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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 12 December 2014 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Julie's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Kevin's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf
Mason's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Melissa's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Sandra's Bookshelf Sarah's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, Eric J. Rubin, Alimuddin Zumla, eds.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
500 Sunnyside Boulevard, Woodbury NY 11797-2924
9781621820734, $135.00,

Andy Jordan

Tuberculosis or TB (short for tubercle bacillus) is a widespread, and in many cases fatal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air. Most infections do not have symptoms, known as latent tuberculosis. About one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

The classic symptoms of active TB infection are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss (the latter giving rise to the formerly common term for the disease, "consumption"). Infection of other organs causes a wide range of symptoms. Diagnosis of active TB relies on radiology (commonly chest X-rays), as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of body fluids. Diagnosis of latent TB relies on the tuberculin skin test (TST) and/or blood tests. Treatment is difficult and requires administration of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time. Social contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) infections. Prevention relies on screening programs and vaccination with the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine. One-third of the world's population is thought to have been infected with M. tuberculosis, with new infections occurring in about 1% of the population each year.

Compiled and edited by the team of Stefan H.E. Kaufmann (Max Planck Institute for Infectious Diseases), Eric J. Rubin Harvard School of Public Health), and Alimuddin Zumla (Univrsity College London), is a 655 page compendium comprised of thirty-eight contributions by experts in their respective fields and organized into three major sections: Vaccines, Immunology, Host Cells, and Biomarkers; Drugs and Biology of Tuberculosis; Clinical Tuberculosis. An impressive collection of research articles adhering to the highest standards of medical scholarship, "Tuberculosis" is enhanced with the inclusion of a comprehensive Index, making it an a critically important addition to medical school and academic library Health & Medicine reference collections in general, and Tuberculosis medical curriculum supplemental study lists in particular.

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story
Rick Bragg
Harper Collins
195 Broadway, New York, NY 1007
9780062078223 $27.95, hardback, 512 pages,

Linda Hitchcock

Jerry Lee Lewis ~ His life has been one long double dare.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Rick Bragg, a multi-memoirist and nonfiction writer, venerated features contributor to Southern Living, recipient of over 50 writing awards to-date, college professor at University of Alabama and consummate Southern storyteller returned to Warren County Public Library on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 for a free event held at the Bob Kirby Branch. He spoke about his current book, a biography, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, the unique circumstances of its creation and answering lingering questions about this living legend colorful life and epic, roller-coaster seven decade career as a world-renowned singer, piano player and songwriter.

Rick Bragg writes and speaks from the heart with tales both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny; a brilliant former Harvard University Nieman Fellow drawing on white trash roots (his own words) and perspective. If there's a better author suited to write a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis that captures the essence of the man than Rick Bragg, he has yet to be born. He is able to capture the unique southern gothic qualities of this still untamed pioneer of rock and roll without passing judgment or sneering at his customs and choices. Both men grew up in poverty in the rural Deep South, Lewis in Ferriday, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi and Bragg in Possum Trot, Alabama. Each has achieved the pinnacle in their respective professions and while one can't quite imagine them bonding over glasses of sweet tea, music and meandering conversations, the end result is a biography well worth reading.

This gifted wordsmith's perceptive shaping of the entertainer's nonlinear recollections makes Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story a compelling and engaging read. There have been several books and countless articles written about the subject but none previous penned with his express permission and full cooperation. It was a collaborative effort between the writer and musician to capture a lifetime of deeply personal memories. Mr. Bragg spent the better part of two summers with "The Killer", gathering material, often sequestered behind the locked, reinforced steel security door of the entertainer's darkened, barricaded fortress and arsenal of a bedroom listening carefully, respectfully, as the 79 year-old singer recalled memories from questions posed or triggered by their conversation. He writes, "In time I came to understand that remembering, if you are like him, is like playing catch with broken glass."

Life has been one long "double dare" for Jerry Lee Lewis. One compelled the young, barefoot boy to walk the narrow rail of the Natchez Bridge that separates Concordia Parish from Mississippi, 300' high above the roiling waters frightening his companions and onlookers. It could serve as a metaphor for his life. Impulse control was never his strong suit. Musical ability was instinctive, innate. Untutored, he could play complete tunes on piano from early childhood. The notes and knowledge as certain as his abiding Assembly of God ingrained faith. The entertainer has buried two of his seven wives, divorced four and endured the tragic deaths of two sons. By age 20, he was wed three times, twice as a bigamist, including his infamous, nearly career destroying marriage to his thirteen year-old third cousin Myra. Jerry Lee still doesn't understand what the fuss was when his own sister was married at 12 and several relatives at 13 and 14. Apart from close kin, the most stable partnership has been with his sidekick, lead guitarist and fiddle player, the multi-talented and endlessly patient Kenny Lovelace, once married to his sister Linda Gail Lewis. It's a friendship that has endured forty-seven years of good times and bad, changing fortunes and adversity. Much has been said about his close relationship with first cousin and fellow Ferriday native son Jimmy Swaggart and Texas cousin Mickey Gilley. It's fitting that Jerry Lee Lewis has his own say in this insightful biography. "Rock and roll is not the devil's music, it's just music." Music continues to matter. The majestic lion's voice is dimmed and raspy and he may be afflicted with crippling arthritis which has affected his joints but mercifully not his hands but he continues to sell out the limited number of concerts he performs. When this reviewer commented aloud on the brevity of his performance at the October 4th Ryman Auditorium show, a more rabid fan whipped around to admonish me, "Bless his heart, the man is 79 years-old, he gave it his ALL" and, yes, that was sufficient to glimpse his power over an audience.

Rick Bragg conveyed his own mastery with this insightful biography of one of rock music's early pioneers. Please note an early version of this review was published in the November, 2014 edition of SOKY Happenings!, A Bowling Green, Kentucky arts monthly magazine.

Murder in Hand (Alicia Allen Investigates 3)
Celia Conrad
Barcham Books
9780954623340, $3.99,

Marlan Warren, Reviewer

"Lawyers aren't the most popular people, Miss Allen..." - Murder in Hand

In her cerebral legal mystery, Murder in Hand, Celia Conrad pulls her feisty half-Italian London Probate/Estate lawyer heroine, Alicia Allen, deeper into the quagmire world of unscrupulous attorneys, the unfortunates who work with them and their unsuspecting innocent victims. In this third book of the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy (AAI), Conrad hits her stride as a bona fide puzzle master. The plot line keeps readers guessing and the pages turning while the greatest pleasures lie in Conrad's refusal--or perhaps inability--to write for the lowest common denominator of brainpower. Instead she aims for the highest.

The story takes off when Alicia's Italian American client Fabio confides that he believes someone is trying to kill him. Fabio's family ties span New York, England and Italy/Sicily; and when his sister is killed in the midst of doing some family estate research in Italy, Alicia embarks on a quest to find the killer. She leaps where proverbial angels fear to tread, resisting her lawyer-beau Alex's concerns for her safety. Soon he is helping her sort the jigsaw pieces as the body count goes up (with the neat twist that it is mostly lawyers or their assistants turning up dead). Their cozy caring (and mutual potato chip addiction) provides a soothing contrast to the dark, random world of mayhem they must navigate.

As in the previous AAI books, important clues are hidden in the Classics. Murder in Hand pays homage to Gianni Schicchi, Puccini's comic opera about a dead man's Will gone wrong, schemers and estate swindlers. In fact, key action takes place in the Italian town that hosts an annual Puccini festival. The book's title is a double entendre. British police refer to an investigation in progress as "in hand." And the other meaning? Well, better bone up on your Puccini!

Margarita Wednesdays
Deborah Rodriguez
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476710662, $26.00, 288 pages,

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Deborah Rodriguez's Margarita Wednesdays a memoir begins with a pop-pop-pop sending the writer out of her bed, onto her feet and then falling to the floor as memories of another time and place overtook reason for a moment before Rodriguez remembered she was no longer in Afghanistan, and the explosions were not likely to be gunfire directed at herself or anyone else.

This American born woman who had married an Afghan man had lived in that country for a period of time during which the sounds of fighting had often raged not too far from her front gate.

Flight from the land she had embraced and had come to love was precipitated during spring 2007, by realization that she and her 20 year old son Noah were in imminent danger. Word on the street was that Noah was targeted for kidnapping or worse; and that was something Rodriguez knew she could not allow. Her own life was beginning to unravel, her marriage had become a sham, and life in Afghanistan had to end as quickly and safely as possible.

Seeking refuge first in the wine country area of northern California Rodriguez eventually trekked south, crossed the border and took up residence near the coast in Mazatlan.

Impertinent, perceptive, and unashamedly forthright, Rodriguez guides the reader on the passage of insight, realization and restoration away from the life filled with people who offered little in the way of solace and away from her own poor choices regarding life, relationships and location to the life she has embraced and feels at home, with friends and family nearby.

Advice that she should communicate with glowworms and embrace self-examination for one year, was the tipping point for Rodriguez who following a cruise to Mexico and despite knowing no one in the area as well as having no real plan, and little to no Spanish packed belongings, and her cat, in to a Mini Cooper and began driving south.

Middle aged, adventuresome, the self-described drama queen found herself unemployed, owner of a small house purchased with a portion of the small savings she had at her disposal and determined to settle down, find work and establish a life filled with friends, joy and not a lot of stress.

The title of the book includes the word memoir and it is pretty much a slice of the life of the writer rather than a relationship or self-help, although it is listed as self-help. And, perhaps for those who may be trying to work through a knotty situation and are finding some of the introspective type works less helpful, this book may be an aid to the catharsis often needed to help provoke our own self-realization.

This is not a book for everyone, there are those who are sure to be put off by the blunt language and baring of so much of what may be seen as the more personal and private life of the writer.

On the other hand, for those who do enjoy a straightforward tale, and one that is filled with some pithy insight; this book may be more than a simple telling of the a period in the life of the writer and may indeed become the catalyst designed to aid the reader gather courage to contemplate leaving a destructive situation or relationship and striking out to discover his/her own reservoir of strength.

I find Rodriguez' breezy, blunt writing style to be very readable. She is an excellent weaver of a tale, readers will find their interest whetted via the uninhibited panache of Rodriguez' writing. I like when someone, writer or not, can see their mistakes, can laugh at themselves and not resort to mawkish or maudlin behavior or writing in order to gain empathy or sympathy for their plight.

Rodriguez' desire to aid other women toward a better life is commendable. Embarking on a journey toward restorative self-realization, free enterprise, and giving back to the community is not always an easy one. Rodriguez did this and by the end of her manuscript has even entered into a relationship which is proving to be good, healthy and fulfilling.

Interesting read. Recommended. 4 stars

The Fighting Kings of Wessex
George Philip Baker
Combined Books, Inc.
151 East 10th Avenue, Conshohocken, PA
0938289640, $14.95,

Paul Binford, Reviewer

Here is how George Philip Baker introduces his epic historical account: "Since the outbreak of the Great War of 1914 the modern civilized man has seen a terrifying possibility before him, such as his father and grandfather never dreamed of--the possibility of the collapse of civilization." The reference to WWI is appropriate, since he published the book in 1931, before the next "possibility" was all that clear. He makes a comparison to the time when the Roman Empire, a strong civilizing influence in the early centuries of the millennium, fell apart, and the island of Britain was left to its own devices. There was a real tug-of-war between what might be called the forces of the civilized and those of the barbarian; we refer to those times as The Dark Ages.

"The Fighting Kings of Wessex" might seem like a cartoonish title, particularly when the curious names are part of the story. Who would give their children names such as Frodi, Gewis, Hrothgar, Odovacar? Yet, those characters played out a drama that spanned the fourth to the eleventh centuries, and what they did or did not accomplish has given us the bedrock of the Britain that we know today. One of the kings, Ambrosius Aurelianus, became the "the refuge to which all the British turned, as chickens to a hen," and is commonly thought to be the source of the tales of King Arthur.

The first goal of the early kings was to unify Britain, a problem confounded by the resistance of the Welsh, along with the invasions of the Scots and Irish. Baker's account is one of constant battles, see-sawing alliances, defeats and victories, until one king emerged in the ninth century, Alfred, also known as Alfred the Great. It is from Alfred that the modern world received "The Chronicle," arguably the most authentic source of knowledge from that era. He claimed the part of England, called Wessex, south of the Thames River. And what about the lands to the north?

Enter the Danes. Part of any history of England would mention the Viking invasions. I understood these fierce warriors to be mainly from Norway, but in actuality they were from Jutland, now called Denmark. They were relentless. They had the capability of sailing up the rivers and sacking inland cities, not to mention that they could establish bases on the coast. One of the Danish attackers, Ragnar Lothbrok, conquered the east coast of Ireland, which gave him ample opportunities to raid England. These invasions, not always successful, started in the ninth century and continued until the eleventh.

In general, this book tells us of the contest between the pagan kings of the northern countries, and the Christian kings of western Europe, mainly England. Augustine arrived on the island around 597, thereafter the English kings gradually became Catholicized, a very practical process from their point of view. As they wrestled with the Danes for control of England, they followed their victories with the conversion of new territories. This tension between the Danes and the English continued until 1066, the Battle of Hastings, when William of Normandy landed and conquered. About this, Baker writes, "English thane and Danish Thingman, all the old world they represented, were gone, never to return; and in their place had arisen the baron and the knight. The Middle Ages had arrived."

I appreciate Baker's recognition of the ebb and flow, the changing tides of history, although at times he could be a bit preachy. At age 8, he became deaf, which may have helped his career as an officer in the Royal Artillery. Baker has written historical accounts of Hannibal, Constantine, Charlemagne, among others. He died in 1951.

There are a few recommendations I would make, which would clarify the sometimes confusing accounts. It would have been nice to see a timeline, what happened, where and when, as the centuries rolled by. He might also have added a bibliography. His sources are listed in footnotes. Baker might also have clarified exactly who were the English? He mentions them as invaders, vying for control of the island with the Welsh. His clearest reference to the origin of the "English" is in a footnote. Ironically, they came from the south-eastern coast of Denmark, in an area "still marked 'Angeln' on the map." And, as mentioned, it required some patience to wade through Baker's sometimes preachy writing style, although I felt it was worth it.

As I was reading, I noticed a remarkable similarity to a current TV series, "The Game of Thrones." It's basically the same story, and I wonder if the creators of "Game of Thrones" had some inspiration from "The Fighting Kings of Wessex." I enjoyed reading Baker's well researched and basically well-written book, and if you enjoy the TV series, you will more than likely enjoy reading "The Fighting Kings of Wessex."

The Touch of Roy and Dale, Volume II
Tricia Spencer
West Quest
PO Box 407, Athens, IL 62613
9780989928809, $21.95, 320pp,

Rick Huff's Best of the West Reviews
Western Way Magazine

Back for another round! Surely you didn't think the author went through all the mail to, and thoughts on, Roy and Dale! ""The Touch of Roy and Dale, Volume II: Personally Told Stories of Lives Changed by Roy Rogers, The King of the Cowboys, and Dale Evans, The Queen of the West" reviews the effect the pair had, and continues to have, on lives so many years later...done through letters, essays, poems, songs inspired, and more. Some performers are represented here, too, and comments from people who worked closely with them behind the scenes. There are more than 600 private collection photos! It is solid adulation. Is there any personality on earth today who could win that kind of love? Of course, this book will be appreciated by those who were there during those years. But those who weren't shouldn't write it off, either.

2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
2014 Reader's Favorite International Book Awards Bronze Medalist

The Hour of Parade
Alan Bray
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490463223, $15.00 (PB), $8.99 (Kindle), 312pp,

Christopher James Dubey Reviewer

THE HOUR OF PARADE is written with the highest caliber of skill in literary historical fiction. Firstly, Bray has acquainted himself with all the necessary details of the relevant cultures, including dialects, military history, and how people of various social statuses addressed one another. Interspersed among the fiction are additional details of history, such as differences between Bavarian and Russian cathedral bells, effects of the British blockade on commodity prices, and how people had intercourse partially clothed due to a belief that they would be more susceptible to disease if naked. Bray also shows the different treatment of the sexes at the time, how it was scandalous for men to be seen with mistresses in public, how most proper women were expected not to go out alone, and expectations of marriage and child rearing.

Secondly, Bray is a writer of supreme dexterity, writing with such minimal telling to make the reader work mentally to put facts together as the story progresses. Bray goes into his characters' heads as if they were psychological case studies, describing their motivations and states of mind in a graceful literary style unlike the common stammering stream-of-consciousness. For instance, describing Alexi having a post-traumatic flashback of battle: "Outside, on the street, a horse whinnied, and then, like bubbles breaking loose from the bottom of a red-hot iron cauldron, the sound of gunfire began to pour through the windows of the coffeehouse". Furthermore, the text contains not a single noticeable typographical or grammatical error.

Off The Beaten Path - A Steve Cassidy Mystery
John Schlarbaum
Scanner Publishing
1106-5060 Tecumseh Road East, Windsor, ON, Canada
9780973849868, $20.00, 300pp,

Alan Coombs, Bell Media, Reviewer
CJBK, London, ON, Canada

This book is near perfect. Schlarbaum reminds us what a great mystery novel is. A dark character that you know you shouldn't like, but do. An incredibly sexy female side kick and an interesting plot that keeps you turning the page well past your bed time.

Escape Through the Wilderness
Gary Rodriguez
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace Mustang, OK 7306
PrimeStar Publicity
9781632682017, $14.99, Paperback: 256 pages

Dr. Wilson Trivino

This book is about an odyssey of self-discovery and survival. Four youths are off to see the wonders of nature in the refugee camp in Idaho. What they discover that it does not matter what happens, they need to come together if they want to survive.

This tale moves quickly with some interesting characters, for instance sixteen year old Savannah Evans has a limp, a daily reminder of her failed Olympic dreams. The story will inspire the reader and keep them on edge as the trip down the mighty river opens them to a world full of turbulent twists and turns. Author Gary Rodriguez as a US Army veteran and understanding of organizational leadership created a dynamic book that makes for a fun read.

Dear Class: Traveling Around the World with Mrs. J
Jane J. Stein, author
Pamela A. Duckworth, illustrator
4945 Brandywine St. NW, Washington, DC 20016
9780996100502 $17.95 82 pages (soft cover)
9780996100619 $24.95 82 pages (hard cover)

Mamta Madhavan, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite

Dear Class: Traveling Around the World with Mrs. J by Jane J. Stein is a delightful storybook that will take kids on a sightseeing trip around the world. Children are taken to England, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Israel, India, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. Children see these places through the eyes of Mrs. J; they sleep in houseboats; learn about different cultures; and eat different types of food as they accompany Mrs. J on this trip. Apart from the important places, the book also gives a lot of extra information and websites where children can get more details about the locations. There are also activities for each country which makes the book interesting and interactive.

It is an educational and informative book that is really useful for school libraries. Mrs. J's letters to her class about her adventures in each country have been presented so beautifully that it is very easy for kids to read and understand. The illustrations definitely are an enhancement to the facts presented in the book and they give an excellent idea of the places. These types of books are perfect to teach kids as they do so in a fun way without making it sound boring. Mrs. J's letters to her class capture the essence and soul of all the places she visits. It gives a summary of the place and the important tourist spots and its culture. On the whole, a good book to keep in one's personal collection. A perfect educational book for children.

Ann's Bookshelf

Noontide Toll
Romesh Gunesekara
The New Press
38 Green Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013
9781620970201, $24.95, 256pp,

Vasantha is fifty-six years old and has retired from the Coconut Corporation in Sri Lanka. He is not inclined to sit around and do nothing, so he has bought a battered old Toyota van and started his own business. "If you are on the move there is always hope", he says. Which in some ways he believes is true of the island itself.

Sometimes he just wants to drive, but mostly he ferries other people around the island. The passengers he tells us about in this book are dazed "heat-seeking" tourists, Dutch developers, "home seeking desperadoes from the diaspora", "Iranian New Age anglers" and, on one occasion, he is flagged down by an armed soldier to pick up an ex-army brigadier whose own transport has broken down. Armed soldiers, along with policemen, are top of the list of people he does not argue with. In his van, however, he is the boss. He controls the air-conditioning and the conversations. And he likes to encourage his passengers to talk - "What we talk about on the road" he says, "is what you feel deep inside. You don't get that deep if you just sit still, whatever the yogis, the barbers and the dentists say".

Vasantha is a philosopher, full of home-spun wisdom, very perceptive about his passengers' foibles and about the state of his country. Sri Lanka's history and politics are complicated. Sepala, "a guide from the ministry" accompanying four Chinese executives who hire Vasantha and his van, sums up the history thus: "Thirty years of war, sixty-five years of independence, three hundred years of colonisation, two thousand five hundred years of Buddhism...". But the recently ended civil war in Sri Lanka and the 2004 tsunami, have left heavy legacies, and Vasantha see and feels the effects of both as he drives around.

"So much is kept off limits these days", he comments: places not to be strayed into, secret guilts, things "we carefully forget". But there are always dreams, and Vasantha is an optimist with a clear-eyed view of the world and a wicked sense-of-humour. Listening to a wife complaining about her husband's snoring, he thinks of recommending sound-blocking headphones such as those some of his passengers wear so that they "manage to avoid any pollution of their inner world with the din of local colour". Some of the stories he recounts are funny, some are devastating, but he is a delightful, interesting and articulate companion. In him, Romesh Gunasekara combines humour and sadness, and through him he manages to convey lightly and unjudgementally the feelings of people living in a country where the legacy of war, with its terrors and suspicions, is still very real.

I enjoyed this book but I was left thinking about the many people in many countries in the history of the world, past and present, who have had to come to terms with living with the memories, and the continuing suspicions, engendered by civil war. The many who have lived through devastating natural disaster, too. As Vasantha knows, the past cannot be wiped from memory, and it must not be forgotten. He knows that to get from one place to another, from the past to the future, "you need a road. And a road is nothing if it does not connect". So, before he forgets what he saw, felt, thought and believed on his journeys north and south, before he drifts "into oblivion", he drives and he tells us stories, because they are "what make us what we are".

The Sleeper and the Spindle
Neil Gaiman
Chris Riddell, Illustrator
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
978140889643, A$19.99, hardback, 70 pages,

Here is a fairy tale which is as un-fairy-like as it is possible to be. In the tradition of the grimmest tales collected by the Grimm Brothers, it is scary and gruesome, and Chris Riddell's graphic drawings - black-and-white but touched with metallic gold - are suitably detailed, gothic and dark. The whole book is thrilling to look at, to read and to handle. It is also tells a thoroughly modern story, mixing and re-inventing some elements of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but in a unique and very quirky way.

On the front cover of the book, a sleeping princess is just visible beneath a transparent loose cover decorated with blossoming gold rose briars. On the back, under a tangle of bare thorny branches, we glimpse a skull. Inside the front and back covers, a Tolkien-like map depicts a country in which rolling hills and valleys are separated from a land of thick forests by and impossibly high rang of mountains. These mountains, we learn, divide the pleasant kingdom of Kanselaire from that of the darker Dorimar. Only the dwarfs can penetrate this mountain barrier, and they do it by travelling through tunnels underneath.

