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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 12, Number 12 December 2012 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andy's Bookshelf Ann's Bookshelf
Applegate's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf CarrieAnn's Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf
Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Janie's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Rhea's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf
Teri's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Thirty Days With My Father
Christal Presley, Ph.D.
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street
Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757316463, $14.95,

Alma H. Bond

Thirty Days With My Father, by Christal Presley, is an interesting, original book, in that it deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought about in a family as a result of the father's service in the Vietnam War. It is a book that had to be written, as no one, to the reviewer's knowledge, has written such a book, which no doubt will prove helpful to people suffering the same fate as the author and her family.

When Christal Presley's father was eighteen years old, he was drafted to serve in the army and sent overseas to fight in Vietnam. Although he escaped with his life, and eventually was able to return home to his family, he was never the same man he had been before. He spent many days locked in his room, unavailable to anyone, and alternated between periods of deep depression and indescribable bouts of rage. As a result, Christal felt fatherless at best and became a depressed person herself. Although there is no illness by the name of intergenerational PTSD, children of veterans such as Christal Presley often develop symptoms related to those experienced by their fathers, which are sometimes known as "secondary traumatization." When Chrystal was eighteen years of age (the same age, incidentally, that her father was when he was drafted) she left home to escape the drab atmosphere surrounding her father, and barely spoke to him for the next thirteen years.

Although on the surface Christal appeared to be a fairly well functioning adult who continued with her studies, she knew inside that she was not well. After unsuccessfully trying many ways to feel better, including therapy, she understood that in order to get well, she would have to reconnect with her father. She devised a novel way of doing so. She began a thirty day project in which she and her father would speak together every day, in which no subject, including the war in Vietnam, would be taboo. To her surprise, her father agreed to cooperate. In this way, she was able to break the family silence about the war and learn what it did to its members, as well as what her father was really like, including the terrible experiences he had been through. Perhaps most important of all, she was able to learn that indeed he loved her. How wonderfully therapeutic Chrystal's project was for both father and daughter! Neither will ever be the same again.

Christal Presley did a beautiful and creative thing when she devised and followed through on her plan to establish contact with her father. Doing as she did would benefit everyone, whether they were war victims or not. My father was not a veteran of any wars, but now that it is too late, how I wish I had thought of speaking with him about himself for thirty days!

About the Author

Christal Presley is the founder of United Children of Veterans (unitedchildrenof, a website that provides resources about PTSD in children of war veterans. She obtained her PhD in Education in 2009 and is an instructional mentor in Atlanta Public Schools.

42 Rules for Divorcing With Children
Melinda Roberts
Super Star Press
20660 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 210
Cupertino, CA 95014
9781607730729, $19.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

More and more marriages fail everyday and the true casualties are the children. Unfortunately, the very issues that caused the divorce often get in the way of successful co-parenting. No one knows this better than author Melinda Roberts. Melinda and her ex-husband had the typical ups and downs and in the process found a formula that worked for them. Their book, "42 Rules for Divorcing With Children: Doing It With Dignity & Grace While Raising Happy, Healthy, Well-Adjusted Children", is the result of what they both learned and includes stories and advice from others who went down the same path.

This book captivated me from the beginning starting with the foreword by Heather Armstrong and kept me reading to the very end. Heather shared her story of being a child of divorce from her perspective as an adult who is going through the very same thing with her children.

There is lots of great advice in this book but my absolute favorite was the quote from Melinda's daughter who was ten at the time. She said "When you tell your kids you're getting divorced, hand them cupcakes first." A wise person knows that cupcakes make everything better!

The driving message of this book is that you can have a good parenting relationship with your ex-partner so long as you put the children first. This book tells you what you need to know to make this happen and Melinda does it with honesty and humor. She includes several pages of resources for readers who need additional help.

In part IV Melinda says "Your children are watching and learning how to behave in a crisis: with integrity or deceit; grace or malice. Choose wisely and use your powers for good." This is great advice that I wish I'd been given when I was going through a similar situation. I can't help but think that this book would make an excellent present for someone you know who needs it.

The Conjurer's Boy
Michael Raleigh
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9780983321668, $15.95,

Christine Monjdii

Thomas Faye grows up in 1960's Chicago. He and his mother, abandoned by his father, struggle to make ends meet, and though he is a quite intelligent young man, Thomas has few friends. He understands that life often comes with sadness and loss. His life will change when he discovers an old curiosity shop on a Chicago backstreet and the two mysterious men, Farrell and Meyer, who run it. Are they conjurers? Healers? Men whose apparent powers derive from a source of evil? Faye's meeting with this compelling pair will catapult him into a string of adventures that involve traveling the country, going to war, adopting identities, and always questioning the nature of life and his individual fate. The Conjurer's Boy is a tale about growing up and fighting to find one's place in the world. Intensely readable, it has a beautifully modulated undercurrent of subtle fantasy. Dickens and John Irving came to my mind as I read this, and I strongly recommend it.

The Interrogator and Other Criminally Good Fiction
Edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587673368, $18.99,

Donald Schneider, Reviewer

The Interrogator and Other Criminally Good Fiction is the twenty-fifth annual crime and suspense stories anthology collaboration of Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg. Unfortunately, it will be their last as Mr. Greenberg passed away in 2011. His literary voice will be missed as he goes out on a high note with his final anthology of 2010 stories.

The book is introduced with a thorough introduction by Jon L. Breen entitled "The Mystery in 2010." Although not specific to this anthology, it gives a comprehensive overview of the genre in 2010 while offering many splendid observations of an informative and critical nature, listing several awards and their winners.

The anthology's offerings leads off with the eponymous "The Interrogator," by David Morrell. This is a psychologically suspenseful story of a most topical nature. The story concerns a CIA interrogator and "enhanced interrogation" methods which examines the character and his self-doubts concerning his unusual line of work. It's well-constructed, taut and well worth the reader's time.

One of my favorites within the anthology is Loren D. Estleman's "The List," which involves the discovery by the story's protagonist of a most unusual list written in cipher. After enlisting the help of a professor acquaintance and learning the historical import of his discovery-a bombshell with potential ramifications to the present day-, a decision as to its disposition must be made after much introspection. Aside from the extremely interesting nature of the story's subject matter, what I admire most about his piece is the author's obvious objective and balanced approach as he turns the metaphorical spotlight on both the political left and right of a bygone era. The author shares this admirable writing quality with that of the author of "The Interrogator."

Doug Allyn's "The Scent of Lilacs" is an interesting historical fiction piece set in Missouri at the tail end of the Civil War. Old scores surface resulting in violence not entirely related to the conflict in question. If Mickey Spillane is the best known author credited within the anthology, then perhaps Joyce Carol Oates in the most critically acclaimed. However, her "The Story of the Stabbing," while exploring an interesting take on an old theme, reads almost like a parody of purple prose which renders the opus laborious reading, outweighing its substantive merits.

"The Plot," by Jeffery Deaver, relates the death of a hugely popular crime novelist, ostensively of a heart attack. One of the late author's most devoted fans happens to be a NYPD detective who doesn't buy this stated version of events. His unofficial investigation yields an ultimate answer beyond his initial suspicions. I enjoyed the story for both its mystery and philosophical elements.

David Dean's "The Vengeance of Kali" is a story of a juvenile from a dysfunctional family reflecting the societal decadence of contemporary times. A boy engages in petty larceny, more so from sheer mad-at-the-world perversity than a quest for personal gain. The youthful miscreant becomes intrigued when a family of foreigners moves into his neighborhood, and he becomes fixated on one of their outdoor possessions for which he impulsively lusts. The ramifications of this malevolent act causes the kid and his older brother to engage in soul-searching as the story blurs into something akin to fantasy. The strength of the piece is the ambivalent feelings the author engenders within the reader regarding his characters, as loathing and sympathy do battle.

"Sometimes You Can't Retire," by Marcia Muller, is a rather weird tale of fanaticism for a cause presented in an oddly understated manner. It's certainly different.

Max Allen Collins was a close personal friend of the late Mickey Spillane and the executor of his literary estate. "A Grave Matter" is a Mike Hammer short story entirely written by Mr. Collins (thus his name first on the byline) with the approval and input of Mr. Spillane. I found the scenario farfetched and the story fair at best, though notable for its period ambience.

Clark Howard's "Escape From Wolfkill" is a story about three elderly prisoners once on death row but now assigned to a new state of the art geriatric penal facility, which is a far cry from the maximum security penitentiaries they have long since been accustomed to. With the help a facility insider-a love interest of one of the convicts from long ago-, they escape expecting assistance from the "family" connections of one of the three. But alas: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley." The ending of this story is intriguing by way of character study. The story strikes me as one that cries out to be made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood.

"What People Leave Behind," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is my metaphorical pick of the litter within the anthology. Ms. Rusch is the former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and is a prolific (mostly) genre writer. She has won Hugo awards for both her editorship and writing. With this story, she nicely justifies her high reputation with an intriguing set of characters executed with captivating prose that kept me riveted to my seat until finishing the piece. With police Detective Andrea Donovan-an investigator prone to snap judgments and character assessments, albeit sufficiently shrewd and flexible not to be wedded to the adage that first impressions are lasting ones-and her sidekick Detective Steve Neygan, a consummate professional lacking his partner's interpersonal skills, preferring legwork, all the ingredients are present for a potentially very successful series or stories and perhaps novels if Ms. Rusch chooses to so favor the reader.

Dave Zeltserman's "Archie's Been Framed" is a thoroughly enjoyable tale of a rather eccentric and singularly unenergetic private investigator and his most unusual sidekick, by way of understatement! I would wholeheartedly recommend this short story to the reader as a rare escapist treat. The anthology concludes with David Hoing's two-part "Plainview" which involves a serial killer of young women many years prior to the story's conclusion. It's a haunting piece with Hitchcockian overtones, a suspenseful tale of misdirected suspicion and evil triumphing, set in a small Midwestern farming town. Mr. Hoing is a genre writer with numerous short story credits as well as being the co-author of a first novel (mainstream) entitled Hammon Falls which received critical praise from reviewers.

Except for a couple of selections that I found too raunchy for my personal tastes (but by all means, to each his own), The Interrogator and Other Criminally Good Fiction serves up a fine menu of entertaining reading that lives up to its title.

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture
Yoram Hazony
Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas
NY, NY 10013-2473
9781107003170, $24.99,

Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Yoram Hazony offers an interpretation of the Hebrew Bible that may initially bother many religious people, but when they think about what he is saying, they may feel that they have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of Scripture.

Hazony states that we should read "Hebrew Scriptures as works of reason or philosophy," not as a document that must be accepted based on blind faith. It makes no difference whether one believes that Scripture was miraculously revealed or that it was composed by intelligent people, "we'll get much further in understanding what these texts were intended to say to us if we read them as works of reason." What is important is our duty to explore "how best to conduct the life of the nation and of the individual."

He gives many examples that prove that the Hebrew Bible reflects natural law and that it teaches people to use their intelligence, think, seek truth, and not passively accept traditions. In fact, the Bible doesn't present a single view of life. The Bible is composed of "often sharply conflicting texts." It is an assembly of works "so readers could strive to understand the various perspectives embraced by [these views], and in so doing build up an understanding of their own."

The Bible, Hazony emphasizes, extols the life of the shepherd over that of the farmer. Farmers and city dwellers are generally people who are stagnant, obey instructions, accept a way of life without questioning it and sticking to this life without personal growth; while shepherds are people on the move, always seeking to better themselves, thinkers. Biblical heroes such as Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and many others were shepherds. A shepherd is "disobedient, preoccupied with improving his own lot and that of his dependents, and willing to overturn the inherited order to achieve this end." Like Abraham and Moses, thinkers defy the views of the leaders of their society and even dispute with God. Thinkers feel that "A state that does not serve the right kind of ethical purpose is for them no state, just as a god that does not serve this purpose is for them no god." And the Bible is clear that God "loves those who disobey for the sake of what is right...when a man has used his freedom to wrestle with him and to prevail."

The Bible holds "individuals and nations morally responsible for their actions even where they appear to have received no laws or commands from him of any kind." Thus, for example, Cain is punished for murdering his brother, Noah's generation is destroyed for their violence, and Sodom for its perversity, even though they were never commanded not to kill and to act properly. The "sheer quantity of such examples [shows that] God's commands are either supplementary to, or themselves expressions of, a fundamental moral law that derives from the nature of things." Biblical laws are a base that challenges people to build upon to create a better life.

While demonstrating that the Bible teaches that people are obliged to think, Hazony offers his readers much more, including an extensive investigation into the meaning of terms that most people accept without really understanding them, such as truth, faith, justice, amen, and reliability, and what it means to be human and to obey God. Readers will be especially intrigued by Hazony's discussion on, if Scripture was not revealed by God, why does it say frequently "God said"? Among other things, Hazony shows that the ancient philosophers also ascribed their rational thoughts to a god.

Staring Blue Eyes
Daryl Ross Halencak
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462876440, $19.99,

Katherine Boyer

It is difficult for me to review a poetry book on a first reading because it does not give me the opportunity to reflect on the individual poems. I like to go back to a poem I have read if it is one that will help me with something I am dealing with at the moment - joy, happiness, sadness, death, humor.

This being said, I would highly recommend Mr. Halencak's book of poetry, Staring Blue Eyes because this poetry covers the gamut of human emotions and meditations that will be of use to you in daily living.

I would like to call attention to a couple of the poems that gave me pause. A Texan Exiled made me remember the years I was traveling and missing my home state. Memo from My Mother is a poem that I can relate to in relation to my own mother in earlier years and now to myself. All of the poems will help you recall some aspect of your life.

Daryl Ross Halencak is an attorney and very active in his community, as well as active in several aspects of the Czech heritage organizations. He lives in Texas with his wife, Jane. His hobbies include gardening, travel, swimming, reading and writing. Other interests include his pets and the theater and cinema.

The Navigator
Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos
G.P. Putnam & Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St, NY, New York 10014
9780399154195, $14.95,

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Here's the Hyperbole: "Rich with all the hair-raising action and endless invention that have become Cussler's hallmarks, The Navigator is the best yet from "Clive the Incredible." (Kirkus Reviews) It is not the best yet; not even barely. The action is formula; the inventions are formula, and lo and behold, Kurt Austin becomes a man and sleeps with the cute, little Antiquities Investigator.

The best recent invention was Kurt (Austin) and Joe (Zavala) climbing themselves from the bottom of a well by balancing an auto tire against their backs, in Blue Gold. In this novel, the key is an ancient statue that holds the outline of the Chesapeake Bay carved into the fur of a cat at the statue's feet. This is an outline that is 'reproduced' by applying molding tape to create a mold and then later make a replica. Oh, come on. This was too much contrived invention to be believable. And then the sudden discovery of a 2,000 year old Phoenician sailing vessel at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay where it has lain without being run into by a U.S. Navy submarine?

Mr. Cussler: Your novels are good reading. The action is fun. Some of the characters are 'lovable.' But a tall man with white hair? Sound familiar?

To Cussler fans: It is still a good read. No sweat. No nervous scenes. Somewhat fun but I wouldn't (not by a long shot) say it's 'the best yet.'

All at Once
Alisa Clements
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace
Hollywood, CA 90068
9780983321644, $15.95,

Michael Raleigh

The boundaries of human imagination are explored in Alisa Clements's intelligent fantasy novel ALL AT ONCE. Clements presents two romantic triangles, centuries apart, whose participants all share psychic abilities beyond the norm. Much of this beautifully written novel centers on the story of Josephine, a scholar researching native religious practices in a more or less modern-day Brazil, and her encounters with a group of people, rebels against the government, who seem to have harnessed their psychic powers in a manner that promises great things for humanity but threatens the power structure. How Clements connects the dots between the two fraught relationships is just one of the rewards of this clever and entertaining book.

Custodian of the Luima Legacy
Gabrielle Poplar
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
1477558578, Kindle: $3.99, Paperback: $14.99

Michael Thal, Reviewer

Gripping Fantasy

Custodian of the Luima Legacy by Gabrielle Poplar is the story of Meryl, the son of the housekeeper of Fastain, the First Minister of Estruchi. Determined to free his kingdom from Bahadi taxes, King Arpad sends Fastian on a cloak-and-dagger mission to neighboring Bahadi as Estruchi's ambassador, but his true assignment is to steal the Light Sword so King Arpad can finally throw off the yoke of servitude to Bahadi.

Naturally, Fastian takes his ward, Meryl, with him as well as Mason, a member of King Arpad's Junya Council. When the trio arrives in Bahadi, 14-year-old Meryl discovers that the Luima, a caste of high priests with extraordinary power, are testing citizens who may possess their natural gifts. Anyone can take the test, so Meryl gives it a try.

Last in line after a long day of failure to find anyone with the gift, Luima are packing up as Meryl approaches their table. When Meryl is given a stone to hold in the palm of his hand, Meryl's life substance switches the stone on to cast every color of the rainbow, a rare achievement even for the most advanced Luima.

Author Gabrielle Poplar has a writing style that draws readers into her story. We become emotionally involved with Meryl as he travels to Jodi Island to study at the Ilumina Academy. As the tale unfolds, twists and surprising turns keep readers reading to uncover Meryl's fate until the amazing and unexpected resolution.

Custodian of the Luima Legacy is a read all fantasy enthusiasts would not want to miss. From first page to last, Poplar's imagery and thrilling story line keep you hooked.

5 stars

A Mind of Winter
Shira Nayman
Akashic Books
PO Box 1456
New York, NY 10009
9781617751035, $15.95

Mikaela Jorgensen

Post-World War II upheaval is the main theme in A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman. Taking place in Shanghai, London, and Long Island, three characters face lives altered by the war. They struggle with the aftermath: heartbreak, infidelity, ethnic tension, and grief.

The novel is told from the first-person present tense point of views of three different characters. The opiate addict, Christine, lives in Shanghai where she teaches orphaned children. Marilyn, a married woman, stays at a friend's mansion where she carries out an affair while working on a book of wartime photography. Oscar, the owner of the mansion, is recluse and apparently hiding a secret.

The three narrators are separated into three individual sections, which creates a very disjointed feel. Christine is Oscar's ex-girlfriend, Marilyn lives with Oscar but doesn't interact with him much, and Christine and Marilyn have no connection to one another whatsoever, aside from having a relationship with a man named Barnaby at different times. When Christine's section leads into Marilyn's, it is frustrating to be reading two seemingly unrelated stories. The novel may have been more effective if the narrators' stories were more intertwined so that the plot was clearer. The voices of these three characters sound so similar, that the characters and their stories fall flat.

I was drawn to this book because the inside cover says the novel is "a page-turning, psychological thriller," yet I found it very difficult to turn the pages at all - the stories move very slowly most of the time, combined with the seemingly unrelated sections.

The most interesting and compelling portion of the book is the last, where Oscar confesses his wartime experience, in which he found out his mother is Jewish and leaves her and his sister behind to find safety for himself. He feels guilty and wants to find out if they are still alive or not. "Here am I, my identity confused with that of an SS officer, second-in-command of one of the smaller camps, at the same time as I am forced, in my search for my mother and sister, to consider that such a place was their fate. And me, a Jew, accused of such things." Oscar had the most interesting story to tell and did so in the most compelling way.

The novel is written in the present tense, which may be the reason that the characters' every movement is narrated. "I felt eerily ghostlike as I headed toward the yellow suite on the other side of the house. Once there, I deposited my weekend bag, splashed cold water on my face, pulled a comb through my face, and brushed my teeth." This type of narration was very frequent and really slowed down the pace of the novel. Marilyn's section, the middle of the book, is especially sluggish and uneventful.

Despite everything else, Nayman does have some well-written portions. Oscar's father is taken away for treason, for being married to a Jewish woman. Oscar had no knowledge of her Jewish background. "My father had not moved with the stunned stillness of the elderly neighbors but had gone in a panic, the blue vein writhing on his forehead. Papa gave us each a hasty kiss as the flax-haired soldier stood silently tending to his military posture." The description and story are powerful and memorable.

If readers are able to make it to the end, they will find that Christine and Oscar rekindle their relationship and that Christine is no longer using opium. However, it isn't even clear that they want to be together, especially since Christine is so drugged up that she doesn't know what she wants besides another hit. In most novels, this kind of ending might work, but in A Mind of Winter, the ending won't leave you feeling satisfied.

Boot and Shoe
Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781442422476, $16.99,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Boot and Shoe are two adorable fuzzy terriers with button noses. They are brothers and best friends. They do everything together, except during the daytime Boot hangs out on the back porch and Shoe hangs out on the front porch. Life is "exactly perfect" for them. Until one day a rascally little squirrel gets all up in the terriers' business and turns their perfect world upside down. After a raucous chase, Boot ends up on the front porch and Shoe lands on the back porch. They spend a long, painful night searching for each other. Frazee's pencil and watercolor illustrations add humor and drama to the puppies' predicament. To enhance your enjoyment of "Boot and Shoe," read aloud with a little one, laugh out loud, repeat.

Spiders and Flies
Scott Adlerberg
Harvard Square Editions
9780983321651, $15.95

Stephen Upjohn

A handful of eccentric characters are drawn together in an ever-tightening plot towards an unnerving denouement. Set primarily on the island of Martinique, Spiders and Flies offers us an abundance of richly evocative details of that island. At the same time, it plunges us into the dark inner landscapes of characters pursuing their own pleasures regardless of the consequences. As the story unfolds, the darkness and the beauty mingle, creating a heady reading experience. You won't forget this book, for the horror evoked by Scott Adlerberg's fiction has the disturbing ring of truth.

Andy's Bookshelf

Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages 1150-1500
Bruno Klein, author
Rolf Toman, editor
Achim Bednorz, photographer
h.f. ullmann
c/o 60 Cycle Media LLC
38 High Avenue, 4th floor office
Nyack, New York 10960
9783848000401, $150.00,

Gothic art was a style of Medieval art that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media, although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.

The earliest Gothic art was monumental sculpture, on the walls of Cathedrals and abbeys. Christian art was often typological in nature (see Medieval allegory), showing the stories of the New Testament and the Old Testament side by side. Saints' lives were often depicted. Images of the Virgin Mary changed from the Byzantine iconic form to a more human and affectionate mother, cuddling her infant, swaying from her hip, and showing the refined manners of a well-born aristocratic courtly lady.

Secular art came in to its own during this period with the rise of cities, foundation of universities, increase in trade, the establishment of a money-based economy and the creation of a bourgeois class who could afford to patronize the arts and commission works resulting in a proliferation of paintings and illuminated manuscripts. Increased literacy and a growing body of secular vernacular literature encouraged the representation of secular themes in art. With the growth of cities, trade guilds were formed and artists were often required to be members of a painters' guild - as a result, because of better record keeping, more artists are known to us by name in this period than any previous; some artists were even so bold as to sign their names.

An outstanding title in the superlative new series of art books from H. F. Ulmann, "Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages, 1140-1500" is a 568 page compendium providing a visually stunning, comprehensively informed and informative tour-de-force showcasing the many art forms of the Medieval era.

"Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages, 1140-1500" focuses upon a wide spectrum of presented works of art that are particularly illustrative and iconic, ranging from architectural structures, to illustrated books, to memorial tombs. Simply stated, ""Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages, 1140-1500" is the quintessential coffee table art book that should be a core part of every school, community, and academic library's Art History reference collection.

Baroque: Theatrum Mundi - The World as a Work of Art
Barbara Borngasser, author
Rolf Toman, editor
Achim Bednorz, photographer
c/o 60 Cycle Media LLC
38 High Avenue, 4th floor office
Nyack, New York 10960
9783848000395, $150.00,

The Baroque is a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music. The style started around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe.

The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which had decided at the time of the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement. The aristocracy also saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control. Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of sequentially increasing opulence.

Another of the outstanding titles in the new art history series from H. F. Ulmann, "Baroque: Theatrum Mundi. The World as a Work of Art" is a 568 page compendium providing a complete overview of Baroque art forms from paintings to buildings. Superbly illustrated and deftly organized, "Baroque: Theatrum Mundi. The World as a Work of Art" is essential a complete course of instruction under one cover. Informed and informative, this coffee table sized, fifteen pound opus is highly recommended for academic and community library Art History collections, and most especially recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the art and architecture of the Baroque era.

The Work Of Sartre
Istvan Meszaros
Monthly Review Press
146 West 29th Street, Suite 6W
New York, NY 10001
9781583672921, $28.95,

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (21 June 1905 - 15 April 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines. Sartre has also been noted for his relationship with the prominent feminist theorist Simone de Beauvoir. A colorful character in his own right, Sartre was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature and refused it, saying that he always declined official honors and that "a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution".

Originally published in 1979, "The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History" by philosopher and academician Istvan Meszaros (Professor Emeritus, University of Sussex, United Kingdom), is now republished by the Monthly Review Press is a newly expanded and updated critical study providing an analytical survey of Sartre's accomplishments and continuing legacy as a novelist, playwright, philosopher. Of special note is the informed and informative descriptive commentary on Sartre's stands against the excesses of capitalism and the struggle for individualism and personal freedom.

An erudite work of impeccable scholarship, "The Work of Sartre" is especially recommended reading for students of Sartre's ideas and social/cultural/political legacies, and should be considered a core addition to all academic library 20th Century Philosophy reference collections.

Voodoo Priests, Noble Savages, And Ozark Gypsies
Greg Olson
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard
Columbia, MO 65201
9780826219961, $30.00,

Mary Alicia Owen (1850? - 1935) was a folklore collector of Missouri who compiled several works of local legend and voodoo. Born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, Owen lived with her two sisters, Luella and Juliette, both of whom were noted authors. She became inspired to record the disappearing folk tales after reading Algonquin Legends of New England, beginning a correspondence with Charles Godfrey Leland. Her earliest publication was Old Rabbit the Voodoo, and other Sorcerers, printed with an introduction by Leland, which was favorably reviewed in the English journal Folk-Lore to positive reviews of the time. Her researches and fieldwork had already been reported in a paper she read before the 1891 "Second International Folk-Congress" in London, which was printed in the transactions of the conference as "Among the Voodoos". Her principal work was Voodoo tales as told among the Negroes of the southwest. Owen gave long service to The Missouri Folklore Society, serving as its President until the year of her death. It should be noted that Owen also published articles in Century Magazine and Overland Monthly, writing as Julia Scott, and contributed reviews and journalism to other periodicals.

The newest titles in the outstanding 'Missouri Biography Series' from the University of Missouri Press, "Voodoo Priests, Noble Savages, and Ozark Gypsies: The Life of Folklorist Mary Alicia Owen" by Greg Olson (Curator of Exhibits and Special Projects, Missouri State Archives) is a 184 page biography that includes a descriptively detailed survey of St. Joseph, Missouri, Owen's family, the cultural influences Owen was subjected to, and a great deal more. A work of impressive scholarship, informed, informative, insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "Voodoo Priests, Noble Savages, and Ozark Gypsies: The Life of Folklorist Mary Alicia Owen" is highly recommended reading and a core addition to academic library American Folklorist and American Biography reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Rsit Haylamaz
Tughra Books
345 Clifton Avenue, Clifton, NJ 07011
9781597842662, $15.95,

Aisha bint Abu Bakr (612 - 678) was one of Muhammad's wives.[1] In Islamic writings, her name is thus often prefixed by the title "Mother of the Believers", per the description of Muhammad's wives in the Qur'an. Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad at the age of six and the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old.

According to Sunni views, Aisha had an important role in early Islamic history, both during Muhammad's life and after his death. Regarded by many as his favorite wife, she was an active figure in numerous events and an important witness to many more. Aisha contributed to the growth, development, and understanding of Islam. Being a role model to a significant amount of others added to her attributions as a consultant regarding Muhammad's prayer and practices, soon introducing herself into a world of politics.

After Muhammad, Aisha was readily involved in continuing his messages. She was present through the reigns of at least the first four caliphs. Her father became the first caliph to succeed Muhammad; his name was Abu Bakr. The second caliph Umar then succeeded Abu Bakr. During the time of the third caliph's reign Aisha rebelled. She did not fully approve of his practices on many occasions. After Uthman's death, Aisha wanted to avenge his death in the Battle of the Camel. She became readily involved in the battle by giving speeches, and riding on her camel in it. She ended up losing the battle, but her involvement and determination had shown through.

"Aisha: The Wife, The Companion, The Scholar" by Resit Haylamaz (Editor-in-Chief of the Kaynak Publishing Group in Istanbul and author of numerous well received books on the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions) is a 220 page compendium focusing upon Aisha's signal role in establishing Islamic teachings in the earliest and most formative years of the movement. Of special note is her contributions within Islam respecting the role of women and marital relationships, as well as her recording authentic saysings of the Prophet.

Informed and informative from beginning to end, "Aisha: The Wife, The Companion, The Scholar" is a highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Islamic Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Whitney Huston
Narada Michael Walden
Insight Editions
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781608872008, $24.99,

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time. Houston was one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. She released six studio albums, one holiday album and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts, as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know", influenced several African American female artists to follow in her footsteps.

Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year-end charts. Houston's 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone's best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Houston's first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film's original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single "I Will Always Love You", became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period under Nielsen SoundScan system. The album makes her the top female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996). The Preacher's Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.

On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in her guest room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California. Subsequent toxicology reports showed that she had accidentally drowned in the bathtub due to the effects of chronic cocaine use and heart disease. News of her death coincided with the 2012 Grammy Awards and featured prominently in American and international media.

"Whitney Houston: The Voice, the Music, the Inspiration" by award winning producer and song writer Narada Michael Walden is a 176 page compendium that focuses upon Whitney's music career and success in remarkable detail and showcases this amazing performer at her very best. Enhanced with an appendix listing Whitney Houston recordings produced by Narada Michael Walden, "Whitney Houston: The Voice, the Music, the Inspiration" is a 'must read' for her legions of fans and will prove an enduringly popular addition to community library American Biography collections.

Andy Jordan

Ann's Bookshelf

Cezanne: A Biography
Alex Danchev
Profile Books
3A Exmouth House,Pine Street, London
9781846681653, A$55.00
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307377074, $40.00,

I am an ordinary reader who knows a little about art but I am no expert. I already like Cezanne's later work but I know nothing about him, and I hoped that this book would tell me more about his life and about his work. It did both these things but I found it a most frustrating book to read, not just because the text is discursive but also because the layout of the book makes it hard to read.

The book is well illustrated, with small colour reproductions of work by Cezanne and other artists grouped together in three sections. There are also back-and-white drawings and photographs scattered throughout the text. However, the coloured illustrations are not in the order in which they are mentioned in the text, which means that one has to page back-and-forth through the book to find them. To take just two examples: in a single paragraph dealing with self-portraits the colour plates referred to are numbers 3, 28 and 25. All are in the first group of illustrations, but separated from each other by five or six pages. In another place, a portrait reproduced in plate 5 (front section) is compared with one reproduced in plate 59 (back section). To add to the problems, the black-and-white illustrations have no information with them and must be looked up by page-number at the front of the book; and the numerous notes, many of which are worth reading, are collected at the back of the book. The constant need to refer to different parts of a hefty book is cumbersome and irritating, and there is no built-in book-mark to make it easy to return to your place in the text.

As to the text: Danchev is clearly an art expert and he is very familiar with the world in which Cezanne lived and painted. But he often expects the reader to know as much about that Paris art scene and the artists and dealers involved in it as he does. Some names (Monet, Manet, Ronoir, for example) are very well-known, some (like Achille Emperaire) much less so. He also jumps about in time to quote from a huge range of sources many of which have nothing to do with Cezanne but which just happen to include a felicitous phrase which Danchev wants to borrow. And not only does he deal with Cezanne's life but he also describes, fairly extensively at times, the lives of his family and friends. Some of this is interesting but too much of it is digression and Cezanne's life gets somewhat lost in the process.

This is not helped by the seemingly random inclusion of five sections which deal with Cezanne's self-portraits and are entitled 'The Brooder', 'The Desperado', 'The Dogged', 'The Plasterer', and 'The Inscrutable' . Only belatedly, and after some confusion, did I realize that these sections were self-contained and not a consecutive part of the story.

