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P.O. Box 853, Warners Bay, NSW 2282, Australia
1920957235 $7.00 http://www.compulsivereader.com
Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer
Quark Soup is a cryptic collection of alluring poetry that provides fodder for deep introspection, while personifying planets and attributing humans with celestial properties. The subjects of childbirth and supernovas are cleverly interwoven, often cloaking the author's intent. In great mystery, cosmic wonders flow within love and relationships, titillating the reader's imagination.
Examine this segment from Coil of Life:
Hurling matter in all directions,
the particles of the embryonic universe
rush away from each other.
In the beginning there was nothing
but plasma soup. Less than a second later
pure energy became
a slippery birth cry still measurable
fifteen billion years later
in the decaying echoes of space.
Is the author referring to the birth of a child, or a universe?
In this excerpt from Aurora, Ms. Ball appears to be pleading with a cold-hearted scientist who has lost the capacity to perceive beauty and perhaps also the ability to show affection. Her earnest entreaty follows.
If I could capture that spectrum
the atomic neon sign of your lost wonder
and feed it to you on a spoon
when your lonely vigil against
poverty and incompetence
becomes ball and chain
I'd give up my own food
stand with my back to the solar wind
close my eyes to beauty
to keep you warm.
I'd be your personal aurora
your talisman against the dark lure of ennui
an electrical current charging
Science and passion fold together in masterful imagery as love, loss, and motherhood slip in and out of the image streams captured by Ms. Ball.
The subject of loss is tackled in several pieces, most particularly in Green, which addresses the loss of a mother to cancer. Examine this excerpt:
my fingers worked independent
tracing the landscape of her arched back
as she bent over her porcelain taskmaster
begging the drugs which she couldn't swallow
to kill the disease
indistinguishable from her own cells
Honest emotion covers themes like lonely childhood, the perfect universe, an impersonal lover, and the infinite joy of parenthood. With skillful word tapestries, the poems are infused with the wisdom of deep thought and experience, a rare commodity in such a young author. The collection is highly recommended, and will be treasured on this reviewer's bookshelf.
The Psychopath: Theory, Research, and Practice
Hugues Herve and John C. Yuille
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
10 Industrial Avenue, Mahwah, New Jersey 07430
Alma H. Bond
The Psychopath: Theory, Research, and Practice is a brilliant book! Although I, as a psychoanalyst, shuddered when I first opened the book and saw that it is based mainly on research on psychopaths, notably the research of Dr. Robert Hare, I soon became totally absorbed in the book. It opened new doors of understanding for me, so that after years of study and clinical practice, I feel I finally understand what a psychopath is.
The book consists of seven sections on psychopathy written by different authors, all of whom are well known in their field.. The contents of the book range from the evolution of the construct, through methodology and measurement issues, to etiology, to characteristic behavior and problems, to the generalizability of the construct, to subtypes of psychopathy, and end with practice concerns. As with most books compiled by many authors, the quality of the chapters varies greatly. Some are so fascinating it is difficult to put the book down, while a few are so boring one is tempted to skip over them. This review will concern itself mainly with the former chapters, as they are probably the most valuable.
According to Wong and Burt (p. 461), "Psychopathy is a serious personality disorder marked by a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics. Affectively, psychopaths are emotionally shallow, selfish, callous, and lack any remorse. Interpersonally, psychopaths are cunning, deceitful. and manipulative. Behaviorally, psychopaths are irresponsible and impulsive and lack realistic long-term goals." The star of the book undoubtedly is Dr. Robert Hare, who conducted ground breaking research on psychopathy. Before Dr. Hare did this research, no tools were validated for the assessment of the devastating illness. His research is of tremendous importance to the science of criminology, psychology, to mental health professionals of all schools, to those miserable individuals involved in relationships with psychopaths, and most of all, to their future victims. The test has increased the diagnosis sensibility of psychopathy, and highlights important risk factors of this socially devastating disorder. For example, through use of Dr. Hare's Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) scales, it can be predicted which criminals will recidivate, perhaps to commit murder and other serious crimes, and which ones can be released with minimal danger to society. The test also is able at pinpoint those individuals who are not psychopaths, who are more likely candidates to undergo successful therapy, and are deemed safe to return to society. By studying various components of the tests, perpetrators of specific crimes can sometimes be located. To do their jobs properly, correction managers, therapists, parole board members, supervisors, and line staff require valid information about the psychopathic personality, which is found through study of Dr. Hare's scales. By further developing his research, it is possible that insight will be obtained on why and how psychopaths develop, and perhaps even on how to avoid their development in the future.
The Psychopath: Theory, Research, and Practice is highly recommended for all those who are curious about the concept of psychopathy. It should be required reading for all mental health practitioners and enforcers of the law.
Houghton Mifflin Company
215 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10003
At one hundred eighty-two pages, Philip Roth's twenty-seventh book may appear diminutive and can, in fact, be read quickly---if one devours books rather than reflects on their content. Such an attitude would be difficult to sustain in the face of the sobering subject, in this case, the downhill slide towards death that is the inevitable end of the book's title. (Thankfully, Roth hasn't fallen prey to the politically correct mandate against gender specific nouns that might have resulted in dreadful constructions like "Everyman/ Woman," "Every Person" or "Every Being.") The fact that "Everyman" is also the title of a fifteenth century morality tract doesn't hurt either. It adds an additional dollop of timelessness.
Moving backwards from the opening cemetery scene where the unnamed protagonist is attended by those with whom he once shared significant portions of his life, the story recounts the various ways in which he managed to fail each of these people. It is an awareness that overtakes him only as he ages, begins to suffer from deteriorating health, finds himself alone, and loses interest even in the lifelong dream of artistic expression. He was not an evil man, or even a cruel one, simply a creature who chose to swim parallel to the shore, compromising with the rip tides of life. If he was guilty of anything, it was of failing to consider his immediate circumstances and whether he should aggressively attempt to impose his own will on them. Should he have tried to explain his mistakes to the two sons from his first marriage who remain lost to him? Why did he allow middle-aged passion to sweep him to where he destroyed his most supportive relationship? His benign ineptness is further magnified by the shadow of an older, apparently flawless brother who swoops in to assist with amazing frequency. That this brother is a creature blessed with unflagging health, kindness and financial success, only serves to embitter the central character.
While many of the painful realizations Roth's character reaches relate to his particular misconduct, the point must be taken that waiting until the end of life to evaluate one's performance---or even whether one has developed suitable standards by which to live---hardly leaves time for adjustment or improvement. Perhaps that is the saddest lesson of all, the realization that wrongs can no longer be undone, that there is no time left to become someone we ourselves consider admirable.
There is a distinct terror in remembering the empowerment of being young, strong and involved with the pleasures of life, while simultaneously recognizing that such feelings have become the speck on a remote horizon. Roth skillfully encapsulates this in phrases such as, "Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre" and "…his longing for the last great outburst of everything" and "Was himself now nothing…but a motionless cipher awaiting the blessing of an eradication that was absolute." He is a master at recreating the imagery and subtle flavoring of a specific segment of society (hardworking, Jewish middle-class tradesman) at a specific time (1930s and on) and in a specific locale (New Jersey). He does it as well in this slim volume as he did on the broad canvas of "American Pastoral."
Obviously, this is not a book for children, although that depends on what age one believes marks the end of childhood. If high school sits at the gates of adulthood, then those years might be the ideal age at which to consider some of the many things that can go wrong. Of course, at sixteen or seventeen we are convinced that mortality only happens to others or in video games, so the effect is bound to be far less than profound. If nothing else, juniors and seniors would appreciate its lean profile. That it becomes a weighty tome by way of its succinctness will likely elude them. That is unfortunate. The rest of us are becoming aware all too quickly of the inescapable melancholy truths listed in "Everyman."
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
4700 Hwy 365, Ste A/PMB 210, Port Arthur, Texas 77642
1932300759 $11.95 http://www.loisglenn.50megs.com Loisglennpoet@aol.com
A sensual, insightful, and satisfying compilation of poems, Scarlet E, by Lois Glenn, is an enticing, thought-provoking journey that expresses a whole gamut of human emotion ranging through sorrow, hope, jealousy, desire, and love. Predominantly free verse, Scarlet E has it all, depicting everything from momentary pleasure garnered at a stranger's touch to a yearning for surrender, safety, and commitment. In this her praiseworthy debut poetic collection, Glenn uses sensuous imagery, and melodic phrases to describe the human need for touch, acceptance, and, ultimately, unconditional love.
While each poem is a separate entity, the whole volume tells the story of love, loss, and renewal. Each reader will be able to find personal favorites based on her own taste and experiences. From the first poem, "Just a Dance" to the last, "Forever," Glenn speaks with candor and grace in a style that tantalizes the imagination and stimulates the soul. Her vivid imagery is captivating and draws the reader along on the introspective journey.
The language of Glenn's poems changes to fit the mood and tone. Although most of the poems have no rhyme, she does use it here and there to call attention to a particular phrase or set a mood as in "Guttural Surrender" (p. 47):
Emotions swirling in misty eyes
released mighty and soulful cries.
Lips moved to swallow her groan,
completely surrendered with a guttural moan.
Throughout, the poems are enriched by the words Glenn chooses as much for meaning as for sound. In "Stranger's Embrace" (p. 9) the use of sibilants is soft and caressing and works neatly with the meaning.
Long moments of silence passed,
allowing the sun's warmth to caress
the side of my face, while I listened
to her comforting voice
melt the ice from my lips.
She also varies the tone of the poems. At times conversational with stanzas formed of complete sentences, they can also be cryptic as in "Afterglow" (p. 23) which is a series of unpunctuated stanzas each consisting of a single noun with an adjective phrase. It is pure imagery. And it moves!
But always her poems are dominated by the images. Frequently Glenn creates a juxtaposition of one thing with another completely different to emphasize their one esoteric similarity such as this stanza from "Stray Home" (p. 69). It is such an effective way to express the tenuous thread that keeps a jilted lover sane.
A breeze jangles the leaves;
knowing better than to admit weakness,
they cling tighter to the tree.
These unusual and powerful images are evocative of sensory experience that gives a lushness and resonant timbre to the physical and emotional substance of the poems.
Nowhere is this more strongly evidenced than in the breathtaking and heartrending sorrow of "Malignancy" (p. 98).
Malignancy (c) Lois Glenn (Reprinted with permission from the author)
Echoes of a shadow
proved her dreaded suspicion,
silencing her vigor
with endless nausea
and eternal torture.
One day her pains disappeared
with the thunder of tears
sweeping up the front stairs.
Now clumps of mowed grass
cling to all who pass.
Rainwater swirls as a reminder
over my bare feet;
beneath the cold surface
is no place for
life's triumphant defeat.
Lois Glenn expresses personal thoughts in an intense and intimate writing style through images appealing to all the senses. With verses that explore the full range of the lesbian love experience, Scarlet E is worthy of many readings. Do not miss Scarlet E. I highly recommend it and it is a great gift idea too.
Bio: Lois likes to build sand castles with quicksand, jump in and out of things, including moving vehicles, play with frogs, and walk through pits of angry rattlesnakes. Lois' poetry has been showcased at www.justaboutwrite.com
3209 IH 35 #1086 Austin, TX 78741
1554103029 $14.99, 249 pp.
is one of those books that defies conventions at every turn while making you sit back and watch the story unfold with a big fat smile on your face. Is Meter Made a hard-boiled mystery, with a bucket of clues, danger at every turn and plenty of action? Or is it sci fi, with all of that genre's specific traditions and variations? Meter Made is both, and the fun is in watching talented author M.D. Benoit mix the two genres up and make them stand on their heads.
In Meter Made, private eye Jack Meter is dealing with the loss of the one thing that previously defined his life, his beloved Annie. Jack desperately misses Annie, but it's not so much obsessive love for her that drives him in Meter Made, as the need to use the memory of her to escape the possibility of a new love. As the story begins, Jack is hired by eccentric tycoon, Lambert Garner, whose apartment building has just gone missing. Jack soon discovers that someone is stealing pieces of the universe and also erasing the record of their existence—tough luck for the poor suckers who happened to be living there.
Fortunately, Jack's got a bit of alien technology, a telecarb, implanted in his arm which allows him to go anywhere in the universe just by imagining himself there. The device was created by the Thrittene, a semi-benevolent group of aliens. While the Thrittene mean Jack well, they are always causing him problems. For one thing, their telecarb never seems to work when it is most needed—a great plot device that keeps it from becoming an annoying deus ex machina. Worse, it seems to be slowly turning Jack into a Thrittene—a fate he'd rather avoid.
Everything goes hourglass shaped when the story's femme fatale, Neola Durwin, enters the picture. Neola is a hot woman who is somewhat rude and Benoit does a good job of keeping you guessing about her role in the story. Is Neola destined to become Jack's new love interest-cum-partner? Or is something more sinister afoot?
As a mystery, Meter Made accomplishes what few mysteries do. The jigsaw puzzle pieces fit smartly together and every event is precisely positioned to build upon previous events and lead smoothly to the climax. Although MD Benoit draws upon speculative quantum physics in the book, this isn't a book in which you're going to learn a lot of science. And it also isn't a book for those who like things writ large across the sky— Benoit has the satirist's gift for telling a violent story without a lot of blood and screaming. But if you like your sci-fi a trifle ironic this book knocks it out of the park and into low-earth orbit.
The Power of Nice
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0385518927 $17.95 www.currencybooks.com
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
In a business world where we are told nice guys finish last and nice girls do not get the corner office, it is refreshing to stumble upon a book that suggests killing people with kindness not only makes you feel good about yourself but is smart business. In the book, "The Power of Nice" by ad agency executives Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, the authors share just how easy it is to conquer the business world with truth, niceties, and kindness.
In the book, Koval and Thaler share information on how playing fair and being kind have helped them obtain success in the competitive world of advertising and share how we can follow their example. They also provide some examples from folks such as Jay Leno, Warren Buffet and Donald Trump (who ironically was in the midst of a not-so-nice verbal war with Rosie O'Donnell at the time of this review). But can nice overcome it's wimpy image? Here's what the authors say:
"But nice has an image problem. Nice gets no respect. To be labeled "nice" usually means the other person has little else positive to say about you. To be nice is to be considered Pollyanna and passive, wimpy, and Milquetoast. Let us be clear: Nice is not naive. Nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you. Nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, we would argue that nice is the toughest four-letter word you'll ever hear. It means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people's needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want."