As the story begins, three dwarfs are hurrying along these dark subterranean paths, intent on reaching Dorimar to buy the finest silks in the world for the young queen of Kanselaire, who is to be married in a week's time. In Dorimar, however, they meet an innkeeper near the border who tells them that a sleeping sickness plague is advancing rapidly across the kingdom. An old story is told by the people of a princess cursed long ago by a bad witch, so that she and everyone in her castle palace fell asleep. Only a kiss, it was said, could wake her. Brave men who had come to try, got caught and died in the rose thickets which had grown up around the palace (a skeleton in armour hangs in thorny tangles in one of Chris Riddell's drawings). But recently, the sleeping sickness has begun to spread around the kingdom and is approaching the border, moving faster and faster. "Go and look" the people in the inn say. So the dwarfs do.

When they report back to the young queen in Kanselaire, she happily cancels her wedding (she was dubious about the whole marriage thing anyway), dons her armour and rides out, intent on reaching the bewitched palace, kissing the princess herself and saving the kingdom of Dorimar. After all, why should it have to be a prince to do that?

Many things happen along the way. Some are funny, some magical, and some are totally unexpected and terrifying. In the end, of course, the young queen, with the help of the dwarfs, succeeds in her quest. But being a thoroughly independent young woman what does she do next? You will have to read the book to find out.

Granta 129: Fate
Sigrid Rausing, Editor
9781905881833, A$24.99, hardback, 280 pages

Granta calls itself 'The Magazine on New Writing' but that does not mean that all of its content is by new writers. Much of it is, but there is also a substantial contribution of new writing from established authors. Louise Erdrich, Will Self, Tim Winton, Cynthia Ozick and Kent Haruf are amongst the much-published authors in this Autumn 2014 edition of Granta, where the theme is Fate. There are a number of new writers, too, as well as a photographer and four poets.

Fate may be the theme but it is broadly interpreted. Granta's editor, Sigrid Rausing, confesses that the question of fate is tricky. Are our lives genetically and socially predetermined or not? She does not answer this question but offers pieces about fate "in its most serious manifestations: love, sexuality, identity, death, illness, religion and war"; and as well as writing based on fact there is also plenty of fiction.

Will Self tries to place himself in the psyche of J.G. Ballard to write a fictional "death reverie". Whether he succeeds in capturing Ballard's 'voice', I will leave others who know Ballard's work better than I to judge, but it is an interesting enterprise and, since Self' inherited Ballard's old typewriter, maybe fate decreed that he should do it.

Fate, too, may have had a hand in Andrea Stuart's late transition from heterosexuality to lesbianism, but, as she makes clear, it was also a very conscious choice. Accused at one point of being a tourist in the Sapphic lifestyle, she charts her way through various options, clubs, parties and decisions with a writer's imaginative skill and an acute awareness of the way her identity may have been shaped by non-conformist attitudes developed through the circumstances of her earlier life.

Amongst the fiction, Cynthia Ozick's story, narrated by a young woman who is the illegitimate daughter of an itinerant Jewish merchant in Ancient Greece, is a tale of love, gods and sibyls; and, whilst Miranda July's very modern young woman also believes in 'magic' ("ripping up a name makes a person appear"), her story offers a very different, and funny, picture of love and self-delusion.

Sam Coll's delightful folk-tale of the Mad Monk and the Hare has little to do with fate and more to do with traditional trickster tales. And Tim Winton's fascinating and moving account of the development of his fear of hospitals is a personal memoir which demonstrates that the powers of both nature and nurture have had more effect on his life than mythic predestination. His description of once living close to a major hospital, inevitably bumping into patients and staff, and constantly being noisily reminded of its links with life and death, joy and woe, might give anyone who is nervous of hospitals nightmares.

Inevitably, perhaps, the 'nature versus nurture' question is raised again by Mark Gevisser's long and informed discussion of transgender identity. It deals with questions of gender choices made by very young children, of parental responsibility, of medical intervention and of shifting attitudes amongst teenagers and in society in general.

There is plenty of variety in this issue and, as usual with Granta, the standard of the writing and photography is excellent. I was fascinated by the votive plaques from churches in Mexico which depict worshipers' personal misfortunes. I recently saw a similar display in the Maritime Museum in Venice in which sailors' miraculous survival of maritime disasters were pictured, and it made me wonder whether there were artists associated with particular churches who were paid to create these primitive but evocative scenes. Often there are similarities in style or in the depiction, as in the Mexican plaques, of the presiding saint, but, sadly, the artist's name is never mentioned.

My only cavils with this issue are that I would have liked to have been told where each of the fascinating photographs of remnants of the WWII chain of fortifications known as The Atlantic Wall were taken. And the poems, mostly, did not move me: but then, what each person likes in poetry is highly subjective.

The Imaginary
Emily Gravett, Illustrator
Bloomsbury Children's Books
175 Fifth Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10010-7728
9781408852460, A$19.99, hardback, 224 pages, Ages 9+

"Amanda was dead": As the opening line of a book for young readers this is a bit daunting, and what immediately follows is far from cheerful. But this is only the 'Introduction'. By Chapter One it is clear that Amanda Shuffleup is alive and well, and only when she hangs her dripping wet raincoat on a boy in her wardrobe is it clear that something odd is going on. The boy, Rudger, does not immediately complain about the soggy raincoat but when Amanda's muddy shoes come flying in and hit him in the stomach he does react. "Oof!", he says, and for the first time Amanda sees that there is a strange boy in her room. But Rudger can say no more, because Amanda's mother appears on the scene and she doesn't even notice him.

Amanda is smart, sharp-witted and loves jokes but Rudger does not always appreciate them as she thinks he should. Which is strange, because Rudger is Amanda's imaginary friend and without her he will fade away. In spite of his imaginary status and in spite of the fact that amongst the 'reals', only Amanda can see him, Rudger has a very definite personality. He and Amanda share amazing adventures. Together they creep through jungles, guide their spaceship to new planets, and hunt down Amanda's mum's cat, who, as tiger or alien, always needs chasing.

It is only when Amanda has an accident and Rudger meets other imaginary 'people' (including a dog, a pink dinosaur and a gramophone with legs) that he learns that he was made for Amanda. Emily, who is his Imaginary guide at the library where many other Imaginaries live, tells him that children who have big imaginations dream up 'Friends' who become their best chums, but, as they get older and lose interest, their Friends will Fade unless another child needing a Friend can be found.

Amanda and Rudger are best chums but a sinister Mr Bunting and a scary, ashen-faced girl suddenly appear in their lives. Mr Bunting, it turns out, smells out Imaginaries and stays alive by swallowing them. He and the ghastly girl haunt the book and both Amanda and Rudger have terrifying encounters with them. In one attempt to escape their clutches Amanda is knocked down by a car and Rudger begins to Fade. His adventures as this happens are amazing. Other Imaginaries and an alley cat who "looked like the sort of cat you couldn't bathe without a good deal of effort, soap and courage", help Rudger as best they can. But trial Friendships with two other 'reals', a nervous boy called John Jenkins and a spiteful, spoilt girl called Julia Radiche, turn out to be disasters due to ghosts and psychiatrists.

Of course everything turns out well in the end, but getting there is a thrilling, bizarre, scary and funny experience for Amanda and Rudger, all who know them, and all who read about them.

A.F.Harrold has a wonderfully weird imagination and a great sense of fun, and Emily Gravett's illustrations are a delight. You can sample them, with some imaginative alternative captions at .

The publisher suggests that this book is suitable for the 9+ age-group, but imaginative 7 and 8 year-olds who thrive on scary Dr Who episodes and Grimms' Tales will be fascinated by it too.

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Living Beyond the Five Senses
Teresa L. DeCicco
Divine Arts
c/o Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781611250312, $16.95, 144pp,

Synopsis: Mankind is on the threshold of the next evolutionary phase - the era of the Spiritual Human. In "Living Beyond the Five Senses: The Emergence of a Spiritual Being", Teresa L. DeCicco (an expert in the psychology of the spiritual self) deftly describes the process that occurs during this spiritual transformation. It is an invitation to readers to actively engage in the deepening of their own spiritual transformation. "Living Beyond the Five Senses" is primarily written for those who feel that they are already undergoing some sort of major transformation, either physically, psychologically, and/or spiritually, yet it will also appeal to readers seeking to make changes to their relationships, jobs, finances, parenting, or living conditions. "Living Beyond The Five Senses" is an instructive guide to all who want to consciously grow toward living a more peaceful and enriching life, one that ushers in the era of the Spiritual Human.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Living Beyond the Five Senses" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' from beginning to end, "Living Beyond the Five Senses" is especially recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in improving the spiritual quality of their lives and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted that ""Living Beyond the Five Senses: The Emergence of a Spiritual Being" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.59).

Adopting Older Children
Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero, et al.
New Horizon Press
PO Box 669, Far Hills, NJ 07931
9780882824826, $15.95, 240pp,

Synopsis: "Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four" directly addresses the most significant challenges surrounding older-child adoption (both domestically and internationally), including mental health, behavioral, and educational concerns. "Adopting Older Children" is a thorough guide that enumerates the issues an older adopted child faces and provides a comprehensive overview of problems and how adopting parents can successfully deal with them, including critical information about developmental issues; problems related to the adoptee's emerging sense of self, including sexual orientation and cultural identity; and other special needs that children may have. "Adopting Older Children" provides prospective parents the essential tools for coping with transition and family dynamics, educating others about adoption, and understanding the personality, background, and problems of an older adopted child. "Adopting Older Children" also provides a comprehensive methodology for coping with a traumatized child who faces grief and loss, attachment issues, difficulty with development and learning, or physical or mental health concerns, as well as critical resource information for single, LGBT, or older adoptive parents. "Adopting Older Children" furnishes key parenting strategies, insights, and resources in a clear yet sensitive style, the definitive handbook for adoptive or foster parents and professionals.

Critique: Comprehensive, informed, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four" should be considered a 'must read' for any individual or couple considering adopting an older child. The need for such adoptive parents has never been greater with more than 30,000 children in American foster care 'aging out' every year. A critically important instruction manual and guide, "Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four" should be a part of every community library's "Parenting & Family Resources" collection.

Of Course!
Ian Patrick
John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
Laurel House, Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK
9781782797173, $18.95, 281pp,

Synopsis: In "Of Course!: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change?", author Ian Patrick discusses some of the toughest challenges known to students of 'A Course in Miracles', including facing the deaths of loved ones; letting go of long-held grievances; trying to comprehend Nelson Mandela meeting the Spice Girls; and much more. In this newly revised and expanded edition, "Of Course!: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change?" presents the best of Ian Patrick's insights and personal reflections in one volume, selected from over 100 editions of the UK's highly respected Course periodical, 'Miracle Worker'. From the lighthearted to the profound, these short essays comprising "Of Course!: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change?" reveal the down-to-earth illumination of a dedicated Course student who "remembers to laugh" at the ego - and who understands the everyday joys and difficulties of working miracles.

Critique: An impressive compendium of wit and wisdom, "Of Course!: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change?" is a "must read" for fans of Ian Patrick and his work. Also available in Kindle edition ($7.99), "Of Course!: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change?" in its paperback edition would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

How to Read the Bible Without Losing Your Mind
Kent Blevins
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
Bob Todd Publicity
9781625640659, $25.00, 222pp,

Synopsis: Does reading the Bible sometimes leave you confused? Do you have difficulty seeing the relevance of the Bible to modern concerns or to important issues in your life? Do you believe Bible reading and intellectual inquiry are mutually exclusive? "How to Read the Bible Without Losing Your Mind: A Truth-Seeker's Guide to Making Sense of Scripture" by Kent Blevins explores how the Bible can serve as a resource for discovering truth. It provides a method that accepts and incorporates the knowledge gained from modern scholarship while also recognizing that truth-discovery is a personal, multifaceted journey. It honors the integrity of Scripture while remaining open to insight from additional truth-sources. In exploring what we mean when we speak of the Bible's authority, it is honest about the challenges presented to modern readers by the cultural chasm separating the biblical writers from today's world. "How to Read the Bible Without Losing Your Mind: A Truth-Seeker's Guide to Making Sense of Scripture" shows how the Bible can be read with full engagement of both mind and heart.

Critique: Expertly written and impressively presented, "How to Read the Bible Without Losing Your Mind: A Truth-Seeker's Guide to Making Sense of Scripture" is an ideal instructional guide for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in studying the Bible and integrating that study into their lives. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99), "How to Read the Bible Without Losing Your Mind: A Truth-Seeker's Guide to Making Sense of Scripture" is very highly recommended for personal, family, church, and community library Biblical Studies instructional reference collections.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Terrible Ones
Piet Nortie
Random House Struik
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
9781770223974, $85.00, 1600pp,

Synopsis: The soldiers of 32 Battalion were so feared by their enemies that they were called 'the terrible ones'. "The Terrible Ones" by Piet Nortie is a comprehensive two-volume work covers in detail the unit's 117 documented military operations from 1976 to 1993. Nortje explains how the operations were planned and executed, what went wrong, what went right, and what the outcomes were. It also goes back to the early 1960s, covering events in Angola that would eventually result in the formation of 32 Battalion, and it ends in 2005, when the soldiers of the unit unknowingly betrayed themselves. "The Terrible Ones: The Complete History of 32 Battalion" is based on over 10,000 pages of documents in the Department of Defense Documentation Centre, which have only recently been declassified. Because of his security clearance, Nortje had access to these documents before their declassification, and was able to use them to write this two volume epic history. Complementing the documentary evidence are 233 personal recollections: interviews that Nortje conducted with 32 Battalion members, as well as Portuguese, SWAPO, Cuban and Russian soldiers. These give the perspective of the men on the ground, an element often missing from military history.

Critique: An amazing and impressive body of informed original research and informative scholarship, "The Terrible Ones: The Complete History of 32 Battalion" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to academic library Military History collections. It should be noted that this two volume compendium comes in a sturdy case, making it an ideal gift for anyone with a interest in military history in general, or the 32nd Battalion in particular.

Belfast: A History
William Maguire
Carnegie Publishing
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
9781859361894, $21.95, 278pp,

Synopsis: For 250 years Belfast, though quite unlike anywhere else in Ireland, was similar to many of the other great industrial cities of the United Kingdom. It embraced the industrial revolution wholeheartedly, and witnessed enormous economic success and expansion as a result. In its heyday it was a great port, a powerhouse of linen manufacturing, ship-building, and engineering, and a truly dominant force in the northern Irish economy. As the iconic shell of RMS Titanic was taking shape high above her Queen's Island birthplace, Edwardian Belfast was near the peak of her economic might. But within the city there developed patterns of community division and conflict based on religion which in their severity and seeming permanence have rendered it quite unique among the cities of the British Isles. From the seventeenth-century Ulster plantations to Catholic migration from elsewhere in Ireland, the particular mix of people in Belfast has always been different from everywhere else and has fundamentally shaped the city's identity and history over successive centuries. Much of the industry has now gone, and for many years the city had to struggle with the pain of adjustment, at the same time as it was being scarred by a generation of the Troubles. Now, with a hard-won peace, investment and renewed hope, it is an excellent time to stand back and make a new assessment of the history that has brought Belfast to where it is today.

Critique: Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. Most of Belfast, including the city centre, is in County Antrim, but parts of East and South Belfast are in County Down. It is on the flood plain of the River Lagan. By population, Belfast is the 17th largest city in the United Kingdom and the second largest on the island of Ireland. It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. "Belfast: A History" is an exceptionally well written and beautifully illustrated history of one of Ireland's premier and often controversial cities. Thoroughly 'reader friendly', informed and informative, "Belfast: A History" is highly recommended for community library collections and the reading lists for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history of Ireland in general, and the city of Belfast in particular.

The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat
Bruce Hoffman & Fernando Reinares
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231168984, $45.00, 696pp,

Synopsis: "The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death" examines major terrorist acts and campaigns undertaken in the decade following September 11, 2001, internationally recognized scholars study the involvement of global terrorist leaders and organizations in these incidents and the planning, organization, execution, recruitment, and training that went into them. Their work captures the changing character of al-Qaeda and its affiliates since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the sophisticated elements that, despite the West's best counter-terrorism efforts, continue to exert substantial direction over jihadist terrorist operations. Through case studies of terrorist acts and offensives occurring both in and outside the West, the contributors to "The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death" investigate al-Qaeda and other related entities as they adapted to the strategies of Operation Enduring Freedom and subsequent U.S.-led global counter-terrorism programs. They explore whether Osama bin Laden was indeed reduced to a mere figurehead before his death or continued to influence al-Qaeda's global activities. Did al-Qaeda become a loose collection of individuals and ideas following its expulsion from Afghanistan, or was it reborn as a transnational terrorist structure powered by a well-articulated ideology? What is the preeminent terrorist threat we face today, and what will it look like in the future? This anthology pinpoints the critical patterns and strategies that will inform counter-terrorism in the coming decades.

Critique: Comprised of twenty-five seminal articles of impressive scholarship by experts in their field, "The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death" is a seminal body of work and very strongly recommended for both community and academic library reference collections, as well as the supplement reading lists for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the 20th Century history and development of Islamic militant and terrorist organizations. It should be noted that "The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death" is also available in a Kindle edition ($26.49).

The Sheltering
Mark Powell
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611174342, $29.95, 296pp,

Synopsis: Luther Redding lost his job, and almost lost his wife, Pamela, and teenaged daughters Katie and Lucy, when the real estate bubble burst in Florida. Now he pilots a Reaper drone over the mountains of Afghanistan from a command center in the bowels of Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, studying a target's pattern of life and awaiting the command to end that life. Meanwhile Bobby Rosen has returned home from his tours in Iraq to a broken marriage and an estranged son, his promising military career cut short in a moment of terrible violence in a Sadr City marketplace. As the tales of Luther and Bobby unfold, Mark Powell masterfully engages with the vexing, bifurcated lives of combatants in the global war on terror, those who are simultaneously here and there and thus never fully freed from the life-and-death chaos of the battlefield.

As Bobby sets off on a drug-fueled road trip with his brother Donny, newly released from prison and consumed by his own inescapable impulses, a sudden death in the Redding household sends Luther's daughter Katie spiraling into grief and self-destruction. Soon the lives of the Reddings and the Rosens intersect as the collateral damage from the war on terror sends these families into a rapid descent of violence and moral ambiguity that seems hauntingly familiar to Bobby while placing Katie in a position much like her father's--more removed witness than active participant in the bloody war unfolding in front of her. Overarching questions of faith and redemption clash with the rough-hewn realities of terror and loss, all to explosive ends in Powell's dark vision of modern Americana.

Critique: His fourth novel, "The Sheltering" continues to document author Mark Powell as a superbly talented writer of impressive imagination and skill. His gift of language is flawless and his compelling narrative never fails to entertain. Memorable characters embedded in a deftly woven storyline hold the reader's total attention from beginning to end. An extraordinary and entertaining novel, "The Sheltering" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Sheltering" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Emily Blance
University of Georgia Press
330 Research Drive, Athens, GA, 30602-4901
9780820338644, $49.95, 224pp,

Synopsis: "Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts" employs a captivating narrative to unpack the experiences of slavery and slave law in South Carolina and Massachusetts during the Revolutionary Era. In 1779, during the midst of the American Revolution, thirty- four South Carolina slaves escaped aboard a British privateer and survived several naval battles until the Massachusetts brig Tyrannicide led them to Massachusetts. Over the next four years, the slaves became the center of a legal dispute between the two states. The case affected slave law and highlighted theprofound differences between how the "terrible institution" was practiced in the North and the South, in ways that would foreground issues eventually leading to the Civil War. Emily Blanck (Associate Professor of History, Rowan University, New Jersey) uses the Tyrannicide affair and the slaves involved as a lens through which to view contrasting slaveholding cultures and ideas of African American democracy. Blanck's examination of the debate analyzes crucial questions: How could the colonies unify when they viewed one of America's foundational institutions in fundamentally different ways? How would fugitive slaves be handled legally and ethically? Blanck shows how the legal and political battles that resulted from the affair reveal much about revolutionary ideals and states' rights at a time when notions of the New Republic - and philosophies about the unity of American states - were being created.

Critique: Work of exceptional scholarship with painstaking attention to historical detail, "Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts" is enhanced with the inclusion of six illustrations; thirty pages of notes; and a comprehensive index, making it an important and very highly recommended addition to academic library 18th Century American History reference collections in general, and American Slavery supplemental reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts" is also available in a Kindle edition ($39.96).

Masturbation in Pop Culture
Lauren Rosewarne
Lexington Books
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780739183670, $100.00, 360pp,

Synopsis: Through reference to over six hundred scenes from film and television (as well as a diverse and cross-disciplinary academic bibliography), "Masturbation in Pop Culture: Screen, Society, Self" investigates the role that masturbation serves within narratives while simultaneously mirroring our complicated relationship with the practice in real life and sparking discussions about a broad range of hot-button sexual subjects. From sitcoms to horror movies, teen comedies to erotic thrillers, autoeroticism is easily detected on screen. The portrayal, however, is not a simple one. Just as in real life a paradox exists where most of us masturbate and accept it as normal and natural, there simultaneously exists a silence about it; that we do it, but we don't talk about it; that we enjoy it but we laugh about it. The screen reflects this conflicted relationship. It is there, hundreds and hundreds of times, but it is routinely whispered about, mocked and presented as a punch line, and is inevitably portrayed as controversial at the very least. "Masturbation in Pop Culture: Screen, Society, Self" investigates the embarrassment and squeamishness, sexiness and inappropriateness of masturbation, showcasing and analyzing how our complex off screen relationship is mirrored in film and television.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Masturbation in Pop Culture: Screen, Society, Self" by Lauren Rosewarne (Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia) is enhanced with a two page list of Media References; a sixteen page Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index. A critically important and highly recommended contribution to academic library Western Popular Culture Studies reference collections and supplemental study lists. It should be noted that "Masturbation in Pop Culture: Screen, Society, Self" is also available in a Kindle edition ($79.99).

The Secret War Between the Wars
Kevin Quinlan
Boydell Press
c/o Boydell & Brewer Inc
668 Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620-2731
9781843839385, $49.95, 266pp,

Synopsis: Even though the First World War had ended, the battle against Britain's enemies continued unabated during the period of the 1920s and 1930s. Buffeted by political interference and often fighting for their very survival, Britain's intelligence services turned to fight a new, clandestine war against rising powers Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Using recently declassified files of the British Security Service (MI5), "The Secret War Between the Wars: MI5 In The 1920s And 1930s" details the operations and trade craft of British intelligence to thwart Communist revolutionaries, Soviet agents, and Nazi sympathizers during the interwar period. "The Secret War Between the Wars: MI5 In The 1920s And 1930s" is a new study which charts the development of British intelligence methods and policies in the early twentieth century and illuminates the fraught path of intelligence leading to the Second World War. An analysis of Britain's most riveting interwar espionage cases tells the story of Britain's transition between peace and war. The methods developed by British intelligence in the early twentieth century continue to resonate today. Much like now, the intelligence activity of the British in the pre-Second World War era focused on immediate threats posed by subversive, clandestine networks against a backdrop of shifting great power politics. As Western countries continue to face the challenge of terrorism, and in an era of geopolitical change heralded by the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia, a return to the past may provide context for a better understanding of the future.

