto her newfound power.
Complicated enough? Not nearly. Joel Orr lurches out of a bar, is beaten up, and as he recovers has this epiphany that maybe his life as a drunk isn't all that great. This is how a not-quite-recovered alcoholic whose political career burned out years ago stumbles into the Democratic primary. Few people regard Orr as a serious candidate. Until the Democrat's key contender, Russell Nathan, is videotaped while stoned with his pants down at a party with minors. The video goes viral and Nathan's political career is over - at least temporarily. His political demise vaults Orr to a primary win and thus begins his unlikely race to become the Sunshine State senator. Sprinkle in unscrupulous advisers who would do anything to assure their candidates' success, sex scandals, hidden pregnancies, sinister plots tied to Cuba, yesterday's political enemies becoming new best friends; and you have what passes for a typical election season in the state competing with California for the "land of fruits and nuts" title.
A homeless man who photographs Eleana Silver in compromising positions may hold the balance of power in the Senate in his hands. Whom will he sell his photos to? Can he survive being the sole possessor of such damaging material? These are questions that will keep readers turning the pages.
Readers of DeVane's previous novels will be delighted by oblique references to the rat-faced lawyer from Dark Island, and Jake Witherspoon, the young gay man brutalized by teenagers in Madhatter's Guide.
No Florida novel would be complete without a few tributes to the state's natural beauty. One character remembers a romantic evening when the "sand glowed with a species of phosphorescent plankton" and "every footprint shimmered for a few seconds before fading." Their bodies "shone with flickers of light, as if fairy dust had been sprinkled on naked skin." Gorgeous stuff, that.
Yet the novel remains primarily a thriller, skillfully building a sense of impending disaster, that feeling of dread we readers crave. It delivers a satisfying combination of doom and escape, victory and defeat. Some characters must face up to their misdeeds, while others you personally want to slap down wriggle free from justice. Ah - the reality and irony of politics. It's the game of power and chance that continues to fascinate Americans almost as much as football, and Accidental Ambition delivers a riveting contest.
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
If you pick up the new book "Clutch" thinking it is a how-to book, you'd only be partially right. Instead of giving readers step-by-step instructions on how to be a clutch player in life, Paul Sullivan shows readers examples of clutch players in life.
The author defines clutch as doing what you normally do well but under pressure. According to Sullivan, there are five key areas of determining if a person is clutch. They are:
Being present (and blocking out everything else)
Using fear and desire to drive for success
On the other end of the spectrum is choking, of which Sullivan devotes the second portion of the book. He believes there are three reasons people choke, which are:
1. The inability to take responsibility for your actions
Instead of playing psychologist, Sullivan shares stories of those proven to be clutch players, such as a Navy Seal who had to adapt during wartime in order to win, a marketing genius who used his fear of leaving his family poor to start a profitable advertising agency, and a successful litigator who used focus to become one of the best attorneys in the United States.
And just like he shares stories of clutch players, he also considers stories of those who've choked, including a well-known name in sports whose overconfidence made him great during the regular season but insignificant when it counted most during The Playoffs, and a prideful leader at one of the Big-Three auto industries who choked while a newcomer thrived in the same environment.
"Clutch" seems to lose its way a bit towards the end of the book when the author starts to dole out advice on how to be a clutch with your money and how to be a clutch in sports. Though given his background as the "Wealth Matters" columnist for the New York Times and the fact that he has interviewed legends like Tiger Woods, the chapters shouldn't be a surprise. Perhaps if he had coached his readers on how to be a clutch in business and at home as well, the addition would have made more sense.
Sullivan's book is still a very good read, and the lessons learned from both clutch players and those who have choked will stay with you a long time.
The Forgotten Highlander
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781616081522 $25.95 www.amazon.com
This account by Alistair Urquhart moved me to tears and yet it is written in such a matter of fact manner.
At the age of twenty he was conscripted into the Gordon Highlanders when WW2 began. From a quiet family orientated life he could not have imagined what the future four years would have in store for him.
After training he was sent to Singapore and it wasn't long before the Japanese invaded and he became a prisoner of war.
He and thousands of others were put to work on what became known as The Death Railway. The construction of a railway through dense jungle claimed the lives of over a hundred thousand men.
These men were the forgotten army during the war with no chance of escape or rescue. Just day after day, year after year of slavery.
Alistair, by his own strong will power and inner strength, somehow survived though starved of any food but a few grains of watery rice each day.
Vicious, unbelievable cruelty and torture were metered out by these Japanese thugs. There was no hiding place and no clothing just a nappy to wear under the scorching sun.
Just skin and bone these men toiled, they dreaded sleep which was full of nightmares. The men suffered cholera, beri beri but had to work through it all.
Alistair ended up building the bridge over the river Kway under the same cruelty and deprivation.
He later survived being torpedoed by an American submarine in the South China sea, drifting close to death for days.
When recaptured he ended up in a prison camp where he saw what had happened to the city of Nagasaki, one of the most terrible actions of WW2.
On his return to England there was no welcoming party for these forgotten heroes of the Burmese jungle in fact the paltry compensation they received was only awarded as recently as the year 2000.
The British tax payer had to pay this not the horrendous Japanese government.
Alistair and most of the suffering men did not talk of their years of horrific treatment simply to protect their families from more grief. Now he has broken his silence and written, at the age of ninety-one, this vivid and moving book in order to bring out the fact that Japan still refuses to face up to their crimes.
Some of the four hundred men and Alistair will go on suffering nightmares and see the grinning evil faces of their tormentors even though some were punished and some were hanged at the end of the war. Alistair still thinks life is worth living whatever it throws at you and as you read his words you know he is an incredible and wonderful man.
He faced terror and fear every hour of every day, he had no choice.
Those days are long gone now but every child should read Alistair's book at some stage, we should never forget. It is a historical record of truth, courage and unbelievable brutality.
PO Box 116424, Carrollton, TX 75011
9781935015000 $20.00 www.amazon.com www.eutopiandestiny.com
I bought this book when I met the author at the North Texas Book Festival in Denton, Texas. Rita is a retired accountant and avid fiction reader. When she found the current novels too graphic for her tastes, she challenged herself to write an exciting story without the graphic details. In my opinion, she succeeded. The little bad language there is in her books is not gratuitous and sex is held private between husband and wife.
Joe walked into Jack's office whistling the wedding march. Jack's unit had spent a year in El Paso helping the INS Border Patrol combat a significant surge in illegal activity. The traffic had slowed down to a normal level and management was sending the borrowed units back to their home offices.
"Better get your best suit pressed, Jack," he said. "You've got a bride to give away back in Boston."
He froze when he saw the somber look on Jack's face.
"We're not going back yet," Jack said. "You've been selected for a special undercover assignment."
"What assignment?" Joe asked.
"A highly organized group is smuggling young women into the country and selling them as sex slaves," Jack said.
So starts Rita Dear's Preacher Man, the first in the series that follows an undercover INS agent and his team as they investigate a sex slave smuggling ring in a small town in New Mexico. Each book leads to another investigative adventure in which the team uses stealth and cunning to bring it to a conclusion.
I recommend this series for some very thrilling reading. The detailed and intricate plot lines have excitement, suspense, romance and more; so much so that it makes you want to have the next book ready as soon as you finish the last page of the one in your hand.
You can check out Rita's other titles at www.eutopiandestiny.com.
Dark Water Dive
New American Library
375 Hudson St., New York, N.Y. 10014
Lois Wells Santalo
On the occasion of Sara Paretsky's winning of the Grand Master Award for her V.I. Warshawski novels, this is a good time for a second look at the writers working in the tough-lady school of detective fiction. Sara Paretsky is credited with being the first, though Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller must be close behind. Kathy Brandt is a Johnny-come-lately but a very successful one, her Detective Hannah Sampson series offering a unique and fascinating picture of underwater detective work done by scuba diving cops who must retrieve bodies and find clues in the depths.
Dark Water Dive, one of four books in the series, not only highlights a unique kind of detective work but provides an unusual setting--the British Virgin Islands. A fast-paced mystery, the plot winds through much duplicity of stolen identities and people not being who they claim to be. As a grand climax the detective must swim into an underwater cave where in total darkness divers have lost their way down many a side-tunnel, and she herself almost goes the wrong way.
The book is a great read and offers as fascinating a picture of detective work as any earlier author provided. But I confess I am beginning to have a problem with these detective ladies who never suffer a moment's pangs over the usual feminine issues, such as taking time out from their career to have a child or two. The rest of us, when young, wrestle incessantly with the question of career vs. family, and while it was refreshing in the beginning to read about successful women who had somehow bypassed this problem, it's now reaching the point of the unrealistic. I find myself sighing and thinking, "Oh, dear, another one of those!"
Hannah, we are told, is a Catholic, yet on arrival at the island she immediately, without hesitance or seemingly much thought, welcomes to her bed a man named O'Brien. I've always understood that Catholics tend to equate sex with reproduction, so I would have expected her to give some thought to the question. She's a soft touch when it comes to abandoned kittens and she agonizes over a dying shark with its fins cut off, but around miscreants she's a hardboiled cop, and the thought that she might take time out for childbearing never enters her head.
In the days when hardboiled detectives were male, this issue never arose, and the ladies simply altered the sex of the detective and went on from there. The only problem is that in time the plethora of this type begins to seem a bit unbelievable. In my experience, there does come in a day in the lives of most career women when they remember that the biological clock is ticking and begin to worry a little bit. Of course, it would be easy to resolve the issue by saying that the cop in question has been told she can't have children--but then a few regrets would be in order.
Earlier writers solved the problem by making their protagonists older-woman detectives. From Mrs. Polifax to Jessica Fletcher, they were past the age when that question would naturally arise. But Sara Paretsky took female detective work to a whole new level and then ignored the problems raised by it. Others have followed in her footsteps to the detriment of a sense of reality about detective fiction.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue Of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416592969 $25.00 www.amazon.com www.simonandschuster.com
What begins as a seemingly open and shut case of medical malpractice turns into something far more sinister and life-threatening. David Sloane, the self-proclaimed 'lawyer who does not lose', wins a case for the McFarland family who have lost their young son, Austin, due to his flu-like symptoms being misdiagnosed by the family doctor that result in his death in the emergency room of a hospital that was unable to save him in time.
Sloane was confident in his case and his ability to win for the McFarland's --- that is, until a mysterious young man named Kyle Horgan confronts him on the way to the courthouse just prior to the jury's verdict. Horgan insists he has evidence that the doctor in the malpractice case was not responsible for Austin McFarland's death --- he was! Horgan presents Sloane with a folder of 'evidence' of his assertion and disappears. Sloane reads the contents of the folder with horror --- but is too late to change his prosecution stance as the jury finds for the McFarland's. To further compound the tragedy and conflicted feelings of Sloane - the doctor accused of the malpractice takes his own life shortly after the verdict!
This is only the tip of the iceberg in Robert Dugoni's utterly compelling new novel, BODILY HARM. Kyle Horgan turns out to be a creative genius who had given a huge toy company --- Kendall Toys --- a prototype for a sure-fire top-selling new toy. The toy, Metamorphis, operates similar to the famous Transformer toys whereby it has the ability to shape-shift into different objects. However, the series of magnets that are at the heart of the Metamorphis toy pose a deadly threat if ingested by young children. In fact, more than two ingested magnets could rip a hole in the digestive track and cause painful death. The file Horgan has handed David Sloane outlines the trial testing of the Metamorphis toy and the fact that Kendall Toys has outsourced the production to a Chinese facility that is using a type of plastic that can easily crack, allowing the potentially deadly magnets to fall into the hands of unsuspecting children.
Horgan has evidence of second boy who died --- with the same flu-like symptoms that Austin McFarland displayed. Sloane realizes with horror that his simple malpractice case was part of a much larger conspiracy. It turns out that Kendall Toys is on the verge of bankruptcy and rival toy companies are clamoring to acquire them. It would take a huge holiday toy to put them over the top and they believe they have that in Metamorphis. Unfortunately, greed gets the best of certain executives within Kendall and the result is the toy being made cheaper abroad with unsafe materials. There is also corporate espionage involved whereby the Product Safety commission is paid-off to turn a blind eye to the potential hazards of the Metamorphis prototype.
The individuals behind Metamorphis will go to any extent to insure this toy hits the market and makes them the multi-millions they need to salvage their company. This includes committing murder. Unfortunately, David Sloane is a target as he has begun to investigate Kyle Horgan's claims of conspiracy against Kendall Toys and his involvement brings tragedy upon his family as an assassin breaks into their Seattle home and kills his wife during an altercation.
Driven by his sense of justice and now fueled by a need to avenge his murdered wife, David Sloane and his team go all out to uncover the conspiracy surrounding the Metamorphis toy and bring down the members of Kendall Toys that will do anything to see their product succeed. Thrown into the mix of this already tension-packed novel is the fact that David Sloane must also do battle with his in-laws over the adoption of his step-son, Jake, that was set to occur just prior to the loss of his wife. Can David Sloane, torn by grief and the desire to keep his small family together, pull it together to win both of these legal matters, exonerate the wrongly accused doctor that killed himself and find justice for the families that have lost their children due to a malfunctioning toy? The pages will burn as this novel never lets up for a single moment and will keep the reader going long into the night to finish this exhilarating story!
Robert Dugoni has received blurbs comparing this novel to the work of John Grisham. I find this an unfair comparison. John Grisham's last good novel was way in the past. Dugoni's superior novel, BODILY HARM, is the present leader in legal thriller fiction --- and I cannot wait for the future efforts in the David Sloane series!
The Glass Madonna
Wild Women Writers
Box 3426, Tallahassee, FL 32315-3426
9780982901502 $15.00 www.amazon.com www.wildwomenwriters.com
A masterful blend of history and fiction, The Glass Madonna, by Donna Meredith, provides a window into one woman's hard-scrabble journey from abuse and neglect to independence and self-reliance. Sarah Stevens comes of age during the '70s: a time of liberation and sexual freedom for women. But old ways persist and she is caught up in a centuries-old, double-standard roundabout.
The novel opens in West Virginia, summer of 1963, with a brief glimpse into the world of eleven-year-old Sarah. A poignant scene between Sarah and her beloved aunt Livvie introduces the reader to an heirloom glass Madonna figurine and hints at its tangled history. The first mention of the line of Heimbach glassmakers - Sarah's matriarchal German lineage - initiates a fascinating historic thread, one woven seamlessly throughout the story. The glass figurine becomes the embodiment of female purity and goodness - an unattainable perfection, one that haunts Sarah throughout her twenties.
When college starts, an innocent Sarah mixes into a tumultuous time filled with free love, free speech, and the controversial Vietnam War. Her boyfriend Cal - a handsome young man she has loved off and on since childhood - gives up his draft determent, and Sarah yields her virginity to him. But Cal leaves without a backward glance, and she is left with the oppressive guilt of "being damaged goods."
A chance meeting brings Roy Glen Hardman into Sarah's life. A silent, often-brooding man, Roy Glen draws her in. Though she notices a few fleeting glimpses into basic flaws in his character, Sarah forges on. When the two join during a campout, Sarah admits that she isn't a virgin, igniting Roy Glen's jealousy and disrespect. After she becomes pregnant, the two wed and move into a cramped trailer on his family's land, effectively isolating her from family and friends. As a new wife, then mother, Sarah struggles to live up to her husband's expectations.
Though she continues with her education, Sarah's life grows steadily more bleak. Roy Glen stays out late with his drinking buddies and uses Sarah for housekeeping, cooking, and hurried sex without intimacy. The only bright spot is her daughter Mandy, a child she instantly loves with unselfish and protective devotion. Locked in their roles, Sarah and Roy Glen drift steadily apart; neither really knows the other, with little skill to reach past the void between male and female. To balance the storyline, the author often interjects Roy Glen's perspective: his thoughts on family, sex, and the oppressive task of being the sole provider for his family.
When Sarah gains her college degree, a new segment of her life unfolds. She is hired to teach and moves into her profession. The independence she gains from making her own money and finally feeling a sense of accomplishment outside of motherhood brings new challenges at home. Roy Glen resents his wife's achievements. Instead of offering support, he continues to belittle Sarah and tries more and more to isolate her from her family. His drinking and abusive behavior escalate.
Gradually, a sense of rebellion grows in Sarah. When she finds proof of Roy Glen's infidelity and drug abuse, she takes the final brave step and leaves with Mandy and a few possessions: "Roy Glen hadn't left her any choice but to play the game his way. When she was elbowed on the basketball court, she'd learned to elbow back. She remembered how."
Initially, her family balks at the impending separation. Divorce is a public shame, frowned upon by the close-knit community and the church. Always her ally, Aunt Livvie is the first to support her decision. As the facts become clear, Sarah's mother, father, and brother rally behind her. The growing solidarity and Sarah's fight for freedom bring longtime family skeletons from storage: her father's alcoholism and his physical abuse of Sarah's brother Garrett, her mother's insular obesity, and finally, the old Heimbach secrets hidden deep in the legend behind the glass Madonna.
Close to death, Aunt Livvie reveals the Heimbach family story to Sarah, then gives her the cherished glass Madonna. The parallels between Sarah's strong women ancestors - a second storyline provided in historical snippets throughout the novel - seem to mirror the struggles Sarah currently faces.
As the divorce proceeds, Roy Glen threatens to ruin Sarah's reputation in the community. Sarah, aided by her mother and longtime neighbor Rita, gains enough information on Roy Glen's illegal drug activities to turn over to authorities. She faces airing the sordid details of her failed marriage in court with a rediscovered courage. Backed into a cage of his own making, Roy Glen makes one last desperate stand and abducts Mandy to an old cabin, deep on his family's property. When the child succumbs to a life-threatening asthma attack, his paternal love wins out and he relinquishes control to save his daughter.
The lines between good and bad, guilt and honor, often blur. Sarah gains a new level of maturity, seeing her life from a different perspective: Other people have motivations for their behavior. Forgiveness is possible. Even the bad times are dusted with good memories. Families are imperfect, but important on the most basic levels. A mother's love extends beyond limitations. True love appears in the most unexpected places.
Flowing like an underground river connecting three generations of glassmakers, Donna Meredith's novel The Glass Madonna transports the reader to an earlier time, yet reverberates with themes still current to today's issues of abuse, healing, and renewal.
Tracy M. Riva
You can almost taste the wilderness and the life springing from the pages of Doug Hiser's new novel, Montana Mist. Set in the town of Rime, Montana the pages are replete with loners, free spirits and those simply looking for a place to lose themselves for awhile.
The scenery in Montana Mist vividly springs to life bringing the mountain town and its surroundings into keen view as you peruse the pages of this piece of modern folklore. Hiser brings not only the people of Rime, but also the wild inhabitants of its nearby mountains to boldly dance across the screen of your mind.
What follows is one of my favorite passages from the book, a tall tale that I suppose could have happened somewhere, at sometime but probably takes place only in our fascinated imaginations. It is the tale of a one-eyed wolf appropriately named Cyclops and a huge bull moose which no wolf in his right mind would normally dare to attack alone:
"Suddenly Cyclops darted in and snapped at the moose's hind leg. The wolf was fast and quick and he had drawn first blood. The moose grunted and bellowed in rage, snot flung from his large nostrils as he twisted in response to the biting pain in his rear leg. Cyclops rushed in again and the moose was slower. The one-eyed wolf bit the moose in the other hind leg. Throughout the entire engagement Cyclops had been silent but the moose groaned and grunted and snorted in anger. The moose's shoulders quivered and his mouth opened and closed as oxygen was sucked in. Cyclops had one more trick to play against the big Bull Moose. This is the part where I wish you could have been there... that one-eyed wolf ran around the staggered moose and got behind him again. Cyclops was too quick for that big engine of power. The moose was caught off guard as the one-eyed wolf leapt high and far from behind. That wolf jumped on the moose's back."
Jury held up his hands, "Now remember this is a wolf that can climb trees. He jumped on the moose's back, not like some cougar, but like some weird rodeo cowboy wolf. I heard a tale from Connecticut Sam, an old friend of mine from South Carolina, about a raccoon that rode on a dog's back like a cowboy. Well this wolf did the same thing, rode on the moose's back. At first the moose just stood still, breathing hard and tossing his antlers back and forth. Finally realizing there was a wolf sitting on his back the moose started to jump and run. I saw that crazy one-eyed wolf straddling that wild moose and clinging with all four paws and biting a clump of thick hair on the moose's neck. Cyclops didn't try to attack the moose. He was just trying to stay on for the ride. That moose jumped and ran all over that clearing trying to dislodge Cyclops. That was the strangest thing you ever saw, a crazy one-eyed wolf riding on a bucking moose."
Hiser knows how to tell a story and he uses masterful prose to bring his work to life for you to enjoy. I highly recommend Montana Mist, reading it will leave an indelible impression on you.
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547154121 $16.95 www.amazon.com www.hmhpub.com
Tamara Drewe is a young woman whose reappearance in the small English village of Ewedown creates a stir, especially amongst the men. She is, as Posy Simmonds' superbly drawn graphics show, a pretty, nubile, sexily dressed young woman: "a beautiful, fecund creature", as Dr Glen Larson, an American academic sojourning at the writers' retreat of Stonefield, bemusedly describes her - a "hot patootie" (whatever that might be). And the expressions on the faces of the other people present speak volumes: Beth - unsure; Andy - assessing her covertly; Nick - anxious.
And why should Nick Hardiman be anxious and immediately leave the garden? Beth, his wife, has her suspicions, as well she might. Beth and Nicholas who have run Stonefield for twenty-five years, have what Beth calls 'an open marriage'. She tolerates his 'flings', because, she claims, he needs them and she doesn't: "Affairs are OK, up to a point. Lying about them is not". Nick, however, is a master of deviousness, after all, this is what he writes about in his highly successful crime novels, and Beth knows that "lulling the spouse" is something he wrote about very perceptively in one of his books.
To say that Tamara's love life is the core of this story, is to miss the richness Posy Simmonds creates around it. Her individual, elegant drawings bring the village and the people to life, and her sense of fun is wonderful. It can be no accident that Dr Glen Larson, "translator (MFA, University of Arkansas, PHD. Columbia, currently Visiting Professor at London Medial University)", and the source of a great deal of the fun in the book, looks just like Bill Bryson. They must be good friends. Or, by now, sworn enemies. There is a lurking famous poet, too, who I suspect may have a living double. Simmonds shows Ewedown as a typical English village which is suffering the effects of modern life on the small farms and small villages which are within easy driving distance of London. Local services are non-existent. Its teenagers are bored and find the usual destructive and illegal distractions. Their parents are on benefits. The 'gentry' are bad tempered and know little about the land, and everyone is keen to know every-else's business.
Amongst all this Beth and Nicholas Hardiman run Stonefield, a "working retreat" which is advertised in terms of a writer's heaven, with all the services a writer might ever want, and "Far from the Madding Crowd". Glen's loves the "luxury, the brazen comfort" of it but knows that it has all the ingredients to corrupt a writer and keep him from his work : "I mean", he asks. "should a writer live like a pig in shit and expect the Muse to call?".
Stonefield is Beth's creation. She runs the 16 acres of farmland and the house, keeps the guests happy and well-fed, and at the same time she reads and types Nick's work, acts as his editor, researcher, critic, advisor, and deals with his mail and his appointments so that he can seclude himself in his shed and write the best-seller which keep them in business. Essential to Beth's running of the place is Andy Cobb, whose family had to sell Winnard Farm which they had owned for generations, and the farmhouse of which Tamara has recently inherited from her mother,.
Andy is understandably scathing about 'incomers'. He complains to Glen about "rich bastards" who come in and transform the village with "Townie crap", hanging baskets and the like. But Andy has a soft spot for Tamara, whom he knew before she went to London, began writing a gossipy column for a newspaper, had "a nose job" and became glamorous. Beth describes Andy as "an open honest sort of bloke" and Glen notes the pungent bouquet around him of "earth, dog, tobacco, engine oil..."; but Andy always seems to say the wrong thing to Tamara. And, anyway, he is soon outclassed by the appearance of Ben Sergeant, ex-drummer and song-writer of the famous indie rock band, Swipe, whose designer stubble, aggressive existential angst, and dislike of "wankers", "middle-aged tossers" and country life in general, upset the whole village. All except one local teenager, Casie Shaw, who is infatuated and obsessed with him.
For Casey and her friend Jody Long, Tamara is "Plastic Fantastic", glamorous and lucky. As an alternative to hanging out in the empty bus-shelter, smoking and reading chick-mags, they let themselves into Winnard Farm whilst Tamara is in London, try on her clothes, sample her alcohol, and discuss boys, doing IT, and losing their "V Plates". For fun, on St Valentine's day, Casey sends a sexy, inviting e-mail from Tamara's laptop to Ben, and copies it to Andy and Nick. The ramifications of this involve everyone at Stonefield and, ultimately and most unexpectedly, lead to two deaths and a happy ending.
Posy Simmonds' ear for dialogue is superb and her characters are people you can warm to, laugh with, and understand. The story proceed in pictures, speech and thought bubbles and in small blocks of text. Tamara's newspaper column 'Away From it All', appears in fragments which express her views and her style (not "Shakespeare" but not as bad as Nick's sarcastic "Eurchh yuk" would suggest). Beth's initial revenge on Nick' devious, adulterous behaviour is satisfyingly appropriate. And the frames depicting the difficulties of getting pen to paper for Glen, Tamara and Nick, will ring a bell with any writer: Glen picks his teeth, cleans his nails with a pencil, eats or just sits; Tamara agonizes over deadlines; Nick inhabits his own little universe and writes as if in a snow-storm bubble paperweight when not distracted by Tamara and sex. Nick and Glen engage in some subtle writers' rivalry. There are some caustic comments about Literary Festivals. And, on the rural side, Cows, mating goats, plucked poultry and uncontrollable dogs all play their part in this funny, perceptive, and entertaining book.
No wonder it has been made into a British film which has already had rave review
The Empty Family
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439138328 $24.00 www.amazon.com www.simonsays.com
"The moon lays low over Texas. The moon is my mother. She is full tonight, and brighter than the brightest neon: there are folds of red in her vast amber".
So begins the first of the nine stories in this book, as a man walks the streets of Guadeloupe pouring out his memories of a return to Ireland six years earlier to be with his dying mother. He speaks, in his head, to an old lover, and memories of loss, separation and strained family relationships mingle with regret for long years of hoping for some sign of his mother's love for him and nostalgia for a love which has cooled.
An air of melancholy and nostalgia pervades many of the stories in Colm Toibin's latest book. Memories and regret for familiar people and familiar places left behind, for the changes wrought by distance and time, for the awareness of inhabiting "a landscape of endings". Toibin's great skill is to create these tensions with small brush-strokes which build a picture not just of his narrators, but also of time and place - California, Barcelona, Ireland - all changed.
Carme Giralt, in 'The New Spain', returns after eight years exile in London to a new regime, a new democratic order in post-Franco Spain. Forced to leave because of her Communist sympathies, she returns to reclaim an inheritance left to her and her sister by her grandmother. She finds her parents and brother-in-law hostile towards her because of changes they have made to the estate without her permission; and Spain itself is changed in ways she struggles to absorb. Old customs on St. John's Eve eventually reconnect her with old friends and with some remnants of old Spanish life, but the situation in her family home, her home, is impossible until she reasserts her independence and finds unexpected ease in plans to claim her rightful place in this changed but familiar country.
Several of Toibin's narrators are women and many have an inner strength which supports them through difficult returns. In 'The Empty Family' the narrator could be a man or a woman. I read it as the story of a woman who returns from California to a cottage she owns on the coast in Ireland. In all the years away, she tells us, she would go to a place which reminded her of this coast "so I could miss home". Now she is back in her "dream space" waiting for an old lover to hear of her return and visit her. No-one comes. "My eye, desperate to evade, erase, forget", reaches after new dreams and (perhaps influenced by her reading of William Glass's book On Being Blue) she muses on the way language and perception shape our world, and she blocks out words with the "rich chaos" of the endless waves.