Both Zola and Pissaro were Cezanne's close friends, and they are legitimately written about and quoted at length, but often Zola's novels are taken as commentary on Cezanne's life, as are the novels of other authors. Diary entries written by friends and friends-of-friends, and reported conversations between Cezanne's friends and acquaintances, are also used fairly extensively. These may or may not throw light on the man himself.

Cezanne's wife has a chapter to herself in an attempt to redress her customary neglect by Cezanne's biographers. However, Danchev's account of her relies on two rather formal letters which she wrote; and Cezanne's many portraits of her, in each of which she looks different.The most Danchev can say in the end is that the "soul" of Hortense, "Le Boule (the Ball or Dumpling)" as Cezanne's friends called her, "is encoded in the upper lip" in her portraits.

So, did I enjoy reading the book? No.

Did I learn anything from it about Cezanne and his art? Yes. There are valuable insights into his character and his art. I learned that Cezanne was independent, determined ("balsy" is a favourite adjective of Danchev's), hard-working, touchy about celebrity when it came, and dismissive of the trappings of success. He pursued his unique approach to his art regardless of the opinion of others, and his work influenced artists like Picasso and Braque, and has gone on influencing artists ever since..

For those with patience, there amusing and interesting parts to this book and insights to be gained.

Country Girl : A Memoir
Edna O'Brien
Faber and Faber
9780571269433, A$35.00
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316122702, $27.99,

Those who know Edna O'Brien's work will instantly feel at home in this autobiographical memoir: not just because it reads like one of her novels, but also because O'Brien's fiction has always drawn on her Irish roots and on places and events in her own life.

The book begins with two dreams set at her childhood home in County Clare: Drewsboro House. In one dream she sees a grand burning house, which she is barred from entering by liveried soldiers. In the second, she is in the room in which she was born, where "alone, incarcerated" she is "to answer for my crimes". Both dreams find echoes in her memoir and, in a recent interview, she described the house as being like a metaphor for the whole world - full of ructions, sensuality, prayers, curses, doom and life.

Drewsboro was built on the ruins of a very grand house which had been burned to the ground during the Troubles in the 1920s. O'Brien's father, who had helped it burn, came from a family which had become wealthy in America and they bought the land. The new house had pretensions - two avenues, big lawns shaded by ancient trees, and bay windows: but it owed some of its stylishness to houses her mother, who came from a poor family, had seen whilst working as a maid in America. O'Brien's father had been rich but the money was soon gone due to profligacy, drink and gambling. In drink, too, he could be violent, and O'Brien and her mother were scared of him. Yet it was not an unhappy childhood. As a child, she has said, they were part poor and would run out of money, but they were also immensely rich in reading, poetry, mythology and dreams.

A writer's imaginative life "commences in childhood" but O'Brien's has clearly been shaped, too, by all that has happened to her over the years. This memoir is not just about her rebellion against her family and against the oppressive, divided society in which she grew up. It is also about her marriage, her divorce, an acrimonious battle for custody of her children, her life as a single mother - cooking cleaning and writing, her parties and her publications.

Sometimes O'Brien's memoir seems very like her early novels as she shares the same settings, the same rebelliousness and the same need for love and for change as her fictional girls. Sometimes it seems like a sequence of short stories, imaginatively written and compelling. And sometimes the writing is fluent and poetic; the descriptions beautiful.

Sometimes, however, she cannot resist turning an agonizing memory in to a dramatic (or melodramatic) moment: "Coming back into my own sitting room, I saw it, the stone of the green ring that I had taken off the night before, reflected in the metal of his latch-key, which he had left on the mantelpiece. He was gone".

And sometimes the list of famous names is overwhelming. Richard Burton drops in one evening and recites Shakespeare to her. Paul McCartney improvises a song for her sleeping son. Marlon Brando drinks milk in her kitchen and asks if she's ticklish. Marianne Faithfull, Diane Cilento, Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda, Judy Garland and Shirley MacLaine and others come to her parties in Putney. And, in New York, Al Pacino, Carlos Fuentes, Yevtushenko and their partners attend her party; famous people surround her; and Jackie Onassis invites her to dinner and becomes a confiding friend.

In the 1960s, O'Brien's first novels - A Country Girl, The Lonely Girls and Girls in their Married Bliss - were banned by the censor in Ireland for their frank sexual content and their so-called ridiculing of priests and nuns. The ruction caused by these books (which were written whilst she lived in London) certainly affected her life, but as two eminent Irish writers of the 1960s enviously thought, they probably were "a hot ticket to fame and recognition", even though she had thought them to be simple tales of the lives and dreams of two young Irish girls. Being called a 'Jezebel', mortifying her mother and being shunned by her own people did alter the direction of her life. But it did not stop her writing. Today, those early book appear mild compared, for example, to Roddy Doyle's graphic depictions of Irish life; and to the media reports of the iniquities perpetrated by priests. O'Brien, now, is so well accepted in Ireland that a plaque has been place in her honour at the entrance to Drewsboro House.

In her acknowledgments, O'Brien says that she was reluctant to write a memoir, and she has described the process of reliving certain times as bringing pain and anger. But in her final chapter she brings together her two countries, Ireland and England: two countries which, she says, "warred, jostled and made friends inside me, like the two halves of my warring self". The war, it seems is over, but the celebration of life is not, and the final image in the book is of her at home in a lamp-lit room which seems "full of light, like a room readying itself for a banquet".

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Applegate's Bookshelf

The Racketeer
John Grisham
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385536882, Nook e-book $12.99,

In his latest offering, John Grisham departs from the usual whodunit and writes a howhedidit novel. Malcolm Bannister is the central actor in this tale, but there are many Malcolm Bannisters, among them: A disbarred lawyer - he is, after all, a felon, presently in a low-security prison; a now-divorced husband - his formerly loyal wife jumped ship after he was convicted; a divorced father - his young son will be16 when Malcolm finishes his 10-year sentence; an anomaly - a black man serving time for a white-collar crime; a rare bird - the only man who can identify the murderer of a federal judge.

In Malcolm Bannister, Grisham has created a unique and deviant character Almost from the first page, Grisham builds Bannister's persona as a highly intelligent man, educated in the law, but much more than that. He is cunning, resourceful, devious, and not the least afraid to break the laws he has sworn to defend. And when he breaks the law, he does it with a peculiar kind of panache that makes the story especially entertaining. It's not always easy to know who Malcolm Bannister is at a particular moment. The Racketeer is tale of not just a man of many parts, whose name is Malcolm Bannister sometimes but not always, but it's a convoluted murder mystery and a tangled web of, well, let's give it its proper name - fraud. From beginning to end, questions come to mind, and are answered. Or so it seems. Then the answer changes and more questions arise. And are answered. Maybe. Complexities abound. The plot goes one way, lulling readers into thinking they know where the story is going, then swings off in another direction. The Racketeer is second to none of Grisham's work in keeping readers guessing.

A mystery within a mystery, murder for revenge, or money There is nothing simple in this story. A federal judge and his secretary are dead. In a robbery? That's possible. For revenge? That's possible. Or maybe it's both. As you read, you'll begin to think that anything's possible in this world that John Grisham has created for his readers.

In the many convoluted plots making the best seller lists these days, The Racketeer has one of the more labyrinthine, and an almost overwhelming abundance of vivid description. Malcolm Bannister is transferred to a prison with a high level of security, and the descriptions of the populace and the life there are hair-curling.

Money is a major element of the mystery Money, cash money, is a continuing theme in The Racketeer. That seems appropriate, since most racketeers are in the game for the money. And Malcolm proves to be worthy of the name, as he finds creative ways of hiding money, fooling bankers, money managers, and others who should know better. Grisham's descriptions of how the various frauds are put together are almost an education in how to outsmart your friendly neighborhood banker. How Malcolm Bannister gets the money, who he enlists in his plot and why, who the baddies and goodies and bad/goodies are will keep any reader reading. How much money each plotter ends up with, where the money goes and how it gets there, who the winners and losers are, I'll leave to the reader to discover. It's an entertaining and surprisingly challenging read, since Grisham has set out to fool us. And he has succeeded well, I think. I almost guarantee that you'll be surprised...

Don't miss the afterword. You'll most likely say, "I figured that was the case." But read the story first. That's where the fun is. The Racketeer is an unusual Grisham, but one well worth reading. I recommend it.

Suicide Run - Three Harry Bosch Stories
Michael Connelly
Hachette Digital, Inc.
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316204248, $2.99, www.hachette-audio.aspx

The following reviews are brief ones, because they are reviews of brief writings - short stories. These three stories were originally published in three different publications, but are gathered together here in one short book. Of the 91 pages in Suicide Run, 62 are devoted to the three stories. (The book finishes with an excerpt from Connelly's The Drop.)

But the three stories add up to 62 jam-packed pages. That's one of the pleasures of reading short stories - the writer has get to get to it quickly, without unnecessary words. And at the same time, short stories are among the more difficult literary forms to write, and for the same reasons. Every word has to count, and writers who tend to ramble and flirt with the point probably don't enjoy writing short stories.

Short stories, mysteries and otherwise, childhood favorites

I was an early reader, and was allowed free rein in my parents' library. Their theory was, they told me, if I could understand it, I should be allowed to read it. (I eventually figured out that if there was something they didn't want me to read, it was somewhere other than the library.)Thus, much of my early reading was not the Dick-and-Jane variety. And among my fondest childhood recollections are spending rainy days in my attic play space, reading, with the rain pounding on the roof the perfect background. I read mostly Poe, but also some Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, Tolstoy, Chekhov and others.

Details of the stories have long since faded from my memory, but one of the carry-overs of that kind of early reading was a vocabulary that astonished my teachers, and was a source of hilarity and much razzing among my friends. Eventually, I did learn to speak like everybody else, and now that I'm heading into my dotage, I can't remember even simple words. Now, some teasers about Michael Connelly's three short stories in Suicide Run.

Connelly's writing in these short stories is brisk and fluid. His three plots move quickly and, without superfluous words, come to a conclusion that is satisfactory - in the main - and logical. He creates engrossing and plausible plots and intriguing characters, carrying the story smoothly from the opening sentence to the last. These stories will, I think, leave you with some thoughts to ponder late at night. Suicide Run, Cielo Azul, and One-Dollar Jackpot are examples of good short-story-writing. I recommend all three of them.

Story #1 - Suicide Run: Suicide or murder? Bosch won't let go until he's sure

Harry Bosch and Jerry Edgar are part of a new roving response team. This particular evening, they are on their third-in-four-days suicide run, expecting to have details wrapped up in a matter of a few minutes. A beautiful young woman has apparently taken a fatal overdose. An investigation of the scene turns up some things that interest Bosch, tell him that this may not be the suicide it looks like.

Connelly quickly establishes for the reader that the dead woman - a girl, really - is a would-be actress: "Aren't they all?" one detective says. Bosch seems to be the only one with doubts about suicide, but being Bosch, he won't stop until he's certain of the facts.

In this case, the facts are not adding up. There is an unlocked door. The lights are on. There is something strange about the suicide note. Photos. A piece of jewelry around her neck that may be valuable. And other things that are unusual in suicide cases, and that keep Bosch looking for the truth in a variety of places and among different characters. Watching Harry Bosch search for and eventually find the answers to his questions makes for an engaging and entertaining read.

Story #2 - Cielo Azul: A ten-year-old mystery of a murdered Little Girl Lost

This first-person short story grabs readers and throws them immediately into a murder mystery that began ten years ago. The victim is a young girl, possibly15 years old, of Mexican descent. Newspapers back then dubbed the case the Little Girl Lost, because her name was and still is unknown, a decade later. Bosch - helped greatly by a deputy coroner named Corazon, and an FBI profiler - hunts down and hauls the killer of Little Girl Lost to justice. But, for Bosch, there is unfinished business with this killer and this case. Loose ends, you might call them, with one element of the story that keeps Bosch awake nights even ten years later. Who is Little Girl Lost? And why did her killer do what he did? Whether Bosch finds a way to a satisfying conclusion - for both the detective and the reader - is for you to decide. After you've read Cielo Azul.

Story #3 - One-Dollar Jackpot: Poker champ/TV star murder victim

Tracey Blitzstein, the murder victim, is a television poker-playing star and whiz. Bosch takes over the murder case from another police division, and finds himself working with an agreeable young female detective. She shares with him a choice bit of information from the victim's husband.

He claims Tracey called him as she left a poker game, carrying more than six thousand dollars. In cash. Her husband's story is that he found her in her car, in their driveway. Dead. Murdered by someone who followed her home? Is her husband lying to cover his own vile deed?

The home is in a crowded neighborhood with a variety of residents, some wealthy, some quite the opposite. There are numerous witnesses among the neighborhood crowd gathered around the victim's car. But nobody has heard a shot. Or heard a car drive away. Some neighbors themselves become people of interest as the mystery unfolds.

Bosch again works his way through a maze of copious clues and false starts and seat-of-the-pants guesswork and trickery to arrive at the final denouement. Connelly gives readers plenty of clues with which to arrive at their own solutions. He selected an enticing title for this story, and I'll bet you'll be surprised at what it means. One-Dollar Jackpot is a good read, whether you play poker for money. Or matchsticks.

I recommend spending some time with Suicide Run, Cielo Azul, and One-Dollar Jackpot

Marcia K. Applegate

Bethany's Bookshelf

A Better Way
Ken Gathagu
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781621478317 $9.99

Kenyan-born author Ken Gathagu went to college in America and was utterly shocked by what he describes as the American "culture of waste", which often exacerbated the debt students accrued while attending college. A Better Way: How I Graduated College Debt Free is a collection of tips, tricks, and techniques for earning one's college degree without taking on crushing student debt - or at the very least, minimizing the amount of debt one must carry. Unlike most other loans, student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy (outside of extreme circumstances)! Ken Gathagu draws upon his personal life experience and the invaluable wisdom of his mother to warn readers against common money-squandering mistakes. For example, choosing friends who drink is hazardous to your wallet as well as your health; alcohol is expensive, as is any trouble caused from drinking it, and if your friends drink then you'll be pressured to drink, too. Having friends who engage in expensive activities will also vaporize your savings, since if your friends like to eat at fancy restaurants, you'll probably end up doing the same! Gathagu emphasizes the value of cooking at home instead of eating out, using carpooling or public transportation rather than driving alone, getting a cell phone plan with unlimited talk/text rather than land lines or phones with per-minute contracts, living off-campus rather than on-campus, choosing a less expensive heartland college over a costly East Coast or West Coast college, applying for student grants and financial aid, and much more. Highly recommended for anyone striving to live on a tight budget, regardless of their schooling plans.

A Time To Be Born
Connie G. Krupin
Arbador Publications, LLC
2134 Bancroft Place, NW
Washington, DC, 20008
9780615571270, $49.95,

The birth of a truly wanted child is one of the most memorable events and benefits of any marriage. "A Time To Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal" had its inception some 30 years earlier with artist Connie G. Krupin's own experience of having a child. Wanting to record her experiences as a new mother she discovered that there were no baby book journals with an especially Jewish orientation, one that would reflect Jewish family values. It took time, thought, experiment, and experience to create for others what she once sought for herself. The result is "A Time To Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal", a charmingly illustrated, do-it-yourself journal in which to record not only first experiences, emotions, and developmental milestones (which most baby journals offer), but also includes an interactive approach replete with prayers, lullabies, recipes, quotes, and religious excerpts combing to help record a complete Jewish experience as a parent. "A Time To Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal" is a self-created family treasure that will be valued and appreciated for generations yet to come!

Playing at the World
Jon Peterson
Unreason Press
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780615642048, $34.95,

Mankind has been at war all throughout its existence. It has been pretending to be so as well for just as long. "Playing the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventures From Chess to Role-Playing Games" explores the history of gaming in many ways, with particular attention paid to the attraction that fantasy has on the American imagination. Role-playing in its many forms form the basis of much, and Jon Peterson presents a fascinating history of play and war gaming from the perspective of an enthusiast and collector. "Playing the World" is a must for gaming and popular culture history collections.

The Orchid Murder
Christine Hunt
Right Line Publishing
9780984439553 $17.95

The Orchid Murder: Untangling a Web of Unsolved Murders and Legal Malpractice is a true crime story in which an unsolved murder was on the beginning of the injustice. In 1973, Minneapolis florist Bob Nachtsheim was murdered; his killer was never identified. Years later, Nachtsheim's widow sued Nachtsheim's former employer, Norm Wartnick. Wartnick had committed no crime, yet his defense attorney was beyond incompetent; the case resulted in a punishing wrongful death judgment and a three-million-dollar civil penalty that forced Wartnick to sell his family business. Wartnick received a second chance from Jerry Snider and Joe Friedberg, two Minnesota attorneys who were infuriated at the system's ill treatment of an innocent man, staked their own reputations on a six-year struggle to right the system's wrong. Their case went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and became an ethics textbook standard concerning attorney malpractice. The Orchid Murder is an invaluable cautionary tale for readers of all backgrounds, highly recommended.

What Color is the Wind
Edna P. Spencer
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432793784, $11.95,

A rapidly changing world can be a confusing time to grow up in. "What Color is the Wind?" is a memoir from Edna P. Spencer as she recounts her own youth growing up during Roosevelt's new deal, and the projects that would send families moving across the country, bringing her with them. Bringing the family into focus in the 1930s and 1940s, "What Color is the Wind?" is a much recommended addition to any memoir collection.

Walking for Peace
Mony Dojeiji & Alberto Agraso
9781614347101, $16.95,

Walking grants us time to think, and in that time, we can learn much about the world. "Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey" is a memoir from Mony Dojeiji as she tells of her walk on the 'Way of the Soul', where her world's travels allows her to meet Alberto Agraso as they wander the world and come to Jerusalem, and learn much about themselves and the soul of the world. A very spiritual memoir, "Walking for Peace" is a strongly recommended addition to memoir collections focusing on religious and spiritual journeys.

The Tapestry of Spirit
Erik Paul Rocklin
Eluclidare Press
9780615595696, $13.95,

Travel forces us to learn much about life along the way. "The Tapestry of Spirit" is a fantasy novel from Erik Paul Rocklin, about a young boy traveling with the enigmatic Elder, on a journey to meet the reclusive Mage. The Elder guides his charge through little-known lands, teaching him much about the people they encounter, and about what lies ahead for the young man. A tale of discovering the warp and weft of the world at large, "The Tapestry of Spirit" is a must for general fiction and fantasy collections, recommended.

Anno Domina
Patrick S. Lafferty
All Things That Matter Press
9780985778934, $16.99,

Faith may be many things, including heretical. "Anno Domina" is a novel set in the near future, where a cult leader faces execution in Arizona. Although the public calls for blood, the Governor is faced with a difficult decision, as those around him advise against capital punishment, as well as his own soul. "Anno Domina" is an intriguing exploration of faith and how far does one believe.

Harbingers of Autumn
Geraldine Claire
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788094, $19.95,

The struggles of the family business may yet reveal other demons. "Harbingers of Autumn" follows Autumn Asbury, who is driven into her family's business despite her protest of funeral directing. Never liking the profession, finding some abused remains leaves her with terror about what some in the family have been doing. With thriller elements, "Harbingers of Autumn" is a followup to Geraldine Claire's previous volumes, worth considering for fans of her work.

Night Flight
Diane & David Munson
Micah House Media
9780983559023, $9.99,

A dog with a nose for crime never truly retires. "Night Flight" follows Glenna and Gregg Rider as the two young individuals adopt an old police dog who drags his new owners to a counterfeiting bust. But one good deed enrages the cartel they disrupted, and they have to go into hiding - only to find that with their old dog, they got plenty more things to bust up. "Night Flight" is a fun and adventurous read for young adult readers, much recommended.

15 Stitches
Rita Baorto
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781469790930, $15.95,

One horrific event can take everything from you, and the most unexpected can give you a second chance. "15 Stitches" follows Harmony Vindico as she tries to put her own life back together after tragedy strikes one night. When she returns to school, she finds that Keith, a friend she makes...may not be human. Finding something terrible lurking under the reality she sees, she will learn much about who she is. "15 Stitches" is a riveting read that should resonate with many young people who feel like fish out of water.

Second Chance Grill
Christine Nolfi
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478342229 $13.95

Book two in the "Liberty" series, Second Chance Grill is an emotionally moving contemporary novel about the power that relationships have to transform lives. Dr. Mary Chance is taking an extended break from her medical practice, because she is heartbroken over the recent loss of her closest friend. She attempts to run a barely-break-even restaurant in Liberty, Ohio, and unexpectedly befriends the outgoing preteen girl Blossom Perini... as well as Blossom's father. Human connections have the potential spread joy to people far and wide, in this wonderful and highly recommended prequel to "Treasure Me".

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Unruffled Courage
Danny Lee Welch & Sandra Kay Hamilton Welch
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781477253083 $23.95

Unruffled Courage: The Adventures of American Patriot Benjamin Hamilton and a Cherokee Maiden Named Moonglow is a historical novel (with a dash of creative license) set in colonial America, retelling the story of author Sandra Kay Hamilton Welche's fourth great-grandparents: mountain man and Revolutionary War solider Benjamin S. Hamilton, and the Cherokee maiden Moonglow who rescued Benjamin from execution by her own tribe. An extraordinary saga of adventure, love, loyalty, and heartbreak, Unruffled Courage captures the imagination with its vivid portrayal of the search to not only survive, but also find meaning in day-to-day life on the wild frontier. Highly recommended.

Side Effects
Timothy G. Sheridan
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432767266, $10.95,

Combat changes people, and the pressures that follow forth do much to our souls. "Side Effects" is a memoir from Timothy G. Sheridan, who hopes to share his struggles with the side effects of the medicines prescribed to him as he returned from war and endured much. An intriguing look into the mind of those weighed down by life, "Side Effects" holds powerful messaging, not to be missed.

Doubling Up
Paul Verity
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780557697526, $21.97,

The shame society forces on its citizens makes it painful for when they can no longer hide. "Doubling Up" is a novel following the pain of Matt Durant, a young lawyer struggling with his sexuality. When his first trip to a gay bar gets nasty and gets him in criminal trouble, his secret is out to all who knew him, and he deals with his own criminal trial while facing the world that scorned him. "Doubling Up" is a riveting story of the cruelty that many homosexuals face in their lives.

Monumental Money
Yigal Arkin
Arkin Publishing
9780615464541, $17.95,

A country's money is an icon of its prosperity. "Monumental Money: People and Places on U. S. Paper Money" discusses the history behind the United States treasury and the bills it has created, discussing the deep symbolism behind many of the decisions of the money. Not just discussing Jackson and Franklin, Yigal Arkin also sheds light on the rarer bills, their forms throughout history, currency from before the Revolution, the Confederacy's own minting, and much more, "Monumental Money" is a strong addition to American history and for anyone fascinated with the history of money.

Peter Glenville
Carol King
Peter Glenville Foundation
9780615508177, $15.95,

A fire that burns brightly can fade just as quick. "Peter Glenville: The Elusive Director Who Charmed Hollywood & Triumphed on Broadway" follows the career of the successful yet unsung film director who gained renown in North America in Europe, and his impact on the society of the era, clashing the lecherous Hollywood with his own devout faith. An intriguing picture of faith and life in a far past era, "Peter Glenville" is a fascinating addition to any film and theatre collection, highly recommended.

Pure Gold
Barry Pelphrey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795368, $14.95,

A surge of faith can make everything so clearer, no matter what event triggers it. "Pure Gold" is a Christian inspirational from Berry Pelphrey as he shares his own journey to faith, facing his own and his family's problems, finding the desires of Christ and using his will to fire himself forward to a better life and view of the world. Drawing much from scripture and faith, "Pure Gold" is a choice pick for those who want help finding their drive and faith through their lives no matter what they seek in their lives.

The Mist of God
Peter Longley
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462014576, $33.95,

The politics of faith are as complex as the politics of nations. "The Mist of God" is the third entry in Peter Longley's Magdala Trilogy, telling the story of three individuals who live their lives throughout the Roman Empire and its neighbors in the first century AD. Exploring the politics of Judaism and the will of the Empire throughout as well as many challenges to personal faith, "The Mist of God" is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down.

Blues in the Wind
Whitney J. LeBlanc
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432794309, $18.95,

Blues music resonates the pain of the soul. "Blues in the Wind Revisited" is a novel following Phillip and his wife Martha, and how their weakening relationship serves as the backdrop for the rise of the blues through Phillip. Exploring the culture surrounding the era regarding race, faith, and how music provided a much needed outlet of retreat for some, and how it also divided them further. "Blues in the Wind Revisited" is a choice addition to any Historical fiction collection with a focus on the birth of the Blues.

Devin C. Hughes
Writers of the Round Table Press
9781610660549, $19.95,

Interracial couplings are widely accepted now, but merely decades ago, it was seen as an abomination. "Contrast: A Biracial Man's Journey to Desegregate His Past" is a memoir from Devin C. Hughes as he explores his roots as a man of mixed race, drawing back to the historic 1967 legalizing interracial marriage across America. Discussing how his mixed upbringing affected him, in ways of people seeing his race in someways and others not realizing his true nature, "Contrast" presents an intriguing look on the history of race relations in the past few decades of America.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Adventures of Zack Gentry
C. Robert Tower
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781480145986 $15.95

The Adventures of Zack Gentry: A Tongue-in-Cheek History of the Opening of the West is a historical novel following the titular Zack Gentry, and his explorations of the turbulent American frontier! From witnessing the beginning of the Pony Express, to mining gold and silver in Nevada Territory, to the gut-wrenching massacre that took place at Wounded Knee, The Adventures of Zack Gentry pulls no punches in its retelling of icons and legends of American history - with a side trip to England, pursued in the name of love. Famous personages abound in Gentry's travels, which blend legend and adventure into a satisfying whole. A choice pick for readers of all ages!

Love Calls and Roundelays
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432797690, $11.95,

There is much beauty in our world, and so much to take in and relish. "Love Calls and Roundelays" is a collection of poetry from 'Wyn', as they offer a collection of photography and status of life and what's there to enjoy in its many ways. "Love Calls and Roundelays" is something to enjoy, much recommended reading. "Flood": We are inundated by images/why paint?/We are swamped by words/why write?//We are too many/why be?//There is plenty of time to die

Stealing All Transmissions
Randal Doane
Music Word Media
9781937330200, $15.99,

Rock and Roll exploded in many forms, the creators of the music have their own demons driving their work. "Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of the Clash" discusses the story of The Clash, the British Punk Rock group who gained a cult following in America and the people in the band took a liking to the country as well, in particular New York City. Randal Doane seeks to tell the untold story of the band, telling of the band's struggles with its art and its place in the greater history of punk and music in general. "Stealing All Transmissions" is a must for any fan of the group, highly recommended.

Lifting the Wheel of Karma
Paul H. Magid
Point Dume Press
9780984016006, $15.00,

The problems of our mind are often for us alone to battle. "Lifting the Wheel of Karma" is a novel following successful yet troubled Joseph Connell. An accident leaves him with visions of a terrible nature, and he travels to the Himalayas, in search of the man who may be able to help him. But the help he receives is not what he expected. "Lifting the Wheel of Karma" is a strong pick for those seeking a novel with a metaphysical twist.

Remember Me
Brian L. MacLearn
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432796044, $23.95,

Time is a dangerous thing, not to be messed with so lightly. "Remember Me" is a novel of fantasy and family. Andrew Johnson by freak chance returns to 1985...and finds that the resulting paradoxes erases his daughter from his life. Seeing that the only chance to save his daughter is to fix time by waiting for the chance to repeat the loop, he endures the long decades ahead of him and faces the challenges of meddling with time and time's vengeance. "Remember Me" is an intriguing exploration of the effects of time travel, placing them in new light.

The Brink
Mark Fadden
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450210485, $23.95,

Conspiracy may leave the future of America in the hands of a murder suspect. "The Brink" follows Danny Cavanaugh, an ex-Texas ranger who meets with an International Justice Sydney Dumas as they uncover an international conspiracy and find that they have targets on their head, and the fate of America may lie in their actions. "The Brink" is a riveting thriller with plenty of twists and turns, very much recommended reading.

The Breastplate
Shirley McCracken
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432785697, $14.95,

When you marry into the entourage of the President, you face many challenges. "The Breastplate" is a historical novel of the Civil War, as Kitty Claiborne, and the whirlwind of events that come in their lives, testing their newly forged bond. Following Kitty as she copes with the conflict that so drives her husband away and the pain of love unfulfilled. "The Breastplate" is a strong addition to historical fiction collections focusing on the Civil War.

Taming the Violence of Faith
Jay Stuart Snelson
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781453717202, $24.95,

Violence rages the world over, and all over, people seek solutions. "Taming the Violence of Faith: Win-Win Solutions for Our World in Crisis" is a call for finding peace in the modern world as Jay Stuart Snelson believes that with the rise of technology, war more than ever has serious consequences that could demolish our world and civilization. With much to think about and how to push for a better world of tomorrow, "Taming the Violence of Faith" is a choice and much recommended addition to international issues and religion collections.

Reflections in Solitude
Randall Ng
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432794293, $12.95,

Over the years, we see much, and condense our thoughts. "Reflections in Solitude: Home in Hawaii" is a collection of poetry from Randall Ng, who shares his experiences of a life and career in education in Hawaii, and brings an honest view of the world in the process. "Reflections in Solitudes" are personal and insightful reads, not to be missed. "Solitude on Change": Change is like the mortal feeling of/Death//You hate to see it come but it is/Inevitable//There is no Permanence nor Absoluteness/About it/All/It comes with Time and Age/No sadness only Secret Sorrow.

John Burroughs

CarrieAnn's Bookshelf

The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way
Translated by Olga Savin
Shambhala Publications Inc
300 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115
9781570628078, $15.95,

I selected this book to review after listening to a sermon concerning the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer by Father Patrick McDermott, in which he referred to the ancient text, The Way of the Pilgrim. I was surprised to find that the publisher of this particular translation was Shambhala Classics, as Shambhala normally specializes in Buddhist books, of which I have read many. Shambhala tends to specialize in ancient eastern esoteric works. The Way of the Pilgrim comes out of the East Orthodox tradition of the desert Fathers, who were acetic hermits. One could compare them with the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, as opposed to the Mahayana. Theravada represents the inward-turning solitary path to enlightenment, whilst Mahayana is the path of compassion and service to others. I wondered: does every spiritual tradition have one distinct path for the introvert and another for the extrovert?

Along with a plethora of books on Buddhism,Tao, Yoga, and Zen, the only other tradition mentioned in the back listing of other Shambhala publications was a book entitled, Kabbalah, The Way of the Jewish Mystic, the esoteric aspect of Judaism.

I was able to learn very little biographical details about the translator of the work, other than the fact that she is a graduate of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York.

I learned from Wikipedia that the work itself was originally penned in 19th century Russian. The author signs himself only as, "the Pilgrim", no other name is given. It is unknown if the book represents the factual journey of a wandering pilgrim who journeyed across Russia while practicing continual recitation of the Jesus Prayer, or if this is a literary device used to teach the practice of unceasing prayer as a way of perpetual communion with God. It may be that some of the anecdotes are actual experiences of the author/pilgrim, and others are literary embellishments used in the manner of parables. The original Russian document was first published in Kazan in 1884, under the Russian title that best translates as "Candid Narratives of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father."

The book consists of three separate documents. The first section contains the book, The Way of the Pilgrim. The second section is the book, The Pilgrim Continues His Way. In addition to these two fine books, there is as an appendix that contains many condensed snippets of advice from the Fathers of the East Orthodox Church as found in the ancient manuscript, the Philokalia. All three translations are from the original Russian edition.