Critique: The British security service commonly known as MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5), is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS; also known as MI6) focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Defence Intelligence (DI). All come under the direction of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). The service has a statutory basis in the Security Service Act 1989 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Its remit includes the protection of British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage within the UK. Although mainly concerned with internal security, it does have an overseas role in support of its mission. An exceptionally well written, organized, and presented work of truly impressive scholarship, "The Secret War Between the Wars: MI5 In The 1920s And 1930s" is enhanced with ten illustrations; three appendices; forty-nine pages of notes; a fifteen page bibliography; and a comprehensive index, making it a critically important addition to academic library 20th Century History collections in general, and the supplemental reading lists of students with an interest in the history of MI5 in particular. It should be noted that "The Secret War Between the Wars: MI5 In The 1920s And 1930s" is also available in a Kindle edition ($34.39)

The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements
Michael Valentine Bartlett & Rose Love Bartlett
David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567924268, $40.00, 400pp,

Synopsis: "The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements" is the definitive book of elements used to design, structure and beautify a garden with practical advice on installation. From bridges to gates, gazebos to fountains, sculpture to bird houses, "The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements" gives many illustrations to inspire the professional or amateur garden designer. The text introduces each garden element, and the photographs illustrate how these can best be used in every sort of landscape. Included are arbors, beehives, birdhouses, boot scrapers, bridges, fences, fountains, furniture, gates, gazebos, paving materials, pergolas, planters, pools & ponds, sculpture & statuary, sun dials, topiary, walls, etc. as garden enhancements.

Critique: Superbly illustrated with more than 100 full color photos enhancing an impressively well written and comprehensive text, "The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements" is as much fun to simply browse through as it is inspirational and practical to work from. Thoroughly both 'reader friendly' and 'user friendly', "The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements" is enthusiastically recommended for amateur and professional gardeners alike, and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Gardening reference collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Discovering Aboriginal Plant Use
Philip A. Clarke
Rosenberg Publishing
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781925078220, $49.95, 192pp,

Synopsis: The career of a museum-based anthropologist is diverse, involving the curation of artifact collections, organizing exhibits, answering inquiries, and conducting fieldwork. Philip A. Clarke started work at the South Australian Museum over 30 years ago, and, during that time, his role changed from museum assistant, to collection manager, registrar, curator, and head of anthropology. There are many ways to explore a culture other than your own, and Clarke chose ethnobotany as the 'window' through which to gain insights into Aboriginal Australia. Ethnobotany is a diverse field that is concerned with investigating the relationships between human cultures and the flora. In the past, it was mainly used by scholars who studied the societies of hunter-gatherers and non-Western horticulturalists. Today, it is increasingly being used to document aspects of the lives of Indigenous peoples in a postcolonial world. Clarke argues that we can understand a people better if we know how they see and use plants. In "Discovering Aboriginal Plant Use: The Journeys of an Australian Anthropologist", Clarke dips into his field journals to provide a rich account of journeys - as both an anthropologist and an ethnobotanist - that span the temperate, arid, and tropical zones of Australia and neighboring landmasses. Clarke describes the cultural and natural heritage of each region, examining the distinctiveness of the plant life used by Australia's Aboriginal people.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout with color photography, "Discovering Aboriginal Plant Use: The Journeys of an Australian Anthropologist" is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented. Enhanced with nine pages of Endnotes; eleven pages of References; a Common Plant Names index; a Scientific Plant Names Index; and a General Index, "Discovering Aboriginal Plant Use: The Journeys of an Australian Anthropologist" is very highly recommended for academic library Anthropology and Ethnobotany reference collections in general, and Australian Aboriginal Studies supplemental reading lists in particular.

Hard Times: Leadership in America
Barbara Kellerman
Stanford Business Books
c/o Stanford University Press
425 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063-3126
9780804792356, $27.95, 384pp,

Synopsis: Leadership has never played a more prominent role in America's national discourse, and yet our opinions of leaders are at all-time lows. Private sector leaders are widely seen as greedy to the point of being corrupt. Public sector leaders are viewed as incompetent to the point of being inept. And, levels of trust in government have plummeted. In "Hard Times: Leadership in America", Barbara Kellerman argues that we focus on leaders, and even on followers, while ignoring an essential element of leadership: context. "Hard Times: Leadership in America" is a corrective. It enables leaders to track the terrain that they must navigate in order to create change. Not just another "how to" manual, "Hard Times: Leadership in America" is structured as a checklist. Twenty-four brief sections cover key aspects of the American landscape. They trace evolutions and revolutions that have revised our norms, transformed our populations and institutions, and shifted our culture.

Critique: Author Barbara Kellerman (James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership ad the Harvard Kennedy School) draws upon her years of experience, researcher, and expertise to provide a much needed course of instruction that should be considered mandatory reading for anyone aspiring to or all ready in a position of political, economic, and cultural leadership. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hard Times: Leadership in America" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections.

American Biodefense
Frank L. Smith III
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9780801452710, $35.00, 208pp,

Synopsis: Biological weapons have threatened U.S. national security since at least World War II. Historically, however, the U.S. military has neglected research, development, acquisition, and doctrine for biodefense. Following September 11 and the anthrax letters of 2001, the United States started spending billions of dollars per year on medical countermeasures and biological detection systems. But most of this funding now comes from the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Department of Defense. Why has the U.S. military neglected biodefense and allowed civilian organizations to take the lead in defending the country against biological attacks? In "American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas about Biological Weapons Shape National Security", Frank L. Smith III specifically addresses this puzzling and largely untold story about science, technology, and national security. Smith argues that organizational frames and stereotypes have caused both military neglect and the rise of civilian biodefense. In the armed services, influential ideas about kinetic warfare have undermined defense against biological warfare. The influence of these ideas on science and technology challenges the conventional wisdom that national security policy is driven by threats or bureaucratic interests. Given the ideas at work inside the U.S. military, Smith explains how the lessons learned from biodefense can help solve other important problems that range from radiation weapons to cyber attacks.

Critique: Frank L. Smith III (Lecturer with the Centre for international Security Studies in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney) draws upon his many years of experience, research and expertise to present a seminal work of national importance. Enhanced with 46 pages of Notes and a comprehensive Index, "American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas about Biological Weapons Shape National Security" is a seminal work of impressive scholarship and a vitally important addition to academic library National Security and Bioterrorism collections. A highly recommended study that is also suitable for non-specialist general readers concerned with bioterrorism issues and American national security, it should be noted that "American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas about Biological Weapons Shape National Security" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.17).

Data Visualization: Principles and Practice
Alexandru C. Telea
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300
Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781466585263, $89.95, 617pp,

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "Data Visualization: Principles and Practice" explores the study of processing and visually representing data sets. Data visualization is closely related to information graphics, information visualization, scientific visualization, and statistical graphics. This newly revised edition presents a better treatment of the relationship between traditional scientific visualization and information visualization, a description of the emerging field of visual analytics, and updated techniques using the GPU and new generations of software tools and packages. "Data Visualization: Principles and Practice" is also enhanced with exercises and downloadable code and data sets.

Critique: Data visualization or data visualization is viewed by many disciplines as a modern equivalent of visual communication. It is not owned by any one field, but rather finds interpretation across many (e.g. it is viewed as a modern branch of descriptive statistics by some, but also as a grounded theory development tool by others). It involves the creation and study of the visual representation of data, meaning "information that has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information". A primary goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and efficiently to users via the information graphics selected, such as tables and charts. Effective visualization helps users in analyzing and reasoning about data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable. Users may have particular analytical tasks, such as making comparisons or understanding causality, and the design principle of the graphic (i.e., showing comparisons or showing causality) follows the task. Tables are generally used where users will look-up a specific measure of a variable, while charts of various types are used to show patterns or relationships in the data for one or more variables. "Data Visualization: Principles and Practice" is an ideal textbook for academic course work and should be an integral part of all academic library instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Data Visualization: Principles and Practice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($71.96).

Michael J. Carson

Clint's Bookshelf

Norman Draper
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, NY, NY 10018-2522
February Media
9781617733055, $15.00, 320pp,

Synopsis: In "Backyard", author Norman Draper peels back the placid, Miracle-Gro-soaked sod of gardening to reveal a culture of yucca fetishes, monarda mutilations, and herbivore-induced hissy fits. In the shocking world of Backyard, garden club backstabbers use dull gardening trowels, and the little old lady with loppers could be. . . an iris murderer! As "Backyard" unfolds, the news leaks out that Burdick's PlantWorld is sponsoring a garden contest the likes of which the unassuming suburb of Livia has never seen. It quickly attracts the attention of Livia's middle-aged gardening reprobates. They include a cowled spy, a witch who channels the spirit power of millions of dead flower souls, and a saboteur who'll unleash a Mongol horde of half-starved rabbits on any garden if the price is right. Most threatening is resident gardening psychopath Dr. Phyllis Sproot. She'll stop at nothing to maintain her dominance as Livia's most eminent gardener. Against these forbidding forces stands a determined couple - George and Nan Fremont. They vow in their quest for the first-place prize to turn their backyard into a suburban paradise of bursting summer blooms and trilling songbirds while blissfully sipping their favorite merlot and brandishing a butcher knife and genuine "Smokestack" Gaines baseball bat.

Critique: A superbly crafted entertainment from first page to last, "Backyard" is a testament to the impressive storytelling skills of Norman Draper who keeps his reader's rapt attention through the employment of memorable characters deftly woven into an absorbing mystery. "Backyard" is very highly recommended reading and would make an enduringly popular addition to both personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "Backyard" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.09) and that Draper is currently working on a sequel that will be published in October 2015.

Curriculum-Based Library Instruction
Amy Blevins & Megan Inman, editors
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442231658, $55.00, 248pp,

Synopsis: "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" is a guide for librarians who are working to develop curriculum based instruction that is semester long or consisting of many sessions throughout an academic program. In addition to teaching, librarians are also becoming embedded in the curriculums they support by serving as web-based course designers, problem-based learning facilitators, or members of curriculum committees." Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" highlights the movement beyond one-shot instruction sessions, specifically focusing on situations where academic librarians have developed curriculum based sessions and/or become involved in curriculum committees. "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" describes and provides examples of librarians' varied roles in the curriculum of education programs. These roles include semester long or multi-session instructor, web-based course designer, problem-based learning facilitator, and member of a curriculum committee. In addition to describing the roles that librarians have in supporting curriculum, "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" describes how to carry out those roles with sections devoted to adult learning theory, teaching methods, developing learning objectives, and working with faculty to develop curriculum. Examples of library sessions devoted to information literacy, evidence based practice, information literacy, and biomedical informatics are included. "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" is not limited to one mode of delivering information and covers examples of face to face, distance and blended learning initiatives.

Critique: Comprised of twenty-four articles of impressive and seminal scholarship, "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" is enhanced with the inclusion of a number of figures and tables, as well as a comprehensive Index, making it an ideal Library Science curriculum supplement text and a core addition to academic library collections. Simply stated, "Curriculum-Based Library Instruction: From Cultivating Faculty Relationships to Assessment" should be considered a mandatory read for library science students and practicing librarians in both community and academic library settings.

Love's Affliction
Fidelis O. Mkparu
Harvard Square Editions
2152 Beachwood Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068
9781941861004, $22.95, 274pp,

Synopsis: "Love's Affliction" by Fidelis O. Mkparu is the story of love across racial and cultural boundaries, when a young Nigerian premed student, Joseph Fafa, falls for Wendy Crane. Coming to North Carolina at seventeen to attend college, Joseph is forced to fight racial prejudice daily while pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor. He meets Wendy Crane, whose wealthy father opposes their relationship. It is said that young love rarely reaches its full potential, but Joseph and Wendy are determined to prove everyone wrong. Love's Affliction captures the weakness and heartbreak of forbidden love. Will their romance endure the scrutiny of a racially-charged small college town?

Critique: An exceptionally well crafted work, "Love's Affliction" is an engaging and extraordinary multi-cultural novel that documents author Fidelis O. Mkparu as a talented, first class storyteller. "Love's Affliction" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would prove to be a valued addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Sparking Student Creativity
Patti Drapeau
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416619352, $26.95, 188pp,

Synopsis: Teaching isn't merely transmitting knowledge to students; it s also about teaching students to approach learning in engaging and unexpected ways. In "Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving", author and researcher Patti Drapeau explores and explains research related to creativity and its relevance in today's standards-based, critical thinking focused classroom. "Sparking Student Creativity" vividly and comprehensively shows, how creative lessons can meet and extend the expectations of curriculum standards such as the Common Core State Standards; how to incorporate creativity and assessment into daily classroom practices; how to develop a 'Creativity Road Map' to guide instruction; and how to design lessons that prompt and support creative thinking. In addition, "Sparking Student Creativity" includes 40 grab and go ideas that infuse lesson plans with a spirit of exploration. No matter what grade levels or content areas are taught, "Sparking Student Creativity" will help classroom teachersto produce creative lesson components that directly address critical content, target specific standards, and require thoughtful products from students as they grow into independent learners and become successful students and adults.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Sparking Student Creativity" is enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of References and a comprehensive Index, making it very highly recommended reading for aspiring and experienced classroom teachers alike. "Sparking Student Creativity" should be a part of every professional and academic library instructional reference collection. It should be noted that "Sparking Student Creativity" is also available in a Kindle edition ($22.09).

Clint Travis

Deacon's Bookshelf

Insurgent Mexico: With Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution
John Reed
Red and Black Publishers
PO Box 7542, St Petersburg, FL 33734
9781934941652; $33.08 hc, $14.99 pb, $9.99 Kindle, $1.99, ebook

In 1914, at the First Battle of Torreon - a strategic rail hub in the middle of the savage Mexican desert - the peasant army led by rebel General Francisco Villa assaulted and took the town of Torreon and the rail hub from Mexican federal forces. A young journalist named John Reed was there and saw the fight. It went on for several days before Villa and his men made one final assault. Of that assault, Reed wrote:

"And now down the warm, still night came suddenly the sound of heavy firing from the direction of Lerdo, where Maclovio Herrera was going in with his brigade. Almost simultaneously from dead ahead rifle fire awoke sputtering. A man came down the line with a lighted cigar glowing like a firefly in the hollow of his hands.

"Light your cigarettes from this," he said, "and don't set fire to your fuses until you're right up under the wall."

"Captain, carramba! . . . How shall we know the right time?"

"Another voice, deep, rough, spoke up in the dark.

"'I'll tell you. Just come along with me.'

"A whispered, smothered shout of 'Viva Villa!' burst from them. On foot, holding a lighted cigar in one hand - for he never smoked - and a bomb in the other, the General climbed the bank of the ditch and plunged into the brush, the others pouring after him. . . ."

General Francisco 'Pancho' Villa commonly led his men from the front of the assault, the thickest part of the brawl. His men had to follow because they all knew that nobody in their ragtag, peasant army took more deadly chances than General Villa.

The objective that night was a fortified corral on the summit of a tall hill that commanded the town. Villa's men surrounded the hill and set themselves to take it. Watching that night from a distance, Reed saw muzzle flashes from thousands of rebel rifles in the assault waves as rings of fire moving up the hill toward another, smaller ring of fire at the top, where federal troops slaughtered Villa's half-starved, scarecrow infantry with rifles and machine guns while federal cannon blasted blazing hailstorms of shot into the teeth of the rebel assault. Seven times Villa's men gained the hilltop and seven times were beaten back with terrible losses. But then they went up one more time. . . .

When Reed entered Torreon days later, the federals had evacuated. Before they left, the federals spent three days burning their dead. When the federals left, rebel corpses still lay where they had fallen, a deep, reeking carpet on the ground. So thick were the bodies, Reed wrote, that he "could hardly ride through on horseback, and on the Cerro [the hill] were seven distinct ridges of rebel dead. . . ."

Reed's descriptions are frightfully vivid and every one of them rings true. But tales of combat aren't what 'Insurgent Mexico' is about. Reed, who spoke Spanish well, spent a great deal of time on the trains that carried Villa's peasant army. He lived with the soldiers in the camps where the army ate and slept. Their women cooked for them; children helped their mothers in any way they could. In such circumstances, Reed naturally talked to a great many peasant soldiers, to their women (who often fought beside the men), to their children. They explained to Reed who they were, what they did before the revolution, and why they took up arms against "los federales."

In the course of his adventure, Reed learned Villa's personal courage inspired his men, but it wasn't Villa's courage or his charisma that kept them going through such hellish messes as Torreon. They told him point blank that they fought because they liked to fight. It's more fun to fight a war, they said, better to be killed than to die of overwork, sickness and starvation in fields and mines owned by the ruling class. The peasants owned no land, they had no decent employment, they slaved for the dons ("los hacendados") for enough corn meal to keep them a week if they were careful not to eat too much.

Considering Pancho Villa and his Mexico in light of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, The Chinese Revolution and others around the world, one can only conclude that each of those stories is just another history of the whole human race. It happens again and again and again; it always happens for the same reasons; it always ends the same before it starts all over again. The only differences are in the telling, and nobody ever told it better than John Reed.

Villa and his revolutionaries aside, the real star of Reed's narrative is his bold, beautiful, matchless prose. His descriptions of the peasants and the land, the clarity of his insights into politics and human situations, the quality of his wit, shape some of the finest war correspondence I've ever seen. Imbibing Reed's rich account of 'Insurgent Mexico,' I got the feeling that had Mr. Reed not died of typhus in August 1920, Papa Hemingway's star might shine less brightly today.

The year 2014 is a good year to read about Pancho Villa. Mexico is in flames as I write. The stakes are huge and the issue is in doubt: Will the Mexican people let the corruptocratic, drug-thug government of Mexico sell the nation's oil from under Mexican children's feet? Time will tell, I'm sure. The rest of us can savor John Reed's 'Insurgent Mexico' while we await the outcome.

Reed would be glad to know hope still lives in Mexico. So should we.

Buttercup: The Legendary Charm and Love of a Domestic Short-Haired Tabby
Jerome Tonneson
BLB Press
9780989124201; $19.95 hc, $11.95 pb, $3.95 ebook,

Jerome Tonneson's 'Buttercup: The Legendary Charm and Love of a Domestic Short-Haired Tabby Cat' could elicit five-star ratings and buckets of tears from an ailurophile who is an uncritical reader. But from a cat lover like me, 'Buttercup' doesn't elicit much of anything at all.

First: I'm cool to the book because it delivers almost precisely what the 'Introduction' promises: "What follows is a collection of humorous anecdotes, quirky behaviors and heart-warming stories that characterize one extraordinarily simple house cat. Cat lovers especially will likely relate to many of these stories."

Mr. Tonneson is mostly correct in his assertion: His Buttercup (May she rest in peace.) was indeed an "extraordinarily simple house cat." So simple was Buttercup that nobody who spends much time with cats will be surprised at anything Tonneson's account of her life claims that she did. So simple was Buttercup that her life would be of little interest to any long-time cat owner - certainly not worth a book - except to Tonneson, who surely and properly loved his Buttercup dearly. Hats off to him for standing by his cat.

Having been a cat owner for most of my life (I'm 66 years old and keep three cats in the house as I write.) Tonneson's 'stories' of Buttercup are ho-hum stuff. If I raided all shelters within a 50-mile radius of our house I could easily find a hundred tabbies like Buttercup, all of them desperate for a home. Most any one of them would make a loving, grateful, desirable pet and most any one of them would be just as 'interesting' as Buttercup, which is to say most of them wouldn't be 'interesting' at all.

"Humorous anecdotes?" "Quirky behaviors?" There are none in Tonneson's book for anyone who knows cats. The behavior of Buttercup and her two feline companions is plain vanilla, middle-of-the-road, unremarkable cat stuff. Readers who never owned a cat before could find 'Buttercup' useful inasmuch as Tonneson's book gives a good, solid description of all that is 'normal' in cats. Readers who like and desire what they see in 'Buttercup' should by all means adopt a kitten, but they should be prepared for whatever happens next because not all cats are as 'normal' as Buttermilk and her friends. Some cats truly are 'interesting.'

Over the years my heart was broken by several 'interesting' cats - tortoiseshells, as a rule. Their love is fierce, jealous, possessive, which makes them overly protective and shrewdly rambunctious. They are great fun to watch because they get into fantastic scrapes and scraps with other critters and sometimes even with people. Spaying helps a bit, but not much. Where household management and scheduling are at issue, "torties" can be stubborn, even bossy, but are nevertheless sweetness incarnate inside the house. Outside is another story. Territoriality aside, the worst problem any tortie has is that sooner or later her luck runs out. Whenever I've got one I am awed by her courage, her resolution, and her rage to order. I always hope she will live forever. . . .

Tonneson's Buttercup wasn't in the same league. By his account, she loved and was grateful for her comfy home, her food, her toys, her patron's warm lap and gentle strokes, and that's about the extent of it. She was obviously 'a good kitty' and a real dear-heart. I'm sure I'd have been fond of her myself, but such saintly feline behavior doesn't support Tonneson's 196-page description.

Second: As self-published authors go, Tonneson is better than most but yet - from where I sit - his prose wants polish. He has a habit of using 'since' where 'because' is called for. His sentences suffer for an over-reliance on gerunds. On another, related tack, I find him too sparing in his use of present tense and active voice. Such things are a matter of personal preference, it is true, but the more deeply I delved into 'Buttercup,' the more difficulty I had staying focused.

Third: Did I mention there are photos in 'Buttercup'? I counted 25 black-and-white snaps, most of them appear with chapter headings. The best of them are awful. The worst are almost indecipherable. They look like scans of scans of scans of photos. News journals would fire any staffer who put them in the paper. But they are in Tonneson's book and they are not pretty.

Finally: I never go to cat shows myself, but Landlady goes sometimes. Two weeks ago she went with a girlfriend to a cat show in a city nearby. She tells me she bought 'Buttercup' in paperback directly from author Tonneson, who had a table set up at the show. When she brought it home she tossed the book in my lap. I thought she meant it for a gift. Later I found she means to keep it herself, and that's a good thing because I don't want it.

Shelf space is exhausted in my room, which these days more resembles a long-tenured academic's office than a bedroom. In recent years I've been filling boxes with books and stacking the boxes in corners. Now there are no corners left, my bed is hard to find, and I have no space for Tonneson's book.

Were the decision mine to make, I'd take 'Buttercup: The Legendary Charm and Love of a Domestic Short-Haired Tabby Cat' to a book shelter. There it might find a home in the loving hands of someone who likes such stuff and has room in which to keep it.

Deacon Solomon

Gail's Bookshelf

Christmas, a time of joyous celebration, will soon be upon us. The following children's Bibles are wonderful gifts that teach important truths about God's love to your mischievous toddler, early reader or young 'tween. Check out the title links for more information.