Though you may not agree with every theory the book offers, it is still a fun and intelligent book perfect for the mean, lying, and cheating corporate world that doesn't always play by the rules. Buy it for yourself or for that former boss of yours that could really use it; you know the one. "The Power of Nice" is definitely worth checking out. Recommended.
Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 17th floor New York, NY 10020
Since it's release several weeks ago, Jimmy Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid", has received enormous publicity as well as a litany of reviews, both critical and praiseworthy. After reading this book, one can begin to understand why Jimmy Carter's place in presidential history will be not be one of the "great peacemaker" in the Middle East, but rather of the president who holds the dubious distinction of bearing the most animus towards Israel and the Jewish people.
In this one-sided, totally skewed and highly subjective piece of Arab propaganda, Mr. Carter presents a premise and thesis that reeks of vacuity, while presenting ostensibly specious arguments that obfuscate both fact and truth. According to Mr. Carter's gospel on the Israeli-Palestinian debacle, the blame for the continued tensions between these two peoples rests squarely on the shoulders of Israel. His use of the word apartheid in the title says it all. Carter makes it abundantly clear that his accusations of racism and systematic oppression of the Palestinians is tantamount to the South African version of apartheid, which has been universally condemned.
According to Carter, "'The book is about Palestine and what is happening to Palestinian people. Which is a terrible affliction and oppression of these people. There is no doubt that in Palestine, the people are treated with, in many cases, much more harsh treatment than existed in South Africa, even in the apartheid years."
Carter fails miserably in presenting his argument because his book is riddled with gross historic inaccuracies, colossal factual errors, glaring omissions and a plethora of distorted statements. This book also lacks any footnotes or scholarly references and the minuscule amount of research done does not buttress his claims. The publication of this book was followed by the resignation of Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University and the Carter Center. Professor Stein had a long-standing association with the Carter Center in his capacity as an expert in Middle East politics and history. Professor Stein was in fact the first director of the Carter Center (1983-1986). Professor Stein is apparently terminating his association with the Carter Center, solely as a result of Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. The reaction of Professor Stein -- a formerly close associate and collaborator of Carter -- to Carter's new book is as follows:
"President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade.
Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins."
Carter devotes many chapters of this book to lambasting Israel for constructing the security wall dividing the Palestinian population from the Israeli population. He mentions nothing about Israel's right to defend herself against Palestinian suicide bombers, nor does he mention the clear and present danger of a Hamas government. Carter displays no understanding or sympathy for Israelis whose lives have been snuffed out by Palestinian terrorists and even justifies such actions as a result of Israeli tyranny.
As Carter takes us down his own personal memory lane, he speaks of his thorny relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. He blames Begin's "intransigence" for his failed peace making attempts at Camp David and insists that Palestinian claims of land ownership are indeed factual. It is clear that Carter is a man who is seething with anger that his political career came to a demise when he was not re-elected. Rather than taking personal responsibility as a failed leader during the Iranian hostage crisis, he turns to Begin, making him the scapegoat for his shortcomings. It is clear that Carter couldn't manipulate Begin nor coerce him to make even greater territorial compromises, so he concludes that it was Begin who was at total fault for not guaranteeing him his place in history as the "great peacemaker" in the Middle East
Carter obviously feels threatened by the "pro-Jewish" lobby in the United States which he claims stifles any debate on the Middle East. He strongly asserts that a countervailing political force is necessary for assuring long lasting peace. It is noteworthy to mention that Simon and Schuster, Carter's publishers, delayed releasing the book until after the mid-term elections that saw an upsurge in the Democratic party at the polls. Surely, releasing this book prior to that, might have jeopardized the Democratic candidates chances for a victory. He aims his diatribes against the Jewish lobby to Christian evangelicals, whose support of Israel has been unwavering. He implores them to reconsider and re-think their position on Israel and points out the secular nature of the Israeli government and its lack of religious commitment. He mentions nothing of the religious devotion and commitment of the Jewish settler movement as well as other Orthodox religious organizations. He also chides President Bush for not forging ahead with his "Roadmap To Peace" and for his support for Israel.
Carter's book can be summed up as an ill conceived and egregious attack on Israel and the Jewish people. It is a shoddy attempt to present his own biased and anti-Semitic views in the form of an intellectual treatise. This book couldn't be farther from anything pretending to be intellectual in nature. The Arab propagandists of the world must be thrilled. After all, an ex-president of the USA touting their line is something money can't buy.
There's a Tree in the Meadow
Advocate House, an imprint of A Cappela Publishing
913 Tennessee Lane, Sarasota, Florida
Author offers simple secret for world peace.
Tina Hyder has been seeking truth and following wherever it led her since her days in Washington, D.C., when her husband served as the Assistant United States Attorney General. There's a Tree in the Meadow is Hyder's latest literary effort – this time aimed at helping mankind by sharing what she has learned from her own life experiences and from a prophetic dream that came to her many years ago.
This novel is set in rural Arkansas, where Hyder grew up surrounded by the sweet country spirit coupled with the quiet strengths of the Arkansas people. The story winds you through the green hills and valleys of Arkansas then sweeps you to the fragmented fray of the Iraqi war.
There's a Tree in the Meadow is a real eye opener into the emotional depth of families decimated by this war. It should be read by anyone who is scandalized by the unbridled and unnecessary use of our military power. Spiritual simplicity is the over-riding message, reinforcing the reader's own faith in God and prodding him onward to reach the unreachable star.
All the While
Catherine Abbey Hodges
New Women's Voices Series, No. 42
P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, Kentucky 40324
1599241013 $12.00 www.finishinglinepress.com
"Safe," the opening poem in Catherine Hodges' first collection, All the While, is wonderfully, sensuously evocative of childhood. On another level, the poem describes the developing awareness of a writer. First comes the child's noticing, with senses wide open: the smell of coffee, and "the breakfast-making clatter" which means she is safe; the discovery of a "rust-colored and furred" bat in a loquat tree, a "breathing fact" which will "alarm and thrill" her. Then comes the child's creation of a private language, the poet's infatuation with words, and the delicious recording of the secret code in a book made of her mother's onion skin paper.
The language in these poems is unpretentious, unselfconscious, childlike but elegant too, and accurate. "Stems" begins "Lately I catch myself / less interested in / flowers / than in what precedes them." The stems are "hilariously furred," "durable as doves." They are
submerged in the molten earth
that look for all the world
The poems, written by someone who is "the first and last speaker of / a snatch of language / without a name," are a reminder to take in the world as a child does, as if for the first time.
I can look at the book another way : All the While can be read as a kind of writer's memoir. "On the Equator" tells about a more grown up writer than the one in "Safe," but still the child, fascinated by the beauty of the physical world, is present in the poem, a boy who "has been netting golden / carp." The speaker says,
This year we live on the equator.
At times I think it runs straight
through me. This could explain the ripping,
as if I were a piece of cloth, torn
quickly down my length by
business-like hands, the sudden
loud unzipping of my story about the world.
The frustration of the writer-observer who is always missing something is expressed - the first line of "Everything Important," is "happens behind my back." "Water lilies open, then close./ Nations are born. Friends up and leave/ their sturdy bodies."
And from yet another perspective, the book can be seen, as authors John and Muriel Ridland say, on the book's back cover, as a collection of botanical paintings. "The Possibilities of Blue" combines careful observation with the power of the apt metaphor contrasting the agapanthus, which have yet to bloom into blue,
and all the while
the Matilija poppies
lie white on their shrubberies,
lacquered Japanese bowls, petal-thin,
trembling with the published secret
of the lemon planets they cradle.
"Easy" gives us Hodges' painting of a jacaranda tree beginning to lose its blossoms, "the inexplicit purple shawl about the lovely old neck, / easy on the grassy shoulders," and lets us become the beholder, "who sees all in a rush" that the tree letting go is "truer" than the tree's earlier "bright fanfare,"
though neither is false
and easy is anything but cheap.
Hodges' poems give that all-important illusion of having come to the page easily, naturally, perhaps because there is so much close attention to nature in them, and so much humanity.
Ronald Damien Malfi
Raw Dog Screaming Press
5103 72nd Place, Hyattsville, MD 20784
1933293217, $29.95, 264 pgs
Kristina Marie Darling
Ronald Damien Malfi's Via Dolorosa tells the story of Nick, an artist and veteran of the war in Iraq, who stays at the Paradis d'Hotel with his new wife Emma to paint a mural, which has been commissioned by the hotel. As the novel progresses, both the mural and the events of newlyweds' stay on the island begin to reveal Nick's internal landscape, which has been forever changed by his experiences at war.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the way Malfi uses the scenery of the hotel as a metaphor for the characters' situation. For example, a motif that recurs throughout the book is the use of signs around the hotel that read "Limbo! How low can you go? Every night this week in the Riviera Room." These signs appear when Nick's situation it particularly uncertain. For example, Nick sees one of these signs when the hotel is evacuated and he finds that Emma is gone – this sign describes his indeterminate state in a subtle, clever way.
Another example of this subtle use of metaphor is the mural that Nick has been hired to paint, which turns out more violent than the plans had originally intended. For example, Malfi writes, "He had taken a beautiful island landscape, lush and green and idyllic, and had marred it, ruined it – had transformed it into a desolate desert panorama…The distinction between tropical paradise and desert holocaust was suddenly nonexistent." The aggression of the mural conveys Nick's own internal violence, which he tries to suppress but instead it manifests itself through his artwork. These motifs are woven gracefully throughout the story, and this projection of plot elements onto the scenery of the book works well with the somber but poetic tone of the narrative.
I enjoyed this use of tone as well, which I found matched the content of the book perfectly. The narration of the book often describes the island scenery, noting the "steel-gray sky" and "dirty windowpanes," and while the things Malfi describes are often not particularly cheery or beautiful, the author's metaphors render these dreary everyday objects lovely. For example, Malfi writes, "Shadows of potted plans and a dusty Coke machine at the end of the hall crossed each other like latticework." These metaphors create a tone that is both serious and lyrical throughout, which works well with the content of the narrative and compliments it in interesting and unexpected ways.
Via Dolorosa is a book full of subtle metaphors as well as expressive descriptions, and offers something new to the reader with every encounter. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful and rewarding read. Overall, I enjoyed Via Dolorosa and look forward to future books by Ronald Damien Malfi.
Nip, Tuck, Dead
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060837047 $6.99 www.harpercollins.com
Nip, Tuck, Dead is a Pauline Sokol mystery. Pauline, an ex-nurse-turned insurance fraud investigator attempts to get the scoop on a plastic surgery "spa" that seems to be doing some shady business with their repeat clientele. Goldie—Pauline's cross-dressing best friend agrees to a nose job so Pauline can get inside and be his private nurse.
Once on the job, Pauline soon realizes there's more going on than just an illegal money making scheme. With the help of her colleague, Jagger, who also makes her heart skip a beat (lots of them) she uncovers some nasty secrets. Family, money and greed run deep.
This book is a fast-paced joy ride! Just the right mix of romance, mystery and humor. I look forward to going on more adventures with Pauline and the gang.
Retire Rich With Your Self-Directed IRA
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1210 SW 23rd Place, Ocala, FL 34474
Ms. Peterson's new book offers those frustrated with financial planners perspective of churning their IRA accounts to generate fees for themselves instead of truly exploring options to grow their clients financial base in a IRA. Going on your own in investments can be seen as risky by new investors, but the author lays out the principles to be successful in a variety of investments that many lay-people aren't aware of. Rolled into this definitive book is the foundation of starting your own business to manage a menu of investments. A foreword by Christopher F. Meshginpoosh, C.P.A. lays out the benefits for readers to start their own self-directed IRA.
Chapter titles include: The book is broken down into four sections with applicable chapters. Section One is Choosing to Retire Rich, chapter titles include; Extreme Makeover-Retirement Style, An IRA Primer, Keeping What's Yours, Section Two; Laying a Solid Foundation with supporting chapters: Choosing an Administrator, Jo's Backup Crew, Managing Risk. Section Three covers; Building Blocks to Retiring Rich with accompanying chapters; The Allure of Real Estate, Becoming a landlord: Investing in Income Property, Becoming a Lender: Investing in Real Estate-Backed Notes, Buying Options: The Ultimate In-and-Out Transactions, Alternative Sources for Real Estate, Business Structures, Owning a Business, Buying Precious Metals. Section Four wraps up the book with chapters on Planning for Distributions and Estate Planning . Additional features are an introduction with Assumptions and Terminology, bibliography, conclusion, glossary, two appendixes and an author biography.
Chock-full of many creative options for managing your own self-directed IRA, this book is the perfect primer for those looking to venture out of cookie-cutter IRA products. Helpful tips, call-out boxes, and a resource appendix to point you in the right direction to receive answers on all your important questions concerning taking charge of your retirement finances.
Boyhood With Gurdjieff
773 Center Blvd. #58, Fairfax, CA 94978-0058
1879514052 $27.95 (650) 787-2036
Mary Ellen Korman
"I want to know everything about man," said 11-year-old Fritz Peters in 1924 to G.I. Gurdjieff, one of the great sages of the 20th century, who had brought an ancient esoteric teaching to the West. Gurdjieff said, "I am the only one who teaches what you ask. You make more work for me," but accepted his youngest pupil, a "born trouble-maker," at his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man near Paris. Years later, Peters, already a well-known author, wrote this vivid and direct account of what he learned and how, recounting as well his friendships with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and the influence they had on his life. A beautifully done hard-cover re-issue of this spiritual classic, with photos and an introduction by William Patrick Patterson giving a unique perspective on the deep teaching contained in this book.
How I Write
Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
St Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312354282 $13.95 www.stmartins.com 212-982-3900
Reading books about writing is great; it helps writers do one of the things that they are often very good at; procrastinating. But because we are reading about our craft, it doesn't feel as if we are sneaking off quite so much. We are learning more about writing, so that's got to be ok... right?