In 'Two Women', a formidable, confident, sharp-tongued set-designer returns to Ireland to work on a film with a director she knows well. "Beside her career nothing interested her now except her own house and her own mind", but Dublin stirs old memories, in particular of a man she had once loved and still regrets losing. When, by chance, she meets the widow of this man, she has to confront her mixed feelings. In the end, she decides, "the years passed: it was as simple as that": and life goes on.
The narrators of several of the stories in this book are gay. Sometimes this is merely suggested and it plays no significant part in the story. But in other stories, 'The Pearl Fishers' and 'Barcelona 1975' in particular, graphic descriptions of homosexual sex are confronting and, for some, will be unacceptable. Those who have followed and enjoyed Toibin's writing over the years may not be prepared for such sudden, open and explicit writing about sex, and I do wonder if it is really necessary to the stories, especially when they are, in themselves, as subtle and complex as others in the book.
In the final and longest story, Malik, a young boy from Pakistan is an immigrant working in Barcelona and living in a small Muslim enclave. He does not know the city, does not speak the language, has no friends, and his employer wields considerable power over him. It is a lonely, insecure and alien life. He learns about people, about power, about violence, about himself and, eventually, about a fellow employee, Abdul, with whom he forms a tenuous friendship and a secret, unspoken and necessarily hidden homosexual bond. The nature of this bond is only made clear when he discovers by accident that Abdul has a wife and children in Pakistan and he realizes how little he knows about the man. But Abdul mends the relationship, telling him "you are my real family".
This is one of the best stories in the book for the way in which it quietly conveys Malik's youth, his naivety and his confusion. He does not know the work or the culture and hardly knows himself, but Toibin skillfully conveys his gradual, half-understanding of his relationship with his employer, of his fellow workers at the barber's shop where he has failed to learn to cut hair, of his severely restricted life in a strange city, and of love.
In all the stories in this book, Toibin's spare, poetic language has subtle and powerful effect and his empathy with his characters is persuasive and convincing. As in his recent book, Brooklyn, he draws the reader into his narrator's inner world and the story is told through their perceptions and their feelings about what happens in their lives. The Empty Family offers some fine, varied, poignant, and not unhappy, stories about memory, loss, love and regret.
The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time
97807011693 92 A$35.00
Full of ghosts as this book is, it is disappointingly unspooky. Ackroyd is not telling ghost stories to scare you. Instead, he describes and reports, raises questions, notes trickery, and generally covers all manner of English ghosts from the earliest times to the present.
There are phantoms, poltergeist, "clerical souls", animal ghosts, wanderers and premonitory ghosts which bring messages or herald a death. And there are plenty of strange occurrences and unexplained events. Ghosts, on the whole, seem not to be the traditional white, spectral appearances but to be solid, like you and me, although they may dress oddly and glide rather than walk, and they do have tendency to vanish into thin air. Those who see them often don't recognize them as ghosts until they disappear, and they generally find them unthreatening and not unfriendly. There are, of course, exceptions. Like the killer of babies recorded in a twelfth century anthology, although it is hard to know how reliable this record is and how much is misinterpretation and superstition. There are ghosts which may cause accidents, too, like the quite recent reports of the phantom on the A38. A number of motorists have had to swerve to avoid a grey-haired, middle-aged man in a mackintosh who appears on the road waving a torch. One woman drove her car into a ditch; a motorcyclist claims to have broken his leg taking avoiding action; and one man says he gave the man a lift on three different occasions. Always the man is drenched with rain. Always he just vanishes.
Ghosts may reappear regularly and then suddenly stop coming. They can be seen by several people at once or by only one particular person. They rarely speak. And there are notoriously haunted places, where apparitions have been seen by many people over many years. But are English ghosts any different to those in other parts of the world? Ackroyd seems to think they are but he offers no proof.
This is a book for dipping into rather than reading straight through. It is a gift book, a pot-boiler written with Ackroyd's usual care and precision. It contains nothing to convince those who don't believe in ghosts, and nothing to change the minds of those who do. But it is a cabinet of curiosities for the curious and offers a pleasant way of passing a few idle hours.
Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions
Money isn't needed for truly great food. "Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions: A Comprehensive Step by Step Guide for a Self Catered Wedding Reception" is a guide for catering a wedding on the cheap by making the countless dishes that are available oneself, with ingredients that won't break the bank and still be a treat to the tongue. With no shortage of recipes and presentation tips, "Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions" is a choice pick for any wedding planner on a budget.
When sentenced to prison, you can lose years of your life. "The Procedure" tells the story of Thomas Walker, a man convicted of murder. His penalty is a drug that ages him his sentence, thirty eight years in a matter of days. But the wrongful accusation gives him little time to clear his name before the worst of the drug steals decades of his life from him. "The Procedure" is an exciting read with a blend of science fiction worked in.
If Words Could Kill
Ronald N. Lawruk
9780986669309, $15.98, www.ronlawruk.com
Silencing dissent is all too tempting. "If Words Could Kill" is a political thriller surrounding corruption in the CIA that seems to be snuffing out dissenters to the current administration. A story of political intrigue and layers of corruption and more, "If Words Could Kill" is an intriguing thriller that will be hard to put down.
Change Your Life!
c/o Cleis Press
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781573444071, $14.95, www.vivaeditions.com
It doesn't take the world to change one's life. "Change Your Life!: A Little Book of Big Ideas" is an inspirational book from Allen Klein as he writes to inspire readers to reach higher in their lives and yearn to be something more in their lives. Stating that finding one's inspiration is as easy as keeping a positive idea in mind every day, "Change Your Life!" is a thoughtful read that shouldn't be overlooked.
PO Box 15991, Las Vegas, NV 89114
9781426935879, $16.33, www.traffordpublishing.com
To leave one's old life behind and search anew. "Exit" is a novel from Liliana Badd telling the story of Ondine, a woman who serves as a lost soul searching for something more out of her life. Her journey is one of uncertainty and trying new things, only to still doubt herself. A touching story that many readers will find their own lives relating to, "Exit" is a story that will be hard to put down.
Surrender to Kindness
Joseph David Osman
9780976422891, $24.95, www.adagiopress.com
War isn't an event for Afghanistan, it's a state of being. "Surrender to Kindness" is a memoir and call to peace for Afghanistan as Joseph David Osman reflects on his own experiences with the war torn region and the conflict they have faced over the past 30 years and then some. Thoughtful with a powerful message, Osman states that peace in Afghanistan is obtainable, it just needs to be worked for. "Surrender to Kindness" is an important read, and very highly recommended.
The 26th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry
Jeffrey A. Hill
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452033877, $36.95, www.authorhouse.com
In the divisions of the Union army, brotherhood was formed as they fought side by side, trying to survive while still trying to get the job done. "The 26th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry: The Groundhog Regiment" tells the unique story of this troop known for its quick agility and prowess when it came to missions that needed digging. Written by a man honoring his ancestors, "The 26th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry" is a fine addition to any military history collection.
Lynette Norris Wilkinson
9780970629210, $13.99, www.hurricanekatrinastories.com
Disaster only makes bonds grow stronger. "Untold: The New Orleans 9th Ward You Never Knew" is a memoir of Lynette Norris Wilkinson as she shares her story of trying to bond with her neighborhood and community and rebuild it to what it once was after the full wrath of Hurricane Katrina. With plenty of stories hoping to shed light on the area, "Untold" is a top pick for those who want to better understand the personal cost of Katrina.
What Did You Expect?
Lynn W. Sigmon
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
Business Service Associates, LLC (publicity)
PO Box 9024, Hickory, NC 28603-9024
9781432757380, $17.95, www.outskirtspress.com
If you go through life expecting everything, you'll often end up with nothing. "What Did You Expect?" is an inspirational book from Lynn and Terry Sygmon preaching in the importance of controlling your expectations and using them to improve one's life and what one gets out of life. With a simple message and plenty of food for thought, "What Did You Expect?" is a fine pick for anyone looking for uplifting works.
Six-Guns Straight from Hell
David B. Riley & Laura Givens, editor
Science Fiction Trails Publishing
PO Box 8191, Avon, CO 81620
There's more to old west than rough and tough gun men. "Six-Guns Straight from Hell" takes the old west and introduces to the evils of the world of fantasy. From people just as fast with spells as they are with guns, to the living dead that roam the wastes, to what lived on after you lost that duel, "Six-Guns Straight From Hell" is a delightful blend of the old west and fantasy that will keep fans of either genre reading all the way through.
47 Days That Changed America
9781439276631, $14.00, www.47daysthatchangedamerica.com
The last forty seven days of the 2008 presidential election are some of the most important days in recent American history. "47 Days that Changed America" is a political memoir from Bob Krouchick offering his own opinions of politics and what it meant as America entered another era of its history. Critical of the Obama administration and the Democratic party, "47 Days that Changed America" is a choice pick for those looking for a book of political opinion.
Mourning Doves After the Fire
Charles D. Blanchard
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781453577844, $19.99, www.xlibris.com
To save a life anything may be tried. "Mourning Doves After the Fire" tells the story of Abby Whitman as she faces off against cancer. Raymond Fletcher, a doctor who gives the diagnosis offers a potential solution to the dilemma, an experimental treatment which could save her life. Blending romance, music, and other elements, "Mourning Doves After the Fire" is a story that will prove hard to put down.
Willis M. Buhle
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450234320, $19.95, www.iuniverse.com
As the world crumbles, racism may regain its ground. "PushBack" tells the story of America in 2033, where the country has split into many sovereign nations. The Federated States, holding the heart of Atlanta, is ruled by a White Supremacist government, and black lawyer Jim Reed finds himself under their iron fist. Not going to lay down without a fight, Reed begins to shove back at tyranny. "PushBack" is a riveting thriller that will prove hard to put down.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533156757, $13.95, www.vantagepress.com
Clawing one's way through the world can prove ever more difficult. "I Remember" is a memoir from Ed Palasz, as he reflects on his life clawing through life, bouncing between foster homes and having to strike out on his own in the world at the age of 15, eventually finding his place in life as a man at sea. A thoughtful and inspirational read, with much to learn, "I Remember" is an excellent read, highly recommended.
Charles L. Fields
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763473, $14.95, www.outskirtspress.com
A red flag is raised when an inheritance is thrown to someone who has nothing to do with the deceased. "Sentimental Me" tells the story of Charles Stone, a Boston lawyer who is changed with finding a case behind the death of a border patrol agent and their life insurance beneficiary. Sensing foul play, his trip to Mexico quickly stops being about the vacation he thought he could get in, and more about murder. "Sentimental Me" is a fun mystery that will prove hard to put down.
Where Credit Is Due
Marguerite B. Parker
9780979370410, $12.95, www.margueriteparker.com
Humility and appreciation are two virtues that can make life easier. "Where Credit Is Due" is a novel following three people on their journeys to love and happiness and their pursuit of what they believe to be whole and true. A story of faith and coming to accept what has been given to you, "Where Credit is Due" is a thoughtful novel with much to think about.
Do You Really Know What Goes on in Nursing Homes?
Shirley Ann Kraemer
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162208, $15.95, www.vantagepress.com
Fear is rarely without basis. "Do You Really Know What Goes on in Nursing Homes?" is an expose and truth revealing book from Shirley Ann Kraemer as she tells the story of what she has seen and heard throughout her decades of service in the industry and she hopes her memoir will shed some light on the facts and offers much wisdom on the matter. "Do You Really Know What Goes On in Nursing Homes?" is a fascinating exploration of nursing homes, recommended.
The Oldest Hands in the World
Black Lawrence Press
115 Center Ave., Aspinwall, PA 15215
9780982636480, $14.00, www.blacklawrence.com
Everyone is at some point displaced in the world and they search for a place to belong. "The Oldest Hands in the World" is a collection of poetry from Daniele Pantano, whose poetry focuses heavily on the concepts of being lost and looking for where you belong. "The Oldest Hands in the World" is a fine read, solidly recommended. "Chess at Night(Backyard, Florida)": Out here. Any given opening. An immediate surrender./A deliverance into blades of grass/Hammered too sharp./Too violent by a game life can no longer stage. So what?/When the once or twice you see someone turn on the lights in the old nursery?/ Your opponent's missing army?
600 Broadway, Lynbrook, NY 11563
9789652294760, $21.95, www.gefenpublishing.com
The Jewish people have a long stretching history and have their fingers in many of the pies of history. "Who Knew?!: Unusual Stories in Jewish History" looks at history and the impact that Jews have had on it in ways that few people have ever truly realized. These bits of history bounce between heroic, tragic, but mostly all of them prove highly interesting. For anyone with a strong interest in Jewish history, especially what is not always heard about, "Who Knew?" is a choice and ideal volume, highly recommended.
The Invisible Order
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806, New York, NY 10016
9781606840313, $16.99, www.egmontusa.com
With talents, there are those who rush to exploit them. "The Invisible Order" tells the story of Emily Snow, a girl who can see into the land of the Faerie. Her talents gain her the attention of the Invisible Order, and they're out to use her. With her unusual roster of friends and associates, she must find something to find her own happiness and place in the world with her talents. A fun read with plenty to keep the pages turning, "The Invisible Order" is an excellent pick, recommended.
The Devil's Sword
Douglas E. Richards
The sword as a tool for justice has fallen out of fashion. But everything has its comeback. "The Devil's Sword" tells of three fencers, Kevin, Rachel, and Ben as they find themselves in a tournament at an Air Force Base, but their concerns are more than which one of them can best handle a blade. The three are pit against master arms dealers and justice may not go down to who has the superior firepower. "The Devil's Sword" is an exciting read that will prove hard to put down.
Thanks for the Memories
Dianne L. Rogers
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162215, $19.95, www.vantagepress.com
Physical things are fleeting, but memories are for a lifetime. "Thanks for the Memories" is a collection of poetry from Dianne L. Rogers as she reflects on the reality of the mind and the eternal nature of one's memories. With plenty to ponder and think about, "Thanks for the Memories" is a fine anthology that shouldn't be overlooked. "Just Because": Because the world isn't always fair/Because friends aren't always there/Because you need to know I care/Because we all need to learn to share/I give to you from my heart.
Raymond T. Sirois
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160402, $18.95, www.vantagepress.com
What seems mundane might not truly be. "North State" is an exciting read from Raymond T. Sirois, who tells the story of the small town of Gold Feather, a town where nothing is at it seems. Following a so called Wizard in Thomas and Cheryl, Sirois tells a story of this unique town and makes for an intriguing read. "North State" is a fine fantasy, highly recommended.
The Triangle on the Oregon Trail
Jack A. Miller
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162987, $13.95, www.vantagepresss.com
The grand trip west was a difficult and deadly one in the nineteenth century. "The Triangle on the Oregon Trail" is a story of the trip west following a young man who travels west to his grandfather's ranch and the adventure he has on this trail. An exciting work of historical fiction, "The Triangle on the Oregon Trail" is a choice pick.
How to Move From Wickedness to Righteousness!
Michael L. Jones
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159024, $8.95, www.vantagepress.com
Many drift away from God in their lives. "How to Move From Wickedness to Righteousness!" is a Christian inspirational guide as Michael L. Jones urges readers to re-discover their faith in God and uses much scripture to help them find their way back to him. "How to Move from Wickedness to Righteousness!" is a valuable read for Christians, recommended.
Bootie's Great Adventure
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161096, $7.95, www.vantagepress.com
You can love more than one, but you can't abandon the first. "Bootie's Great Adventure" tells the story of Bootie, a kitten taken from her first family to live with another. Although fond of her second family, she realizes that she must return to her first somehow, and it doesn't seem as if it will be easy. "Bootie's Great Adventure" is a fun read for pet lovers, recommended.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163205, $8.95, www.vantagepress.com
The beauty of life is only a matter of looking for it. "Charismatic Charm: Flowing Rivers" is a collection of poetry from Anthony Lawton, with a focus on nature, beauty, and what lies beneath. Thoughtful and riveting, "Charismatic Charm" is a fine collection that will be hard to put down. "So I Shine": Like the glistening/Of the sun/So Shall I smile/Rays of hope/That have stood the test of time./So I continue to shine/Knowing darkness will pass/And the sun shall bring forth the/Newness of its day/My day has just started/Blossom/and so I shine.
The Cat in the No-Pet Family
Rita Ann Rice McDonald
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163083, $11.95, www.vantagepress.com
In every country of the world where people find adventure, a cat will find one as well. "The Cat in the No-Pet Family: A Feline Biography" tells the story of Buttons, and her traveling American family that goes all over the world where not everywhere pets are invited for travel. A fun read that cat lovers will swoon over, "The Cat in the No-Pet Family" is not one to be missed.
A Diamond in the Rough
George Anthony Fleming
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162536, $10.95, www.vantagepress.com
The demands of a royal life can be quite overwhelming to a future king. "A Diamond in the Rough" tells the story of Prince Jason Adams IV, heir to the throne of West Gordon. But his ascendance that will soon come as his waning father draws closer to death, comes with the problems of a cruel uncle and those who want to capture West Gordon's lands for their own. "A Diamond in the Rough" is a fun fantasy read that will be hard to put down.
Thirteen Years of Christmas
Maria Elizabeth McVoy
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162154, $12.95, www.vantagepress.com
Christmas is a spiritual time, even if you aren't normally spiritual. "Thirteen Years of Christmas" is a collection of stories surrounding Christmas time and its place in our world and how it inspires us. These stories show Christmas a focal turning point in our lives, closing one year and looking towards the next. "Thirteen Years of Christmas" is a thoughtful read and very solidly recommended.
Michael J. Carson
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312378110 $25.99 www.minotaurbooks.com
Riley James grew up with an alcoholic mother and hustler father who was rarely home. Riley, knowing his way around the rainforest, coastal waters and back roads of Belize, was an easy pick as a smuggler for the Monsanto brothers. Twenty years later, he owns a bar with his good friend Harvey Longworth and has one last run to make before he can call it quits with the Monsantos and enter into a legal life with his American fiancee, Candice. Events spiral out of control beginning with a car accident that pulls Riley into the greedy clutches of corrupt government officials, and no matter how hard Riley tries to make things right, his life is governed by betrayal and violence.
This gritty crime novel moves at a fast pace, building tension and suspense to a surprising end. Vasquez's Elmore Leonardesque writing style guarantees a good read, with well-developed characters and a plot that will not disappoint. Although Riley James is a criminal, he is a likeable, empathetic character and readers will be vested in his attempts to normalize his life. Vasquez's visual descriptive of Belize adds a colorful ambiance, further enriching this intriguing story.
No Such Thing as a Good Blind Date
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana
9781425953515 $15.95 www.authorhouse.com
In book two of the Brandy Alexander mystery series, Brandy's moved back to her hometown of Philadelphia and is now proud owner of her parents' rowhouse. Brandy isn't having much luck finding a job so agrees to provide room and board to Toodie Ventura, a former friend, in exchange for plumbing work on the old house. Toodie turns out to be a great roommate but has one flaw: he keeps bringing home junk and storing it in the basement. When Brandy opens a freezer Toodie told her contains steak, she finds a dismembered woman's body instead. Enter Brandy's ex, cop Bobby DiCarlo, and the fireworks begin. Toodie disappears and Brandy's stuck with a constipated dog he left behind. An attorney claims the dog is his and a burglar tries to steal him, and Brandy becomes suspicious. Toodie calls Brandy, claiming innocence and asking her to find Glen, the man who gave him the freezer. No problem there: Glen's stalking Brandy. If that isn't bad enough, so is Bobby's wife, both with evil intent. Brandy goes on the run, straight into the arms of sexy Nicholas Santiago.
Brandy Alexander is a fun character; a woman who isn't afraid of a few calories and is caught up in a triangular relationship with her ex and a man most consider dangerous. Fredman draws her reader into a humorous plot surrounding zany characters and laugh-out-loud scenarios and dialogue. The South Philadelphia setting is full of life and flavor, the writing witty and charming, topped by excellent first-person narrative.
Tangled in Time
Pauline Baird Jones
9781603182683 $9.95 www.lldreamspell.com
US Air Force Colonel Braedon Carey volunteers to be a guinea pig for an experiment to traverse space and time through an alien portal on the planet of Kikk. Instead of landing in Area 51 in Nevada in the year 2010, he thinks he's somewhere in Texas in 1944. When he stumbles across a Mary Poppins lookalike holding a parasol in one hand and gun in another, Carey knows he's in the wrong place. Olivia Carstairs, from New York circa 1894, arrives in an experimental machine trying to locate the professor who devised it. When Carey suspects his retrieval chip has been damaged in transit and Olivia's machine mysteriously disappears, the two team up in hopes of finding a way back. It doesn't take them long to realize they're highly attracted to one another but there's the frustrating issue that they're from two separate worlds. Will they be able to return to their own times or be stranded in 20th century America, or will one decide to remain with the other?
Jones packs a wallop of a story in Tangled in Time. Humor and suspense abound in a tale filled with action. The diversity between Carey and Olivia in manner and speaking is portrayed with engaging wit and the chemistry between the two is fun and highly entertaining. Fans of Jones will recognize favorite characters from The Key and Girl Gone Nova, an added bonus. This novella will appeal to readers across genres, offering romance, suspense, and mystery all wrapped up in an intriguing Sci-Fi plot that grabs the reader from beginning to end.
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155345 $24.95 www.penguingroup.com
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, home in Jacksonville, Mississippi after graduating college, is anxious to begin a career as a writer. Skeeter accepts a part-time position at the local paper as a household advice columnist, and when she contacts an editor in New York about a possible job, the editor encourages her to write a book. This is during the '60s, the time of the Civil Rights movement, and Skeeter, whose black nanny mysteriously disappeared, decides to write about the black women who take care of white households and raise white children. This is a dangerous venture; blacks are beaten and even killed for raising their voices against whites and Skeeter knows the black maids she interviews are risking their lives. But beginning with Aibileen and her best friend Minnie, each of whom has their own scathing stories to tell, Skeeter eventually has enough interviewees for her book. Skeeter, already ostracized because she has shown sympathy for the blacks, is forced to keep this book a secret, especially from her best friend Hilly, head of the Junior League, a cruel woman who falsely accuses a black maid of thievery, landing her in prison, and who wants to enforce her own law about segregation.
This revealing book, although relaying the prejudice and brutality of whites against blacks in the deep South, is, in the end, an uplifting novel about courage and strength and the lengths people will go to see that the truth is told. Characterization is excellent, from the portrayal of Aibileen, a black maid who raised 17 white children, to Minnie, a black maid who cannot control her mouth yet meekly accepts her husband's beatings, to Hilly, an embittered woman who looks upon blacks as pawns in her power games. The reader watches Skeeter grow from an awkward young woman enduring her mother's constant criticism to a confident person ready to leave this world behind and begin a new life. A riveting read, from beginning to end.
The Whispering Soul
2, Leopardstown Grove, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin
Betty Cosgrave grew up in a severely dysfunctional family with an abusive father who only visited once a year and a mother with a gambling addiction who had no time or affection for her children. From an early age, when her father would beat her, Betty would dissociate from her body and use other means of coping, such as rocking. She craved affection and family, and received neither. She saw spirits and communicated with them, which seemed very natural to her. As an adult, Betty married and had children, at which time, she began to face her demons. She learned how to manage her thoughts and control stress. She studied Reflexology, Reiki, Kinesiology and Tapping and utilized these with clients who were physically and mentally ill. Hers is a success story, first with herself, then with others.
This is not the average self-help book. The author's childhood and her somewhat traumatic journey into adulthood are interesting and evoke empathy. The ways she helps clients are intriguing - not focusing on any one ideology but on several - and the statements by clients at the end of the book are testament to her success. Curious about her methods, this reviewer used Tapping for stomach distress and was surprised at how effective it is. Cosgrave encourages visualization and positive thinking, and gives examples of how to achieve these. She freely shares websites with her readers for further research about the healing modalities she utilizes. An outstanding and beneficial self-help book.
Christy Tillery French
Give Me Tomorrow
Patrick K. O'Donnell
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306818011 $26.00 www.amazon.com www.perseusbooksgroup.com
As Veterans Day comes upon us, we remember all those heroes who served our country in past wars for the United States. "Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story" by Patrick K. O'Donnell is the true story of the heroic stand made by the American marines of George Company who served in an unpopular Korean War, sacrificing their lives to stop the communist onslaught of North Korea and the Chinese army.
O'Donnell is the author of six previous books, including "Beyond Valor", "We Were One", "They Dared Return" and "The Brenner Assignment." He interviewed over one hundred marines who served in George Company and has corroborated his book with primary source materials.
As the story unfolds it is as audacious as any movie, but the remarkable part of this saga is that it is true. Reading is gruesome at times, but so is war. The smells, bullets, explosions, and premonitions are forever etched in the mind of the reader. Each story is poignantly told, sometimes with humor, and other times with compassion which will bring tears to your eyes.
One incident tells of a Rabbi who appears on the battlefield to conduct a service for those Jewish frontline troops. There is only one serviceman who was Jewish in the outfit and he asked his superior what he should do since the Rabbi is there for a prayer service. Without hesitation one fellow Marine said they will all attend the service. The service was conducted in the remnants of a catholic church and the Rabbi was greeted by a full audience. He asked if they are all Jewish and they responded they were. He then reminded these 'Jewish' Christian Marines to cover their heads as is customary when praying in Judaism.
Fighting in Korea in the 1950's was extremely difficult due to the weather, terrain, and Chinese soldiers. Temperatures were in the -30's, mountains were icy, and rivers bordered rustic roads which had to be overcome. The enemy was vastly underestimated by intelligence 'experts' who pegged the numbers at around 200,000 strong; whereas, in fact, they were 600,000 plus. A joint effort by the United Nation's forces made the Herculean effort by the 200 men of George Company seem incredible as they earned Congressional Medals of Honor, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, and of course Purple Hearts as they sustained 300 % casualties during the many skirmishes they endured.
An outstanding reminiscent was when a combat journalist asked a marine who was attempting to eat a "C" ration in sub-zero temperature the question which would become the title of this book. "What would you want if you could have any wish?" The Marine "continued to stand motionless, with empty eyes. Then his lips began to open... [and] his eyes went up into the graying sky."
"Give me tomorrow."
This book has not only brought to life those who gave theirs in the defense of freedom, it captures the essence of how the Marine Corps is a brotherhood of men who will sacrifice their safety and lives for each other. 60 years have passed and the tales which are recanted still brings tears to the eyes of those who served.
On November 10, 2010 a stone memorial will be dedicated in the memory of those 150 men of George Company who died in the Korean War which will take place at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Virginia.
This book is highly recommended as another memorial to those who have valiantly served.
Dreams & Schemes: My Decade of Fun in the Sun
Camino Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9781933822310 $17.95 www.amazon.com
There are very few collections of newspaper columns which are noteworthy, but "Dreams & Schemes: My Decade of Fun in the Sun" by Steve Lopez is one that demands attention. S. Lo, as he calls himself, has been in the newspaper field for many years and started with the Los Angeles Times in 2001 after stints with other media outlets. Each column is a factual, hard-hitting, and no-holds barred commentary on current events taking place primarily in California.
His past writings have included "The Soloist" which was made into a 2009 Dream Works film starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. and "Land of Giants: Where No Good Need Goes Unpunished".
Writing in a style which is often sardonic he has shown the flair of a crafty word-smith. He takes on giants like Governor Schwarzenegger to the Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa. Using a blustery 'need-to-know' attitude, he doggedly stalks his prey for interviews which are often not very complimentary. After all, S. Lo intends to tell his readers the real down and dirty truth which he can substantiate.