The first book, The Way of the Pilgrim, is written in a style that strongly reminds me of the style of Tolstoy in his delightful book, Walk in the Light and Twenty-three Tales. As the pilgrim walks throughout Russia, he must procure bread and lodging along the way and in the course of this, he meets many interesting people. Each meeting is a small tale of its own, and often, embedded in these meetings, the characters (or real people he encountered?) will often relate stories of their own. All the adventures and tales tend to serve the greater purpose of teaching the Pilgrim about the practice of continuous interior prayer. Many of the tales related are discussions among two or more on the various approaches to continuous prayer, and how to deal with problems that arise in attaining to it. The book is wonderful to read aloud in the company of like-minded individuals as it has the wonderful feel of good storytelling more than that of a treatise. In a chance meeting and subsequent conversation with a soldier, the pilgrim relates, " 'Which is more exalted', asked the captain, 'the Jesus Prayer or the Bible?' 'It's all the same,' I replied, 'for the Divine Name of Jesus Christ contains within itself all the biblical truths. The holy Fathers say that the Jesus Prayer is the abbreviated version of the entire Bible' " [page 22]

Early on in his journey, the pilgrim has the good fortune to meet a Starets, or elder.
The glossary indicates that this is a monk who is distinguished by his saintliness and gift of guiding others on the spiritual path. These venerable souls were often sought out by spiritual seekers, and often monastic communities of disciples would grow from these encounters. There is a great parallel here to the Gurus of India and their disciples. In the book, the pilgrim relates many supernatural abilities that his starets manifests, most notably, the ability to return from the dead both in dreams and in person in order to continue to guide his charge. On page 29 he relates, "In my dream I saw myself sitting in the cell of my departed starets. He was explaining the Philokalia to me, saying, 'This holy book is full of great wisdom. It is a mystical treasury of the meanings of the hidden judgments of God. It is not made accessible everywhere and to everyone, but it does offer instruction according to the measure of each reader's understanding.' "

The Pilgrim Continues his Way begins with a narrative from the perspective not of the pilgrim, but of his diseased starets. This was disorienting and took a bit of getting used to. The pilgrim arrives at the deceased one's dwelling, and recounts his many adventures. By and by, he meets others, and converses with all on how one might deepen one's practice of the unceasing prayer of the heart. Most meetings follow a question and answer format in which one person raises questions, and the other provides insights. In this manner, troubles, objections and doubts are gradually laid to rest.

The appendix relates three keys to the practice of interior prayer, and condensations of the teachings of the holy fathers. The three keys are: 1. Constancy in invoking Jesus's name, 2. Attention or mindfulness, and 3. The practice of the mind entering the heart. These are explained in detail.

One theme that emerges from the book is the need for great quantities of solitude, and the recommendation to avoid the vexations of mixing with people. It is suggested that the seeker should restrict one's social encounters to those who are treading the same path of learning continuous prayer so as to learn from one another. All other social encounters are thought to be quite useless. This approach diverges quite radically from the recommendations found in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Saint Benedict asserts that anyone can believe they have achieved a state of spiritual bliss in solitude on a mountaintop, but this is a self-indulgence, rather than true spiritual maturity. To mature spiritually, one must perfect one's moral fiber in community, and in service to others.

I think an even mixture of both these approaches is optimal. One must at times withdraw from society in order to receive the spiritual sustenance of prayer and time alone with God, and after such refreshment, one is ready to enter into community once more in humility and service to others. Jesus' own ministry is marked by days that began in the solitude of prayer, then into the community to serve, heal and teach, and at the day's close, a withdrawal once more into solitary prayer. This is a healthy balance. And so it is that Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have much to teach one another. May your spiritual journey be filled in equal measure with moments of solitude with God and moments of humble service to the greater community.

Christian Caregiving: A Way of Life
Kenneth C. Haugk
Augsburn Publishing House
426 S. Fifth St., Box 1209
Minneapolis, MN 55440
0806621230, $14.99,

I selected this book to review because as part of my return to a life of faith, I have begun to study the gospel of Matthew in earnest. I was greatly struck by the passage from Matt 25: 31 to 25: 46. It is here that Jesus is quoted as saying that only those who give to the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the ill, and visit the imprisoned will share eternal life with God. I thought to myself, "these are the corporal and spiritual mercies that Catholics are called upon to practice if we are to be sincere followers of Christ. I need to put these practices into my daily life!" So I signed up for Stephen Ministries, a wonderful interdenominational program that matches a caregiver to a person in need. Stephen Ministry Caregivers are there to give emotional and spiritual support in a distinctly Christian fashion. Those who wish to be caregivers attend a class once a week in an interdenominational setting. On the first session of class, I was provided with a satchel that contained a number of books on how to accomplish Christian care giving with sensitivity and good training under my belt. This book is the first one I was asked to read.

The author, Kenneth C. Haugk, PhD, is the founder of the Stephen Ministries program. He is a clinical psychologist and Lutheran pastor. He began the program at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri in 1975. This caring outreach program of ministry to those in need is currently active in more than 9,000 congregations and is comprised of volunteers from more than 100 denominations who study together and support one another in being effective lay-ministers.

The author has an impeccable understanding of the many pitfalls that Christian caregivers can fall victim to in this very challenging volunteer work. This book discusses each of them thoroughly, shedding light on how to overcome our doubts and shortcomings so that we can be effective and sincere in our work.

The book is primarily designed for use as a textbook in the Stephen Ministry training program. It can, however, be an effective tool for any Christian who is involved in caring for others in a distinctly Christian way, provided the caregiver is working with some sort of team that offers the caregivers support and guidance. This may include those involved with the Friend to Friend nursing home visiting program, or those who provide outreach visits to jails and prisons, or even those who choose to reach out to lonely neighbors. Opportunities abound all around us to offer caring emotional support to others, and in so doing, we often encounter situations where we ourselves need guidance in how to proceed.

On page 20, the author reminds us that, "Caring is a process - like tilling, fertilizing, planting, and cultivating. Processes are verbs, and the process of caring is in your hands. Results are nouns, and cures, (the results of your caring) are in God's hands." On page 21, he says, "When you as caregiver realize that God is Curegiver, you are freed from worry and false expectations. Demands on yourself to get results are silenced, and so are many demands for the care receiver to shape up or change. Instead, you can concentrate on creating the best therapeutic situation for growth to occur; developing trust and communicating acceptance and love."

Those who would reach out to others if they had more confidence, find themselves empowered to do so by virtue of the practical advice offered in this book. That said, I have learned through taking the class that being plugged in to a support system oneself is essential for practical Christian care giving as it goes a long way towards preventing one from being overwhelmed, or experiencing burn-out. An effective caregiver is someone who has a peer support group to assist them in their efforts to give aid. The book teaches caregivers to learn from one another as they embark upon their caring journey. The book is benefitted from best in its context of the Stephen Ministry class where we can share this journey with others who are on the same path.

The Way of the Heart
Henri J. M. Nouwen
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
0345463358, $13.00,

I selected "The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence" by Henri J. M. Nouwen to review because over 25 years ago, the pastor of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Bellingham, Washington, of which I was a member, told me to read Henri Nouwen. He said my writing style and subject matter were very like his, and seemed surprised I had not read any of Nouwen's books. It took me awhile to get around to it, and I do wish I had read Nouwen much sooner.

Henri Nouwen writes much on the topic of solitude, and being a solitary soul by nature, his works make a great deal of sense to me. I have dipped into several other of his books, but this one was so compelling I read it in its entirety in one sitting.

Henri Nouwen taught theology at Notre Dame, the Yale Divinity School, and Harvard. He was born January 24, 1932, and died September 21, 1996. He was a Dutch-born Catholic priest who wrote 40 books about the spiritual path. His writing style is clear, uncluttered, and deeply thoughtful. There is an unembellished quietude in the tone of his writing that draws the reader into a deeply contemplative space. His language is inclusive of both genders throughout the book, taking the time to point out that there were wise desert mothers as well as wise desert fathers, and taking the space to bother to use the phrase "men and women", rather than assuming that female readers will appreciate the assumed fact that the term 'men' means them as well, by default.

I was put off at first, when I realized that this book was intended for the clergy. But, as with the Tao Te Ching, which was written as a guidebook for whomever would rule the land, anyone picking up the book is drawn in by the resonating chord of the universal human quest for interior peace. Though far from being a clergy, or even a nun, or teacher (unless you count teaching hatha yoga), I found a great deal of needful advise to ponder and to put into practice. The book has three simple, yet integral, themes: solitude, silence, and prayer.

In the prologue he asks, "What is required of a man or a woman who is to enter fully into the turmoil and agony of the times and speak a word of hope?" He states that the source of his inspiration is the Apophthegmata Patrum, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. The first section of the book is on solitude as an antidote to civilized humankind's inner plagues of fear, desire, anger, and self-seeking. On page 16 he says, "Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter - the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self." [Italics mine]. Neuwan takes pains to point out that he is not talking about the selfish solitude of withdrawing from society to pursue one's own self-indulgent pleasures. On page 17 he says, "In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me - naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken - nothing." In this crucible, one has to face one's own less than charitable thoughts. One comes face to face with one's own anger, greed, lusts, and dreams of vainglory. "Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory." Finding this solitude not to our liking, we deeply desire to burst into the world of society once more and drown our fragile yet tyrant-like egos into sensual distractions of every stripe. "The struggle is real," Nouwen writes, "because the danger is real. It is the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition, one restless effort to convince ourselves of our virtuousness." [p 18] Brought to our knees by the despair of looking deeply into the unvarnished mirror of our own souls, we are finally broken enough to ask the Lord of Life to restore us to wholeness. On page 20, he makes a shocking statement. He says that, "As we come to realize that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that he is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and experience the freedom of the children of God." To me, that is a radical statement that called me up short. It is the "dying to self" and the "born to eternal life" spoken of in the last line of the prayer of Saint Francis, that, heretofore, I had never really understood. Nouwen says that in the midst of this busy life, we must create our own desert to withdraw to each day and dwell in the exclusive presence of God, lest we lose sight of our own soul.

I that thought the solitude of the desert was unreachable, and were I to reach for it, I would become an escapist. But this book taught me that we must each create a small desert oasis in some small corner of our home and our time, and give this time and this space exclusively to communion with God. The rest of the book deals with how to achieve this communion; to empty self of self, and fill it with God to overflowing that we might minister to others from this outpouring of a transformed and bountiful heart.

The second section of the book is on silence. "Silence is an indispensable discipline in the spiritual life." [p 36] "The Word of God is born out of the eternal silence of God, and it is to this Word out of silence that we want to be witnesses."[p 40] Henri Nouwen says that silence makes us pilgrims, silence guards the fire within, and silence teaches us to speak. On page 45 he says, "Silence guards the inner heat of religious emotions. This inner heat is the life of the Holy Spirit within us. Thus, silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive." "A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges from the silence and returns to it...the Divine silence in which love rests secure."[p 49] But he reminds us that silence is not to be an end in itself. Silence helps us to listen to the heart of God, and to unite with the heart of God in charity towards others.

The last section of the book is devoted to the topic of prayer. Indeed, Nouwen reminds us that solitude and silence are the building blocks of a life of unceasing prayer. "The Desert Fathers did not think of solitude as being alone, but as being alone with God. They did not think of silence as not speaking, but as listening to God." [p 63] Nouwen speaks of the need for the prayer of the mind to sink down into the prayer of the heart. Mental prayer involves a great deal of talking, and a need for answers, on our terms. Heart-prayer is an act of communion with God and unconditional surrender to God that surpasses all cogitation and personal expectations. "The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our hearts remain far from him. Real prayer comes from the heart." [p 71] He goes on to remind us that, "the word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies...The prayer of the heart is a prayer that directs itself to God from the center of the person and thus affects the whole of our humanness." [p 74-75]

Henri Nouwen says that the prayer of the heart must be unceasing, all-inclusive, and composed of a short and simple phrase. He writes of the Way of the Pilgrim, and the Jesus Prayer, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. And he writes how this unceasing litany of the heart is to accompany us into all of our daily activities until it merges into and fuses with our very heart beat. This practice becomes the matrix of our solitude in the world. I didn't really understand this when I read The Way of the Pilgrim, but this book makes it clear. We do not need to avoid the company of humankind to achieve this solitude, this silence, and this continuous prayer. We can achieve these things right here, right now, in the midst of our very demanding lives. But it does take great practice, dedication, and devotion. I believe that by doing so, we can find our way into a deeply fulfilling and truly useful life of joyful God-centered humility and service.

CarrieAnn Marie Thunell

Carson's Bookshelf

How to Become a Successful Black Man
Hillary Drummond Simpson
Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781463468262, $12.95,

Education has become uncool, and that has led to a serious problem among Black Americans. "How to Become a Successful Black Man" is an advisory guide for those young black boys becoming men, as Hillary Drummond-Simpson advises how Black America can shake free the weights of academic failure and improve the future for the community as a whole. Taking a study of many successful black men including President Barack Obama, "How to Become a Successful Black Man" has plenty to consider for the Black man entering maturity, focusing on the importance of education in modern society.

Prostate Cancer Armed & Ready
Don Kaltenbach
Victory Bookworks
9780615617541, $18.95

Prostate cancer often strikes in the transition to the elder levels of one's life. "Prostate Cancer Armed & Ready: A Survival Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery" is a guide for those who want to best prepare themselves against this ailment that can be beaten with knowledge and seeking the right treatments. Explaining all that goes with it extensively, "Prostate Cancer Armed & Ready" is a strong addition to any health collection focusing on middle aged and seniors health concerns.

The Conjurer's Boy
Michael Raleigh
Harvard Square Editions, Ltd.
9780983321668 $15.95

The Conjurer's Boy is an intriguing novel of complex moral dimensions. In 1962 Chicago, a young boy named Thomas Faye befriends two mysterious men in a junk shop - proprietor Arthur Farrell, a veteran with the power to heal by laying on hands, and his contentious friend Meyer, who survived the end of the Warsaw Ghetto. But this unlikely pair is much more than they seem; could they be capable of ruthless murder? Though they teach Thomas the skills he needs to survive to adulthood, do the lessons come at the price of becoming their enemy? Thomas learns how to handle himself as a private detective, and even as a combat soldier in Vietnam, yet his ultimate test will be to investigate his own purpose, and that of the questionable friendship he has formed with the mysterious pair. Spanning multiple wars, and touching upon the big questions of the meaning of life and death, The Conjurer's Boy is a captivating read from cover to cover, highly recommended.

Poetically Correct
Ciera S. Louise
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426973895, $9.99,

To offend someone means you're doing something right. "Poetically Correct: Banned by the Free Press" is a collection of poetry from Ciera S. Louise as she presents her poetry that had been rejected by the Press over the years, sharing these offbeat and pushing the limits of offensive poetry. "Poetically Correct" is worth seeing for those who want to experience what won't be published by the papers. "The Boys of Barronhurst": They say:/No man is an island//What about Woman?//This fruit-bearing/Parcel of land./A haven for all/Who seek comfort/In an Ocean of Tears.//Mother to the Son.//I say:/Each boy taught to pretend/He is indeed an island/Raging and resting/In the bosom of the Earth,/Shall always return/to the caul,/Enveloped and Forever dependent/Upon Her will.

No Crying for Elena
N. Meridian
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778750, $14.95,

What is family is a question not everyone can answer easily. "No Crying for Elena" is a memoir from N. Meridian as she shares her story of a woman drawn into a cult called the Nation of Yahweh, and how her time in the cult she eventually was freed from left strong impacts on her life and how she struggled not to give on her problems to her daughter and the pain that they both faced with each other. "No Crying for Elena" is a driven read of a mother's love and the pain of experiences on ourselves and those around us.

A Woman Possessed
Marilyn Hering
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450279970, $17.95,

Love and security too often do not come at us together. "A Woman Possessed" is a novel from Marilyn Hering, telling of a romance and struggle of young Eleanor O'Bannion against the backdrop of the worker's struggles in New Jersey in 1913. Split between a silk baron and a union leader, she finds herself divided in more than one way, and senses that there is more on the line than her own comfort. "A Woman Possessed" is an intriguing romance in a tumultuous time, a very much recommended read.

What The Modern Martyr Should Know
Norbert G. Pressburg
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468129038, $24.50,

The word of God often gets mangled by the editing of man. "What the Modern Martyr Should Know: Seventy-Two Grapes and Not a Single Virgin" is Norbert G. Pressburg's criticism of the mutation of the original Qur'an, which was decreed by the Prophet Mohammad to not be modified or added to, but those with power in the faith have been doing just that, and he tries to find the roots to the many myths and ideas throughout the faith's history. "What the Modern Martyr Should Know" is an intriguing exploration of the history of Islam's scripture, an educational and much recommended read.

Barbed Wire and Daisies
Carl Strazer
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432793807, $15.95,

To avoid the fears of Soviet rule, many Germans left their homeland in the twilight of the war. "Barbed Wire and Daisies" is a historical novel focusing on the last chapters of the world, where many Germans knew defeat was inevitable, and wives took their children and began to look for ways out, terrified of what they had heard of the Soviet forces. Following Marike and her family as they try to find refuge in Denmark and find indignation, "Barbed Wire and Daisies" sheds light on a lesser known piece of the great war's history.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Death Legacy
Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781432825737, $25.95,

Englishwoman Michelle Hallman owns a mysterious consulting firm which she inherited from her uncle, a former British intelligence agent. Michelle has no close friends or relatives and prefers not to be in a relationship due to her work which can be dangerous. When she's called to the French Riviera on business, she meets psychiatrist Daniel Reiner and is immediately attracted to him but a bit wary of the attention he shows her. Back in the States, Michelle is hired by a woman to investigate the circumstances behind the sudden disappearance and alleged death of her husband, a CIA agent. Michelle refers this woman to Daniel when she realizes she is suffering from depression and Daniel is instantly back in Michelle's life, tagging along and insisting on chasing clues with her. Michelle's investigation leads them to the CIA, National Security Agency and KGB, where they learn nothing is as it seems and danger lurks around every corner.

Seewald pens a tight plot filled with intrigue, mystery, suspense and romance. The chemistry between Michelle and Daniel is nicely delivered and the banter between them engaging. The mystery is one readers will be challenged to solve and the fast-paced plot will keep them vested in the story.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Crown Publishing
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307588364, $25.00,

Nick and Amy Dunne live the good life in New York City, both with careers they love and lots of money to spend. But when the recession hits and they lose their jobs, they're at a loss as to what to do. Nick decides they should move back to his hometown in order to take care of his mother, dying of cancer, and his father who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Nick quickly fits into this completely diverse lifestyle but Amy has a hard time adapting. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously disappears. At first the police treat it as a missing person but when evidence of a massive blood spill in the kitchen turns up, they begin to suspect murder and their eyes turn toward Nick, who has been acting suspicious since the beginning.

This book is told in two sections, each one with alternating points of view of Nick and Amy. Gillian does a good job slowly revealing facts and providing nicely delivered twists while peeling away the layers of the personas of Nick and Amy, These two are not likeable characters although this does not take away from the read but rather enhances it. The ending may bother some readers although others may see it as the ultimate twist to the story.

Her Handyman
Morgan Mandel
Choice One Publishing Co.
B0097EVXBK, $0.99

Jake, owner of Jake of All Trades, is content with his life. He finds enjoyment and satisfaction helping people through his job and is engaged to Angelina, the perfect woman in every aspect. When Jake is called to the apartment of Zoe, a well-known and wealthy artist, to stop her toilet from overflowing, Jake is a bit put off by Zoe, who seems a bit eccentric. Thanks to Zoe's dog FuFu, Jake trips and hits his head on the toilet and passes out. While waiting for the paramedics to come, he and Zoe find themselves bonding and quickly become friends. Over the following months, the two keep in touch by phone and Jake begins to wonder if his perfect life is not so perfect after all while self-isolating Zoe tries to find ways to deny her attraction to Jake.

Morgan Mandel has put together a charming romance with two completely opposite characters. Jake and Zoe are very likeable and the reader roots for their relationship to develop, even though Jake is engaged to someone else. An added bonus is Zoe's Chinese Crested dog FuFu. A nice addition to the story is the way Jake and Zoe encourage each other to live up to their full potential. All in all, this novella is a fast, entertaining read that will hold the reader's attention throughout.

Slightly Cracked
Susan Whitfield
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478335016, $13.99,

Mackie Sue Beanblossom and Daisy Marie Hazelhurst, best friends since birth, have shared trials and tribulations together through the years. But nothing has prepared them for menopause and all the horrific accouterments that accompany it. Mackie Sue, a principal, has a demanding job that keeps her busy most hours of the day. Daisy Marie, a cosmetologist, owns her own business but deals with the stress of pleasing her clientele. Both find themselves facing challenges in their marriages, one of which becomes stronger while the other faces loss and hardship. Through it all, their friendship remains steadfast and true and their commitment to one another unwavering.

Susan Whitfield has penned a humorous tale of the menopausal effects on women and their ways of dealing with it while trying to live as normal a life as possible. The friendship between Mackie Sue and Daisy Marie is endearing and their antics provide for lots of laughs. But this is not limited to a comedic book. There's also action, suspense, romance, a bit of a mystery and a touch of sadness. Consider Slightly Cracked one of those books that begs to be read in one sitting, one the reader will not want to put aside even after they are finished.

Christy Tillery French, Reviewer

Clark's Bookshelf

In The Shadow of the Dragon
Winter Nie, William Dowell, & Abraham Lu
Amacom Books
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814431702, $27.95,

A central topic of discussion during the elections of 2012 was the business relationship between China and the rest of the world. Pointed out by candidates of both political parties in the United States was the intrusion by Chinese companies on traditional manufacturing which Americans had formerly done.

Candidates leveled accusations that China has newly developed forage into areas of telecommunications, electronics, and other traditionally acknowledged manufacturing was unfair because of money manipulation, favoritism by its government, and other underhanded tactics. "In The Shadow of the Dragon" discusses the development of how

Chinese industry took advantage of market conditions and political enemies.

The authors of "In The Shadow of the Dragon: The Global Expansion of Chinese Companies" fully document their discussion and give a lot of insight into how business takeovers have occurred. Specific examples show how fear plays an important role in the manufacture of goods used as weaponry. Yet, when components ship separately, the fear dissolves and assembly outside of China can take place. In addition, when a foreign company aligns itself through partial stock ownership, it casts a new aura upon the entity. The foreign company is the guardian of decency in the eyes of outsiders!

IBM was having a difficult time in competing with computers used outside the business world. Realizing that their place in the market was causing losses they looked to divest their ownership and concentrate on what they knew best. Chinese investors were able to step in and buy a majority share of the product produced by IBM. Thus, Lenovo became a leading China marketer of computers not only in China, but also into the rest of the world. Approval of this joint venture and many others of the same type became the new standard. China's acceptance as an equal joint venture partner in many countries is now the norm rather than the exception.

There is backing by the Chinese government of many projects, which provide new business. Money investing is by loans, but the authors discuss high interest loans made by other entities for risky ventures. Once proven feasible, restructuring takes place and businesses flourish with higher profits.

Many business leaders of Chinese companies were educated abroad. Their backgrounds discuss how many educated engineers return to their homeland and start from the bottom up doing menial jobs. They learn all phases of industry before taking leadership positions.

Education is a main goal, which is still developing. In 1998, China had around 830,000 students studying in universities. Today, it has more than six million. China graduates some 280,000 engineers a year - seven times more than the current U. S. annual ranks of around 40,000.

The information conveyed by Winter Nie, an international business scholar, and William Dowell, an international reporter, offer rare and valuable insights into this urgent question of how will China's rise to international dominance in markets beyond low-cost manufacturing impact American business?

This five-star book is a necessary read for those who are investigating new careers. Many traditional paths to earning a living that was once here in the United States are gone. Creative thinking, entrepreneurship, and daring will be the new by-words!

Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc
Patrick K. O'Donnell
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
9780306820298, $26.00,

History books about war seem to categorize battles and the men that fought them in a manner which becomes so factual we tend not to get a real feeling of what happened. Patrick K. O'Donnell in "Dog Company" is not one of those authors. Army Rangers are a breed of fighting soldiers whose training not only brings honor to the United States, they are the toughest fighting machine we have ever put on the battlefield.

Many stories tell of other Rangers such as Darby's Rangers, but this story tells of Dog Company and the men who survived an invasion of such gigantic proportions it still captures the imaginations of storywriters. A carefully planned invasion which was a part of June 6, 1944 when our troops attacking a heavily fortified enemy emplacement and gave an account of themselves which is still retold as if it was only yesterday.

It is very fitting this Veterans' Day that we remember the survivors and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. The achievement of these brave men was phenomenal. Less than half of the 68-man company survived the initial assault of Pointe Du Hoc where they disabled German guns, which potentially could have disrupted the D-Day invasion. These men were so heroic they fought with injuries, which would have stopped a lessor man immediately.

O'Donnell has written eight books about war including, "Beyond Valor," winner of the prestigious William E Colby Award and "We Were One," and a highly acclaimed account of the Battle of Fallujah. His most recent titles include "The Brenner Assignment," "They Dared Return," and "Give Me Tomorrow." Each of these books and the current one are carefully documented and researched. In "Dog Company", his interviews of many surviving veterans have captured their stories in fitting detail.

An outstanding distinction of these Rangers is the description of their toughness. Almost every time they went on liberty, they would get into fights with service members of other units. Always comrades in arms, they would band together in aid of each other. They formed a bond that would carry them through the war, and life.

Descriptive passages by O'Donnell demonstrate how these men from different units had completed some of the most rigorous training of the war. When they landed, there were prepared to "lead the way" no matter what the cost. Climbing ropes up sheer cliffs while under enemy fire was only part of their story. One of the men who had his hand nearly shot off, made the climb and was an instrumental force in firing his weapon aiding his fellow troops.

Veteran's Day on November 11 is for remembering service men and women who have given not only the ultimate sacrifice, but also those who have served for the honor and dignity of the United States. As a veteran, I salute my fellow veterans who have served and those who are serving. This is a 5-star book and one which every veteran can be proud of having on their bookshelf!

Tiffanie DiDonato with Ronnie Dyball
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452298118, $16.00,

Memoirs tend to describe the events of one's life, which have influenced how they got to their current circumstances. Dwarf is the story of Tiffanie DiDonato and her courageous inspirational desire to be like everyone else. She chose to do all that she could to overcome her unique birth with a rare gene that caused her to be dwarf in size, but perfectly formed in every way. Tiff's story is one that should be told to all those with disabilities.

The main theme of her journey is "can't" is not a part of her vocabulary. Tiff's parents were so supportive of her desire to overcome being 3 feet tall and attain a final stature of 4' 10". How she was able to attain this miraculous growth and all that she endured is what she chronicles in her memoir. Starting when she was very young her parents discovered help was available to extend this tots limbs by breaking them and then putting steel rods in place and letting the bones grow back together to add height. Tiffanie also had shortened arms and these too had been addressed. It was not until she was 16 years old that she was able to find a doctor who had the courage to go for final operations, which made her grow to her full potential.

She is able to address her shortcomings (pun intended) with a sense of humor, courage, and tenacity. Tiff describes how the normal things we all do were not available to her without using a stool or other improvised methods so that she could get a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator. The ability to turn on a faucet in the bathroom sink was not attainable for her without a prop. After her surgery she was able to turn on the hot and cold handles and expresses how proud, she was of being just like everyone else.

Her education suffered while she was in high school due to a lack of compassion on the part of the administrative staff and one particular teacher who did not believe that she could ever be the same as her peers. This only made Tiff more determined to overcome her size by taking charge of her future. Her parents supported her decision and when she met with a doctor in Boston she made a deal with him that she would let him know when she was ready to stop the specialized procedure of lengthening her legs and thighs. Additionally, her arms were also lengthened. These physical changes brought her to her ultimate height.

A thriving personality brought her friendships in high school where she graduated and walked to get her diploma just like her classmates. She describes her entry into college and the relationships she forms with what has become lifelong friends with her sorority sisters. Upon graduation, she has given of herself to others. Since 911 she and her mother started a drive to send packages to servicemen serving in the anti-terror warfare zones. It was in this effort where she met and married her husband.

This is a five star book and one that will endear all who read it and should inspire all those who need a little push to overcome their "shortcomings".

Clark Isaacs

Crocco's Bookshelf

Cassie and The Wild Cat Meet and Greet
Pat Hatt
Illustrated by Juuichi
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B008I6WKJC, $1.99,

Make room for new friends

Cassie and The Wild Cat Meet and Greet is a brilliantly written story about friendship. Pat Hatt embraces his love of cats to teach children not to make quick decisions about others, to give everyone a chance to be a friend. It could also be a great way to welcome a new sibling to the household.

The illustrations compliment the comical rhymes that introduce new vocabulary to the reader.

If you don't own a cat before you read Cassie and The Wild Cat Meet and Greet, you may soon be bringing one home.

The Swashbuckle Chuckle
Pat Hatt
Drawn by Caleb Wallace
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B007JKKJKK, $1.99,

What a great adventure to take with memorable characters soon to be mimicked by children lucky enough to read The Swashbuckle Chuckle.

Children will be captivated in the pursuit of the village fountain. The rhymes are entertaining while teaching lessons - hint, read it to a child who is in a cranky mood, see if it doesn't turn his/her frown upside down.

The illustrations will no doubt engage the children long after the book is read. Be prepared to bring the characters alive.

Boo and The Backyard Zoo
Pat Hatt
Illustrations by Ozzy Esha
Wayman Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00869N266, $1.99,

Today it's all about teaching children to work together to solve problems. Boo And The Backyard Zoo is a perfect example of this lesson. As a bonus, the story is cleverly rhymed with outstanding illustrations.

Current issues regarding how to deal with bullies are subliminally addressed as the evil Nugget and his Flashy Parakeets roam the streets.

A great book for children to enjoy.

A Reel Cool Summer
Martha Rodriguez
Illustrations by Joey Rodriguez
Read To Me Publishing, LLC
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B006OP0Y1A, $1.99,

Technology to the Rescue!

What a perfect book for kids ages 6-9 to ward off boredom. First, A Reel Cool Summer is great fun to read, but to apply the technology idea the three siblings learned would be amazing.

The dialogue is so accurate and the illustrations are outstanding. It isn't hard to imagine this scene taking place in Martha Rodriguez's home on a boring summer day, or any other family's home on any given day. Kids are always saying they're bored.

Starting with the kids wanting a pool, and realizing it probably isn't going to happen, to ending with a pool as the prize for their video, is absolutely genius. It shows kids hard work pays off. I also thought it was realistic they didn't win first or second place in the contest.

A Reel Cool Summer by Martha Rodriguez is an excellent book for kids to enjoy. The Illustrations by Joey Rodriguez are superb. Great title too!

Orphan of the Olive Tree
Mirella Sichirollo Patzer
History and Women Press; 1 edition
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009YHLQ5S, $4.99,

Secrets of two close families in 13th century Tuscany.

Carlo and Enrico are best friends who become blood brothers and betroth their first born to wed. Neither suspect there would be problems conceiving a child to fulfill their blood oath. But Enrico's wife, Felicia, seeks help from a healer in her desperation to conceive. Carlo's wife, Prudenza, becomes jealous of Felicia when she finally gives birth to twin sons, and spreads a vicious rumor that twins mean two fathers. This ruins Felicia's reputation and marriage, and she harbors hatred for Prudenza.

Ironically, Prudenza becomes pregnant and has twin daughters. In order to avoid the truth of her lie, and not alienate her husband, she gives away one of her daughters - Olivia - the orphan of the olive tree.

Olivia is raised by nuns in a convent, until she falls in love with Luca, one of the twin sons of Enrico and Felicia. Luca's twin, Lorenzo, falls in love with Giustina, the daughter Prudenza kept. Unfortunately, this is not the order of the blood oath, or is it?

So much happens in Orphan of the Olive Tree; there is the big secret of Prudenza's daughter she keeps for many years; there are evil eye curses of medieval times, there's love, hate, jealousy, friendship, good times, and bad times. All these struggles kept me captivated throughout the story, always being unpredictable.

The ending is left open-ended. I'm not sure if Mirella Sichirollo Patzer plans to write a sequel. Prudenza, the only villain in Orphan of the Olive Tree, is left paying her dues for her secret betrayal to both families. Olivia must serve a three month penance back at the convent she was brought up in for having a child before she was wed. I'm left wondering if the two shall meet, after all, she just found out this is her biological mother who gave her away. No one currently has compassion or forgiveness for Prudenza, but there are hints that only time will tell.

I absolutely loved reading Orphan of the Olive Tree. As always, I enjoy learning history by reading a well written novel. Mirella Sichirollo Patzer writes her story with such utmost passion that it permeates on every page of Orphan of the Olive Tree.