"Children's Bibles Review Roundup"

Adventure Bible for Toddlers
Catherine DeVries
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310730422, $9.99,

Introduce curious toddlers to the Bible with Catherine DeVries September 2014 sturdy, padded board book release, Adventure Bible for Toddlers. The robust board book is a perfect size to attract chubby hands and fingers, yet sturdy enough to withstand little ones curiosity.

Ten exciting, yet simple Bible stories include the creation, Noah, Moses, Daniel, Jonah, Mary Jesus and more, enhanced by Jim Madsen's beautiful illustrative artwork. The vibrant colors and illustrations of people, places and animals will have youngsters "ooing, awing" and begging for more.

The practice of reading Bible stories at a young age sets an invaluable lifetime routine that prepares a child to independently read the Word of God as an adult.

Adventure Bible for Early Readers, NIrV
Lawrence O. Richards, editor
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310715474, $24.99,

The Adventure Bible for Early Readers NIrV released in paperback format in 2014 is designed for early readers, which for some children is as young as age six. I would also add it's an excellent starter Bible for anyone who has difficulty understanding the Bible or for someone who uses English as their second language.

One of the major differences between the early reader NIrVand the well-known NIV version is the simplification of adult words for readers without compromising the meaning or context of the verse, similar to the paraphrased Living Bible.

The NIrV Bible includes a cross-indexed subject index, a dictionary to help understand unknown words and a map index that identifies people, places and events on the eight included maps. The full-color charts scattered throughout are chock full of facts that highlight important themes.

Such as "Ten Commandments for Kids," "Bible Themes - obey, repent, worship, courage, love forgiveness and spread the good news" and a listing of "Famous Old Testament Prophets" and what they were famous for.

Key features include highlighted "Words to Treasure" that encourages memorization. Simple facts titled, "Did you Know?" such as who the enemies of God were in Ezra: 4-1. Then "People in Bible Times" and "Life in Bible Times" with snippets of who they were what people ate, where they worked and how they lived.

The "Live it!" segments include hands-on activities and questions that encourage application of what is read be applied to real life. I believe this is one of the most important features of this Bible because it teaches to put what is read into action and makes it real, which makes it an investment in the future.

This translation available in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback.

Adventure Bible, NKJV
Lawrence O. Richards
5300 Patterson Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
9780310746263, $29.99,

The Adventure Bible, NKJV translation that released in June of 2014 is similar to the adult version of the NIV Bible, except for the full-color palette of graphics, insets and charts that appeal to younger readers. This version includes the "Words to Treasure" that encourage memorization. "Did you Know," snippets of unusual Bible facts with insets about biblical people and times.

I especially liked the four page full-color insert of questions and answers on "How to Pray," the two-page spread, "Getting to Know Jesus" and the chapter and verses cited about "The Life of Christ," in addition to the "Lord's Prayer."

Highlighting these segments teach a basic concept of prayer and how to know Christ, not only as Savior and King, but also as your very best Friend. This version is only available in hardcover at this time.

Extravagant Graces: 23 Inspiring Stories of Facing Impossible Odds
Jeanette Chaffee
Westbow Press
A Division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781490829760, $17.95,

Noted Oregon communicator, Jeanette Chaffee demonstrates "God's power" really does show up "best in weak people" (2 Corinthians 12:9) in her new short story compilation titled, Extravagant Graces. The collection contains twenty-three true stories, each one different, dramatic and life-changing. Yet all display a single theme that God works best in and through painful, often impossible and tragic situations.

Chaffee begins with "Terror in the Sky," her personal encounter with terrorism aboard flight TWA 840 April 2, 1986 where she "survived the midair explosion of a terrorist bomb less than fourteen feet away from her." That experience brought to vivid life Max Lucado's quote, that ends her story, "You hold my life and breath and eternal future in Your loving hands."

Missionaries Don and Carol Richardson's narrative "Behind the Peace Child," takes place in Papua, Indonesia. Their dangerous work with cannibal head-hunters in1962 taught them the tribe's philosophy of friendship and the "peace child" that led to a "spiritual and social revolution from within." Their experiences with the Sawi tribe are captured in their bestselling book the Peace Child.

In "A Different Kind of Father," David Stoop, founder and director of the popular "Center for Family Therapy" shares the impact on a child of an emotionally distant father. An unresolved issue until David learned from his own children "blocking bad feelings also meant blocking good feelings." That realization led to emotional healing wrapped in what he today calls the "three myths of forgiveness" and his training as one of America's top certified clinical psychologists.

For these and other stories Chaffee listened to early "transcriptions" of interviews with influential "political and spiritual leaders" she wrote about over thirty-five years. Narratives include familiar names such as Stephen Arterburn, founder of New Life Ministries. Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer since 1991 and Elizabeth Elliott, wife of evangelical missionary martyr, Jim Elliott.

For "Extravagant Graces" she conducted "fresh" interviews with "the children - now adults" and families of the original interviewees. Then she added "Extravagant Quotes," short and snappy quotations from the likes of Henry Cloud, Shirley Dobson, Elizabeth Elliott and others to complete the book.

If you're in need of hope, need to be reminded that God is in control, that He is faithful and trustworthy in all circumstances, Chaffee's inspiring and encouraging narratives are a must read. They're about real people challenged by dangerous, sometimes tragic situations who faced "impossible odds" with God.

"Entertaining and meaningful Christmas Gifts for Reluctant Readers"

This review roundup features books from publisher David C. Cook who specializes in "Christ-centered resources," any one of which would make a terrific Christmas gift for under the Christmas tree or to stuff a stocking with, especially for challenged readers. The reviews include a comic-book style Bible, a graphic biblical novel and a delightful book of rhyming Bible stories.

The Battle Begins: The Story of Creation (Action Bible Series, book 1)
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781411424, $12.99, Ages 9-12,

World renowned Sergio Cariello commences a new series of graphic novels with The Action Bible: The Battle Begins. The visually exciting narratives begin with an imaginative account of "Creation, the Fall and God's promise of redemption that end with "to be continued..."

In this volume readers meet Jesus and a loving God who talk together as they interact with their new creation. Sergio reveals their delight with what they created using visually imaginative, expressive and colorfully illustrated artwork. Caleb J. Seeling's comic-book style dialog boxes move the story along.

The conversations of the beautiful angel Lucifer before the fall and his friend, Michael, the warrior Archangel reflect Lucifer's jealousy and fear of losing his position. While the Archangel Michael's comments reveal his love and full faith and trust in God. The account of Adam and Eve, the animals and the loss of the Garden of Eden begins a story of innocence wrapped in rebellion that continues into future editions.

"The Battle Begins" takes literary license with the Bible to enhance the story, otherwise the narrative follows the biblical storyline. I think Sergio's graphic novels especially appealing and appropriate for reluctant or dyslexic readers because the visual story and simple dialog boxes are easy to understand. On a scale of one to ten Sergio's new release is a ten.

Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times (Magnificent Tales Series) Kelly Pulley
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781409179, $19.99, Ages 4-8, 352 Pages,

Kelly Pulley, author of best-selling The Beginner's Bible turns to the rhythm of rhyme in this entertaining collection of Bible stories suitable for ages four through eight. The Treasury of Bible Stories lyrical tempo and beat make them especially appropriate for reading aloud to this age group. "Stories take about ten minutes to read," notes Pulley, "just long enough for an end-of-the-day wind-down."

Colorful, glossy images and caricatured illustrations portray twelve Old Testament and eight New Testament stories, brought to life with "clever art and clear lessons the whole family will enjoy," notes Pulley.

Rhyming stories begin with Adam and Eve's account, "Tricked by a Snake" and end with "He Has Risen," the story of Jesus' Resurrection. Sandwiched in between are accounts of Noah and the flood, "Every Beast Times Two," parting the waters of the Red Sea, "A Wall of Water," the salvation message that depicts "The Payment for our sins" and more.

Narratives follow the biblical chronological order with accounts that teach clear moral and spiritual values in an engaging lyrical manner. For example, in "the Salty Tale of Noah's Ark,"

"God placed a rainbow in the sky,
a sign for beasts and men
that He would never use a flood
to wash the earth again!"

Besides an engaging nighttime read, "The Treasury of Bible Stories," builds an excellent habit of bible reading at a young age with rhyming narratives that encourage a love for God and His Word.

The Action Bible (Action Bible Series)
Sergio Cariello
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781412261, $26.99, 750 Pages, Hardcover,

Although I reviewed The Action Bible in 2013, I wanted to again draw attention to it because of the growing Bible illiteracy in America, even among those who attend church. This Bible is especially appealing to reluctant readers and children ages 9-12 because of Cariello's lush illustrations and comic book or graphic novel style format that vividly portrays Old and New Testament stories.

The lush, eye-appealing graphics aid in understanding basic Bible themes and encourage readers to turn the page to find out what happens next, while the easy-to-read dialog boxes move the story along. Although the narratives don't follow a particular Bible translation the stories are a true representation of the Bible, God's love, His faithfulness and Christ's message of salvation enhanced by a visual format.

"The Action Bible" was also awarded best children's Bible in 2011 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and Christian Retailing named it best children's Bible in their 2011 Retailers Choice Awards.

This Bible is a great gift for birthdays, Christmas or anytime.

The Name Quest: Explore the Names of God to Grow in Faith and Get to Know Him Better
John Avery
Morgan James Faith
c/o Morgan James Publishing
4410 E Claiborne Square, Suite 334, Hampton VA 23666-2071
9781630471590, $24.99, Paperback,

John Avery, Bible teaching pastor, researcher and small group leader compares the names of God to a rainbow in The Name Quest. There he writes that each of God's names represent an aspect of His multifaceted personality in the same way a rainbow reflects a "kaleidoscope of complementary colors."

As each rotation of the kaleidoscope displays a new pattern, each chapter in "The Name Quest" demonstrates a unique and "fresh combination of names" that reveal different aspects of God's nature. For example: knowing God as Shepherd, Savior, Lord, Protector and Caretaker to name a few.

Even though there are only "two true names of God strictly speaking - Yahweh and Jesus," notes Avery, God's other names are more like descriptive "titles" since each name describes a different facet or quality of God's nature, attribute or action.

Why would Avery believe God's "kaleidoscope" of names important enough to write an entire book about when he could have devised a simple list of God's names? His quote from Eugene Patterson in The Jesus Way explains why. "What numbers are to a mathematician and what colors are to a landscape artist, names are to the Christian language."

Avery believes knowing God's names builds faith, adds depth to the spiritual life, encourages spiritual growth and strengthens a believers relationship with God. He calls it "God branding," then uses an anecdotal story about a camel owner in the prologue to illustrate.

Abdullah, an Iraqi camel owner, branded female camels' young each year to signify his ownership, when we learn God's names we become indelibly marked. Learning more about God gradually transforms us "into the image of Jesus Christ." And it's common knowledge human nature is influenced by who and what we spend time with.

Twenty-three chapters begin with memorable quotes that include several black and white charts, God's names in bold font and sidebars noting references from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts. He draws from the lives of Moses, David and Daniel in the Old Testament and Apostles, Peter, Paul and John in the New Testament with overall attention to Christ.

"The Name Quest," available in kindle, hardcover and paperback, teaches Who God is, what He is like and equips believers to know Him like they might a best friend. Avery's unique use of humor, personal stories and anecdotes make it an enjoyable and interesting choice for group or individual Bible study. For more information check out Avery's website: Names for God.

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Paradise Suzanna Style
Suzanna Leigh
Book Surge
c/o Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781439209684, $20.99,

"Paradise, Suzanna Style" is the actress Suzanna Leigh talking to readers about her life in the film industry. She was lucky enough to have worked with Elvis Presley, Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, and Thelma Ritter and now tells lots of interesting stories about them and other actors. She also deals with her mother who was never really there for her, how she stood up to major producers, her drive and ambition to become a film star, and lots more. There are many aspects that deal with Elvis that include the sections of the book, the title that is a play on one of the Elvis pictures, and her brother sister relationship, as well as the day he died and how she learned of his passing. "Paradise Suzanna Style" is a behind the scenes look at the film industry of many years ago and how it is very different today. .

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business
Dick Van Dyke
Crown Archetype
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307592231, $25.99,

Finally Dick Van Dyke tells about his life in his memoir "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business" and it is worth the wait to hear from Van Dyke about his life. He tells ups and downs but warns this is not a kiss and tell book. Instead he talks about his profession as well as some of his personal life. Some of the things he goes into are the making of "Mary Poppins," how the "Dick Van Dyke Show" began and why it was so successful, other shows he was part of and why "Diagnosis Murder" is so popular. "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business" will have readers loving Dick Van Dyke even more than before.

Hope to Die
James Patterson
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
97803210966, $28.00

"Cross My Heart," the last Alex Cross novel left things in the air for his family that had been kidnapped. In "Hope to Die" Patterson ties up that story line with a nail biting tale of suspense as Alex Cross searches for the people who took his family hostage. He is more determined than ever before because this time it's personal. The novel moves along with plenty of twists and turns and brings in some new characters who help Cross on his mission to find his family. "Hope to Die" was worth waiting for.

Death of a Christmas Caterer
Lee Hollis
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780758294517, $7.99,

A caterer is killed and columnist Hayley Powell is determined to help the police solve the case in the newest installment of the Hayley Powell food and cocktails mystery series. Hollis once again fills the story with fun characters and situations that move the story along to the revealing reason the caterer was murdered. "Death of a Christmas Caterer" is a delightful mix of mystery and mayhem in time for the Christmas season.

The Last Alibi
David Ellis
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425267745, $9.99,

Before "The Last Alibi" the only David Ellis novels I had read and reviewed were the ones he has co-authored with James Patterson. A man named James Drinker hires attorney Jason Kolarich to represent him. Simple enough but Drinker is not the name of the client and things get more complicated as the story unfolds to the point of Kolarcch being charged for the murder of a woman he was dating. "The Last Alibi" is an enjoyable tale of the dark side of attorneys and what they will do to win a case that is a fast paced well crafted legal thriller that will have readers turning pages to its final surprising ending.

Neurotic November
Barbara Levenson
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
MM Book Publicity
9781500519452, $10.50

Mary Magruder Katz is back in action in the fourth novel of the series "Neurotic November". This time she has several cases unfolding at the same time. One involves an athlete who is accused of sexual misconduct while a private investigator her firm uses is blamed for the murder of her secretary's former husband while she also has to defend her boyfriend's father in another case. Her plate is full but she also has to deal with her parents and their issues. Levenson moves the story along with tight writing, believable characters and tense situations that unfold throughout this great addition to this fun series. "Neurotic November" is a page turner legal thriller that will have readers asking for more.

Theodore Boone the Abduction
John Grisham
Puffin Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978142421376, $7.99,

"Theodore Boone the Abduction" is the second novel of the series that began with "Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer" The writing here is a bit different from Grisham's adult novels that are so much more complicated in their plots. Theodore Boone believes that something happened to one of his friends when she disappears in the middle of the night. Theodore is obsessed with finding out what happened to his friend. What he finds is not what he expected but Grisham makes the story very interesting to the very end. "Theodore Boone the Abduction" is for Grisham fans and anyone who wants a fast paced mystery.

Pluto the Starfish
Bonnie M. Anderson, author
Malinda Raines, illustrator
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478730408, $16.95,

Pluto the starfish wants to know his purpose in life so he asks all of his friends to help him understand why he exists. He talks to a lobster, a shark, a sea turtle and many others of the sea to learn that his life is not as bad as he first believed. There are many underlying positive messages for all of us as we encounter the interesting characters that take the story along to the end. "Pluto the Starfish is a fun book for all ages to enjoy.

The Old Harper House
Deborah L. Kanic
WC Publishing
c/o On Target Words Company
4825 Cedar Ford Blvd, Hastings, Fl 32145 USA
9780692205914, $6.99

From the first sentence "The Old Harper House" is a prime example of what a writer should not do. The writing is stilted and slow moving throughout the rest of the book. A glaring mistake the author makes is the overuse of certain words. An example is "row" in the same paragraph four or five times. "The Old Harper House" could have been a fun ghost story with much tighter editing.
Letters to My Angels Wikki and Blue
Muro Lannini
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9780578151748, $14.95,

I found "Letters to My Angels Wikki and Blue: Poems Reflecting the Depth of a Father's Love" to be a very confusing books of poems and prose beginning with the foreword that talked about a real father's love for his children. My first thought was what is a real father? Later the author's writings were too difficult to understand, except for the fact there was a lot of crying Another problem for me was the title lettering on the cover that was not easy to read because of the style of print. An example is Blue looks like Blve in the title. I got the feel from these pieces and the title that the author is grieving over the loss of his two children. Poetry is a personal taste, and for me "Letters to my Angels Wikki and Blue" was not worth my time.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Be Safe I Love You
Cara Hoffman
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451641318, $26.00, Hardcover, 289 pp

After her highly acclaimed novel "So Much Pretty," Cara Hoffman introduces her readers to Sgt Lauren Clay, just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Lauren enlisted as much as anything due to the need to provide for her family: her father, and her younger and adored younger brother, Danny, who she virtually raised for nine years after her mother left them one night when Lauren was ten years old. An NCO at 21, her sense of duty is perhaps the strongest part of her personality, in addition to being a gifted musician. The title derives from Danny's signature on the many "Dispatches" he sent to her during her 15 months overseas, and from which she returns with survivor's guilt but thinking "she was home alive, in one piece and in the moment fighting a desire to wash her eyes out with lye," not wanting to talk about "acts that shouldn't be described and couldn't be undone."

When Lauren arrives home in rural upstate New York, she reunites with her father and brother, now 13, and others who had been closest to her: Shane Murphy, just home from college, who she had loved since tenth grade, and his uncle, Patrick, a 45-year-old alcoholic; her godfather, PJ, who had served in Vietnam; Troy, a brilliant musician with whom she had studied music and who had himself served in the earlier Gulf War, returning in 1991; and her best friend, Holly, whose time in high school (where she was an honor student) ended when she gave birth to a little girl. Those who had not served in wars overseas seem to agree that 'something' about Lauren is 'weird.'

There are flashbacks to Lauren's time in Iraq, but a sense of foreboding soon grows as to what is not being revealed. That comes in Part Two of the book, none of which will be divulged here other than to say that Lauren and Danny leave their safe environs, literally and otherwise. Beautifully and hauntingly written, the novel is sometimes uncomfortable to read but very real, and recommended.

Plaster City
Johnny Shaw
Thomas & Mercer
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781477817582, $14.95, Paperback, 334 pp.

California's Imperial Valley, a "stretch of desert between San |Diego and Yuma, as far south and as far east as you could go in California," is the setting for this new novel from Johnny Shaw, bringing the return of Jimmy Veeder and his best friend, Bobby Maves, described by Jimmy as "an even split between Swiss and Mexican [who] favored Latin in his look, but identified as white. What was called a Rednexican." Each of the men has become a father, and though one would expect that would have "tamed" them, it does not seem to be the case.

Jimmy and Bobby have, with some regularity, embarked upon 'adventures' that Jimmy refers to as "Mavescapades," frequently involving some less-than-legal activities. Jimmy, who adores his five-year-old son, Juan, is a fairly law-abiding individual when not under Bobby's influence. And there is always a great deal of alcohol consumed. When Bobby's 15-year-old daughter, Julie, goes missing, the two embark on yet another mission.

The novel is often laugh-out-loud funny, although to be sure there is a great deal of mayhem, often at one and the same time, the initial instance on page one. But the other side of that is, e.g., the description of a jail cell as "the dark rainbow of human experience voiced through the cries of the detained." (Not sure why he is in jail, Jimmy wonders whether being an "accessory to punching a dog in the face was a crime") Part Two of the book, about half-way through the tale, takes the reader to the eponymous desert area where the rest of the action takes place, including an encounter with a Mexican biker gang, and where a typical establishment is called Ocotillo Beer and Ammo. The terrific writing makes the desert come to life, or what passes for life: feel the heat, inhale the dust, smell the farm animals.

A thoroughly entertaining novel, and recommended.

The Color of Light
Wendy Hornby
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745422, $15.95, Paperback, 272 pp.

In her ninth Wendy Hornby's Maggie MacGowen mystery, we find Maggie, two weeks before her planned trip to France to make a film, back to her childhood home in Berkeley, California, to clear out the family house, as her mother has moved into a smaller place (her father, a physicist, having died a while back). In the course of which her instincts, the fact that she "plays" at being an investigator on her popular TV series and, perhaps, the fact that her late husband was a homicide detective, lead to her uncovering things other than old family treasures. She finds inescapable the memories of a murder that occurred over 30 years ago, when the beautiful Vietnamese mother of a school friend was brutally raped and killed, when she and her friends were then ten and eleven years old. Her mother was a close friend of the murdered woman, as Maggie was with her son, Beto.

Maggie's boyfriend at the time of the murder is now Detective Kevin Halloran, who is not crazy about the fact that she is asking questions of people she suspects are hiding secrets. Maggie is very skittish about secrets: It was not long ago that she discovered that her biological mother was a woman with whom her father had had an affair long ago in France. The film she is about to make is about that woman's family and their farm in Normandy. Her daughter, Casey, has just finished her sophomore year in college, and Maggie is traveling with her current boyfriend, the French consul general to Los Angeles and a widower with a son about Casey's age. The ensuing investigation is fraught with danger; as Maggie's uncle tells her, "Always an adventure with you, kid. Always an adventure." The author has blended a great cast of characters and an intriguing mystery, and the book is recommended.

Going Dark
James W. Hall
St Martin's Paperbacks
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250056411, $9.99, Paperback, 416 pp.

This book is the latest in the series whose protagonist is Daniel Oliver Thorn, "the man from Key Largo" known simply as Thorn, "a loner by choice," whose well-deserved reputation is that of someone "going off the rails at warp speed." (Although it should be noted that this time out he's probably the most stable person in the book.) The supporting characters returning here are all memorable: Laurence Sugarman, known to all as "Sugar," a private detective and former deputy sheriff with a Norwegian mother and Rastafarian dad and an "outsider by blood" and Thorn's lifelong friend; April Moss, the journalist he met many years ago and with whom he had a very brief, but very intense, history, also known as a one-night stand, making a brief appearance, as well as the son who was a product of that encounter, Flynn Moss, who Thorn barely knew and hadn't seen for over a year.

When Cameron Prince, a huge man Thorn knows only by reputation, is found walking around his property one morning, but is brushed off by the man after he refuses to say who he is or why he's there, Thorn of course does not let it go at that. After he tracks the man down, he discovers that Flynn is involved with Prince and with his group, the local branch of the Earth Liberation Front ("ELF"), which has so far caused millions of dollars in damage, mainly through arson.

This entry in the series introduces (I think for the first time, though I'm not certain) Frank Sheffield, an FBI agent for over 30 years and for the last dozen Special Agent in Charge of the Miami field office, now nearing 60. The protagonists' p.o.v. are juxtaposed from Thorn to Sheffield, with the latter on a mission to discover ELF's next planned target, and Thorn getting involved with the group in order to protect his naive young son. Envisioned is the possibility of a local catastrophe such as Chernobyl or Fukushima when it appears that that target is a nearby Florida nuclear power plant. Suddenly, nearly half way through the book, things take a sharp and unexpected turn. And everything steps up a notch (or two), building up to a rip-roaring denouement. Hall has been called a master of Florida Noir, a reputation only enhanced by this newest entry in the series, which is highly recommended.