Evanovich's book is an easy, enjoyable read. As an author, she has a very good website, with a question and answer section which has now been translated into this book. The format is easy to follow and understand and Evanovich imparts some useful information in her own, inimitable, entertaining way.
One criticism aimed at this book is that ‘it's all been said before'. It's true that if you have read other writing guides, you may not learn anything especially new here but having said that, because of the fun and light way her answers are presented, as opposed to some other guides that can be a bit dry and dusty in their style, you may end up absorbing that information easier.
The thing about writing guides is that they are often very good motivators, and reading about other people doing what you want to do (or do already do) is often interesting. Whilst this book will appeal to want-to-be writers for inspiration and motivation, it will also appeal to Janet Evanovich's huge number of fans who love her books and style and want to read more about how she makes it all come together.
If you are looking for a serious, gritty in depth guide to the mechanics and complexities of writing, then this is probably not the book for you. But if you want a fun, light hearted read on the subject of writing, then this could be just the ticket. And if you are an Evanovich fan too, then so much the better.
Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime
15 East 26th Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10010
0151015066 $22.00 www.harcourtbooks.com 800-543-1918
In 1972, late to meet a friend in the cafeteria of the Chicago Art Institute, Minnesota writer Patricia Hampl was hauled up short before Matisse's Woman Before an Aquarium. For Hampl, Matisse's Woman was "A madonna, but a modern one, ‘liberated,' as we were saying without irony in 1972, free, even, of eros. Not a woman being looked at. This woman was doing the looking."
"I didn't halt, didn't stop," writes Hampl of this "uncanny moment." "I was stopped. Apprehended, even." Thus begins her fascination with the artist's gaze via the work and life of Henri Matisse, around whom she fashions her own life and her latest work, Blue Arabesque.
In this her third memoir, Hampl's "search for the sublime"—some of it literary, some of it literal—takes her across Northern Africa, "Asia Minor," and the holy land. But the journey has two primary points of reference: the St. Paul of Hampl's Catholic roots, and Cassis, on France's Côte d'Azur, of that perfect, artist's light. Or, put differently, the artist's sun-dazzled studio away from the grit of the world, and its antipode, the "hardscrabble surface of raw ambition" that fuels the work of Matisse—a poor boy from the work-weary north of France who claimed he worked "like a drunken brute trying to kick the door down." Simply, Hampl is an artist in search of inspiration, even as she makes light of her quest: "The big bearded Primary Cause and his timepiece may have stopped ticking for us, Jesus may have become ‘historical,' but the Holy Ghost is still aloft."
From her "gazer at the golden fish," Hampl turns her eye to the odalisques—those lounging, long-backed ladies draped in silk—and the mystery of their subjectivity in the context of their day and the context of our own. Feminism, after all, drives us to question the subjugation of these "lovely women scattered about like decorative pillows," but who doesn't envy the boundless leisure of the harem divan? Or the convent cell? Or the room of one's own? Are these odalisques, Hampl wonders, objects for us to pity? Or have they realized "the curvilinear satisfaction of just being-here-now, of being alive"?
Hampl jokes that the sight of a confession booth beckons to her to "Open the door, open your heart….Tell All, " but this memoir spends more time on the "eye" than the "I." Whole chapters tell Matisse's story, or that of the traveler Lady Montagu who was pitied by the harem dweller for the cage she wore (her corset), or the amateur documentary filmmaker from St. Paul, Jerome Hill, who also made his way to Cassis in his day. And yet, Blue Arabesque is profoundly intimate: "[Memoir's] great intimacy (the display of perception)," Hampl's professor-self explains, "paradoxically reveals its essential impersonality. It wishes to see the world, not itself." In this same line of mirror work, Hampl illustrates with her own prose arabesques how Matisse's odalisques "do not offer rare glimpses of ‘the East,' or illicit peekaboos into a real or imagined sultan's world with its souk's-worth of colonial loot on exhibit. They display nothing more or less than the mind of Henri Matisse." And thus this study of the artist displays nothing more or less than the mind of the writer.
Behind the tapestry of odalisques and foreign lands, this book is a graceful study of the creative process, "the abstract lovemaking of art making." Hampl turns her artist's eye to "greatness" in the likes of Henri Matisse and Katherine Mansfield (whose work Virginia Woolf deemed, "the only writing I have ever been jealous of"). Though whole chapters pass with little more than a fleeting first person, this artist renders the characters who render (Hampl would say "create") her artist self: her gaze refracts—often inverted or camera obscura—glimpses of herself. Hampl tries out being both the gazing woman in Matisse's Woman Before An Aquarium and the contents of that aquarium itself: "an odalisque….all fish, all float."
This lovely, intelligent book reads like rich, leisurely conversation, perhaps outside a French cafe over coffee served in bowls. It would be best read lounging in sunlight, with a plate of dates nearby.
Beyond the Road
M. Howe Bugbee
P.O. Box 557, Mahomet, IL 61853
Robyn Gioia, Reviewer
When reviewing a book that has taken the Royal Palm Book of the Year Award from the Florida Writers Association and has also won the Mayhaven Award for Children's Fiction, you naturally have high expectations. You ask what sets this book apart from the rest? What special talent does this author hold over the others? And what exactly makes a good, young adult, murder mystery? Is it carefully hidden clues? Is it Sherlock Holmes style intellect? Or always a biggie—chemistry between the characters? If not that, perhaps it's indignant righteousness where no matter what, you want to see the bad guy (or gal) caught and made to pay.
In this case, it's a story with soul. Lakota Indian soul to be precise. A subtle dose of Lakota wisdom is interwoven throughout the story. It's the backdrop that drives the mystery. In the first few pages we read a quote from historian/storyteller, Joseph M. Marshall III that sets the tone. "We Lakota believe there are many roads in life, but that there are two that are most important: the Red Road and the Black Road. They represent the two perspectives to every situation, the two sides of every person, the two choices we frequently face in life. The Red Road is the good way, the good side, and the right choice. It is a narrow road fraught with dangers and obstacles and is extremely difficult to travel. The Black Road is the bad way, the bad side, the wrong choice. It is wide and very easy to travel."
That led me to ponder the most logical question. Why the title Beyond the Road? What significance did it have to the story? It wasn't your typical mystery title sporting words like: death, murder, mystery, intrigue, and secret. The author, M. Howe Bugbee, said when it came time to give the story a title, it wasn't an easy choice. She truly struggled with the decision. The original working title Body in the Cornfield just wasn't right. But why? Then she started thinking about the middle school characters and what they had to face under extraordinary circumstances, and she realized their experiences had taken them beyond any path or road they had ever taken before. They were thrown into a circumstance that pushed them beyond their experiences into a do or die situation. Something special about an author using young characters is that they don't have the years of wisdom to pull from. They haven't been tested and become stronger from their trials. They haven't found what they are made of or that life goes on no matter what. Teenage characters think life evolves around them and the hardship of school, mortifying disapproval of their peers, and the latest video game. In other words, thirteen-year-old Robin Beekler, and her friends Alex and Marc, were thrown into an ordeal that forced them from their comfort zone into a path beyond the road.
The story takes place in the small, riverside town of Bridgeport, Indiana, where an old superstition hangs over the peaceful community. "...every quarter century or so, an upside-down crescent moon appears and something vile happens. Storytellers say as the pirates left, they slashed open the sky over Bridgeport, creating a portal for their return. Old timers recognize the cosmic warning and lock their windows and doors and stay inside. The young and those new to Bridgeport, will learn to do the same—if they survive."
During a storm, Robin discovers her adult friend, Seth, is missing and a visit to his house unearths a body buried in the cornfield. Not only is a body immersed in the mud, but the air itself holds a horrid stench. Friend Alex catches up with Robin in the cornfield and reports something weird had just happened—a black crow had landed in front of him. But when it started waddling toward him, a pirate appeared in its place, his black hair and beard emphasized by evil looking eyes and a sword. But then the pirate disappeared and a flutter of feathers charged, pecking him on the side of the head as it flew away. Alex tells Robin about his reoccurring dream where he is in a cornfield but he won't divulge the details. Frustrated at the torment, he had ripped the dream catcher made for him by his Lakota grandfather, Kota, from the room.
When Alex and Robin report finding a body in the cornfield, the sheriff arrives at the same time as Alex's grandfather, Kota, an experienced Indian tracker said to possess a sixth sense. Only the narrow minded sheriff doesn't want Kota to help him find the murderer and dismisses his help. The game is afoot when Robin and her friends set off to solve the case but find the road they must travel has twists and turns that eventually tests their will to stay alive.
Readers will easily identify with the five foot tall, animal loving, social outcast, Robin. In one scene Alex consoles his friend after a teasing from her peers. "Don't you see? They just wish they could be like you. And since they can't, they try to tear you down. They want to make you—less you. Don't let them do it."
Arrowhead hunting friend Alex is part Lakota and it is from his involvement we learn the Lakota way. Not truly a follower of the old ways, what he has been taught by grandfather, Kota, suddenly becomes important. And Marc, whose favorite idol is Mohammed Ali rounds out the trio with loyalty and strength of character.
Besides the credible characters and the Lakota intrigue, the plum in the book is the ending. It is a hook-the-reader-can't-put-it-down adventure. Emotions run high when the characters are thrown to the wolves and this is when the reader learns why this book has won two formidable awards. This is when you feel satisfaction at having spent time in another world.
B & H Publishing Group,
127 Ninth Avenue North, MSN 114, Nashville, TN, 37234
0805432922 $14.99 www.BHPublishingGroup.com www.amazon.com
Vicki Talley McCollum, Reviewer
Squat is a compassionate but realistic view of life lived by society's throw-aways, the homeless. This powerfully written story begins in a doctor's waiting room. In the opening chapter, an 11-year-old boy (already struggling with mental disorders--OCD comes to mind) is trying hard to look as though he can actually read the picture book story of Abraham and Issac, which he holds close to his face. The boy touches the corners of the page counting, "one, two, three" and again--three times in all--touching the page with smudgy fingertips while wishing that he, too, had a guardian angel for protection, and wishing that he could be the guardian angel who saves Issac from his father's knife.
The boy sits beside his self-absorbed mother, a woman who is in the throes of making a life decision which will have extreme--and negative--consequences for the rest of the boy's life. Her decision made, she yanks him bodily from the doctor's waiting room, out the door and into a future that he intuitively understands will be a precarious existence at best: Squid does not have a guardian angel to shield him from his future.
Squat takes the reader through a day in the life of Squid, the boy grown to adulthood, living out the consequences of a neglected, unsheltered childhood along side other street people in an abandoned, boarded-up tenement in New York City. Taylor Field's writing shows up-close the "smells, squaller and ugliness" of the homeless. He describes--almost too realistically--the abuses of alcohol, drugs, self-inflicted abuses--and abuses inflicted on each other--the street's means 0f escape from hopelessness.
Field tells his story faithfully and compassionately because he knows Squid, and he cares about him. He knows why Squid and the others live there and what brought them there, because he has lived and ministered among them for more than twenty years: Taylor Field is the pastor of Graffiti Community Ministries, East Seventh Street Baptist Church, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Buy and read Squat. You won't look at a homeless person in the same way, ever again. All proceeds from Squat will go to Graffiti Community Ministries. Read about Taylor Field's ministry at The Squat website: http://squatbook.wordpress.com
The Ghosts of Vietnam
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595362826 $ 17.95 1-800-288-4677 iuniverse.com
First-time author Jim Stewart has written a raw and powerful memoir of his years in Vietnam and his life. Unlike many of the current Vietnam-era memoirs, Stewart's uncommonly poignant and well-written story details his four years in the ‘Nam without the blood, gore, or trauma so popular today. This is the story of a young man's coming of age and maturing as a human being while simultaneously dealing with a war, a callous family ‘back in the world', and his first real love and long-term relationship.
Stewart takes us back to his childhood, where he grew up in a poor but loving household, and how he tried re-create it with his young Vietnamese girlfriend, Mai. In the midst of the Tet Offensive and the later collapse of the country, Stewart and Mai strive for normalcy in the insanity of Vietnam towards the end of the war. His relaxed yet detailed writing style allows the reader to begin to understand what it was like to live and work in Saigon, both for a Vietnamese and an American; even such insignificant events as shopping and taking a taxi turn must be pre-planned, and Stewart draws the reader directly into the traffic with him.
While the author was an MP instead of an infantryman and therefore believes himself possibly fortunate not seen any actual combat, his book is not really about the fighting in Vietnam; it's a story of the author, his dad, Per, Mai, and Phuong – and it's a story well worth reading. Highly recommended!
We Were One
c/o Perseus Books Group
Eleven Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142
0306814692 $ 25.00 www.decapopress.com 1-800-242-7737
Author Patrick O'Donnell has written the story of 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3/1 as they fought their way through the worst part of Fallujah in November 2004. This is a well-written book whose low-key and personable style belies the intensity and strength that these Marines personified in taking the city.
Fallujah was the worst urban combat the Marine Corps has seen since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam, and was the most difficult and bloodiest single battle of the war in Iraq ( An-Nasiriyah being the second ). While Bing West's book "No True Glory" provides the reader with a better overview of the battle for Fallujah, "We Were One" is the best snapshot written to date that details the ferocity of the house-to-house fighting that took place that week.
Starting from their MOUT training in Camp Pendleton, the author focuses on the personal relations within the platoon, and how the Marines come to trust and rely on each other. O'Donnell takes the reader into the private world of a Marine infantry platoon, where the young Marines work to build the trust and confidence in- and from- their mates that is so necessary in combat. He offers vivid descriptions both of their training and their liberty, and succeeds in setting the tone of trust and apprehension in each Marine as 1st Pltn Lima Company leaves in June 2004 for Iraq.
Shifting to the AO, 1st Pltn loses it's first member within the month, and O'Donnell's prose reflects the rising tensions and stresses that the Marines encounter. He also discusses the ROE's in effect, and how the Marines are hamstrung by the rather naïve ROE's as promulgated by MNFI-West. O'Donnell clearly and accurately describes the Coalition and Iraqi Government's inept political machinations of September and October that led to RCT-1's finally being tasked to clear the city.