New Beginnings by Mary Metcalfe
Laskin Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009JFKU2K, $3.99,

The title New Beginnings doesn't give this book justice. It is about new beginnings, and we've all read numerous books with that similar theme, however, this story is far from the same ole, same ole.

To be honest, the cover of the book is my reason for wanting to read it, I love horses. They don't show up until later in the story, but it was worth it.

The main character, Carol Brock, is a hot, forty-three year old realtor. She starts out as a control freak, but by the end of the story - not so much. Of course a hot, good looking guy has a lot to do with it, and his name is Devin Elliott, a restoration specialist - and the one with the horses.

Devin has a psycho ex-girlfriend, Allison, who is the 'bad guy' in the story. He wants to buy a home owned by Allison's mother, which doesn't go over so well with a psychopath. Carol has the listing and shows the home, which is how she becomes involved in the mess.

The characters in New Beginnings are what make this story captivating. Carol has two kids in college, a best friend and her family, and Devin's best friends are a gay married couple who take care of his farmhouse and horses. All the characters held my interest as they traveled around Boston, and to and from the farm. Everything becomes complicated because of Allison, the psychopath.

My favorite stories are those having unpredictable developments throughout the story, and Mary Metcalfe's outstanding writing kept all but one incident unpredictable. It was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday, and it does encourage self-reflection.

Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for Squirts
Martha Rodriguez
Read To Me Publishing, LLC
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B0081CS2Q8, $1.99,

Short stories for children . . . "short or tall, big or small, young or old" are what Martha Rodriguez entertains her readers with in Smell My Feet.

Sprinkled throughout the ten stories is a love for children, family, and friends. The stories are real, everyday occurrences, which children relate to. Each story is unique and fun - what better way for children to learn valuable life lessons.

I can picture a child finishing a story and applying a lesson hidden in the mastery of chosen words by the author. It's an easy feat to accomplish with the clever characters that match the literary genius behind them.

Smell My Feet! displays a respect for children while raising the bar of expectations, without being condescending. I applaud Martha Rodriguez for this extraordinary skill.

Components of Murder
Robert M. Cawley
c/o Oak Tree Press
140 East Palmer Street, Taylorville IL 62568
1610091213, 15.95,

Components of Murder is a biography of Gene McLain, yet it is cleverly written in the form of a novel.

As Blondie tells her husband, Gene McLain, "You are the best." Nicknamed 'Bulldog,' Gene is an investigative reporter who takes his job seriously. He works for the Arizona Reporter in Phoenix, Arizona and is relentless when investigating homicides. Besides writing for the newspaper, he carries a gun acting much like a cop. These are the days before technology, so Gene relies on his street sources for information.

There are always crimes to solve, but the one that challenges Gene is the senseless murders of two men. He can't let this one go until it's solved - the killer thinks he's committed the perfect crime. It's a captivating read as we get to see Gene prove the killer wrong.

Robert M. Cawley invites his readers to walk in two pair of Gene McLain's shoes, his work shoes and his family shoes. We get to experience the mind of a genius at work while Gene connects the dots where others cannot. Walking in his family shoes is similar to reading a love story. His beautiful wife Blondie, and two great kids, are a constant source of strength and stability for Gene. I think McLain would agree that without his family, he would not be at the top of his game.

There's nothing better than reading a good book about a true person - Gene McLain being the best in his field.

The cover of Components of Murder is so apropos - the blood soaked Saguaro.

The Burning Candle: A Medieval Novel
Lisa J. Yarde
Alhambra Press
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009FHH5F2, $3.99,

The intensity of The Tudors TV show is how I would compare The Burning Candle. Lisa J. Yarde writes a captivating historical novel about Isabel, the Comtesse de Meulan. The era is 11th century France and Isabel is eleven years old; prime age to marry in medieval times.

As women are betrothed soon after birth, they have no choice regarding the men they wed. Isabel marries Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan, who is about forty years older than she is. Robert makes promises not be cruel, like Isabel's parents were throughout her eleven years, but he ends up being crueler emotionally and physically than her parents ever were.

Robert moves Isabel to live at King Henry's court. It is here that Robert reveals his true colors. During this time, Isabel falls in love, only in her heart, with William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.

While reading The Burning Candle I felt like I was living back in medieval times. The dynamic characters evolve around Isabel and they evoke the love/hate feelings of a great story. Isabel struggles with what is right from wrong, as she deals with a hidden love for William while being married to Robert, abandoning her children, keeping secrets until no longer possible and pure angst in her life.

The best compliment I can give Lisa J. Yarde is that due to her outstanding research, I was able to experience everyday life during the medieval era, while learning about Isabel the Comtesse de Meulan. She was a strong woman for her times who endured more adversity than any woman ever should.

The Burning Candle by Lisa J. Varde is a fascinating story, with its numerous unpredictable turns - some violent, and some pleasant. It is written so well it was difficult to put down. I always enjoy learning about a historical person by reading a well-researched historical novel.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Soft Target
Stephen Hunter
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439138700, $26.99,

I haven't read Stephen Hunter's novels in some time, so I returned to this novel by picking up his interesting thriller of terrorists who take over the America the Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have read many of his novels featuring Bob Lee Swagger, and this is one is about his son Ray Cruz. He also is an accurate sniper so the character legend lives on. Stephen Hunter first got me interested in him, when I picked up a paperback entitled The Day Before Midnight. That great novel was read soon after reading novels by Dean Koontz's Watchers, and I haven't strayed too far from his novels. I try to keep up by getting his books when I break off the many different authors. I do my best to keep up on a certain circle of long-time reads.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday at exactly 3:00 pm, twelve gun men enter the America the Mall in Suburban Minneapolis with a terrorist purpose. They are going to hold store clerks and customers hostage as they shoot at the crowds and they herd them into the amusement park area. The number is close to a thousand, but the automatic weaponry is powerful and the gun men are prepared and ruthless. The security has been compromised and the doors were locked soon after entering. Some people managed to escape and the Minnesota State Police under Douglas Obobo surround the mall. The FBI are notified and they join in securing the area and adding snipers on the roof. Their job working through police chief Obobo, who is the local in charge of the situation.

Meanwhile, while all hell is breaking out, and the gun men are shooting into the crowds, Ray Cruz and his fiancee along with her family are shopping in the mall. This is happening on this busiest shopping day of the year. Everyone is shopping for Christmas and looking for bargains. Cruz is a retired Marine sniper, and he has Molly and her family hide out in the mall. He has a plan to combat the gun men, and with the aid with the FBI sniper named Dave McElroy, he proceeds to take the initiative. He studies them, and he learns they are Somali and Muslim named "Brigade Mombai." Dave manages to break an opening in the thickly paned skylight glass through some recent repaired calking. Between the two of them, one being a helpful spotter, and on site Cruz manages to secure a weapon from one of the gunmen after a brutal hand to hand battle. He also picks up assistance from one of the women store workers.

While one police chief outside the mall plans to use his negotiating skills with the gun men to work on their bargaining for release of their countrymen in prison, Ray Cruz inside must do the dirty work of really fighting off the terrorists in the mall. Each man is using their objective to do the job they know, but the terrorists have already executed five people. The terrorists' real objective might be mass murder with martyrdom of themself to be persuaded in a cause, while attempting to release their captive country men. They are held in the United States and being compromised to be set free by the mall plan. Cruz knows that their plan might be worse, so he proceeds to undergo the only way he knows for protecting his future wife, family and others in the mall. The hours are seemingly begin to feel like an eternity, but the lives of everyone held under fear of being killed, press Ray Cruz to do what he does best. He figures the only surrender is going to be death, and their were no reasons to ask that 'W' question "why?" The only action was to move forward, and he had to do the best he could with this off the cuff mission.

Stephen Hunter is the author of eighteen novels to date with three different series developed with Bob Lee Swagger, Earl Swagger, and Ray Cruz naming each one. He has the rest being his earlier novels beginning with The Master Sniper and last being Dirty White Boys. The Third Bullet is his next novel to be released in January 2013. It will be a Bob Lee Swagger novel. This novel, Soft Target was an exciting thriller, so I eagerly await this next offering from the Pulitzer Prize author.

Shock Wave
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157691, $27.99,

I have read Lucas Davenport and Virgil flowers novels for some time now, and its taken some time to warm up to the latter in his characterization of detective fiction. I guess I like the tough no-nonsense detective with a little more straight forward approach to his work. Lucas Davenport was one I caught onto right away, so I guess that sums it up for me. I ventured ahead to read more Virgil Flowers, who is a womanizer, and now his characterization has been accepted by me.

Virgil gets a phone call from Davenport telling him, he needs to proceed to a small town in Minnesota near a river to find out what person was setting bombs on several nearby site locations. He first had to hook up with the sheriff to whom he had worked with in the past. The two of them along with Jim Barlow, an ATF agent, who will be balancing the help with the questioning. He will offer to assist by cutting down the number of suspects who might be the bomber. In no time another bombing occurs, and Virgil along with the town get nervous on where he or she will strike next. Virgil attends to the limo driver of the PyeMart owner, who is visibly shaken by the blast of his white stretch limo. He checks to see if he is injured, and the driver seems to be more upset over his limo being totally destroyed.

Then the interviewing keeps speeding up with the help of a market guy, who has a helpful suggestion on narrowing down the suspect list over the possibilities. A list spawned over using the townspeople and everyone who could e a suspect over a known profile. The bomber is noted through that list to be a male, and he would have access to the workshop in the metal shop of a technology college. The other pointers are the most notable gender for a such a criminal. The person has to have mechanical skill, and ability to wire the bomb to be like an electrical mousetrap or a sensing weight trap. As soon as someone hits a bump or places weight on a mechanism the relay sets it off. That would narrow the gap of finding the bomber. Also a person or persons who can elude the cameras, and they would be able to get into a building undetected.

It happens not too long after one bombing, another occurs that happens to be one of the possible suspects on their investigating list. He is killed in his own garage after sitting down on his driver's car seat. The bomb explodes and surprises Flowers, ATF, and the local police who are wondering to whom would be the next victim? They are undergoing an investigation of a conspiracy in the building of PyeMart from a council member, but that is not the main focus. Flowers hopes something wraps this case up, before the bombing victim list amounts much higher.

John Sandford is the author of two current series, one being the Prey series with Lucas Davenport, and the other one with Virgil Flowers. Davenport does appear in the stories with Virgil Flowers as his superior. He did the Kidd series awhile back, and hasn't done any more novels with him in it. He now has a new Flowers novel released entitled Mad River, which I just obtained at a library fun raiser.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

Julia's Cats: Julia Child's Life in The Company of Cats
Patricia Barey and Therese Burson
Abrams Image
c/o Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
115 West 18th Street, 6th floor, NY, NY 10011
9781419702754, $16.95,

Authors Patricia Barey and Therese Burson wrote this tiny book. My hardcover copy of 'Julia's Cats: Julia Child's Life in The Company of Cats' contains 144 3x5-inch pages that are larded with ample white space throughout. Being so small, and being a quality production of benign intent, utterly noncontroversial, it doesn't merit the effort of a lengthy review. Still I feel a need to say a very few words about it.

'Julia's Cats' is a brief illumination of the fact that chef Julia Child had a lifelong need of feline companionship. Surely that information will surprise no other cat lover who is also a fan of Julia Child and her works. Most cat lovers would probably be surprised if French novelist Colette was truly the first person to notice that "there are no ordinary cats," though it's possible that Colette was the first to draw media attention for saying so. That one question aside, the photos, the anecdotes, the intimate notes and the 'Acknowledgments' together make it clear that the authors had access to people -- friends, relatives, business associates -- who knew chef Child well and cherished her friendship.

Solomon sez: "If you are a foodie, a fan of Julia Child, and/or a cat person, you will enjoy 'Julia's Cats'. It's a quick, easy read; it's tastefully done, and it's a real heart-warmer, folks. Eat it with a bowl of French onion soup."

The Farm at Holstein Dip: An Iowa Boyhood
Carroll Engelhardt
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
1609381173; $22.00,

I was born in 1948 in my parents' bed, in a draughty old frame house on a 140-acre farm in Iowa County, Iowa. I spent the first 20 years of my life in that home. My siblings and I attended school in a town of some 600 people, about 7 miles away. There were 35 kids in my class, and with few exceptions those with whom I attended kindergarten were still with me at the start of my senior year in high school, when I dropped out and went to work at age 16.

Reading Carroll Engelhardt's 'The Farm at Holstein Dip: An Iowa Boyhood' was like reliving my own childhood. Two differences between Engelhardt's experience and my own are that he was born in 1941, when many homes were lit with kerosene and many farmers still worked horses. Farm life was changing so fast -- even then -- that by the time I was cognizant (1952 or thereabouts) farms were fully electrified and farmers all had tractors. I never learned to handle horses because there were no horses to handle.

Serious differences between Engelhardt and me begin with what happened when we left school. I took jobs busing dishes, working in a woolen mill and in a slaughterhouse. Engelhardt went to college. In 1968, thousands of body bags came home while the Tet Offensive thundered and roared just over the shoulder of every draft-age youth. Seven years older than me, Engelhardt was probably finishing his Ph.D. when I signed up for 4 years in the Marines.

If Engelhardt was less foolish than me, I don't resent it. The only reason I bring up the war is to show that I went away to another world but he stayed in the Midwest and watched as agriculture got plowed under by agribusiness. Engelhardt saw our boyhood vanish. He tells where it went and how and why, most of which I never knew because I wasn't around for the show. 'Holstein Dip' thus helps me understand what happened while I was gone.

Forty-five years later, Engelhardt and I are both educated. His Ph.D. is History; I have degrees in History and English and my M.A. is Journalism. Beyond that, we're both students of life and at heart we speak the same language even after all we've been through. Considering the mess we call America today, I'm sure we both feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in rural Iowa when and as we did.

Engelhardt's 'Holstein Dip' is absolutely authentic. Maybe it hits me harder because it's so short: 192 numbered pages divided into chapters on 'Home,' 'Farm,' 'Town,' 'Church,' and 'School,' followed by a brief 'Conclusion' and an index. The impact of its brevity is heightened by Engelhardt's finely polished but simple, no-nonsense composition. Author Engelhardt doesn't waste a word.

Solomon sez: Anybody wants to know what it means to be a farm boy and how Iowa has changed over the last 70 years, 'The Farm at Holstein Dip' was written for you. Five stars for the homely truth, and "Thank you, Mr. Engelhardt."

Our Harsh Logic
"Breaking The Silence", compiler & editor
Metropolitan Books
c/o Henry Holt and Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10010
9780805095371, $32.00,

"Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies From The Occupied Territories, 2000 -- 2010", nearly 400 pages long, is twisted, conflicted, poisonous, and of little or no worth to anyone. The good news about 'Harsh Logic' is that -- if you're determined to read the thing -- you can ingest it in less than an hour.

'Harsh Logic' contains hundreds of pages of what the authors claim is eyewitness testimony by Israeli soldiers who serve "peacekeeping" duties in Gaza and the West Bank. The peacekeepers supposedly spend long nights driving through Palestinian villages, where they throw hand grenades into the streets at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Other nights the peacekeepers go on foot from house to house. They kick down doors, drag residents into the street, torture men, beat up and/or shoot women and children, tear the homes to pieces, blow them up, set them afire. Peacekeepers kidnap residents and hold them hostage for days, weeks, months, years. They steal Palestinian money and household goods, kill livestock and pets, destroy gardens and crops, smash family heirlooms and religious artifacts. They burn schools and blow up mosques. All of those things and more in that vein are tactics in what the Israeli government, Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers are pleased to call "peacekeeping" and "anti-terrorism" activities.

The tales of woe are told by some outfit called 'Breaking The Silence.' BTS alleges that the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank employs tactics that are illegal, immoral, inhumane and insane. Said crimes are also counterproductive in that they foment hatred and violence in citizens of the Occupied Territories, a result which directly contradicts official, stated goals of the Israeli occupation. BTS claims they want to change all that.

Their argument is laid out in an 8-page Introduction. Points made by the argument are expanded upon in the 5-or-6-page Overviews that lead each of the four chapters in the book. Testimony in each chapter supports and illustrates what is charged in each 'Overview.'

The layout makes it possible for readers to appreciate the argument by reading only the Introduction and the chapter Overviews (altogether some 40 or 50 pages) instead of the whole book. Readers who refuse to take the authors' word for what is charged can read the hundreds of pages of supporting evidence and be convinced (or not) in that way.

What makes the book worthless is the fact that all of the testimony is anonymous. No names or dates are mentioned. Photographs are 'photoshopped' to make people and places unrecognizable. Thus none of what BTS claims is eyewitness testimony could be used in a court of law. Nobody can cite it as a credible source. It cannot be verified in any way. It is a book of rumors and hearsay, which is probably why no critics of Israel's ongoing war upon residents of the Gaza ghetto have used 'Harsh Logic' to refute Israelis ridiculous claim that Israel's war is a reaction to unprovoked acts of Palestinian aggression.

What makes 'Harsh Logic' twisted, conflicted, and poisonous is the mindset of the feckless clods -- veteran 'peacekeepers' all -- who call themselves 'Breaking The Silence' and who put 'Harsh Logic' together. One notices, for example, that 'Palestinian citizens of Israel' are mentioned once (p. 124) and that the terms 'Palestinian and Palestinians are used dozens of times throughout the book. Yet the word 'Palestine' is never mentioned nor does 'Occupied Palestine' apparently exist. Instead the authors tell us of 'the Occupied Territories,' 'Gaza,' 'the Gaza Strip, and 'the West Bank,' and 'the Occupied West Bank.' The authors also mention 'citizens of the Occupied Territories,' 'citizens of the West Bank,' etc.

The sane reader has to ask 'Where do 'Palestinians' come from if there is no Palestine?' Why are they 'Palestinians' and not 'West Bankians,' or 'Gazans,' or some such? If BTS is well intended, then the answer may be that members of BTS are retarded, or maybe members of BTS are so deeply immersed in the role of 'oppressor' that they cannot step out of that role far enough to divorce themselves from the behavior (censorship) and the vocabulary of oppressors.

Solomon sez: 'Breaking The Silence' may be well intended (I wouldn't swear to it.), but their 'Harsh Logic' falls way short of convincing me. I'll believe that BTS is serious when they quit speaking the language of oppression and start speaking the language of truth. When Israelis quit speaking of 'Occupied Territories' and start speaking of 'Occupied Palestine,' then the world will know there may be a solution in the offing. When what Israelis now call 'harsh logic' is called 'murderous insanity,' we will know that a solution is within reach. When the 'excesses' of Israeli 'peacekeepers' are punished as war crimes and Palestine is no longer occupied, then most problems in the Middle East will solve themselves over time.

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
Jon Ronson
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY, 10014
9781594631375, $26.95,

I think I'd like to follow Jon Ronson around for a month. I'd like to go where he goes, watch him do what he does, learn how he does it. I'd like to meet the people he meets, hear the conversations he has with them. After 30 days, the two of us could take a week off and go get stinko together -- suck down a few quarts of Scotch and talk about why he does what he does and what on earth (besides a living) he hopes to get from doing it.

While reading Ronson's 'Lost at Sea,' one thought popped into my mind repeatedly. What kept coming at me is the number of people I've met over the years who condemn journalists for reporting 'bad news.' They say they can't understand why reporters are so mean-eyed, why they seem so hard-hearted and distrustful. 'Good people' seem to think guys like Jon Ronson are born with some genetic defect that renders them incapable of seeing or being interested in the horde of 'good things' that (good-newsers maintain) happen every day all around us. 'I'm sick of hearing bad news all the time!' they exclaim. 'I want to hear good news! Amid their whining, most of the whiners manage to imply that people like Ronson just make stuff up. The world is not such a poisonous place, they insist. Humanity is not so vicious as news media would have us believe.

Establishmentarian news moguls and ad executives jumped on the good-news bandwagon years ago. The moguls were quick to fire news journalists and close bureaus all over the planet. They set up gorgeous dames like Diane Sawyer and cute cheerleaders like Katy Couric to front 'world news' broadcasts that are made in New York City. The gals get paid to treat human-interest fairy tales as if they were actually news. The 'good' news and the warm smiles together please viewers. Men are fascinated with the eye candy and women like to see proof that all blondes aren't dumb and that it is indeed possible for an American gal to get a good job with a good salary that lets her work in a vertical position with her knees together and both feet flat on the floor. News moguls enjoy bigger profits from smaller payrolls. Ad executives enjoy the coincident fact that happy people spend more money in good-news America - the best, the brightest, the richest and most powerful of all nations on earth.

Journalists who report reality are driven to the dwindling number of book and magazine publishers still willing to pay for quality works of public-affairs journalism. Jon Ronson's latest: 'Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries' (New York: Riverhead Books; 400 pp. 2012) is one such quality work.

'Lost at Sea' is a collection of 22 character studies that were previously published as feature articles in one or another news venue (most in the 'Guardian' newspaper) over the course of the last 12 years. Bundled together as they are, the stories make a book that is greater than the sum of its parts. As one reviewer has already written, 'Lost at Sea' is 'fascinating, absurd, moving and tragic, often all at once.' It is 'a compelling expose of human foibles.' That's true enough, as far as it goes.

My own assessment goes a little farther. 'Lost at Sea' is a book that could have been titled 'The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions.' Ronson opens with a story about morons. He tells the story of Insane Clown Posse. ICP is a gangsta rap act formed by a couple of white kids from Detroit whose fans run in packs. They beat and in other ways molest innocent people they meet on the street. Occasionally they kill somebody. Now, after 20 years of fomenting that sort of behavior, Insane Clown Posse turns on a dime and confesses that their violent lyrics and maniacal behavior are an attempt on their part to instill Christianity in their vicious fan base. ICP are not really sexist thugs. They are Christian rappers! It is the rappers' attempt to explain their message to Ronson that tips readers to the fact that the rappers are actually morons.

Other stories tell of other well-intended people who - driven by what they believe is a desire to do good -- fall into error in one way or another. There's the doctor who believes so ardently in a person's right to die that he sets out to help them with their suicides. Today he finds himself one step ahead of the law as he helps those who can't quite decide to kill themselves. There's the mentalist who has lost faith in her powers (if she ever had any powers) and now answers questions flippantly with any brutal nonsense that pops into her mind. Each case is more serious than the last. Each perpetrator/protagonist is more sordidly culpable than the last until finally, at the end, readers come to the story of luxury cruise lines that cover up the growing number of passengers (hundreds every year) who disappear at sea and are never heard from again. What we learn in sum is that human character defects are amplified by intelligence, perverted by frustration and multiplied by power. At the end we see what our defects are truly capable of producing when in harness with the corporate boardroom, the stock exchange, and unlimited cash.

Of course that may not be what Ronson intended when he wrote this book, but it's what I believe the thing adds up to. 'Lost at Sea' starts out shallow and wades out into deep, dark depths. The book is a progression: from morons who bumble into evil because they don't know what they're doing to corporations who write the price of evil into their annual budgets. It's seems to me that Ronson's subtle argument with crypto-fascist, pseudo-Christian, good-news namby-pambies is not that there's no such thing as good news but that there's no such thing as a wholly good person. The harder one looks at any person, the more attentive the stare, the more one sees through the veneer of love and kindness and altruism to the base motives that drive all human interaction.

Solomon sez: Others may feel differently. I have no problem with that. I only insist that everyone should get 'Lost at Sea' and read it. See how it works on you. If you get mad because it asks you some ugly questions but doesn't proffer any answers, that's what honest journalism is supposed to do. If you can't live with what you learn, go out and get religion. It may make you feel better but it won't change what's in your heart. No matter where you go, there you are.

Deacon Solomon

Gail's Bookshelf

Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary
Steve Gregg, editor
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780840721280, $32.99,

Steve Gregg compares "four traditional views" of the Rapture using a verse-by-verse, parallel format in Revelation: Four Views that is sure to become a useful tool for students of prophecy.

The easy-to-use format is especially useful for those without a background in Revelation's prophecies.

Gregg said he didn't expect to write such a commentary until he couldn't find one that compared different perspectives from the Book of Revelation for class use. Inspired, he then wrote this easy-to-understand commentary for students at Youth with a Mission, Oregon's Good News Underground and Great Commission School.

If you're inclined to skip the "Foreword" and "Introduction" like I sometimes do, reconsider for this commentary. One reviewer wrote: "The Introduction alone in Gregg's book is definitely worth the price of the book." And the foreword is the same.

In the Foreword, Gregg defines and explores the differences between three traditional Millennium views of the rapture, "premillennial, amillennial and postmillennial." He uses Revelation, chapter twenty as the foundation chapter to describe these views also known as pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation.

Then he explains the four categories interpreters use to define the Book of Revelation: "the preterist, historicist, futurist and spiritual." These categories consume the majority of the commentary, where he describes what they mean and how they relate to millennium views. If the book goes to reprint he intends to replace "spiritual" with what he writes is the "more appropriate label - idealist."

His description of "dispensationalists," was as fascinating as the definition of what the word means. The list of dispensationalists included well-known names like John Nelson Darby, W.E. Blackstone and C.I. Scofield, as well as D.L. Moody and Billy Graham.

Gregg writes without favoring one view over another, instead he "presents the very best arguments and evidence for each view," which makes it an especially good reference for lay people, even pastors and scholars for a quick references.

Features include:

Convenient one-volume format
Four parallel columns for easy comparison
Complete coverage of the major interpretations of the Book of Revelation
Extensive coverage of Revelation's place in history.

This is not light reading, however, Gregg offers a clear, unbiased commentary that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. I especially liked the unique formatting that made it easy to focus on one view at a time instead of reading about all four simultaneously. With war in the Middle East heating up, the prophecies of Revelation assume greater importance.

A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella
Liz Curtis Higgs
WaterBrook Press
755 S Highway 105, Palmer Lake, CO 80133
9781400072170, $14.99,

Bestselling author, Liz Curtis Higgs, treats readers to her fist novella, A Wreath of Snow, in a heartwarming tale of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. The story takes place in 1894 Scotland, (Liz's favorite setting) on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve.

There readers meet handsome newspaper man Gordon Shaw and pretty young schoolteacher Margaret Campbell. One weighed down with remorse and shame, the other estranged from family by guilt and bitterness. Neither suspects they share a common tragedy or that their destinies will soon cross with a sudden detour.

Thus begins a Victorian historical romance wrapped in a magical Christmas tale of hope, forgiveness, renewed faith and new beginnings, perfect for the Christmas season. Although considered a novella, the characters are well-developed and engage readers with their struggles, especially that of self-forgiveness. Chapters begin with short sayings that relate to chapter contents, such as "A hero is a man who does what he can" in chapter four. Or William Shakespeare's "What's past is prologue" in chapter eight.

From the colorful cover that shows a train pulling away from the snowy train station, to the end where readers find a simple "Scottish Shortbread recipe and "readers guide," there is nothing not to like. Liz's insightful, compelling narrative, while a quick read, teaches we all make mistakes and it's never too late to find forgiveness, which is a perfect Christmas message.

WM. Paul Young
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455516049, $24.99,

WM. Paul Young, bestselling author of the The Shack that sold eighteen million copies in 2008, now returns with Crossroads. In another provocative tale of healing and hope wrapped in an account of relationships, selfishness, trust and choices. FaithWords releases one million copies Tuesday, November 13th which suggests they believe Crossroad sales could be similar to that of The Shack.

The poignant story begins with self-made businessman, Anthony Stewart, a lonely man in his forties known as a "severe negotiator and master deal maker." His addiction to winning, demonstrated by his "growing investment portfolio," was a goal Anthony pursed regardless of cost. Employees trembled in front of him and he delighted in "wresting the last vestiges of dignity from those around him."

Yet, Anthony's soul, disfigured by "self-protective fear and selfish ambition" used denial to cover his inner pain, the loss of loved ones and sense of early abandonment. Until a cerebral hemorrhage left him comatose in Oregon's Health and Science University's ICU and doctors found a tumor in the "frontal lobe" of his brain.

However, Anthony is unaware of what's happening on the physical plane. Instead, he's drawn toward an "overpowering light..." Young captures Anthony's confusion and disbelief with vivid word descriptions. Changing scenes challenge his beliefs, astounds his senses and leaves him with a potentially transforming choice.

He meets Irishman Jack, the "Stranger" who comforts and the Grandmother who cooks with "secret family recipes." Grandmother also teaches about death, forgiveness, "in-between" time and the choice, a center-piece of Young's narrative.

As in The Shack Young's depiction of the Christian Trinity, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are expected to raise controversy. His portrayal is from a spiritual aspect, by a man who considers himself "spiritual but not religious." Young admits in a Publishers Weekly interview with Marcia Nelson that Crossroads "...raises new questions" and says there is likely an audience "...waiting not to like it."

Although Crossroads takes until chapter three to grab reader's attention, the first two chapters are needed to understand the rest of the narrative. Then the pace picks up and Anthony moves towards the crucial choice Jesus talked about when He said, "...choose to physically heal one person...only one...when you make that selection, your journey will end."

Anthony's unique journey of healing is a mystery wrapped in fascinating fantasy. Young, as before, captures a sense of universal torment and hurt that teaches there are choices if we open ourselves to see them.

Growing Up Amish: A Memoir
Ira Wagler
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414339368, $14.99,

In this heartwarming memoir readers join Ira Wagler, a young Amish boy on a journey of self-discovery that begins with his Amish Rumspringa and ends ten years later with a life-changing decision.

The account begins with Ira scribbling a note to tuck under his pillow before he packs all his worldly belongings into a small black duffel bag. Even though it's a rite of passage all sixteen-year-old Amish boys experience, tradition requires Ira leave in the dark of night, with everyone asleep to avoid upsetting those left behind, especially moms. Mother's know Rumspringa either leads to acceptance of the Amish faith, lifestyle and customs, confirmed with baptism on the boys return or a falling away to the "worlds" customs.

Yet, Ira considers none of this as he sets out. His attention is on "distant horizons ...where he would pluck from the forbidden tree and eat," explore a new and different way of life. That was his focus as he walked toward the city away from the Amish settlement in Bloomfield, Iowa. Not the "scandal...shame and devastation that would, one day, push him to the brink of madness and despair."

Thus begins an engaging true story that places a coming-of-age young man into a tug-of-war between his family, his Amish upbringing and the world's sophisticated ways. His journey to find himself would cause Ira's family to consider him a rebel. As Ira rejected the laws he'd been raised with, from his buying and driving a car, strictly forbidden by the Amish, to his wearing "English" style clothes that he came to prefer. All of which led to a strained relationship with his authoritarian father when he would return home many times only to leave again.

Ira paints vivid word pictures that capture the Amish community, their customs, faith and values that also illustrate Ira's naivete. Readers will sometimes laugh, other times cry as Ira struggles to learn who he is, where he belongs and what it means to conform.

The memoir is real, heart-wrenchingly honest, yet poignant with Ira's continual cycle of abandonment and return to the Amish community, yet inspirational too as Ira struggles to find peace. Although not the typical Amish story readers will grow to appreciate Ira's struggles and the Old Order Amish culture he came from.

Soul's Gate
James Rubart
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781401686055, $15.99,

One of Seattle's newest, best-selling authors, James L. Rubart takes readers into a dimension of spiritual warfare few frequent in "Soul's Gate." Book one of the mystical Well Spring Novel series that releases today, November 6th. There, Rubart writes spiritual truth with a supernatural twist in an entertaining thriller that pushes the boundaries and "breaks all the molds."

The provocative narrative begins with Reece Roth, an ordinary middle-aged man with an extraordinary ability of entering inside another's soul. It's been thirty years since he helped heal others deep spiritual wounds with Jesus. Thirty years since the tragedy that ended his warfare in the spiritual realm. Thirty years of torment since his destiny was ripped away with the words, "You killed them."

Now, God has "...drawn him back..." his mission - to fulfill a thirty-year-old prophecy. He knew to invite four. They would meet at a secluded Colorado ranch where he would teach them the art of spiritual warfare. The battle would be intense from an enemy determined to stop them. Yet Reece knew by the end of their training the four would see the spiritual world with "stunning clarity." They would call themselves, the Warrior's Riding.