Ruin Falls
Jenny Milchman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345549075, $26.00, Hardcover, 333 pp.

Liz Daniels, her husband, Paul, and their children, Ally, six, and Reid, eight, are taking an rare and unexpected vacation, to visit the remote home in the Adirondack Mountains in western New York State where Paul's parents have always lived. "Rare" and "unexpected" because Paul has been virtually estranged from his parents, visits to them being very few and far between. En route to the farm, they decide to stop at a hotel for the night. Shockingly, the following morning, the children are nowhere to be found. But as the day progresses, the full reality of what had apparently transpired is more ghastly than any of the scenarios Liz had imagined, as nearly impossible as that seemed. Things only escalate from there, as the suspense, mystery, and sense of menace grow exponentially. Liz' terror and grief are palpably drawn by the author, as are the descriptions of the countryside and farmland she traverses in her ensuing search.

Paul is a college professor in a rural agricultural school, and the theme of environmental politics, and environmental sustainability, is central to the plot. Though they knew each other for nearly two decades, there appear to be a myriad of things Liz had never known about him.

Somewhat confusingly at first, after the initial chapters describing these events, the reader is introduced to different families, each with their own complexities. A pattern emerges, that of women completely controlled by the men in their lives. The author of course ultimately ties everything together as the tale unfolds.

While this novel is a worthy successor to the author's first novel, "Cover of Snow," I found in the end that I didn't love it quite as much. Which is not to say that it is not worthwhile reading: It certainly is that.

A Few Drops of Blood
Jan Merete Weiss
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953539, $26.95, Hardcover, 292 pp.

Venice has Donna Leon and her Commissario Guido Brunetti, and now Naples has Jan Merete Weiss and her Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri. The author brings fully to life the historic beauty of the city, as well as its rampant poverty and nearly total control by the Napolitan version of the American mafia and its Gotti crime family: the clans of the Camorra, in particular the Scavullo family.

One of two personal problems Natalia is dealing with, or not, arises from the fact that her closest childhood friends, two women with whom she still has ties, were and each still is a cammorista. One of two things prohibited by the Carabinieri, the other being that she has become romantically involved with her partner, now taking a leave of absence. She has now been assigned a new partner, a rookie just transferred from Palermo, where she was their first Sicilian female officer.

In the opening pages, Natalia is assigned a murder case: The naked bodies of two young men have been discovered in a gruesome pose atop an enormous sculptured horse in a magnificent garden of the elderly Contessa Antonella Maria Cavazza. The men, identified as a gossip columnist and a senior curator at the Museo Archeologico, had been shot to death, the small gauge shotgun being "the traditional execution weapon of the rural mafia, a stubby weapon for hunting small game and two-legged mammals." It soon becomes apparent that the men had been lovers. The investigation leads to many suspects, and a variety of possible motives.

This is the second novel to feature Capt. Monte, who had been promoted from the art squad to major crime investigation, with a degree in law from the officers' school in Rome, whose career had been bright before being compromised by her choice of companions. Her former partner comes back into her life, jeopardizing both of them. She was after all his superior. Now nearing forty, she longs for a 'normal' private life. But as the body count rises, that must be her priority.

A beautifully written novel, including glimpses into the history of the area during and after the war and a solid murder mystery at its core, it is recommended.

A Few Drops of Blood
Jan Merete Weiss
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953539, $26.95, Hardcover, 292 pp.

Venice has Donna Leon and her Commissario Guido Brunetti, and now Naples has Jan Merete Weiss and her Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri. The author brings fully to life the historic beauty of the city, as well as its rampant poverty and nearly total control by the Napolitan version of the American mafia and its Gotti crime family: the clans of the Camorra, in particular the Scavullo family.

One of two personal problems Natalia is dealing with, or not, arises from the fact that her closest childhood friends, two women with whom she still has ties, were and each still is a cammorista. One of two things prohibited by the Carabinieri, the other being that she has become romantically involved with her partner, now taking a leave of absence. She has now been assigned a new partner, a rookie just transferred from Palermo, where she was their first Sicilian female officer.

In the opening pages, Natalia is assigned a murder case: The naked bodies of two young men have been discovered in a gruesome pose atop an enormous sculptured horse in a magnificent garden of the elderly Contessa Antonella Maria Cavazza. The men, identified as a gossip columnist and a senior curator at the Museo Archeologico, had been shot to death, the small gauge shotgun being "the traditional execution weapon of the rural mafia, a stubby weapon for hunting small game and two-legged mammals." It soon becomes apparent that the men had been lovers. The investigation leads to many suspects, and a variety of possible motives.

This is the second novel to feature Capt. Monte, who had been promoted from the art squad to major crime investigation, with a degree in law from the officers' school in Rome, whose career had been bright before being compromised by her choice of companions. Her former partner comes back into her life, jeopardizing both of them. She was after all his superior. Now nearing forty, she longs for a 'normal' private life. But as the body count rises, that must be her priority.

A beautifully written novel, including glimpses into the history of the area during and after the war and a solid murder mystery at its core, it is recommended

Night Work
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250054616, $15.99, Paperback, 294 pp.

In his first standalone, following his wonderful Alex McKnight series, Steve Hamilton introduces Joe Trumbull, a probation officer in Kingston, New York, an upstate city in the Hudson Valley. He lives in an apartment above a converted bus station now serving as a gym, where he works out every day to try to keep in shape, at which he mostly succeeds. He describes his job as follows: "I'm part cop, part social worker, part guidance counselor, part rehab coordinator, part bounty hunter. Every hour of every day, I'm your official court-designated guardian angel. I can come to your house on a school-day morning and drag your ass out of bed, because going to school is an absolutely nonnegotiable part of your probation." He sees himself as helping the kids with whom he works to make something good of their lives when those lives are at a critical juncture.

Just as idealistic is the young woman to whom he is engaged: she works at a battered women's shelter, and is passionate about her work, up until the day, three days before their wedding, when she is murdered. Her killer has never been caught. As the book opens, Joe has been at a sort of disconnect from the life around him, going into work on his day off, feeling "This was where I belonged, no doubt about it, reading over somebody's PSI [presentence investigation] instead of being outside enjoying a perfect August day," when he decides that "after two long years, it was time to start my life again," and is about to embark on a blind date, his first date since the death of his fiancee, who he still refers to as 'my Laurel.' His date goes remarkably, and unexpectedly, well. And then the unthinkable happens, followed shortly by the unimaginable. At which point everything changes, and the book becomes impossible to put down. The suspense kept this reader glued to the page right up until the ending. My one complaint was that that ending was almost anticlimactic, and nearly fails to live up to what had preceded it. Which does not at all inhibit my recommendation of this terrific read.

I particularly enjoyed Mr. Hamilton's protagonist love of jazz, at one point describing a great saxophone solo "with the perfect smooth tone like the sound of your lover's voice. It was impossible for someone to play that well, absolutely impossible, but that's the thing about live jazz. When it comes together it sounds better than you ever could have expected. As good as anything you've ever heard." In this, as well as in his fine writing, the author joins another wonderful contemporary mystery author, Michael Connelly - high praise indeed.

Mo Hayder
Grove Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122506, $24.00, Hardcover, 410 pp.

The first several pages are in the third person, with pov being that of Amy, a five-year-old with verbiage typical of a child that age (a bit disconcertingly). Early on the reader is given hints about a place deep in the woods near Litton, Somerset, in the West Country of England, where a gruesome murder took place 14 years before in a place then called The Donkey Pitch, known as "the Wolf murders," the details of which are perhaps better left unspecified.

The story begins with a home invasion of a wealthy family living in a very isolated area less than a mile from The Donkey Pitch, in a home called The Turrets; the husband, 64, who has recently undergone serious heart surgery, his wife, 60 years old, and their daughter, a young woman in her late 20's, are terrorized. As the author says, "there is even more to this story than meets the eye." Much more.

The chapters throughout are quite brief, and primarily alternate the pov from that of the hunter, DI Jack Caffery, to the hunted. In this newest novel to feature this protagonist, Caffery, now in his mid-forties, has never married or had children, and here is growing philosophical, thinking back to more innocent times. There is a theme of "what it's like to have someone you love go missing. Not knowing. Day after day after day - - it's hell on earth."

About three-quarters of the way through the novel, matters take an OMG turn that left this reader stunned, after which the suspense grows exponentially. But I was totally unprepared for the twist with which the author brings the book to a conclusion. Although the clues are there if one is prescient enough to discern them, it is still a stunning climax to this engrossing, and highly recommended, novel.

Murmurs of Insanity
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star
10 Water St., Ste. 310, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781432828585, $25.95, Hardcover, 306 pp.

This is the fourth and newest entry of the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake mystery series. Lake, a detective lieutenant in homicide with the Atlanta Police Department, asks Dru (her preferred form of address) to look into a matter involving his ex-wife's half-brother, Baxter Carlisle, the dapper, handsome owner of several restaurants in Athens, Georgia. It seems Baxter, now 52 years old, has always had an eye for young (read "very young") girls, and he has been accused of stalking his alleged newest such interest, eighteen years of age. Complicating matters is the fact that the girl's boyfriend has gone missing, and Baxter is suspected.

Moriah, who has never been married (her former fiance was killed in a drive-by shooting), is a former APD member, where she and Lake were partners, and currently working as a private detective, specializing in finding lost or missing children through her firm, Child Trace, ably assisted by "Webdog," her computer guru.

The plot becomes more complex as dead bodies are discovered, with a myriad of characters, some more charming than others, and the author's always interesting descriptions of the Georgia landscape. Although somewhat slow-moving, the novel is intricate and obviously very well-researched, and I found it entertaining.

Already Dead
Stephen Booth
Witness Impulse
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062388070, $11.99, Paperback, 368 pp.

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on an ominous note, with the death of an adult male, found lying naked in a shallow stream in "the rural wastelands of the Peak District," where the roads have been flooded and travel difficult if not impossible, for pedestrians and vehicles alike, in this monsoon-like summer.

The Derbyshire E Division CID, to whom the investigation initially falls, quite literally has no clues, as it appears that the torrential rains have washed away any potential forensic evidence, and no apparent witnesses. DS Dianne Fry is here on short-term assignment, after DS Ben Cooper has been placed on extended leave since the tragic death in an arson fire of his fiancee, scene of crime officer Liz Petty, which ended the last book in the series. Ben is still suffering from panic attacks, nightmares, and the occasional flashbacks to that horrible event, just weeks before their meticulously planned wedding. He is still, not unnaturally, obsessed with the one person still walking free who was a participant in the events of that night.

A secondary plot line deals with another area death which falls to the local police to investigate. Ben's relationship with Diane is a famously ambivalent one. She finds herself thinking that "his absence was more powerful than his presence." But despite his official just-another-member-of-the-public position, he manages to provide pivotal clues and insight. Finally, "when it came down to it, there was the question of loyalty."

The events that fill the book take place over a one-week period. The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does occasional bits of fascinating historical lore. All the better to savor the terrific writing and character development of which the author is a past master. The wholly unexpected shocker of an ending is a perfect cap for this thoroughly enjoyable novel, which is recommended. (It should be noted that the author's latest Cooper and Fry entry, The Corpse Bridge, is due out in hardcover on December 16, 2014 - can't wait!)

The Setup Man
T.T. Monday
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780804169820, $15.00, Paperback, 272 pp.

The book is equal parts mystery and baseball. There is enough action in both aspects to keep the reader involved and turning pages quickly. Johnny Adcock is a terrific protagonist. He is a no-longer-young baseball player, 35 to be exact, thirteen years in the big leagues, his assigned role, as the title would suggest, to come into a game in the eighth inning, primarily to face left-handed hitters (as he is a southpaw himself), and retire them. Divorced and with a teenage daughter, his significant other is Bethany, a partner in a venture-capital firm who Johnny describes as the most intelligent woman he has ever met.

Johnny's side job, so to speak, is as an investigator, which primarily involves "cheating spouses, paternity threats, nothing bloody or life-threatening." Until now, that is. He is approached one night by Frankie Herrera, the 25-year-old backup catcher for the Bay Dogs of San Jose, California, who tells him that he has a "problem with his wife." Very shortly thereafter, Frankie is found dead after an apparent auto accident. His widow believes it was not an accident, and hires Johnny to find out who killed her husband. The ensuing investigation embroils Johnny in matters of murder, porn, Mexican cartels, and other assorted intrigue.

Timing is everything, they say, and my reading this debut novel by T.T. Monday on the eve of the new baseball season couldn't have been more perfectly timed. "The Set-Up Man" is a good mystery, with heavy doses of humor despite some of the darker aspects, and contains an abundance of terrific baseball lore and references. One doesn't have to be a baseball addict to enjoy the novel (although, to be fair and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am exactly that). Not a no-hitter, perhaps, but a solid performance, especially from a rookie. This is a very entertaining book, on any level, and it is recommended.

Inspector Specter
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425269268, $7.99, Paperback, 293 pp.

Alison Kerby returns in the newest Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison's resident Internet expert, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father. It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts. She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily 'spook shows.' As the book begins, her paying guests number six (delightfully including Joe Guglielmelli and Bonnie Claeson, real-life former owners of the sorely-missed Black Orchid Books in Manhattan).

Allison is asked by Det. Lt. Anita McElone of the Harbor Haven Police Department to look into the death of Martin Ferry, McElone's ex-partner in the Seaside Heights Police Dept., which those cops had labeled death caused by accidental discharge of his gun, but which she thinks is murder. Alison's ability to conduct a proper investigation is hampered a bit by the fact that she has to baby-sit the eleventh-month-old son of her best friend, Jeannie, but with help from her ghostly assistants, she proceeds. There are disturbing hints that the detective may not have been completely honest.

Of her parents, Allison says "They have a great marriage, despite her being widowed." Of her father particularly: "he almost never turns down a request I make (and never turns down a request Melissa makes; it's like he was born to be a grandfather and, thanks to the miracle of ghost technology, is finally getting the chance to fulfill his true destiny.)"

The writing is wonderful, with the author's trademark laugh-out-loud wit and intelligence, well-plotted mystery and very well-drawn characters, alive or otherwise.

My preference in mystery genres generally does not include either "cozies" or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there's anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add). But this author's writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part - - his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended. His dedication to several brilliant comics of years past ends with the words "there aren't enough funny people in the world," a deficit which he certainly helps to overcome.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Sourdough Wars
Julie Smith
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B009FN1DA4, $2.99
ISBN: 9780804109291, US copyright 1984, 180 pages

The Sourdough Wars is a cozy mystery set in San Francisco. It is a short novel that has interesting characters and an amusing premise. An old renowned sourdough bakery has closed and the frozen dough starter has been put up for sale by one of the heirs. The result is murder and mayhem.

Peter Martinelli is a struggling actor and he decides to sell his inheritance -- the sourdough starter his father had frozen. His father's bakery had been one of the most famous in San Francisco and local bakeries and a national chain want the starter. Peter asks lawyer Rebecca Schwartz to set up the auction. Immediately threats are called into the bidders and when people start dying Rebecca decides to solve the mystery.

The Sourdough Wars is a nice light mystery. Unfortunately there are weaknesses in the tale. Rebecca is both a good detective with solid insights but she is also prone to making obvious mistakes. She stumbles between clues as much as she solves them. The result is an uneven storyline. The novel is redeemed somewhat with hilarious characters populating the tale. The Sourdough Wars is an easy recommendation at the $2.99 ebook price but would be questionable at the price of a paperback or hardcover.

Rancho Diablo, Shooter's Cross
Colby Jackson
Flying D Enterprises
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00472O7NS, $2.99
ISBN: 9781453890240, US copyright 2010, 190 pages

Rancho Diablo seems to be a western book series put out by a small group of western writers. Colby Jackson is the author of the Shooter's Cross story. The story is a contemporary attempt to recreate the early to mid 20th Century pulp horse opera. It comes very close. The editing is good for a small niche group of authors. The story is robust and filled with action. The biggest weakness is a sparse backstory for the lead characters and a slight narration removal from the old western setting. On balance it is a better contemporary western than many being published by the mainstream publishers.

Rancho Diablo is a haunted ranch. A sulfur hot springs boiled to the surface of the ranch a few years back and poisoned the ranch's water. Suicide and financial collapse followed. Now the locals consider the ranch cursed with its overpowering sulfur smell and the slow poisoning of the land. Army Scout Sam Blaylock sees the potential in the ranch and knows how to tame the poisonous hot spring. The ranch is rich with timber and cattle and, when some people in the town of Shooter's Cross see Sam as a potential mark for their own gain, lead starts flying.

Rancho Diablo, Shooter's Cross is a classic style horse opera filled with gunfights, crooks and most of the expected sidekicks. It is topnotch when compared to other contemporary horse operas but falls a bit short when compared to the original pulps. It is an easy recommendation for the western aficionado and a solid introduction for anyone new to the genre.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Julie's Bookshelf

Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World
Alexis York Lumbard, author
Alireza Sadeghian, illustrator
Wisdom Tales
c/o World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786199, $17.95, 28pp,

Synopsis: "Christians, Jews, and Muslims all pray. So do Hindus and Buddhists. Many others pray too ". So begins "Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World", a bright and colorful concept book celebrating the diverse ways that people pray. In a vibrant yet accessible manner, young readers are transported on a visual tour across the globe. Children will discover the Native American sun dance ceremony, visit the sacred sites in Jerusalem, behold the Shinto shrines in Japan, watch Maasai dances in Kenya, see pilgrimages to the river Ganges in India, and much, much more. With an appendix to help answer questions children might have, "Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World" offers young hearts and minds a chance to learn that although people from other places and cultures may seem different, we all share the diverse world of faith and prayer. And what a bright and beautiful world it is!

Critique: Informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World" is as informed and informative as it is educative and entertaining, making it an ideal and enthusiastically recommended contribution to school libraries (Preschool - 3rd Grade) and community library Multicultural and Religion/Spirituality picturebook collections for children ages 4 to 8. It should also be noted that "Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days
Michael Oren Fitzgerald
Wisdom Tales
c/o World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786090, $15.95, 40pp,

Synopsis: What was it like to grow up in the world of the pre-reservation Plains Indians before the coming of the white settlers? Prior to our modern era of television, video games, and computers how did American Indian children live, learn, and play?" Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days" is a beautifully illustrated book in which author Michael Oren Fitzgerald, combines stunning photographs and simple quotations by Indian chiefs and elders to explain to today's youth what life would have been like growing up on the American plains. "Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days" includes sections on boys and girls at play, camp life, and the important role of parents and grandparents. It features historical sepia photographs of children at work and play, as well as detailed color photographs of their toys, tools, and everyday objects.

Critique: Informative, exceptionally well written, and superbly presented from first page to last, "Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days" is especially recommended an an enduringly popular acquisition for school libraries (Preschool - 3rd Grade) and community library Multicultural and American History picturebook collections for children ages 4 to 8.

Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence
Manjo Jain, author
Demi, illustrator
Wisdom Tales
c/o World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786212, $17.95, 28pp,

Synopsis: Imagine a world where no one gets hurt, a world where no one is teased or bullied, a world where there is no fear or anger. Six centuries before the birth of Jesus, in the faraway land of India, there lived a great spiritual teacher name Mahavira (which means "very brave"), who imagined just such a world. He showed kindness to every living being and emphasized the practice of nonviolence, compassion, and forgiveness. The religion of Mahavira was called Jainism.

Mahavira was born a prince, but because he had such deep love and respect for all living creatures, he renounced his wealth and power to become a wandering monk. The Jain teachings of Mahavira became very popular. He taught three important lessons: that one should have love and compassion for all living things; that one should not be too prideful of one's own point of view because the truth has many sides; and that one should not be greedy and should avoid attachment to possessions.

Today Jainism has more than 10 million adherents throughout the world. In following the example of Mahavira, Jains practice a vegetarian diet and are committed to sound ecological and environmental practices. Mahavira's lessons on nonviolence and compassion still have a profound impact around the globe, and he is credited with influencing Mahatma Gandhi, who in turn inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beautifully brought to life by the delicate paintings of Demi and the powerful yet simple narrative of nationally recognized writer, Manoj Jain, the story of Mahavira's life will provide a shining example of how one spiritual teacher's noble ideals can echo throughout the ages.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and wonderfully illustrated, "Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence" is an ideal and highly recommended addition to school (K-4) and community library Multicultural Picturebook collections for children ages 4 to 8.

The Four Dignities
Cain Carroll
Singing Dragon
400 Market Street, Suite 400, Philadelphia, PA 19106
9781848192164, $24.95, 224pp,

Synopsis: Offering a fresh perspective on immediate presence and embodied spiritual practice, "The Four Dignities: The Spiritual Practice of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down" shows how the mindful cultivation of four everyday activities - walking, standing, sitting, and lying down - can be used as formal practice to develop greater vitality and spiritual awakening. It reveals the subtle inner nuances of these four types of traditional meditation, and shows how they can be practiced as an inclusive system. Readers are given a profound understanding of correct posture, alignment, breathing, and attention, and the author explains the philosophical basis for the practice, and offers a pathway toward realizing profound spiritual and energetic transformation. "The Four Dignities: The Spiritual Practice of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down" will be an invaluable resource for students and practitioners of yoga, taiji, qigong, and meditation, spiritual seekers, and anyone interested in Eastern philosophy.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and ideal for the non-specialist general reader, "The Four Dignities: The Spiritual Practice of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down" is very strongly recommended for personal reading lists, and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and school library Metaphysical Studies collections. It should be noted that "The Four Dignities: The Spiritual Practice of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).

New on the Job: A School Librarian's Guide to Success
Hilda K. Weisburg & Ruth Toor
ALA Editions
50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611
9780838912645, $50.00, 240pp,

Synopsis: "New on the Job: A School Librarian's Guide to Success" serves as a comprehensive and 'user friendly' instruction manual for the new school librarian. From job search strategies and discovering work philosophy to the nitty-gritty details of creating acceptable use policies, this revised and updated edition, which includes a new foreword from Sarah Kelly Johns, shares the joys and perils of the profession along with a wealth of practical advice from decades of experience in school library programs. With this guide as a roadmap, new school librarians can: Tackle the job search with confidence, with tips on everything from polishing a resume and acing a job interview to ways of handling any potentially negative Google results and other digital footprints; Learn the secrets to successfully collaborate with teachers; Navigate new roles and responsibilities through orientation and organization; Create dynamic interactions with students to deepen their learning experiences; Master the art of communicating with the principal, IT experts, and vendors; Become familiar with school library technology, including e-book collections, online databases, and library management systems; Receive field-tested guidance on daily matters from budgeting and purchasing to advocacy and programming. The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and Common Core State Standards are also thoroughly discussed. New school librarians as well as those already in the profession can set the tone for rewarding career with this one-stop, hands-on guide.