In the early days of the battle, author O'Donnell was embedded with another unit, but is eventually shifted to 1st Platoon. He covers the final days of the fight as an embed with 1st Pltn, and gets right up in combat with them; his descriptions of the Marines clearing houses, fighting the heavily doped-up insurgents, as well as the physical, mental, and emotional toll it takes on the Marines are amongst the most descriptive and heart-breaking accounts to come back from the Iraqi front.
O'Donnell succeeds in personalizing each of the Marines. The reader gets to know each one; how he thinks, who is his buddy, what is his role in the daily fighting. His description of each individual lets us mourn the loss of each Marine also, as his prose is sufficiently vivid to let the reader walk the streets with 1st Pltn.
For those readers who think that an embedded reporter has his own agenda, this book may well change their minds. For those readers who want to begin to understand just how deadly is fighting in an urban environment, the determination of the enemy, as well as the inherent problems in 4th Generation Warfare…as well to begin to understand the determination and dedication to their fellow Marines of those young men who are doing the fighting – then this is the book for you.
Andrew Lubin, Reviewer
P.D. Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 70, Clayton, NC 27528
Anne Azel has deftly blended the Chinese and Canadian cultures in her novel, Gold Mountain. The title is a derivative of the phrase, Golden Mountain, which the Chinese called the New World during the 1800's. Many wanted to arrive, become wealthy, and eventually return to their homeland. It is with this motivation in mind that Jimmy Li decides to work hard and amass his fortune. In Jimmy's world all that is lacking is a son to inherit and carry on the lucrative family business. To achieve this, Jimmy adopts a boy, Jason, whom he dotes upon and indulges constantly, much to the detriment of his two daughters, Kelly and Sarah. However, despite her father's egregious preference, Kelly manages to forge ahead, obtain her law degree, and becomes an accomplished defense attorney. It is during a case that Kelly meets Jane Anderson, a police officer, and as their paths continue to intersect, their attraction for each other strengthens. Family obligations guide each of these women as they begin a journey that no one could have foreseen.
This is a rather brief novel, when compared to some, and there are those who may find this off-putting. However, this reviewer suspects that Azel may have employed this more condensed style for a reason. The minimalist approach in word and action could be related to the Chinese influence. Whatever the purpose, Azel manages to tell a story which both intrigues and holds the reader's interest. Sometimes less is best, and Azel proves this through her literary stylistic prose. An author writes the book within her, and some readers fail to recognize this when they wish a novel could be more what they want.
Azel manages quite admirably to navigate between the two distinct points of view; that in itself is no easy task. The motivations of both Kelly and Jane are finely drawn. The serpentine intricacies of the Chinese culture and its values captivate and enlighten the reader. Jane's reactions to the many situations are extremely credible. The author's dialogue is written with purpose and illumination. Extensive detail may be missing, but not to the detriment of the overall piece.
Gold Mountain is an enjoyable reading experience. Azel's astute and extensive comprehension of both cultures adds to the plausibility of the plotting. Carefully chosen diction conveys more in a few sentences than many authors achieve in paragraphs. For something different and quite memorable, read Gold Mountain.
The Devil Unleashed
Bold Strokes Books
430 Herrington Road, Johnsonville, NY 12094
In this sequel to The Devil Inside, author Ali Vali continues the story of New Orleans crime family boss Cain Casey. Beset with violent new circumstances which threaten both her professional and personal lives, Cain must rely on her wits, ruthlessness, and darker instincts in order to face her enemies, and her own confusing and ambivalent feelings toward the woman who left her, Emma Verde. Fast-paced action scenes, intriguing character revelations, and a refreshing approach to the romance thriller genre all make for an enjoyable reading experience in the Big Easy.
Derby Cain Casey is in many respects an anti-hero. After all, she is involved in criminal activity, questionable associations, and suspect business dealings. However, this bad girl as protagonist is a welcome change from some of the more conventional types one encounters in a romance novel. Certainly, there are those who may find her unappealing because of her family connections, but Vali has created more than a one-dimensional stereotype. Cain is a woman in a genuinely man's world, yet she never assumes those baser elements rife in the criminal world. She also makes no apologies for who she is or from where she came. Simply put, this is her family business, and she endeavors to support herself and son as does any working woman. This reviewer found Cain to be a thoroughly riveting and atypical heroine, a character one could readily identify with on a deeper emotional level.
The Devil Unleashed is an engrossing reading experience, a noticeably more literate effort than the first in the Casey Clan series. It is always satisfying to see an author grow as Vali has displayed in this novel. The structural details in the plot, the adept handling of action and suspense, and the more delineated major characters produce a coherent and stylish technique. The Devil Unleashed is definitely a novel not to be missed.
Kristen M. McAndrews
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 166, Reno, NV, 89557-0076
0874176832 $34.95 1-877-682-6657
Written by American West studies specialist Kristen M. McAndrews (Prof. of English, University of Hawai'i at Manoa), Wrangling Women: Humor and Gender in the American West is a unique look at a mountain community of women in Winthrop, Washington who run a western-theme town and work as ranchers, trail guides, horse trainers and packers. Caught in an unusual crux where they have to keep alive gender stereotypes for the sake of a tourist-based economy yet apply the same levels of authority and expertise as their male counterparts, these resourceful "wrangling women" apply humor and language as useful tools for accomplishing the precarious balancing act. A delightful exploration of gender studies, stereotypes, and human resourcefulness, Wrangling Women frequently quotes the women it studies, allowing the reader to partake in both scholarly observation and the visceral feel of being there. A lively and entertaining treatise.
Give Wings to Your Dreams
Lauren E. Sullivan
Golden Wings Press
3905 State Street, Suite 7-292, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Booth Media Group
1386 Nightshade Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009
0977853810 $14.95 www.boothmedia.com
Written by life coach and award-winning writer Lauren E. Sullivan, Give Wings to Your Dreams: Reawaken Your Joy and Passion for Life is a self-help guide to transforming one's life. Chapters outline Seven Stepping Stones to motivate oneself and improve one's quality of life, such as "Believing You Can Have What You Want", "Harnessing the Power of Intention", and "Staying True to Your Vision." Written in a serious-minded, motivational tone, Give Wings to Your Dreams encourages both the secular and spiritual aspects of rising above adversity and working toward one's dream. An emotionally uplifting and energizing self-help book.
Alligators, Sharks & Panthers
Indigo Press LLC
PO Box 977, Sanibel, FL 33957
0967619904 $16.95 877-472-8900
Offshore fisherman and avid conservationist Charles Sobczak presents Alligators, Sharks & Panthers: Deadly Encounters with Florida's Top Predator - Man, an evenhanded discussion of four deadly species: alligators, who have committed nearly four hundred attacks in Florida since 1948; panthers, whose rare assaults have been historically authenticated; sharks, whose notoriety needs no explanation; and man, who has slaughtered thousands and millions of these dangerous yet endangered animal predators. Alligators, Sharks & Panthers teaches the reader about animal predators' behavior with instructions for avoiding danger and protecting oneself; explores the often strained history of man's interaction with these species; and urges personal efforts to improve conservation for the sake of humans and animals alike. Highly recommended.
The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation, 2007 edition
Steven M. Barrett
PO Box 531, Branford, CT 06405
1887140654 $14.95 www.intrepidtrveler.com
Practicing emergency room physician Steven M. Barrett presents The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation: Stress-Free Touring Plans for Adults & Teens, Families, and Seniors, a no-nonsense, practical guide to getting the most out of one's Disney vacation - now in an updated edition for 2007. Written with the precision of a scientist gifted at turning personal experience into a successful methodology, The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation is packed cover-to-cover with hints, tips, tricks, and techniques to avoiding long waits in line, staying cool in summer heat, and much more. From formulating a solid yet flexible plan, to inside information such as where to find the least crowded bathrooms and shady spots for viewing parades, which attractions tend to have the shortest wait times, and listings and descriptions of available highlights, The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation is enthusiastically recommended reading for any potential visitor to the Magic Kingdom.
Health Is Your Birthright: How to Create the Health You Deserve
Ten Speed/Celestial Arts
PO Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707
In "Health Is Your Birthright: How to Create the Health You Deserve" natural healing expert Ellen Tart-Jensen carries on the legacy of her father-in-law, alternative health pioneer Dr. Bernard Jensen.
A comprehensive resource of simple, health-improving tips, this volume is filled with 75 recipes and cleanses plus information about therapeutic teas and exercise. Citing fifteen case studies the author will help readers cope with allergies, depression, ear infections, chronic fatigue, and high cholesterol.
Working in the natural healing field for more than two decades, Ellen Tart-Jensen says that by simply listening to one's body and following nature's laws, good health is attainable for everyone. She offers advice on making easy healthy food choices, rejuvenating body treatments and beauty aides plus 24 hour liver, gallbladder and kidney cleanses.
The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria
Marlena de Blasi
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
127 Kingston Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
It's been two years since the release of Marlena de Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Tuscany". The expatriate American who married an Italian and settled in Venice has already chronicled her life in two previous books. Now, with her move to the hilltop town of Orvieto, the adventure continues.
A travel and food writer, de Blasi's evocative prose captures the daily rhythm of living a simple life where cultivating new friendships and enjoying good food are of paramount importance. Since she and her husband Fernando don't seem to stay in one place very long, they have had some interesting adventures finding new living accommodations and reconditioning them. The extroverted writer is usually able to cook her way into the hearts of her Italian neighbors who are often a little wary of the "crazy American" and some of her outlandish ways. Sharing the knowledge she gleaned from living in an area, de Blasi mixes a discussion of history, geography, culture, and local traditions with her account of the daily trials and tribulations that make her life not only joyous but, at times, also very frustrating.
Very candid about her experiences, she writes, "I must learn to see the beauty of life here apart from myself. A common expatriate burden. Yet it's one from which, for the past five years of living in Italy, I'd exempted myself. But I can no longer do that. Orvieto is forcing me to pay expatriate dues as though I'd only just arrived from America."
Along with some friends from her last book, de Blasi introduces a new cast of wonderful and slightly eccentric individuals who give this memoir its distinctive air of originality. This is what good "armchair" travel writing is all about. It engages the reader in the narrative with a strong sense of place and character. By the time the book is finished you will feel as much a part of the Italian community as de Blasi.
Warm Up The Snake: A Hollywood Memoir
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
"Warm Up The Snake: A Hollywood Memoir" provides a behind-the-scenes look at the author's career as a television and film director. As a director, writer, and producer of dozens of radio, TV and film hits, Rich's career spanned over fifty years.
As one would expect, Rich drops a lot of names of the people he worked with and mentions most of his directing accomplishments that include The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan's Island, All in the Family, and MacGyver. Most of what the director has to say is positive. Overall, he doesn't take this opportunity to divulge any of Hollywood's deep, dark secrets nor slam former colleagues or the stars he worked with.
There is one exception to this "I liked pretty much everyone and they liked me" approach. Of actress Shelley Winters, Rich writes, "In fifty years of working with some of the most professional actresses in our business, most of whom were simply marvelous to work with, she is the only actress I have actively disliked."
Besides the overuse of the word "brilliant" (as in "brilliant" friend, actor or writer) and the avalanche of names worked into the narrative, the numerous anecdotes Rich shares are fairly entertaining. He also does provide some insights into how the television industry works and what has made some of the sitcoms of the past so successful.
On the Hills of God
PO Box 1588, Montgomery, AL 36102
1588382044 $28.95 www.newsouthbooks.com
Award-winning, Palestinian-born novelist Ibrahim Fawak presents On the Hills of God, a novel set during the creation of Israel. Yousif Safi, a Palestinian man, begins with hope to study education abroad. When the Zionist movement puts pressure on the United Nations, Yousif is frustrated by his fellow Arabs' inability to block inexorable machinations of political powers, and his own inability to prevent the love of his life, Salwa, from being married to an older suitor chosen by her parents. When the Zionists enact their forced takeover, he and his family are brutally turned out; some do not survive the long, hard march to safe refuge. A novel of determination, courage, and ultimately, bearing witness to greed and ruthlessness as land, home, possessions, and dignity are stolen from himself and his people. A powerful, emotionally impacting novel offering a vivid glimpse of Arab life during the era.
U. S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
George Bunn & Christopher F. Chyba, editors
The Brookings Institute
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington DC 20036-2103
0815713657 $29.95 www.brookings.edu
Edited by U.S. ambassador George Bunn and professor of astrophysical sciences Christopher F. Chyba, U. S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: Confronting Today's Threats is an anthology of serious, scholarly-minded essays concerning the dire questions, "What role should U.S. nuclear weapons play in the world today?" and "How can the United States promote international security while safeguarding its own interests?" Examining changes in the U.S. policy, especially those made by Presidents Bush and Clinton after the cold war, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy is a sober and clearheaded examination of American options and obligations, particularly with regard to the demand side of proliferation and reduced reliance on nuclear weapons for foreign policy. Highly recommended for political studies and college library shelves.
Government Failure Versus Market Failure
Brookings Institution Press
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington DC, 20036
Written by Clifford Winston (senior fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution), Government Failure Versus Market Failure: Microeconomics Policy Research and Government Peformance examines three decades of empirical evidence in search of the answers to a critical question: When should government intervene in market activity, and when is it better to allow market forces to operate without interference? Chapters discuss such topics as antitrust regulations, policies intended to correct market failures, common Achilles heels of social goals policies, and much more. Drawing heavily upon the accumulated data, Government Failure Versus Market Failure strives to give today's economic policymakers and politicians recommendations for optimal success in future strategies to promote optimal well being both in terms of social and free-market interests. Highly recommended.
President Reagan's Conservative Fiscal Policy
Chiazam Ugo Okoye
The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
University Press of America Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
0761830995 $55.00 www.univpress.com
Written by Chiazam Ugo Okoye (Prof. of Political Science, Bethune Cookman College), President Reagan's Conservative Fiscal Policy: Unemployment Among African Americans is a scholarly and critical look at the economic policies of America under President Regan (1981-1988), and their failure to adequately address the social issue of rising unemployment among African American youths, with devastating long-term social consequences. Drawing upon a wealth of statistical and researched data, President Reagan's Conservative Fiscal Policy criticizes economic models that treat labor as no more unique or differentiated a commodity than orange juice, and question the value of programs to help the unemployed in the Reagan era that targeted those job-seekers who needed help the least. Stressing that discrimination has been severely underplayed rather than regarded as a primary cause of African American unemployment, President Reagan's Conservative Fiscal Policy decries America's failure to break a vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and unemployment among African Americans and meticulously dissectes what did not work for the benefit of future efforts to combat this social problem. Highly recommended.