Alone on the northwest beach he again pulled the crumpled paper from his pocket and read in part, "...they will be four...the song, the teacher, the leader, the temple...instruct these warriors...bring healing to the broken...for one - death will come..."

Their battle would be intense and it had already begun...

Thus begins James thought-provoking mystical fiction where four, Brandon, Tamara, Dana and Marcus would be invited to Wells Springs, a mysterious ranch in Colorado. Reece would train those who accepted the invitation in the art of spiritual warfare and they would learn to see with spiritual eyes, not unlike the days of Elijah, Enoch and the apostle Paul.

James blends fantasy and fiction with Scripture and a modern setting to portray a spiritual world not unlike that found in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. The fast-paced thriller revolves around prayer, intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare. Yet, it's also about forgiveness and the freedom found in Christ that destroys relentless, soul-corroding guilt.

The mind-blowing narrative combines a touch of romance and intriguing characterizations to engage readers in a powerful, unforgettable story of good and evil that will be talked about long after the last page is turned.

Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage: How Healthy Conflict Can Take You to Deeper Levels of Intimacy
Dr. Greg Smalley
Howard Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
216 Centerview Drive, Suite 303
Brentwood, TN 37027
9781416544838, $21.99,

Contrary to popular opinion, Dr. Gary Smalley, Focus on the Family, teaches "conflict can take you to deeper levels of intimacy," the subtitle of his November 6th release, Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage. Where readers learn conflict is not only needed, conflict is necessary. Smalley argues, relationships "...can't grow without it." He also says, ""...if couples learned to work out their conflicts, the overall divorce rate could be cut by over 50 percent."

He begins with the "reactive cycle," illustrated by a diamond shaped diagram with "buttons" at the top and bottom framed by "reaction" buttons on either side. Arrows point from one to the other to illustrate a cycle of conflict. However, the buttons represent superficial issues that conceal underlying emotional "triggers" formed from childhood experiences.

Such triggers, shaped by early "wounds and messages," take root deep in our hearts to become the "deepest beliefs" we hold about ourselves. The wounds fester and produce messages of rejection, failure and lack of self-worth that when converted to emotional triggers produce a "reactive cycle." Smalley writes these are "lies written on your heart," the title of chapter two, none of which include God's truth.

He uses his five-year-old daughter, Taylor and her friend Sarah, whose family experienced a difficult divorce to illustrate. The girls were playing in Taylor's room when loud yelling and arguing broke out. He called them down and asked what the problem was.

Sarah had told Taylor her parents would get a divorce and Taylor insisted her parents would not. Seeing a "teachable moment" he explained why that wouldn't happen to Taylor and her friend Sarah. They turned to dash back upstairs, except Sarah turned to ask, "Would it be okay if I came back and watched football with you...pretend you're my daddy...he left and I know it's my fault." While he hugged her and agreed to be her "football buddy," he had to choke back tears. He knew Sarah had received a damaging wound that could result in an emotional trigger over time.

This heartbreaking example shows how emotional buttons and emotional triggers are created. However, if couples understand the buttons that cause their arguments, "conflict in marriage" can be beneficial and that's what couples learn in "Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage." They gain personal insight, learn to share their deepest feelings and needs, experience closeness, connection, validation and more when they learn how to fight productively.

The author draws on extensive education, research, his own marriage and years of counseling sessions to teach readers the skills, concepts and exercises he writes about. Simple-to-understand quizzes, questions and charts show how to identify emotional buttons, reactive cycles, and knee-jerk reactions to stop poorly managed conflict.

Besides his fresh perspective and unique approach that exposes emotional triggers Smalley uses quotes and scripture to teach God's truths. If your spousal arguments lead to hurt feelings, withdrawal and criticism and you want to gain feelings of intimacy, respect, validation and connection with your spouse, read this insightful book.

Dr. Clinton, president of American Association of Christian Counselors endorsed Smalley's book and said, "Every now and then a great book on marriage comes along. This book ranks in that category."

I can only agree.

The One Year Be-Tween You and God: Devotions for Girls
Sandra Byrd
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414362458, $16.99,

Best-selling author Sandra Byrd encourages tween and teen girls to spend time with God in her October release, The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls. There they find 365-devotions that inspire girls to develop a life-time relationship with their Lord. Where they gain knowledge of who God is, why they can trust Him and how scripture applies to their daily lives.

The devotions, written for ages 10 to 14, help shape the "...most formative years of a young girl's spiritual life" and are written in the style tweens or teens think and speak. Devotions begin with a brief "note" to God, illustrated by the April 12th devotion where the "note" asks God, "Do you really care about my schoolwork?"

Sandra assures girls God does care about their schoolwork in, "consider this," the body of the devotion. Just as God cares about everything you do and always has since He "knit you together in your mother's womb." Devotions end with a scripture, "God says" and a pointed question. "how about you" to think about.

I especially liked the devotions that recognized holidays such as "Earth" day, "Open an Umbrella Indoors Day" and "Halloween." For the Halloween devotion the "note" asks God, " does the devil work to hurt us?" Sandra explains about the devils evil tricks and different ways Satan " to hurt Christians..." in the bulk of the devotion.

She uses the example of an animal herd that sticks together where predators work to separate sick animals from the healthy herd. She explains, Satan uses similar tactic to separate Christians from other believers. 1 Peter 5:8 warns Christians to "stay alert," beware of the "roaring lion" on the prowl for someone to devour. The devotion ends with these questions: "Are you running with the pack? How can you make sure you are?"

Sandra has the unique ability to teach young people about God in their own words. Her devotional is especially suitable for the times we live in. The teal-colored book with leather like binding, embossed with birds and flowers on the cover, is a perfect size for nightstand, backpack or bag. Since the devotions are dated, girls can start them any time of year, not just January 1st.

With Christmas looming, this is an excellent choice for any young girl, to encourage and strengthen their faith and lead them into a deeper relationship with God.

Song in the Night
Pamela Thorson
Luminary Media Group
2850 Highway 95 South
Moscow, ID 83843-7828
9781930580381, $19.95,

Pamela Thorson's inspiring, poignant account of " family's journey from darkness to dawn..." is the subtitle of her book, "Song in the Night: One Family's Journey from Darkness to Dawn". There she shares a life-changing tragedy that forever altered their family and the life of their nineteen-year-old son Kevin. It was an event that transformed Kevin's dreams and made it possible for him to accomplish his greatest desire, although he didn't realize at what cost when he said. "I don't want to do something easy for God. I want to do something hard for Him."

Their story of irreversible change began July 11, 1997 with the " call every parent dreads..." When Pamela heard Ronda's voice, she thought their pastor's wife had called to update them on Kevin's mission trip since he was due home the next day. She sounded excited and Pamela smiled anticipating "good news," until she heard the words, "You need to sit down..."

Many years later Pamela still remembers Ronda saying, "Kevin has been in an accident," yet has little memory of the rest of their conversation. Just the horrifying words - "paralyzed...ventilator... and hospital."

The family rushed from their home in Idaho to Lethridge hospital in Calgary, where they found their son in intensive care, breathing with the aid of a ventilator. The doctors told them he suffered from a neck fracture, similar to the one that paralyzed Christopher Reeves. It happened while Kevin rehearsed backflips with the music-drama group Stratos. The doctors now had to wait for him to stabilize before they could learn the full extent of his injuries.

Thus begins a challenging journey "birthed in tears" for a family who continued to wait "...for their happy ending to arrive..." Until, through faith and God's grace, they realized their story would have a different ending than "...happily forever after..." Although different did not mean their ending would be any less rich.

When Pamela wrote about "the worst tragedy of their lives" she had to relive the event which meant she had to "write the pain." However, Song in the Night is more about long-suffering in the midst of "God's tender grace" than pain with its narrative of renewed hope and faith. The account also includes sweet moments of "divine intervention" that border on the miraculous that led Kevin to ask: "Why has God honored me this way?"

Today, Kevin is a wheelchair confined, paraplegic, although he gained enough strength and movement in his left hand to use a keyboard and mouse. Since that day he's joined his brothers in their development of Dragonfly Animation Studio. Their products are used in "television programs and websites along with short flicks." Hubert, one of their original characters, a young dinosaur, recently became a brand name. For more information:

There is something for everyone in this inspiring book of courage, faith, love and trust, whether you're challenged with struggles and hurtful circumstances or whether you need to be reminded that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Philippians. 4:13)

The Girl's Still Got It
Liz Curtis Higgs
c/o Multnomah Publishing
12265 Oracle Blvd, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781578564484, $14.99,

Delightful writer, Bible teacher and witty conference speaker Liz Higgs, takes readers on a "high-spirited walk through the book of Ruth," in her new release, "The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked...". There readers find Naomi and her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth in a "rags to riches redemption story." Liz mischievously calls the pair, "leading ladies of the Old Testament" in her first nonfiction work in five years. The devotional focus is Christ, mankind's "kinsman redeemer" portrayed by Boaz who became Ruth's "kinsman redeemer."

In this verse-by-verse bible study from the book of Ruth readers learn no matter who you are where you come from, in spite of anything you might have done or not done, God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life.

Twelve chapters with hilarious titles such as "A Wow of a Vow...Sitting Tight for Mr. Right" and "Our Hero Makes His Move," take readers 3,000 years back in time. There they join Ruth and Naomi as they travel to Bethlehem into what Ruth believes is an uncertain future. However, "...God knows how her story is going to unfold..." and it's anything but uncertain.

Liz's informative and easy-to-read devotional contains life lessons from our "ancient biblical sisters" wrapped within the inspirational narrative of a "kinsman redeemer." Her targeted, often humorous insights reveal "God's unchanging nature" in spite of human tendencies to complain, behave badly or act rashly.

Scripture and narrative combine to keep readers involved as well as to move the story forward. Discussion questions and a chapter-by-chapter study guide for personal use or group study are included. The YouTube video, Righteous Ruth Rap, mid-page, left side of the review is outrageously funny, enjoyable and one I hope you listen to. For those without computer access, the rap song is found in the final pages of the book.

This story, one of the few in the Bible told from the female point-of-view, is a narrative of love, trust and devotion that illustrates strong women of courage who come together to face an unknown future. Chapters end with epilogs, "Ruth in the real world," concise, real-life topical anecdotes relevant to chapter topics.

Liz used fourteen Bible translations to create a comprehensive word picture of this amazing story, although she favors King James and NIV translations. In addition to understanding the background and culture of the ancient culture, Liz's "trademark humor and heartfelt encouragement" bring Ruth and Naomi to life. By the time the devotional ends, readers know King David's great-grandmother, Ruth like they know a good friend. Or as Sheila Walsh writes, "...we weep with Naomi, kneel beside Ruth, and celebrate a God who redeems our stories in outrageously beautiful ways..."

Everyday Worship: Living to Capture the Heart of God
Chris Voigt
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475185188, $11.99,

Chris Voigt, worship pastor from Dayspring Fellowship, Keizer, Oregon, originally penned these words as a "love letter" to his Savior." However, after he led a workshop, Teaching Your Church to Worship, he was encouraged to expand the idea into a book titled, Everyday Worship. Where he "challenges readers to consider worship as more than just that thing we do at church on Sunday." Instead, he believes "...we were designed to live a lifestyle of worship."

While he admits music is a part of worship, he believes there is far more to worship than music

since worship is an expression of love, adoration and devotion for God. Such feelings can be communicated in everyday attitudes, thoughts and actions, not just on Sunday. That's the kind of worship Chris writes about.

He begins with Revelation 4:11 in chapter one, where scripture says we were created to please and praise God. With that in mind, Chris writes " part of our spiritual DNA." The next question he asks readers to consider is, "What am I worshipping?" God, self, or something else?

Intriguing chapters include worship on God's terms, offering our best to God, how to prioritize worship, our call to worship, worship as sacrifice and how through worship we "...learn to hear the voice of God." In addition, he includes Old and New Testament narratives to illustrate what a lifestyle of worship is.

I thought chapter seven was important where he reminds readers that worship is a choice, sometimes in spite of heartbreaking circumstances, irrespective of feelings or situations. It could be a simple decision to wake each day thanking God for a new day before we get out of bed, or thanking Him for a good night's rest and His protection during the night. What matters is a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude. My reading of the Bible tells me God enjoys our praise and worship, especially when we acknowledge and appreciate who God is and what He does for us every single day.

Chris's insightful and refreshing book offers a new perspective on worship. He purposefully designed the book as a quick and easy read to encourage readers. Ten short chapters teach different aspects of worship, from worships purpose, to the priority of worship and why worship requires sacrifice and much more. Chapters end with Thoughts for Reflection, that include three to five questions intended to explore what worship means to the reader.

Live Tastefully: Savoring Encounters with Jesus
Lenya Heitzig
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
0781405947, $17.99,

Lenya focuses on hospitality and meals in Live Tastefully since much of Jesus's ministry began with "Let's eat." She features ten meals Jesus shared with others, from a traveler on the Road to Emmaus to an outcast tax collector among others. Such encounters with Jesus changed those He dined with, just as Jesus can change those who spend time with Him.

Scripture stories are divided into five days and consist of five elements. "Lift up" asks God for the blessing of spiritual insight. "Look at" correlates Scripture with personal experience in a Q&A format. "Learn about" includes informational sidebars about the culture and word meanings. "Live out" contains questions and exercises for personal application while "Listen to" are inspirational quotes from other believers.

Lessons end with prayer and savory Middle Eastern recipes such as "Barley Cake, "Hummus" "Baklava" and more.

The devotional's well-laid out design and lesson plans are useful for small groups or individual study, whether beginner or more advanced.

Live Beautifully: A Study in the Books of Ruth and Esther
Lenya Heitzig & Penny Rose
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781406123, $17.99,

Lenya and Penny merge their talents to write Live Beautifully where they explore the Bible stories of Ruth, a widow woman who made a scandalous choice and Esther who rescued her people from annihilation.

As in Live Tastefully, lessons are divided into five parts that can be completed in "20-minutes a day." This book also includes five segments of "Lift up," start with prayer. "Look at," Scripture reading. "Learn about," concise sidebars of cultural times, word meanings and cultural differences. "Live out," for personal application and "Listen to," comprised of encouraging quotes from other believers.

Lessons end with prayers. However, unlike Live Tastefully this devotional does not include recipes. If you're looking for increased Bible knowledge, better understanding and greater intimacy with the Lord, this insightful, well-formatted devotional should be considered. It would also make an excellent Christmas gift for friend or loved one.

House of Mercy
Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson
565 Royal Parkway
Nashville, TN 37214-3646
9781401685515, $15.99,

Erin Healy blends a touch of magical fantasy with mystery in her new release, House of Mercy, where readers meet a young woman with the supernatural gift of healing. That gift and the 6,500 acre cattle ranch her family has worked for five generations is why Beth wants to become a vet and work the Blazing B ranch with her family. She couldn't know she would put that dream, as well as her family in jeopardy by what she was about to do.

Beth Borzoi rationalized her actions as she "tugged the faded leather saddle" from its resting place on the "heavy duty rack" in the tack room. She wasn't a thief and she wasn't stealing. She was only putting the tarnished "silver-plated saddle" to better use even though the saddle wasn't hers. She knew she should have asked her friend Jacob, but dismissed the thought with another. "She was saving an animal's life."

Before she could load the heavy saddle into her pickup she ran into Wally one of several men who lived at the ranch, "discarded men who needed the peace the Blazing B had to offer."

She knew Wally suffered with anterograde amnesia from a stroke that affected his short-term memory. He was fit to work, just needed reminders to keep him in the "context of his new life." She fixed her grip and balanced the saddle weight against her knee while she refreshed Wally's memory of who she was and listened to what had gone missing this time. He told her he was digging in the "secret spot" to find his "lockbox," the one the grey wolf had stolen. He must have "...dug it up and carried off the box in his teeth...then reburied it..." he finished sadly.

She knew grey wolves weren't in the Colorado area and discarded Wally's explanation not knowing she would soon sight something similar to what Wally described. Where she would question her own sanity and wonder even if the wolf were real why he would appear to her? Was her imagination playing tricks? Or was she driven by guilt because of what she'd done?

Thus begins Erin's new release, a story of secrets, conflict, pain, hope, loss and death set in the rugged landscape of Southern Colorado, where Beth seeks answers not easily found.

From Beth's spirited ride on Kandinsky's thoroughbred, "Java Java Go Joe" that brought death and destruction, to the lawsuit that could destroy all their dreams, to the massive and elusive grey wolf Beth isn't quite sure she sees. To the death that divides Beth family and destroys trust, to her anticipated meeting with a grandparent that brings irrational anger instead of acceptance and love. Readers are in for a treat with this fast-paced, emotion laden, thought-provoking suspense that crosses supernatural boundaries.

Why Christmas
Barbara Reaoch, author
Carol McCarty, illustrator
Shepherd Press
P.O. Box 24, Wapwallopen, PA 18660
9781936908622, $14.95,

Why Christmas? teaches families and children there's more to Christmas than Santa Claus. The devotional begins on December first and ends twenty-four days later on Christmas Eve. The inspirational devotions bring families together for what could become an anticipated family tradition.

They begin with a brief reading that "leads children to the Christ of Christmas" and are designed for younger children's attention span. The first one is drawn from Luke 2: 8-16, that begins with the announcement of Christ's birth.

"Listen," the next part, uses a Q&A format on the Scripture reading to explain what's happening in the story. For example if a child asks if the shepherds were excited to see the angels, children are told the shepherds were excited, but very afraid when they saw the bright light, heavenly beings and crowded skies. A simple sentence of "truth" summarizes the readings meaning which for this example is "Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth."

Then three questions that encourage discussion, which in the case of the example are:

"What news did the angel give to the shepherds?"
"What do we celebrate at Christmas?"
"What time will you set aside each day to read what the Bible tells about Christmas?"

Memorization is also suggested, which for the first week is from Luke. "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered." Devotions conclude with a familiar Christmas carol found in the back of the book, which for the example is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Lifelike, colorful illustrations enhance and add to the Christmas theme. Joni Eareckson Tada endorsed the book and wrote, "...I highly recommends this brilliant little book for every child" and family.

With so many un-churched children in our nation, many youngsters grow up believing Santa Claus is the meaning behind Christmas, which makes it all about presents and nothing about Christ. This devotional promotes family time and the reason for the season, which is Jesus Christ's birth. "A companion volume Why Easter is also available that teaches children about Jesus' death and resurrection."

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Stop the Bully It Starts With You
Rodney Robertson
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
978193752273, $14.95,

"It is estimated that 175,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of being teased, attacked, and publicly humiliated." From the introduction of "Stop the Bully It Starts With You." Robertson has written a timely work that teaches kids they no longer have to be the victim of a bully. Bullying has always been around, but only now has it reached the degree to be classified as an epidemic. It has also become a major cause for kids to commit suicide or resort to violence to solve the problem. Robertson who teaches martial arts, instructs on how everyone can turn it around and take away the bully's power over them without resorting to a physical or violent solution. Divided into three sections the first is how animals handle situations then there are 15 facts and the last portion introduces 10 habits anyone can adopt to ward off a bully. There are also several different personal stories by adults who were bullied as kids and how they dealt with it. The principles the author proposals are sound, logical and simple and I wish there had been a book like this when I was growing up to stop the cycle of the bully many of us have had to endure. "Stop the Bully It Starts With You" is a book that every school in the nation should use to stop this growing menace.

Jilli That's Silly A Story About Being a Girl
Christa Carpenter, author
Mark Wayne Adams, illustrator
Mark Wayne Adams Inc.
P. O. Box 916392
Longwood Fl 32791-6392
9781596160156, $14.95

Jillian Wallaby is a 7 year old girl who does lots of silly things that make the book pleasurable to see how juvenile she can be while her mom tries to understand her daughter. Mark Wayne Adams artwork adds to the story, especially when Jilli's mom is brushing her hair. Jilli makes faces into the mirror. This is one example of how Adams' artwork complements the story. "Jilli, That's Silly!" has several positive messages to kids and parents as well, that make the book fun to read.

That Pet Finder Kid Catnapped
Scott Clements
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781460068513, $7.95,

From sports to music, 13 year old Chet Parker fails at anything he ever attempts to do. He also does not fit in with other kids at school. That's why he is more into animals because they love you no matter what you do, he thinks. When he takes his dog to the vet something happens and he gets the shot meant for his dog. A short time later he is aware that he can sense what animals around him are thinking and his sense of smell is increased. He learns that Heather, a fellow student, lets him know her cat Mr. Fluff Fluff is gone, and she thinks he has run away. Chet aids her and realizes that for some reason someone has stolen her cat. Later there is a ransom note and now Chet has a purpose, that being who took her cat. Chet also becomes friends with a new neighbor and a severely overweight kid named "Ton" who has the reputation of eating kids he does not like. Scott Clements who works on the hit USA network series "Burn Notice" is also a very talented writer of YA novels this being one of them. Chet and all the characters in the novel are well defined in a story that rapidly moves along to the revealing ending where readers find out who stole the cat. That Pet Finder Kid Catnapped is a first class YA mystery novel that would make a great series of adventures for amateur detective Chet Parker.

Niki & Nick Are Great Friends to Pick
Leo Publishing
9780983473541, $19.95

There are several things I liked abut "Nikki & Nick Are Great Friends to Pick". Among them are the fact that the author did all of the artwork, the bold colors add a dimension of fun to the story and that it is told by the narrator Mr. Wolfgang Spinsilk, the spider. The problem I found was there are several different writings on the pages that do not seem to have the same focus. One example is, one of the character's room at home is a mess then there is an explanation for the origins of manners. I do not see how the two are related. The author does this throughout the work. I also do not know what age group this is for, even though it says for ages 6 and up. I guess I am not in the age group that fits to understand "Nikki & Nick Are Great Friends to Pick"

Sounds of a Coo
Kelly Lambert
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432783037, $23.95,

What do babies think of their parents and those around them? Kelly Lambert in her book "Sounds of a Coo" shows what babies are thinking about many different subjects, and makes this kid's book lots of fun. From learning about their hands to mommy and daddy we learn how different babies feel and there are many surprises. "Sounds of a Coo" tries to clear up many of the mysteries about babies and does it very well.

Sometimes I am Scared of Zombies: An Interactive Adventure
Bob Fox author
Brandon Peter and Melissa Schneider, illustrators
Superfox Entertainment Group
12535 66th Street, Largo, FL 33773-3440
9781479330355, $10.00

Horror writer Rob Fox goes in a very different direction with the kid's book "Sometimes I am Scared of Zombies!" With the art work by Brandon Peter and Melissa Schneider, the three combined talents come together to show how you should not be afraid of zombies because they are not real, and the book teaches kids to face their fears instead of being afraid or running away from them.

Bubs the Bumble Bee and The Spider's Web
Joyce Graham Fogwill
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432795863, $12.95,

The author, who is a retired science teacher uses the character of Bubs the Bumblebee and pictures of real bumblebees and spiders to teach kids about these two facets of nature. Bubs is flying around and spies some spider webs and steers clear because he knows if he is caught that will be the end of Bubs. The story is simple but teaches a lot about the two creatures and how they are not really compatible with each other. "Bubs the Bumble bee and The Spider's Web is a very effective way for children 6 to 10 to learn more about some of the things around them instead of having to study from a very dry textbook.

The Hummingbird Garden
Evelyn Schawarrz with Illustrations by Kitty Quinn
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432798154, $16.95,

Alexis Johnson and her family move into a new home and meet the neighbors their neighbors the Fletchers. Alexis and Tyler Fletcher get along until Alexis and her family plant some flowers in their new back yard. She wants to have the hummingbirds that were at the Fletcher's also come to their yard. At first Tyler is not very happy until something happens and then he realizes there is enough to go around for everyone. "The Hummingbird Garden" is another great kid's book that any age can read and enjoy, while it has so many positive messages, among them the importance of sharing.

The Ultimate Guide to the Harry Potter Fandom
E.A Pyne
What the Flux Comics Publishing Inc
2653Madeline Avenue, Winter Park, Fl 32789
978145074560451895, $21.30

For anyone who wants to know more about the world of Harry Potter there is "The Ultimate Guide to The Harry Potter Fandom. The author takes the reader on a tour of the Harry Potter universe including all of the books and movies and many other things not really known before. I especially liked where the author went into so much detail to reveal what is the real meaning of fandom and how it applies to Harry Potter. Not authorized by J. K. Rawlings "The Ultimate Guide to The Harry Potter Fandom" should be an added to anyone's library of books about Harry Potter.

Grunge Bob Camo Pants Zombie Hunter
Robert Cordray, author
David Naughton-Shires, illustrator
Little Library of the Living Dead
9780578060651, $10.00

"Grunge Bob Camo Pants Zombie Hunter" is an educational excursion into the world of zombies by a kid who hunts them down to protect humanity. The author and illustrator have done a great job of telling the story with prose and artwork that make this kid's book a fun story and the ending is entertaining. "Grunge Bob Camo Pants Zombie Hunter" will have readers of all ages cheering on Grunge Bob for more adventures.

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest "The Banana Tree"
Maggie van Galen Illustrated by Joanna Lundeen
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432779825, $16995,

Keeno is a mischievous monkey who gets into trouble and drags his friend Ernest an elephant along when Keeno does not heed both sets of parents warning not to cross the river. Ernest has to find a way to rescue Keeno and not let their parents know what they have done. "The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest "The Banana Tree" has many good lessons for kid's to learn among them what happens when you do not listen to your parents and the importance of friendship.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

The Last Six Million Seconds
John Burdett
Vintage Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307745293, $15.00,

This book is advertised as being in print for the first time in 15 years - a significant time frame, for fifteen years ago Hong Kong was getting ready for the handover of rule of the country from England to China, a momentous occasion after one hundred years of British rule. This is a fascinating book, with writing that is by turn wonderful, delightful and enchanting. The protagonist, "Charlie" Chan Siu-kai, Chief Inspector, Homicide, Eurasian - half Irish, half Chinese, 36 years old, and divorced from an Englishwoman. He loves his city: We are told that "Chan would have turned down the governorship of Hong Kong so long as he could always be Chinese in an Asian street market;" he "liked the smell of Chinese books, subtly different from Western books. There were no pictures on the heavy paper covers, no commercialism at all; the print was everything. It was the way books should always smell: paper, binding and words, no frills."

As the book begins, eight weeks before the handover, a public clock, large and digital, reads six million seconds. As one bystander says, "one second for each of us - and disappearing." As the book ends, the display shows less than two and a half million seconds left to run: 28 days to go. The time in between shines a light - not the most flattering, to be sure - on the country and the people. That unflattering portrait is not limited to the Far East, it should be noted. The book provides an insight into that world that few non-inhabitants get to see [other than events such as the very public murder of students in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989].

The cast of characters includes the Commissioner of Police, the Right Honorable Ronald "Ronny" Tsui, JP; Chief Supt. John Riley; Inspector Richard Aston, 24-year-old blond Brit; a 49-year-old alcoholic shoplifter from the Bronx; also "an aging psychopath, a sex-hungry billionairess and a scheming diplomat," of whom Charlie says his "penthouse flat was to light, air and space what Chan's was to darkness, asphyxiation and cramp" and notes that he owns "the best collection of opium pipes Chan had seen outside an antiques dealer's showroom."

It is noted that "the Chinese Navy, always sensitive to foreign incursions, had never forgiven the theft of Hong Kong by bullies in British uniforms more than a hundred years before" and that "it was true what they told you when you first came out: The longer you remained in the Far East, the less you understood." When he is working on a particularly gruesome triple murder at the outset of the novel, Chan believes he's being sabotaged, but doesn't know the source. The answers don't come till the end, in one of many surprising turns of events. This is a dense book, but well worth the submersion. It is highly recommended.

The Destroyed
Brett Battles
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477635513, $13.95,

[This book is self-published, and can be ordered through Amazon, B&N or from the author (, either as a paperback or an e-book ($4.99)]

In my last review of a Brett Battles novel ("The Collected," published in October of 2012, and the seventh and penultimate [so far] entry in this series), I noted that Jonathan Quinn, the protagonist whose job it is to discreetly clean up crime scenes, remove bodies and get rid of nasty, incriminating stuff like blood, and his protege, Nate, had become colleagues, rather than mentor and apprentice. In this, the sixth Quinn book, the reader finds out how that came about.

The tale opens in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when a man keeps an appointment scheduled through an enigmatic e-mail from what is apparently a non-existent address. A fateful meeting it is, as the man soon falls [jumps? is pushed?] to his death just as he is about to keep his appointment with one Mila Voss, the person who is central to the fascinating plot fashioned here. [Note that this occurs on page 21 of the book, so no spoiler here.] When security cameras show a disguised but recognizable Mila rushing to the spot where the body landed, a furor is raised in "the secret world": The woman was supposed to have been killed six years ago, and Quinn was the one tasked with disposing of the body, which he duly reported he had done. Conspiracies, corruption in high places, powerful men who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, all combine to serve up another terrific thriller.

In addition to Tanzania, the story takes the reader to Stockholm, Sweden; Lucerne, Switzerland; London; Rome; Las Vegas; San Francisco; Atlanta, Georgia; Virginia; and, early on, to Bangkok, where Quinn took refuge nearly nine months prior following the events in the prior series entry. That self-banishment gave rise to Nate becoming "a full-fledged cleaner, running Quinn's business on his own." As Quinn notes when Nate succeeds in tracking him down, "There was something older about Nate, his edges sharper and more defined. There was a confidence, too. While Nate undoubtedly had more to learn, he was now a professional who could stand on his own."

Those who have not yet read the subsequent series entry, "The Collected," should waste no time correcting that situation. Both of these are wonderful, suspense-filled reads, and are highly recommended.

We All Fall Down
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184067, $14.95,

Hayden Duke is delighted to be starting his new job at Marin Design Engineering, and even happier to be there at the behest of the man who was his best buddy in college, who he hadn't seen in three years. Now 28 years old, he is a successful design engineering contractor, but the chance to work under his friend on a very high level government project seems the best of all possible worlds. But his first day of work doesn't start out promisingly: The body of a Marin Design worker has just been discovered, an apparent suicide. According to a witness, his last words were "I have done a terrible thing, and I can't be forgiven. I must pay for it. This is the only way."

Within one week, Hayden's former best friend, Shane, is also dead, also a suicide, his last words: "I'm sorry, Hayden, but you don't understand what they've done. What I've done. It's terrible. I'm going to hurt you and so many others, but I have to do it." Hayden has no idea what Shane is talking about, but fears, one must feel with reason, that his own life may be in danger. When he returns home, he finds that the house has been ransacked, and among things his computer has been stolen. The only possible clue Hayden has is that on the night he killed himself, Shane had sent him an e-mail attachment, password protected, exhorting him not to read it but to store it and keep it safe.

The reader is thrust headlong into this suspenseful tale, much as Hayden is thrust into a situation fraught with peril as he and Shane's sister, Rebecca, try to discover what has led to these two deaths, and others that soon follow. The action becomes fast and furious and one just has to hang on for the ride. A terrific read, and recommended.

Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184036, $14.95,

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

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

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

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

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

Paying the Piper
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184043, $14.95,

The tension starts on page 1 of Simon Wood's wonderful new novel. Scott Fleetwood, a crime reporter with the San Francisco Independent, has been told by his frantic wife that one of his twin sons has been kidnapped. When the next call he gets is from the kidnapper, Scott's horror only increases: The Piper, as he calls himself, has a history with Scott. As we soon learn in the first of several flashback scenes, eight years back it appeared that a serial kidnapper had called Scott at his desk and began a series of communications with him. Spurred on by the thought of saving the latest victim as well as by the attendant fame surely ahead of him, Scott ultimately is horrified when he learns he has been 'played' by a phony, the whole thing a hoax, and the kidnapped boy is killed when the real kidnapper fails to receive his demanded ransom. Scott receives the blame for the boy's death from the public, his wife, the FBI and, not least of all, himself. This time, the kidnapping of Scott's son appears to be personal: The Piper also holds Scott to blame, for his lost ransom and forced 'retirement.' And Scott doesn't yet know the full extent of what will be expected from him in order to gain his son's freedom.