Columns are about the same length and the compilation in this book was carefully chosen. Some go back to the year when he started with the LA Times (2001) and others are in vogue today (2010).
In September 2004, Steve took on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for their donations to charities with taxpayer money. He also pointed out they had discretionary accounts which allowed them to spend one million dollars per year! One Commissioner was singled out to be frugal for many years and then lavished 15 Million dollars on a Mexican American cultural center. Lopez interviewed, summarized, and then protested as he felt the action was not appropriate.
Many columns amuse with a tongue in cheek attitude which often ends with a biting canard which was the purpose first place. In February 2008 Steve took on "the zeal of the City Hall bureaucrats". A family was fined in 2007 for trimming some overgrown trees on their property. Amount of fine $347,000! The whole episode was laid out tree-by-tree and how the homeowners had researched their contribution to the ecology of the neighborhood for the conservation of water. They got drought resistant plants, hired an experienced trimmer to cut back vegetation according to standardized practices, and many other things which a caring homeowner would do in the preservation of a home. Absurdity was the rule rather than the exception and S.Lo once again pointed out for all to read how government can get a little too powerful in the interpretation of the laws they are charged to enforce.
August 2005 brought a column which frankly is amazing. "Malibu: How the Other Half Leases." Houses on the ocean were renting for $120,000 to $30,000 per month during the season. The names of famous residents are thrown around, but care was taken to not name those whose rents were to the extreme. Steve's sources for the expose were leasing agents who gave him the inside scoop, but swore him to secrecy on the names.
These are just a few examples of the kind of columns that Steve Lopez wrote for the LA Times and continues to write. The collection in this book is really worth the time and trouble to read them. The only drawback is that many of these columns leave you wanting more, not only in the number of the columns, but also they could have been expanded. Newspaper space often limits the number of words you can print, but a book does not have the same limitation. Steve's style is entertaining and enlightening. "Dreams & Schemes" is highly recommended.
The Burning Wire
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439156339 $26.99 www.simonandschuster.com 1-866-506-1949
I have selected this book, mainly because I have read all of Jeffrey Deaver's main character's Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme utilizes NYPD detective Amelia Sachs, and later Ron Pulaski as his eyes, ears, and legs on crime sites. I have also read many of his earlier novels, and I am looking for them to complete the entire library. He never seizes to amaze me with his plot structure and high technology crime detective mystery thrillers. I read some of his earlier books, and when he wrote his first Lincoln Rhyme story. I couldn't stay away from continuing the readings.
A newer form of weaponry is used against the public by a killer's demands of a power company. It has to be discovered soon to protect more innocent lives. Electricity is the invisible and omnipresent weapon and Lincoln Rhyme along with Amelia Sachs and Ron Pulaski assist the Algonquin Consolidated Power and Light Company right after the first explosion occurred in broad daylight. The frightening scene helps reduce a city bus to a pile of molten shrapnel-riddled metal, and horrifically kill an innocent passenger in trying to board it The FBI and home security assist the team to try to discover who is behind this new nightmare. As the attack keep increasing across the city, along with demand letters and very little forensic evidence to help Rhyme in this puzzling case. He is also jointly preoccupied and helping to capture the Watchmaker hunted by authorities in Mexico. He was one of those who have eluded Rhyme's capture net. Juggling two cases against the cruel ticking clock also takes it toll on Rhyme's health. This adds to the difficulty of working from the available evidence to help his close allies to solve this horrific case. The cat and mouse game of the plot make this a very exciting story-line, which the author keeps the reader wondering what will be the final outcome.
Jeffrey Deaver is the international bestselling author of twenty-six novels along with two collection of short stories known as Twisted. His more recent novel The Bodies Left Behind was novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers Association and his Lincoln Rhyme thriller The Broken Window was also nominated for that prize. Deaver has various awards from the British Crime Writer's Association including the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger along with the Nero Wolfe Award. He is a three-time recipient for Ellery Queen Readers Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He has been nominated for six Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. His book Maiden's Grave was made into a HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin. His novel The Bone Collector was a feature release from Universal Pictures starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. One of his novels The Devil's Teardrop was a recent story on the Lifetime Cable Movie Channel. Deaver attended University of Missouri and received his law degree from Fordham University. I eagerly await his next novel. I consider this author to be one of America's best writers of this genre. So he is considered to be a worthwhile author of very creative detective mystery writing who keeps up with the times in his inventive villains and plot lines. It is a treat to be having this good an author who like I said never seizes to amaze me only to enthrall my craving of an excellent story.
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York NY, 10017
9780446554961 $26.99 1-800-486-8666 www.HachetteBookGroup.com
I picked up Relic on the shelf when it was just first out, and Douglas Preston along with joint author Lincoln Child have followed up with more collaborated novels. They did some ones by themselves including eleven solo ones by Preston, and seven by Child. I admit their main protagonist Aloysius X. L. Pendergast with his direct quiet manner has intrigued me from the first book. Their additional important characters have all made me an interested fan of all of their books which lies in my favorite genre' mystery. I enjoy these authors juggling of plots, twists, and keeping track of the characters whether stand alones or with some of the pairs of which should be read back to back.
Pendergast notices when he examines an item used in his past travels, that something is amiss with the accidental death of his wife over twelve years ago. He seeks the help of his friend Vincent D' Agosta to go with him back to Africa to explore some events. They need to do some smart Sherlock Holmes and Watson detective type of deductive reasoning This brainstorming and questioning of past people who were involved around her early life when first married to Pendergast. The quarries start to notice their checking with people start following them on their digging up some of the events that transpired to her death to cover up their own tracks. They also start eliminating witnesses and people connected to Helen's quest to unravel some things they wished hidden. It get to be a dangerous search for both of them, and there is added help from Captain Laura Hayward. Their journey takes Pendergast and D' Agosta to Arica, Louisiana, and Mississippi. During their travels Constance Greene ends up getting arrested for some travesty and place in maximum security institution. The dangers of those responsible for Helen's demise brings the seekers into some harrowing adventures in a huge dangerous swamp, and when the story ends the reader discovers there might be more loose ends not finished.
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have their joint written books together and have their solo novels. One of Preston's bestselling non-fiction novel The Monster of Florence is being made into a major motion picture. Lincoln Child is a former editor who has published four bestselling novels on his own. The authors new series will start next winter about an uncommon "Investigator" by the name of Gideon Crew. I eagerly await their next Pendergast novel when it's released, as they plan to keep both under the fire. This will keep their work fresh, and very busy switching back and forth with solo novels, Pendergast novels and this new Crew series. I think they spoil their faithful readers with all this book activity.
Ben Treven, an operative in a secret American unit known as Joint Special Operations Command, finds himself in a crowded, dirty Manila jail after having a bar fight with three Australian servicemen. After two harrowing days, he is bailed out by his commander, Colonel Scott Horton. His boss has a dangerous assignment for him. David Larsen, a former JSOC member of the unit, but now presumed dead has surfaced.
During the fight on terrorism, the JSOC, would bring prisoners to black sites, where Larsen would extract information from them using methods that had no limits. After a protracted period of time, the commander wanted Larsen to stand down, which he did and disappeared, but now he was back with video tapes of his activities which he would release to the world press until he received one hundred million dollars in diamonds. Traven's assignment was to find Larsen and stop him before he could release the volatile tapes.
Ben goes to visit Larsen's wife in Orlando and develops information that Larsen has been visiting Costa Rica several times a year, supposedly on company business which is not true. Treven suspects that Larsen has a girlfriend in that country and he follows the trail. Along the way, teams up with a young, beautiful FBI agent. Paula who is also in on the hunt. Together they are off to Costa Rica where violence and intrigue await them.
This is a complex, compelling novel and David Larsen emerges as one of the most evil adversaries in the annals of international terror fiction. Another great job by Mr. Eisler. This book is highly recommended.
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, N. Y. 10014
A middle-eastern professor and acknowledged moderate in global interaction is killed in an automobile accident in London. At the time he was being "shadowed" by an Israel intelligence agent who recovers his briefcase. The contents of the briefcase confirms suspicions that actually the professor is a player in the world of anti-western terrorism. Pictures and documents indicate that the next target for an attack is The Vatican.
Gabriel Allon, an Israeli top operative volunteers to go to Rome to assist in security for the Pope and those around him. Once there, Gabriel reviews the precautions against an attack and finds some week points in their plan, but the Pope chooses not to accept his changes. At the Pope's next public appearance in The Vatican, disaster strikes and terrorists make an attempt to kill the Pope and blowup the Basilica. The Pope is uninjured, but several people are killed and a hole is blown in the roof of the Basilica. Allon kills several gunmen, but escapes injury.
The Israeli Intelligence people authorize Gabriel to investigate the case in cooperation with the Italian authorities. Through his international connections, Gabriel is able to trace the plan of the attack to a terrorist named Ahmed bin Shafiq. He also finds that this killer is being bankrolled by a billionaire Saudi named Zizi al-Bakari, who has business enterprises all over the world. Gabriel and his superiors determine that there should be an attempt to eliminate both of these threats to world peace.
Gabriel Allon determines that in order to get to Zizi al-Bakari he must put someone in his inner circle. Finding that al-Bakari is a collector of Impressionist paintings he works with a London art seller, Julian Isherwood, to offer for sale a rare Van Gogh, previously never on the market. Zizi al-Bakari is very interested and Gabriel arranges to have a young American woman bring the painting to Zizi's yacht moored off Saint-Barthelemy. The young woman, Sarah Bancroft, has been trained by the CIA to integrate herself into Zizi's group and send messages back to Gabriel so he can close in on his prey.
So begins a complex and violent story of counter-terrorism with many twists and turns. Dan Silva presents another compelling story in the international terrorism genre with a thrilling climax. This book is highly recommended.
Edward F. Smith
Mirror of Opposition
T. S. Robinson
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441561008 $15.00 www.amazon.com www.xlibris.com
The fight scenes are believable and well done and his cover did draw me in to want to enter the fantasy realm of his novel, but that is all I can say positive about this novel. The author gives us no background of his characters and I. as a reader had no clue as to the age of the adolescent boys studying to be ninjas. Good novels have several things that move the story along. Conflict of characters, characters you feel something for and interesting situations as well. This one has none of those things and his two other novels "Into the Dragons Maw" and "Battle Chasers" are written in the same manner. A novel has to have more than a cover and good fight scenes to please a reader.
Call Me Mrs. Miracle
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778328193 $16.95 www.amazon.com
This is a fun read just in time for the holidays. I haven't read "Mrs. Miracle" the earlier book but you do not have to read it to enjoy this sequel. Jake Finley, son of the owner of the store Finley's has a problem. He has to prove himself to his father. Jake purchased merchandise that his father is not to happy to have at their store. Sales are not really happening and Jake's father is not a supporter of Mrs. Miracle, who is working in the toy department. Holly Larson is having a bad Christmas. She wants the holiday to be good for her eight year old nephew Gabe because his father is away in the army in the Middle East and he won't be home for Christmas. She also has a problem because Gabe has his sights set on a certain toy that she can't really afford. The author tells her two stories and moves them along to a satisfying conclusion. Hallmark Channel will be showing a movie version of this wonderful tale during the holidays. Read the novel before you see the movie.
Jeanie L. S. Galster
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781453522691 $15.00 www.amazon.com www.xlibris.com
The book has a very fast pace and a very sinister dark perception but is lost with a an ending that was very hard to understand. The ending is the only negative thing I had with this novel.
Snowy Pea and the Ghost Crab
Kyle L. Miller author
Randon T. Eddy, illustrator
Jungle House Publications
736 Cardium Street, Sanibel, FL 33957
9780976933236, $16.95, www.amazon.com www.junglehousepublications.com
I loved this kid's book that is for all ages to enjoy. The author tells the story of Snowy Pea a Snowy Plover who has a problem. She has laid her eggs and is worried about some other animals and birds who will attempt to eat them. Some interesting characters come to aid her and protect her eggs. The writing is fun while educational for everyone. The artwork by Randon T. Eddy adds a depth to the work that makes it that much more fun to read. This is a very great team and I would love to see other collaborations by these two talented women.
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778327769 $7.99 www.amazon.com
Harrison J Walker takes cases there is no way to win. At the beginning they are airtight. This one is that way. The accused Jeremy Estrada killed another boy after a fight. There is no way Jaywalker can dispute the facts. This is another page turner by a master of the legal thriller. The novel races along with interesting characters, great dialogue and fascinating conflicts. Anyone who likes Grisham should add Teller to their list of great legal thriller authors.
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312605865 $16.99 www.amazon.com
Here is another fine novel for the Christmas season. Holly a six year old girl lost her mother in a car accident. Her uncle Mark Nelson takes her in and tries to make a life for them. After the traumatic event Holly has not spoken and Mark is very concerned. He also has another problem. His girlfriend is not always there for him. There is also the character of Maggie Conroy, who believes she will never find anyone else after losing her husband of a year. The author provides enough conflict that moves the story along as well as interesting characters and a very satisfying ending. This is another great read for the Christmas season.
L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume XXVI
Galaxy Press LLC
7051 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, California 90028
978159212841471 $7.99 www.amazon.com www.galaxypress.com
'Writers of the Future' is the longest running contest in Science Fiction. Over 25 years and still going strong. This compilation shows why the series continues to produce some of the newest talent in the genre. The number of authors and artists who have come through this competition is staggering. "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume XXVI" is another great collection of new gifted writers.
Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny
77 West 66th Street New York, NY 10023
9781401323912 $2.99 www.amazon.com www.HypoerionBooks.com
In "Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny", for the first time Marlo Thomas tells about growing up with so many comedians who were legends in the field of comedy. Her father Danny Thomas was one of them and she tells many wonderful stories about him and the many others her family knew. She also talks about the making of "That Girl," and movies and TV shows she has been part of. "Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny" is also a study of comedy where she interviews many of the current funny men and women. This is an enjoyable book that will have readers laughing out loud.
The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries
Phyllis Raybin Emert
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
978765365958 $27.95 www.amazon.com
In "The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries: Volume I" there fifty-two tales of things that have never been resolved. One of the most interesting is the one titled "Disaster at Sea" In it the author talks about a ship that is unsinkable that hits an iceberg on an April evening in the mid Atlantic Ocean. No, it is not the Titanic. It is a novel named Futility by Morgan Robertson and the name of the ship is Titan. This book was written in 1898. And a journalist named W. T Stead warned in the 1880s that ships did not carry enough lifeboats for the crews and passengers. This same writer was a passenger on the Titanic. That is just one of the interesting stories in this fascinating book.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587509 $24.95 www.amazon.com www.poisonedpenpress.com
Kevin Merrick, a patient of Dr. Dan Rinaldi for six months, had finally made a breakthrough of sorts, overcoming the self-imposed barriers and opening up about the traumatic events in his childhood. Now 23 years old, he has used drugs, cutting, and other ways of dealing with his problems. Now Danny feels he may be able to help him in a more lasting way. However, shortly after leaving Danny's office, and in his building's parking lot, Kevin is murdered.
A clinical psychologist, Danny is an outside consultant with the Pittsburgh P.D., his specialty being treating victims of violent crime. Having himself suffered from just such a trauma five years earlier, in an incident which left his wife dead and him seriously injured, he can truly 'feel their pain' [to uses a current cliche]. Danny's life is placed in jeopardy of various kinds: he is threatened with the loss of his professional license for his choice of treatment of the dead boy; and the police see him as a 'person of interest' in the boy's murder or, in the alternative, the intended victim and now next on the killer's agenda. Through all this he needs to try to deal with more than one prior patient who starts to become unglued as matters escalate in this compelling noir thriller.
Mr. Palumbo, a psychotherapist himself, draws interesting characters: Danny himself; Sgt. Harry Polk, "a beer keg in a wrinkled blue suit;" his partner, Det. Eleanor Lowrey, and Casey Walters, the erratic, erotic young ADA. And beyond all the action, and all the sex, the identity of the murderer stays tantalizingly out of reach, with Danny's life still at risk, until the final pages. This is the author's first novel, and though that seems apparent at some times more than others [e.g., "I ducked my head under the scalding water. I wanted it to burn, to sear off the day's events, to scour me clean" and "the purple sky looked like a bruise], overall I loved the writing, e.g., ". . . the old precinct house. A century of brutal Pittsburgh winters had etched huge worry lines in the face it showed the world" and "Pennsylvania is a green state, never greener than after a heavy rain. Trees glisten, leaves studded with tears. Puffs of wind push around the big clouds, sun-speckled, intensely white. The old Appalachian Hills, sloping away before spreading urban tendrils, looking as pristine and timeless as when the first settlers came over four hundred years ago." [I also greatly enjoyed the protagonist's, and I assume the author's, choice of music, and jazzmen, sprinkled through the tale.] Recommended.
Dean M. DeLuke
Grey Swan Press
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9780980037760 $28.95 www.greyswanpress.com
First things first: A "shedrow" is "a row of a dozen or so individual [horse] stalls facing a walkway." That tidbit known, I would imagine, by those familiar with horse farms was only one of many picked up while immersed in this debut novel by Dean DeLuke who, like his protagonist, Dr. Anthony Gianni, combines ownership of thoroughbred horses with life as a doctor with an impressive c.v.: a specialty in oral and maxillofacial surgery [including plastic surgery], also having done a stint in a hospital in England as well as volunteer work as a medical missionary.
Dr. Gianni has only recently come to find both peace and excitement at the racetrack as the book opens: ". . . of late he had abandoned the seascapes in favor of the training track. Once inside those gates [in Saratoga Springs, New York], he felt as though he were a million miles from the hustle of Manhattan and the frenzy of a big city emergency room." He is moved to purchase a share of the ownership of a two-year-old horse which particularly captivates him.
There is much here of both aspects of Dr. Gianni's life, both in his hospital surgeries and volunteer work in the poorest area of a small Caribbean island nation, as well as of horseracing and the seamier aspects of a world where the life, health and death of magnificent animals can mean millions of dollars won or lost. The reader is taken to places as divergent as New York City, encountering crime bosses in Newark, New Jersey and all that that implies, and horse farms in Lexington, Kentucky, as well as racetracks around the country. When the mafia intervenes, things turn ugly, and threats are made against the human and animal inhabitants of the book. The novel is well-written and suspenseful, and is satisfying in terms of both a medical thriller and the excitement, and sometimes the dangers, inherent in horseracing.
Mr. DeLuke's writing has been called a combination of Dick Francis and Robin Cook, something with which I would have to agree. The mantle heretofore worn by Mr. Francis may indeed soon have a new owner. Recommended.
Fever of the Bone
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061986482 $14.99 www.harpercollins.com
Val McDermid's latest Carol Jordan/Tony Hill novel more than lives up to the expectations raised by the previous books in the series. DCI Carol Jordan now heads up her own elite Major Incident Team, handling current as well as cold cases, but the status quo is threatened by the new chief constable, as is the team's consulting arrangement with Dr. Tony Hill, clinical psychologist and criminal profiler extraordinaire. The tale covers a series of horrendous murder/mutilations of young, seemingly unconnected victims, and an old case into which new life [so to speak] has been infused. Newly available lines of investigation, of course, in both forensics and information technology, play a large role. In the current case, not the least of the questions is, what possible motivation could there be in the killing and mutilation of 14-year-olds?
There are few straight lines in the narrative, with scenes alternating from one aspect of the story line to another, but somehow that works to only increase the suspense quotient. The portraits of Carol's team members are well-drawn, with each having a distinct personality and set of talents. I found it fascinating to get inside the head of Tony Hill, a man who is troubled by his own psyche, but whose expertise lies in his ability to get inside of the head of the person whose identity he is hunting. The intimate [albeit chaste] relationship of Jordan and Hill is, as always, a thing of beauty and wholly satisfying to the reader [if not always to the participants].
The novel is tightly plotted, the writing containing some small gems, e.g., "offer[ing] up information . . . in the spirit of a dog dropping a soggy newspaper at the feet of its human," and, speaking of an outgoing phone message, "his phone greeting sounded astonished and wary, as if he was taken aback by a ringing piece of plastic that spoke when you lifted it." Ms. McDermid manages to find just the right turn of phrase to perfectly capture a mood, or an emotion, often bringing a smile or a nod in the process. Parenthetically, I found intriguing that the number 14 runs through the book in several contexts. Refreshingly, the cases are ultimately solved through no sudden [read 'unrealistic'] flashes of brilliance, but by painstaking police work, "old-fashioned coppering," in the author's words. The book is highly recommended. [The title, in case you were wondering, derives from a T.S. Elliot poem.]
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439102398 $26.99 www.simonandschuster.com
Temperance Brennan, as most readers already know [if not from her books, then from the very popular TV show "Bones," based on those same books], is usually based in North Carolina. This latest entry in the series opens with the forensic anthropologist in Quebec, in early May, with her former boyfriend, Lt. detective Andrew Ryan of homicide, working on what she describes as "the decomposed, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, and skeletal for the province, helping the coroner with identification, cause of death, and postmortem interval." When the body of a man is found in a local pond, a fingerprint match is promptly made. Good news, one would think - except that the match is to a man who apparently died forty years ago, in Vietnam. The ensuing investigation takes Brennan and Ryan to Hawaii to try to determine how the same man could be dead in two places.
The reader is provided with a fascinating look at the facility in Hawaii where ongoing work has been carried on for decades to identify bodies from as far back as WWII, as well as SE Asia and the current ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,400 military personnel have been returned to their families to date, an amazing number. The author herself served as an external consultant there, and her expertise is evident.
Brennan's personal life comes into play, of course, e.g., her daughter, Katy, coming out of a 'recent fascination with a thirty-two-year-old drummer named Smooth,' her renewed relationship with Ryan and his with his daughter, Lily, 19 years old and recently out of rehab.
Other bodies are uncovered, and evidence found as to the identity of each, as well as the one in Montreal, only gets more and more confusing. I have to admit that after a while I got glassy-eyed trying to keep the various possibilities straight. Confusion reigns, for the book's characters and the reader as well. I found the novel often slow going, although the pace quickens as the conclusion nears. In any event, and despite those things, overall this was an interesting and entertaining read.
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478651 $14.00 www.sohopress.com
When the fifteen-year-old granddaughter of one of the most important and influential men in Recife, and indeed in all of Brazil, goes missing, the case lands on the desk of Chief Inspector Mario Silva, who makes his third appearance in this latest in the series. [The politician's office is described as "decorated partly in nineteenth-century French colonial and partly in twenty-first-century Brazilian egomaniac."] As the Brazilian Federal Police is apparently "a smaller organization than the police departments of many major cities," Silva is forced to call upon the local police. This would seem to be a good thing, until one realizes how thoroughly corrupt are those so-called officers of the law.
The early action in the book takes place in Amsterdam, before settling in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital, and Manaus, deep in Amazon country. The description of the latter city in these pages will not raise any tourism interest, depicted as it is as a place rife with corruption and crime to incredible degrees. Silva's investigation is hampered on all sides: When outright bribery is not the motivating force, it is political expediency.
In this novel the author delves a bit more into the back-story of Inspector Silva. As well, he brings back Claudia Andrade, the hugely sadistic woman who readers met in "Buried Strangers," the second novel in the series. This book is darker and more violent than the prior entry, dealing as it does with the exploitation of under-age girls, some as young as 10, sold into prostitution and worse, much worse. The suspense steadily builds towards a page-turning denouement, and the fast pace, tight plotting and well-drawn characters all make it a book which is highly recommended.
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156496 $27.95 www.amazon.com
Sandford has added another great detective novel to his Prey series with Storm Prey. Detective mysteries can be fanciful with extreme characters or realistic. Sandford writes his detective stories as a fiction but with a feel of reality. Your typical crook is not that smart. The smart ones become CEOs and white collar criminals. The problem with finding your villain isn't their brains but finding the few bad people within a population of thousands. Sandford brings out the play and counter play of the vicious bad guy fumbling to keep alive and free and the workhorse detective slugging his way through the clues and sorting through the thousands of people filling the void between criminal and cop.
Surgeon, Weather Karpinnen, drives into the hospital parking structure in the wee hours of a storming winter morning to help in a surgery to separate two conjoined girls. She inadvertently sees a team of robbers who have just raided the hospital pharmacy for millions of dollars' worth of drugs and beaten a hospital worker to death. The crew decides that they will need to eliminate the witness and start planning on killing Weather. They don't know that she is the wife of Luca Davenport the lead investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and a lethal adversary in his own right.
Storm Prey is one of the top detective mysteries for the year. The gritty story takes you into a fictional world that has a feel of being possible. This makes it an enjoyable change from the super criminal crime fighter tale you will frequently find on the shelves. This story will keep John Sandford on the short list of the best detective genre authors writing today.
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
c/o Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670021260 $45.00 www.amazon.com
"Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years" is a single volume history book. It is not a promotional/apologist book or even a detailed study but an extensive survey. MacCulloch has worked to keep his personal religious insights to the minimum and has tried to summarize vast spans of history with as little distortion as possible. He is English and this has colored his view - English issues are examined from the inside while history from other locations is viewed as a trained outsider looking in. Within these limitations, he has produced an excellent text that brings out the scope and the huge variety of the largest religion in the world.
As with any good history, you have to examine the past and conditions that produce the events you are studying. In the case of Christianity, this would include the Jewish history and ancient Greek/Roman culture. People can only communicate and share ideas by using words and concepts they share. Christianity became a religion when it built itself using the native history of Jesus and its blending with the dominate culture of his time - Greek/Roman. This blending explains the key stories that became the religion. Some might consider the large sections of the history pre-Christian culture unneeded but it soon becomes obvious that these portions are needed to understand Christianity's growth throughout the world.
The most amazing fact the average person will get from reading this book is the huge variety that makes up the religion. It has never been just a single church but a blend that keeps changing with introductions of different cultures. Minor and major issues produce different churches. Most varieties have basically the same core beliefs so the differences are more cosmetic than what the average person believes. These can range from something as simple as if you can use leaven or unleavened bread for communion or as major as if you should use the Old Testament as part of your scripture. The variety can go on forever.
One of the more interesting aspect of Christianity is how it is either used or how it occasionally tries to use the other political forces in the world. This has resulted in both promise and pain. Some of the internal disputes over trivial matters have resulted in the deaths of millions when the marriage of politics and religion creates forces neither can fully control. In other cases, the marriage between politics and religion has brought beauty, knowledge and life to millions more. This uneasy alliance between politics and religion is a major thread in the history of Christianity and the history of the world.
For anyone interested in history, Christianity is a great survey. It strikes a good balance between details and generalizations and keeps personal opinions and religion to a minimum. It is a must read text for a true scholar of history and a worthy guide for anyone wanting to explore.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
Andrew M. Greeley
666 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10103
0446512648 $16.95 www.amazon.com
My first reaction to God Game was that Andrew Greeley comes across as far too intelligent to believe in a fairy tale creature called "Lord God." But his persistent references to such an entity as if it exists in the real universe are so grating that I was more than once on the verge of giving up in disgust and throwing the book in the trash can. I managed to finish reading it, but Greeley's constant reminders of his brainwashing did not make it easy.
Greeley's insertion of himself into his story, blurring the distinction between the author and his characters, was tolerable as a one-time experiment. But it was sufficiently off-putting to guarantee that I will never read another of Greeley's books. Even his annihilation of the George W. Bush administration, A Stupid, Unjust and Criminal War, a collection of newspaper articles written over the course of eight years, lost any appeal it might have had when it became clear that Greeley's ability to recognize the Bush Gestapo as an organized crime syndicate did not overcome his self-hypnosis (for want of a better term) that blinds him to the status of the Roman Catholic Church as the world's largest organized crime syndicate. Greeley denouncing the Bush administration from a godphuqt Catholic perspective is analogous to Ian Paisley denouncing the Papacy from a godphuqt Protestant perspective.