Willis M. Buhle
How To Get Along With Difficult People
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
0736918442 $10.99 www.harvesthousepublishers.com
Written by internationally known speaker and author Florence Littauer, How To Get Along With Difficult People is a straightforward catalogue of difficult personality types one is likely to encounter at church, at college, at the office, or in any other walk of life, and advice for getting along with each of them. The witty takes on hard-to-deal-with personality traits, humanized through alliterative names such as Gertrude Grudge, Bob Bossy, and Larry Lazy. Though How To Get Along With Difficult People frequently discusses irritation-inducing personalities in the context of a church group, its practical advice will prove invaluable to any reader who isn't a hermit. Highly recommended.
Emotional First Aid Manual
32196 Via de Olivia, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
1929830157 $19.99 www.innovationspress.com
Trauma counseling specialist Janet Buell dispenses her professional expertise for readers of all backgrounds in Emotional First Aid Manual, a straightforward guide to basic techniques to prevent and lessen emotional suffering in others. From the seven golden rules of emotional first aid (including "Listen - don't talk", "Be compassionate - not critical", and "Do not attempt a diagnosis") to recommendations specific to certain aggrieved situations such as the loss of a child, an impending divorce, or trauma of humiliation, Emotional First Aid Manual walks the reader through what to say and how to say it in order to be a good friend and a source of comfort in a time of need. Divided into three major sections covering Adult Traumas, Childhood Traumas, and Trauma in the Mentally Ill, Emotional First Aid Manual is equally valuable to lay citizens and to individuals considering fields of work that involve regular interaction with aggrieved individuals (such as the funerary business or credit counseling). Highly recommended.
A Declaration of American Business Values
Robert L. Merz
Values of American Company
PO Box 1534, Merchantville, NJ 08109
0976586819 $12.95 www.americanbusiness.com
Entrepreneur and Fortune 500 company veteran Robert L. Merz presents A Declaration of American Business Values: Ethics, Equity & Efficiency in the New Millennium, a compendium of solid business advice based on a scrutiny of the connection between the historical roots of American Democracy and the world of commerce. Divided into brief sections, each only a couple pages long and emphasizing a point, A Declaration of American Business Values covers basic theories of business organization, the concept of corporate social responsibility, training challenges for the new millennium, and much more. An extensive bibliography rounds out this compact primer for adopting a systemic model of business based on culture norms designed to create an efficient and just work environment.
120 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JN, United Kingdom
0749448261 $19.95 www.kogan-page.co.uk
Written by independent marketing and branding consultant Matt Haig, Brand Royalty: How the World's Top 100 Brands Thrive & Survive is an insightful guide to the tips, tricks, and techinques that one hundred of the most popular brands in America and worldwide use to remain successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace. From pioneer brands, that have earned trust across multiple generations (Heinz, Gillette), to brands that market themselves as status symbols (Rolex, Tiffany & Co.), to brands that laud their own consistency (Coca-Cola, Campbell's soup) and much more, Brand Royalty is filled cover to cover with ideas to consider when formulating one's own brand, and charting a direction in which to take it. Highly recommended for small business owners and big business branders or marketing consultants alike.
Winning or Losing the Financial & Retirement Race
Robert Lamoreaux, JD
Devere Publishing Inc.
PO Box 970965, Orem, UT 84097-0965
Successful attorney and estate/financial planning specialist Robert Lamoreaux, JD, presents Winning or Losing the Financial & Retirement Race, a straightforward guide primarily to the financial aspects of one's retirement that also touches briefly on more general advice such as how to keep family connections strong. Winning or Losing the Financial & Retirement Race stands out because it presents its wisdom in plain and simple, no-nonsense terms that even a financial novice can readily grasp. The author testifies directly from his own experience, resulting in an invaluable resource; its discussion of estate planning is a superb primer not just for impending retirees, but also for anyone with assets, since the end of life can unfortunately strike at any time. One example of Lamoreaux's folksy yet utterly serious wisdom concerns the practice of parents disinherting their children: "Disinheritance always destroys relationships. If you have a child who has made some bad choices and has a special problem that upsets you, such as being a spendthrift or using drugs, see your attorney. An attorney can place provisions in a Trust that will provide for the child, yet not support the habits, without disinheritance." Highly recommended.
Michael J. Carson
Death by Indifference
Star Dust Press
e-book $5.98 www.stardustpress.com
Tess Avery is the epitome of today's woman, feisty and independent and ready to take on the world. The only thing missing in Tess's life is of the male variety. Tess warily seeks to solve this problem by signing on with an internet dating service and all of a sudden the men she dates are ending up dead. Into her life enters sexy detective Sam Marshall, the ultimate alpha male, and Tess's inner bells are ringing a warning while her body is yearning for Sam's touch. Sparks fly between the two as bodies begin to pile up and Sam's having a hard time keeping his mind off Tess, both unaware the killer has focused on them.
This fast-paced story is packed with suspense and intrigue. Sam and Tess are engaging characters with a unique twist: both are middle aged. But that won't stop young readers from enjoying a galvanizing plot which moves at break-neck speed with a sizzling dash of romance thrown into the mix. Baby boomers will appreciate a protagonist who proves that women in their 40s and beyond are just as fresh, interesting, and amazing as those in their 20s and 30s. For adult readers, no matter what age, this remarkable book should receive a special ranking. Highly recommended.
The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley
Illustrated by Kristine Soza Ardizzone
Just My Best Publishing
1932586296 $14.95 www.jmbpub.com
Young cartoonist Jeremy Kern is having a hard time dealing with his parents' constant quarrels since his father lost his job. When Doog (good spelled backward), one of Jeremy's cartoon characters, jumps out of the computer, Jeremy thinks he's gone crazy. But Doog convinces Jeremy he's for real, along with other Toonies from Cartoon Land, with its yellow sky, two blue moons and bright red stars. Doog, who hopes to help Jeremy deal with his angst over his parents, is soon joined by Uncle Wom (short for wise, old man), ruler of Cartoon Land. Uncle Wom warns Jeremy about the Mischief Makers, ape-like birds controlled by an evil tyrant named Dab (bad spelled backwards), who would love nothing more than to escape Cartoon Land and take over the world. Fearful that Dab will find a way out of the computer, Uncle Wom warns Jeremy to turn his computer off when he is not using it. Before Jeremy can tell his parents about these fantastic creatures, Jeremy's father inadvertently allows Dab to escape the computer, and before long, Dab has his own battle troops gathered around and ready for action. The humanoids, as the cartoon characters call them, aided by Doog and Uncle Wom, quickly engage in a frantic race to find Dab and his mischief makers before they can wreak havoc on the world.
With creative wizardry, Betty Dravis has written an excellent story here; one that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Packed with intriguing characters, vivid visual imagery, an exciting and suspenseful plot, morality issues relayed in a sensitive and subtle manner, and brilliant illustrations, THE TOONIES INVADE SILICON VALLEY is one book this reader thoroughly enjoyed and would love to see in libraries and homes throughout the country. A must-read and highly recommended.
Falls the Shadow
William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers
0060721561 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com
Defense attorney Victor Carl is wary of representing Francois Dube, a chef convicted of murdering his wife. Although Francois claims innocence and wants a new trial, all evidence points to him as the culprit. Plus, Francois had a motive: he and his wife were in the process of divorcing and bitterly arguing over custody of their young daughter at the time of the wife's murder. Victor doesn't think there's much chance of winning this one, but his partner, Beth Derringer, seems enamored of Francois and pushes to take the case. As Victor begins investigating, into his life steps Dr. Bob, a dentist who not only fixes his broken tooth but inserts himself into Victor's life and begins to cause changes in Victor's life. Good things, such as a new girlfriend and better wardrobe. But before long, Victor discovers that Dr. Bob is tied to the events that led to the murder of the wife of the man he is now defending.
This is one of those books the reader doesn't want to end. William Lashner has a penchant for delivering delicious witticisms that leave the reader laughing and wanting more. Victor Carl is a Jewish attorney with attitude and refreshing self-deprecating view of himself and his life. Dr. Bob is the ultimate character, a man outside the bounds of sanity who sees himself as protector of the world while inadvertently destroying others. Give this one a five plus.
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0399153403 $24.95 www.penguin.com 1-800-847-5515
LA Detective Alex Delillo has sent her daughter off to college and is expecting her biggest worries will center around an empty nest. But before she can feel the first pang, she receives an incomplete fax which turns out to be from a half-brother she never knew about, whose dead body is discovered near where three young women were murdered 17 years earlier. Unknown to Alex, her estranged father was and remains the primary suspect in those prior murders. Although her brother's death is ruled a suicide, Alex suspects otherwise. With the help of her subordinate Detective Dylan Harrison, Alex begins to reconstruct her brother's hours preceding his death, and every avenue she explores leads her back to her father and the three women who were murdered 17 years ago.
Never Fear is a fast-paced mystery with plenty of twists and turns and red herrings at every corner. Single mother Alex Delillo is a fresh character, a gutsy woman with issues struggling to protect her college-aged daughter while chasing bad guys.
Nudist Guy and Yankee Gal
Authors Ink Books
P.O. Box 396, Sturgis, MI 49091
Our favorite nudist Chester is back with more humorous renderings of his life, family and friends, and the zany situations he manages to get himself into. Lots of physical slapstick with this one along with plenty of colorful, wacky characters to go along with Chester. It seems Chester's wife and son are the only "normal" people in the whole bunch and their reactions to Chester's antics not only evoke nods of approval but plenty of laughs.
Christy Tillery French
Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog
Kitty Burns Florey
Melville House Publishing
300 Observer Highway, 3rd Floor, Hoboken, NJ 07030
1933633107 $19.95 155 pages
Kitty Burns Florey hits on a number of topics in her brief exploration of sentence diagraming, Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog. Her reminiscences of parochial school diagraming are hitched up against a thumbnail history of the exercise as well as discussions of Gertrude Stein's over-the-top takes on grammar and punctuation, the limitations of diagraming as an educational tool, and the descriptivist-prescriptivist divide. Florey includes a good many diagrams in the book and a number of notes which, thank the gods, are given in the margins rather than relegated to endnotes.
It would be impossible to overemphasize the shelf appeal of an accessible, diagraming-related book to the likes of me. Like the author, I was taught diagraming in the sixth grade by a nun, and I took to it with glee. I am, if not a pedant, certainly grammatically aware--though demonstrably less knowledgeable than the author, whose discussion of "ain't" was an eye-opener for me: it had never occurred to me that ain't (as a contraction for "am not") is arguably grammatical when used with a first-person singular subject, so that "I'm right, ain't I" is to be preferred to the ungrammatical "I'm right, aren't I?" Whoda thunk it? But the point is, there are few topics that could interest me as immediately as sentence diagraming, and I would have pined for this book had more time passed between my learning of its existence and getting a copy into my trembling hands. So I should have loved Florey's book. I was disappointed to only like it.
Florey doesn't actually provide very much information in the book. Her chapter on the history of diagraming--from the system of balloon diagraming created by S.W. Clark in the mid-19th century to the more familiar linear diagrams of Reed and Kellogg--tells us nothing more than you might find in a decent encyclopedia article. One leaves the chapter wondering, at a minimum, how Reed and Kellogg's method differed from its predecessor, other than aesthetically. Nor should one come to the book expecting to learn the principles of diagraming. You can follow along nicely enough if you are already comfortable with diagraming, if, say, you need no further explanation for a sentence like this: "The gerund gets yet another kink in its line so that it seems to fall clumsily downstairs, which may be appropriate for a verbal noun...." But the book is by no means a primer for the grammatically challenged.
Florey's style is informal, which is fine except that her joviality sometimes feels forced:
"Reed and Kellogg began with a straight line: The expressway on which the sentence's most important elements ran as smoothly as a Jaguar tooling along Route 80."
Also grating are the author's numerous references to George W. Bush, which are distracting and will date the book, at the least, and may alienate some of Florey's audience.
A final and minor complaint. You would expect a title as unusual as Florey's to have some real-life story behind it. This one does, sort of: Florey's sixth-grade nun was indeed a Sister Bernadette who was, we are told in chapter four, "obsessed with dogs." The only other explanation for the title comes at the book's beginning:
"Sister Bernadette: I can still see her, a tiny nun with a sharp pink nose, confidently drawing a dead-straight horizontal line like a highway across the blackboard, flourishing her chalk in the air at the end of it, her veil flipping out behind her as she turned back to the class. "We begin, she said, with a straight line. And then, in her firm and saintly script, she put words on the line, a noun and a verb--probably something like dog barked."
"Something like"? "Probably"? The title's genesis story is wanting, the barking dog ostensibly an arbitrary selection. The book might as well have been called Sister Bernadette's Throbbing Ulcer. I feel a little cheated. Sister Bernadette is still worth reading by the crowd that thrilled to Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, but don't expect to come away with more than a few hours of pleasant diversion.
The Perfect Assassin
61 Paradise Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938
Sailing solo across the Atlantic westward from France Dr. Christine Palmer, just finished with her third year of residency, pulls aboard a man clinging to a cooler amid the flotsam of a shipwreck. Christine's stumbling across the man in the middle of the ocean is a bit of needle-in-a-haystack good luck that she comes to wish had never happened. Her unexpected passenger--whose name, we eventually learn, is David Slaton--soon commandeers the boat and orders her to sail to England. It is, for Christine, the unpleasant start of a harrowing adventure that will see the two of them running simultaneously from Scotland Yard and from rogue elements within the Israeli secret service.