Critique: Now in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "New on the Job: A School Librarian's Guide to Success" continues to be the ideal instruction manual for novice school librarians, K-12. Informed, informative, and impressively well written, organized and presented, "New on the Job: A School Librarian's Guide to Success" is an excellent and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, and academic library 'Library Science' instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "New on the Job: A School Librarian's Guide to Success" is also available in a Kindle edition ($40.00).

Julie Summers

Karyn's Bookshelf

Absolutely Truly (A Pumpkin Falls Mystery)
Heather Vogel Frederick, author
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442429727, $16.99,

A twelve-year-old girl finds new friends and stumbles upon a bookish mystery in this heartfelt story about a war-torn family's move to wintry, small-town New Hampshire. Frederick expertly weaves a middle grade tale that tackles the awkwardness of seventh grade and too-tall growth spurts, being the new kid, and grief over a father's disabling Afghanistan combat injury. As Truly Lovejoy settles into her new home and she and her friends work to crack the mystery of a strange letter found in the bookstore her family has run for generations, they encounter twists and turns that are poignant, funny, sweet, quirky -- and dangerously thrilling. And they learn to celebrate tight-knit community, friendship, family, romance, the rich history and topography of rural New England - and good literature. From the successful author of other middle grade books comes an instantly endearing heroine and a winning inaugural title in the new Pumpkin Falls Mystery series.

Hansel & Gretel
Neil Gaiman, author
Lorenzo Mattotti, illustrator
TOON Books
27 Greene Street,#4, New York, NY 10013
9781935179627, $16.95,

Dark, swirling illustrations underscore this return to the ominous, centuries-old roots of the classic Brothers Grimm tale about two children whose father "loses" them in the woods when he can no afford to longer feed them. Illustrated in cartoon style for middle grade "visual readers," the book's haunting, double-page, black and white spreads come more alive the longer your eyes explore them - from the twisted brambles of the deep woods to the woodcutter father's axe blade. At the same time, the India ink swirls leave themselves open to the viewer's interpretation and imagination. The author, meanwhile, doesn't flinch on details like the smell of burning flesh that permeates the gingerbread cottage after Gretel famously pushes their captor into the brick oven. Notably absent are more genteel details like midnight angels and the notion of baking children into gingerbread, that have become plot staples in Hansel & Gretel adaptations over the past century. An afterword explanation of the tale's history -- such as the fourteenth century Great Famine, in which parents actually did "lose" children in the woods whom they could no longer feed, that may have inspired Hansel & Gretel -- lends great, informative depth. Perfect for middle grade readers who are eager for a non-whitewashed account, who are engaged by comic book-style illustrations, and who are ready to explore the historical roots of the fairy tales they were introduced to as young children.

Bear Hug
Katharine McEwen, author and illustrator
Templar Books
c/o Candlwick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763666309, $15.99,

Young listeners are introduced to the life cycle of woodland animals in this gentle picture book about two bears who "stay snug in a big bear hug" all winter and emerge in the spring with a cub. Beautifully engaging, earth and jewel tone-accented illustrations accompany the story in which a long hibernation is preceded by a young male bear meeting his mate and preparing their den. Later, the pair awake to a woods "brimming with birdsong" and welcome their cub that is "soft as thistledown and lively as a sunbeam." Ultimately, they teach it the same survival skills that they learned from their parents...and then winter arrives again. A just-right primer on the natural world, cast in terms that young children will understand - the love of a family.

Animalium (Welcome to the Museum)
Jenny Broom, author
Katie Scott, illustrator
Big Picture Press
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763675080, $35.00,

Exquisite color art, bold oversized pages and information that is simultaneously comprehensive and kid-pleasingly succinct makes this a go-to book for educators and young readers interested in the animal world. It is, literally, a 112-page museum of fascinating facts and pictures, shepherding young readers from the big picture --- a double-page "Tree of Animal Life" spread that shows how scores of different creatures are related and how they evolved - to the narrower scope - six "galleries" of ten to fifteen pages each, about different classes of animals. Featured are invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In each of those sections the information is boiled down further, to subclasses such as flying insects, birds of prey, sharks, and hoofed mammals. Finally, individual animals from sockeye salmon to the waxy monkey leaf frog to the black-browed albatross, are featured in illustrated plates and in brief informational paragraphs. Pages are also devoted to discussion of world habitats. This is information covered in other books for young readers, but rarely so beautifully. A highly engaging blend of expertly arranged art and facts; its stunning, illustrative beauty is matched only by its educational merit.

Aaron Becker, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763665951, $15.99,

Two children follow a magical map on a far-flung adventure in this wordless follow-up to Becker's Caldecott Honor-winning Journey. Artwork as stunning and elaborately detailed as its predecessor draws young readers into a story that gets better and better with each page turn. After a king mysteriously appears to the children in a city park, they find on the other side of a door: a castle, a ruined underwater city, a tropical seaside, snow-capped mountains and - reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, a set of magic crayons that they use to draw things they need, from scuba gear to a purple flying insect and red swing that lifts them just out of reach of pursuing soldiers. Ultimately, their aim is to safely return the crayons to the king. The absence of words forces readers to zero in on the illustrations, and there's an awful lot to look at, absorb, and appreciate. When a bird that has accompanied the children finally makes simultaneous use of the six different colored crayons, the outcome is breathtaking. Gorgeous and silently enthralling.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Kevin's Bookshelf

Harrington Manor
Ronald M. James
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
B00K7IVVBW, $15.00,

All in the family - A review of the novel 'Harrington Manor'

"It's miraculous how the shallow can injure in such a profound way" - Anna Jae

A family is in many ways reminiscent of a fruit bearing tree, you have the strong trunk that is the matriarch or patriarch supporting the weight of many that are dependent on it. And just like with trees, all it takes is a single rotten member to spoil everything and bring down the whole family along with it. So it becomes critical to identify & weed out the troublemaker at the earliest.

Ronald M. James's novel 'Harrington Manor' takes you to 1920's California and into the heart of murder mysteries and other sinister criminal frivolities happening within the vast expanse of Orange County, land owned by wealthy families. The Harrington family is headed by the patriarch with the army background, Peter also known as the Colonel, his wife Corrina and their four children, Sheppard, Reginald, Margot and Orson; they are as different from each other as it gets. While the elder two sons, Shepp & Reggie are always at loggerheads with their father to gain control over his vast finances, Margot is still in the process of discovering herself and ironically it's only the non conformist son, Orson who shows any interest in carrying forward the farming business of the family. But when a couple of Harrington members start dropping dead, it raises a lot of questions and accusations fly thick & fast across warring family members which soon piques interest in the local law enforcement agency. Detective and not inspector Sidney Snipes enters the scene and starts an investigation which reveals such terrifying truths to the Harrington family as it does to the reader.

Ronald's writing has this charming prose that will hook you in with its poetic brilliance hardly a sentence into the book. The narrative intervenes smoothly with the back stories of each of the characters along with that of the main story, doing full justice to both. All members of the family, including the butler Charles have been given enough space for us to explore their personalities in detail. There are small things that go a long way in creating the perfect atmosphere the author wants the reader to envision and one of these things in this book is the careful selection of the words and the general vocabulary which is consistent with the background and the time in which the story is set in.

Almost half way mark into the book and after the occurrence of a major event, the book shifts into a different gear and from there on, the pace and the mood of the book changes quite dramatically. The writing, especially when it comes to dialogue writing deserves special mention; the back and forth snappy dialogues between the main players are a definite highlight. It is also a masterful ability to be able to show each character's personality by modulating their dialogues in order to create a separate & unique identity for each of them. You can in fact almost picture these characters as actors in a movie mouthing these dialogues with different accents and slangs.

One understated element of this murder mystery novel is the abundance of natural humor that is ever present in these lines, it's never forced humor for its sake but rather it comes across effortlessly because of the differences and quirks in each character. You will be surprised at how often you will find yourself smiling and chuckling away as you are reading some of these passages. The investigation and interrogation scenes involving detective Sidney Snipes are some of the best scenes in the book. The editing too is top notch and the plot twists and turns will leave you amazed and you will never be sure of who the actual culprit is till it is revealed to you at the end.

There are a lot of individual sequences which when combined together makes this novel fully worth your time. The characters, the slick prose and the snappy dialogues all combine to make this a memorable work. I recommend this book not only to mystery lovers, but also to anyone who wants to read a well written book. And the only spoiler I will give you is that it's a murder mystery novel about a wealthy family with a butler and no, it's not the butler.

Tears of a Heart
Chase Blackwood
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781501060298, $13.48,

Warrior Poet - A review of the novel 'Tears of a Heart'

"Patience is the virtue that forges great men" - Chris Vincent

Something that's common and significant amongst all life forms in this world is that period when you shed all the bonds that tie you to your childhood and stand within the cusp of adulthood. The changes are same everywhere, the loss of innocence, gaining a deeper understanding and discovering newer truths about ourselves, physically, emotionally and intellectually. You will experience a definitive shift in your perspective and will have a greater realization of your place in this world.

Author Chase Blackwood's novel, 'Tears of a Heart' is the first book in the Kan Savasci Cycle series of books. It narrates the tale of a boy Kirin D'Velt, a rebel and a daydreamer and the lone son of a murdered father. His father Kovor, a village chief and all his subjects were massacred by an evil force. Left on his own, he soon joins the company of monks who take him under their wings and nurture his mind and soul. After many deliberations, internal conflicts and a change of name, Kirin/Aeden sets out on a journey in which he discovers his true purpose and fate in this world.

Chase Blackwood has a wonderful poetic prose that is put to good use in extrapolating the exotic imagery of this 'new' world to the readers. The power of the book is in its ability to recreate visual and auditory responses in these pages like the one we would get after watching a cinematic experience, through the use of words seemingly picked out of nature itself. The story that the author has set out to narrate is compelling and is on solid ground than anything conjured out of whimsy because it's a character driven fantasy that uses both its brain and its heart to good effect. The author goes about very delicately and intelligently introducing the world and its environment to us without ever loosing focus on the story to be told. And for a fantasy genre such as this, most of the chapters go by very quickly and doesn't get bogged down too often. The short sentences and paragraphs ensure that the reader's focus is constantly kept engaged and entertained.

The book is divided into four parts and each of these parts has a different and unique pace and feel to it, it's like four different segments in the life of an individual, none of which are alike and yet have a commonality running through them, and just like life they can't be segregated into good and bad, it's the sum of all experiences of an individual, written by evoking moods, experiences and people that the lead character has met or come to know. One thing that can be said for sure about 'Tears of a Heart' is that it has a lot more character and ingenuity than other books in the fantasy genre. In fact when you look back at the novel once you are done with it, you will realize that it's more a finely crafted allegorical novel about a boy's coming of age story told with a few fantasy elements attached to it than an out and out fantasy novel. And the fantasy element in it is absolutely rooted in the book's world; nothing seems contrived or written just for the sake of it. And there are times when the line between fantasy and reality blurs especially when the book tries to process various thoughts and ideas discussed within a strong philosophical and spiritual aura. And then there are certain segments which really stand out, which smacks of creative brilliance and should find instant appeal amongst audiences for their visceral & intelligent quality.

I think we all have those memories of dreams that we have seen and have buried somewhere within, those wonderful moments when the unreal images transcended the barrier of our consciousness and became a definite vision. Tears of a Heart is in many ways like that, a book that transcends your reading experience to become a delicately beautiful memory.

Paths Less Travelled of a Scholar Warrior (Spy) Teacher Healer
Hon K. Lee
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781494756253, $13.69,

Renaissance man - A review of the book 'Paths Less Travelled'

"You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?" - Rumi

Everyday life throws many options at us; it gives us the choice to be the master of our fate. But in spite of such a tempting offer very seldom do men try to enforce their destiny and when they do, it's even rarer for anyone to get it right all the time. But every now and then, history throws such a polymath into our midst who seems to know exactly what to do and when to do it. And they eventually become the torch bearers for future generations.

Hon Kwong Lee, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Marine Corps, a former CIA officer and current practitioner of martial arts and acupuncture reveals in this startling and personal memoir, 'Paths Less Travelled of a Scholar Warrior (Spy) Teacher Healer', intimate details of an awe inspiring life led by him. Born to Chinese immigrant parents in America, this book details his life from growing up in New York in the 1950's to joining the Marines after college, fighting the Vietnam war, serving in the CIA for thirty years and then finally learning and teaching martial arts and practising alternate medicine like acupuncture. At every stage in his life, life presented him with two options, two paths that would take him on completely different routes and every single time he chose the difficult and less taken path to arrive at a destination filled with contentment, peace and happiness.

One of the most endearing things about this book is that it is written in such a manner that you will feel as if you are listening to a dear friend whom you haven't met in a while, telling you his life stories over a good cup of coffee. Hon K Lee has an honest self assured voice that is sometime self deprecating and humorous but is highly sensitive too. This memoir is bound to take you back to your own childhood, your years of growing up not knowing how life would turn out and then of later years of knowing and reminiscing the good parts along with the bad ones. Hon's dedication and his determination to choose his own path led him to enjoy each and every waking moment of his life and his work. In fact, he chooses not to look at the work he's doing as merely a job and instead uses his time and skill to help others and become an important catalyst in the positive changes that we all want to see in this world. The book also contains some wonderful personal photographs that corroborate the texts and aid in the narration.

Paths Less Travelled is an entertaining page turner and is an extremely fast read, especially for a memoir that offers an interesting and exciting peek into the life of an extraordinary individual. The events in Hon's book are not laid down in any chronological order and are rather set according to the various themes discussed which have made an influence in his life. Even as a youngster Hon wanted to see and explore the world that existed outside the confines of Chinatown and his wish got granted as his work took him all over the world. The Vietnam part of the recollection is both horrifying and terrifying to read but at the same time becomes a very humbling experience when you learn about the bravery and sacrifices of so many brave young men. And his recollection of his days at the CIA reads like a script for a James Bond movie, the clandestine operations, the secrecy, the hush - hush manner in which all the details are discussed.

There are in fact a lot of interesting passages and incidents that are bound to leave a lasting impression on you, and in no particular order some of them are - growing up in the 1950's, the Rudyard Kipling poem given by his father, the Edith incident, the fist fights, the spy training, being a salesman, the Vietnam episode, Uncle Harry, his struggles at the latter part of his career at CIA which eventually became the impetus to kick-start an alternate career involving Chinese medicine and his work in the field of acupuncture.

While a lot of autobiographies and memoirs will leave you impressed and in awe of the principal narrator, not many mange to make a personal connection with the reader. Read this book with Frank Sinatra's famous track playing in the background and rest assured, you too will be in a happy place.

Wendy Shreve
Privately Published
9780692290903, $13.58,

The Spirit Rider - A review of the novel 'Dark Sea'

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes" - Arthur Conan Doyle

All of us are connected to each other in one way or another, through pain and pleasure, through life and death and through the rational and the unexplainable, there's a link that joins our lives with the others. And when we all come together, a very special connection occurs.

Author Wendy Shreve's new novel, 'Dark Sea' is the sequel to the highly successful first book 'Shadowwater'. Taking off after a year since the incidents described in the first book occur; this novel brings back all the major players and introduces a few new ones. Lili Ribault, the highly successful author of supernatural stories is now leading a quiet and existentialist life trying to come to terms with her alternate identity. Meanwhile her soul mate Cal Green struggles to find a balance between his love for her and helping her find herself. And when a couple of outsiders are thrown into this mix with their insatiable greed and varied interests in the myth of the land; Cape Cod needs quite a few heroes to help save the day.

The charm of the book lies in the fact that it takes you to a small town setting with lots of characters all of whom seems to know each other very well. And privacy isn't much of an issue here and they needn't depend on social media status updates either, for everyone already knows what is going on in other people's lives. The narrative of this novel is in many ways reminiscent of one of those new age story driven video games, you have to work through the mystery and play through all the levels to get to the end to find out the big secret, to revel in the finale. That being said, I would seriously suggest everyone to go out and read the first book first so that the introduction and acclimatization to the various characters and the setting will be easier, as otherwise it does take quite a bit of time to get used to the various characters and the pace of the book. This is especially so because 'Dark Sea' is written as the second half of the story told in the first book and isn't necessarily a standalone new novel, but if you are willing to spend some time and invest yourself in the first couple of chapters then you should be able to get right into it and you will get sucked into its wordplay.

Wendy Shreve has a wonderful prose which when it needs to be is highly poetic. In many ways the entire novel feels like reading a movie script and except for the places where the author shows off her prose skills, in the rest of the book, the way the scenes are contrived, planned and executed and the way each scene cuts away smoothly to draft into a new one all reminds you of a cinematic experience. It also seems to be professionally edited; the unseen presence of a very skilled editor can be felt throughout the novel. Wendy has also blended the myth and folklore with the mystery element quite nicely. And speaking about mystery, while the character of Rusty goes about silently investigating the plane crash mystery in the background, we get to see the rest of the characters act out their complicated lives in front of us while subtly revealing even newer mysteries to us. In fact, the mystery element is always kept alive by postulating newer details and bringing it forth into the foreground every now and then but at the same time, the reader is never allowed to get ahead of the narrative in trying to uncover the truth either.

The main romantic pair, Cal and Lili's relationship graph is handled brilliantly, their ups and downs, their longing and their break away, have all been captured nicely by the author. She actually has a winner of a romantic couple; the kind readers would want to see get together at the earliest. But then the author plays God and interferes in their lives and keeps them apart for the time being, playing on the reader's emotion and making them wait for the next book to see if they end up together. This and the cliff hanger end ensure that the wait for the third book will be a pure guilty pleasure.

Kevin Peter, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

Hunters, Predators and Prey
Frederic Laugrand & Jarich Oosten
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781782384052, $120.00, 424pp,

Synopsis: Inuit hunting traditions are rich in perceptions, practices and stories relating to animals and human beings. In "Hunters, Predators and Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals", Frederic Laugrand and Jarich Oosten examine key figures such as the raven, an animal that has a central place in Inuit culture as a creator and a trickster, and qupirruit, a category consisting of insects and other small life forms. After these non-social and inedible animals, the authors discuss the dog, the companion of the hunter, and the fellow hunter, the bear, considered to resemble a human being. A discussion of the renewal of whale hunting accompanies the chapters about animals considered "prey par excellence": the caribou, the seals, and the whale, symbol of the whole. "Hunters, Predators and Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals" concludes with a comparative analysis of the ethnographic data presented in the book.

Critique: The Inuit (often called Eskimos by Americans) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and the United States. Enhanced with the inclusion of maps and images, a twelve page Glossary of Inukitut Words, a twenty-two page list of References, and a comprehensive Index, "Hunters, Predators and Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals" is an impressive body of original scholarship and a seminal work that should be a core part of academic library Inuit Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Capturing the Moment
Michael F. Hoyt & Moshe Talmon, editors
Crown House Publishing
6 Trowbridge Drive Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
9781845908935, $49.95, 544pp,

Synopsis: Can one session of therapy be enough for some people? The answer is most definitely, yes. "Capturing the Moment: Single-Session Therapy And Walk-In Services" brings together the latest information on single-session therapy and walk-in services. It describes what can sometimes be accomplished in one visit, whether client and clinician set out in advance to have a single session therapy (SST) or if the therapy could have gone longer but client and clinician feel the one session was all that was needed. Capturing the Moment: single session therapy and walk-in services, starts with an extensive overview of the field and includes contributions from over twenty international experts who have practiced single session therapy. Contributors include Ernest Rossi, Steve Andreas, Chris Iveson, Harvey Ratner, Douglas Flemons, James Gustafson, Rubin Battino, Bradford Keeney, Jeff Young, Arnold Silve, Monte Bobele, Michelle Ritterman, Moshe Talmon, Michael Hoyt and many, many others. The contributors draw on a variety of brief therapy approaches involving a wide range of creative methods. ""Capturing the Moment: Single-Session Therapy And Walk-In Services" describes the history, theory, utility and practice (clinical and administrative) of single session and walk-in therapy. In keeping with the international scope of SST and walk-in services, the volume contains reports from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, England, Mexico and China. Each chapter stands alone with its contribution and the reader is able to choose those sections that are the most relevant to their practice.

Critique: A seminal compendium of original scholarship, this impressive compendium of seminal articles by professional experts, ""Capturing the Moment: Single-Session Therapy And Walk-In Services" is an extraordinary and important contribution that should be a part of every academic library Psychology/Psychiatry reference book collections, and on the supplemental reading list for anyone involved in providing counseling and therapy.

Personal Modernisms
James Gifford
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772120011, $34.95, 352pp,

Synopsis: James Gifford's "Personal Modernisms: Anarchist Networks and the Later Avant-Gardes" is an invigorating work of metacriticism and literary history recovers the significance of the "lost generation" of writers of the 1930s and 1940s. He examines how the Personalism of anarcho-anti-authoritarian contemporaries such as Alex Comfort, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Durrell, J.F. Hendry, Henry Miller, Elizabeth Smart, Dylan Thomas, and Henry Treece forges a missing link between Late Modernist and postmodernist literature. He concludes by applying his recontextualization to four familiar texts by Miller, Durrell, Smart, and Duncan, and encourages readers to re-engage the lost generation using this new critical lens. Scholars and students of literary modernism, 20th century Canadian literature, and anarchism will find a productive vision of this neglected period within Personal Modernisms.

Critique: An extraordinary and impressive literary analysis in both scope and presentation, "Personal Modernisms: Anarchist Networks and the Later Avant-Gardes" is a seminal work that is enhanced with the inclusion of 22 pages of Notes, 20 pages of Works Cited, and a comprehensive Index. "Personal Modernisms: Anarchist Networks and the Later Avant-Gardes" that should be a part of every academic library 20th Century Literary Studies" reference collection in general, and the supplemental studies reading lists for students of Canadian Literary Studies in particular.

Cultural Competence in Recreation Therapy
Jearold W. Holland
Idyll Arbor, Inc.
PO Box 720, Ravensdale, WA 98051
9781882883943, $38.00, 208pp,

Synopsis: "Cultural Competence in Recreation Therapy: Working with African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Hmong Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Rican Americans " by Jearold W. Holland (Associate Professor in Therapeutic Recreation at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse) addresses the importance of cultural diversity in the recreation therapy curriculum and recreational therapy practice. Recreational therapy professionals often interact with persons of different cultural backgrounds. "Cultural Competence in Recreation Therapy" provides: a better understanding of these cultural nuances to improve recreational therapists' interactions with people from different backgrounds; suggestions for improving understanding of cultural diversity throughout the whole field of recreational therapy; rationales and suggestions for improving skills and competencies when working with different racial groups; and specific racial or cultural/ethnic groups and important historical dates, basic cultural customs and their impact on recreation therapy, and holidays, celebrations, traditions, and recreation practices that might have an impact on professionals who interact with these groups.