Despite his disputes with church hierarchy, Greeley is described in Wikipedia as "a priest in good standing." But while he was able to recognize in 1972 that, "Honesty compels me to say that I believe the present leadership in the church to be morally, intellectually, and religiously bankrupt," he has no ability to recognize that it is the RC church, not mere individuals, that is morally and intellectually bankrupt. George Orwell wrote about Greeley's rationalizations. He called them doublethink.
God Game is successful as a curiosity. As science fiction it is original. As literature it ranks alongside, "It was a dark and stormy night." And appearances notwithstanding, anyone who can examine the God delusion as closely as Greeley has done, and continue to mistake it for nonfiction, is not functionally intelligent.
Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
McClelland & Stewart
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto, ON, M5A 2P9, Canada
9780771035784 $29.99 www.amazon.com
"I will show you evidence that a vanguard of startling wrongness is entering British universities, alongside genuine academic research" (p. xi). That surprised me. I have long been aware that universities worldwide accredit schools of theology, where, in contrast to all legitimate academic disciplines, students are taught to start from predetermined conclusions and distort the evidence to whatever degree is necessary in order to make it fit. And a university in Scotland some time ago instituted a chair of parapsychology (euphemism for "count the hits and ignore the misses"). I now find that a chair of complementary medicine (euphemism for quackery) has been instituted at the University of Exeter (p. 49). As author Ben Goldacre points out (p. xi), the ability of alternative therapists to pass themselves off as practitioners of science makes them "more dangerous, because the real threat from cranks is not that their customers might die... but that they systematically undermine the public's understanding of the very nature of evidence."
Goldacre stops short of recognizing that the very existence of departments that teach theology, parapsychology and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) delegitimizes the whole university. Would anyone dispute that a university that instructs students to believe that Santa Claus comes down the chimney on Mithra's birthday cannot be taken seriously? Where is the difference? And in his concluding chapter, Goldacre notes (p. 255), "I am not surprised that there are people with odd ideas about medicine or that they sell those ideas. But I am spectacularly, supremely, incandescently unimpressed when a university starts to offer B.Sc. science courses in them."
In discussing the brainwashing of school children with a scam called Brain Gym, that I had not previously heard of because (p. 15), it "hasn't quite caught on in the United States to the same degree that it has in the U.K.," Goldacre seizes the opportunity to explain (p. 20) that, "children are predisposed to learn about the world from adults, and specifically from teachers; they are sponges for information, for ways of seeing, and authority figures who fill their heads with nonsense are sowing the ground, I would say, for as lifetime of exploitation." For some reason he does not offer that same reasoning as a justification for the abolition of what are euphemistically called "faith schools."
The first major target of Goldacre's debunking of superstitious hogwash is homeopathy. He points out (p. 31) that the homeoquacks claim that their pills "will make you better, when in fact they have been thoroughly researched, with innumerable trials, and have been found to perform no better than placebo." As has been said of ESP, alien visitations, hypnotism, and prayer, if homeopathy was more than a delusion, someone would have proven it by now. Instead (p. 37), "American magician and debunker James Randi has offered a one-million dollar prize to anyone... reliably distinguishing a homeopathic preparation from a nonhomeopathic one using any method they wish. This one-million-dollar bounty remains unclaimed."
Homeopaths have made many claims of positive results for their sugar pills, and even conducted studies that support that claim. That comes as no surprise. Even a series of studies on whether masturbation has an adverse effect on eyesight will produce an occasional "yes" if the samples are sufficiently small or the methodology sufficiently flawed. Commenting on claims based on a "flawed paradigm", Goldacre writes (p. 54), "These patterns are reflected throughout the alternative therapy literature. In general, the studies that are flawed tend to be the ones that favor homeopathy, or any other alternative therapy, and the well-performed studies, in which every controllable source of bias and error is excluded, tend to show that the treatments are no better than placebo."
The placebo effect is the primary explanation for homeopathy's seeming successes. Another is "regression to the mean." What that means is that any health problem will fluctuate between severely symptomatic and virtually asymptomatic stages. Since a patient is likely to go to a homeopath at a time of severe symptoms, the normal fluctuation of the illness will cause it to diminish, at least temporarily, with or without treatment of any kind. As an illustration of regression to the mean, Goldacre cites (p. 41) the "Sports Illustrated jinx." Since the way to get on the cover of S.I. is to be the best in one's field and to be currently at the top of one's game, and nobody can remain at the top of his game indefinitely, it follows that performances after being on the cover will revert to the performer's average, in other words regress to the mean. The S.I. jinx is the only example Goldacre cites, but he could as easily have chosen the "Seinfeld curse." Since the three supporting actors in Seinfeld were kept at the top of their game by excellent scripts, it was predictable that, deprived of those scripts, two of the three would fail in subsequent series due to their average, or mean, abilities being lower than they previously displayed. There is no Sports Illustrated jinx, and there is no Seinfeld curse.
As to homeopaths' outrage at having their fraudulent methodology questioned, Goldacre states (p. 63) that, "They bully, they smear, to the absolute top of the profession, and they do anything they can in a desperate attempt to shut you up and avoid having a discussion about the evidence. They have even been known to threaten violence." In other words, the only difference between homeopaths and Scientologists is that the former do not pretend that their confidence swindle is a religion.
As strong an argument as any for the fraudulence of homeoquackery is that England's comic opera Clown Prince is its most vociferous supporter. When the prostitute media lined up behind the homeopaths' Big Lie that the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine was a cause of autism, Bombastic Prince Charlie tried to have the medical researcher responsible for disproving the media's MMB hoax fired (p. 85).
Goldacre's twenty page chapter on the placebo effect brings together more information on the subject than I had previously encountered in any one place, including examples of its prevalence of which most readers are likely to be unaware. Some findings come as no surprise. For example, when anthropologist Daniel Moerman compared studies in which a control group was given two sugar pills a day, and studies in which the control group was given four sugar pills a day (p. 68), "He found, spectacularly, that four sugar pills are better than two." Equally predictable (p. 70), "saltwater injections have been shown in three separate experiments to be more effective than sugar pills... because, as everyone knows, an injection is a much more dramatic intervention than just taking a pill."
In other words, a physician's confidence-inducing bedside manner when prescribing a placebo is itself a placebo. So is intentional cuing of what the patient is to expect (p. 76). "The patients in one group were told, 'I cannot be certain of what is the matter with you,' and two weeks later only 39 percent were better; the other group was given a firm diagnosis, with no messing about, and confidently told they would get better in a few days. Sixty-four percent of that group got better in two weeks." That study helps explain why self-styled mesmerists in India and Scotland were able to perform amputations under alleged magnetism that would later be renamed hypnotism, with zero deaths from shock trauma, when the normal death rate was fifty percent. Some may see it as an inconsistency for me to acknowledge that suggestion can produce an observable positive result, while simultaneously denying that hypnotism exists, has ever existed in the past, or ever will exist. I respond that increasing sales for Pepsi Cola by advertisements that imply, "drink this and you'll get lucky," observably works - but I doubt that anyone would call it hypnotism. And like Randi's bounty for proof of homeopathy's reality, magician Kreskin's bounty for proof of hypnotism's reality likewise remains unclaimed.
The chapter on Nonsense Du Jour focuses on claims by nutritionists that their claims of benefits from adherence to their specific diets are supported by research studies. Almost always they are not. Consider the claim that giving women undergoing plastic surgery pomegranates to eat caused them to heal in half the time, with half the complications, and no visible wrinkles (p. 89). "It's a very specific claim... and again, there is nothing in the studies database." In other words, if such a study ever took place, it was never published in any reputable medical or healthcare journal.
In arguing that such claimants are not lying, Goldacre points out that, "they lack the academic experience, the ill will, and perhaps even the intellectual horsepower necessary to be fully derided as liars." He goes on to explain philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt's tripartite classification of disinformation peddlers: "the liar knows and cares about the truth but deliberately sets out to mislead; the truth speaker knows the truth and is trying to give it to us; the bullshitter, meanwhile, does not care about the truth and is simply trying to impress us." Does that mean that the Republican Party's engineering of its recent election victory by repeated Big Lies does not make its perpetrators liars, merely bullshitters? Pardon me if I disagree.
Goldacre tries (p. 92) "to be fair to nutritionists," recognizing that they sincerely believe their own masturbation fantasies, even if they can only do so by building a firewall around their brains to shut out the falsifying evidence. "Every time you read in the newspapers that 'moderate alcohol intake' is associated with some improved health outcome... you are almost certainly witnessing a journalist of limited intellect, overinterpreting a study with huge confounding variables." That is useful information. When I first learned of the alleged benefits of 'moderate alcohol intake," I started adding a spoonful of sherry to my milkshake once or twice a week. Whether Goldacre's book - published two years earlier in the UK - played a factor in the chain of events leading to my ceasing to keep a bottle of sherry in my kitchen, I cannot be sure. But it is nice to be reassured that there is indeed no trustworthy evidence that alcohol can be beneficial - except of course to Al Capone, as well as his successors who successfully conned California voters into rejecting the legalization of a less-dangerous product that might have cut into their bottom line.
The biggest crime of nutritionists is their refusal to publish details of alleged studies that would reveal them to be, at best flawed, and in many cases knowingly designed to produce the desired result (p. 95). "They will claim, for example, that a 'placebo controlled randomized control trial' has shown benefits from a particular vitamin, when what they mean is, it showed changes in 'a surrogate outcome.' For example, a trial may merely have shown that there were measurably increased amounts of the vitamin in the bloodstream after you took a vitamin, compared with the placebo, which is a pretty unspectacular finding in itself; yet this is presented to the unsuspecting lay reader as a positive trial." Mere bullshitters? Or cold-blooded liars?
As Goldacre points out (p. 98), "There are few opinions so absurd that you couldn't find at least one person with a Ph.D. somewhere in the world to endorse it for you; and similarly there are few propositions in medicine so ridiculous that you couldn't conjure up some kind of published experimental evidence somewhere to support them, if you... cherry-picked the literature, quoting only the studies that were in your favor." Even Nobel laureate Linus Pauling was a cherry-picker of the first order when it came to defending his exaggerated claims for the benefits of vitamin C. "Where Pauling had referred to some trials that seriously challenged his theory, it was to dismiss them as methodologically flawed; but as a cold examination showed, so too were papers he quoted favorably in support of his own case." Concerning nutritionists' claims about antioxidants, Goldacre writes (p. 100), "the prevailing nutritionist view on antioxidants ... currently lags only about twenty years behind the research evidence."
Goldacre summarizes the whole case for alternative medicine (pp. 98-99), "It is this cherry-picking, in reality, that helps characterize what alternative therapists conceive of, rather grandly, as their alternate paradigm. It happens in mainstream medicine also, but with one crucial difference: there it is recognized as a major problem, and hard work has been done to derive a solution."
Before discussing the chapter titled Nutritionists, I must express my outrage at a particular word Goldacre uses in the chapter. In referring, in a completely non-religious context, to "the most commercially successful health guru of his time" (p. 113), Goldacre writes that, "He changed his Christian name from Bernard to Bernarr." As a research student at Cambridge three decades ago, I was offended beyond measure when a pencil pusher asked me for my "Christian name." That an educated writer is using the same insulting term today is indefensible. I was also offended by his reference (p. 189) to, "morality: drugs, abortion, and the rest." Religion pretends that personal behavior not involving a nonconsenting victim can be immoral. That does not make it so.
I was not outraged, merely disappointed, at his reference in a later chapter (p. 185) to, "deciding if your girlfriend is cheating on you." No doubt there are ways in which a girlfriend could genuinely "cheat" me. But Goldacre was clearly using the term in the religion-derived, culturally-conditioned meaning of engaging in safe, victimless, nonconsequential sexual recreation with another person when I was not available. Even a majority of nontheists have been brainwashed that such behavior constitutes a kind of cheating. Objectively, an absolute exclusivity taboo makes as much sense as throwing a cloth over one's television when he is not watching it, so that no one else can do so.
Dogmatic nutritionists are equidistant between cranks and humbugs (legitimate nutritionists indeed exist). Goldacre states (pp 126-7), "These new nutritionists have a major commercial problem with the evidence. There's nothing very professional or proprietary about 'Eat your greens,' so they have to push things further. But unfortunately for them, the technical, confusing, overcomplicated, tinkering interventions that they promote ... are very frequently not supported by convincing evidence."
By far the most obscene, evil, morally-repulsive crime against humanity I have ever encountered (the Holocaust ended while I was still in elementary school) is delineated in the chapter, "The Doctor Will Sue You Now." This chapter had to be excluded from the 2008 UK edition, as Goldacre and his employer, The Guardian, were being sued by a snake oil peddler named Matthias Rath, a raving Cuckoo's Nest escapee who combines the worst elements of "overtly puritanical religious zealot" (p. 113) John Harvey Kellogg, whose views on masturbation make Delaware political joke Christine O'Donnell look sane; the confidence swindler L. Ron Hubbard; and the AIDS-deniers responsible for an estimated 343,000 AIDS deaths between 1997 and 2007 in South Africa alone (pp. 134-5). As a corollary of his telling the world that AIDS deaths were caused by the retroviruses used to combat the disease, and that his pills could cure whatever was really wrong with a patient (p. 133), "Rath was ordered by a Berlin court to stop claiming that his vitamins could cure cancer or face a $335,000 fine." And Rath did not let a little thing like observable reality interfere with his snake-oil swindle (p. 140). "He began to tout individual patients as evidence of the benefits that could come from vitamin pills, although in reality some of his most famous success stories have died of AIDS."
South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Health Minister Tshabala-Msimang may still have murdered thousands with their carefully orchestrated campaign to prevent HIV patients from receiving the best available treatment, even if they had not fallen under Rath's influence. An ignoramus is an ignoramus is an ignoramus. The fact remains that the swindler Rath and the government of South Africa are to this day exacerbating the HIV/AIDS problem by actively pursuing policies that can only be described as criminally insane. For example (p. 137), "In mid-2005, at least 85 percent of HIV positive people who needed antiretroviral drugs were still refused them. That's around a million people." And despite the election of a non-fundamentalist President, the American government is still basing its foreign-aid programs on anti-birth-control policies dictated by the most prolific serial killer in human history, Joseph Ratzinger, Fuhrer of the organized crime syndicate known as the Roman Catholic Church, whose proscription of condoms is responsible for sixty million past and future death from AIDS and starvation.
I get the impression that Goldacre is no fan of organized religion. One of his references to humankind's favorite imaginary friend includes the disclaimer, "if he exists," while others, such as "God bless her," "by God," and "for God's sake," are best viewed as cliches rather than endorsements of the God delusion. But he makes a point of being politically correct. In conjunction with the proviso (p. 140), "We mustn't appear insensitive to the Christian values system," he proceeds to argue (p. 139) that effective methods of reducing the spread of HIV have been systematically replaced by the religion-based policy of, "Just say no." And such "impractical moral principles" are enforced by the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, denying funds to any recipient that even suggests providing hookers with condoms. Goldacre declares (p. 140) that persons who consider "the moral principle of abstinence from sex ...more important than people dying from AIDS" are "no less irrational than Thabo Mbeki."
Rath dropped his libel suit against Goldacre and The Guardian, enabling the deleted chapter to be restored to the North American editions of his book, and was eventually compelled to pay almost half of The Guardian's $770,000 legal costs. In case any North American reader is wondering how a libel suit could be brought against a columnist for telling the truth, the answer is that the UK's libel laws are so stacked in favor of the plaintiff, not allowing the defence of truth and public interest, or absence of malice, that would have had the suit thrown out in any other jurisdiction on earth. Instead of the onus being on the plaintiff to prove that the allegations made by the defendant are intentionally or recklessly inaccurate, as it would be in the rest of the world, in the UK the onus is on the defendant to prove the truth of what he wrote - a virtually impossible task, as Liberace demonstrated when he succeeded in collecting damages from a columnist whose wording implied that the piano player might be gay. Tom Cruise learned that lesson, and filed libel suits in England that he knew would lose in the USA.
Goldacre concludes (p. 146) that, "The alternative therapy movement as a whole has demonstrated itself to be so dangerously, systematically incapable of critical self-appraisal that it cannot step up even in a case like that of Rath; in that count I include tens of thousands of practitioners, writers, administrators, and more" - including, let us keep in mind, a scientifically illiterate oaf scheduled to be the UK's next unelected head of state.
In chapter 9, Goldacre moves on to mainstream medicine. He reports (p. 148) that, "The British Medical Journal ... recently announced the three most popular papers from its archive of 2005 ... had a criticism of a drug, a drug company, or a medical activity as its central theme.... all those studies revolve around a situation in which drug companies withheld or distorted evidence." Nonetheless, most negative results do not get published at all (p. 162). "A review in 1998 looked at the entire canon of Chinese medical research and found that not one negative trial had ever been published."
As Goldacre explains (p. 161), "First, when you get a negative result, it feels as if it's all been a bit of a waste of time. It's easy to convince yourself that you found nothing when in fact you discovered a very useful piece of information: that the thing you were testing doesn't work. Rightly or wrongly, finding out that something doesn't work probably isn't going to win you a Nobel Prize." That helps explain why Robert Baker did not win the Nobel Prize for medicine for his definitive expose of the hypnotism delusion, They Call It Hypnosis.
The pharmaceutical industry goes to great lengths to conceal evidence that a new drug either works no better than a placebo, or is actually dangerous. One way is for a drug company to fund its own research and, if the results are unfavorable, claim that the result is its copyright and deny the researcher the right to publish his findings. Goldacre (p. 168) cites two of the most egregious attempts to do that. An obvious advantage in controlling the research is that researchers know that they run the risk of losing funding if their results are not what the drug company wants (p. 159). "Overall, studies funded by a pharmaceutical company were found to be four times more likely to give results that were favorable to the company than were independent studies." And studies conducted by opposing companies tend to reach conclusions that are incompatible (p. 160). "In every single trial the sponsoring manufacturer's drug came out as better than, or equal to, the others in the trial.... If A is better than B, and B is better than C, then C cannot be better than A. To put it bluntly, this review of 56 trials exposed a singular absurdity: all of these drugs were better than one another."
Another tactic is to advertise directly to the public rather than to the doctors who might look at the study criteria before prescribing a touted pill. The only countries in the Western World that allow such direct-to-consumer propaganda (p. 170) are New Zealand and (guess where?) the United States.
Publication choice also determines whether a claim will be critically examined (p.159). "If you have a good trial, publish it in the biggest journal you can possibly manage. If you have a positive trial, but it was a completely unfair test, which will be obvious to everyone, then put it into an obscure journal (published, written, and edited entirely by the industry)."
But a drug manufacturer's first priority is to obtain research evidence that its product is effective (p. 154). "You have a pill. It's OK, maybe not that brilliant, but a lot of money is riding on it. You need a positive result.... What can you do? Well, first, you could study it in winners.... younger people with just one problem are more likely to show an improvement. So study your drug only in [that] group.... This is so commonplace it is hardly worth giving an example."
The chapter about why clever people believe stupid things does not attempt to match Michael Shermer's whole book on Why People Believe Weird Things. He summarizes the chapter in the paragraph (p. 183), "Communal reinforcement goes a long way toward explaining how religious beliefs can be passed on in communities from generation to generation. It also explains how testimonials within communities of therapists, psychologists, celebrities, theologians, politicians, talk show hosts, and so on can supplant and become more powerful than scientific evidence." I have to question the inclusion of talk show hosts in that group. By Goldacre's reasoning, persons who watch Faux News are insane because they internalize the views of Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly. I hypothesize that they identify with Beck et al because they are already insane.
It is a cliche that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. As Goldacre puts it (p. 189), "With very careful selection of numbers ... you can sometimes make figures say anything you want." He continues (p. 197), "There are also some perfectly simple ways to generate ridiculous statistics, and two common favorites are to select an unusual sample group of people and to ask them a stupid question." Thus to produce the statistic that, "70 percent of all women want Prince Charles to be told to stop interfering in public life," suppress the fact that the only women sampled were those who visited Goldacre's website. Similarly (pp. 197-8), a Daily Telegraph report, that four out of five doctors do not want to carry out abortions in their surgeries, was based solely on "an online vote on a doctors' chat site" that asked a question most charitably described as ambiguous.
Consider a Times subheading from March 2006, "Use of addictive drugs by children doubles in a year." Goldacre clarifies (p. 193), "If you read the press release for the government survey on which the story is based, it reports 'almost no change in patterns of drug use, drinking or smoking since 2000.'" So was the claim that drug use doubled correct? Yes, in the sense that, in a survey of 9,000 children asked in they had used cocaine in the past year, the number who answered "yes" rose from 1.4 percent in 2004 to 1.9 percent in 2005. In The Times' rounded figures that was indeed a doubling, from 1 percent to 2 percent. The actual increase was about forty-five out of 9,000. But a story headlined, "Use of addictive drugs by children rises by half of one percent," would not have generated the impression The Times was trying to create.
The chapter heading, "The Media's MMR Hoax," really says it all. As Goldacre puts it (p. 209), "here is the abysmal tale of MMR, the prototypical health scare, by which all others must be judged and understood." The delusion that MMR vaccinations can cause autism originated in an article by Dr Andrew Wakefield, whom the General Medical Council in the UK found to be, "misleading," "dishonest," and "irresponsible." Wakefield's 1998 paper, "has since been fully retracted by The Lancet, whose editor explained it was 'utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements made in the paper were utterly false'" (p. 215).
But as Goldacre stresses (p. 209), "Dr. Wakefield cannot carry the blame for this scare alone, however much the news media may now try to imply that he should; the blame lies instead with the hundreds of journalists, columnists, editors and executives, in every single news outlet in the U.K., who drove this story cynically, irrationally, and willfully onto the front pages for nine solid years." He elaborates (p. 242), "I would argue ... that the media have a special responsibility in this case, because they themselves demanded 'more research' and, moreover, because at the very same time they were ignoring properly conducted research and fully published negative findings, they were talking up scary findings from an unpublished study by [Dr Arthur] Krigsman, a man with a track record of making scary claims that remain unpublished." It is a fact (p. 219) that a paper by Nick Chadwick, a Ph.D. student in Wakefield's lab, refuting some of Wakefield's findings, was not published, and neither were other studies that showed no correlation whatsoever between MMR vaccines and the effects the vaccine's detractors attributed to them. And concerning the media's treatment of sensational claims (p. 245), "Articles routinely failed to give any useful quantitative information in absolute terms, preferring unhelpful eye catchers like '50 percent higher' instead."
As Goldacre summarizes the situation (p. 219-220), "the greatest tragedy of the media's MMR hoax is that it was brought to an end by these issues being made public, when it should have been terminated by a cautious and balanced appraisal of the evidence at the time.... The research never justified the media's ludicrous over interpretation. If they had paid attention, the scare would never have even started." And in drawing attention to the media's culpability for disseminating unmitigated bullshit - because that is what sells, man - he writes, "I do not blame individual journalists (for the most part), but I do blame whole systems of editors and the people who buy newspapers with values they profess to despise." And well he might.
God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of the Bible
Dangerous Little Books
66 Hamilton Road, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 4LZ, UK
"God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of the Bible" is the book Richard Dawkins might have written if he had had twenty years less education, and if his grasp of correct English only had to meet the standards of a Thai newspaper rather than Oxford University. Author C.J. Werleman acknowledges that, "I consider myself a layman," defining "layman" as someone who is not "a know-it-all lecturing me on how smart they are." Having already indicated that correct English is not Werleman's best subject, I should not need to point out the grammatical errors in the quoted passage and the book's title. Fortunately he is not unaware of his limitations. In a personal communication he acknowledged that, "I don't think there's anything in my books that will come as a revelation. My approach is entertainment first - and therefore my audience is those who wouldn't ordinarily be interested in reading a book about theology etc."
Books need to be judged on the basis of what they set out to do, and how well they accomplish their intended objectives. By that standard, Werleman provides entertaining reading that, except for the factual errors that are bound to be perpetrated by an author who lacks the specialized expertise to evaluate his sources, is well reasoned and logically argued. That he uses the archaic dating system BC/AD, that is an insult to this planet's 5.5 billion non-Christians, since it tells them that they are living in "the year of the master," instead of the scientifically neutral BCE/CE, "common era," that even liberal theologians have adopted, can be attributed to his acknowledged "layman" status. So can much of his statistical disinformation.
For example, there are not "more than 4 billion people alive today" who consider the bible the inspired word of God. There are less than 1.5 billion. Even if one interprets "bible" as including the Koran, the total only rises to less than 2.5 billion. The bible is not "a book written 4000 years ago." The oldest part of the bible is the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:2-31), written c 1120 BCE. The earliest portion of the Torah was written c 920 BCE. Jesus was not "recognized by a handful of eccentric Jews as the Messiah, or God in human form." The messiah, thought to have been prophesied in Tanakh passages that meant nothing of the sort, was the purely human descendant of King David whose task was to free the Jews from foreign overlordship. Jesus believed that he was Messiah, but he assuredly did not imagine that he was a god. Jesus' deification took place in the fourth gospel, written between 130 and 138 CE, a century after his execution. If Moses was a real person, as many scholars dispute, he flourished c 1250 BCE, not "1400BC". Similarly, while the biblical Abraham seems to be a composition of several sheikhs of the same name, including one who lived later than the composition of the earliest parts of the Torah, Abraham Prime (assuming there was one) is usually dated to c 1800 BCE, not "2100BC". There was no such person as "Jesus Christ." Jesus was a historical person. "Christ" was the fairy tale character Jesus believed himself to be. "Alright" is defined in my pocket dictionary as "a popular misspelling of all right." "Will smote" is the kind of typo a spell-check would not catch. "A millennia" is less defensible. "Evolutionary psychology" is a ridiculous pseudoscience, even if the quoted statistics from an E.P. website are probably valid.
So God Hates You gets some facts wrong. It also makes a lot of valid points. Consider: "By what standards do we cherry-pick the Bible? What do we leave in and what do we omit? And who decides? Do we stone our daughters to death for working part-time at Burger King on the Sabbath?"
"I find it excessively humorous that God made light out of nothing, on the second day, which means that he made the heavens and the earth in the dark.... I can't even write my own name in the dark."
"God created light and darkness on day one and the sun and the planets didn't appear until day four, according to the scripture. So where did the light come from? No sun, no light. Oops!"
"God notices that Adam, with his testosterone-fueled penile urges, is attempting to mate with the animals (puppy fiddler!) God thinks to himself, 'This shit don't look right, I need to get him something with less hair and nicer boobies.' Thus we find the source of God's inspiration to create woman."
"Adam died in his prime at the whopping age of 930 years of age. The death of Eve is not mentioned, but needless to say both lived more than 800 years past what God said was man's expiry date. Which poses the question, when do we obey God with certainty or when do we second-guess his bluffs? He is one mean poker player."
"God hadn't prescribed any rules or commandments at this stage, so why were we being punished for breaking rules when there weren't any yet to follow? If this event [Noah's flood] were true, then this is a violent, unforgiving, celestial dictator who requires unquestioning obedience, to not only follow his rules, but to guess what he is thinking too."
And so it continues for 290 pages. As I wrote in connection with Queen Jane's Version: The Holy Bible for Adults Only: "As anyone who has seen a Saturday Night Live skit expanded into a ninety-minute movie is aware, parody ceases to be funny after about five minutes." And God Hates You is 290 pages of parody.
This is not the book for anyone seeking higher criticism of the bible. But as a source of rebuttals for persistent door knockers who want to know if you are "saved," it is a useful tool.