Ward Larsen tells his story from multiple points of view, his principal characters given just enough back story to make them sympathetic. Perhaps the most compelling of the lot is the Yard's Inspector Nathan Chatham, first introduced in chapter eight, a charming technophobe who is clever and quirky enough to anchor his own series. It is a pleasure, too, to watch our hero outsmart his adversaries using the training of a lifetime of service in Mossad. We certainly come to like Larsen's characters enough to want them to prevail, but it's also true that we are never really made to worry about them. Christine and David are placed in peril repeatedly in the book, but we never doubt that they will both come out safe in the end. Part of the reason for this may be that the bad guys never emerge as fully realized characters. There is no flesh-and-blood villain to root against.
Larsen's debut novel may not pack the sort of suspense that will keep you turning the pages too late at night, but it's a solid spy novel and a good quick read. I'll look forward to seeing more from this author.
Girls of Tender Age
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743279778 $14.00 www.simonsays.com 1-800-223-2336
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith's Girls of Tender Age is a memoir wrapped around a true crime story. She writes about growing up among the "working stiffs" of 1950's Hartford, Connecticut under less than ideal conditions. Smith's mother was distant and negligent:
"Until I am in first grade, I have no idea that when you are hurt, some people have the urge to hug and comfort you. In the first grade, my fingers get caught in the girls' lavatory door and my teacher, Miss Wells, takes me in her arms and hugs me to her big bosom. I don't understand why this is, a body surrounding mine, pressing sympathy from one heart into another. But my mother is the prototype of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown."
Her father was a sort of saint who devoted his life to caring for the author's autistic older brother at a time when no one understood that condition. Smith's autobiographical chapters--compelling enough without the introduction of further drama--are interspersed with brief sections, sometimes chillingly succinct, on the career of serial rapist and murderer Bob Malm:
"It was during this time [while in service during World War II] that Bob pursued his interest in forced sexual contact with preadolescent girls; he could only have sex successfully with preadolescent girls and only after terrorizing and hurting them, leaving some of them unconscious, or possibly, dead. A man could get away with this in Okinawa."
Eventually, the two threads of Smith's story meet, tragically, when the author is nine years old.
Smith's account of Malm's crime and the lasting effect it had on her life is a powerful piece of nonfiction. What impresses me most about her book is that Smith has managed to construct a coherent narrative out of events that she understood so poorly at the time. It would be hard enough to recreate an incident from one's childhood under the best of circumstances: a child doesn't have an adult's appreciation of what's going on; one's memory of an event decades after the fact is confused and incomplete. But the task of reconstruction was made more difficult for Smith because the adults around her at the time of the tragedy adopted a ham-fisted means of dealing with the impact of Malm's crime on the children involved. They dealt with it by not dealing with it, by suppressing information and prohibiting discussion. So Smith's task in researching and writing her story, supplementing her imperfect memory with hard fact, was a prodigious one.
The result, at any rate, is an honest account of Smith's life in particular and, more generally, of a certain lifestyle--"small-town" Hartford in the 50s, children playing in the streets until dusk, large immigrant families and coal furnaces and a now alien-seeming approach to child rearing. Girls of Tender Age is by turns funny and tragic and horrifying and gripping. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451217292 $6.99 1-800-847-5515
Lee Goldberg's Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is the first book in a series of mysteries based on the charming television show "Monk," which stars Tony Shaloub as the brilliant, obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk. Monk, a former policeman whose eccentricities cost him his badge, regularly consults with the San Francisco Police Department, helping his one-time partner Captain Leland Stottlemeyer solve ostensibly unsolvable homicides. Monk's genius for detail allows him to notice things other investigators overlook, and Monk pretty much always gets his man--the one exception being that Monk has been unable to solve the mystery of his own wife's murder.
Goldberg's novel, told from the perspective of Monk's assistant, Natalie Teeger, finds Monk investigating a series of related murders, beginning with the death-by-pickaxe of a firehouse dalmatian. The quest for Sparky's killer leads Monk far outside his comfort zone--as far, in fact, as the city dump, where the germophobic detective dons a hazmat suit to dig for incriminating garbage. Monk has to wrestle his demons through the rest of the story, too, as he is forced to live in Natalie's house while his own comfortably sterile apartment is being fumigated.
Fans of "Monk," the series, will not be disappointed in Goldberg's addition to the franchise. The story's plot and the characterization of Monk strain credibility in a few spots, but on the whole the book is a great read. The mystery is engaging, but the best thing about Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is the dialogue, which is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I don't know how the lines would come across to readers who have never seen the television series (though I can't imagine that a TV tie-in is likely to have a large audience among people unfamiliar with the show), but the dialogue struck me, at least, as vintage "Monk." Reading the book was an experience very much like cozying up in front of the TV for a good episode. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, also by Goldberg, Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii.
Christine O'Malley and Patrick Creadon
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312364032 $9.95 www.stmartins.com 1-888-330-8477
Wordplay is the companion book to the 2006 documentary of the same name. It was written by Christine O'Malley and Patrick Creadon, respectively the movie's producer and director. Will Shortz,the crossword editor of the New York Times (and "the Errol Flynn of crossword puzzling" according to Jon Stewart), contributes a foreword, and the book features interviews with a number of people who appeared in the film--crossword constructors and celebrity cruciverbalists and contestants in the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The book's 12 brief chapters include a thumbnail history of crossword puzzles and discussions of, among other topics, Will Shortz's tenure at the Times, crossword puzzle construction, and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival at which the documentary premiered. I have not yet seen the movie, so I can't say for certain how much of the information in the book rehashes what appears on film, but much of it appears to be new--a number of those featured in the book discuss their reaction to seeing the film, for example, and crossword constructor Merl Reagle writes about the process of creating a puzzle for the film.
The text of the book reads very quickly, but finishing the 50 puzzles that are included in Wordplay will be the work of weeks, if not months. And it's the puzzles, for each of which a little background is supplied, that make Wordplay a book you'll want to own. Among the crosswords included in the book are:
- The first puzzle Will Shortz published in the New York Times
- The first puzzle Shortz edited for the Times--a puzzle which, we're told, "caused quite a stir, because it couldn't be completely solved with an ordinary pencil"
- The first crossword puzzle ever published (in 1913)
- Samples of puzzles edited by Shortz's three predecessors at the Times, Margaret Farrar, Will Weng, and Eugene Maleska
- The "Wordplay" puzzle that was created for and featured in the movie
- The 1998 puzzle, "Engagement," which was written for Manhattan attorney Bill Gottlieb and concealed in its answers Bill's marriage proposal to his girlfriend
- The ingenious Clinton/Dole puzzle that was published on Election Day in 1996
- The eight puzzles that contestants were set at the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, with directions for scoring your solution
Plus a lot more. In short, the book is a treasure trove of historically interesting puzzles. If you've been solving the New York Times puzzle religiously for decades, you may have seen all of this before. But for many of us relative newcomers to cruciverbalism, Wordplay is a great source for some of the best puzzles ever constructed.
Michael Stephen Fuchs
MacMillan New Writing
20 New Wharf Road, London, N1 9RR
The meaning of life is out there, a Usenet rumor has it, hidden on the web at an unregistered IP address, on a protocol no one uses, waiting for some genius hacker to stumble on it. Such, at least, is the purport of Michael Stephen Fuchs's interesting but uneven technothriller, The Manuscript. The text that gives the book its title was purportedly written by 19th-century explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton after he stumbled on the answers to life's riddles in the mountains of Argentina. It's being sought in the present century by a host of people, most of them heavily-armed baddies, most of them more interested in profit than enlightenment. Among those hunting for the manuscript are Fuchs's protagonists, a quartet of twenty-somethings who are vaguely dissatisfied with the trajectory of their lives: Dana Steckler, a graduate student in medical ethics at Thomas Jefferson College; her friend Miles Darken, a sysadmin with his own Bersa .380; Miles's cyber-acquaintance, intelligence agent Celeste Browning; and chemistry student turned high-tech drug dealer FreeBSD, the genius hacker who manages, after all, to find that hidden IP address.
Fuchs's book starts well. It's set in a decidedly wired world and peopled by intelligent technogeeks, and the author is adept at getting his characters' jargon and the feel of their world down on paper. He is also able to make technical information interesting and intelligible, maybe even sexy, as in this passage in which he writes about IP packets:
"If you could follow a whole burst of IP packets, a group of IP packets, that cohered on reassembly into something like an e-mail message...But you can't, because not cohering is what IP packets do. On their way from--to pick a couple of spots entirely at random--Hookeville, Virginia, to New York City, New York, basically the job of these data packets, as dictated by the odd magic of the Internet Protocol, is to swarm across the internet willy-nilly, each trying to find a good route to, not even their final destination, but just a next destination that might get them, not even necessarily closer to, but just still moving on toward, their final destination. Still, it's possible, probably not even uncommon, for all the packets that make up an e-mail message to traverse the same route, all side by side in formation, like sea horses riding into battle."
I love the way the author sometimes pauses his narrative with these highly technical bits of explication--on IP packets or tunnel vision or the tactical considerations of the various parties to a Mexican stand-off. Some of these passages really shine. Here's the conclusion to Fuchs's discussion of IP packets:
"So, if you could follow a burst of IP packets, say from Hookeville, Virginia, to New York, New York--if you were to piggyback on one of those hundreds of little blips, firing staccato out the back of a machine, tumbling through a local hub and router, sluicing onto some optical fiber strung hill over dale, zipping swarms of oscillating light, splaying outward in pulses much too fast to consider, broken apart and reassembled a dozen times while tumbling through a dozen more routers, darting stealthily through the wall of a nondescript office building in midtown Manhattan, reassembled a last time, all the parts accounted for and in just the right place, turned into magnetism on the shiny copper plate of a hard drive, where to wait faithfully and patiently all the night through to be read by just one person, to be turned into a file, and into pixels, and into light, and into optical pulses, and into ideas, and into someone else's mind...is this what genuine and meaningful contact between two human beings might look like?
"Is this what falling in love might look like?
In case you didn't notice--and I bet you didn't--that whole first paragraph is a single sentence.
But there are problems with the book. It's hard to keep track of Fuchs's numerous secondary characters or to understand the motivations of a good many of them; a character who seems to be important at the start of the book (Paulina) soon drops out of the story, never to be heard from again; and our protagonists, whatever their dissatisfaction with the status quo in the early chapters, seem too prepared to upend their lives, and too prepared to finance their new lives with ill-gotten gain--a decision which you'd think would at least give them some pause. (Knowledge of the meaning of life seems to have little practical effect and does not preclude profiting from the sale of drugs.) Most importantly, there isn't much of a plot here. The story, so promising at first, devolves into a series of confusing gun battles. These go on too long, until finally the book comes to an unsatisfying conclusion.
I don't want to end on a negative note, however, because Fuchs's writing style really is unusual and interesting and intelligent. I hope he writes more, and that he wraps his gorgeous techno-prose around a stronger story next time.
Debra Hamel, Reviewer
Edward Lee and John Pelan
Overlook Connection Press
P.O. Box 1934, Hiram, GA, 30141
1892950634, $19.95, 138 pages
When Edward Lee and John Pelan put there minds together on a collaboration, the reader is always treated to a genuinely disgusting and entertaining piece of fiction.
Straker isn't a wrestling fan, but when raped and mutilated bodies of female wrestling groupies start popping up throughout the area, Captain Philip Straker must go undercover to track down the killer with the beautiful reporter and wrestling fan, Melinda Pierce as his guide. As Straker and Pierce play their roles as groupies perfectly, they delve deep into the wrestling world as the body count rises and word is caught that the perpetrator happens to be a wrestler. Goon is a giant: standing six foot nine inches and weighing in at four hundred pounds, he is a monster whose path you wouldn't want to cross, in or out of the ring.
Within a dank storage unit, Captain Straker confronts Goon in an ill-fated attempt to subdue the beast. All looks grim until the intrusion of Melinda Pierce. But Melinda Pierce has a surprise of her own and that will change Captain Straker's life forever, a twist that will leave the reader in awe.
Goon is a humorous journey into the dark imagination of two masters of repulsive horror: Edward Lee and John Pelan. This book is to be read slowly and aloud, every word savored as if it were your last. The imagery produced will sicken, amuse, and invigorate the reader, leaving mental tattoos that will never fade.
P.O. Box 338, North Webster, IN 46555
No ISBN, $19.95
Failure is the first book in Delirium's Hardcover Chapbook Series, limited to 500 signed copies in a neat 4.50 x 6.25 format that is a handsome example that bigger doesn't mean better. From Bram Stoker Award winner, John Everson this novella is a prime illustration of the author's literary brilliance.
From the very beginning we are stunned by the blunt reality of teenage desolation, Richard's attempt at suicide is interrupted by a frantic telephone call from female acquaintance, Cindy. She is bleeding, and there is only one explanation. Sal had promised them all the weed they could smoke for one little erotic act for an evil known as, Aaron.
In an air of perversion within a candlelit pentagram in Aaron's basement, accompanied by the grotesque sacrifice of a fellow student, the three teens perform sexual deeds upon each other, strangely compelled by unseen forces. Six months, six days and six hours after the incident, the teens are once again brought to the scene of their carnal ramp to confront Aaron and the thing that is ripping its way through Cindy.
Failure is a wondrous accomplishment in dark horror fiction that captures the essence of the teenage loner, in a time where social normality is the drug of choice.
W. D. Gagliani
A serial killer is on a spree, slaughtering innocent victims without a shred of guilt or regard for life. Luckily, Detective Nick Lupo is on the case; a respected officer with intelligence, a passion for his work, and with the intuition of an expert, holding the ability to grasp the mind of a killer. Possibly because he is a killer himself: Detective Lupo is a werewolf. As he tracks the killer, Lupo is hit with the realization that he is being tracked himself, by the killer. Martin Stewart is teasing the detective, who years before, had taken the life of Martin's sister, an act done while transformed as the beast.
The blood of the innocent will be shed unless Detective Lupo can stop the reign of terror… or he himself may be killed by the silver bullets in the chamber of Martin Stewart's Smith & Wesson. This magnificent novel was written with proficiency, Gagliani knows horror fiction and he has supplied us with a skillfully crafted piece of dark literature.