As difficult as it would seem for the author to keep up the suspense generated from the first pages, he has accomplished this in skillful fashion, maintaining and amping up the tension as the tale unfolds. The complex characters and intricate plotting make this much more than just a page-turner - it'll keep you right on the edge of your seat till the final page.


Accidents Waiting to Happen
Simon Wood
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184029, $14.95,

Josh Michaels, a young man with a wife and little girl he adored, while driving back to his home in Sacramento, California, is forced off the highway and into the river in what appears to be an accident born from what he thinks of as reckless stupidity on the part of the other driver. But the actions of that driver, before he gets back into his car and speeds away, convince Josh that it is anything but. Josh survives the 'accident,' but starts to doubt his ability to continue to survive the ensuing events, all appearing to be accidents by increasingly obviously [to him] staged attempts to end his life. Josh is staggered as he comes to this unavoidable conclusion and cannot believe that he is the target of a killer, but has no choice but to accept this fact and attempt to figure out who wants him dead, and why, if he is to survive. To make matters worse, if that's possible, past indiscretions and errors in judgment are now coming back to haunt him.

At Chapter 4 the reader meets "the professional," the man hired to kill another person, a woman, as well as Josh. Who has hired him? Is there a connection between the two intended victims [something not readily apparent]? And what is the motive? As 'the professional' himself muses, "a seemingly motiveless murder was just as hard to solve as a well-planned accident."

Simon Wood has fashioned an exciting and well-written novel of suspense, with a nail-biting conclusion during which this reader held her breath in anticipation of what new horrors might be in store.


Dinner with Lenny
Jonathan Cott
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780199858446, $24.95,

This is a book, sub-titled "The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein," that is slight in size only, but which provides hefty and fascinating insight into the mind of the internationally renowned "Lenny" Bernstein, brilliant conductor, composer of orchestral works as well as legendary musical scores for Broadway, including On the Town, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story, and gave innumerable Young People's Concerts at Carnegie Hall.

The author conducted a twelve-hour interview at Bernstein's country home in Fairfield, Connecticut in November of 1989, not long after his 71st birthday - he passed away less than a year later. The book opens, fittingly, with a Prelude, and concludes with a Postlude, in which the author discusses his subject, with many details of his career, e.g., it was on his 25th birthday that he was appointed the conducting assistant to Artur Rodzinski, then the music director of the NY Philharmonic, who told the young man that he had "gone through all the conductors I know of in my mind and I finally asked God whom I should take, and God said, "Take Bernstein." Three months later, he made his "legendary conductorial debut with the New York Philharmonic substituting for an ailing Bruno Walter on only a few hours' notice at a Sunday afternoon Carnegie Hall concert on November 14, 1943."

Bernstein states that he "was fourteen when I attended my first concert, and it was a revelation. It was a Boston Pops benefit for my father's temple - - he had to go because he was vice-president of the temple." He did jazz gigs as well as weddings and bar mitzvahs to defray the cost of his piano lessons. There is discussion on Freud; the family seders; political references, e.g., Bernstein was blacklisted for years and the FBI had a file on him 700 pages thick, and the fact that he made the front page of the NY Times and Washington Post - - which included his picture, he was quick to note - - when he refused to attend the White House luncheon awards ceremony given by President Bush; gave six lectures at Harvard University in 1973; famously took the all-Catholic Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, whose players didn't know what a Jew was before he conducted them, to Israel; among many other anecdotes. Bernstein's enthusiasm, erudition and brilliance shine through these pages. This is a book to be savored by musicians and non-musicians alike, and is highly recommended.

The Black Box
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue. New York, NY 10017
9780316069434, $27.99,

This newest book by Michael Connelly in the Detective Harry Bosch series opens in 1992, when LA was in the throes of the civil unrest resulting in over 50 murders that followed the Rodney King police beating trial. Harry is called to the scene of a murder in the heart of South - Central LA, 45 miles from the suburban courtroom where the all-white jury had acquitted four LAPD officers accused of excessively beating a black motorist. The victim was a white woman, a 32-year-old blond photojournalist from Denmark. He was able to work the crime scene for less than an hour before being called out to other murders in the ongoing insanity.

Twenty years later, Harry is now working in the cold case squad. Now that "the 20th anniversary of the riots was approaching, the media savvy Chief of Police sent a directive to the lieutenant in charge of the Open-Unsolved Unit ordering a fresh look at all unsolved murders that occurred during the unrest in 1992 . . . The chief wanted to be able to say that all unsold ed murders from the riots were still under active investigation." His old case has been pulled from the archives is now his to pick up again, and solve if he can.

The case was dubbed "the Snow White murder," unwittingly putting a racial spin on an horrific act of brutality. Now, years later, the thought that of all the racial tension and countless acts of arson, looting, and murder that had taken place, the one cold case that might actually be solved from those days would be that of a young white woman, does not go over well. To Harry, it is simply a matter of justice, to a victim over whose body he whispered an apology twenty years before, despite the fact that his relentless pursuit of that justice puts his career in jeopardy.

The "black box" of the title has more than one meaning here, but its primary meaning is a reference to the one crucial piece of evidence, analogous to the one thing looked for after a plane mishap, "the one thing that makes it all make sense." Slowly but surely, and despite the intervening decades, new leads start to emerge, and Bosch becomes reinvigorated, as does the reader. The book is not a page-turner in the usual sense, i.e., with suspense-driven tension and breath held, but 'simply' a terrific story, wonderfully well-told, that grips the reader and keeps him/her anxious to find out what will happen next as the story unfolds. And just when the reader thinks all the pieces of the puzzle are there, the author has one more surprise in store. This is a police procedural in the best sense of the term, and of the genre, and it is highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Teach Yourself Visually HTML 5
Mike Wooldridge
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
10475 Crosspoint Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN 46256
9781118063323, $29.99,

Teach Yourself Visually HTML 5 is a good basic introduction to HTML 5. It is a cross between a pamphlet sized quick users guide and a full textbook. How it works is by taking an individual HTML, CSS or Java tag or code and placing it step by step in a single graphic example. Each step in the example has a screen shot of the implementation from a computer running the program and a few short lines explaining the steps. If the reader is already comfortable with programming and older versions of HTML, this is a great quick guide and reference. If the reader just wants to just get the basic concepts of HTML 5, the book also works well. But Visually HTML 5 isn't a real, in depth, textbook so those who either need or want more will have to explore another book.

The editing in Visually HTML 5 is good for this type of manual. There is one misplaced screen shot and a few minor editing errors. The one problem that should have been addressed early on in the publishing of the book are the extremely small printed details in some of the graphics. You should keep a magnifying glass handy. The one content exception that could use more information is the Java Script section. Java Script is not technically part of HTML 5 but most web pages and HTML 5 writers use it extensively. Basic linking to Java Script programming segments frequently used in HTML 5 is covered in the textbook but Java Script is a secondary language and to more fully understand those segments more details should have been included.

Teach Yourself Visually HTML 5 does what it claims. It gives a solid introduction to HTML 5. It covers just enough of the code for the reader to quickly understand and start using basic HTML 5. It is a great quick users guide and a text for those wanting to dabble with HTML 5 coding. People looking on developing multiple and more complex web pages with HTML 5 will need to find other materials.

Shock Wave
John Sandford
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157691, $27.95,

John Sandford has written a number of great mystery books. The best known is his Prey detective series with Lucas Davenport. But his Virgil Flowers books come next. Virgil is a state investigator for a large region of rural Minnesota. He is a uniquely human character with a nice mix of contradictory characteristics and personal traits that resonate with the average reader. Many of the traits are adult in nature but others are very personal. For example, nearly everywhere Virgil goes he brings his fishing boat along. If he has a problem to work through, he will find the time to go out to a lake or stream to fish and think about it. This mix of quirky traits and a hard action filled detective mystery make this series of mystery books a treasure to the contemporary reader.

A corporate board meeting is bombed in Michigan. A few weeks later a building site at a small town in Minnesota is bombed. The bombings are linked by the same batch of explosives. The local sheriff and the ATF need an onsite investigator and the head of the Minnesota BCA sends in Virgil. Virgil likes to wear t-shirts from a variety of music groups -- the more obscure and extreme the better. When he shows up at the bomb site, it takes a while for the local deputies to believe he is the state investigator but he soon takes over the investigation and stands up to everyone including the billionaire corporate owner. He has to work his way through a convoluted and complex set of clues to find the bomber/killer. This becomes even more important when his investigation puts him in line for a bomb from the killer.

Any contemporary adult detective genre reader will not want to miss this book. This is the best that there is in the detective genre. It is filled with both the feel of stark reality and fictional detective tale that is fun to read. It is good enough that many who are not detective genre fans will still enjoy the read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Reality
Darrel Ray, Ed.D.
IPC Press
15699 Kansas Avenue
Bonner Springs, KS 66012
9780970950543, $15.95,

Darrel Ray confesses on his first page that he is a psychologist, a professional guesser who has no awareness that he does the same thing as bartenders and taxi drivers but without the real experts' ability to grasp that his guesses are exactly that. I was required to take ten or twelve psychology courses as an education student, and after the first two or three recognized that I was not being lectured by incompetent practitioners of a legitimate discipline, but by brainwashed pushers of a discipline that is itself incompetent.

Ray is an Ed.D., best translated as Doctor of Babysitting. I was required to take a slew of education courses as a prerequisite to obtaining a teaching certificate. Long before I graduated I recognized that a professor of education's only function was to brainwash future teachers that schools are babysitting institutions in which tender psyches must not be bruised by requiring them to learn anything. While the idea of becoming a principal or a superintendent was not unappealing, I realized that to take even a single graduate course in education I would have to submit to a brain amputation and Manchurian Candidate-ize myself that faculty-of-education doubletalk made more sense than glossolalia. Clearly Ray never made that discovery.

Like a lot of writers who criticize religion's most insane teachings, Ray is not a biblical scholar. He makes that clear every time he cites a biblical fable that he lacks the expertise to understand. For example (p. 44), he says of the fig-leaves myth, "Exactly what Adam and Eve did is never stated, but it had something to do with sex!" That is a Christian interpretation of the Garden of Eden myth. To the male supremacist who composed the fable, the crime was goddess worship. Adam and Eve ate the vulva-shaped pomegranate that was the sacramental body and blood of the sex goddess who was the male god Yahweh's great enemy, and that violated the prime directive to honor no other god in front of Yahweh's face.

Ray refers (ibid) to Onan's refusal to "father a child by his deceased brother's wife." Again, he demonstrates no awareness of why Onan was required to do that or why he was reluctant to do so. At a time when Judaism had not yet adopted any form of afterlife belief, a man's name was considered his only immortal part, and his descendants were required to keep it alive by ancestor-worship. When a Jew died childless, his closest relative was obligated to impregnate his widow in order to produce an offspring who would be the dead man's legal heir. Onan was not unwilling to screw his brother's widow. What he was unwilling to do was father a child who would offer ancestor worship to his brother rather than to himself. Ray is nonetheless right when he points out that calling masturbation "onanism" is anachronistic, since Onan's crime was not sperm-wasting. And he is justified in limiting his discussion of the virgin birth myth (p. 50) to its anti-sexual influence on future generations, even though he is unaware that it was an interpolation that was not originally part of Matthew or Luke.(1)

Ray does not belong in the category, "With friends like this, who needs enemies?" He explains in comprehensible language why religion's sex taboos are antihuman. He does so despite not knowing why the bulk of the taboos were invented. He is unaware that almost three thousand years ago Judaism acquired a priestly caste that recognized that "sin" was its bread and butter. As long as sin meant hurting someone unnecessarily, a Jew might not sin for years at a time and therefore would have no need to buy absolution from a priest. So it was in the priestly caste's interest to invent sins that the masses would commit on a daily basis, and the most irresistible behavior was the exercise of one's sexuality.

Only the earliest sex taboos had a legitimate function. "Adultery" meant the robbing of a man of his right to pass on his inheritance to his biological heirs by fraudulently impregnating his designated breeding partner. Ray recognizes that when he reports (p. 57) that, "adultery as Jesus knew it was between a man and a married woman. A single woman could not commit adultery." Similarly the "incest" concept's function was to avoid risking the extinction of one's family, as happened when children with no opposite-sex siblings were kept unmated in the hope of wedding them to siblings not yet born or not yet mature. By declaring endogenous mating taboo,(2) so sacred that only gods were allowed to do it, the masses were left with no alternative but to start mating outside of the family.

The taboo on male homosexuality was invented for the purpose of forcing gay men to start breeding tithe-paying believers. No similar taboo was imposed on women, since economic reality forced all women to become breeding slaves, and lesbian relationships neither diminished the number of children a woman would produce nor raised doubts about a child's paternity, and were considered a sinless alternative to adultery. The author of "Judith" acknowledged that his heroine, having inherited her dead husband's wealth, lived out her life with a female companion.

Ray explains the alleged celibacy of Catholic nuns (unless of course a priest threatens to send them to hell if they refuse to gratify his demands) as a concomitant of (p. 55) being married to Jesus. He is unaware that the original "brides of a god" were pagan priestesses who copulated with male worshipers as an act of worship to a fertility god. By all logic, "celibate nun" should be an oxymoron.

But all taboos on mating outside of a priest-sanctioned relationship were invented in full awareness that they would not be observed, and that was their whole purpose.(3) Fortunately, Ray's limited knowledge of the origin of religion's hatred of sex does not invalidate his argument that continued enforcement is as capricious and illogical as the enforcement of meatless Fridays. And while he does not know that, "Put five bucks in the collection box and you'll be saved," was the reason priests invented 95% of all sex taboos, he is well aware that the taboos are currently preached for such a purpose (p. 168): "Religion does not stop adolescents from having sex; it only makes them feel bad about the sex they do have. If they feel guilty, they will keep coming back to their church to get relief from the guilt the religion taught them."

In Ray's fourth chapter he raises the question: "Jesus: Married, Non-Existent, Female or Closeted Gay?" That is a question to which only a biblical historian is likely to provide plausible answers.(4) Ray quotes a conclusion of Richard Carrier (p. 52), the only biblical historian named in his bibliography,(5) on the absence of references to the Jesus commune's wives and children in early Christian scriptures. But his own answers are the kind one might expect to hear if the question was asked in a class of undergraduates. It is when he ventures into the field of paleoanthropology, and questions why human sex organs and mating behavior developed in different directions from those of the other great apes, that he offers reasoned answers that are consistent with the way evolution works, certainly better answers than, "Because God did it." An expert he is not, but an imaginative speculator he is.

In his chapter, "Jealousy: The Anti-Love Potion," Ray lists six published authors' definition of jealousy. In any future edition he should consider adding, "I rate jealousy somewhere between war and foxhunting"-William Harwood. The chapter's epitomizing statement (p. 252) is, "Once women break free of their property status and gain economic autonomy, male jealousy begins to look like what it truly is - the need to own and control females."

He cites (p. 252) "claims by evolutionary psychologists" for the purpose of refuting them. He stops short of denouncing the whole discipline of evolutionary psychology, originally named sociobiology, as incompetent drivel that could only be a useful contribution to knowledge if biology, genetics, history, anthropology, paleontology, and several other sciences with which it is incompatible, are superstitious hogwash.

This is not a book that has a lot to say to persons who already know that consensual, non-consequential sexual recreation raises no more moral questions than tennis or golf. But to anyone who has doubts on the issue, and needs reassurance that the educated are on the side of rationality, it can definitely be recommended, even though it adds little to Ray's 2009 book, The God Virus, which can be recommended to everybody except the incurably godphuqt.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
0441788386, $16.95,

What better way could there be of depicting the insanity of the sex-hating, sadomasochistic perversion of religion than by looking at it through the eyes of an extraterrestrial visitor? Valentine Michael Smith is an extraterrestrial, in the sense that he was born on Mars and raised by that planet's native species. Mike was an infant when all of the astronauts who had travelled to Mars died, and he was raised by the planet's single-sex nonhuman inhabitants. Until he was returned to earth at the approximate age of twenty by a later rescue mission, he had no awareness of such concepts as male and female, modesty and other taboos, nudity in the sense that one could think of an unclothed human as nude but not an unclothed dog or cat, or religion. He also had no awareness that the humans he met lacked the mental powers we would term paranormal that he had learned from his Martian guardians. While such powers almost certainly cannot exist, they do not exceed what was necessary in order for Robert Heinlein to have a story to tell, just as the equally impossible warp drive and teleportation were necessary for the writers of Star Trek.

On the ultimate religious question, whether the universe is produced and directed by an Intelligent Designer, Heinlein, or more precisely his spokes-ego, Jubal Harshaw chose to sit on the fence. That was probably expedient in 1961. But when Jubal expressed the conclusion that random chance was too improbable to be acceptable, I can only wonder if anyone ever pointed out to Heinlein that all alternative explanations are even more improbable? He was equally ambiguous on the question of immortal souls. Mike consistently refers to "old ones," Martians who have died but live on as bodiless spirits, in a manner that shows a clear belief that he grew up questioning them and receiving useful answers. But Jubal expresses the belief that Mike's old ones are no more real than the saints or gods to whom humans pray, and then interpret whatever pops into their heads as the immortal one's answer. And yet scenes in which Martian old ones or dead humans discuss worldly affairs among themselves, are described by the omniscient narrator as if they are actually happening. Go figure.

Writing more than twenty years before the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States, Heinlein described an America whose head of state, titled Secretary General, based his foreign and domestic policies on horoscopes cast by his wife's on-retainer astrologer. No doubt believers in clairvoyance would be delighted to make an issue of that. Since science fiction appreciators tend to be aware that information cannot travel backward in time, it should not be necessary to stress that sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. He similarly foreshadowed Shirley MacLaine when he had Mike the Martian tell Jubal (paraphrased), "I am God; you are God; he, she or it is God." But that was a consequence of Mike's attempt to translate a concept as illogical as "God" into a language as logical as Martian, that had no words for "lying," "fiction," or "oxymoron." As for New Age humbugs currently parting fools and their money by deluding them that they can create a more desirable reality by "thinking" it into existence: It is hard to believe that the mental masturbators responsible for such hogwash were not familiar with Mike's ability to "think" his weight, muscularity and visage into desirable directions.

Stranger in a Strange Land was first published in 1961, and contained 160,000 words. This "original uncut version," 220,000 words, although not published until 1991, was actually written first. At a time when science fiction was still a fringe genre, and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke would not find themselves on bestseller lists until years later, the profit-motivated publisher demanded that it be reduced to a more commercially-viable length. After the author's death, by which time Heinlein's magnum opus had become the best known science fiction novel ever written, Virginia Heinlein(1) retrieved the uncut manuscript and convinced a publisher that it was so much better than the abridgement that it was worth publishing as originally written.

Pardon me if I disagree. The version I read in the 1960s struck me as one of the masterpieces of American literature. Reading the unabridged version, I found myself bored to distraction by page after page in which Mike created a pseudo-religion as hierarchical as Scientology or Hinduism, with elements of the founding of Mormonism, that served no purpose but to enable Heinlein to spell out a sane concept of sexual morality that could have been better argued without such an artificial context-as it was in the abridged version, which continued to make clear that the only sexual sin is rape and the only perversion is self-inflicted abstinence. Indeed, some of the scenes that made the first-published version of Stranger in a Strange Land incomparable, were especially written for the abridgement, and the publication of an "uncut" version from which they are absent is a crime against literature.

An element that I found particularly nauseating was Mike's encounter with Heinlein's concept of a megachurch. There have been characters in otherwise excellent books so repulsive that they detracted from the reader's overall enjoyment, such as Rodney in The World of Suzie Wong, a peripheral appendage who contributed nothing to the narrative. Heinlein's Fosterites, an almost precognitive depiction of Jerry Falwell's moral majority, are equally peripheral and equally repulsive.

To any person who has become a science fiction appreciator so recently that he has not yet read Stranger in a Strange Land: procure a copy, by whatever means necessary, at once. Whether the long or short version, if you do not grok its basic message, that religion is a form of insanity, get yourself deprogrammed pronto.

Women born prior to 1970 tended to change their names when they married, to show a change of ownership from father to husband. Such denigration of human dignity, with its implication that a woman is defined by whom she lives with, continues to be widespread, particularly among the evolutionary throwbacks who call themselves "conservatives."

The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead
Joe Nickell
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616145859, $18.00,

Joe Nickell has been writing books about his investigations of paranormal claims for two decades, detailing the procedures that led him to conclude that not a single manifestation of an alleged violation of the laws of nature survived critical examination. This is not such a book. Rather, it is a memoir and summary of cases he has investigated, reporting his conclusions but not reprinting the evidence that led him to those conclusions. As a compendium of the variety and magnitude of nonsense claims about ghosts, fairies and communication with persons who have ceased to exist, written for readers who already know that noncorporeal lifeforms exist only in fantasy fiction, it is unsurpassed. Persons who still need to have the nonexistence of ghosts proven to them should bypass it in favor of Nickell's earlier works.

In a chapter devoted to Naked Ghosts, Nickell describes attempts of True Believers to detect ghostly auras with electronic equipment as "a fool's errand." He notes (p. 27) that, "If ghosts did, however, represent the survival of a soul or life force, how is it that . . . the reputed entities are almost always seen wearing clothing (which is, of course, inanimate)?" For some reason believers refuse to ask themselves why a discarnate soul would need clothing. Do nudity taboos exist in the afterlife? Are there heavenly haberdashers, and if so, do ghosts pay for their apparel out of metaphysical Social Security?

In Nickell's description of a woman who claimed to remember a past life, he states as fact (p. 47) that, "she is an excellent hypnotic subject." But in his glossary (p. 348) he defines hypnosis as "a dissociative state, in which, due to suggestibility and imagination, compliant people are prompted to play roles." I get the impression that the co-author of one of Nickell's previous books, Robert Baker, failed to convince him that, "hypnosis does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future." So he chooses to sit on the fence, neither affirming nor denying that hypnotism is nothing more than cooperative playacting. Yet he endorses Baker's conclusion that automatic writing works because (p. 21), "the individual is able simultaneously to perform one set of functions that he is aware of and another that he is not," agreeing that automatic writing and unconscious (as opposed to intentional) Ouija board manipulation exist. Pardon me if I disagree. But those are small faults in an otherwise unambiguous debunking of pseudoscience and confabulation.

Nickell retells an anecdote previously reported by a credulous collector of ghost fables. A doctor was directed to the address of a gravely ill woman, by the woman's daughter-who had been dead for three years. He notes (p. 68) that, "a book by Billy Graham contains a remarkably similar story, wherein the implication is that the little girl in the tale is not a ghost but rather an angel." I can imagine Charley Brown reporting a ghostly visitor, and Linus assuring him that the visitor was really the Great Pumpkin. Do Peanuts characters have more credibility than Hillbilly Graham? Certainly they do not have less.

Writing about posthumous legends of Elvis Presley (p. 73), "complete with alleged healings and resurrectionlike appearances," Nickell observes that, "Looking at this mythology in the making can provide insights into the mythology that developed around the central figure of Christianity two millennia before." That what is happening now could have happened on a previous occasion is not proof that it did happen before. But it blows the claim that Christianity is an "Impossible Faith" that could not have been concocted out of whole cloth out of the water.

The chapter on Pirates' Ghosts cites the alleged haunting of a pirate house by Captain Flint. As Nickell observes (p. 123), "It helps here to realize that 'Captain Flint' was a fictitious character in Robert Louis Stevenson's . . . Treasure Island."

Nickell visited a spirit artist who claimed to be able to see and draw clients' spirit guides. He informed her that he once thought he saw his own guide, and gave the artist a brief description. Looking past rather than at him, she obligingly drew a portrait of what she allegedly saw, a portrait that matched the description he had provided. He asks (p. 221), "Was she a fake or a fantasizer? It was one or the other, because I had made up the story during the drive to the scenic little village."

Probably the most useful section of Nickell's book, certainly as a necessary addition to every skeptic's reference library, is his glossary (pp. 345-354). Anyone needing a definition of what believers or the media mean by a term used by parapsychologists will find a reliable description.

The strongest denunciations of The Science of Ghosts posted to were by True Believers who refuse to accept that an investigation that did not conform to their personal superstitions could have started from an objective, "let the evidence speak for itself," attitude. In fact Nickell started from precisely such an attitude, and that is why his conclusion about superstitious hogwash was that it was superstitious hogwash. A more reliable evaluation is that of Michael Shermer (back cover), that Nickell is "the go-to guy for all things paranormal, and with this book he has once again asserted himself as a fair and careful investigator whose conclusions we can trust." That says it all.

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism
Alvin Plantinga
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016
9780199812097, $27.95,

"My overall claim in this book: there is superficial conflict but deep concord between geography and flat-earth dogma, but superficial concord and deep conflict between six and half-a-dozen." That is not precisely what Alvin Plantinga says in his Preface, but it is an accurate analogy of what he does say. I would not have believed that even Oxford U P, a card-carrying subsidiary of the god psychosis, could find an author whose thinking more closely resembles that of a pickled cabbage than Alister McGrath and John Lennox. But in Alvin Plantinga they have come up with exactly that.

Plantinga refers to nontheists as "she" (e.g., p. xiv). Is he grammatically handicapped, and unaware that common gender pronouns are identical with the masculine, not the feminine? Or is he a male chauvinist pig who thinks that labeling anyone who disagrees with him as female is the ultimate put-down? Given his other detectable qualities, the latter is by no means a stretch.

Plantinga quotes (p. 37) an argument of Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, "that it is possible that all the variety of the biosphere be produced by mindless natural selection." He then argues, that showing that another explanation for the variety of the biosphere is available, does not falsify his dogma that only God could have done it.

Let me provide a parallel to Plantinga-think. Suppose I argued that, "All life on planet earth was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Now either prove me wrong or concede that I am right." It would immediately be pointed out that, since I am the one making an intrinsically improbable claim, that makes me the one who is obligated to prove the claim. If I further asserted that offering an alternative explanation of terrestrial life did not falsify my dogma that only the FSM could have done it, I would be recognized as a blatant, incorrigible liar.

Shifting the onus of proof to persons who are not making extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence is the primary thrust of Plantinga's doublethink. His secondary tactic is the one used by virtually all apologists for indefensible belief systems, whether metaphysical, supernatural or paranormal: projecting the intellectual, rational and moral bankruptcy he sees in the mirror onto his opponents (pp. x-xi): "They propose to deal with their opponents not by way of reasoned arguments and discussion, but by way of ridicule and 'naked contempt'. Why they choose this route is not wholly clear. One possibility . is that they know of no good reasons or arguments for their views, and hence resort to schoolyard tactics." Apparently ridicule and naked contempt are not permissible when the object of the ridicule is indeed ridiculous and contemptible, but is permissible when proponents of the ridiculous, such as Plantinga, do it to the rational.

Plantinga (p. 47) states that Dennett, "seems to assume that if you can't show by reason that a given proposed source of truth is in fact reliable, then it is improper to accept the deliverance of that source." Instead of trying to rebut Dennett's axiomatic observation, Plantinga asserts (p. 48) that, "Nor can we give a decent, noncircular rational argument that reason itself is indeed reliable; in trying to give such an argument, we would of course be presupposing that reason is reliable." He elsewhere argued that science and naturalism are in conflict by assuming a new definition of naturalism. Here he assumes a new definition of reason. Dennett's reasoning is that, since the bible's fourteen assertions that the earth is flat make it unreliable, that makes it improper to accept its assurance that a god revealed its existence. Instead of finding fault with such reasoning, Plantinga asserts that reason itself has no intrinsic reliability. Clearly he is addicted to the Republican dictum: When you have no defense, lie.

He adopts the pretense that, since sociobiology and theology offer incompatible reasons for the evolution of human ethics, falsifying sociobiology (now called evolutionary biology in order to dissociate itself from the nonsense peddled by its inventor) validates the theological explanation. That is like arguing that falsifying astrology validates tealeaf reading. And when he writes (p. 349) that, "(1*)P(MR/N&E) is low," he is aiming at readers capable of believing that an author who can write such contentless drivel must be a superior lifeform whose conclusions can be trusted. Is Plantinga braindead, or does he think his readers are? If he is assuming that he is writing for people incapable of passing logic 101, he will get no argument from me.

He devotes many pages to parroting Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity" theology (pp. 225 ff), in depraved indifference to the fact that the Dover ID trial discredited Behe as totally as the Scopes trial discredited William Jennings Bryan. He cites Mother Teresa as an example of religious altruism (p. 41), capitalizing on the mass media's fear of reporting the evidence that MT was a lying, swindling hypocrite who collected millions to feed the starving, and used the money to benefit her nuns and the Catholic Church, while residents of the Calcutta slums continued to starve. He also (p. 193) quotes Isaac Newton: "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all." In defense of Newton, he lived at a time when historians had not yet developed the technique of documentary analysis that would now allow them to refute the absurdity that, the more effectively the laws of astrophysics explain reality without the necessity of invoking a god, the more necessary it becomes to postulate a god as the first cause. What is Plantinga's excuse?

Trying to explain away the observable reality that, if the universe is produced and directed by an omnipotent Sky Fuhrer, it must be a sadistic, evil, capricious, rationally-challenged mass murderer, Plantinga argues that (p. 101), "perhaps we can't say what God's reason is for intervening (if that's the right word) in raising Lazarus from the dead and not intervening at Auschwitz; but why should that incline us to think he never intervenes at all?" He elaborates, "God will intervene when he has a good reason for doing so; but why suppose we human beings would be in a position to know when he does and when he doesn't?" That he is conceding that there is no way to determine whether a god was involved in anything at all, good or bad, and therefore no way to establish whether such an entity exists, is already beyond his intellectual capacity. Expecting him to understand, that the impossibility of proving the nonexistence of "gods" does not invalidate the clear proof spelled out by Victor Stenger and others of the nonexistence of "God," defined as a god with the specific attributes attributed to it by all one-paramount-god religions, would be like expecting an altar boy to understand that not everything a priest does to him is virtuous.

There are two possible explanations for a book like Where the Conflict Really Lies. Either Plantinga is knowingly, intentionally, consciencelessly lying; or he is dangerously, incurably, certifiably insane. The world needs Alvin Plantinga like it needs astrology, homeopathy, supermarket tabloids, the Center for UFO Studies, the Santa Claus Defense League, Scientology, and the Society for Psychic Research. He should hurry back to the Cuckoo's Nest before Nurse Ratched gives his bed away.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

Open Range
Jay Bentley and Patrick Dillon
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200
Philadelphia, PA 19103
9780762441532, $37.50,

Unexpected Finesse

I admit, it's been many years since I visited Montana. The week I spent in Billings some time ago was a pleasure and eye-opening. I experienced a surprising level of culture. Still, I managed to be surprised by the flavors in "Open Range: Streaks, Chops & More from Big Sky Country". I didn't have expectations of sophisticated flavors.

Those expectations, fortunately, were wrong. Expectations, however, lined up with lots of options for meat dishes. I tested four recipes, the "extra" one being a salad recipe that was a great add-on for the meal. More than 20 recipes tempted me on the first quick review of the book. More were added to the list as I spent more time with the book. The breadth of international flavors piqued my attention. I see so many books and have been reading cookbooks for enough years that I regularly find just a couple recipes in a single book that pique my interest.

We enjoyed the Curried Coleslaw as this time year in California cabbage is affordable and it's a simple recipe. I also tried a beef recipe, a chicken recipe, and a potato dish.

The results all turned out great. I would make a couple changes: less red-pepper in the coleslaw. It was too spicy as written for my family. I also would add the garlic cloves and olives to the roasted potatoes after the first 1/2 hour. The ones in my test dish burned. Burned garlic of course is not recommended. That said, the potatoes turned out great and everyone agreed that recipe was a keeper.

The tested chicken recipe, however, was the top winner. "Grilled Coriander Chicken Breasts" won over every taste bud that met the dish. Coriander plays well in a variety of arenas, savory and sweet. It is perhaps this flexibility that makes it such a fabulous match for chicken. The chicken came out moist, flavorful, and different enough from other recipes to be interesting. This is definitely a recipe to make and enjoy many times.