Jesus Lied: He Was Only Human: Debunking the New Testament
Dangerous Little Books
66 Hamilton Road, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 4LZ, UK,
A blurb on the back cover of Jesus Lied describes the author as a "blue collar intellectual." That is a euphemistic way of advising university graduates, "He's not one of us." It was quite unnecessary. The title is sufficient to warn biblical scholars that he is not one of us. The unambiguous implication of, "Jesus lied-he was only human," is that Jesus claimed that he was not "only human," in other words that he was a god. Any expert in the field of biblical analysis could have told Mr Werleman that Jesus never in his life made such a fatuous claim. Until he was posthumously deified in the fourth gospel in the 130s CE, no Christian Testament author, disciple of Jesus, or follower of the Jesus religion had ever heard of the theory that Jesus was any kind of god. A careful reading of the synoptic gospels or Paul's letters would have made clear. And only someone politely described as "self-taught" would be unaware that "scholarly theologians" (p. v) is an oxymoron. A scholar starts from evidence and reaches only conclusions that are not incompatible with the evidence. A theologian starts from predetermined conclusions and distorts the evidence to whatever degree is necessary in order to make it fit.
Werleman bases his conclusion that Jesus lied on an uncritical interpretation of a mental masturbator whom even non-fundamentalist Christian apologists recognize as an embarrassment to their cause and refrain from quoting (p. 1): "It was CS Lewis who wrote, in Mere Christianity, that Jesus had to have been either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord." The problem is that Lewis, like young-earth creationists, started from the assumption that his bible is nonfiction, including the one gospel in which Jesus is indeed portrayed as claiming to be the incarnation of Yahweh. Since Werleman rightly rejects the possibility that Jesus was "Lord," he picks up on one of the alternatives-the wrong alternative. Should George W. Bush be categorized as a liar for claiming that God talked to him? Or is it more likely that Bush is a lunatic? The latter interpretation is equally applicable to Jesus, who, rather than lie, acknowledged that he was not descended from King David, and instead argued that the messiah did not need to be.
Werleman does back up his assertion that Jesus lied, by spelling out six specific false statements put into his mouth by the gospel authors (pp. 8-11). While a false statement that a self-deluded fanatic really believes is not technically a lie, that is perhaps semantic hairsplitting. And the Jesus Seminar's conclusion that eighty percent of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels were never spoken by him, does not weaken the case of a writer whose purpose is "debunking the New Testament."
The speculation (p. 8) that the fourth gospel author "purposely distanced himself from the Synoptic Gospels, by claiming that Jesus was, in fact, God in the flesh," for the purpose of explaining away a failed Second Coming prophecy, is interesting. Martin Larson's explanation, that the John author repudiated the synoptics in order to make the Jesus religion more acceptable to Greeks and Romans, to whom the synoptic endorsement of communism and celibacy was repulsive while the concept of a resurrected god was consistent with their current beliefs, strikes me as more plausible. But any insistence that "I'm right and he's wrong" on such an issue would be tantamount to a claim that I can read minds. Even the confidence swindlers who call themselves "psychics" do not claim that they can read dead people's minds.
Werleman clearly has not honed his proofreading skills in the ten months between this and his previous book. Examples: "then it had have been"; "if you're only gospel was Marks"; "had ever wrote anything". Nor has he upgraded his education. He continues to use the archaic and offensive dating system, AD, instead of CE. He again uses the misspelling, "Alright." He refers to Paul of Tarsus as "Saint Paul," Jesus as both "Jesus Christ" and "Jesus of Nazareth," and the author of the fourth gospel as "the Apostle John." None of those designations is defensible to an educated nontheist. Typos continue to get past him. That happens to all of us. But Werleman fails to catch typos in his quotations. Did Bertrand Russell really refer to Jesus as both "He" and "he" in the same sentence? I strongly doubt it. And despite his several references to the incompatibility of the virgin-birth fantasy with other passages in Matthew and Luke, it does not seem to have crossed his mind that the gospel authors could not have been so stupid as to contradict themselves in adjacent paragraphs (a genealogy, Mat. 1:1-17, composed to prove Jesus' descent from King David, is immediately followed by a passage, Mat. 1:18-25, denying his royal descent), and that the virgin birth was an interpolation that was not originally part of either gospel.
If Werleman had made better use of available dictionaries, he might have avoided calling God "a villainess" rather than "a villainous.." And he is not the first amateur to see the words of Luke 19:27, "Bring my enemies before me and slaughter them," (p. iv) as emanating from Jesus as his personal philosophy. In fact, while the passage is contained in a parable that the anonymous author of Luke portrayed Jesus as preaching, the "certain nobleman" into whose mouth the Luke author put the quoted words was Archelaus, who did execute 3,000 Judeans who had petitioned Augustus Caesar not to make Archelaus king. In copying a parable from the Q gospel (also copied into Matthew), Luke added an elaboration designed to create the impression that Jesus detested Archelaus as much as Luke did.
Nonetheless, Werleman is sufficiently aware of first-century history to recognize (p. v) that, "Paul started a religion that Jesus, as a fundamentalist Jew of his time, would never had approved of." (sic. The wrong-tense verb is best attributed to inadequate proofreading. Only the non-functional final preposition reveals a lack of expertise in correct English.) And he is right on target when he states (p. ii) that, "There was a time when religion ruled our lives; we refer to that period as the Dark Ages."
Like most non-scholars who trespass into the field of biblical criticism, Werleman gets much of his information from Christian propagandists, and accepts anything that appears to have no theological implications uncritically. He writes (p. 22) that, "Saint Paul, Saint Peter, and Saint Valentine were all beheaded." Newsflash! The apprentice Peter could have choked on a fishbone at Babylon, for all anyone knows. The fable that he was crucified (not beheaded) in Rome, which he never visited in his life, was taken from Acts of Peter, which even the compilers of the Christian Testament recognized as fiction and rejected. Saint Valentine (although there were at least three executed Christians of that name) was a canonization of the various sex-gods of the Roman mating festival of Lupercalia. No account of Paul's execution survives. But since he was executed as part of Nero's reprisal against the Christians who set fire to Rome, it is unlikely that it was as quick and merciful as beheading. Nero did not feed Christian children to lions. But his cruelty to his adult real and imagined enemies disgusted even the sadists who got off on watching gladiators fight to the death.
When he bases his criticism on what is actually in the Christian Testament, Werleman is more reliable. Apparently he has only recently learned (pp. 15, 17, 21) that "Jesus had no intention of starting a new or non-Hebrew religion.. Jesus was a Jew.. Jesus loved everything Jewy about being a Jew.. The ancient Hebrews were a tribe of violent, xenophobic bigots.. Christianity was, therefore, never established on the words of Jesus, but rather the writings of others . all of whom never heard Jesus speak a solitary word."
Nonetheless, while Werleman draws attention to the incongruity of Matthew telling one set of nativity fables (the magi), Luke a completely different set (the poor shepherds), and Mark none whatsoever, he is apparently unaware that Matthew plagiarized myths previously told of Zoroaster, while Luke copied tales previously told of Mithra, whereas Mark wrote at a time when the doctrine that details of Jesus' birth were significant had not been invented yet.
Werleman raises a large number of questions bound to embarrass biblical literalists. For example, since Matthew's birth tales could be true only if Jesus was born during the lifetime of Herod the great, and Luke's birth tales could be true only if Jesus was still in utero ten years after Herod's death, how can both gospels be nonfiction? But he also offers an inordinate number of arguments so baseless that nontheists can only view them as counter-productive. As a single example, he alleges that, even though Judaism did not recognize a man's daughter's son as his biological descendant, Matthew included four women in Jesus' genealogy. (His accounts of the four women actually contradict that claim.) He may have been jesting when he acknowledged that he is not smarter than a fifth grader. But he is assuredly not more skilled at documentary analysis, logical reasoning, or formal English than a fifth grader.
I was confident I had caught Werleman in a boo-boo when he mentioned (p. 42) "a Texas Governor's loopy quip" to the effect that, "if English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me." I was familiar with the tale, but assumed that it was apocryphal. Google informs me that Texas Governor Miriam Ferguson really was accused of saying it, in 1925, probably by her detractors as alleged evidence of her ignorance. But my faith in Werleman's inexpertise was restored a few pages later (p. 54) when he placed our sun's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, "17 freaking light years away!" Alpha Centauri is 4.2 light years away. He is aware that different gospels offer different explanations of why Jesus performed miracles, but has no awareness that the miracles were without exception plagiarized from fables previously told of Eliyah and Alisha. As for his assertion that the god of the Torah saw Onan's coitus interruptus as a kind of murder, even though he quoted in full the passage that revealed Onan's crime to be his refusal to obey the levirate law by fathering a child that would be obligated to offer ancestor-worship to his dead brother rather than himself, I can only say, "Duh?"
Werleman's inclusion in his bibliography of Bart Ehrman, Michael Arnheim (misspelled as Arnhiem), G.A. Wells, and Elaine Pagels shows an awareness of the findings of some legitimate biblical scholars, and his inclusion of such brain amputees as John Allegro and Karen Armstrong can be justified as a willingness to consider opposing opinions. Less justifiable is the absence of such names as (alphabetically) William Harwood, Randel Helms, Joseph Hoffmann, Martin Larson, Gerd Ludemann, and Robert Price. I could add other names, but those are sufficient to make the point. Werleman should not even consider writing another book until he has read them. A course in Logic 101 would also help. He should also read J.P. Holding's The Impossible Faith, as an archetype of the desperate misreading of the evidence to which he too often resorts himself.
Werleman could be the poster boy for the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But I did enjoy the jokes.
If I thought that Jesus Lied was more likely to hinder than help in the task of freeing humankind from the mind-AIDS of religion, I would have simply ignored it in the hope that it would go away. In fact, despite the abundance of disinformation that conjures up images of a color-blind critic evaluating the paintings in the Louvre, Werleman has much to offer nontheists who, while they are aware that the Christian Testament is fiction, do not know just how far removed from reality it really is.
Dirty Sexy Politics
114 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10011
The book Dirty Sexy Politics reminds me of most is Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I doubt that Meghan McCain's book is an unedited reprint of her diary from the 2008 presidential election, but that is far from certain. Its difference from Anne Frank's diary is that, whereas Frank's hiding in an attic from where she had no contact with the outside world explains why her account of her day-to-day activities was totally boring, Meghan McCain has no such excuse.
Anne Frank concluded that, despite less-than-optimal personal experiences, she still believed that humans are basically good. McCain concludes (p. 5) that, "The Republican Party ... seems to have lost its way in the last ten years," and even though (p. 7), "moderates and Democrats elected Ronald Reagan, not the Far Right.... The base has moved to the Far Right and, sadly, it seems to be dying there."
When McCain parrots the delusion (p. 190) that, "Goldwater and Reagan believed in freedom, true freedom, for all Americans to live out their lives in the way they choose," I can only wonder if she is talking about the same Goldwater and Reagan I remember, a Goldwater who wanted to repeal three millennia of progress, and a Reagan who was viewed as the stupidest president America had ever had - until George W. Bush took the title from him in a canter.
Despite her disgust with (p. 191) "the intolerant Far Right and its agenda," McCain identifies with the first cause of the Far Right's intolerance: "I am a passionate Christian, but I would never force my religious views on other individuals or want to see the agenda of the Republican Party narrowed to accommodate only one moral code." She then does a one-eighty and declares herself adamantly "pro-life." Judging by what that anti-choice position means to virtually the entire Far Right, I interpret it as a confession that she supports a fetus's right to be born, but once a baby is born she does not give a flying fig if it dies of starvation because its mother cannot afford to feed it. But her admission that, while she practised celibacy during the campaign as a political expedience, she does not equate premarital recreation with immorality, is the most intelligent statement by a Republican since Nelson Rockefeller's repudiation of a crook named Nixon in 1968.
McCain has little to say about Sarah Palin, although she does raise the possibility that her father might now be POTUS if he had not nominated Palin to be his running mate. She is less charitable to the second King George Bush. Describing a Bush v. McCain primary in 2000, she writes (p. 43), "My father lost in South Carolina, but he didn't lose fair and square. He lost as a result of one of the dirtiest political tricks ever played. A hate campaign was waged against him and our family - a campaign that spread lies and fears." The details of the hate campaign are spelled out, and were every bit as vicious as Ms McCain describes them. But (pp. 43-44), "It was so dirty and secret that it became impossible to trace who was responsible, directly or indirectly, except to know the man who won that primary: George W. Bush." When Meghan's adopted Ethiopian sister asked her, "Does President Bush hate me?" she answered that he did not even know her. "He just wanted to win." She declares that (p. 45), "Those events will live with President Bush and Karl Rove, his creepy campaign 'mastermind,' and with the individuals from the Christian Coalition who helped orchestrate it."
Like all Republicans and pseudo-moderates, McCain refuses to see a difference between (p, 191), "the negative voices that you hear on the radio and TV - on the Right and the Left. These people are selling hate and fear - and getting rich from it." That is a totally accurate description of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. But McCain thinks it is equally true of middle-of-the-road (also called liberal) commentators whom she identifies as "the Left," such as (although she does not name them) Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Lying and denouncing liars are not the same thing.
She warns (p. 192), "Wake up to the core ideal of the Republican Party - the freedom of the individual, the party of Abraham Lincoln." But she is not so unrealistic as to think the party of Bush and Cheney is a temporary aberration. Rather, "It is bad enough to find yourself put in a box by your opposition. But when a political party starts putting itself in a box, it is not a box. It is a coffin."
I certainly hope so.
Penns Park, PA
Poet Nancy White has a sharp style. This refers especially to her use of words; not the mentality of the writing, though this is true as well. Many of the parts of her poems are simple declarative sentences; with their effect so direct and simple that they are metaphorical can be unnoticed. And other types of sections such as compound sentences or compounded phrases and even phrases spread out visually have this same directness and simplicity. With this style, the poems are not lyric or narrative. The overall effect is refraction--the poem comes through in fractal-like pieces. The scope of these in any particular poem can vary. The poem titled "look up' begins, "could you refuse the stars...", followed by such as "chime and cold...the telescope...the cone of night..."; whereas near the beginning of "the water said" is, "...Too much/hair, he says, and flesh, and cigarettes. He was/drunk...."
Another technique White uses giving her poems this sharp, fractal-like quality is the use of the pronoun "you"; e. g., in "thirst", "you watch bubbles cling to the luminous side/of the glass...." This keeps the reader focused on the shiftings going on in the poems; which focus, incidentally, is one reason the metaphors can pass by unnoticed.
White's style serves well her interest in the fits and starts of emotions in certain situations. Reading her poems is a different experience than with most poems.
Visual Journeys - Art of the 21st Century, Society of Layerists in Multi-media
Nina Mihm and Mary Carroll Nelson, editors
Fresco Fine Art Publications
U. of New Mexico Press
9781934491232 $40.00 www.frescobooks.com
"Layering is not a label for a particular style or medium. It is a way of making art in order to express ultimate connectedness, a way to think about creating art as a synthesis from many sources...There is often a sense that something 'other' than the visible inhabits layered work," as explained in a statement on the group at the back of the book. In her Preface, editor Nina Mihm additionally explains that the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM) is a "large international group of artists sharing a holistic world view that...[t]here exists a oneness and unity to everything, everyone, and the whole."
Over 90 art works by this number of members of SLMM are presented. The art is categorized under the five headings Visionary, Eclectic, Delightful, Evocative, Resplendent. Though as expected with art not defined in terms of content or style, these headings are elastic; and individual viewers will see some works which could be under different headings. But this varied art is not to be appreciated according to heading anyway, but for its color and forms ranging through biomorphic, geometric, collage, abstract, and occasional representational combined with one of these. The element running through nearly all is the sense or instinct of vitality inherent in holism which is the inspiration for the art. Most of the works seem to represent a moment in a process rather than a fixed state in formal, architectural terms.
The works are shown one per page with a paragraph by the artist on the work's origin and materials, with the artist name and location given. A section following the works lists the 90-plus artists alphabetically with contact information plus biographical notes and a general statement on their work as an artist and the appeal of layered art.
Hitler's Engineers - Fritz Todt and Albert Speer, Master Builders of the Third Reich Blaine Taylor
9781932033687 $39.95 casematepublishing.com
Todt is not so well known as Speer. Speer took his position after Todt died in a plane crash in 1942. With the exact cause of the crash unknown, sabotage was suspected; though never proven. While he was alive, Todt was Hitler's preferred chief engineer, and a member of his inner circle. In this position, Todt was responsible for the German autobahn, the Siegfried defensive line in western Germany, and German war material production. He was named Minister of Armaments and Munitions in 1940.
Holding this position until Germany's defeat, Speer was captured, held in Spandau Prison with other high German officials, and tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg and given a 20-year prison sentence. In captivity and after release, he wrote several bestselling books which kept him in the public eye before he died in 1981. Speer was known for his construction of German underground armament factories allowing Germany to prolong the war despite Allied bombardments and involvement in the German rockets whose development was cut off in its early stages by the Allied victory.
Both Todt and Speer were also architects of monumental projects meant to glorify the Third Reich and German infrastructure such as roads and public facilities. Taylor's focus is on their works as fundamental, invaluable parts of Nazi Germany enabling it to successively engage in warfare during the first part of the Nazi regime and then--what is even more interesting under Speer--continue to wage war against far superior Allied and Russian armies after devastating defeats.
Detailed biographies and studies focusing only on production plans and engineering and architectural feats can be found elsewhere. This book by an author with a military background is a heavily-illustrated popular work engagingly balancing biography, major Nazi engineering, architectural, and industrial projects, a profile of Hitler's leadership regarding such projects, and the complexities and rivalries of the Nazi hierarchy closest to Hitler which Todt and Speer had to content with to achieve and hold their high positions.
Tamarind Touchstones: Fabulous at Fifty, Celebrating Excellence in Fine Art Lithography Marjorie Devon
U. of New Mexico Press
9780826347398 $29.95 unmpress.com
The Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was founded in 1960 by June Wayne to raise lithography's stature among the visual arts by offering artists a place, supplies and presses, and an encouraging environment for lithography and also serve as a center for developing new markets for lithography. Despite a long tradition approaching 200 years and lithography works by artists such as Goya, Delacroix, and Picasso, among many others, lithography never did become recognized as one of the top art mediums outside of painting which was in a class by itself. Wayne's project did accomplish its goals as interest in and gallery and auction prices for lithography in today's art market testify.
Ed Ruscha, Jim Dine, Kiki Smith, Philip Guston, Louise Nevelson, Jasper Johns, and Helen Frankenthaler were among leading American artists attracted to the workshop. Color plates of lithography works of theirs appear in the nearly 100 pages of illustrations with works by other major artists and skilled, imaginative works by lesser-knowns. Resources at the back of the book--of special interest to art collectors and historians--list all the artists "who created lithographs or monotypes at Tamarind Lithography Workshop" from 1960 to 1970; at the Tamarind Institute connected with the U. of New Mexico between 1970 and 1998; and artists who have worked at the Tamarind Institute (but did not create art works there) from 1998 to 2009. Among this latter group were artists who worked as printers, were artists-in-residence on a fellowship, were staff members, and did other similar work. Following this list is a listing of Tamarind Master Printers with illustrations of their printer marks; followed in turn by a listing of Printer Training Participants with illustrations of their marks where applicable.
The key role of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in promoting lithography is not widely known--a lapse in the history of American art this work remedies. Essays with varied content followed by many pages of diverse lithography works and reference back matter cover the ambition, the high standards, important administrators, association with top artists, and accomplishments of the incomparable, influential Workshop. It is not too much to say that without Tamarind, it is difficult to imagine how lithography would enjoy the favorable status it does today in art markets and among art lovers and collectors.
Secrets of the Cold War - US Army Europe's Intelligence and Counterintelligence Activities Against the Soviets
Leland C. McCaslin. Helion & Company
9781906033910 $39.95 casematepublishing.com
Leland McCaslin worked in a variety of U. S. military and government intelligence positions from about 1970 to 1996, including positions in Europe when the Cold War was going on between the Soviet Union and the United States and its European allies. Since the Cold War was not open warfare between armed forces, intelligence played a particularly important role for the U.S. in maintaining its readiness and in counteracting activities of the Soviet Union and its satellites the Eastern European nations. McCaslin writes about the structure and particular agencies of the intelligence services as well as operations. Often he lets others involved in the intelligence services speak for themselves in lengthy passages which are like journal entries. The mix of styles from sections like an administrative or bureaucratic manual on organization to vignettes by intelligence personnel with engaging details and dramatic situations gives the book an unevenness. But this is an incident drawback for any reader interested in unique details on this major area of Cold War espionage. Though U.S. intelligence operations are the main subject. Soviet intelligence operations receive a good deal of attention as well not only for thoroughness in covering the topic, but also so the reader can understand the context within which the U.S. intelligence services were operating.
McCaslin had the book reviewed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies to ensure he was not inadvertently divulging any secret material even though considerable time has passed since the Cold War ended. If anything the author wanted to get in was kept out, it's hard to imagine what this was. For one finds all kinds of specific details the lay reader would not normally think about regarding intelligence services and their activities as well as what must have been at the time highly secret, daring missions. The 13-page Glossary provides an overview of intelligence agencies plus some terms such as "plausible deniability" and "false flag approach" having to do with principles and tactics of operations.
Historical Books - The Saint John's Bible
9780814690536 $79.95 litpress.org
This Historical Books is another of the volumes of the seven-volume, twelve-year project of the Saint John's Bible directed by Donald Jackson, Senior Illuminator to the Queen of England's Crown Office. Among the Biblical historical books are Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Maccabees. As a note on the copyright page says, "Donald Jackson, as Artistic Director, gathered a group of artist-calligraphers and illuminators from around the world" for the project incomparable in ambition and quality. The original is held at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's University founded by the St. John's Abbey of Benedictine monks which is the publisher of the volumes.
This Historical Books volume--as the others--comes as close to the original in appearance and quality as possible in a printed book. The pages are off-white resembling the vellum pages of the medieval illuminated religious books which are the inspiration and model for the St. John's Bible project. Beginning paragraphs of sections have decorative initials of their first words, with the text in a legible medieval cursive. Medieval writing and art techniques using eggs, feathers, calf skin, hand-ground inks, and gold and silver accent were used for different parts of the book. The illuminations--i. e., illustrations--are bright and shimmering. For the most, they are abstract, geometric, mosaic-like designs, in some cases with figures or symbols as a part of them. In keeping with the style of medieval books, besides larger illustrations, the Historical Books has some smaller marginal illustrations (sometimes called vignettes). In this volume, these are mostly insects, e. g., ants, honey bees. The illustrated matter of insects--while it may seem idiosyncratic--is also in keeping with the medieval illuminated books--in which are found images of cows, cats, and other animals of the agrarian culture of the period.
Medieval illuminated books were the inspiration and model for this and the other St. John's Bible volumes. But Jackson and the other artists did not confine themselves to the ancient model. Artistic director Jackson aimed for a modernized, ecumenical style. Middle Eastern and Judaic imagery as well as Catholic as in the Middle Age books can be seen in the illustrations; and there are touches of Hebrew and Greek script mostly as marginal complements to the basic cursive script of the text. The work is an artistic delight for any reader. But as for the Middle Age illuminated books made by monks working in scriptoria, this work was done mainly with a religious purpose in mind. Like the medieval books, it is basically a work of religious art intended to be a form of praise of God for believers.
The Sweetness of Salt
Cecilia Galante, author
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
Reminiscent of "The Patron Saint of Butterflies," her 2008 debut, young adult author Cecilia Galante again reflects in "The Sweetness of Salt" on the strength it takes to break out of a suffocating life box. In "Butterflies" two teenagers leave a strict religious commune. In "Salt" newly revealed family secrets spur Julia, a high school valedictorian, to drive all night away from a heady summer internship and her pre-law, parentally-cocooned life to visit her older, black sheep sister. Her sister, Sophie, a 20-something single parent who is renovating a dilapidated, small-town house into a bakery, can't seem to come home for a visit without inciting a family fight. But as she comes to grips with events that shattered her parents and sister before she was born, Julia comes to recognize that there's a lot more to Sophie than she understood. And Julia begins to question whether her well-ordered life is what she really wants. Given modern communication, Galante realistically doesn't make Julia disappear into the small town Vermont ether, but rather keeps her in touch via cell phone with friends at home. Ultimately, a poignant, long-distance cell phone conversation with her best friend becomes the story's apex, as Julia struggles with whether and how to forgive her parents. Once again, wonderfully written with great character development. Galante's next novel is due out in 2011; eagerly anticipated.
Where the Truth Lies
Walker & Company/Bloomsbury Publishing
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
Young adult novelist Jessica Warman won acclaim for her 2009 debut, "Breathless." In "Where the Truth Lies," her second teen title, Warman resoundingly stakes a place among today's best YA writers. The coming-of-age story follows Emily, a junior at a Connecticut prep school whose idyllic life - her father is the headmaster - is marred by intense nightmares. When she falls in love with a new student at the school who knows the the origin of the nightmares, the truth has the potential to implode her sheltered existence. Warman does a great job with the plot development, succinctly introducing a succession of elements that initially seem inconsequential, but later become the basis for important things. There's little plot fluff; conversations and events early on continually set subsequent stages. Warman also expertly juxtapositions Emily's current life, as the relationship with her boyfriend takes a complicated turn, with decisions made by her parents in her early childhood that are fueling the nightmares. That Emily is surrounded by very wealthy prep school friends, one of whom has movie star parents, makes the plot's peak moment work as she gains access to a solution most troubled teens couldn't afford. Her choice of solutions becomes everything, the crucial plot link between her past and present lives. Great twists and surprises, great plot interconnections. Warman sheds the new author label with "Where the Truth Lies," demonstrating top skill to be contended with.
The Memory Bank
Carolyn Coman, author
Rob Shepperson, illustrator
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Author Carolyn Coman and illustrator Rob Shepperson have teamed before in 2004's "The Big House," and 2007's "Sneaking Suspicions." They collaborate again in "The Memory Bank," a middle-grade title that is part traditional text and part graphic novel. The approach, that continually alternates word-based chapters with picture-based stretches, is key to continuing the flow of a plot that otherwise might have mired down. The story follows Hope, a young girl who is summoned to the World Wide Memory Bank, a massive government-like building where everyone's memories, from their first to their last, are collected and stored. In the hands of a lesser author the premise would most certainly have been a yawn. The pretty complex storyline, with talk of things like lobeglobes and REMsacks, would have put kids to sleep. But Coman, who has won both Newbery and Printz honors, deftly carries the story, infusing enough humor and sweet poignancy to gracefully keep things moving. Coman expertly takes Hope around the Memory Bank, introducing her to an oddball mix of bureaucratic workers and the secrets they keep. And she beautifully crafts the relationship between Hope and her younger sister Honey, who has gone missing. The question of whether the sisters will reunite is the key page-turner. Shepperson's wonderfully expressionistic stretches are, meanwhile, perfectly placed at points where pictures simply tell the story best, such as when a group of abandoned children throw lollipops into the Memory Bank's external vents as part of a plot to infiltrate the building. And the final set of illustrations, that tie back to drawings that kicked the novel off, perfectly bookend a sweet, ultimately
very readable tale about unbreakable sibling bonds.
Ruth Martin, author
Olivier Latyk, illustrator
Templar Books/Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
It's a rare handful of picture books each year whose words and illustrations are both unforgettably perfect. With "Moon Dreams," author Ruth Martin and illustrator Olivier Latyk attain that height, creating one of 2010's best children's titles. The story follows the aptly named Luna, who has always loved seeing the moon outside of her window at bedtime. But where does it go during the day, she wonders? With the vivid imagination of a child she dreams over a succession of nights that perhaps it sinks into the sea, hides behind the clouds or takes refuge in far-away mountains. Then, one night, she receives an answer from the big orb itself that settles her mind - the moon is always out in space, "but you can only see me at night when the sky is dark." The gentle science lesson is the topper of a book whose text flows like the softest of lullabies and whose illustrations are wonderfully luminescent with lots of lunar ties -- Luna's face is round like the moon and she has a moon-shaped lamp by her bed, for example. Ample use of blue-green hues mimics the evening sky. And children will love Luna's adventures in things like a submarine, a hot air balloon and a spacesuit, as she looks for the moon. Cozy sleepytime words, childlike adventure and natural curiosity...and exquisitely imaged. A new bedtime treasure.