Dustin La Valley
Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music In America
Edited by Paul Kingsbury and Alanna Nash
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0756623529 $40.00 http://us.dk.com (800) 788-6262
Christmas came early to my house this year when I came home, not to find St. Nick warming by a fire, which would truly be odd considering I don't have a fireplace, but when I came home to find Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America sitting on my doorstep. The coffee-table sized book from The Country Music Hall of Fame (and published by DK) is a treasure trove of trivia and history filled with rare photos and essays from some of the most preeminent Country Music scholars out there.
Beginning with Country's pre-1900s roots, the book traces it's lineage to the present day and introduces the artists and businessmen who populate its colorful history. The book is laid-out in a chronological order, but chapters cover periods rather than a specific time span, for example "Commercial Beginnings: 1922-1930" as opposed to covering 1920-1930. Covering particular periods allows for a little overlap between chapters and, since a different author contributes each chapter, this allows a few instances to see things from a different perspective. Esteemed Country Music historians and authors such as Bill C. Malone, Charles K. Wolfe, Chet Flippo and Rich Kienzle contribute chapters to the book and their insights and expertise make this book a fantastic read.
Two chapters are devoted more to sub-genres in Country rather than periods and give a great look at Cowboy music and Bluegrass. Separating them into their own sections gives both of them room to breath and more room to explore both their roots and their impact.
One of my favorite things are the three categories of sidebars in each chapter. Starting each chapter is a timeline that gives an overview of historic events in World History as well as significant events in Country music during the period covered in the chapter. The other two sidebars, "Profiles in Country" which introduces an artist with some biographical info, and "Classic Country Recording" which gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of Country's best recordings, pop up sporadically throughout the text and give a little more history to something being discussed.
Many of the pictures included in the book have never been published and give a glimpse at moments in time many of us have missed. There are discussions about clothing and instruments that use items that can be found in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
If you don't know this about me, I love Hatch Show Prints, so much so that I used one (or a few) to propose to my beautiful fiancee. (If you don't know about Hatch Show Prints you are missing a fun piece of Country Music history, so go read about it now, I'll wait). The chapters all begin with a double page spread designed by Hatch manager and designer Jim Sherraden exclusively for the book.
To their credit, editors Alanna Nash and Paul Kingsbury, do not try to make this a definitive History, but an overview that encompasses the whole of the tradition. It is a big task to be sure, but they have done a fantastic job of presenting the artists and music; The flow of information is smooth and easy to read.
If you have someone in your life that loves Country music and its history, or has a blank spot on their coffee table, I cannot recommend loud enough that you get them this book.
The Grand Ole Opry: The Making of an American Icon
Center Street (Hachette Book Group USA)
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1931722862 $24.99 http://www.hachettebookgroupusa.com 800-759-0190
There are few entertainment institutions that have experienced the longevity of the Grand Ole Opry. The format of the show has remained virtually the same since it's inception in 1925. The stars that have passed across the Opry stage could fill a book with only a listing of their names. Fortunately, author Colin Escott fills in the blanks rather than supplying only a list. Using many documents and personal interviews, Escott provides a fantastic overview of the history and importance of the Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville was not always synonymous with Country Music, especially in the early 1920's when Edwin Craig started WSM as a way to advertise for its owner National Life and Accident Insurance Company (taking its call letters from the company's slogan: "We Shield Millions"). Craig's original programming idea was to create a station which would be the equivalent to the NPR network we have today, playing classical music and providing cultural programs.
But then he hired George D. Hay, the Solemn Ol' Judge (and, I'm proud to say, fellow Hoosier), away from his job at a Chicago station to come to the fledgling station as its first Program Director. While at Chicago's WLS, Hay had seen success with a Barn Dance program which proved popular with displaced Southerners looking for a way to connect to home.
The Solemn Ol' Judge decided that if the idea would work in Chicago, then it would surely work in the Athens of the South, Nashville. And we know the rest…
Escott, author of perhaps the cream of the Hank Williams biography crop, fills in the story from that initial hiring to this year in the Opry through thorough research to bring quotes from the actual players in the establishment of the Opry. Using those quotes, Escott himself pops up only to serve as a narrator to the story, much like watching a well constructed documentary. Reading the exact quotes lends something special to the story by giving you the point of view of the artists and staff members who were there.
The book also includes many great pictures from the history of the Opry giving a look at the artists in the different settings of the Opry (did you know the current Opry House is the fourth home of the Opry?). One great picture in 1956 shows the whole cast backstage and includes Ernest Tubb, Jimmy Dickens, Webb Pierce, Minnie Pearl, The Louvin Brothers and Johnny Cash among the group.
Led Zeppelin IV
733 Third Avenue, 6th Fl, New York, NY 10017
1594863709 $16.95 http://www.rodale.com 212 808-1336
The first book in Rodales' "Rock of Ages" series focuses on Led Zeppelins' classic album IV recounting the formation of the band to its end while focusing squarely on the music without the tales of decadence that often surround writings on the band. Author Barney Hoskyns, who has written extensively on the Southern California Rock scene of the ‘70's and early-‘80's, leaves no stone unturned as he delves into the meanings behind the songs, how they were recorded and also the mysterious symbols that make up the title of the album.
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek And The Dominos
733 Third Avenue, 6th Fl, New York, NY 10017
1594863695 $16.95 http://www.rodale.com (212) 808-1336
The second in the new "Rock of Ages" book series, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is the story of the one-shot recording of a rock super group, Derek and the Dominos, which, unlike many other super group attempts, has influenced countless guitar heroes.
Of course, Derek was Eric Clapton and the Dominos consisted of keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon. The band came together and began to rehearse songs written predominately by Clapton and/or Whitlock. The songs were beginning to take shape, but at times, obsessed with the desire for the love of his best friends' wife, Clapton seemed to need that spark to get him back on track. That spark, as we know, came in the form of Duane Allman, who contributed, among other things, the memorable intro lick to the albums most successful song, "Layla."
Jan Reid, who has also written on Country and Southern Rock music as well as for Texas Monthly, weaves the story from the formation of the band with the improbable love triangle between Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd and her husband, and Clapton's best friend, George Harrison and takes both up to their ultimate demises. Reid provides great insight and his research uncovering interviews with the main subjects those surrounding the project is terrific.
A Shot in the Dark: Making Records in Nashville, 1945-1955
Vanderbilt University Press and the Country Music Foundation Press
Box 1813 Station B, Nashville, Tennessee 37235-1813
0826515320 $65.00 http://www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com (615) 322-3585
The latter part of 2006 has seen the release of several great books focusing on the History of Country Music and all things related. The Country Music Hall of Fame has had its hand in two of the recent releases, Will the Circle Be Unbroken and the latest A Shot In The Dark: Making Records in Nashville, 1945-1955.
Written by author/researcher Martin Hawkins, A Shot In The Dark takes a detailed look at the rise of the recording industry in Nashville before it became known as the Music City. The history of the industry includes plenty of Country music, but as Hawkins details, it also includes generous doses of R & B, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, and Pop which helped build the foundation for all that came after.
Hawkins dates the first Nashville recording to December 1945 when Bullet Records produced its first session with Sheb Wooley. "It was just a market test. Nothing happened, it was just a beginning," Bullet founder Jim Bulleit is noted as saying, and it certainly was "a beginning," not only for his small company, but for a whole industry.
Bullet Records continued to record Country, Jazz, Pop, and Gospel, first using the engineers and equipment of WSM and then eventually in their own makeshift studio. Bullet also owned the first set of equipment in Nashville to press their own discs (78s), thus becoming a self-sufficient unit.
Hawkins skillfully takes us from the beginnings of Nashville itself to this historic recording session interviewing many of the major players firsthand. He also drew information from archived interviews and newspapers. Using this information he takes us through each of the Nashville labels of the time.
Beginning with Bullet, we then move on to Tennessee Jamboree, Republic, Dot Records, Nashboro, Excello, and Hickory Records. Each of these labels were small labels, some just a step above vanity labels, but each made a unique contribution to the growth of not only the Nashville recording industry, but in many ways, the entire industry as a whole.
Like a good DVD, this book is also packed with a few fantastic extras. First off is the fantastic bibliography in which Hawkins notes his sources and gives a brief recommended listening list. Next up is a superbly researched and documented discography of every recording made on the labels mentioned in the book between the years 1945 and 1955. The books is beautifully illustrated with great pictures of downtown Nashville in the 20's, 30's and 40's as well as rare or little seen pictures of those artists who helped build the industry with little remembrance of their contributions now.
Finally, packed in a small sleeve attached to the inside cover of back of the book is an incredible 20 track CD providing examples of the music produced during those years. List at the end of the book are artist information and brief notes by Hawkins on the tracks. Included are such rare gems as Cecil Gant, Minnie Pearl and Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys (in a rare singing appearance by Pearl), Francis Craig and His Orchetras' pop standard "Near You," and a recording of Leon Payne singing his composition "Lost Highway" often mistakenly attributed to Hank Williams (although Hank sang it, he didn't write it). The rest of the CD is just as good covering all forms of music that were recorded at the time.
I have to say that, for all of my enthusiasm and respect for this painstakingly researched volume, it is probably not for the casual fan. Hawkins goes to great lengths to detail all aspects of the things he is writing about, even down to street addresses. But it is in these details that Hawkins digs up the real story of how the love of music, not business, started what now seems to be the opposite.
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
1598864785 $14.95 www.tatepublishing.com 888 361-9473
An assassin shoots Congresswoman Ellen Randall Anderson the day she announces she is running for the office of president of the United States. She is not killed but slightly wounded. She uses this to her advantage to make a statement. Such is the beginning of the novel that races along with plenty of twists and turns. What I especially liked is how the author shows how Anderson will do whatever she can to be elected to the highest political office in the country. She is a typical politician who says one thing to the general public but does the exact opposite behind the scenes. There are plenty of conflicts as well and the writing is very easy to follow. This novel has all the best elements for a great film.
Judge & Jury
James Patterson & Andrew Gross
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316013935 $27.99 www.HatchetteBookGroupUSA.com
From the first page the authors capture the reader with a nail biting suspense tale. The pacing is rapid with a shattering conclusion to a court case that is only the beginning of the story. This is another page-turner these two authors are known for. The story moves around the world and has a fantastic ending.
James Patterson and Peter Jonge
Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0316159786 $27.95 www.HatchetteBookGroupUSA.com
This is the worst Patterson I've ever read. It is slow, boring reading with too many similar named characters and no focus. It rambles, is confusing and does not move along the way other novels these two authors have done together. Where I loved "The Beach House" because it was interesting and fun to read, I can't say that about this one. I wanted to put this one down shortly into it and it packs no punches. It was a total surprise on how disappointing it is.
James Patterson & Andrew Grosss
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
044661761X $9.99 www.twbookmark.com
I love Patterson and Gross books and this is another great one. The characters are interesting as are the situations. The pacing is what you expect from these two authors. The story is complex with interesting turns until the final page. The description of Palm Beach area is very accurate.
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
I was a little confused on the title and how it relates to the book. The symbolism I see is that our lives are like a fish stew made up of all kinds of things that all come together. The writer has told a revealing story of one man's drug addiction and how it influences every aspect of his life.
All's Fair in Love
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, Indiana 47403
1420832468 $15.00 www.AuthorHouse.com 1-800-839-8640
I've seen a lot of books from this publishing company but I have to say this is the first one I feel should have been published with a mainstream house. The characters are fun and well fleshed out while the story and writing move along briskly leading to the ending. There are also numerous conflicts that make the story very interesting. Also the relationship of characters is very well done. Leslie Shaw is an excellent romance writer.
26345 Dayflower Boulevard, Wesley Chapel, FL 33544-4043
0978544757 $6.95 www.KobocaPublishing.com
I loved this fun little book that shows what makes a Floridian. Pressler delves into many aspects of Florida life few really know. This is a perfect title to give as a gift for any occasion.
Twice in a Lifetime
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765354047 $6.99 www.tor.com
This is not your average romance novel. The author fills the novel with a situation where the main character learns her purpose in life through a number of unusual circumstances. The combination of romance and elements of fantasy are very well done in a story that was very appealing. I'd love to see other books by this author.
Old Man's War
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765348272 $6.99 www.tor.com
This is the first in a series and it is a great one. I really loved the premise of this one that makes you believe that someone who is seventy-five can enlist in the military. The author's prose is reminiscent of an early Heinlein in tone and story. The characters are believable as are the situations. What I really like here is how this new author of sf concentrates on characters and situations and not the science as I have seen with so many newer authors. The novel unfolds and moves along
The Korean Intercept
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0843957964 $7.99 www.dorchesterpub.com
The space shuttle is drawn off course and brought down somewhere near North Korea. The president orders the military to get the craft, crew, and payload back before the North Koreans. The novel is a nail biting suspenseful read.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060598808 $7.99 www.harpercollins.com
Here is another early romance novel from the author of the Stephanie Plum stories. I love these light romances because the author has a witty style that make them fun to read. Her characters are believable while her conflicts and stories make you laugh out loud.
Carroll & Graf
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
245 W. 17th St., 11th fl., NY, NY 10011-5300
0786718122 $26.95 www.avalonpub.com 800-788-3123
On a rainy day in 1969 Chicago, homicide detective Mike Dooley, along with his partner, Pete Olson, are called to the scene of a murder. They find the naked body of a woman who had been badly beaten, burned, hog-tied, strangled, and left along the riverbank.
A veteran who'd served in the Pacific in WWII, Dooley now worries about his son, serving in Vietnam. The era of the Black Panthers, Woodstock, the aftermath of the 1968 riots, the Manson murders and the first moon landing is brought vividly to life and perfectly recreated.
The investigation into the girl's death discloses that she was a former Playboy bunny and mobster's girlfriend, and leads to the possibility of Mafia connections and, this being late ‘60's Chicago, political corruption. The corruption takes place on all levels, of course. In interviewing an employee at a local bar, these exchanges take place: "We're not exactly fond of cops around here." "And why is that?" Dooley said, knowing the answer…"Well, let's see. It might be the payoffs. Yeah, I'd say that's it. It's the bag full of money we have to give your colleagues every month…I'm a skeptic, that's all. People with more experience than me have told me it's kind of hard to tell the difference between the cops and the mob sometimes." Interspersed with the police work are scenes of Mike's domestic life, typical of a household with sullen teenagers and the tension normal when one child is fighting a war overseas, an unpopular war with an uncertain outcome, with constant fear for those at home waiting.