I look forward to trying even more recipes. For carnivores looking for new ideas and flavors with quality cuts of meat, Open Range is a great place to start.

The Catholic Cookbook: From our Family to Yours, Volume 1
Wyatt North Publishing
9781622781171, $TBA,

Growing up in a conservative, protestant environment, Catholics were mystical and confusing. Were they actually Christians? Why could they go to church on Saturday night but our only option was Sunday morning (and night, and Wednesday night, and sometimes Thursday)? While I found my own answers to these questions, this experience got me curious about The Catholic Cookbook when I found it online.

I found the recipes familiar, often to an eerie level. Nearly all these dishes could visit the protestant potlucks, or carry-ins, I remember as a child. At least once a month every family brought traditional recipes to share. Following that trend, one of my test recipes was the traditional Lemon Bar. I've not been a fan of this concoction in the past, but I decided to give it another try. I still dislike citrus and dairy products combined. (My dislike of key lime pie is loud and long-standing.) What I can say regardless of how much you like the combination of flavors and textures: the traditional recipe needs a serious update for the modern cook and kitchen.

The "Mediterranean Quinoa Salad" however is not something expected at Midwestern dinner. Regardless, the recipe received definite approval. Using this nutritious grain is a goal in my kitchen. From side dishes to flakes in baked recipes, this recipe can become a regular player for our meals.

A snack recipe, however, is the top player. The results disappeared quickly and inspired many versions. No doubt more versions of this recipe will come along over the next couple weeks. "Rosemary and Thyme Glazed Pecans" are simply brilliant, tasty, and perfect. This is a recipe worthy of making part of your permanent collection. I have even added this to my list of Christmas gifts: a number of people on my list will be receiving "Catholic" Pecans.

Although a fairly short cookbook, you will find some traditional favorites, some new inspirations and others you could manage without a cookbook (a potato recipe). For my part, I'm glad I bought the book just because of the pecan recipe. A small price to pay for something I'll make over and over.

101 Recipes for Gluten-Free Microwave Mug Cakes
Stacey J Miller
BPT Press
PO Box 834, Randolph, MA 02368-0834
9781622781171, $16.95,

Small batch baking books have been some of my favorite cookbooks. In the past I've recommended these kinds of books with high praise. Of course I had to try this one, too, when I saw the title. The test recipes were a lot of fun. I did made some odd discoveries.

Much of the writing in the "101 Recipes for GLUTEN-FREE Microwave Mug Cakes: Healthier Single-Serving Snacks in 10 Minutes or Less" is recommended if you have an odd (warped) sense of humor. The Q and A section is worth reading just for the entertainment factor. Lucky Peach readers might find the text presented in a way they enjoy.

After testing a number of recipes - with small batches I could try more than three - I did get a little frustrated with the collection of ingredients needed. I wondered why the recipes weren't written with a specific type of yogurt and added flavorings. Rather you need a number of different flavors and don't use the entire carton. The same is true for packages of pudding mix and baby food. I'm convinced there's an easier way! Perhaps I'll experiment and find out what it is for my kitchen.

I completely agree that the cakes need to be eaten hot. The texture is remarkably close to muffin. I also wondered if small baking dishes in a toaster over could get a more traditional cake texture. My favorite recipe of many tested cakes was the "Butterscotch Coffee Microwave Mug Cake." Great flavor, perfect hot and fresh, and mixing some extra pudding powder with remaining yogurt was shortcut frosting.

The other interesting factor related to quantity. I used the largest coffee mugs in my house: they each held 20 ounces of liquid. However, each recipe for a single mug cake make me two cakes. This happened because the instructions say to not fill mugs more than half full. As usual my husband didn't mind testing along with me so it still worked out. However, know that you may actually end up with 2 cakes, not just a single serving.

A high level of fun came with the book. The shopping list and leftovers brought annoying clutter. As a result I give this book a 3-star, middle-of-the road rating.

"Why do some cultures, some countries, some cities, and some families have great food and others do not? The answer resides in the group's willingness to deem cooking important."

--James Campbell Caruso, "Espana: Exploring the Flavors of Spain"

My Favorite Gluten Free Cake Recipes
Beth Davis
GF Living Publishing
85 Quincy Ave, Suite 2, Quincy, MA 02169
B006SVKV36, $2.99,

A Good Start

I continue looking for gluten-free recipes that earn the reaction, "Oh! That's gluten free?" from my taste testers. Based on the title of the book and the author's reputation, that's what I expected from the results. As you can see from the headline, it's not quite what I got from my three test recipes.

We liked the results of each test, and some were surprising. For example the Quinoa Brownies were a solid entry if you included the "upgrades" of vanilla and chocolate chips. However, the brownies did become a bit chalky in texture the longer they cooled. Quinoa is one of the most difficult flours to use when your goal is traditional taste and texture in gluten-free baked goods. This recipe does particularly well in this arena, but still comes off not quite right. Still, this was the best recipe I tried in the group.

The Choco-Nut Delight recipe also played well while again being decent, but not satisfying at the level of gluten-based products. The Peanut Butter Squares had good texture and taste.

I haven't given up on this book yet - I have a number of other recipes I want to make. At the same time, so far the results consistently make me want to find the next level or two. I'd like the chocolate items to be richer with a stronger chocolate presence.

Another difficulty with the cook book were UK-specific ingredients and measurements. In a variety of places in the quantities were not obvious and in a few cases I had to check a product on the internet to find out how much was contained in that item sold. So far, I haven't found complete, great recipes in this book. While you can get many electronic cookbooks for the money you'd spend on hardcopy, a number of other books ("Have Your Cake and Vegan, Too!" for example) provided more core, ready recipes. As a creative, exploratory cook I did find much inspiration in the book.

Depending on your needs, this book may or may not be a match for your kitchen. I'll continue playing and seeking sources of ready and satisfying gluten-free recipes.

Heidi Sue Roth

Janet's Bookshelf

Perfect Chaos: A Daughter's Journey To Survive Bipolar, A Mother's Struggle To Save Her
Linea Johnson & Cinda Johnson
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312581824, HB $16.49, Kindle $11.99,

Love is a four letter word that is often misused - we love celebrities, shoes, bags and video games. The love that has meaning, the industrial strength kind that glues a family together when tragedy strikes is central to Linea and Cinda Johnson's memoir, Perfect Chaos, a daughter's journey to survive bipolar, a mother's struggle to save her.

Linea, a bright, beautiful and musically gifted student seemed set for a perfect life - lots of friends, great high school grades, the only problem: deciding which college to choose to make her dream of a career in musical performance a reality. Her parents, Cinda and Curt, both medical health professionals, were proud of their youngest daughter's musical ability. Cinda dismissed Linea's mood swings as part of growing up; being gifted often means feelings are more intense. Life is lived a little closer to the edge. In the last year of high school, cracks in Linea's perfect existence began to appear; deep depressions followed by huge highs, both conditions inexplicable and very worrying. Something was wrong but how to find out what? Perfect Chaos is the true story of Linea and Cinda's journey to determine the what (diagnosis) and what (treatment) would allow Linea to live independently and achieve her goals.

Mental illness is a minefield of misdiagnosis and inappropriate medication. If you are unlucky enough to be dancing to a tune which is different to that considered normal, the path to correct diagnosis and medication can be long and tortuous. Finding a medical professional who could establish the cause of Linea's depressions was a heartbreaking experience for Cinda and unimaginably frustrating for Linea. Just when her life appeared to be back on track, suicidal thoughts would take control of Linea's brain. Trying to spare her parents the pain of another treatment that didn't work, she battled on alone. Cutting her skin gave Linea a brief respite from the voices in her brain who urged suicide as a solution.

Perfect Chaos isn't a 'two handkerchief' read - sure, it's a sad story but it's also inspiring and in a curious way, a thriller. I do most of my reading at night in bed and I could not put the light out until I knew that whatever setback Linea was facing in the chapter I was reading, she was safe. Keeping Linea safe (family code for Linea resisting the urge to suicide) motivated Cinda and Curt's life as they struggled to find a treatment that would allow their daughter to live the independent live she craved.

Linea's illness and the events that happened as a result are related alternatively by Cinda and Linea. The switching of reactions and thoughts; Cinda's despair while trying to remain hopeful, Linea, deliriously happy or in a very dark place, is written in a graphic, intimate style. The sequence on Linea's ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatment is particularly well done - Cinda, Curt and Linea's terror is palpable.

Cinda and Linea's story is an insight into the toll that mental illness exacts from sufferers and their families. Treatment for Linea's illness (Bipolar) does not always lead to a happy outcome; sufferers commit suicide or live in a drug induced fog. Amazingly, Linea, during her search for diagnosis and treatment, completed three years of a musical performing program in Chicago and has subsequently graduated from the Seattle University with a major in English and creative writing - a remarkable young woman, sustained by remarkable family and friends.

Perfect Chaos is a story of much love and I loved reading it.

Death In The 12th House: Where Neptune Rules
Mitchell Scott Lewis
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E.First Avenue, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464200601, PB $10.74, Kindle $6.99,

Being born on the cusp of two star signs (Libra and Scorpio) life can sometimes be tricky - it's hard to be a magnetic, assertive, popular Scorpion when most days I'd rather be an indecisive, book-reading, stay-at-home Libran. Although, do the stars we were born under really affect the way we operate or is astrology only a pseudo-science; a money-spinner for magazines that print horoscopes and astrologers who, for a fee draw up birth charts which advise who to marry and where to seek fame and could-be-fortune? I don't know, but horoscopes are fun to read and so was Mitchell Scott Lewis' latest Starlight Detective Agency Mystery, Death In The 12th House: Where Neptune Rules.

David Lowell, head honcho of the Starlight Agency, is an astrologer who has had the foresight to put his vocation to good use by predicting the ups and downs of the share market and in so doing make more than a little money. Independently wealthy, he can pick and choose the cases he investigates and is always available to help the NYPD.

Sixty year-old rock n' roller, Freddie Finger is found hanging from a pipe with three bullets in his body. It certainly doesn't need an astrologer to tell NYPD Lieutenant Roland that Freddie is dead. Still popular with rock fans, Freddie was Mr. Nasty to everyone he came in contact with during his boozy, drug-fueled career. Overwhelmed by the number of candidates who would willingly have put an end to Freddie's warbling, Roland at the insistence of Freddie's daughter, Vivian Younger, calls in Astrological Detective David Lowell. Studying Freddie's ex-wives, band members and agents birth charts, Lowell looks for indications that when the going gets tough, one of these guys or gals will tough it out with a gun. Not able to arrive at a definite conclusion on who fingered Freddie, he alerts Lieutenant Roland that the previous accidental death of another band member is connected to Freddie's murder and current planetary positions show more mayhem is on the ascendant.

Vivien Younger, as her name suggests, is considerably younger than David Lowell... doesn't matter; there star signs make a conjunction and they have a brief affair. This is well written with feeling and empathy for two star crossed lovers; Vivien, who can't accept that the father she hardly knew is now lost to her forever and David Lowell, whose life was irrevocably changed by the murder of his son and divorce from a woman he still loves.

Mitchell Scott Lewis has created an engaging group of nice, nasty and nutty New York characters who help and hinder Lowell in his quest to get the stars to spill the beans on who clipped Freddie and why. Assisted by his office team; Sarah, willing to put her life on the line for a $700.00 pair of shoes (sounds reasonable), Mort the psychic, always good to have around in case what you're looking for isn't written in the stars and strongman Andy, chauffeur and bodyguard, David Lowell outwits seriously rich, seriously mad Fat Jimmy and his dumb nephew, Thin Jimmy's bid to stop the search for Freddie's murderer. The threat from the Jimmy's neutralised, Lowell checks out possible perpetrators as the planets spin out of control through murky, mysterious star formations to finally reveal the identity of Freddie's killer.

Mitchell Scott Lewis, a New York professional astrologer, has written a pacy funny story starring Astrological Detective David Lowell, a charming guy who only uses his martial art skills when it's absolutely necessary. If reading Death In The 12th House isn't in your horoscope then pencil it in; it's an exciting entertaining read.

Lies At Six
Sarah Scott
Krill Press
9780984652433, PB $16.95, Kindle $2.99

How many times have you felt like telling the boss what you think about your job and how much better life would be if he wasn't such an unprofessional incompetent dingbat? You don't do it because if you do payday becomes just another weekday. Jolie Marston, a TV news reporter and the lead character in Sarah Scott's debut mystery, Lies At Six, does do it and what's more she shares her insights with the viewers of WTNW's 6.00 pm newscast. Good for Jolie's job angst but really bad for her financial situation. Fired, quicker than it takes your eye to flicker, Jolie is labeled a loose cannon and her chances of another job in a Memphis newsroom (or anywhere really) don't look good.

Lies At Six starts well; I felt empathy with Jolie's frustrated need to present real news not re-hashed headlines embellished with attention catching lies. Being unemployed isn't great for your love life and it isn't long before Jolie and boyfriend Nick experience problems. Both afraid of commitment, they have been close but Jolie's impulsive action and loss of financial security puts a strain on their relationship.

Sarah Scott's writing style suits the mystery/crime genre but I'm not sure about the efficacy of presenting the reader with a prologue. I always like a body at the end of the first chapter (could just be a personal preference) and while the characterizations were well done the action was a little slow starting. That said, Lies At Six is a well told, unusual story set in America's South with a recurring theme of memory and more particularly, how two players in life's drama can with the passage of time, recollect the same events in quite different ways. This premise is woven throughout the text and it gives an interesting 'literary' touch to the plot.

Memphis's former Mayor, Ellis Standifer, a mentor to Jolie, is found murdered. Her job in the newsroom over, Jolie is locked out of the investigation. Calling in favours, she battles to get a lead on Standifer's killer but meets with little success. Her romance with Nick and bank account, both on a downward spiral, Jolie heads back to her East Tennessee hometown of Singleton to see her parents and work out what to do next. A video business seems like a good idea - a way to make money and be her own boss. Ellis Standifer's unsolved murder, always at the back of her mind, Jolie figures that as Singleton was also his hometown it's as good a place as any to find out why he was killed and whodunit.

Jolie enlists the help of another Singleton resident, Martin, a wealthy gay guy. Together they piece together a mystery which spans generations - was Ellis Standifer the decent caring man he appeared to be and what of the story his mother, Violet, tells? Is it the truth or like the headlines Jolie used to report on the 6.00 pm newscast, re-hashed lies that reflect what might have happened not what did. The story moves on to an exciting climax; there's another murder and the plot twists and turns in an intriguing manner.

It's always good to spend time with a new writing talent - Sarah Scott and Jolie Marston are welcome additions to the mystery crime genre and I'm looking forward to meeting them again in the next Jolie Marston Mystery.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Janie's Bookshelf

Wipe Clean Christmas Story Activity Book
Juliet David
illustrated by Marie Allen
Kregel Publications
733 Wealthy Street, SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
9781859858912, $5.99,

Kids love activity books and holiday ones are extra special. Juliet David's "Wipe Clean Christmas Story Activity Book" puts a new twist on it. Each page is laminated so that good quality felt-tip markers and crayons can be used to complete the puzzles in the book. There are dot-to-dots, mazes, hidden objects, and a coloring page, all with a First Christmas theme.

Because the pages can be wiped and reused, the puzzles can be redone many times. Also the book may be passed to siblings in the family or used as a Sunday School activity. The book can be tucked away among the holiday decorations after Christmas for continued fun next year.

My Favorite Bible Stories
Matt Mitter, illustrated by Steve Cox
Kregel Publications
733 Wealthy Street, SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
9780825455537, $9.99,

"My Favorite Bible Stories" is a board book for infants to children in first grade. Six stories are showcased, three from the Old Testament and three from the New. There is only one four-line poem telling the basic idea for each story. The first is the story of creation.

Each tale has a scene about the story and people and items are labeled as in a first word book or a foreign language dictionary. My favorite was the story of the Egyptian princess finding Moses in a basket. The colorful illustrations for that story are bright and full of strange animals. It also has difficult words like wildebeest, papyrus, and crocodiles.

Children will enjoy revisiting these stories as they grow older, first pointing to the camel or the hippopotamus and hearing their parents tell them more about the story. As they learn to read they can pick out more words to add to their vocabulary. The bright pictures and 200 words make "My Favorite Bible Stories" an interactive learning experience.

Christmas Stable
Juliet David, illustrated by Marie Allen
Kregel Publications
733 Wealthy Street, SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
9781859858929, $11.99,

"Christmas Stable" is another board book from Kregel Publications that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. This is a Lift the Flap book where little fingers can uncover special surprises on each page. This book tells the story through the coming of the Wise Men.

The illustrations are a pure delight, full of little animals, including bunnies, ladybugs, and snails. The people and the animals all have the same perky faces that kids will enjoy.

The book is constructed of heavy board that will stand up to use. A must-have for the holidays.

The Newborn King
Lori C. Froeb, illustrated by Pauline Siewart
Kregel Publications
733 Wealthy Street, SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
9780825455513, $9.99,

This brightly colored board book tells the story of the first Christmas. Each part of the story has a scripture verse addition. The story, however, doesn't include the arrival of the Magi. That was always the part I liked best because it was young. And later when I studied scripture, the Wise Men and their gifts were a foretelling of Jesus' life and death and was an example that His coming was for all people.

Accompanying the story are several puzzle pieces that fit into spaces on the page opposite the text. There is a small finger slot beside each puzzle space to allow young fingers to remove the pieces. The puzzle pieces also can be linked together on a flat surface and can be stood up to form a stand-alone puzzle.

A "Newborn King" is a delightful way for children to learn about the birth of Jesus.

Janie Franz

Karyn's Bookshelf

Malcolm at Midnight
W.H. Beck, author
Brian Lies, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547681009, $16.99,

Penning a stand-out middle grade novel about a clever rodent who interacts with humans is a significant achievement, genre history considered. From Beverly Cleary to Kate DiCamillo, some celebrated authors have set the bar; many others have copied, to cliche. Beck, in her debut novel, more than succeeds with a fresh, engaging take on this age-old premise. Malcolm, a young rat whose small stature leaves him perennially mistaken for a mouse, becomes a fifth-grade classroom pet. Malcolm is immediately swept up in the drama of life after hours, when classroom pets of all sorts, including but not limited to an iguana, a hermit crab, a rabbit and a hedgehog, exit their cages and move freely about the moonlit halls. Malcolm's interactions with humans, including children, a fifth-grade teacher and a janitor who, it turns out, played a key role in a sad turn of events at the school decades earlier, are thoroughly believable. The malevolent presence of a stray cat who has a tragic history, who lives on the school's closed-off fourth floor and whose plot to harm students Malcolm must thwart, lends splendid intrigue. The setting, a rambling, nearly 100-year-old building with junk-littered, unused third and fourth floors; a little-visited clock tower; and untold dusty, rusty nooks and crannies, offers ample possibility for conflict and chase unseen by students and teachers. Beck skillfully writes in kid-minded language. She gives both her animals and humans complex pasts and presents that elicit a roller coaster of sympathy, pity, applause and revulsion. And she avoids a pat ending by not carrying every plot thread to a happy resolution. Ultimately, a surprisingly sharp-edged trajectory and a slew of wrenching decisions that must be made by a variety of characters lend great depth, elevating "Malcolm" to a must-read. Excellent; a writer to watch.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Helen Ward, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763660987, $16.99,

A familiar Aesop's fable takes a Christmas turn in Ward's exquisitely illustrated retelling. The story begins with an ode to the seasons, as a country mouse contentedly lives its quiet life among fields, orchards, winter snow and warm spring rain. But a visit from a cousin entices the country mouse to travel to the city. Once the country mouse arrives in New York, at Christmastime in the 1930s, Ward masterfully allows the illustrations to carry the story. The text is unobtrusively general, mentioning the cousin's apartment, elevator, lit-up buildings and fine food, but never actually bringing up Christmas. The illustrations, however, are all about the December holiday, with, gift-laden shoppers, presents beneath a tree and a feast with a rich abundance of cakes and puddings. Throughout, the illustrations are an as-sumptuous feast for the eyes. Displaying rare talent, Ward takes readers on an intricately detailed journey. In the country there are apples and butterflies, a fox trekking past a snow-drifted barbed wire fence and a summer landscape of berries, flowers and grasses that pointedly coincides with the city visitor pompously saying city food is better... "rich, exotic...(and eaten in) sumptuous surroundings." In the city, there's a frost-tinged vegetable truck; the buckled shoes and beribboned hats of shoppers waiting for and rising on a lift; bright balls and other Christmas tree ornaments; and a chocolate cake that is wrecked by a dog-mouse chase. Grand and award-worthy, an old tale turned new Christmas classic.

Following Grandfather
Rosemary Wells, author
Christopher Denise, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763650698, $14.99,

Deep life wisdom punctuates this tale about a young mouse's relationship with, and ultimate loss of, her grandfather. Wells commits two-thirds of the brief story to exploring the years the mouse, named Jenny, spends with the widowed grandfather. While her parents work long hours in their early 20th Century Italian restaurant, Jenny and her grandfather go the beach, visit with friends and appreciate all the city of Boston has to offer, that they can afford on a working-class budget. The bygone era of extended families, where grandparents helped raised children, is poignantly presented. Grandfather offers a wealth of wisdom, most notably that Jenny is the lucky one, not the privileged children of wealthy, narrow-minded, class-conscious mouse parents. Along the way Jenny learns Grandfather's story: how he emigrated from Italy, married and founded a restaurant that he passed down to her parents. Then, abruptly, the story shifts. Grandfather dies. In her grief, Jenny thinks she sees him everywhere, and ends up following strangers through the streets of Boston until a turn of their head shatters the illusion. Ultimately, Jenny finds peace on the beach, carrying the tale full-circle to the ocean side where the story opened. A beautifully written and illustrated, child-minded, intensely profound story of love, loss and healing.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Good-Bye, Dracula!
Traian Nicola
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432788711, $12.95,

The corruption of the twentieth century brand of communism is all too well known to many aging people across the globe. "Good-Bye, Dracula: The Story of a Transylvanian Defector" is Traian Nicola's own journey and how he dreads the communism he fled from in Romania and the damage he believed it did to his country and people. An insightful personal account, "Good-Bye, Dracula" is worth considering for those seeking a memoir of the Soviet bloc.

The Man With the Green Suitcase
Dee Doanes
WLD Enterprises
9780615675084, $14.99,

Lives can change and we can never truly understand why. "The Man With the Green Suitcase" is a psychological thriller that follows the aging traveler who has no home and changes the lives of the people he meets...and the people he meets come from many callings in their lives, and he brings to them blessings and omens....and he does not know why. "The Man with the Green Suitcase" is an enticing and thought provoking tale, not to be missed.

A Fortunate Passage
Grady T. Birdsong Publishing
PO Box 9949
College Station, TX 77842
9781621370659, $15.95,

A time of rapid change is a confusing time to grow up in. "A Fortunate Passage: Two Families' Journey Into the Heartland" is a novel from Grady Birdsong as he shares a story of two families coping with life through Georgia and Kansas around the turn of the century and dealing with a rapidly changing world and the world at war. "A Fortunate Passage" is an intriguing read and well researched piece for those who want a story of the twilight of the farm-dominated world.

Scent of Triumph
Jan Moran
Briarcliffe Press
9780963906533, $17.99,

When you lose everything, one must embrace. "Scent of Triumph" follows the struggles of Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman, who following the Second World War finds to find her place in society, and finds that her talent of identifying any scent on her own, she uses those talents to build her way up through the fashion world and Hollywood. Drawing heavily on the author's own experience, "Scent of Triumph" has a dedicated look into the history of the world of fashion, recommended.

Interview Intervention
Andrew LaCivita
Balboa Press
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452547022, $11.99,

Good communication is invaluable in any field. "Interview Intervention: Communication That Gets You Hired" is a guide to using greater communication skills to help gain the job that you seek out of life. Andrew LaCivita advises readers to be able to answer any question aimed at them completely and effectively, and sell oneself in the process, making it clear you are the one for the job. "Interview Intervention" is a powerful and useful read for those who want to make the most out of their interviews.

Incomplete Passes
Linda Lange
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462033744, $15.95,

Football can be a centerpiece for many lives, even those who passions aren't the game itself. "Incomplete Passes: Reflections on Life, Love, and Football" is a memoir from Linda Lange as she recounts growing up around the Green Bay Packers, a life growing up in Wisconsin in the 1960s and everything that came with the era in the Badger state. With a heady dose of nostalgia and plenty of life's humor, "Incomplete Passes" is a strong addition to any coming of age memoir collection.

The Buddha Conspiracy
Alan Bassett
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780615479774, $16.95,

Humans seem so destined for war, but what could change that? "The Buddha Conspiracy" is a thriller from Alan Premesh Bassett, who discusses those of spirit trying to come together to see what can be done about human consciousness and its destiny of its own self-destruction. With a plan in place that has some unclear consequences, one man is left with the final decision and is split by his own flaws as a human being in decisions. "The Buddha Conspiracy" is an intriguing spiritual thriller, much recommended.

Finding the Prosperity Within
Brian Webster
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432798048, $14.95,

The secrets to prosperity and success are within ourselves if we should take them. "Finding the Prosperity Within" is an insightful and inspirational read from Brian Webster, who seeks to inspire readers with his own stories of success, as well as the story many of us face in our struggles through our lives. With plenty to ponder and inspire out of our lives, "Finding the Prosperity Within" is a strong addition to motivational collections and for anyone trying to find the missing ingredient to their success.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Gospel of John, Photographed
David K. Weaver
Four Line Media
9780615481982, $45.00,

"The Gospel of John, Photographed" is a 348 page compendium pairing passages from the New Testament Gospel of St. John with 170 black & white as well as full color photographic images of the people, buildings, landmarks, and places of the modern State of Israel. The result is a thoughtful and thought-provoking photo essay that is as entertaining as it is creative. The biblical passages are taken from the 1611 King James translation of the scriptures. The result is a superbly presented work that is very highly recommended for personal, family, community, seminary, and temple library collections.

Breaking the Curse from a Twisted Life
Frank Turner Jr.
WestBow Press
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449716387, $11.95,

There are some twisted cycles people can't break from. "Breaking the Curse from a Twisted Life" is a spiritual guide to those who find themselves or those near then caught in a repetitive cycle of addiction as Frank Turner draws upon his experiences as a minister as he advises readers on stopping these patterns and getting the help they need to stay clean, be it from addictions to bad habits to criminal behavior. "Breaking the Curse from a Twisted Life" is an inspirational and much recommended pick for self-help and spirituality collections.

The Sounding
Carrie Salo
23 House Publishing
9780982477762, $24.95,

A mysterious killing may bring the omen of Revelations. "The Sounding" is a faith-driven mystery from Carrie Salo, who tells of a killing at a college campus, where a face is seared off the skull in a hand shaped pattern. Father Chris Mognahan, a member of a secret Catholic Church society, digs into the case and finds Biblical prophecy may be at hand, and a simple murder may bring Armageddon. "The Sounding" is a thriller delving into the legends of revelations, very much recommended.

The Chroma
Jake Farrow
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741435620, $13.95,

In the deep forests and wilderness, the unknown surrounds us in many ways. "The Chroma" is a psychological thriller from Jake Farrow, as a brother struggles with himself and his own pain, shutting himself off from the world in the Canadian wilderness. "The Chroma" presents many intriguing ideas about what we seek out of life, and what truly scares us.

A Desire Path
Jan Shapin
Cambridge Books
9781613860700, $18.95,

Politics is power, and power always attracts. "A Desire Path" is a novel of romance and politics set amongst the aftermath of World War II, with the frost of the cold war coalescing. An affair between a union leader and a lawyer wife leads to cruel intentions, as well as a woman driven defect to the Soviet Union. A riveting novel with much romance and intrigue, "A Desire Path" is well worth considering, not to be missed.

Mike Tucker
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432793951, $22.95,

Prohibition gave the Mafia a stranglehold on America, and the battles that followed with the people of America were bloody. "1931" is a crime drama as Mike Tucker tells the stories of the Mafia clashing with the FBI and other feds, clashing with the government and meeting with other groups who have their own cruel and corrupt ideas for America. "1931" is riveting and hard to put down reading, highly recommended.

A Prison of Lies
Robert Thomas Doran
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462071395, $29.95,

Coming to terms with our own weaknesses is a weight that many of us can't bear. "A Prison of Lies" is a novel from Robert Thomas Doran telling the story of youths trying to put together their lives in a world that judges them as abnormal, where God seems like a lie, and trying to come to terms with all. A unique story of coming of age struggles and the lessons we have to keep learning past it all, "A Prison of Lies" is a strong addition to any fiction collection, highly recommended reading.

Table Talk
Caren A. Stein
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432798130, $12.95,

There's a certain level of trust when you get a bikini wax. "Table Talk: memoirs of a Bikini Waxer" is a humorous memoir from Caren A. Stein as she shares her experiences as a hair remover specialist, the unique bonds and friendships she has formed with the many women who have came across her table for the joys of becoming a bit less hairy in their lives. "Table Talk" is a fun and much recommended pick for memoir and humor collections, not to be missed.

Cold From the Inside Out
Violeta F. Sterner
Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781426939327, $11.99,

The frigidity of winter lets way to the warmth of love. "Cold From the Inside Out: One Woman's Escape to Adventure and a New Life" is a romance following Kate, as a winter storm leads her to the aid of a school bus of stranded children. In the process, she soon meets Ravenwood, a man who may change everything she knows about life. "Cold From the Inside Out" is a fine twist on romance, recommended reading.

Margaret Lane

Mayra's Bookshelf

Severed Threads
Kaylin McFarren
Creative Edge Publishing LLC
8440 NE Alderwood Road, Suite A
Portland, OR 97220
9781475186529, $14.95 (Paperback); $5.50 (Kindle)

The story opens during a diving salvage operation with experienced divers and treasure hunters Sam Lyons and Chase Cohen. Though they're working on the Griffith wreckage, Sam believes the site also contains the wreckage of none other than the Wanli II - the Ming Dynasty Emperor's lost dragon ship containing an ancient figure head, a fierce dragon in gold leaf and preserved in resin for all posterity - the gift Mai Le intended for her lover.

Unexpectedly, however, things turn bad for Sam while he's underwater: he suffers cardiac arrest for no apparent reason. Indeed, the circumstances surrounding his death appear more than a little mysterious.

Chase, who had loved him like a father, feels responsible and doesn't know what to make of it. Did something malfunction or did something scare Sam down there? He'd been an experienced diver with over 20 years of experience under his belt. What had Chase missed? Sam was the only man Chase had allowed himself to trust. He and his daughter Rachel were the only two people he really cared for. But now all had changed: Sam was dead, and Rachel would forever blame him for his death.

Move four years forward. Rachel Lyons, Sam's Daughter, is working at a grant foundation. All is pretty quiet and routine in her life...until she's approached by a museum director asking for a grant to conduct another diving salvage operation, run by none other than Chase's Trident Ventures.

Though Rachel has no intention of helping Chase, Chase is set on convincing her. Since the operation focuses on discovering the Wanli II, if they succeed, her father would receive his long overdue reward and the museum would fund a permanent exhibition to honor his memory.

Yet, Rachel is still hesitant. Then, a twist of fate puts Rachel's brother in danger, forcing her to change her mind about funding Chase's project. Chase is more than suspicious about her sudden change of heart, but he isn't about to say no to this opportunity which could help him leave his mark upon the world as a renowned treasure hunter.

Thus, she grants him the money and insists on joining the underwater expedition. Can she put aside pride and work with Chase on a daily basis?

Severed Threads is an engaging, entertaining read! I've always enjoyed stories about lost treasures and underwater archaeology and this one didn't disappoint. The hero and heroine are realistic and sympathetic and there's a sizzling chemistry between them. The plot is believable with a fair share of exciting twists and turns. I found the workings of a grant foundation and a diving salvage operation quite interesting and informative. Pacing is fairly quick with a nice balance of action, dialogue, description and the inner thoughts of the characters.

In short, Severed Threads is an exciting novel featuring danger in the high seas, romance, action and adventure, murder, and even a sprinkle of the paranormal for good measure. Recommended.