V. J. Waks
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452078564, $20.49, www.vjwaks.com
Worse can always happen. "Hammerspace" tells the story of Col Adrian, trapped on a prison moon. A story of science fiction and how Adrian is set against those who want to use science to create something even more twisted to use against the universe. The second book in the Tau4 series, "Hammerspace" is a riveting read that will prove hard to put down.
Journey with Georgia
9781439271179, $20.00, www.nikitabowlin.com
Artist Georgia O'Keefe is one of the most famous and memorable in recent times. "Journey with Georgia" traces the artists life through the locations she called home in a collection of photographs from Nikita Bowlin. Looking for her own inspiration, she hopes her journey will inspire others as well. "Journey with Georgia" is an insightful read and a top pick for fans of O'Keefe's work.
The Boy Who Conquered Everest
Katherine Blance with Jordan Romero
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781401931179, $9.95, www.balboapresspress.com
It's one thing to embark on adventure, and it's another to do something amazing like climbing the highest mountain in the world. "The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story" tells the story of Jordan Romero who climbed the behemoth at the age of fourteen, among the youngest to ever see the summit. Encouraging other kids to find their own mountains in life and defeat, them, "The Boy Who Conquered Everest" is a thoughtful read with plenty to ponder for younger readers, very highly recommended.
The House of Yes
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780984591435, $22.95, www.smithpublicity.com
Some women lead repressed lives, but others use their sexuality to its fullest power. "The House of Yes" is a memoir from Susan Jay, a pseudonym of a housewife who abandoned the tradition of a housewife for something far more enticing. Styling herself a mistress, she uses her sexuality to find her pleasure and much more with many men. Enticing, erotic, and sensual, she hides nothing, making "The House of Yes" a read that once picked up, will be very difficult to put down.
J. Marc Harding
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781450042130, $19.99, www.xlibris.com
The vengeance of one night brings about more revenge than could be handled. "Painkiller Ghosts" tells the tale of Thyme and his clash with a man who was stalking his mother. One act has led Thyme to new challenges and fears for himself, his love, and his family. In a search to the get to the bottom of it, "Painkiller Ghosts" is an intriguing mystery, recommended.
Hannah Thomsen & Ed Thomsen
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432729059, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
A romance can bring a new understanding of the world. "Hannah Reborn" tells the story of this unique couple. Hannah is a Denmark native, and Ed is an America. Their union brought them across oceans, but the main story is about Hannah and her new found spirituality. Leaving Mormonism, she found a new take on spirits and the new age. "Hannah Reborn" is a thoughtful memoir of finding a new faith in where you would least expect to.
Olivia Rodan Jacobs
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432759117, $17.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Jerusalem has been the site of constant conflict over the centuries. "Jerusalem 3000: The Poisoner's Agenda" is a mystery thriller surrounding Kate Gottlieb, who claims to be a simple American tourist. With connections to terror, keeping Israeli agents on her case and unsure of where her intentions truly lie in an unstable and frightening time. "Jerusalem 3000" is a riveting novel that will prove hard to put down.
The Third Testament
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450225038, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com
To write a new testament to the Bible is something some would regard as crazy. "The Third Testament" is the story of Fred Sankt, who finds he may have been chosen by God to write a new addition ot the Bible. But such a claim is not one taken lightly, and he soon finds his writing is the only thing in his world that seems to keep him sane. "The Third Testament" is an intriguing religious thriller, highly recommended.
Roger E. H Hawkins
What makes a good CEO? "Sanctuaried: The CEO Diving Rod" takes a psychological look at what makes a good CEO great, looking at the major points in one's life which prove to be a sign of good leadership and who breaks through from middle management to power player. With a lot of thought, "Sanctuaried" proves a lot to ponder in the world of business and the makings of success.
Historic Walking Guides Florida Keys
9780955928147, $12.99, www.destinworld.com
These little islands to the south of Florida have all the fun and adventure one needs. "Historic Walking Guides Florida Keys" is a guide to experiencing the sights and attractions of the Florida keys without a vehicle needed to experience the most of it. Written by an experienced traveler, Michelle Sheldone gives a complete and comprehensive guide filled with maps, attractions, food and beverage of note, and much history. For anyone visiting the keys, "Historic Walking Guides Florida Keys" will prove to be an invaluable resource.
10940 S. Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744021, $21.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Sometimes peace can come in the most ambitious of packages. "Mountain Dragon: A New Myth of the Enlightened Feminine: Aspiration" is a read telling of a far off land where war has consumed the land and one young girl must stand against the fierce fires of war to bring about peace. With much thought in mythology and legend, "Mountain Dragon" is a fascinating and highly recommended read.
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781615664238, $21.99, www.tatepublishing.com
The call and faith and ministry can strike anyone, even those written off as the scum of society. "Solomon's Porch" tells the story of Peter Carson, a prisoner with little to look forward to in life. He soon finds himself split in between Satan who is calling to him to return to the path that led him there, and the call of God which puts him as a divine messenger. An uphill struggle, to find his own faith and his own place in life as well as delivering God's message, "Solomon's Porch" is an intriguing read that shouldn't be overlooked for Christian suspense readers.
Messages of Life from Death Row
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439235607, $18.99, www.booksurge.com
When the guillotine dangles over head, you come far more appreciative of the importance of life. "Messages of Life from Death Row" is a collection of correspondence between author Pierre Pradervand and Roger McGowen, a death row inmate Pradervand believes was unjustly convicted. Speaking out against the death penalty and its many faults, "Messages of Life from Death Row" comes with a simple and profound message, highly recommended.
Look for Our Mother and Our Father
Nada y Nadie Publisher
When you investigate the reasons why we do the things we do, life often becomes much clearer. "Look for Our Mother and Our Father" is a spiritual guide that encourages Americans to look into their own way of life and look at it from the outside and remember what truly binds us and makes us all human. "Look for Our Mother and Our Father" is insightful and very spiritual reading, and very highly recommended.
Murder is often hard enough to explain when you only have to deal with the mundane. "Deadly Desire" tells the story of Raff Rafferty, whose murder investigation on the death of a reclusive millionaire turns ever more difficult when he encounters a woman with a way over the mystic. "Deadly Desire" is a riveting read that will definitely prove hard to put down.
Poems for Lovers and Others
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162949, $12.50, www.vantagepress.com
If you remember it and hold it dear, it is never truly lost. "Poems for Lovers and Others" is a collection of poetry from Morris Iren, reflecting on the profound stories of life that he faces and what he knows and loves about the world around him. With dedication and a bit of passion, "Poems for Lovers and Others" is a choice read for poetry fans. "To You": Your eyes so bright/Your moth so minute/You're of mid-height/Yet you look so cute//Your lips are plump red/Your cheeks are pink, too/Thus I went right ahead/And fell 'n love with you.
Cheers for Tears
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162314, $8.95, www.vantagepress.com
The animals of the world bring much joy and inspiration to their owners. "Cheers for Tears: A Collection of True Animal Stories" is an uplifting collection of animal stories from Jessica Montgomery as she tells the stories of animals who made significant differences in their masters lives. "Cheers for Tears" is a fine read for anyone who believes their pets love them as much as they love their pets.
One Woman's War
Nancy Martin Graham
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162789, $10.00, www.vantagepress.com
It's always an uphill struggle to get into a man's game. "One Woman's War" is a memoir from Nancy Martin Graham Chapman's story of how when her husband passed away, she embarked on her desire to become a pilot herself. Through adversity and sexism, she attains her dream, but it's by no means easy. "One Woman's War" is a thoughtful read of aviation, highly recommended.
Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool
Jane Court, John Webb Ware, & Sue Hides
9780643092945, $54.55, www.publish.csiro.au
A source of both food and clothing, it's no wonder sheep still remain an invaluable livestock. "Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool" is a detailed analysis and guide to Sheep farming, written by some of the best minds on the subject from Australia's University of Melbourne, Sue Hides, John Webb, and Jane Court. Detailing what one needs to know to enter the business, manage the health of one's sheep and the dogs to manage them, and much more, this text will prove a valuable resource for any farmer or rancher. "Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool" is a solid addition to any community or college library collection focusing on agriculture and farming.
Construction Walking Jazz Bass Lines
Waterfall Publishing House
9780982957004, $19.95, www.waterfallpublishinghouse.com
The Bass can be the glue that holds the music together, not obviously there, but noticed if it's missing. "Construction Walking Jazz Bass Lines" discusses the jazz bass and its importance to the music. Providing a wide collection of bass tabs for many common jazz bass lines, Steven Mooney offers a useful book full of tabs with tips on how to use them well. For any with skill with a bass guitar and interest in jazz, "Construction Walking Jazz Bass Lines" is a very useful resource.
Hammaming in the Sham
The public bath is a relic of the past for many European countries, but it still yet lives in modern Damascus. "Hammaming in the Sham: A Journey Through the Turkish Baths of Damascus, Aleppo, and Beyond" is a photograph and text journey through these baths and what they mean tot he people and culture surround them that they still hold much value thousands of years after their creation. Insightful and with plenty of full color photographs, "Hammaming in the Sham" provides a core and very important addition to history, art, culture, and travel collections, a volume not to be dismissed.
Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker
Bettie Young Books
9780984308101, $14.95, www.cupidforhire.com
Some people don't have time to find love. "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" tells the story of Marla Martenson, who plied her trade as a matchmaker for years, advising others on the matters of love while not being in a perfect relationship herself. With a unique cast of characters that have passed through her life, "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" is a fascinating and fun memoir of a strange career.
Skinny on Success: Why Not You
Rand Media Co.
265 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06880
9780981893594 $14.95 www.amazon.com www.randmediaco.com
Jim Randel's -skinny on success: why not you- brings focus upon what the author believes to be the 10 most important characteristics of successful people. Characteristics setting successful people apart include persistence, preparation, maximize probability, take action, combat failure, mental fortitude, optimism, hard work, persevere, belief in right and wrong.
Randel has produced a series of publications each entitled The Skinny Onr and offered as a work filled with a sequence of sketches, information flow and text all proposed to communicate data in a short and snappy as well as engaging approach.
-skinny on success: why not you- directs the spotlight upon those elements seemingly directing the lives of successful people along with showing how others cans also reach goals leading to success.
Jim Randel's -skinny on success: why not you- is a quick read designed to be read and re read time and again for comprehension, encouragement and amusement.
Filled with stick-figure images as well as graphs, chats, photographs, the skinny on success is a motivating force of a book, with just plain good counsel intertwined with entertaining sketches is meant to continue concentration and interest within the parameter of an innovative, authoritative approach.
Jim Randel's distinctive, inimitable methodology for relating information via use of stick people, leads readers toward seeing accomplishment in a new way as they become skilled with the tools that will assist them toward becoming victorious. The Skinny on Success relates how to: Identify the steps victorious people take needed to achieve success.
A good resource; -skinny on success: why not you- is an admirable tool for business leaders, personal trainers, success coaches, as well as typical persons who may be on the lookout for straightforward albeit practical methods for improving their lives with a fresh blend of dandy recommendations coupled with down-to-earth optimism.
The Skinny On series encompasses a group of witty, entertaining, and engaging books designed to forward noteworthy tutorials in a simple, non preachy, succinct, and appealing manner often through use of stick figure drawings as they join in exchange of ideas.
Randel's Skinny On works are to the point, fast reads most readers will want to read through quickly and then return for specific reading, or for more in depth study.
Randel points out that success is not necessarily attained by the brightest or more capable, more handsome or even the luckiest persons, rather it is more readily attained by those who clearly recognize what it is that they personally feel strongly about, and then recognize that they not only have prospective to achieve success, can take action, and set out with persistence to attain the goal notwithstanding setbacks not and then. Successful people are those who recognize that disappointment is also a part of the process of success. Learn from it, pick yourself up and go forward.
I like the use of lots of illustrations, quotes and quotes to help drive a point home.
Happy to recommend Jim Randel's skinny on success: why not you
Rene P Moret
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9780984235841 $14.95 www.amazon.com www.bookpros.com/synergy
Rene P Moret's "Health Scare: The Truth Behind America's Health Care Crisis" is a work of 149 pages comprising 14 chapters, an Introduction and a Bibliography.
Chapter information includes Health Care vs Sick Care, Health Insurance Guarantees Higher Costs in addition to discussion of Group Health Insurance: leading to everyone Paying for Other People's Bad Habits. I found particularly interesting that while insurance may shore up the expansion of good sick care; it does not do so well when it comes to well care which diminishes the health care system.
Subject matter addressed includes Health Insurance's Inimitable Conflicts of Interest, The Progression of Employer-Financed Health Care and whether more care is always better care. I read the section regarding Physician's Offices with particular interest. Are they really stuck in the Dark Ages? Writer, health care executive Moret points out that deficiency in administrative efficiency within many Doctor's practices is a large problem. Moret suggests that the old paper records may be at the root of the problem and that using electronic medical recording may be better.
Moret notes that costs are becoming more and more out of control, that prescribing a workable plan is not always easy and that accountability must become more than just a word.
The work concludes with Moret's description of a great health care system is often rooted in misconception regarding just what it really takes to produce a great health care system. Moret notes that centralized funding is a means to an end as opposed to the current system which has too many market forces in favor of the status quo to effect much change.
In a 149 page work it is impossible list every problem with health care in the US; Moret details some of the chief problems that he believes to be contributing to the escalation in cost of health care in our country. One development addressed by Moret is 1997 legislation passed by Congress, Direct to Consumer Advertising, has done much to lead major drug companies to circumvent the long-established doctor-patient relationship by creating demand via marketing drugs directly to consumers. Moret discusses too an increasing quandary; the so called defensive medicine practice, taking place as doctors swerve from sound medical procedure, perhaps at patient insistence to order tests or processes primarily to evade threat of a medical mismanagement lawsuit.
It is mind boggling to consider that in the US nearly 50 million citizens have gone without health care in the decades just past and that while the US ranks 37 out of 191 countries the U.S. health care system spends a larger segment of the gross domestic product than does any other country. The March 2010 legislation, President Obama signed into law is intended to change health care for all Americans.
Moret dedicates the final chapters of Health Scare to delineation of what he feels is a pretty common sense proposal repairing the present system toward being more cost effective while providing more and better care.
I found Rene P. Moret's book to be interesting, thought provoking, filled with facts, diagrams and illustrations to drive home the point that after working in the health care industry for more than two decades, Moret, an independent health care consultant and former CEO of North American Medical Management in California has a definite notions about health care, the problems we face and how those problems may be fixed.
Reading Health Scare clearly indicates that Writer Moret does not support the 2000 page health care bill recently enacted by Congress. He is of the belief that this plan will significantly enlarge costs and eventually result in rationing of necessary health care services.
Mr. Moret, a certified public accountant he sees the health care and insurance problems we face as obvious and repairable without government intervention via present health care legislation.
Interesting, thought provoking; Happy to recommend Rene P Moret's HEALTH SCARE The Truth Behind America's Health Care Crisis.
P.A.C.E. The 12 minute Fitness Revolution
Al Sears, MD
Wellness Research And Consulting
Internet search indicates: About the Author Al Sears, M.D. is a board-certified medical doctor specializing in alternative and preventative medicine, anti-aging, and nutritional supplementation.
A graduate from the University of South Florida's College of Medicine, Sears graduated with honors in internal medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and physical medicine. His cutting-edge therapies and reputation for solving some of the most difficult-to-diagnose cases attract thousands of patients from around the world to his Health & Wellness Center in Royal Palm Beach, Florida.
Sears is the author of seven books, including The Doctor's Heart Cure, and High Speed Fat Loss in 7 Easy Steps.
He currently writes and publishes the monthly newsletter, Health Confidential, and twice-weekly e-mail, Doctor's Call, and contributes articles to a host of other publishers in the field. Dr. Sears has appeared on over fifty national radio programs, ABC News, CNN, and ESPN.
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9780984235872 $23.95 www.amazon.com www.bookpros.com/synergy
Bonnie Barnett's Bobo's Daughter begins in South Central Los Angeles. The year is 1952, it is a noticeably different area than is the South Central we often hear mentioned on the evening news today. It was nice place for a little girl growing up. All was going to change.
One Saturday morning four year old Bonnie's mom; with Bonnie in tow set out to meet the man Bonnie realized was told was her father. The pair entered a very different world filled with horses and elephants, trailers and trucks and little pens filled with small barking dogs and even a giraffe. It was all a bit overwhelming for a little girl. Suddenly a large person in torn, musty clothing appeared; he had red and black and white paint on his face. Lifting Bonnie the man said, -How about a kiss for your ol daddy?-
Before long a troupe of folks appeared, some wearing face paint, some in sequined costume, they all seemed to know who Bonnie was and; they even her Mom, Dottie. Called Jojo Barnett, Dorothy was the first girl clown.
From that point the reader is carried along on the journey of a small girl, her tumultuous relationship with her mother and her search for the man who was her father.
Bobo's Daughter offers the reader a peek into the man who was Bobo, the clown and some of the life experienced by those who choose a career in the circus. I particularly enjoyed Barnett's mention of another clown, Otto Greibling. Greibling had been friends with Jojo and Bobo, Barnett sought his help in locating her dad. While I did not know Mr Greibling; I taught school with Greibling's daughter in law in the San Joaquin Valley, California. I was nice to find a familiar name.
Chester "Bobo" Barnett, the Prince of Clowns, was a gifted, witty, charismatic humorous performer, who was beset with of the faults and peccadilloes as are part of the life of us all. Jojo and Bobo were unable to sustain a relationship, and their child suffered because of it.
As a clown Bobo Barnett spent much of his life bringing pleasure and amusement for adults and children across the nation and around the world. Regrettably, his immediate family; wife and daughter were not among those he sought to please.
Bobo's Daughter is a touching account of a small child surrounded by paucity and melancholy. Realizing that her birth came as the result of an unwanted pregnancy; Barnett recounts her early life in vivid detail. She narrates, the actions in her parents' lives that led them to become entertainers; i.e. circus clowns, and those actions which that led to her parents' divorce. Barnett includes details regarding her parents including how they came to be clowns and the fact that they were of the generation who lived during the so called Great Depression. The importance of low cost entertainment during that bleak era cannot be minimized.
Motivated by a potent need to gain knowledge of family she never knew, Barnett undertook the investigation as an adult which led to her understanding her parents better and to ultimately finding her truant father.
Effectively forsaken by her father and resented by her mother, Barnett grew up feeling alone and lonesome. Having a mother who was neither willing nor capable to ease the emptiness caused by her father's neglect; Barnett craved acceptance as his daughter as she pined for her father's consideration.
The strained association Barnett had with her mother, who had given up her own flourishing clowning career to raise her alone, in poverty, was no doubt a troubling situation for both. In spite of everything, Barnett did learn to look further than the hurts and discover feelings of satisfaction and acceptance for her multifaceted and versatile parents.
Despite having none of the familial support many of us enjoy, Barnett did work her way through school, achieved a Bachelors in Art and a Masters in psychology prior to her becoming a family therapist.
Barnett recounts that during her search to find her biological father, she also realized that she had found her Heavenly Father as well. Her deep faith in God is evident in her writing, quoting of scripture and activities of her life.
I enjoyed the addition of a number of photos of her parents, in particular of her dad and the little dogs that were an integral part of his act. Chester Barnett and his wife are shown in street dress as well as in full clown attire.
While Bobo's Daughter is not an - and they all lived happily ever after- type write it is a well written, easily readable account of one woman's successful search for the parent she missed during childhood and the reconciliation of hope, reality and certainty.
Happy to Recommend Bonnie Barnett's Bobo's Daughter.
Health Beyond Medicine: A Chiropractic Miracle
Dr Scott Paton's
Healthcare Unity Press
c/o AtlasBooks Distribution
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9780981808307 $19.95 www.amazon.com
Dr Scott Paton's Health Beyond Medicine: A Chiropractic Miracle is a work of nearly 335 pages.
Acknowledgments and Foreword written by Dr. Edward Pearson, MD, ABHM are followed by Patton's Introduction in which he discusses his becoming a chiropractic student and how his view of healthcare, rooted in symptom based mentality, has changed over the years.
Chapters address Health Care Today, and Deeper Inside the Health Care System; I am not reassured to realize that our system is basically one that is broken.
An Examination of the Insurance Industry, Vaccines and whether they are the life saving technology we have been led to believe they are as well as how Antibiotics affect our Health are eye opening, and at time disturbing narratives.
I turned to Chapter Six entitled Hope with the anticipation that there is some available. I can happily say that Dr Patton does offer optimistic outlook for individual and national health.
Because Dr Patton is a Chiropractor he provides some good, in depth explanation regarding the practice as well as how chiropractic care fits into the over all health care regime. A discussion of Five Factors of Health including chiropractic care, sleep, nutrition, exercise and positive living are presented in depth with emphasis upon how each fits into the over all health of the individual.
The Irrational Side of Medicine, including the notion that there are hard and fast one size fits all notions when it comes all things medical are presented as are some success stories in which chiropractic and medical are willing to work together, and Faith is mentioned in a context of how it fits into the health program.
I like the format of Dr Scott Patton's Health Beyond Medicine a Chiropractic Miracle with chapters well laid out, easily read, and nicely presented. A topical index so that reference to specifics is easily accomplished makes the work very workable for referring to when seeking specific information regarding a specific malady. Case histories add to interest and understanding regarding how medical and chiropractic can mesh to further the health for patients.
I have long sought chiropractic in tandem with medical methodology when seeking to maintain my own health status.
Happy to recommend Dr Scott Paton's Health Beyond Medicine a Chiropractic Miracle.
Note: Not for everyone: those who have no belief in chiropractic care are not likely to find much to like, believe or enjoy, for everyone who is open to all methods for maintaining good health Dr Scott Patton's Health Beyond Medicine a Chiropractic Miracle is a work filled with much to regard, understand, and read with an open mind.
Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox
Tim Ostermeyer's Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox is offered by a master photographer & Author.
Osage County First Grade gathered on the rug to OOOOO and Ahhhhh the cover of Tim Ostermeyer's Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox. Those 'little kid' fox cubs are the stars of the work, that they are just 'little kids' is obvious.
As I read the account beginning when the kits were just two weeks old; Osage County First Grade leaned closer to get a better look at the brown, short nosed little ones.
Ginger and Rusty are actually Red Foxes, however because they are so young their fur is brown to protect them from predators as they stay hidden in their log.
Reading through the work we discover that as Ginger and Rusty get older their fur begins to turn red, however, the pair continue to stay pretty close to the log.
As the pair become older they begin exploring further and further away from the safety of the log to places where they begin to notice other denizens of the forest. Some of the critters they meet are benign others are not. Deer, and wolves, cougar and bear, and bobcats too are all part of the forest where Rusty and Ginger reside.
Midway through the narrative the fox family discovers the shimmering water of a lake where they will be safe from the teeth of the bobcat. In the middle of the lake is an island.
Photography offered in the work is child appealing and very intriguing.
I particularly like the sidebar notes filled with much information regarding each of the various animal species noted in the book. Geared to the interest and reading level of the young target audience, Adventures of Rusty and Ginger Fox provides a wealth of information before the Fox family swims out to the island where they discover a mysterious box.
The box is filled with treasure, both for the Fox family and for two little girls wearing white lawn dresses who come paddling in a small boat in the water of the lake.
With the help of the girls the treasure chest is opened, the treasure revealed and the narrative draws to a close.
While I as an adult found the shift from reality to impossible a bit of leap; Osage County First Grade had no problem accepting that a fox family might well discover a treasure chest on a small island. Or that two little girls might come paddling a small boat out to that island. Or that fox and girls might share a treasure.
Photography is exquisite, watching the progress of two tiny kits to little kid kits is marvelous as are the sidebars filled with sound information regarding a number of critters we might well see out in the wild.
The narrative hold's child interest, Rusty and Ginger are becoming fast favorites for Little Reader DEAR time reading and for taking home to share with parents.
Despite my own adult reservations I cannot deny that the Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox is a child appealing work and I am Happy to Recommend Tim Ostermeyer's Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox
River Rising is book three: The Loss of Certainty Series
T.P. Jones' River Rising is book three: The Loss of Certainty Series. Dedicated to the citizens of Dubuque, Iowa, the narrative opens as weatherman Walter Plowman drives through fog with the window down and his elbow sticking out of the opening.
A warm front with first rains already appearing and temps climbing to the low 50s brought fog roiling from the snowpack. Behind the front was a second which would likely bring more rain along with the first thunderstorms of spring.
From that point the reader travels with various Jackson players facing weather, problems, sinkholes, thousands of gallons of missing water, ice moving out of the river, possibility of the worst flood in the annals of recorded history on the Upper Mississippi, and Walter Plowman as he moves in and out of the scene. Plowman works for a local TV station.
The Jackson city council discusses the sinkhole and its result; a car veered into the hole and a driver was injured. More interested in accountability than any larger problem; council members discuss liability along with how the sinkhole occurred.
In the first of the Loss of Certainty Trilogy, Jackson, readers were introduced to the residents of Jackson, Iowa, and the crisis before them. 2,000 jobs are in jeopardy; Jackson Meatpacking Company may need to close. Attempts to save the company reveal the ugly underbelly of a brutally competitive industry.
The Gamble, second book of the trilogy, again takes readers to Jackson as the town experiences deals with the results of a racially motivated hate crime. The town's politicos try to remedy damage, amidst mounting unemployment disquiet in addition to introduction of a divisive new racial assimilation plan which tests the underpinnings upon which the community has been built.
The third book of the Loss of Certainty Trilogy, River Rising, continues to tag along with the inhabitants of Jackson as a steady rain begins threatening to inundate the town.
Jackson residents discover that the town's flood prevention systems might well not succeed in protecting them from the rising water. The only hope for survival means everyone must leave behind long held prejudices and narrow-mindedness if the town hopes to continue to exist.
While writer Jones bases his writing on his research he undertook during months observing city departments, citizens and the like he is careful that none of his characters can be traced to real life city employees of the Dubuque Iowa region upon which is narrative is loosely based.
As the threat of flood brings apprehensions regarding Jackson's financial future; city officials discover that existing floodwall and levee structures in place around the city may stop working bring with their failure impending overwhelming outcomes.
The dog track under construction on an island in the Mississippi River was supposed to bring the town out of its money woes; now the project is in jeopardy.
Chauvinism within the city, as well as intolerances and injustices about events in the past maintain and even prolong impact regarding the manner in which people view and work together. Divisiveness will make it thorny if not impossible for city leaders and even citizens themselves to concentrate on the threat of flood. As the situation worsens it becomes apparent that not everyone has the same understanding whether addressing the hazard posed by the possible flood or the best way to deal with it.
T.P. Jones' River Rising is a fast paced, well written novel filled with flowing and easily read prose offset by recurrent use of dialogue. Characters are well-formed, beset with the foibles and idiosyncrasies as beset us all causing them to be believable beings without being overdone. Jones does not fill his work with unnecessary specificity, rather the narrative is concise and to the point. Jones details players and circumstances only as need dictates in order to further the storyline.
Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend T.P. Jones' River Rising.
French Letters Engaged in War
Jack Woodville London's
Jack Woodville London's French Letters: Engaged in War Normandy 1944, is the second book in the French Letters Trilogy.