Critique: An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "Cultural Competence in Recreation Therapy: Working with African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Hmong Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Rican Americans" is a strongly recommended acquisition for academic library therapeutic recreation instructional and reference collections.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Wheat Belly Total Health
William Davis, MD
Rodale Press
733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
News & Experts
9781623364083, $26.99, 416pp,

Synopsis: "Wheat Belly Total Health" answers the question, "What's next in the battle against wheat?" Dr. William Davis helps his readers take command over their life and health in the aftermath of wheat. There are many strategies that will help heal the damage caused by years of a wheat-filled diet. And many of these lessons have been learned in the years since the original Wheat Belly was released, lessons played out on the broad public stage of over one million readers, all participating in this grand adventure. Reordering your life after wheat is about learning how to regain full metabolic, gastrointestinal, thyroid, cardiovascular, hormonal, sleep, neurological, bone, and joint health. Understanding the strategies and putting them to use can take health several steps higher, even if the reader has already had a major health success without wheat. In addition to achieving better health in many different areas, life performance also improves in virtually all settings. In the life after wheat, you'll feel unrestrained, unimpaired, and unstoppable!

Critique: Fully living up to all expectations, "Wheat Belly Total Health" is a practical, 'user friendly' instructional guide to living a grain-free healthy lifestyle and effective weight-loss life plan. Enhanced with the inclusion of four appendices, thirty pages of Endnotes, and a comprehensive Index, "Wheat Belly Total Health" is especially recommended for community library Health & Medicine instructional reference collections in general, and to individuals having live a gluten-free diet for their health's sake. It should be noted that "Wheat Belly Total Health" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.24) and in an MP3 CD edition ($22.55).

Planets for Pagans
Renna Shesso
Weiser Books
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser/Conari
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781578635733, $19.95, 272pp,

Synopsis: Impeccably researched by one of the most eclectic pagan scholars working today, "Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing" by Renna Shesso aims to re-engage our fascination with the planets and stars. Shesso looks at the mythology, legend, science and lore about the planets and most significant stars in a chapter-by-chapter format. Included are nearly 150 diagrams and illustrations--of the heavens, astrological views, depictions of gods and goddesses, sky totems, Tarot symbols, star charts, and more. Anyone with even a vaguely pagan bent, anyone with a reverence for the natural world, who has ever marveled at the night sky will love this enchanted view of the planets and stars.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing" is thoroughly 'reader friendly', informed and informative. Ideal for the students of metaphysical studies, "Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing" will have strong appeal for contemporary readers with an interest in astrology and the heavens. Enhanced with 12 pages of Notes; 20 pages of Selected Bibliography; 5 appendices; illustrations; and a comprehensive Index, "Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collection. It should be noted that "Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

The Art of Mistakes
Melanie Rothschild
North Light Books
c/o F+W Media
700 East State Street, Iola WI 54945
Davidson & Choy Publicity
9781440311710, $24.99, 128pp,

Synopsis: When it comes to mistakes, we're all experts. Really. Yet fear of making mistakes often holds us back from trying new things. Inside, readers in general, and aspiring artists in particular, will discover how our mistakes can be powerful opportunities for new ideas that we could never think up deliberately. Whether a seasoned artist, or a novice just getting started, learning to embrace and use mistakes can spell the beginning of a new chapter in ab art-making lifestyle. Now anyone can learn ideas and painting techniques that a way of creative thinking that turn even your mistakes into beautiful works of art! "The Art of Mistakes: Unexpected Painting Techniques and the Practice of Creative Thinking" features 16 painting techniques to encourage creative thinking and experimentation, provides permission to make mistakes as we make art, and reveals methods to discover how mistakes can serve your art and creativity

Critique: Anyone who has every engaged in making art and in the process made mistakes will appreciate and value "The Art of Mistakes: Unexpected Painting Techniques and the Practice of Creative Thinking". Enhanced with a list of Resources and a useful Index, "The Art of Mistakes: Unexpected Painting Techniques and the Practice of Creative Thinking" is highly recommended and appropriate for personal, school, and community library Art Media instructional reference collections.

Fairy Homes & Gardens
Ashley Rooney & Barbara Purchia
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764346989, $24.99, 128pp,

Synopsis: Many supernatural creatures are said to inhabit our world. Their magical, wonderland realm has been the subject of many books, movies, and our childhood dreams. "Fairy Homes & Gardens" is a richly illustrated book, showcasing the work of 30 designers from around the world transform natural settings into enchanting displays that recreate that sense of wonder. Using artificial flowers, fabric, sticks, wire, crystals, berries, acorns, baskets, and polymer clay, these designers have been inspired to create their own once upon a time fairy home and garden for special events, storytelling, or just because they believe in fairies. In doing so, they tap into our inner child and help us to imagine a new world. "Fairy Homes & Gardens" is a wonderful resource for designers and artists, as well as parents, teachers, or anyone looking to create their own magical place.

Critique: Stunningly beautiful imagery throughout, "Fairy Homes & Gardens" is a wonderfully entertaining browse and an extraordinary, highly instructive, and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal and community library collections where it will be encountered by new generations of appreciative readers.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

A Light in the Wilderness
Jane Kirkpatrick
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800722319, $14.95,

I have not read all of Jane Kirkpatrick's books, but of those I've read this one I think is the best. Jane has an amazing ability to take sketchy details of historical figures, mostly women of the 19th century, and fill in a fictional life for them, down to the details of dialogue, facial expressions, and possessions. This book is about a free African American woman, Letitia, who goes west on the Oregon Trail in 1844. Two other women figure prominently in the tale of the trek west to Oregon territory, one Anglo and one Native American. The author intertwines the three lives and succeeds in portraying how different each life was and where they found common ground. Through the characters in the story the author captures the tension of the time in the struggle between those who wanted free states and those who wanted slave states in the growing United States. Letitia is beset by problems trying to stay free and find a place to live that would allow her freedom. Part of the saving grace of the story is that she is able to make friends who support her on her lonely quest. Some of that quest is heartbreaking, and while this is historical fiction, the reader knows someone somewhere must have lived through similar circumstances. In the end, Leticia triumphs. I would recommend reading first the author's note, acknowledgments, and interview at the end to enjoy the book even more.

Love Poems from God, Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Penguin Compass
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780142196120, $20.00,

I was cruising through the bookshop at Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Carlton, Oregon recently when this collection of poetry caught my eye. I have Ladinsky renderings of Hafiz in "I Heard God Laughing", which I've read many times and adore, and this book looked like it needed to be in my collection. Ladinsky selected poems from twelve mystics and saints and translated them in his inimitable fashion, which sometimes is very loose and often very funny. The twelve are: Rumi, St. Francis of Assisi, Hafiz, Kabir, St. Teresa of Avila, Tukaram, St. Catherin of Siena, Mira, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rabia, Meister Eckhart, and St. John of the Cross. I particularly like the non-Christian mystics, four of whom I had never heard of. An insight into the author's "loose" translations is in the section on the mystic, Kabir. Ladinsky writes "....what we see of historic saints is often tremendously edited, as the way a parent might edit what their child hears and sees. Christianity as a whole at times strikes me as a remarkably edited view of God, as do the beliefs of any religion that promotes any kind of division between the soul and creation." Each section has brief background on the saint and then a selection of their poetry. Here's one from Tukaram, who lived in India in the 17th century.

Did God really call that famous leader a goofball?
If he did, no need to worry about God anymore -
He is doing just fine,
And we are all a lot better off than I earlier suspected.

Or this one from Mira, renowned Indian poet of the 16th century:

The earth looked at Him and began to dance.
Mira knows why, for her soul too is in love.
If you cannot picture God in a way that always strengthens you,
You need to read more of my poems.

This is a very readable and uplifting collection, one to be savored and read again and again.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mason's Bookshelf

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal
James Pennebaker & John Evans
Idyll Arbor, Inc.
PO Box 720, Ravensdale, WA 98051
9781611580464, $16.00, 208pp,

Synopsis: The collaborative work of James Pennebaker and John Evans, "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" provides research results, articulated in layman's terms, which demonstrate how and when expressive writing can improve health. "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" explains why writing can often be more helpful than talking when dealing with trauma, and it prepares the reader for their writing experience. "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" looks at the most serious issues and helps the reader process them. "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" features: a basic four-day, 20-minute daily writing session program; a six-week writing program using a different technique each week; additional techniques for expressive writing; and
instructions on how to analyze what was written.

Critique: Informed and informative, "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" is ideal for non-specialist readers wanting to learn how to express themselves through the written word. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections, it should be noted that "Expressive Writing: Words that Heal" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Authentic Christianity
Gordon Haresign
Westbow Press
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
Bohlsen Group
9781490835624, $24.95, 348pp,

Synopsis: Christianity is more than a scholarly exposition of the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. In the pages of "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century", Gordon Haresign takes the reader on a tour from the small island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea to the sites of seven ancient cities in what was known as Asia Minor. The messages Christ conveyed to the churches in those cities are as stunning today as they were then. Haresign relates those messages into direct confrontation and challenge as he builds a convincing case for the display of authentic Christianity. Authentic Christianity captures attention from the outset as it not only examines Christ's critique of those churches at the end of the first century; it exposes today's churches. In light of the church's declining influence in the world, the author makes an exceptionally strong appeal for those who call themselves Christians to be authentic. "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century" exalts Christ's role in the church and reflects the high standard expected of Christians today. In an age when the church is increasingly scorned, the author sounds a clarion call for repentance and revival. This is a compelling read. "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century" containing personal and practical illustrations, is a dynamic challenge to bring one's life into conformity with Christ's expectations. The reader cannot possibly remain indifferent after reading the book and seriously considering its timely message. Ultimately, "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century" is an appeal for action, change, revival and authenticity.

Critique: An erudite work of impressive scholarship and thoroughly 'reader friendly' from beginning to end, "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century" is especially recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the origins of Christianity and compare the Christian movement of antiquity with the contemporary Christian churches of today. Informed and informative, "Authentic Christianity: A Radical Look at Christianity Today Based on Christ's Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor Toward the Close of the First Century" is strongly recommended for pastoral, academic library, and community library Christian Studies collections.

God Is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God
Thomas R. McFaul
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
Bob Todd Publicity
9781625646682, $23.00, 212pp,

Synopsis: "God Is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God" offers new insights into one of humankind's most profound questions: Does God exist? During the past ten years, theists and new atheists have argued to prove or disprove God's existence. Examining the pros and cons of each side leads to one overarching conclusion: The existence of God can be neither proven nor disproven with complete certainty, even though both sides draw on modern science to support their views. Drs. Thomas R. McFaul and Al Brunsting approach the question of God's existence from an entirely fresh perspective. They examine scientific knowledge in several areas ranging across the physical sciences and human experience to explain how the universe operates within very narrow and highly structured boundaries. Most importantly, they create an innovative "L-M Confidence Scale" to establish confidence levels, not proofs, on how scientific discoveries impact belief in God. McFaul and Brunsting describe the three stages of scientific evolution. In stage 1, the world's religions developed divergent pre-scientific views. Modern science started with stage 2, during which atheists predicted that science would eventually eradicate religion. In stage 3, the authors show how science, evolution, and belief in God have become increasingly integrated and mutually supportive.

Critique: Informed and informative, "God Is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring. Ideal for the non-specialist general reader concerned with efforts to reconcile traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and traditions with the growing body of science with respect to our understanding of the physical universe, "God Is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God" is highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library Religion/Spirituality collections. It should also be noted that "God Is Here to Stay: Science, Evolution, and Belief in God" is also available in a Kindle edition.

America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia
Simon I. Singer
New York University Press
838 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10003
9780814760802, $26.00, 320pp,

Synopsis: Since the mid-1990s, the fast-growing suburb of Amherst, NY has been voted by numerous publications as one of the safest places to live in America. Yet, like many of America's seemingly idyllic suburbs, Amherst is by no means without crime - especially when it comes to adolescents. In "America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia", noted juvenile justice scholar Simon I. Singer uses the types of delinquency seen in Amherst as a case study illuminating the roots of juvenile offending and deviance in modern society. If we are to understand delinquency, Singer argues, we must understand it not just in impoverished areas, but in affluent ones as well. Drawing on ethnographic work, interviews with troubled youth, parents and service providers, and extensive surveys of teenage residents in Amherst, "America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia" illustrates how a suburban environment is able to provide its youth with opportunities to avoid frequent delinquencies. Singer compares the most delinquent teens he surveys with the least delinquent, analyzing the circumstances that did or did not lead them to deviance and the ways in which they confront their personal difficulties, societal discontents, and serious troubles. Adolescents, parents, teachers, coaches and officials, he concludes, are able in this suburban setting to recognize teens' need for ongoing sources of trust, empathy, and identity in a multitude of social settings, allowing them to become what Singer terms 'relationally modern' individuals better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of modern life. A unique and comprehensive study, "America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia" is a major new addition to scholarship on juveniles and crime in America.

Critique: A work of seminal scholarship, "America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia" is enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Appendix, sixteen pages of Notes, and a comprehensive Index, making it an important and strongly recommended addition to academic library Criminology & Contemporary Sociology reference collections and urban delinquency studies supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "America's Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia " is also available in both a hardcover edition (9780814760536, $79.00) and a Kindle edition ($12.49).

Jack Mason

Mayra's Bookshelf

Wishes and Sorrows
Cindy Lynn Speer
Dragonwell Publishing
336 Malin Road, PA 19073.
9781940076041, $16.95, Trade Paperback, 312 pages

Wishes and Sorrows is a well-written short story fantasy collection that interweaves myth, magic, romance, and fairytale elements. At times, the writing is darker and bordering on horror.

The 14 stories in this collection range from the melancholic, lyrically written "The Taste of Cherries," to the chilling "The Train," to a character study of isolation mingled with love in "The Tower in the Desert."

I especially enjoyed "I Am the Grey Lady," about a woman afraid of going insane, and the darkly magical "Every Word I Speak," a retold fairy tale with a not-so-happy ending about a girl who spills a flower, a pearl, or a diamond out of her mouth whenever she speaks.

I enjoyed reading this collection. The author has a beautiful writing style, at times poetic and literary, with dreamlike, vivid images. The stories are pretty unique, though some of them, such as "The Taste of Cherries," feel more like vignettes than complete stories. In spite of the plot variety, there's a unifying thoughtful, "quiet" mood throughout that I especially liked. Recommended for fans of fantasy, fairy tales, and magical stories.

The Love List Collection
Jennifer Conner, Sharon Kleve, Angela Ford, Joanne Jaytanie
Books To Go Now
PO Box 1283 Poulsbo, WA 98370
9781502789266, $8.75, paperback, $2.99 eBook, 184 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romance

If you're a fan of romance stories, this holiday season treat yourself to The Love List, a series of interconnected stories about four best friends who come up with an unusual plan - the "love list" - to find romance and how they find true love in a small town. To put it simply, each drops a name of a nice guy their friends may like into a basket, and each chooses one...with unexpected consequences.

In "Love Uncorked," by Jennifer Conner, we meet Tegan Taylor, owner of the Que Syrah Syrah wine shop in Vine grove, the heart of wine country. She chooses Richard, but their date turns into a disaster. Richard is not at all the type of man she's looking for. But, then, a handsome Australian cowboy shows up, and things take a turn. Maybe the love list wasn't a bad idea, after all.

In "Love Found Me," by Sharon Kleve, Chloe Miles never thought she could find true love, especially with someone so different from her...until she meets Mitch Brodin as he steps foot into Roy's Pet Rescues looking for advice on how to care for new born kittens.

Chloe is vivacious and unpredictable, while Mitch is methodical and predictable. Like her, he never thought fate would bring him someone so opposite, especially when he hadn't planned on being so lucky.

In "Blind Tasting," by Angela Ford, Dr. Rebecca Miller is devastated over her fiance's affair with her best friend. To heal herself, she moves from the city and gets a job in a small country hospital. From the love list, she picks up the name of Chase Tanner. Things are going well, until he discovers the love list and believes to be fooled. Can Becca convince him she really does love him?

In "Building up to Love," by Joanne Jaytanie, Tegan, Chloe and Becca have already found true love...except Laura, so she thinks the love list is cursed, at least when it comes to her. She's in the process of opening a B&B when suddenly Travis Jerome arrives new to town and jumps at the chance to work on Laura's B&B remodelling. Sparks ignite, and a night of tragedy and near death brings their hearts together.

The Love List was a pleasure to read, the perfect novella collection to read at the beach or curled up in a warm sofa in front of the fire this holiday season. Written by four award-winning authors, the stories will make you laugh and will warm your heart. The writing is light, fun, and uplifting, the characters ones to root for. If you enjoy light romance stories with fun plots and compelling heroes and heroines, you'll want to give this one a try.

Mayra Calvani

Melissa's Bookshelf

Best Seller
Martha Reynolds
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
1499787936, $13.45, 378 pages,

The plot of this book really took my by surprise, in a very good way. Robin has just been expelled from Boston University for selling pot and she has no choice but to move back to her close-knit hometown in Rhode Island, rent a small apartment and work 6 days a week in a diner. Her father is so furious at her that months go by before he will even talk to her.

I really thought this was going to be another typical coming-of-age story with a whiny teenage girl, but Martha Reynolds' characters are much more interesting than I suspected. Robin understands that she has made an immature and stupid mistake and views her exile to a tiny apartment and her tedious job at the diner as a sort of penance.

While Robin is doing her "penance" she meets a few men in her life that bring a bright spot to her otherwise dull world. Andrew, one of her regular customers at the diner, is handsome and generous with his tips. When he learns that Robin is an aspiring writer and has hand-written a novel, he volunteers his wife's services to type up a manuscript for her.

Robin also begins dating a local boy named Frank. The way in which the author developed this relationship was intriguing. At first Robin seems almost bored or indifferent to Frank. We are left wondering until the very end whether or not Frank is truly "the one" for Robin.

Robin's upstairs neighbor also has an interesting role in the plot. He is overweight and Robin seems repelled by his presence, but at the same time she is drawn to him and seeks him out at a couple of key points in the storyline.

And finally, we are introduced to Robin's dysfunctional family which includes her mother, father, older brother and sister-in-law. What amazed me about Martha Reynolds' writing abilities is that she deftly weaves together many different storylines without making them confusing or convoluted.

I highly recommend BEST SELLER if you like a quick, light read that is full of surprises until the end.

The Gods of Second Chances
Dan Berne
Forest Avenue Press
0988265745, $18.00, 298 pages,

Ray Bancroft is a widowed fisherman in Alaska trying to raise his 11 year old granddaughter by himself. He has had a tough life and nothing comes easy to him. He surrounds himself with statues of gods from different religions in order to gain some good karma and extra luck from the universe when he is carrying out his daily tasks.

The Alaskan setting in this book is captivating. Ray and his partner Felix are out on their boat in bone-chilling weather for 12 or more hours a day trying to catch crabs and shrimp. The descriptions of the sea, the Alaskan landscape and Yatki Island make you feel like you are shivering on the boat right beside them.

At times it seems like the whole universe is against Ray. His job is dangerous, a tourist that he took out on his boat for a fishing trip has filed a frivolous lawsuit against him and he is always struggling to make ends meet. The one bright spot in his world is his teenage granddaughter Sitka, but even his relationship with her is threatened when his drug addicted daughter suddenly comes back to town.

The greatest strength of this novel is the exploration of relationships among members of a fractured family. Ray is trying to deal with and process his daughter's drug use and the fact that she reappears in his life after years of prison and drug rehab programs. Sitka, Ray's granddaughter, has never known her mother and has a hard time coping with her parent unexpectedly showing up on their doorstep and trying to forge a relationship with her. Berne makes us think about whether or not a wounded family dynamic can ever truly be repaired.

There are so many different subject matters into which this book delves: love, loyalty, death, coping, second chances. Dan Berne deftly weaves all of these themes into an unforgettable tale and THE GODS OF SECONDS CHANCES should make your must read list this year.

All Days Are Night
Peter Stamm
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor New York, NY 10016
1590516966, $22.00, 192 pages,

When the book opens, Gillian is waking up in a hospital room after a terrible car accident. Her husband, Matthias, is dead, and she has been terribly disfigured. She must undergo several operations to repair her nose and make her look normal again. As Gillian spends a lot of time alone, she contemplates her previous life as a wife, a television news journalist and a minor celebrity.

On the night of the accident, Gillian had a terrible fight with her husband and they were both drinking heavily. Matthias found nude pictures of Gillian and confronted her about them. Gillian had conducted an interview with an artist named Hubert whose specialty was taking pictures of and painting nude women. Gillian starts meeting Hubert in secret and he tries to paint her nude as well, but he seems to have lost his artistic inspiration.

The second part of the book is narrated by Hubert himself. He is stuck in a marriage in which there is no real depth of emotions. When he met Gillian his artistic creativity is on the wane and he cannot quite figure out how to get it back. Hubert takes a job teaching art at a local college, which means more financial stability for his wife and son, but he seems unfulfilled and uninspired.

The range of emotions that the author conveys in this short novel is astonishing. Gillian feels guilt, pain, remorse and finally happiness. Hubert feels stifled, jealous and confused. This book brings to light the contrast between what we are on the outside and who we actually are behind the facade. Can Gillian and Hubert reconnect and get beyond their past? Can Hubert fully disconnect from his wife and move on? ALL DAYS ARE NIGHT is a short read, yet it is full of dialogue that will make you contemplate life, personal identity and the passage of time.

Real Life Paleo
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry
Victory Belt Publishing
100 Front St Riverside, NJ 08075
1628600454, $39.95, 432 pages,

Stacy and Matthew are "The Paleo Parents" and their entire family has adopted the paleo lifestyle, including their three young boys. The cookbook begins with a description of Stacy and Matthew's family, how each one of them has benefitted from the paleo diet. They suggest that anyone who is new to the paleo lifestyle adapt a three phase approach: Swap, remove and heal. They first suggest swapping out junk food and highly processed food for more natural foods such as fruits and vegetables. Next, they recommend removing grain, highly refined oils and other junk carbohydrates from one's diet. When the first two steps are completed, they argue, then the body will begin to heal itself. Their own stories and transformations are proof that this three-step approach works.

There are so many fantastic recipes in this cookbook that I didn't know where to begin. It is a cookbook that I will reach for again and again. Since it has turned very cold here this week in New England, I decided to choose some comfort foods to cook for my family on a Sunday. For the appetizer I chose a soup which the book calls "Stacy's Soup." I really liked this recipe because of its versatility. The recipe calls for some type of diced meat such as turkey or chicken, some diced vegetables and a broth. I had a homemade bone broth on hand so I used that as my base and then added cubed chicken, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. The soup was absolutely delicious and my husband, who is a soup connoisseur, especially enjoyed it.

For the main course, I used the recipe for a "Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder." I will tell you that I like to buy grass-fed or pastured raised, all natural, locally raised meats. I used the recommended spice rub to coat the pork shoulder and slowly roasted it in the oven for 3.5 hours at 325 degrees. It was the perfect Sunday dinner and the roast was so big that we used the meat to make sandwiches for lunch during the week and it was just as good.

For dessert I made the "Creamy Coconut Chocolate Chip Macroons." They were not too sweet, but just sweet enough to give us a little treat. I will say that many of the dessert recipes use almond flour, which I try to avoid. I do wish the book contained more dessert recipes with nut free options. But this is only a minor complaint for what is truly a fabulous cookbook.