Serial Date
DV Berkom
Privately Published
9781480008434, $12.99,

Serial Date was a surprisingly entertaining read filled with witty writing and dark humor.

In an unexpected turn of fate, former assassin Leine Basso is offered a job working security in Los Angeles at a gigantic hit reality show called Serial Date - where beautiful young women get to date ex-cons posing as serial killers. Though L.A.brings her bad memories, Leine can't just ignore $2,000 a week, especially when she needs the money.

Already there's been one murder: one of the young women on the show was brutally mutilated and hidden in the prop closet, and it seems the killer will strike again. But is the killer one of the ex-cons or is he an outsider? Santiago Jensen, the handsome detective in charge of the case, isn't so sure, even though all evidence seems to point out to one of the 'bachelors.'

Soon, the police find a letter supposedly written by the killer, a letter that reveals a very focused agenda. Then, Leine's daughter is kidnapped by someone claiming to be the killer. Leine hasn't seen her in years because, unfortunately, her daughter doesn't want her in her life - a fact that tortures Leine every day of her existence.

In order to find her daughter, Leine must use her skills as an assassin and come to terms with her own identity, something that secretly terrifies her. Soon, a grim picture emerges: is the killer someone from her past set on revenge?

I thoroughly enjoyed Serial Date. The author has a distinct style that is witty, smart, and darkly humorous. The prose is sharp and gritty. I love satires and this one was no exception. I especially enjoyed all the subtle, indirect criticism of television and reality shows. I kept chuckling as I read.

The story is told in multiple points of view separated by chapters, so there's no distracting head switching. The pace is pretty quick with a fair share of exciting twists and turns. To add more flavor, Santiago and Leine provide a sprinkle of romance.

I have to admit, though, that the fact that Leine was a former assassin bothered me a lot in the beginning, even though the author stresses the fact that she killed criminals. I kept wondering if I was going to forgive her for that. Surprisingly, I did. Leine comes out as a very human character who is deeply sorry about her past and who wants to reconcile with her beloved daughter. This emotional subplot about her and her daughter really brought the story to a higher level for me.

Another thing I need to point out, just for those sensitive readers out there, is that there's a lot of foul language.

In short, I highly recommend Serial Date to those who enjoy murder mysteries with a touch of satire.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

The Criminal Investigative Function
Joseph L. Giacalone
Looseleaf Law Publications
43-08 162nd Street, Flushing, NY 11358
9781608850235, $25.95,

Many law enforcement textbooks have been written by academics with little, or no, real experience. The author of "The Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators" has many years of actual, crime scene experience.

On TV, detectives will get a phone call, quickly write down an address, and then rush out the door. It's dramatic, and it's also a bad idea. A quick check in the police computer will show if police have been to that address in the past, or if there has been criminal activity in that area in the past.

At the crime scene, the investigator will go over the crime scene with the first officer on the scene (who is supposed to establish the crime scene perimeter, detain witnesses, etc.). The investigator will sketch the scene, take lots of photographs and lots of notes, and establish chain of custody for all physical evidence found at the scene. There is a good, and bad, way to search the scene for evidence. It is vital to document everything. The defense attorney can be expected to focus on the smallest error in police procedure, and use that to move for an acquittal.

The follow-up investigation is necessary, but not very glamorous. It involves things like going over the crime scene photos again, and visiting the various law enforcement databases. The book talks about what is, and is not, allowable when it comes to eyewitness identification.

Much time in the book is spent on what happens in the interrogation room, whether it is interviewing a witness, or interrogating a suspect. It is vital to establish some sort of connection between the interrogator and suspect. Last but not least, the investigator has to appear in court. The investigator should refresh their memory by going over the file, answer only the question that is asked, and give the impression that they are prepared and they know what they are talking about.

This book should be required reading for all law enforcement personnel. For everyone else, it is very easy to understand, and shows what the police field is really like.

Stop Autism Now!
Bruce Fife
Piccadilly Books, Ltd
P.O. Box 25203, Colorado Springs, CO 80936
9780941599924, $17.95,

The rise of autism spectrum disorders worldwide in the last 30 years is rapidly reaching the level of an epidemic. "Stop Autism Now! A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Reversing Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Bruce Fife presents an easy way reverse its symptoms (legitimately).

The medical profession has no idea as to what causes autism or how to cure it. The best they can do is to prescribe anti-psychotic drugs to ease the symptoms, and tell the family to deal with it.

There is a strong connection between autism and bowel or digestive problems. Cure your child's Crohn's Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or whatever the ailment) and the autism may be reduced, or disappear. The author has a lot to say about childhood vaccines. Does the average child really need 48 doses of 14 different vaccines before they are six years old? Among the ingredients in vaccines, aside from the virus, are: formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, ethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, MSG and mycobacteria. That is going right into your child's bloodstream, where it has easy access to the brain, liver and other organs.

What causes autism? Microglia are the brain's equivalent to whit blood cells, protecting it from assault by toxins and other infections. When the brain senses danger, the microglia become very active. They return to normal when the danger is over. If assaults on the brain become more frequent, the microglia can stay activated. In the long run, they can do a lot of damage, including disrupting the regular glucose metabolism. If those cells have problems turning glucose into energy, brain function declines. Older children lose some of their social and cognitive skills. Children under 2 years old never learned these skills, so they may seem to have been born autistic.

What can a parent do? The book goes into lots of detail, but start feeding your child coconut oil each day, adopt a low-carb diet, make sure they get some fish oil each week (the best method is by eating fresh fish) and raise their level of Vitamin D, either through supplements or sending them outside.

Can reversing autism really be this easy? This book is very highly recommended for all parents, whether or not an autistic child is in the family.

The Skinny On Credit Cards: How to Master the Credit Card Game
Jim Randel
Rand MediaCo
265 Post Road West, Westport CT 06880
9780981893549, $14.95,

Here is a simple, but not simplistic, look at the world of credit cards.

Beth and Billy are your average married couple who suddenly find themselves with a lot of credit card debt. Billy feels that as long as he pays the minimum payment each month, everything is fine, but Beth is not so sure. Along comes Randel, the author, to explain to them the reality behind credit cards.

Credit card companies want cardholders to pay just the minimum payment each month. That way, they can charge interest on the unpaid balance, raising your overall bill. If that particular ard was never used again, it can take years to pay your total bill by paying just the minimum amount. You will also pay the credit card company more than you originally owe, because of the accumulated interest on the unpaid balance.

Credit card companies can, and will, raise your APR (Annual percentage Rate) whenever they want; the Cardholder Agreement says so. They can also be very sneaky about setting the cut-off time for receiving payments. For instance, they can set the cut-off time for 10 AM, when they receive their daily mail delivery at noon. Even if your payment was received that day, it is still late, which means that they can charge a late fee. College students are a goldmine, because they are probably financially illiterate, and think of credit cards as free money.

What can the average consumer do about it? Pay off as much of your bill each month as possible; forget about paying just the minimum payment. Call your credit card company, and ask them for a lower interest. It could shave months, or years, off the time needed to eliminate your debt. If you have a large debt, look for a one-time infusion of cash to reduce the debt. Consider a low-interest credit card as a place to which to transfer your balances.

"The Skinny On Credit Cards: How to Master the Credit Card Game" does a wonderful job at teaching the financial literacy not taught in school, get past the stick figure illustrations, and is highly recommended for everyone.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Rhea's Bookshelf

A Cold Piece of Work
Curtis Bunn
Strebor Books
Post Office Box 6505, Largo, MD 20792
9781593093761, $14.95,

A Cold Piece of Work is the journey of Solomon Singletary and those associated with him. It depicts the paths and roads that they all traveled with him and his actions. As we go on this journey, many emotions are invoked, experienced and shown....yes at times I actually had reactions to him and they varied in their intensity.

Curtis Bunn penned a novel that gave us direct insight to the mind and workings of this man thus how he thought, what he thought and the reasons why. The aforementioned directed the paths he chose. Essentially Solomon has no faith, belief or trust in women. He deals with them basically for companionship and sex. The opinions and thoughts he has were formed from the perils in his life and as an adult; they became the foundation of his beliefs that he is very proud of and live by.

As we travel these roads and paths that are Solomon, we grow to understand his reasoning even if we don't agree with him. Things are brought to light that challenge his stance and changes the direction of his life. This is an enlighten journey, that I commend for its directness. This is a novel that I found myself totally engrossed in, if for no other reason than to find out what happens next. This was very good and intense (at times) reading.

I give this novel 4.5 stars

Body Snatchers
Flowers in Bloom Publishing
2152 Ralph Avenue #421, Brooklyn, NY 11234
9780979861437, $15.00,

Body Snatchers by Roze is more than a great read, this is an experience!! Few times I have
found myself rooting for the bad guys. This was an engagingly exciting read that was fast
paced and enthralling.

Body Snatchers is a based on the saga of twin brothers that left poverty ridden Haiti at the urging of their mother and the expectancy of a better life. These two came to America in the way we have seen so many travels, via boat, into Florida and having to scramble to land amid threat of death or capture and return. However, they left a dangerous tedious situation back in Haiti that would haunt them in later days. Once in America and situated in New York, they fell into the street life style quickly. Their chosen path soon changes for a more treacherous, devious and dangerous one that results in terrorizing this entire city. They did this with the aid of other Haitians that they met alone the way but primarily at school. We witness the destruction that lay wait in the path that they travel and the involvement of countless others.

Roze crafted a novel that consistently put the readers on the edge as they anticipate what's going to happen next. I am fully anticipating more work from this author.

I give this novel 5 stars

Plan B: "Things Don't Always Work out the Way We Plan"
DeAnne Hall
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463564650, $14.95,

Plan B: "Things Don't Always Work out the Way We Plan" by DeAnne Hall is a good read. This novel brings forth the life of a woman as she blooms, grows and discovers who she is, who she wants to be. As I read this story, I was frustrated and peeved with her until she started blossoming into a responsible woman and took "ownership" of her actions and her life. This is an enlightening tale of growth and realization that ventures through numerous stages in her life and provided us with a titillating view.

I give this novel 4 stars.

Rhea Alexis M. Banks

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Promise of an Angel
Ruth Reid
P.O. Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214
97815955547880, $15.99,

"I have to first say, I am sorry for not finishing up the books I have to do. I just needed what I call Soul Food! I have to say, I have gone through breast cancer and had a mastectomy. But I still have worked hard to catch up on books. It was not easy and if I have disappointed any authors, then please except my apologies. There were days when I just could not read.

My world was turned upside down, and I needed this book. My heart needed this book as well as my soul. I needed to read about the glory of God and how miracles still happen. I hope people will understand why I had to stop, and read this book?

Judith Fisher was a young Amish woman who loved children and was always telling them stories. Her main goal in life was to fall in love, get married and have a lot of children of her own, that would be raised in the Amish community.

Judith's father would not let her court anyone until she was nineteen. Judith was thinking that any day now Levi Plank would be asking her father if he could court her. Levi and Judith had talked about it many times before.

One day people were over to help with a new roof. When prayers were being said Judith noticed her younger sister Martha and Levi were flirting with each other. Then she saw her brother on the roof and yelled for him to get down. It startled Samuel and he fell off of the roof.

Judith took off running and rounded the corner to find him on the ground and an Englisch man was beside Samuel. "As the stranger stood up he told Judith, have faith as Samuels's steps are ordered by God." She could only stare at the man his eyes flickered with a bright, wavering light. As her older brother David found them she looked up and the stranger was gone. She took off running to find the man and could not find him. It did not take her long to realize the man was an Angel. No one believed her and told her not to talk about things like that. Yet each time she saw him she would tell people what he had to say. Only one person believed her until the end. I honestly I cried at the end.

Rated G

Ramblin' Rose The Porcelain Mines in Russia
John and Marlene Carson
Aspirations Media Inc.
9780977604371, $TBA,

This book is really good for kids ten years and up. I have a question before I write my review. What age are we suppose too be to stop enjoying a book that was written for kids? I am 61 and have really enjoyed this book. I could see me in the book when I was younger. The way I think, I should say.

Little did twelve year old Rose know what she was soon to be involved in, when she broke one of her mom's porcelain plates'. Her world would be turned upside down. She would find herself involved with spies, security and danger.

Rose's grandfather died. but left her with words that really helped her when she was kidnapped. "There was some truth in every story. It's up to you to find it and get a hold of it." I love what he said to her.

Honestly you can buy the book for your child or grandchild, and then read it when they are in school or asleep. You will find your truth and how it worked out for yourself. My husband said I was like Rose in that my mind is talking in right field, and then change to left field and he was stuck in the middle and did not know what to say.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

Wyoming Fierce
Diana Palmer
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373776962, $7.99,

Cane Kirk's life and attitude was changed by the harsh conditions he experienced in Afghanistan. Not only had the war robbed him of his zealous carefree existence, he also suffered an injury that resulted in him losing his arm.

Bodie Mays had always harbored feelings for Cane Kirk, but the man who returned from war is nothing like the man she loved. Alcohol and mood swings seem to now be his constant companion. Bodie is the only one who is able to bring Cane back to reality when his temper gets out of control. She knows that if she doesn't do something soon to help him get past the downward spiral his life is taking she fears he will end up destroying himself.

Will Cane accept Bodie's help to conquer the demons that plague his memory? Will she be the woman to offer him the love and acceptance his soul craves? Or will he throw away her offer of help and acceptance to live in the dark existence that is filled with pain and loneliness?

WYOMING FIERCE is a wonderful constructed romance novel. Diana Palmer is an author who I credit for introducing the romance gene to many years ago. What I find so admirable about this author is she develops strong characters that face some of the most challenging situations. With her descriptive passages, the reader finds themselves slowly being absorbed in the pages of the book. For anyone who has never experienced a Diana Palmer novel, know that you have cheated yourself out of one of the best romance writers in existence. This reader/reviewer is a dedicated fan who cannot say enough positive comments about how impressed she is with Diana Palmer.

Erotic Healing
Becca Dale
Decadent Publishing
PO Box 407, Klawock, AK 99925
9781936394890, $2.99,

Brenna Halsted was once a world famous model. In one tragic accident, she was scarred and went into hiding from the world. Feeling alone, she arranges a one night stand with Madame Evangeline. Madame Evangeline matches her to Kostas Drakos. Unbeknownst to Brenna, Kostas has admired her modeling career from his home in Greece. He hopes that his love will be the balm needed to heal her body.

In Greece, businessman Kostas Drakos has been a longtime fan of Brenna Halsted. He watched her success soar from across the world as her face became known worldwide. When her tragic accident scars her, he refuses to believe the spirit of Brenna Halsted is dead.

Brenna decides she is unworthy of any man, for she feels no one can see past the scars that mar her body and soul. Feeling alone and abandoned, she arranges a one night stand on the other side of the world. She hopes that this no commitment escapade will be able to jumpstart her body into wanting to live again.

Kostas is the man selected by Madame Evangeline to serve as Brenna's one night stand. He does not reveal to her that he has secretly harbored feelings before her long before he met her in real life. Will Kostas provide the healing comfort that Brenna's body needs to be able to once again feel worthy of love?

EROTIC HEALING is a beautifully written romance novel. It is heartwarming to see two wounded souls come together to try and heal one another. Brenna and Kostas are two characters you are assured to fall in love with and soon will not forget. Their love story is the substance that all true blue romance fans crave.

The Wilde Brothers, Book 1 - The Dangerous Jacob Wilde
Sandra Marton
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373131099, $4.99,

Jacob 'Jake' Wilde life was changed dramatically when he was injured while serving his country in the Army. With his military career over he returns home to his family for a visit. He is unsure which direction his life should take. His family hopes that they can convince him that their family ranch El Sueno needs him to oversee it and will convince him to stay with them.

At Jake's welcome home party a lady catches his eye. He learns from his brother's that her name is Addison McDowell. She does not seem to be concerned with the eye patch or scars that mar his face. She openly sends signals of flirtation across the room towards him.

Addison McDowell left her condo in New York to travel to Wilde's Crossing, Texas. Through a close friend she had inherited a rundown ranch. Her intent is to fix up the ranch and then put it on the market to sell; with the money she receives she plans to pay off her mortgage and some of her college tuition.

Addison's first meeting with Jake is one that is filled with rage. He feels that his brothers have devised a plan to use Addison and her farm to occupy his time. He does not wish to be anyone's charity case and takes out his anger on Addison.

Addison refuses to stand by and listen to Jake's insults; she leaves the party in haste. Jake feels guilty of his treatment of Addison. He decides to follow her to offer her an apology. Addison leads Jake to her ranch; there the two come to a battle of wills, one that miraculously leads them in each other arms. The two shares a hot passionate exchange; the encounter confuses both of them as they part.

Is this encounter the start of a relationship destined to be built? Or was it simply a one night stand that both individual needed to break the stress both of them were experiencing?

THE WILDE BROTHERS, BOOK 1 - THE DANGEROUS JACOB WILDE is one outstanding book! This book being the first in the series sets the bar high for the next installment in what is assured to be a highly addictive series. Sandra Marton has outdone herself in the development of Addison and Jake; these characters are the type that fairy tales revolve around. I predict this is a series that will fast fly off the book shelves.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Wedding Gift
Kathleen McKenna
Bell Bridge Books
P.O. Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
97816119405287, $14.95,

Some people are fortunate that they were born beautiful. All their lives, they are judged as wonderful because of their outward appearance. That is Leeann.

Leeann was only a baby when one of her brothers died. Due to the family tragedy, her mother completely indulged her as a princess with the entire family enraptured with her beauty and charm.

However, the death of her brother was always an unresolved family issue. An oil-rich family lived in this Oklahoma small town and one night, the mother of five children who had married into this family, slaughtered her children, husband, and then took her own life. The family kept this house as if those dead would return any moment.

Leeann's brother, along with his best friend, chose to have an adventure in the haunted house. Her brother died from falling out of a tree into the empty swimming pool, landing on his head and the friend survived with broken bones. No one really talked much about the event. Why would they?

Leeann had won every beauty pageant and beginning her senior year, she had planned to marry her deceased brother's best friend, Donnie. However, Donnie suddenly married another girl.

Leeann found herself meeting and encouraging the oil-rich heir in the Winthrop family, especially when she became pregnant. Their plan was to marry after her graduation and to live in a townhouse.

However, George had an idea. Why not live in the deserted mansion?

The wedding gift, yes, the mansion where all the murders had happened and Leeann's brother had died was to be given to the newlyweds.

The Wedding Gift is told from the perspective of a haughty teen-aged girl. Even though Leeann is not always likable, she is realistic in being very "me" centered. The tale is haunting and well-developed with the intended audience being females from the ages of fifteen to thirty.

Kathleen McKenna hails from Alaska and currently resides in New Mexico working now as an author. The Wedding Gift is her debut novel. She plans a sequel to this novel.

Hard Twisted
C. Joseph Greaves
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, NY, NY 10010
9781608198559, $25.00,

Dilllard Garrett is just trying to survive and raise his thirteen-year-old daughter. After his wife dies, he finds himself homeless in the year 1934 during the Great Depression hand-to-mouth in Oklahoma. Lucille, his daughter, nick named Lottie, is always agreeable and helpful. That is just her personality.

Life consists of day-to-day survival until they meet Clint Palmer, a convicted felon recently released from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Clint never completely tells anyone the truth about himself. The fictional person is easier to believe than the true to life psychotic one.

With the threesome combining into an easy friendship, smooth-talking Clint masterfully twists all facts into his convenient realities as they travel throughout Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. What the Garretts are unaware about is the psychotic twisted mind of Clint. With the Garrett's dream of living a normal life, Clint quickly maneuvers his stories as the group drifts from town-to-town hearing of the recent deaths of the notorious Bonnie and Clyde.

When Lottie's father disappears, she accept Clint's explanation. She continues to accept additional ones as time progresses and the stories become more complicated. For survival, Lottie is forced to have her hair cut so that she looks like a boy and even to being Clint's common-law wife. She quickly learns not to question him but just to be supportive.

While the author, C. Joseph Greaves and his wife were hiking in a remote Utah canyon many years ago, they discovered two human skulls. This led to the research on this real event and this novel about the "skeleton murders" of 1935 in Texas. This story became Hard-Twisted and won the Best Historical Novel of 2010 by the Southwest Writers recognizing C. Joseph Greaves with the coveted Storyteller Award.

Hard-Twisted might have happened years ago but the story is relevant today in dealing with anyone who seems to have an answer to everything, logical or not, and what happened to those who chose to challenge the psychotic mind.

The Walnut Tree
Charles Todd
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062236999, $16.99,

For those people who were born into the upper echelons of the classes in England and Scotland, World War I was more than a war, it was a permanent change in their daily life. With the influences of the suffrage movement and the industrial revolution the lives of everyone were permanently and irrevocably altered. Gone were the days of the great houses with the downstairs staff meeting all the needs and desires of those born into the wealth.

Lady Elspeth, although orphaned, has lived a conventional life of the nobility, even though she is a ward of her uncle until her thirtieth birthday. However, she is given the freedom of an adult woman of class and wealth in her twenties while still having the closeness of her family, her cousins.

Being the year is 1914, Elspeth plans to go to France to assist her longtime close friend, Madeleine Villard with the birth of her first child. Henri, Madeleine's husband is distracted by the nearby German forces after the assassination of Kaiser Wilhelm as they invade Belgium and begin to occupy parts of France. Also, Elspeth has been attracted to Madeleine's brother, Alain, for years. Even though he is without a title, he does come from wealth. He gives her his mother's ruby ring as a promise to ask her uncle for her hand in marriage. As the men become involved in fighting, Elspeth wonders if she should go home.

After observing life in France, Elspeth feels the need to do more. She asks a nurse about how to become involved. Knowing the her uncle would not give his permission, Espeth hides her true rank and identity, as learns to become a competent and caring nurse. Spending much of her time near the battles in France, she is constantly looking for her family, Henri, and Alain.

The Walnut Tree is a novel about life during WWI from Elspeth's perspective. Seeing through the eyes of both the French and the Scottish gives an unusual viewpoint as the class differences begin to overlap in this changing time. This historical fictional novel is also is romance with the reader knowing from page one that Elspeth will get her man, just not which one.

Charles Todd is the name used by the mother/son writing team of Charlotte and Charles Todd. This team has written numerous historical mystery novels throughout the years that excel in placing the reader in the middle of their well-researched settings.

The Walnut Tree is a quick, but enthralling book that actually transports you to another time and place. With believable characters and a strong sense of both time and place, this small novel is superb with the details of the time period.

Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall
Jill Koenigsdorf
MacAdam Cage Publishing
155 Sansome Street, Suite 550
San Francisco, CA 94104
9781596923836, $26.00,

Many artists literally "squeak by" financially. Yes, the talent is there. Yes, the diligence and productivity is there. However, starving artists seem to connect more with their art and talent when times are difficult. It seems that many artists connect better with their inner self when times a re rough. Of course, even an artist could benefit from a helpful ghost who seems almost like a guardian angel who had previously been the masterful artist, Marc Chagall.

Phoebe Rosen is an artist who designs wine bottle labels. Since the economic downturn, the winery has cut her hours which causes her to fall behind on her house payments. This is her dream house which seems to perfectly match her artistic nature. She loves this house which she shares with her teenaged daughter ready to leave for college.

Her daughter plans a surprise birthday party for Phoebe but what surprises her most is the lone guest in the corner. An older man in a paint shirt with gray curly hair who looks curiously familiar. No one else seems to notice him. No, it can't be one of her favorite artists, Marc Chagall. He has been dead for years but it certainly looks like him?

Why would Marc Chagall be sent to help someone? What can a ghost do? How can a deceased artist assist in any way?

Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall is a well-thought-out tale interweaving the stolen art from World War II, the Russian rebellion, the Jewish issues in Russia, the black market of stolen and hidden art by private collectors, the life of an artist, lessons about Chagall and his life and interactions with other artists, while solving a mystery with a touch of romance. Even with all this, this story is engrossing especially about the history of Marc Chagall while exploring the French countryside at a rural bed and breakfast complete with local witches, bee keeping, and guilt about a choice made as a child during the German occupation of the past war.

Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall is the debut novel for Jill Koenigsdorf. Previously, Ms. Koenigsdorf has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has published various fictional short stories as well as non-fiction. She resides in Sonoma, California and Santa Fe, Mexico.

How about reading an intriguing novel that is a page turner while also learning about the artistry of a true master? Read Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The House at Sea's End
Elly Griffiths
Mariner Books
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547844176, $14.95,

As the book opens Kate, the baby born to Ruth Galloway, the forensics expert, as a result of a one-night stand with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson in the prior entry in the series, is now four months old and the mother is still juggling her maternal and professional duties, sometimes to much criticism from friends. But the baby seems to survive.

In any event, her motherly demands don't seem to prevent Ruth from getting involved with more forensics investigations and police investigations. Especially when six skeletons are discovered on a beach and her examination indicates that they are probably from Germany, perhaps dating back to an invasion during the early days of World War II on a lonely Norfolk beach. Indications are that each was shot in the back of the head. The question arises: Did the various persons in the Home Guard play any role in their deaths?

As in the previous two novels featuring Ruth and D.I. Nelson, they combine to discover the facts surrounding the mystery of past and present. The prose is lean and the plot moves apace with agility. The characters remain immensely human and intriguing, and the novel lives up to the standards of the predecessor novels.


Soft Target
Stephen Hunter
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451675344, $15.00,

What can a top-notch sniper do when he finds himself in a situation without a rifle? That's what happens to Ray Cruz, just separated from the Marine Corp, finding himself Christmas shopping in America, the Mall with his girlfriend when a band of terrorists takes over 1,000 hostages in a "Holy War." The answer: Improvise, of course.

And that is exactly what he does as the authorities flounder outside and Ray, the sole possible savior inside, takes action in this latest action thriller packed with violence and derring-do. Hostages are shot and demands made.

The novel continues the sniper series, which featured Bob Lee Swagger, Ray's father. It takes a close look at the bureaucratic fumbling and political posturing inherent in those of authority, pitting the public relations pomposity against those who would move forward with forcefulness. The writing and plotting are graphic and concise, with the tale tightly woven to a thrilling finale.


The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9781250015297, $14.99,

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before.. The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to "clear his conscience." Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days. Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel. Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman's locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man's neck. Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur. A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next. Highly recommended.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Crown Publishers
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307588364, $25.00,

This novel is really two books. The reader has to plow through 200 or so pages of alternating chapters in which "he said/she said" verbiage sort of sets the stage for the second half of the novel, which is the real mystery portion, such as it is.

The background first half introduces Nick Dunne, a magazine writer, and Amy Elliott, also a writer of advice columns. Amy is portrayed as the subject of her parents' (also writers) series of books based on their daughter, "Amazing Amy," and spoiled and rich (via the trust fund from the royalties of the books). They meet at a party and then lose each other for moths, when a chance meeting reignites the spark felt at the first encounter. They marry and lead a "charmed" life until they both lose their jobs. In an effort to survive, Nick suggests they move back to his hometown, Carthage, MO, and then that's when it all falls apart. On their fifth anniversary Amy disappears and Nick is suspected of murdering her.

Like scheming Amy, the plot also is manipulative. And the novel is very much overwritten and difficult to read. The first couple of hundred pages probably could have been condensed to two chapters to set the stage for the real mystery [redundancy admitted], such as it is.

The Lost Ones
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399158766, $25.95,

Quinn Colson first appeared in "The Ranger," and now, in this follow-up novel, faces a couple of situations that really put him to the test. As sheriff in a northern Mississippi county, he has to apply not only the skills he learned in the army, but a lot of common sense and a certain amount of diplomatic talent.

First, a high school friend recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan now runs a local gun shop and shooting range. Colson suspects him to be the source of U.S. Army rifles which turn up in the hands of a Mexican gang. Meanwhile, a case involving an abused child leads Colson to discovering a bootleg baby racket. While raiding the place where the babies are being kept before they're sold, Colson and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, discover that the two cases somehow converge.

As the investigation progresses, lots of action takes place, sometimes reminding the reader of an actual military operation, led by General Colson, rather than sheriff Colson. The characters are colorfully drawn, and the dialogue is vibrant. The novel is sort of a cross between an old-fashioned western and a modern day crime novel and reads well, and is recommended.

Blessed Are the Dead
Malla Nunn
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451616927, $14.00,

The iconoclastic South African detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper returns in this excellent third installment in the series, replete with poignant observations on the effects of the rigid apartheid system in the country in 1953. Cooper, who remains in the dog house for past transgressions, is plucked by his superior to solve a murder in an attempt to resurrect his status.

Accompanied by black Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala, he finds the body of a 17-year-old Zulu girl, daughter of a chief. There are no clues at the scene, and the two have to scrounge for leads and face obstacles from the natives and landowners, each with their own agenda. The victim herself was involved in both the white and native African worlds, so that the detectives have to cope with the guarded secrets of both communities.

The characters drawn with deep accuracy to depict the characteristics of the South African society at the time are real and flawed. The novel brings the reader into the corrupt atmosphere of the country with careful descriptions and sharp prose. Another welcome addition to the adventures of a colorful detective, and it is most highly recommended.

Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307960474, $25.95,

In the three years since the conclusion of "The Leopard," Harry Hole has been serving contentedly as a non-violent enforcer based in Hong Kong, collecting money owed to his employer. Then one day, he ups and returns to Oslo when he learns that Oleg, the drug-using son of the love of his life, has been arrested for the murder of a fellow junkie. The police consider the case closed, so Harry acts independently to investigate.

And along the way he finds himself immersed in the midst of Norway's large drug problem. Hole uncovers a trail of violence and disappearances, police and political corruption, and Harry himself becomes a target of the mysterious drug lord Dubai. The novel is a bleak story of damaged individuals hooked on drugs, and the sleaziness inherent in the activity.

The prior novels were forceful, clearly showing Harry's tortured soul, and his unswerving ability to dig, dig, dig to the heart of a case, honestly and insightfully. "Phantom" accomplishes these ends, but to some extent is confusing at the end; whether the author did this purposely or not yet remains to be seen. As usual, the novel is translated faithfully and excellently, and the book is recommended.

The Lost Ones
Ace Atkins
Berkley Trade
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425258644, $16.00,

Quinn Colson first appeared in "The Ranger," and now, in this follow-up novel, faces a couple of situations that really put him to the test. As sheriff in a northern Mississippi county, he has to apply not only the skills he learned in the army, but a lot of common sense and a certain amount of diplomatic talent.

First, a high school friend recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan now runs a local gun shop and shooting range. Colson suspects him to be the source of U.S. Army rifles which turn up in the hands of a Mexican gang. Meanwhile, a case involving an abused child leads Colson to discovering a bootleg baby racket. While raiding the place where the babies are being kept before they're sold, Colson and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, discover that the two cases somehow converge.

As the investigation progresses, lots of action takes place, sometimes reminding the reader of an actual military operation, led by General Colson, rather than sheriff Colson. The characters are colorfully drawn, and the dialogue is vibrant. The novel is sort of a cross between an old-fashioned western and a modern day crime novel and reads well, and is recommended.

Let the Devil Sleep
John Verdon
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307717924, $25.00,

In his third appearance, retired NYPD detective David Gurney probably wishes he never answered the telephone. By doing so, he ends up in a most precarious situation when a journalist who had written a laudatory profile of him when he was a top homicide detective asks him to look over her daughter's shoulder. The daughter has a chance to have her thesis idea converted into a TV series: "Orphans of the Murder," a series of interviews with the families of the victims of a killer known as The Good Shepherd. The homicides had taken place a decade earlier.

Gurney reluctantly agrees, but then becomes more and more involved in the case, which he believes was mishandled in the original investigation. Of course, as he continues to look into it and raise questions, he makes no friends in the establishment, especially the FBI which had assumed control of the case. And complicating his efforts is the Good Shepherd's attempts to forestall and kill the TV series.

The novel begins as Gurney is slowly recovering from three gunshot wounds, one to his head, as a result of his last exploit. And, of course, no Gurney story would leave him uninjured as a result of his determination to solve a case. While the plot is logical and straightforward, a lot of the writing is repetitive, especially Gurney's relations with his second wife, Madeleine, and his son, Kyle. That said, the story moves forward at a swift pace and has an unforeseen conclusion, and it is highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

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

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