Beginning with a distressed woman in the prologue; the reader begins to feel some of the stress washing over Shirley. The telephone call she has received stirs long quiet memories of a man named Will, a woman named Virginia and many years between then and now.
On board a landing ship loaded with tanks, guns and medical crews on the way across the English Channel; the narrative begins June, 1944, with an unheard discussion of the aerodynamics of a Duncan yo-yo in flight.
The men on board the landing ship would be the first medics a wounded soldier would see when he got on the ramp. They would assess his condition and get him to a triage doctor.
Within a span of a few lines of text; the scene is set by a hardnosed major with a yen for revenge coupled to a God complex regarding real or imagined slights rendered by those under his command. Army Doctor, Will Hastings, Captain, has managed to get himself on the Major's list. And, so has a young medic.
Will is soon enmeshed in the Normandy D-Day landings and the push to capture St. Lo, France. Cut off from Virginia Sullivan (book 1 of the series) and the incidents in progress at home; stresses of Will's responsibilities caused by combat surgery under fire are heightened with losses of his brother, his friends, and his connection to home.
London brings together a riveting, well written novel continuing the narrative of the home front taking place in a small Texas town on the pages of Virginia's War as combat raged across the sea.
Engaged in War relates the chronicle of Captain Will Hastings and his experience as an Army surgeon on the European front both prior to and following the D-Day arrival of Allied troops.
Historically precise and specific to the events of the era presented in volume 1, Engaged in War is a tale delineating the strength of the will to survive despite the horror of combat, space, death of loved ones, and even uncertainty regarding the future. And, it is a tale delineating the power of home and caring despite the seeming impossibility of return to normalcy separating families past supposed snapping point.
Leaving home and sweethearts has long been a part of the lives of military personnel. London continues to hone his panache, forwarding a highly lucid and agreeable storyline. While not a war story per se; it is through Will Hastings readers are introduced to personal experiences of many of our own relatives; the WWII soldier serving in Europe during that tumultuous time. The return to supposed normalcy and home is not always easy.
The turmoil Hastings faces torn between saving lives along with trying to learn more concerning his brother's death are portrayed with all the angst, stress and anxiety as might be expected. As a doctor, Hastings is dedicated to saving as many lives as feasible. However, the constraints placed on a doctor in time of war often cause the practice of medicine to be quite different than that taking place in a civilian venue.
Writer London has crafted an intriguing tale filled with rich details, fully fleshed characters and plenty of twists and turns to satisfy the reader who enjoys character focused historical fiction. From the prologue to last page the reader is kept turning the page to learn what will happen next.
Happy to recommend Jack Woodville London's French Letters Engaged in War.
The Royal Dragoneers
M. R. Mathias
Amazon Digital Services
M. R. Mathias' The Royal Dragoneers opens as Jenka De Swasso peeked through the thick leathery undergrowth in which he was hiding. Stealthily sixteen-year-old Jenka moved through shadowy glades of the Orich; his prey, an ancient stag was past his prime.
Jenka's hope is to one day become a King's Ranger as was his father before him. It was here in the Orich Mountains that Jenka's father had died when Jenka was very young. His father gave his life saving the Crown Prince.
By the time Jenka located the fallen stag it was too late to do anything except protect his kill and wait for morning, and hope someone might notice he was missing and come looking. He thought too of Delia the baker's daughter. And of little gray goblins and bands of feral, rock-hurling trolls said to live here in these mountains. And of Crix Crux. Master Kember had said that Crix Crux was an ogre.
Tangible fear filled Jenka as his thoughts continued. Something huge was moving about out in the shadows. A sleek, scaly beast came lurching down out of the darkened sky.
From that beginning the reader enters a fascinating world of legend and inscrutability where dragons are dreaded even though they are seldom seen. It is a land where trolls and goblins rove the rough country.
Sixteen-year old Jenka de Swasso's destiny seems to take an abrupt turn when he and the young dragon Jade find some common ground. It is a pretty extraordinary state of affairs in a country where dragons are viewed with terror and abhorrence by everyone. Jenka's dreams may come to nothing; the world of kings and rangers is in jeopardy. The supernatural druida Zahrellion plays a part. Jade the dragon is waiting as King Blanchard fumbles a bit unable to believe his kingdom might be attacked. His son Richard may hold an answer.
Jenka finds himself joining a distinctive society in which his out of the ordinary buddy, Zahrellion, whose mysterious and potent magic Jenka is learning to respect, as well as Prince Richard too, is a member, and as is Rikki a lame young warrior who has beaten the odds of excruciating injuries to become part of the team.
The Royal Dragoneers promises and keeps that pledge of an exciting step into a mythic world of awe-inspiring escapade, wild battles, exciting characters, fully detailed locales and nerve-racking accomplishment. Action is fast paced, satisfying in quantity and exploit and moves the reader at a brisk page from line to line and page to page at a breathless tempo.
Dangers are satisfactorily revealed with new details layered slowly but surely as the reader and written characters alike gain more knowledge of the situation, vista, and state of affairs. The mountains are detailed well. The stag hunt, rescue, along with village and characters are all presented well as a dramatic depiction of the mythic world and its players are revealed.
From the worrisome goblin king Gravelbone and his band of troublesome orcs, trolls and goblins to Jade, to a stubborn king who tends to lock the best of his realm in dungeons rather than deal with problems or face the truth to a graying old Kings Ranger and a band of determined youngsters to witches, druids and more; The Royal Dragoneers is sure to please the target audience of middle and high school age readers.
Happy to recommend M. R. Mathias' The Royal Dragoneers.
Purpose Driven Public Speaking How to Develop and Deliver Purposeful Talks, Speeches, and Presentations with Less Fear and More Confidence.
Dr. Gary Rodriguez
Dr. Gary Rodriguez' Purpose Driven Public Speaking offers advice regarding How to Develop and Deliver Purposeful Talks, Speeches, and Presentations with Less Fear and More Confidence.
Purpose Driven Public Speaking is a work of some ten chapters offered as nearly 200 pages. Included within the covers are Preface, Foreword, Introduction, Final Thoughts, Appendix and Resources in addition to the chapter work.
Dr. Rodriguez notes, 'This book, which is directed to active and aspiring speakers, teaches one how to build a purpose driven presentation from start to finish.' He goes on to state the goal intended is to provide readers with a verified, workable, organized approach for speaking which is intended to facilitate both novice as well as veteran speakers toward development and delivery of focused talks that bring into being a preferred outcome.
Chapter 1 entitled Courage Under Fire sets the tone for those wrestling with fear of speaking before groups. Dr. Rodriguez notes that generally, speaking in public is not hazardous to your health. He notes several well known exceptions from history; Christ and Dr Martin Luther King who were killed, but whose messages continue to inspire.
Chapter 2 addresses the vital questions regarding to whom the speaker is addressing, how much time is available for the speech, what subject is to be addressed and what the desired outcome is.
Chapter 3 leads the reader toward understanding how to identify the subject, while Chapter 4 suggests beginning at the end.
Chapter 5 was one that I found particularly edifying. Dr. Rodriguez suggests hiding the structure and suggests various methods for preparing for the speech. Included are manuscript method, outline method, keyword outline method and the importance of practice as well as movement method.
Chapter 6 and the Ninety Second Rule introduces four essentials including how to capture audience attention, how to surface a need in the listener, how to identify the subject and pointing to the desired outcome. How to prepare a ten minute talk on any subject is filled with excellent suggestions.
I enjoyed Chapter 7 as Dr. Rodriguez illustrates Pointed as vs Pointless Illustrations.
Chapter 8 and the strong finish helped to round out the learning to be gained.
Chapters 9 and 10 offer a model of a purpose driven talk and presentation tips.
All in all I found Dr. Rodriguez' purpose driven Public Speaking to be very informative, highly readable and filled with much to pique the interest. Despite my having been in the classroom for many years; I found much to consider as I contemplate future speaking I may find myself undertaking.
I found Purpose Driven Public Speaking aids development as a successful speaker by showing workable, lucid methods for dealing with natural nervousness and qualms associated with speaking in public. Straightforward, frank information augmented by first-rate personal anecdotes and intriguing graphics kept me reading as I gleaned more information regarding how to ready and bring off focused discussion, presentations, and dialogue that lead to hoped for, planned results.
The purpose driven approach for public speaking preparation provides speakers a determined objective to aid as the speaker begins to line up each of the elements of the talk. I found this insight into public speaking to be stimulating, intriguing and perceptive. From hiding the structure of the talk itself to the 4 vital questions to creating a purposeful talk with a strong introduction, pointed illustrations and action oriented conclusion as well as discussion of pointed as opposed to pointless illustrations; I found Purpose Driven Public Speaking to be a dandy book sure to facilitate critical thinking skills for those aiming to produce a focused, sensible and dynamic talk.
Whether novice speaker or veteran, occasional or regular speaker; Purpose Driven Public Speaking offers a firm basis regarding fundamentals of public speaking for those
who find themselves speaking in public now and again as well as being a useful and supportive energizer for those that may find themselves speaking to an assembly on a regular basis.
On the pages of Purpose Driven Public Speaking, Gary Rodriguez helps remove much of the dread many harbor regarding public speaking. Rodriguez calls upon his years of speaking experience to provide a dandy plan of action for guiding the reader toward becoming a focused, unafraid, well prepared public speaker. Written with kindliness and filled with wittiness, excellent concepts and principles; Purpose Driven Public Speaking is informative, heartening, edifying and revitalizing.
Happy to recommend Dr. Gary Rodriguez' Purpose Driven Public Speaking How to Develop and Deliver Purposeful Talks, Speeches, and Presentations with Less Fear and More Confidence.
I do not keep all books I receive for review, Dr. Rodriguez' Purpose Driven Public Speaking is one such edition that I will be adding to my own library shelf.
Bible Wisdom for Modern Times
John Howard Reid
John Reid's Bible Wisdom for Modern Times sections from the Orthodox Old Testament opens with a prologue featuring Pitfalls and Rewards as gleaned from the supposed writings of King Solomon. Wisdom was a keynote attributed to Solomon who tradition declares was known for thoughts regarding wise behavior, thoughts and writings.
Whether actually written by Solomon himself, or by a group under the umbrella name of Solomon; I have long enjoyed the various treatise regarding wisdom and the importance of wisdom in our daily lives.
I like that Reid has undertaken this work. Too many of us read the Bible as presented by those who have done translation, and the like, with little understanding that the original writings may or may not be fully delivered in the editions we hold dear today. Because Jesus drew upon Tobias for many of his adages and allegorical narratives it is essential we have a perception of this little known man and the writings bearing his name.
Reid has noted, 'What I've always wanted is a selection from the Bible of important material relevant to my life that's not only easy to read and understand but that sings to my soul. I've attempted to supply just that in Bible Wisdom for Modern Times. It appears that on the pages of Bible Wisdom for Modern Times; Reid has accomplished his goal, and, well at that.
With some 20 pages devoted to one of my favorite Biblical books; I found much to enjoy as I read anew admonitions for seeking, gaining and keeping wisdom in our lives.
Serious Bible Scholars have long recognized that various writings accredited to King David were written by David and others. The beauty and truth of the principles lose nothing whether actually written by David or another.
Reid turns attention to 'Greek' Ezra and the story of 3 Wise Young Men. A contest, a riddle and a desire to curry favor leads to understanding that Truth is greater than any other force on earth.
As a reader of the Bible from childhood; I have long enjoyed the Psalms, I was intrigued to find new or newly translated Psalms included in this work. They are a treat for those who enjoy the book of Psalms.
The Adventures of Toby are written with a gentle hand. They are a nice lead in to A Song of Solomon, one more Psalm and a discussion of Jesus ben Sirach. I enjoyed reading each of the various sections presented in new light or with new enlightenment.
John Howard Reid offers recently deciphered works along with paraphrased choices from Old Testament and the supposed mythical biblical wisdom prose. Included in this particular volume are writings attributed to Solomon as well as anecdotes of Jesus Ben Sirach, and Tobias.
Included in this edition as well are works of inspired Jewish and Greek writers. Reid has spent a good bit of time bringing many of the old writings into modern English. The original chronicles of The Three Wise Young Men and Tobias, Tobit, have been recreated to make them more readable without losing any of the didactic utterances as appear to be constant with the original narratives.
The Prayer of Manasseh, Proverbs, Baruch, Susanna, The Visions of Ezra, Proverbs are included and rendered into modern English.
A must have for every serious Bible Reader; I am happy to recommend John Reid's Bible Wisdom for Modern Times with sections from the Orthodox Old Testament for novice and long time Bible Readers.
Molly Martin, Reviewer
The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393068566 $24.95 www.amazon.com
There exists a fascination with Emily Dickinson. A genius in a tiny bedroom scribbling poems that would become legendary. A mythological recluse writing about life, but not participating in it. Is it possible to tell a compelling story about an eccentric living in the recesses of her mind? Jerome Charyn draws out different aspects of her personality by peopling her life with his created characters. THE SECRET LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON reads more like fiction than biography. While dutifully researched, the known facts about the "Belle of Amherst" are intermingled with the author's interpretation regarding her poetic inspiration.
Charyn introduces Zilpah Marsh as Emily's doppelganger. Zilpah is a scholarship student/maid at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary while Emily is the well-to-do daughter of the "Earl of Amherst." Zilpah has an affair with the school's handyman while Emily is left pining for his love. Zilpah is the favored pupil of their literary schoolmistress, but it is Emily who achieves poetic greatness. When Zilpah is hired as the Dickinson's maid, she quickly forges a lasting bond with Emily's father - something Emily struggles throughout her life to obtain. Yet it is Zilpah's highly educated mind that prevents her from accepting her low station in life. Her inability to cope lands her in an insane asylum. Emily feels Zilpah's mental breakdown, under similar circumstances, could have been her own.
Despite the heated passion of her verse, Emily Dickinson is generally thought of as an old maid. Shattering this stereotype, Charyn fleshes out her relationships with the opposite sex. She receives Valentines and marriage proposals. She suffers a lifelong infatuation for Zilpah's Holyoke handyman. She wants to run away with an alcoholic card shark. She sits on a judge's lap. She seeks love in an underground rum establishment. She treasures a flea-infested blanket from a wanted criminal. She is able to write about romance not as a passive spectator but as an active participant. However, despite her adventures of the heart, she remains an unmarried virgin.
Charyn portrays Emily's father as keeping her in a state of perpetual adolescence. He wants her to remain dependent on him, and he remains the most important man in Emily's life. While in a dream-like state, she even imagines her father as the perfect suitor. It is unclear if their relationship revolves around an Electra complex or if Emily simply regards her self-worth by how she appears in his eyes. After placing samples of her work under his bedroom door, it takes years for him to respond. While constantly seeking his approval, she views him as a type of savior. When wandering the streets of Boston, she stumbles across armed vigilantes pursuing Union deserters. In this chaos-induced scene, it is her father who magically comes to her rescue.
Emily suffers throughout her life with low self-esteem. Pale, freckled and red-haired, her timid voice is barely audible. When her eyesight starts to fail, she wears dark-colored spectacles to shield her eyes from light. These glasses add to the oddity of her appearance, but stimulate her creative impulses. While wearing them she is instructed to refrain from writing, but that prohibition is quickly ignored.
Charyn shines when verbalizing Emily's talent. She is a "kicking kangaroo" as the words come tumbling out. Her verses are "feathers" that require careful pruning. Inspiration is the "lightning" that illuminates her mind. While no doubt enhanced by her formal education, her poetry springs from a natural talent. To this day, it remains a stunning achievement in American literature.
Overall, Emily's "secret life" exists in the creative realm of Charyn's imagination.
The Wolves of Andover
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316068628 $24.99 www.amazon.com
"The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan
English political philosopher (1588-1679)
Life in 1673 Massachusetts lived up to Hobbes' expectations. In The Wolves of Andover, Kathleen Kent offers a realistic depiction of survival through the eyes of colonial woman, Martha Allen. With a sharp eye for detail, Kent does not shy away from historical accuracy in order to create a romance full of beauty and lightness. Instead, she depicts rustic settlers living in primitive conditions in close proximity to livestock. Many are hanging on by a thread against Indian attack, disease and poverty.
Martha's strength is that she rises to meet these challenges. Having reached the age of 20 without a husband, her father can no longer afford to care for her. Martha is sent to live with her cousin, Patience and her family as a servant. Patience is suffering through a difficult pregnancy and requires help around the house. Martha takes on the role of housekeeper caring for Patience's children, Will and Joanna; her husband, Daniel and their indentured servants, John and Thomas.
When a pack of wolves starts terrorizing the countryside, Martha forges a bond with Thomas despite his being 30 years her senior. While attempting to ensnare the lupines, his quiet, steady demeanor captures the interest of the sharp-tongued girl. While strong and physically fit, Thomas' fate lies in the hands of Patience and Daniel. His hope rests on their granting him a parcel of land upon completion of his servitude. Martha's future too is uncertain once Patience is delivered of child.
Yet affairs of the heart come second to survival in this inhospitable environment. The yard is full of mud from freezing rain. Food is improperly stored on the damp cellar floor. A chilled bed struggles for warmth from the hearth. A garden is fertilizes with dried fish and manure while a battery of flies hover overhead. A lover's hands are full of rasping and unyielding calluses. A woman's threadbare bodice is stained with sweat. Not exactly the stuff of romance novels.
Even scenes of love are tempered by the harsh setting. Martha comes across Thomas bare-chested in the barn. However, he is at work slaughtering a crippled calf. Thomas steals admiring glances at Martha, while she is submerged in a boggy marsh gathering wild leeks. When the village Casanova makes a play for Martha, Thomas pushes his body to the breaking point in order to beat his much-younger competitor in a harvest mowing contest. When wooing her, Thomas backhandedly compares Martha to a doe in a fable saying, "You are the deer shot through with arrows whose heart grows cold for want of being taken."
Yet the focus of the book revolves around Thomas' past. Was he the man who swung the blade that beheaded King Charles I? The regent's son, King Charles II is unwavering in his determination to find his father's killer supposedly well-hidden in the New World. A group of hired torturers is bidden to bring back the man who took his father's life.
The novel is succinctly split between the story of Martha and Thomas and that of Thomas' pursuers. It jumps between alternating chapters delineating the approaching meeting point of the two plot lines. This weakens the work as a whole. Instead of staying in the Massachusetts Bay Colony throughout the narrative, a plethora of characters and settings is introduced as the hit men make their way from England to Boston Harbor. The progression of the book loses its steam when divided between what amounts to two stories that are better off standing on their own. While attempting to bring more history into the novel such as the royal court, the back alleys of London and life aboard a merchant ship, Kent falters by veering off course instead of concentrating on the plight of her two main characters.
Overall, Kent's Wolves bites off a bit more than it can chew.
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446409506 $23.99 www.amazon.com
How do some books get published? In the case of Corked, it is apparent that if Kathryn Borel wasn't a radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, her memoir would not have seen the light of day. It seems the Hachette Book Group took a chance on Kathryn more for who she is than what she wrote.
The angle focuses on the struggle of a father and daughter to connect. Kathryn records her mixed emotions regarding her father, Philippe. During a trip to France, they visit world-renown vineyards. Philippe is a wine connoisseur, while Kathryn is uncomfortable expressing herself in the language of the palette.
Her emotions are corked. They are not gaining release. Months prior to the trip, she accidentally killed a jaywalking pedestrian. Due to the coincidence of her boyfriend's father having previously died in a car crash, their relationship becomes strained and eventually ends. She cannot return the intensity of his love, yet she continues to reach out to him in moments of weakness. Kathryn is fully aware that she is selfishly using him, but can't seem to help herself.
Philippe's feelings, on the other hand, are always on the surface ready to explode or shrouded beneath a sulky silence. He's either making a scene in a restaurant over a perceived lack of service or refusing to utter a word during a winery tour due to the supposed impoliteness of their host. He also frequently acts inappropriately around his daughter appearing in nothing but a towel or discussing his sexual prowess.
An aspect that is especially grating is the display of insensitivity. In grade school, Kathryn joked about having Down Syndrome and reflects on the moment in a comical light. When arguing with her father while driving, she threatens to crash into a tree causing a murder/suicide. She continues to hound her ex-boyfriend with emails and text messages while having casual sex with three different men.
The pair's manners regarding hygiene are quite atrocious. Philippe reuses soiled Q-tips. Kathryn picks lint out of her belly button in public. They find camaraderie in the sentiment, "Do you ever get the feeling that you just want to take a baby and kick it across the room and watch it smash against the wall?"
Philippe is not the best of fathers. He has a hard time remembering Kathryn's date of birth. He lets strange men ogle his daughter's breasts without saying a word. But the main point of contention is that he didn't offer Kathryn the emotional support she needed after the accident. As their trip comes to a close, Philippe reveals a long-held secret about his past. Does this excuse his past cowardly, selfish behavior? Do they reach a turning point in their relationship? It's hard to say.
Overall, wine aficionados will delight in Corked's vintages, but readers thirsting for a heartwarming memoir need to open another bottle.
Meet Me on the Paisley Roof
Bascom Hill Publishing
212 3rd Ave. North Suite 290 Minneapolis, MN 55401
First impressions can be deceiving. The first chapter of Murray Tillman's Meet Me on the Paisley Roof is the ultimate turn-off. Six solid pages of a manure fight between three teenage boys isn't exactly an appealing introduction to 1956 Georgia. However, Tillman's nostalgic look at small town life is redeemed through the likable trio of Trussell Jones and brothers Cassidy and Ronnie Childs. Thankfully, Tillman doesn't dabble in sentimentality. Instead, he paints a realistic picture of adolescence where, more often than not, adults fail to live up to their assigned roles.
When Trussell's father dies, he is left in the care of his stepmother, Loretta. Saying the two don't see eye-to-eye is putting it mildly. Loretta feels Trussell is an ungrateful lout whose sole purpose in life is to cause her grief. While Trussell feels adrift with no one to turn to, when Loretta, for all intents and purposes, gives up on him. All she provides are the bare essentials of food, clothing and shelter, and an occasional note on the kitchen table. Things get so bad that Loretta even brings a gun into the house to "protect" herself from a boy who means her no bodily harm.
The Childs brothers on the other hand are witnessing firsthand the deterioration of their parents' marriage. With their alcoholic father spending the greater part of the week on the road, they come to realize that the stability in their lives no longer exists. As the eldest, Cassidy is contemplating moving with their father to another town, while Ronnie seeks a way to cope with his feeling of abandonment.
While dealing with serious subject matter in an era that bespeaks Ozzie and Harriet perfection, Tillman infuses the book with an abundance of humor to keep the tone from becoming dark and introspective. They are, still after all, boys and a series of hijinks and pranks ensue from hot-wiring Loretta's car to "borrowing" a gang member's motorcycle. They even manage to unknowingly kidnap an intoxicated solider, trample to death a panic-stricken monkey and dress in drag to sneak into the hospital.
But being hot-blooded American males, the opposite sex is a frequent topic of discussion. Trussell, after harboring a lifelong crush on Ellen Harmond, finally acts on his feelings when teased into submission by Cassidy and Ronnie. Hilarity ensues. While late for church, Trussell ends up getting dressed in the backseat of an older girl's convertible while flying through the streets of downtown Columbus. A sight Ellen just happens to take in from the backseat of her parents' car. Another wardrobe malfunction occurs when Trussell is forced to wear a spangled cowboy shirt for his piano playing debut on a local television station. An ensemble that, through a twist of fate, Ellen gets to witness in person. Another time while on a picnic lunch in a secluded spot, Trussell is just about to make a move when Cassidy appears out of nowhere spoiling the moment. When the two finally start to make an emotional connection, Ellen comes across a nude picture of herself in Trussell's garage that Ronnie drew for his friend's birthday. Nothing in Trussell's courtship of Ellen comes without mishap, but to Ellen's credit she refuses to give up on him.
The heart and soul of Tillman's writing comes through, when he shows his young characters actively making decisions that will affect the outcome of their lives. They are not passive players in a world controlled by adults. Instead, they are forced to deal with mature issues at a tender age. With Loretta's beauty parlor in dire financial straits, Trussell must choose whether or not to leave his embattled stepmother and live with his Aunt Cora in Birmingham. With her mother battling cancer, Ellen must decide whether or not she wants to find strength and support in her relationship with Trussell, whose own mother succumbed to the disease. While Ronnie feeling unwanted in his own home, acts out in a dramatic way in an attempt to bring his family back together.
Through their trials and tribulations, what they come to understand is that regardless of the adults in their lives, they at least have one another. A touching moment occurs between Ronnie and Trussell.
"Do you love me?"
"Do you love me?"
"Sure I do, Ronnie. You're just like a brother. You know that."
"Yeah, well, same here, buddy. Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"That you love me."
"Oh shoot, that's just something you ought to know."
"Well, I didn't."
"Well you should."
Another scene between Trussell and Ellen confirms the sense of family the boys have created for themselves.
"Trussell, you did witness a miracle."
"Yes, sure [Cassidy and Ronnie] went to lots of trouble, but where's the miracle?"
"Their gift to you, Trussell, was love. You laughed with them. Your gift to them was love. There's the miracle. I don't have any friends who could or would do anything like that for me."
Overall, it's well worth the climb to meet the boys up on the Paisley roof.
Infinite Space, Infinite God II
Karina & Robert Fabian
Paladin Timeless Books
P O Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
Nuns in outer space? Churches in virtual reality? Priests as robots? Sometimes the most unlikely pairings lead to the most interesting literary achievements. In Infinite Space, Infinite God II, the creativity of science fiction is merged with the morality of Catholicism. The result is a collection of 12 short stories edited by the husband and wife team of Rob and Karina Fabian. While fun and imaginative, the anthology forces the reader to confront some serious issues. Would a human clone have a soul? Would aliens be considered a part of God's creation? Would religious vocations continue to exist beyond Earth's gravitational pull? These thought-provoking issues are explored in a way that satisfies both the techno-geek and the religious philosopher.
The stand-out piece, The Ghosts of Kourion by Andrew Seddon is placed in the lead-off spot for good reason. It is a fascinating look at the open-ended possibilities of time travel. After tragically losing his wife and daughter, Professor Robert Cragg leaves the confines of the year 2655 to journey to the ancient Greek city of Kourion circa 365 A.D. His goal is to witness firsthand the destruction of the fabled city on the day it was ransacked by a legendary earthquake. Christianity is in its infancy and the pagan gods of Zeus and Apollo are succumbing to the writings of Paul and the rulings of Constantine. Knowing he cannot change the past, Robert nevertheless fosters an urge to save a young girl and her family from the impending disaster. However, the Self-Consistency Principle holds sway. Robert expounds on it by saying, "I can't travel to the past unless I've already been there, and when I get there I'll do what I've already done."
The moral implications of time travel are staggering. Why doesn't Robert revisit a time when his wife and daughter are alive? Because he'd merely be observing what had already happened. He'd be watching a rerun of his past life, not living his current one. Why doesn't he warn the citizens of Kourion before the earthquake? No one would believe him. The alarm had never been raised, so he could not raise it. His powerlessness is acute.
Seddon explores Robert's emotional conundrum in a telling passage. Knowing that I could not avert the disaster should have helped me observe with clearer objectivity and act more naturally. It should have helped prevent mental and emotional damage. It should have helped avert self-condemnation. My job was to observe history, to do what I had done, and not to despair over how events had turned out. How could I have foreseen that this poor, simple girl with the mule would affect me so?
The collection is filled with mind-bending imagery. A nun battling poisonous snakes during a spaceship rescue mission in Karina Fabian's Antivenin. Her screams stuck in her throat. Not twelve, but twenty snakes, at least, writhed on the floor and shelves and over the dead man - from his puffed and discolored face, she knew there was no way he could be alive.