I absolutely loved everything about this book. REAL LIFE PALEO is so much more than a cookbook: it is a resource for anyone interested in attempting to follow the paleo diet, it is an inspirational story about one family who has healed themselves through food, and it is a reference book for those of us who are already following the paleo lifestyle. The recipes in REAL LIFE PALEO are delicious and this is a versatile cookbook for any home cook, paleo or otherwise.

Melissa Beck, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma
Diane Fox
Illustrated by Christyan Fox
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780545694810, $16.99, 32 pages,

On the cover of "The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma," the dog says, "It all sounds a bit complicated to me." He does have a point. It is a rather cumbersome title for the charming tale inside. As cat begins to read aloud the story of "Little Red Riding Hood," dog barges in and drills her with a ton of questions. What's her super power? Does she hypnotize the bad guys? Are they exploding eggs in her basket? Cat becomes more and more exasperated at dog's insistence on turning the story into something it's not. But he never stops pushing her buttons. And the tension mounts. Cat and dog have a real big sister-little brother thing going on that adds another layer to the humor. The cartoon illustrations with hand-printed text, give this a comic book appeal. Readers become easily engaged in spotting a few more laughs along the way. The end papers discussion is cute. But the back cover is the bonus gag. Good. Clean. Fun.

Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds
Dale Kutzera
Salmon Bay Books
P.O. Box 70276, Seattle, WA 98127
9780692023921, $8.99, 296 pages,

By the time Andy McBean reached the 6th grade, he had already survived cancer. In the midst of navigating the pitfalls of middle school and the gauntlet of bullies, Andy's world comes crashing down around him. Actually it was his house because a meteor roared through the neighborhood and crash landed in his front yard. But it's not really a meteor. It's a spaceship and the aliens inside are none too friendly. Except when Andy comes face-to-face with an alien named Been 'Tok in the flower shop, he realizes not all of them are alike and maybe that's the key. Andy shifts into survivor gear once again. Only this time it's not just himself he must save but his family, his friends, and the whole entire planet.

Kutzera's screenwriting skills shine in his comedic timing, numerous sight gags, and captivating details. Three-eyed Been 'Tok's facial contortions as he attempts smiling are hilarious. Readers are easily transported into Andy's world as though watching a movie. So pop some popcorn ahead of time. You won't want to miss a minute of the action. Edge-of-your-seat adventure meets sci-fi with a sense of humor in "Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds."

How to be a Space Explorer: Your Out-of-this-World Adventure
Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet Publications
150 Linden Street, Oakland, CA 94607
9781743604342. $17.99. 160 pages,

The design of this nonfiction space exploration book is similar to the design of a graphic novel with colorful circles and boxes containing facts and information about space travel in our universe. The illustrations combine digitally enhanced photos and cartoon graphics which make each two-page spread a collage of eye-catching and engaging images. While this may not be a nonfiction style that adults are accustomed to, kids love it because they can open up the book to any page and read about vomiting volcanos and the jigsaw moon and become immediately absorbed. This is not a book that must be read from beginning to end, though I found it most enjoyable and educational to do so. The publisher recommends this book for 8 to 12-year olds. However it has a much broader appeal and I recommend it for 6 years old and up. "How to be a Space Explorer" covers a lot of space in this fun and fascinating journey through our universe. A great gift for your space cadet.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm (An Amish Love Story)
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Revell Publishing
P.O. Box 6287 Grand Rapids, MI 49516
9780800721930, $15.99, 229 pages

"My father died when he was only 54. At his funeral there were roses everywhere and all the colors of the rainbow. To look at my dad you would never guess that he was a man who loved roses with a passion. It is because of his love that I wanted to read this book."

Billy Lapp was a young Amish man who lived with his father and older brothers. Life was hard for him as they treated him horribly. One day he woke up and said to himself "No more." He then left his home and never looked back.

Billy got a job at Penn State University's greenhouse. He took care of all the plants and flowers there. He became known as a Rose Rustler. It was his job to go out when someone called and thought they may have an unidentified rose. One day his boss came to where he was working at. She handed him a note, and said she had a call and wanted him to check out a rose. He just sat the note down and did not pay attention to it for awhile. When he did he felt his world begin to spin. He tried to think of a way to get out of going, but could not. The address on the paper was Rose Hill Farm. Back to the town he ran away from. Back to where a young woman who was still in love with him.

You will meet a character named George. George has a way of showing up at just the right time when he is needed. I hope all who read this book enjoys it as much as I have.

Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel
Debbie Macomber
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553391152, $18.00, 255 pages,

I first have to say this book has a great cover. I did not notice it at first, but when I picked the book up it showed what could be snow falling or ice crystals. You can turn it everywhere and see it. It is truly a lovely cover.

The book is what you would expect from a Christmas story. We find Harry Mills who is an angel sent to earth. This is his first time on earth. When he was in heaven he would look down and observe people and thought he had a pretty good idea on what they were like. So when he was finally given an assignment he was thought he was ready. One thing he did not count on was having human feelings while he was here.

His assignment was to help a young woman named Addie Folsom. In helping her he made some mistakes but the ending is what I expected. That did not diminish the story for me. I got this book for those reasons. It is a light read with interesting characters. The book made me feel happy and I laughed in places.

It was a good story which let me live in another place for a short time. I needed that.

Rated G

Sandra Heptinstall

Sarah's Bookshelf

Border Ghosts
Elizabeth A. Garcia
John Hardy Publishing
1330 Sherwood Forest St Houston TX 77043
9780990525998, $18.95, 293 pages,

Elizabeth A. Garcia produces another stunning crime novel, but this time, the mystery is personal. As Deputy Margarita Ricos helps a friend in the Texas Rangers uncover the truth of a horrendous family murder, she does some digging into her own family. As she sifts through the remains of a long-ago past, Deputy Ricos begins to form a deep bond with an important man. Border Ghosts does not disappoint; it is filled with suspense, intrigue, and romance.

But it also reveals a crime different from the gruesome murders that abound in the small town of Terlingua. Ms. Garcia takes us on a journey to the past, to life on the border in the '60s. This novel deals with political issues that are still present today, human rights violations that are still prevalent. Garcia describes a truth greater than Margarita's crime work in West Texas; she tackles the ever-present subject of immigration to United States from the Mexican border. In a beautifully written tale of two lovers, she presents us with the dangers and inevitable tragedies that face those brave enough to leave the comforts of family and attempt a new life in a land full of promise.

Border Ghosts is beautiful; Border Ghosts is important. Its implications are far-reaching. In its capacity to shed light on a difficult matter, Border Ghosts is Elizabeth Garcia's best novel yet.

The Reluctant Cowboy
Elizabeth A. Garcia
John Hardy Publishing
1330 Sherwood Forest St Houston TX 77043
9781495223389, $18.95, 313 pages,

If you have read Elizabeth A. Garcia's Deputy Ricos series, The Reluctant Cowboy will surprise you. Stripped of its murder mystery action, Garcia's writing becomes something entirely new. Garcia's short-story-turned-novel tells the terrifying but touching story of a gay cowboy trying to survive one abusive and homophobic Texas town after another. The Reluctant Cowboy is a coming-of-age novel that takes us from Jed Peterson's confused teenage years to his unimaginable adulthood, with a hundred dark turns between the two.

In this novel, Garcia creates characters more complex and real than ever. Nothing about Jed is simple, but all of it is honest, visceral, and raw. Beyond creating a beautifully written cowboy tale, Garcia dives into key human rights issues. She doesn't shy away from the fear and violence that so many experience on a daily basis.

This cowboy's story will haunt you long after you finish it. It is both horrifying and breath-taking. If Jed Peterson's story doesn't tug at your heart-strings, then I don't know what will.

Sarah Le Pichon

Susan's Bookshelf

An Apartment in Paris
Caroline Blane
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00O9X4AG4, $8.02, 219 Pages,

Whether you have ever dreamed of owning a little pied-a-terre, are actually seriously considering it, or just love books about France and being the fly on the wall of other peoples adventures, this book cannot fail to entertain and inform you!

When college professors Caroline and her husband Andrew decide to take a six month sabbatical from their work at a university in America and buy an apartment in Paris, not only do they have themselves to think about, but also settling their five year old son Adrian into school.

Renting an apartment they settle their young son in, and with the resilience of youth, he embraces his new life and settles into his school well, and then the hunt for the perfect apartment begins.

I am an English expat living in France, and have been to Paris quite a few times, however, living within commuting distance of the capital, whilst reading this, I just wanted to get into the car and explore the famous, and more hidden treasures this beautiful city has to offer some more. Engrossed in the book I can imagine sitting in the little cafe's dotted throughout the city, and find myself practically smelling the delicious coffee served within. The wonderful food and culture of France is so well described that I found myself dying to try the delicious dishes, gateaux and cheeses which are so beautifully described by the author.

However, whilst soaking in the atmosphere and discovering, or in the case of myself rekindling my love of this wonderful city, I found myself absorbing the enormous amount of practical information and phrases which have been included in this book. For those who need it, there is also a very useful guide to the procedures and terms used everywhere in France when buying a house, and information essential for a prospective buyer.

Throughout the book, the author keeps the reader enthralled by their family's adventures, whether they are just carrying out everyday tasks, or seeing the city's sights and districts. This entertaining book is also contains many interesting historical facts about the places they visit, both in Paris and on their breaks to other parts of France.

This is a wonderful mixture of travelogue and 'how to' which I thoroughly enjoyed and would not hesitate to recommend.

The Juno Letters
L. W. Hewitt
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
1500891916, $12.95, 348 Pages

This is such a fascinating story for anyone interested in WWI and WWII, I just could not put it down.

When an unexpected parcel arrives for Lawrence Hewitt from Courseulles-sur-Mer in France, it contains letters, they are addressed to his Grandfather Andy. The letters, which were written during WWII had been discovered hidden in a small cottage in Normandy and are from Andy's friend Antoine Bouchard, but they were never posted...

A friendship was forged in WWI between his grandfather, Private Andy Anderson and Antoine Bouchard, who although French was living in the Alsace region at the outbreak of the war and was forced to fight for Germany. Then, after WWI Andy returns home and becomes a chaplain and Antoine stays in France.

As Andy's grandson reads the letters and researches what he finds, we are treated to an amazing insight into real life in France, between the wars and during WWII. The prejudices which existed and the secret underground work of the resistance.

However, love will find a way, and Antoine finds happiness marrying his lovely Marianne and they have a daughter, Ariele, then their world is shattered as the cruelty of war impacts on their lives and they all find themselves faced with circumstances beyond their control.

Living in France as I do, near to Tours, which is featured in this book, the tributes are all around us to the brave young men of many nations who lost their lives, and, not too far away in Normandy are the Juno landings beaches, and Courseulles-sur-Mer so vital during D Day on the 6th June, 1944.

It is very hard for me, even now to remember that this is a work of fiction, the depth of research and attention to detail bring alive all too horrifically the very real dangers facing collaborators during the wars and the bravery of the resistance and allies working behind enemy lines.

The question is, what happens to Antoine, Marianne and Ariele? To find out you will have to read the book or listen to the audiobook version.

This story is a tribute to the author, Lawrence Hewitt's Grandfather Andy. Armed with his grandfather's personal journals which he wrote as a soldier in the Great War, the author visited Paris in 2012 and followed in his footsteps. The journey he took and his visit to the Normandy landing beaches are the inspiration behind The Juno Letters.

Susan Keefe, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439140222, $16.00, Paperback, 304 pp.

As is his custom, Moscow investigator Arkady Renko butts in when a woman plunges to her death from her upstairs apartment. He is told she was a famous crusading journalist (something hard to believe in Russia, now or in the past) and it sets him off on an investigation that takes him to a place on the Baltic Sea very few of us even know exists. A map shows Kaliningrad as part of Russian territory south of Lithuania where there is a naval base.

Renko becomes obsessed with the dead woman and eventually learns of corruption involving the Russian mafia, government officials and others (so what else is new?). It seems that a translator who attended a high level conference in Kaliningrad who had kept a notebook is also murdered, and his notes, written in an undecipherable manner, come into Renko's possession. Unfortunately, he can't understand anything in the notebook which would unveil the plot.

Written in a tight and smooth manner, the novel flows from beginning to end. More than in past Renko novels, the story delves more deeply into present day Russia, its politics, business practices and corruption. It is a welcome addition to the series and is recommended.

Ken Bruen
The Mysterious Press
c/o GroveAtlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122896, $14.00, Paperback, 288 pp.

To read a Jack Taylor novel is to relive James Joyce's stream of consciousness in modern inebriated lingo. And that is a good thing because Ken Bruen is a thinking man's (or woman's) writer. In this entry Jack is recovering from events in preceding volumes, in which he lost fingers on one hand and his hearing, partially.

He's given up drinking, smoking and other assorted vices, and is moderately content. That is, until he receives mysterious notes signed "C33," a presumed vigilante murderer of persons condemned for their evil deeds. Apparently, the killer wants Jack to assist efforts to rid Galway of other miscreants. Jack ignores these efforts, but becomes entangled in the web of a peculiar billionaire who is buying up everything in sight. At the same time, he becomes involved with the money man's wife.

The novel, like its predecessors, glows with the charm of an Irish leprechaun, with expressive comments derived from Ireland's history. Mr. Bruen is never an easy read, but always an enjoyable one.


The Burning Room
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Av., NYC 10017
9780316225939, $28.00, Hardcover, 400 pp.

Now, presumably, entering his final year as a detective, Harry Bosch is paired with Lucia Soto, a young Latina woman with no experience, on the theory he has the experience to mentor her and something would rub off. As it turns out, she not only has the same drive and commitment as the veteran, but also a private agenda which provides a second plot to the original cold case they are tasked to work on.

The first case is an unusual one: A man who was shot ten years before, the bullet lodging in his spine leaving him paralyzed, dies of blood poisoning, and the coroner rules it a homicide. So Harry and his partner not only have a cold case but a current murder to investigate. The second case is a personal obsession of Lucy, who as a child was the victim of a fire in which nine other children and their minder died. The case was assigned to another detective team, and Harry exhibits his maverick ways by acquiring jurisdiction with his unique methodology.

As a result, the novel proceeds with two police procedurals, for which the author is, perhaps, among the best writers of this kind. It is a little sad to think Harry is coming to the end of a long run. Or does Mr. Connolly have something else in mind for the venerable character (or his partner)? The Harry Bosch series has been one of police procedurals in the best sense of the term, and of the genre, and it would be disappointing to its loyal readers if it were to suddenly disappear.

As were its predecessor novels, "The Burning Room" also is highly recommended.

Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot
Reed Farrel Coleman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399169458, $26.95, Hardcover, 352 pp.

When an author is asked to write a novel continuing a series originated by someone else, much less a master like Robert B. Parker, fundamental questions must be decided: try to imitate the style and writing, how to maintain the integrity of the characters, and the like. Alternatively, Reed Farrel Coleman, a successful author of a score of books, including the respected Moe Prager series, decided to write a novel in his own fashion while adhering to the character representations of Jesse Stone, Molly Crane and Suit Simpson.

And he achieves his purpose with a complicated story involving a Ponzi-like scheme run by an old friend, his second baseman, Vic Prado, from Jesse's minor league days. Unlike Parker, who used sex sparingly and often as a light touch, this version relies heavily on Jesse and Vic bedding first one then another woman. There is perhaps an overabundance of Jesse's baseball days and the injury that led to his forfeiture of a big league career, but it is an essential part of his background.

The plot begins with the kidnapping of the younger son of an owner of a mutual fund Vic is attempting to take over, and the murder of a young lady with whom he was in bed at the time of his abduction. Other violence takes place along the way as Jesse attempts to find the guilty person and put the pieces together to understand what is going on. To that end, Mr. Coleman achieves his goal, and the book is recommended.

The Axe Factor
Colin Cotterill
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250043368, $24.99, Hardcover, 294 pp.

I have enjoyed reading this author's Dr. Siri series, so approached this new Jimm Juree Mystery with great anticipation. Unfortunately, the mystery alone is what the novel is all about. Jimm, a former high-powered crime reporter in her former habitat, now lives with her nutty family in southern Thailand where she is basically unemployed and at loose ends. That's how one gets into trouble, and she does.

Basically, the plot is two-fold: how Jimm interviews a farang (European) writer and becomes sexually involved with him and also becomes enmeshed in a conspiracy in which a serial killer plays a part. Naturally this places Jimm in danger, while her love affair raises the suspicion of her grandfather, an ex-cop, who enlists the rest of the family to spy on the author.

Written in a light tone with many witty observances by Jimm, the novel sadly plods along and results in a slow read. It seems very unlike the author's other efforts (especially the Dr. Siri series), which are delightful. Perhaps the next one will pull it all together.

The Skin Collector
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455517138, $28.00, Hardcover, 430 pp.

A typical Lincoln Rhyme novel is built on an accumulation of facts or clues to be analyzed and repeatedly summarized at the end of each chapter, as the criminologist and his team attempt to solve a crime and lead to the capture of the culprit. This novel is no different, except for the crime, its methodology and purpose and some additional plot complications.

To begin with there are a series of killings in which the perpetrator murders the victims by injecting poison by means of a tattoo machine, which he uses to leave cryptic clues. The murders take place in various underground locations in New York City. Rhyme and Sachs attempt to anticipate where each murder will take place, as well as the motive for the killings.

The title of this novel (and the theme, "Skin") is a throwback to an earlier novel, "The Bone Collector," another serial killer who terrorized The Big Apple, to whom a vague reference is made in the present plot. As in previous entries in the series, the characters are well-drawn, the plot moves forward methodically, Rhyme is depicted in his gruff manner and in the end it all comes together in an unexpected manner.


Black Horizon
James Grippando
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062109903, $9.99, Paperback, 480 pp.

Jack Swyteck, the book's protagonist, is an accomplished defense lawyer, demonstrated in numerous previous novels in the series. However, in this entry his role as an attorney, bringing suit for wrongful death for the young widow of a man apparently killed when an offshore rig exploded, is merely peripheral to a wide-ranging thriller and sort of a love story on two levels. One aspect is at the beginning of the story, with Jack and Andie Henning getting married and beginning their honeymoon in the Florida Keys.

Then there is the other couple, Bianca and Rafael, married but separated, she in Key West after having left Cuba, he stuck there and working on that same rig, built in China but operated by a consortium of non-U.S. oil companies on behalf of the Cuban petroleum monopoly. When the rig explodes, the result is an even bigger oil spill than the one that took place in the Gulf. The black gook threatens and engulfs the entire south Florida coastal area, and the consequences result in an adventure for Jack and his friend and sidekick, Theo.

Unlike other novels in the series, legal aspects (the author is a practicing attorney) seem only to be interjections in a thriller filled with action and murders. As far as the plot goes, the author provides plenty to keep the reader turning pages to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, along the way there doesn't seem to be a single clue provided to substantiate the conclusion. Also, Theo comes across more as a clown than a serious character. While the novel is still a good read, it is less than one would expect from a series that has run for as long as this one has. Nevertheless, it can still be, and is, recommended.

Without Warning
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250055163, $7.99, Paperback, 320 pp.

It must be satisfying for an author of a popular series like the Andy Carpenter novels to write not one but two well-received standalones. This, of course, is the second, and is a thriller of the first order. While the concept, predictions in an unearthed time capsule, is not novel, the execution of this story is. It seems that burying a time capsule by the town's newspaper every 50 years is a tradition. But four years after its burial a hurricane flooded the area, and fear that the contents might be damaged led to its being unearthed.

When the dirt burying the time capsule was removed, a skeleton was found on top of it. Then when the contents were exposed, a series of bizarre predictions not originally included were discovered. Thus begins an intense investigation led by Chief of Police Jake Robbins and deep investigative reporting by the local paper, complicated by the fact that the husband of Katie Sanford, the editor and publisher, was convicted years before of killing Jake's wife. To further muddy the waters, Jake and Katie had a one-night stand before he was married and they seem still attracted to each other.

The plot and writing are top-notch, and the twists and turns keep the reader's interest at a maximum. And even once in a while, the humor of such a character as Andy Carpenter sporadically shines. The tension mounts page by page and in wrapping the story up, the author concludes in a manner so completely unexpected that the reader has to wonder what was missed along the way.


Patrick Lee
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250030740 $9.99, Paperback, 400 pp.

This thriller novel begins with the protagonist, Sam Dryden, going for a run on the boardwalk near his home in a little California town in the middle of the night, and the characters continue running throughout the novel. What they are running from or to is the question. While catching his breath, a young girl runs into him, and he finds out she is being chased by a bunch of men and her life is threatened. So the former black-ops soldier literally takes her under his wing to protect her

So begins a nationwide chase, as Sam and the girl, whose memory appears to be affected, travel in an attempt to find out why she is a target, and the pursuers close in on the pair. The pages are filled with lots of action and derring-do, with Sam exhibiting a wide range of creative feats worthy of the best of characters a la Jack Reacher. Meanwhile the reader is kept on edge waiting for the next dangerous situation and exploit to get them out of a seemingly impossible spot.

The author blends elements of science fiction and futuristic scientific fundamentals in a fast-moving plot. It is easy to recommend.

The Fire Dance
Helene Tursten, author
Laura A. Wideburg, translator
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950129, $15.95, Paperback, 332 pp.

Fifteen years is a long time between police investigations involving the same person, but that is what Inspector Irene Huss finds as she investigates the death of a young woman, Sophie, who as an eight-year-old girl was suspected of arson in the death of her stepfather when their house burned down. What is so striking in the present is that Sophie was burned to death.

The novel proceeds basically in fits and starts, as Irene and the rest of the Gotberg Murder Squad encounter other cases taking up time, and as she seeks either a clue to the past, as well as the present, or inspiration. Sophie had grown up to be a choreographer and dancer who created a dance called, naturally, The Fire Dance, which debuts posthumously to great acclaim.

As in the previous five installments in the series, Irene juggles her police duties with family life, her gourmet chef husband and twin daughters who now exhibit minds of their own in relation to their interests and boyfriends. This portrayal makes Irene a sympathetic, and somewhat harried, character. But she prevails somehow in both roles. At the same time, the author manages to move a crime story forward subtly with panache.


Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot
Ace Atkins
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399161582, $26.95, Hardcover, 320 pp.

Unlike his previous effort in continuing a series created by Robert B. Parker, this time around Ace Atkins uses the full complement of Parker-created characters in a plot reminiscent of the master, including a sports theme. Kinjo Heywood is a star linebacker for the New England Patriots in need of Spenser's services. It seems he has been followed and threatened.

A simple assignment turns into a much more deadly one when Kinjo's young son is kidnapped, and it takes the efforts of the full all-star team of Hawk, Zebulon Sixkill, Susan Silverman, and of course Spenser himself, to solve the crime.

This time, the plot, dialogue and characterizations are more true to form. Atkins was hand-selected by the Parker estate to undertake writing three Spenser novels. Now that he has fulfilled that obligation, the question remains whether he will continue writing the series or go his own way. After all, he is an established author with many books of his own under his belt.

The novel is recommended.

Theodore Feit

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