Aliens hunt their prey inside a church during Mass in Alex Lobdell's The Battle of Narthex. Suddenly a massive black figure emerged from behind a forward column, glided into the sanctuary, and leapt up onto the white marble altar. It stood staring coldly out at the people. It was an unnerving sight to see the ghostly figure standing upon their altar, peering out coldly for its victim while the smiling young priest continued talking just a few feet away. The pygmies had a word for such a wrongness: abomination.
With human cloning moving ever closer to reality, it's moral implications are becoming a pertinent issue. In Derwin Mak's Cloned to Kill, the question is raised - is a human clone a piece of property or a human being worthy of an immortal soul? The flip-flopping of rhetoric is addressed by clone creator Dennis Rowicki. "The baptism of clones shows the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. For years, the Church opposed the cloning of humans. For years, you said only God has the right to create human beings through natural procreation. Yet you eagerly baptize the clones created by the process you condemn." Mak depicts the Church as standing firm on human rights regardless if the person is naturally or synthetically born. As expressed by the clone, Lorraine, "Only inside this church [I am human]. I am non-human outside it."
The book hits a slight snag right at the end with the final installment Dyads by Ken Pick and Alan Loewen. Nearly three times the length of the other stories, the selection slows the pacing of the anthology having it drag to the finish line. The plot revolves around a race of fox-like creatures who practice what the Vatican believes to be an authentic derivation of Christianity. Trouble ensues when a Bible-thumping Earthling desecrates their place of worship in what amounts to act of religious terrorism. Yet there is something off-putting about the native inhabitants that makes it difficult to sympathize with them. They exude a aura of otherness such as in the passage: Her ears flattened down, came up; white showed around her cat's eyes; her mouth worked as her delicate fox face passed from anger to shock to puzzlement. Finally she looked up at him, head cocked and faint squeal in her throat. "Yerf?" Whether it be their beady eyes, pointed ears or sharp teeth, it is a bit repulsive to view their animal-like qualities in relation to one of humanity's oldest religions.
Overall, the collection expands the role of faith through the endless possibilities of the sci-fi genre.
Nicole Langan, Reviewer
Where Cool Waters Flow
P.O. Box 10, Yarmouth, ME 04096
9781934031285 $15.95 www.amazon.com www.islandportpress.com
"Where Cool Waters Flow: Four Seasons With a Master Maine Guide" looks at a year in the life of a Maine Guide, a person who is certified as knowing the lakes and forests around Grand Lake Stream, Maine. For most people, it's an isolated bit of northern Maine, with a population barely over 100. For those who take their hunting and fly fishing seriously, it is an important place to experience.
Winter is a time for repairs or preventive maintenance on their specially built square stern canoes, called Grand Lakers. Most people need a second job to make it through the long winter. The author is a singer/songwriter who released several CDs. Mud season happens somewhere between winter and spring, when it seems as if the entire world has turned to mud. It is also a time to curse the roads and trails, made by the timber companies, which are frequently little more than collections of ruts and potholes.
Spring means the return of guiding clients, called "sports." Many sports have become friends, returning year after year. It's an important psychic boost to the year-round residents (and the money doesn't hurt). April 1 means the opening of fly fishing season. It's totally unimportant if there is still ice on the rivers, or if there are giant snowbanks leading right down to the water; serious fly fishermen will be there.
In summer, guides make use of every square inch of storage space in their canoes as they take sports out for an all-day fishing trip. The guide knows where trout or salmon are likely to hang out; it's not enough to simply cast and expect the fish to bite. There are a number of occurrences where sports experience emotional decompression or confess things to their guide while in the canoe. To be the only human beings on a lake with no other signs of human habitation, and to watch an eagle snatch a fish out of the lake, or to watch a moose or black bear rumble past, the term "religious experience" comes to mind.
In the autumn, fishing season gives way to hunting season. Some people have to use the newest "guaranteed" rifle or hunting gadget, while others stick with family heirlooms that have worked in the past. Autumn is also the time for house repairs, and wood chopping, that weren't taken care of during the summer.
Along with being a Maine Guide, and a musician, Spencer is also an excellent storyteller. He does a fine job of putting the reader in the canoe, or up a tree waiting for a large animal to walk by. For armchair sportsmen, and serious sportsmen, this is very highly recommended.
The Palm Oil Miracle
Dr. Bruce Fife
P.O. Box 25203, Colorado Springs, CO 80936
9780941599658 $15.95 http://www.piccadillybooks.com
This book is all about palm oil, a seemingly "miracle" vegetable oil that has been used for thousands of years, and is currently being used around the world. But it is generally unknown here in America.
The reason for America's unfamiliarity with palm oil is that, for the last 30 years, Americans have been subjected to a huge amount of corporate propaganda (what else is new?). The culprit is the domestic vegetable oil industry. They have convinced the average citizen that tropical oils, like palm oil, which are high in saturated fat, are a leading cause of high cholesterol and heart disease. Supposedly, poly- and monounsaturated fats are the way to go. If that's true, why are the rates of heart disease much higher in America than in the rest of the world?
Many medical studies have shown that palm oil can protect against a huge number of common ailments (the book references over 300 studies). For instance, palm oil can protect against cancer, heart disease, it improves blood sugar control, it supports healthy liver and lung function, it helps protect against mental deterioration, like Alzheimer's Disease, and it helps strengthen bones and teeth. The book goes into detail about why saturated fat is better than unsaturated fat, and why palm oil is so healthy. Believe it or not, fat is an essential nutrient; the human body needs a certain amount of it every day. Those who are on a low-fat diet are doing more harm than good to themselves.
Palm oil is used in cooking, baking and deep frying, and can be used in place of margarine or vegetable oil. It can be used as a dietary supplement, and is non-toxic even in large amounts. It is even a natural anti-aging and anti-wrinkle moisturizing skin cream. The book also includes recipes that use palm oil, to cook and see for yourself.
Here is a fascinating book that is full of useful information for anyone. If the medical profession can only suggest a long and expensive course of treatment for whatever ails you, consider trying some palm oil. What have you got to lose? This book is very much worth reading.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385523219 $26.00 www.amazon.com
Best-selling author Sara Gruen is acclaimed for her amazing animal stories and "Ape House" does not disappoint. In "Ape House", readers are introduced to the incredible and hilarious bonobos, the only great apes who share 98.7% of their DNA with humans.
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter John Thigpen could never have imagined his idea for a story about the Great Ape Language Lab would explode into America's newest obsession. But that's exactly what happens. The day after he visits the lab and meets Isabel Duncan, scientist and devoted "mother" to the family of six bonobos - Bonzi, Sam, Mbongo, Makena, Lola, and Jelani - an explosion frees the apes from their quarters but they are captured and sold to a secret buyer. Thigpen's pursuit of his story and Duncan's crusade to save the bonobos, lead them on separate search & rescue missions that converge in the middle of a reality TV show circus in New Mexico.
Gruen's skillful writing infuses humor and circumstance to mirror the similarities between humans and bonobos. Through her brilliant storytelling, she manages to capture the essence of our bizarre American culture in the palm of an ape who flings it right back at us. "Ape House" is highly entertaining.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780767931342 $21.00 www.amazon.com
I seldom pan a book, especially a dog story. A more apt sub-title for this book might be "Huck: The Wrong Way to Raise a Puppy". Elder began this recipe for disaster with the revelation that her son Michael wanted a dog so badly that when he was ten years old he created a PowerPoint presentation to lobby his parents. Even the page captioned, "A Childhood Without a Dog Is a Sad Thing" did not melt their cold New Yorker hearts. All of Elder's excuses for resisting a dog were selfish. Once she decided Michael could have a small dog, she made him endure her cancer treatments first. When they finally adopted a toy poodle puppy, Elder dismissed the dog trainer and described training as "overdone for such a small dog". In her mind the notion of a dog trainer was "an over-the-top, New York thing to do" and "embarrassing". Luckily Huck spent his first four months with the breeder so he was mostly housebroken and crate trained, because his new family didn't bother to teach him to come when called. That proved to be their undoing. When they left Huck with relatives while on vacation, he ran away. The remaining chapters of "Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family - and a Whole Town - About Hope and Happy Endings" involved Elder and family and an entire town in an excruciating game of hide-and-seek with poor little Huck who fled in confusion at the sight of them because he was never taught trust - or to come when called. In the end, while Elder claimed to have learned much from the experience, she never divulged whether she learned her lesson about the importance of dog training. Too bad for Huck.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
1439153841 $25.00 www.amazon.com
Where Have They Gone? Why Are They There?
Cork O'Connor's father, the sheriff during a time (1964) when five local people in Tamarack County, Minnesota went missing, attempted an investigation. Yet to the locals, his efforts to solve the vanishings appeared futile. Leaving no trace, what really happened to these missing persons became a dreaded unsolved mystery. Had they simply left the area; was foul play involved: did they lie dead somewhere? By the time Cork O'Connor Jr. served his time as sheriff, the vanishings were hazy faded horrors of a dead past.
Now, Cork O'Connor is no longer sheriff. As a private investigator, he is hunting the missing sister of the owner of a mine located next to Vermilion Drift. The United States government has been seeking mines as depositories of nuclear waste materials. Because of these deadly contents and fearing uncertain nuclear contamination, residents who live around Vermilion Drift are protesting loudly. Violence has not erupted, but it is clear that protestors mean business.
While examining the interior of Vermilion Drift mine, a putrid smell leads a government official and her crew to discover five skeletal bodies in a hidden, closed off cavern inside the mine. With them is the decaying corpse of a recently murdered woman. Common sense and forensic examination indicate the skeletons have been lying dead, probably at least forty years. The bones of some of these skeletons have knife-like cuts in them, indicating some type of sharp knife slashed all the way into the bone. Yet other evidence shows these lesions were not the cause of death. Forensics also finds that a single bullet at close range killed the decaying woman.
What is the connection between the five skeletons from the past and the most recent killing? Cork becomes deeply involved in the case for two reasons. First, the decaying corpse in the mine was the sister of a nearby mine owner. Second, it has become increasingly evident that Cork's father knew more about the five skeletal remains than he ever admitted. In fact, a recovered shell from his handgun was responsible for at least one of the skeleton's deaths.
The story turns rapidly toward the macabre. Cork relies on his lifelong Indian Sage to help him recall deeply hidden subconscious memories. What surfaces is a sequence of events where he remembers details from his childhood. He remembers his father confronting a mysterious woman who holds his wife (Cork's mother) at knifepoint. He recalls hearing the awful screams of a victim who is tortured mercilessly before being murdered. He even recalls being captured and shackled to a wall to await torture and death to satisfy the strange psycho sexual urgings of a demented woman and man.
This story is highly engaging. Why? There is probably an equal amount of dialogue and narrative. Learning the story from spoken words of Vermilion Drift characters paints an image of their minds which is far more realistic than simply reading about these characters. From the description above, one might think the book is gory. It is not. It dwells more on the mental astuteness and acuity of its characters and their feelings in horrible situations rather than blood-curdling descriptions of what is actually taking place.
I would highly recommend Vermilion Drift to suspense, mystery lovers as a fascinating story where, from its initial pages, there is a definite chill that runs through the tale until its ending. This is not a common mystery novel. This is a completely unique stand-alone storyline with characters you will get to know from the inside out - and I do mean the inside. Vermilion Drift will not disappoint. I look forward to reading other stories by William Krueger.
The Learning Tree
Stanley Greenspan, M.D
Nancy Thorndike Greenspan
Da Capo Lifelong Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
0738212334 $26.00 www.amazon.com www.perseusbooksgroup.com
The Learning Tree compares a developing person to a tree with rugged roots capable of supporting a strong trunk that can blossom into one of natures beautiful green creations. All of which takes time, nurturing, and natural resources. This entire developmental process in a human, of course, begins at birth.
During the first few days out of the womb, what a caregiver does when responding to a newborn is critically important. Caregivers who not only cuddle and comfort an infant but who also respond attentively and with purpose during its waking hours, instill in that baby a genuine sense of stability. This is to say that even though helpless newborns appear incapable of taking in sensory experiences, they are not. It is critical when interacting with a newborn, long before it can truly see the outside world, that caregivers expose that infant to a host of meaningful sights, sounds, touches, and body movements.
This stimulating interaction, particularly at the verbal level, lays the foundation for a sense of self worth, a feeling of acceptance and love by others, and a growing sense of intellectual relatedness with the world. Such interfacing begins the transfer of intelligence and emotions from adults to the receptive minds of a tiny child. Engaging meaningfully cannot be overdone. It is the critical attribute for the development of a growing sense of intimacy and eventual independence.
As a child grows, it is important that interaction begins to develop between child and caregivers. The Learning Tree claims that this critical step occurs between four and ten months of age. Using my own granddaughter as an example, the day care center personnel has already taught her gesturing. She can state her needs such as eat, done eating, more, I love you, bye-bye, via gestures. Anxiously, we are awaiting the day when she begins to express herself more fully in understandable words.
As a child develops beginning language, it is more important than ever that a caregiver engages in shared problem solving. Verbal interaction leads a youngster to feel that s/he is capable of reasoning out logical answers. The child starts to feel confident in expressing feelings of dissatisfaction and then moving on to say what is needed to fix the problem. Once again, I watch my own granddaughter turn the pages of books she likes to find the page where a problem is solved.
There is a particular book she likes called, Where Is My Mommy? A baby penguin keeps asking other animals if they could be its mother. She knows from the book's pictures that a tortoise, a lion, a porpoise, a hedgehog, and a peacock are not the baby penguin's parent. Since my granddaughter knows the story's ending because she has seen the penguin's problem solved any number of times. She can't wait to turn to the page to see the baby penguin reunited with its Mommy. Solving this simple problem again and again has real logical meaning for her.
The Learning Tree takes each developmental step from birth until a person is approximately nine years of age and explains the attributes a child would have in order to have mastered each step. Step nine is "The ability to evaluate and reflect on feelings, oneself, and events in the world."
So what does a caregiver do if somewhere along the line, a child does not seem ready for the next leap? For these problem learners, The Learning Tree provides guidelines to 1) determine at which step the child is having problems, and 2) to provide ways to help that child get back on track. Typically, by the time a learning problem is uncovered, a child is already within a school system. Yet, in order to help eliminate a deficit in a child's learning tree, regardless of age, it is often necessary to reinforce an earlier step where the child went astray.
This book I would highly recommend to ALL caregivers because it is always good to know beforehand the stages of intellectual growth to expect. For parents who feel they have diagnosed a learning problem such as inattentiveness, the inability to make generalizations, a problem with cause and effect in a story, a problem with word recognition, a problem remembering story facts in a logical order, The Learning Tree offers specific ways of addressing such deficits.
If you want to know more about your own development from childhood, this book is a good read. If you want to ensure a child in your care develops according to a normed schedule, this book can be helpful to you. If you want to help a youngster who has a frustrating learning deficit, The Learning Tree can help diagnose the problem and then give you guidelines to get that youngster back on track.
Late Nite Books
P.O .Box 321, Brandon, MS 09042
9780982949597 $13.95 www.latenitebooks.com
"Nadene's Story" is a genuine masterpiece of this type of genre. Actually, it could fit into a number of different categories and styles of writing. I read a couple of chapters and then put the book down. I kept thinking about the story and decided to just read a little more. Well, I wound up reading the whole book. I found out that once you start reading this book you can not stop.
It starts in the year 2013 where we find the eastern portion of the United States is being attacked. Missiles carrying biological agents are falling and killing thousands of people. But then a strange thing happens. Some of the dead come back to life and begin to attack and kill people who were not effected by the bombs.
I found this story to be interesting, and it may hold a whisper of what may happen if some things do not change in our world. Everyone will have their own perceptions of the story and characters. I firmly believe that this book will be enjoyed by all who read it. I had never read a book of this genre. Nor did I want too. But this book has changed my mind. It has opened it up to new types of books.
I loved the way the characters were developed and how they teamed up to go west, away from the horrific things that were happening to save their own lives.
This book was so good I found it hard to believe it was from a first time author.
Rated PG 13 for violence.
Engaging Father Christmas
Robin Jones Gunn
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446179461 $13.99 hc $9.99 Kindle Edition
I was really surprised that I love "Engaging Father Christmas" (book two of the Finding Father Christmas) even more than the first book of the series. At the end of "Finding Father Christmas," Miranda and Ivan had just meant. In the second book, we find that they have been flying back and forth from England and the USA to see each other. It is not long before they fall in love with each other. There are even hints of a marriage proposal.
As Miranda prepares to fly to see Ivan and her new family for Christmas, she has hopes that things will change and she can develop a real relationship between her and her half brother, and his mom.
Yet right from the start things seem to go wrong. As Ivan picks her up from the station he received a phone call and his dad has had a heart attack and is in the hospital. This book will take you on a ride from highs to lows.
But by the end of all really good love stories, love prevails. Plus, Miranda's relationship with her half brothers mother begins to change when God shows her the way.
Christmas at Harrington's
c/o Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6268, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
9780800719258 $15.99 www.amazon.com
I was drawn to this book by its cover. It shows a woman looking into a store window at a Christmas tree and toys. It is snowing and the woman has a smile on her face. Yet when I began to read the book I found this was not your normal Christmas fare.
Lena has just been released from prison where she had been incarcerated for eight years. She had gone from an over bearing father who Lena learned at an early age to do whatever he wanted, and to not question anything or else she was spanked with a wooden spoon. Into a marriage with a man who turns out to be just like her father. Only Lena's husband posed as a minister and it was because of him that she was convicted of a crime she did not commit.
While on a bus ride to what would become her new home, Lena is befriended by an elderly lady who believes that Lena is a good person, no matter what has happened in her past.
Can Lena really begin again? Or will her past catch up to her? There is only one way to know and that is to buy this book.
After Life Agreements: A Gift From Beyond
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595428649 $16.95 www.iuniverse.com
On Sunday morning, October 1st, 2000, Chris Mulligan received a call that every parent fears. Her son Zac had been in an accident and she needed to get to the hospital as soon as she could. When Chris and her husband Jim reached the hospital, they were told that Zac was on life support and would not make it. The injuries to his skull were so sever he had no chance at all.
After they called family to come to the hospital they took Zac off of life support. He fought for forty-six minutes but in the end he lost his fight to live.
This book had me crying along with Chris. Even though she believes in reincarnation, her grief process of trying to let go of Zac in this life was profound to say the least. She managed to make it through each day at work. Yet when she left to go home her grief over took her. She could barley function at all.
The author leads us through her grieving process, and tries hard to help others who have lost someone. It was through her belief process that she was able to connect with her son Zac. With Zac's help she is able to share with others that our bodies may died, but not our souls.
Even though my beliefs are different, through research, I have found that there are millions of people who believe in reincarnation. That each of us has the option of choosing what we want to learn in each life time. Zac told his mom she needed to write about what all she had been through to help others and herself to get on with life.
This book I think, can help others who have lost a love one. It is filled with raw emotions and offers hope to others. It is well written and kept my attention span throughout the book.
This book is rated G.
The Purpose of Christmas
1230 Avenue of America, New York, NY 10020
What a wonderful book about the real meaning of Christmas. What I loved is it can bring people closer to God. Also a tool to use if you care about someone, and they have not been saved or know Jesus.
I have found great joy in this book. Plus I was reminded of some things I had forgotten.
As you open this book say a prayer for the gift that God gave us. Also that Jesus loved us so much He died for us, so that we could have eternal life with Him. If you have a friend of loved one that does not know Jesus Christ, then take this book to them so they can learn that Jesus is the reason for the season Also that they are never alone when they have Christ in their hearts. What a blessing this book has been to me.
It is a fast read but powerful book.
Self-Healing with Energy Medicine - The Self-Healing Series
Andrew Weil MD & Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
9781591797166 $19.95 http://www.soundstrue.com 1-800-333-9185
Your body is a source of energy; through the practice of the proper alternative medicine practices it can become a healing vessel that is able to combat some of life's most life threatening illnesses.
In Self-Healing with Energy Medicine Andrew Weil and Ann Marie Chiasson team up to provide essential healing information that shows how your body is composed of energy. They reveal how by using their guided exercise for self-healing that you will find relief from conditions such as chronic fatigue, depression, and hypertension.
This audio is composed of two CDs, on the first one you will receive a strong foundation on energy medicine and how it can be used to heal what ails your body the second one offers guided exercises that is set to very appealing new age music.
I was impressed with the level of detail that is contained in the first CD, no matter what you level of energy awareness you will be educated with a firm foundation which can be built upon for future energy healing work.
Having completed my college thesis on the benefits of alternative medicine I was highly impressed with the content of Self-Healing with Energy Medicine. I feel that it offers users an alternative approach to traditional medicine practices. It is one audio that if used on a regular basis can offer an endless supply of healing energy therapy.
A Celebration of the Simple Life
Wanda E. Brunstetter
1810 Barbour Drive, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602607729 $9.99 www.barbourbooks.com 1-800-852-8010
In today's hectic world it is essential that each of us remember to take a step back and take a deep breath to relax our mind and spirit. Often, we get caught up in hectic pace of trying to balance family and work that we often forget to take time for our own selves.
In Wanda E. Brunstetter's A Celebration of Simple Life it is centered around three basic life skills that consist of attitude, responsibility, and Christian duty. Each one of these topics is interwoven around the Amish culture.
I always am amazed to discover how the Amish are able to live their lives at such a slow and study pace. Every picture and story that I read allows me to see how they put their faith and trust in God to see them through all obstacles that enter their lives.
A Celebration of the Simple Life is a wonderful way to take time out for yourself, realize what is important, and live your life in a Godly presence. Each one of the poems will bring a smile to your face as you rejoice in all that is pure and good in the world.
With each book I read of Wanda E. Brunstetter I am fully convinced she is an author that offers the very best of her abilities for her fans reading pleasure. There is no doubt that her skill is unsurpassed. If this is your first experience with this author rest assured that it definitely will not be your last. For her words have a way that magically weaves each one of them around your heart.
Deeper into Love - 7 Keys to Heart-Based Spirituality
Mill City Press
212 3rd Ave N, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781936400454 $12.95 www.millcitypress.net 1-888-MILL CITY
"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give our love, and to let it come in."
The beauty of love is unsurpassed for it shows us all the wonders of the world. It gives us courage to go forward and to explore unknown territory with the hopes of finding that one and true love our body and soul craves.
Through Chrissie Blaze's Deeper into Love - 7 Keys to Heart-Based Spirituality the concept love takes on a whole new meaning. She reveals how it is the primary substance of our existence for it offers us the greatest means to change. With in-depth knowledge and foresight she shows how this one emotion can unlock seven unknown doors that you may never realized existed.
Deeper into Love - 7 Keys to Heart-Based Spirituality is definitely a life changing book. You will discover ways to remove obstacles that are blocking your spiritual growth and robbing your from living a fulfilling life.
As you take the journey to self awareness you will see yourself in a new and refreshing light; it is like all the darkness is suddenly lifted and you are rewarded with a refreshing path forward. Books such as Deeper into Love - 7 Keys to Heart-Based Spirituality very rarely come into our lives it is up to each of us to puts its knowledge to the best possible use as we go forward to changing ourselves for the better.
Suzie Housley, Reviewer
The Koala of Death
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587560 $24.95 800-421-3976 poisonedpenpress.com
This novel is the second in a new series, following the author's well-received Lena Jones detective stories. The protagonist in the current Gunn Zoo Mysteries is Theodora "Teddy" Bentley, who prefers working at the zoo to the ease of living the life of Riley with her well-to-do mother who is forever attempting to get her daughter married off to some rich man. Instead, Teddy is in love with the widowed Sheriff Joe, and regularly gets into trouble.
In the present tale, Teddy fishes the body of Koala Kate, her fellow zookeeper, out of the harbor in which her houseboat is docked. It turns out she was strangled. Soon, another nearby "liveaboarder" is found murdered with a similar MO. It remains for Teddy to solve the mysteries.
A zoo is a strange setting for a crime novel series, but it enables the author to develop material about the animals and the people who care for them as excellent background. The novel is more of a cozy than a hard crime mystery, but that, of course, is what it is intended to be. Many of the characters seemed to me to be stilted, especially the Sheriff, who seems merely to utter the usual hackneyed phrases and take the expected stance that Teddy should not become involved in the case. Of course, Teddy has now, with this book, solved his cases in two novels, so the roles are pretty well set. In any case, the novel is light and enjoyable reading, and is recommended.
In Harm's Way
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399156540 $25.95 800-847-5515 penguin.com
This is a very complex novel, with the plot criss-crossing along with the unfathomable emotions of the various characters, much of them unexplained and merely put forward in exposition. Also unusual are the almost non-existent descriptions of beautiful Sun Valley and its environment, expected in a Sheriff Walt Fleming story, as this is.
The first puzzler to arise is at the start of the novel, when Fiona, Walt's part-time crime photographer and newfound love interest, rescues a child from a frigid river, becoming a hero. She begs Walt to prevent publication of her picture, offering no explanation. It's obvious she has something to hide, but we do not learn what it is until it really no longer matters. Also, she doesn't seem to be an interesting person, and as a deeper relationship develops between the two, one scratches one's head: Am I missing something here? Other than pure sex, where's the attraction? [Or is that naive?]
Then there is the introduction of Lou Boldt, Seattle detective and a favorite protagonist from other novels, into the plot. Other than to flaunt a past "beloved" series character, it really adds nothing to a mystery which seems to be wrapped in several enigmas, and serves little purpose. The mystery itself involves a few murders and break-ins which, of course, must be solved.
While a Ridley Pearson novel is always well-written, it would appear that this one could have used some pruning, simplification and less obfuscation. This reader, at least, found it slow reading. Nonetheless, it is recommended.
Translated by Victoria Cribb
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312569914 $24.99 212-674-5151/646-307-5560 minotaurbooks.com
The past usually plays a large role in this author's Reykjavik mysteries, and "Hypothermia" is no exception. To begin with, the reader is treated to another recurring event in the life of Erlender Erlendsson, a detailed description of how he and his younger brother were once lost in a raging snowstorm. The 10-year-old Erlender was found buried in snow, suffering from frostbite. His younger brother was never found, something that has haunted him all his life.
Erlender becomes fixated on two very old missing persons cases and a current apparent suicide. The cases seem to be unrelated, but his intuition grasps at straws and as he keeps unofficially probing the current case, he discovers a possible clue to the 30-year-old mystery of the disappearance of a young woman and a younger man. A clue to the links between the various themes, of course, is in the book's title.
Erlender is among the few protagonists in today's fiction who haunts the reader with his moods and introspection to such a degree. Written with a smooth eye for detail, the translation is on a par with the prose. Another beautifully presented Erlender mystery to join the previous five, and one that is highly recommended.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312614560 $25.99 646-307-5560 minotaurbooks.com
It is likely that fans of the Anna Pigeon series might be put off by several aspects of this novel. To begin with, it takes place in the urban setting of New Orleans rather than the accustomed [for this series] wide open spaces of a national park. Then there is the topic: not only child abuse, but child sex and white slavery. Also there is much, if not excessive, violence (which does not mean that there has not been some in previous entries).
With that said, we can turn our attention to "Burn." It is an intriguing work, albeit somewhat heavy-handed. Anna is on leave to recover from some sort of mental breakdown, visiting a friend in the Big Easy. Instead she becomes involved in what appears to be a voodoo curse as well as assisting a stranger in recovering her daughters, apparently kidnapped to be imprisoned in a sex emporium.
This reader found the novel slow to read and bogged down in a lot of unnecessary detail. The plot - - child sex - - certainly is worthy of an important look, and the book does achieve that aim. Somewhat confusing to this reader were the various descriptions of the "character" changes in the distraught mother, a professional actress, as she takes on each role as the situation arises. On the whole, however, it is an interesting read, and recommended.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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