The book is well crafted. Dooley is a good cop and a very human protagonist. The investigation is realistically portrayed, with relentless routines and gradual progress. And of course other crimes take place that must be dealt with as well.
This is a long book, but it never feels padded. It has a mostly unexpected conclusion but one that makes perfect sense. Homicide 69 is a terrific novel, very well-written, and is recommended. The book jacket reads A Dooley Crime Novel, and one can therefore hope that it is the beginning of a series.
How to Marry a Ghost
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0892960140 $24.99 www.hachettebookgroupusa.com 800-759-0190
Second in the series (this reviewer is reading the first at the time of this writing) featuring Lee Bartholomew, ghostwriter, this mystery finds Lee in the Hamptons for a dual purpose. First is a "commitment" ceremony between her mother and a wealthy man to take place on the beach. The second is to secure the job of writing an aging rock star's autobiography. He is a recluse, and reluctant to tell his story, and after a couple of sessions, he breaks off the venture.
The key to the would-be book is the death of a young groupie in his bed in London many years before. The rock star was never charged, but the mystery of who murdered the girl is still the subject of rampant speculation, which has haunted him all his life. Soon after her arrival, Lee sees a body of a woman dressed in a bridesmaid's dress drifting in from the ocean. It turns out to be the rock star's son. Another murder takes place shortly thereafter, and the plot doesn't unravel until Lee returns to London. The story flows fluidly and is well-written.
Field of Fire
James O. Born
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
0399153985 $25.95 www.us.penguingroup.com
Alex "Rocket" Duarte, ambitious ATF agent and explosives specialist [his nickname was given him in high school—he ‘took off fast…and couldn't change direction once he got going"] , is asked to head up an investigation into the latest in a series of bombings in disparate locations across the US, which appear to have implications of union harassment. The latest incident occurs at the site of a migrant labor camp where Duarte tries, and ultimately fails, to arrest a fugitive wanted on an illegal gun trafficking charge. Another interesting character is Mike Garretti, reluctant hitman, who muses at one point that "for a guy who kills people with bombs, he was way too judgmental."
Caren Larson is a Dept. of Justice attorney assigned to work with Duarte on the investigation, who must decide whether and to what extent to compromise her ethics on the altar of ambition, something faced by Duarte as well. The death toll mounts as Alex becomes more and more determined to get to the bottom of what increasingly looks like some sort of conspiracy, with intimidation of union organizers being just a smokescreen. The suspense mounts steadily, as it becomes difficult to tell the good guys from the bad.
Duarte seemed to this reader to be surprisingly naive for an experienced agent, another trait he shares with Mr. Larson. We are reminded several times that he lacks skill in interviewing and reading people. I thought Duarte's naivete extended as well to his social life, though he becomes a bit more adept at both by novel's end.
James Born's writing has been compared to that of Elmore Leonard [one of two men to whom Born has dedicated this novel]. I wouldn't go that far, but Duarte's an interesting new protagonist introduced by the author in Field of Fire, and the book is recommended.
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
130 Sixth Ave., 14th fl., NY, NY 10020
0743277724 $26.00 www.simonandschuster.com 800-223-2336
Pegasus Descending opens with a recounting of Dave Robicheaux' time in an exchange program between the New Orleans Police Dept. and a training academy for police cadets in South Florida, where his hours are divided between the homicide unit at the Miami P.D. and a criminal justice class at a community college a bit further north. That was in his drinking days, when most of his down-time was spent in bars. He says of those with whom he spent that time: "Most of them drank with a self-deprecating resignation and long ago had given up rationalizing the lives they led, I suspect allowing themselves a certain degree of peace." He tries to go on the wagon, but finds himself back in the bar, pretending "once again I could d rop lighted matches in a gas tank without consequence." One of his few friends among the regular bar customers is a young man names Dallas Klein, a highly decorated Vietnam war hero who works for an armored car company, with a 6-year-old daughter and an addiction to gambling. One afternoon when Dave is, as usual, seriously drunk, Dallas, his best friend, is gunned down in an armored car holdup/bank robbery in front of Dave, and the moment has haunted him ever since.
Fast forward two decades. Dave has long since been sober, having joined AA shortly after the bank robbery, the perpetrators of which were never caught. He has left New Orleans and returned to New Iberia, and is a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department. When he is called out to investigate a relatively minor incident involving possibly stolen money, the woman in possession of the bills turns out to be Trish Klein, Dallas' daughter. The more Dave discovers about Trish, the less sure he is of anything about her. What is he to make of her friends, who strike him "like people who met at a bus depot and decide to live together?" And he must determine what, if any, connection she had with the apparent suicide of a local girl, described as "young and beautiful and full of promise," whose body is discovered the same day Dave first meets Trish. As the author says, crediting Faulkner with the line, "the past is not only still with us, it is not even the past." Pegasus Descending is full of surprises, passion, tragedy and fascinating characters, including, as usual in the series, Dave's old NOPD partner, Clete Purcel, and Helen Soileau, now the Sheriff. It is well-plotted, with wonderful prose and.a setting lovingly, nostalgically and wonderfully evoked. In short, it is everything we have come to expect from this author, and is recommended.
Well Bred and Dead: A High Society Mystery
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0061122157 $13.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737
The first page of Well Bred and Dead, Catherine O'Connell's second published novel, had this reader intrigued, describing as it does our protagonist, Pauline Cook, gagged and bound on her bed in the luxurious penthouse apartment on the Gold Coast of Chicago, her captors having left her to die. Pauline, described as a "devastatingly elegant and wealthy widow,'' [although known to very few to be in much more straitened circumstances just lately], can trace her current predicament to her close friendship with Ethan Campbell, a social columnist and author of biographies of famous socialites, and the fact of his shocking death, an apparent suicide. Pauline was the one who discovered the body and has now had to pay for his funeral when no close relatives can be found. Pauline soon finds that there was much sh e didn't know about Ethan, her best friend for over five years, including perhaps his real identify when multiple birth certificates are found among his things. As Pauline says, it is incredible "how little we know those we think we know best." The mystery only intensifies as her investigation gleans some further tidbits of information, which only leads to further efforts to get to the truth.
The writing is for the most part light-hearted, witty and fast-paced, the view afforded by the author into the world of the social elite is a wry and interesting one, though it is almost by definition a superficial vista. Some of the attitudes are mildly offensive, but these are reflective of the times and strata. And then, of course, we get to the harrowing scene described in the prologue, and its aftermath, and Pauline has to find a way not to become one who is, um, well bred and dead. A quick and enjoyable read.
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror
375 Hudson St., NY NY 10014
0670038040 $23.95 www.us.penguingroup.com 800-847-5515
John Mortimer has, to the delight of his fans, brought back Rumpole of the Bailey, self-described as having a ‘slightly raffish air…, a little tarnished, jovial but not quite respectable.' In a case very much of the times, Rumpole is called upon to defend a man who has been picked up by the police and detained, without benefit of counsel, or even of formal charges having been brought. To make matters worse, the man, a doctor, is a Pakistani, and most make an assumption of guilt on his part, including She Who Must Be Obeyed, Rumpole's wife, Hilda. And the laws, and the Courts, have changed – he is told "That's the trouble with your sort of lawyer, Mr. Rumpole. You can't move with the times. Things like jury trials and the presumption of innocence may have been all very well in their day. But times change. History moves on." Rumpole despairs of adherence to things like the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights any longer. But being Rumpole, he knows he must find a way despite it all.
Even more frightening to him than the abridgement of civil rights in the name of fighting terror, Rumpole must deal with the fact that his beloved wife has started writing her memoirs, to parts of which the reader is made privy in these pages. Utterly charming, as is this novel. Recommended.
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0553804324 $25.00 www.bantamdell.com 800-726-0600
In a return to some of the characters introduced in her last book, Alone, Lisa Gardner has written another thriller certain to rise to the top of the bestseller list. And deservedly so.
Annabelle Mary Granger is a young woman whose name has been an ever-changing thing in her life. From the time she was a young girl, she and her parents periodically fled their home, bags always packed and at the ready, for a forced move to another city, another part of the country, with new names being arbitrarily picked out and adopted. It began when she was seven and her father told her: "You need to go into your room. Pick two things. Any two things you want. But hurry, Annabelle, we don't have much time." That happened at least twelve times. And she has never known why. Now, 25 years later, with both her parents dead and having returned to Boston, the city where she spent her earliest years, she gets the first clue: She sees her name in the local paper, identified as being one of six bodies of young girls discovered accidentally in a decades-old grave. She turns to the cops heading up the investigation, including Bobby Dodge, introduced in the earlier book, now a Massachusetts State homicide detective, who is stunned at the resemblance she, and this case, share with an earlier and equally traumatic case involving a woman who was a victim at the age of twelve in that novel. As she is told by that woman: "Being a victim is a one-way ticket, Annabelle. This is who you are now and no one will ever let you go back."
I must admit to some brief confusion caused by chapters changing point of view from time to time, switching from Annabelle to Bobby, with no immediate way to identify the narrator. But of course this becomes clear very quickly, and it is a minor quibble. The tale is fast-paced, well-written, with fascinating characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
All's Well That Ends
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
034548021X $23.95 www.randomhouse.com 800-726-0600
I opened Gillian Roberts' new book with conflicting feelings: Happy anticipation at again entering the world of Amanda Pepper, Philadelphia high school English teacher and investigator-in-training, but dismay at the knowledge that this is the last of the 14 books in the series.
Amanda is asked by her friend, Sasha, to look into the death of her stepmother, whose body Sasha had discovered, her death apparently caused by a lethal combination of alcohol and sleeping pills. The fact that the woman was dressed for an evening out or at least one entertaining a guest, her outfit complete with 4" stiletto heels, is enough of a reason for her to be convinced it could not have been suicide, and she persuades Amanda to help her prove it. The stepmother had been married five times--divorced four times, widowed most recently--and had one son, described as worthless and uninterested, his only virtue being that he lived far away from his mother. But no immediate suspects are apparent. Amanda's husband, a licensed investiga tor and former homicide cop, now attending grad school, is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which has devastated the lives of his parents and other relatives, and is not sympathetic to the task. But then Amanda and Sasha discover a second body, in the same house. And now the investigation begins in earnest.
The wit, literary allusions and interesting plot make All's Well That Ends among the best of the novels Ms. Roberts has written. The ending is a satisfying one. Amanda will be missed, but who knows what new sleuth this author has in store for her many fans?
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0553804294 $22.00 www.bantamdell.com 800-726-0600
Jacobia ["Jake"] Tiptree, her two dogs, her cat, and her best friend, Ellie, are back, as is Jake's ex-husband's ghost.
Uncharacteristically for this series [if memory serves], the "bad guy" in Sarah Graves' newest Home Repair is Homicide mystery, is a paid assassin, Walter Henderson. But the murder he is planning on page 1 of "Trap Door" is personal, not professional. Despite his planned retirement from a "long, successful career of killing people for money," and but for one loose end he still has to tie up, he's now decided that the only way to get rid of the punk who has charmed his beloved teenage daughter is by the means he knows best. But it seems that the boy has saved him the trouble, for Walter finds his body hanging below the trap door of the loft in Walter's barn. Is it really the suicide it appears to be? Although I was skeptical that a couple of tiny threads of fabric stuck on a hangnail of the victim's hand would really warrant such a suspicion; but maybe that's just me.
But back to that loose end, who turns out to be a wiseguy, Jemmy Wechsler, Jake's friend from her former life as money manager to the mob. Jemmy knows Walter plans to kill him, and calls in a favor by asking Jake to let him hide out in her cottage in Eastport, Maine, where Walter also lives. The spotlight turned on Walter by the body found in his barn, though, is certainly a complicating factor, from anyone's point of view.
The trademark home repair tips that preface every chapter but the first, as in the preceding books in the series, are always interesting and practical. There are poignant thoughts of mothers of teenage sons over whom they have little if any control. The final scene is the always satisfying gather-all-the-suspects-in-one-room-and-identify-the-killer, though somewhat implausible in this instance.
Eastport, Maine, where the author as well as her protagonist make their home, is on an island a few miles off the coast of Maine [although hopefully the author's home is sans ghost, ex-husband or otherwise], and is beautifully depicted, and the book is as charming as its protagonist.
The Killing Club
Marcie Walsh with Michael Malone
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
'The Killing Club' is a different type of murder mystery. The town of Gloria, New Jersey is a major character in the tale and the story is filled with the intimate personal details you would expect to find in a daytime soap.
Jamie Ferrara, a detective in the Gloria Police Department, is going on a birthday dinner date with her boss/boyfriend, Rod Wolenski when she spots smoke and drives to the scene. An old high school friend has died in a home fire. She immediately spots problems with the accepted cause of accidental death. When another friend from high school reminds her about their group of outcasts called the Killing Club, she starts thinking that her old friend might have been murdered. In school, their group of outcasts would make up elaborate schemes to kill off those tormenting them. Someone is using those old plans to kill members of the club today.
'The Killing Club' is a nice fast paced murder mystery with enough twists and turns to keep the reader entertained. It comes to a satisfying twisty end that has a comfortable feel. Just don't look too closely at the logic. 'The Killing Club' is a nice weekend read.
c/o Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765349655 $7.99 www.tor.com
Every writer has his strengths and weaknesses. Preston has rich complex storylines and a strong scientific knowledge. The action is fast paced. His stories are fun with satisfying endings. His weaknesses are easy to forgive.
Tom Broadbent is enjoying his favorite pastime, riding through the maze of wilderness canyons in New Mexico. He hears shots and finds a dying prospector. With his last breaths, the prospector asks Tom to give a notebook to his daughter and no one else. Tom tries to fulfill the prospector's last request and finds himself and his wife targets of a murderer and on the wrong side of the law. A dangerous secret hidden for sixty-five million years and an artifact worth hundreds of millions of dollars are easy justifications for murder.
Readers who like a dash of science with their mystery/adventure stories will find Preston a more comfortable writer than Michael Crichton. Crichton has a smoother hand with the characters but Preston is better with the storyline. A few of the plot twists are not as smooth as they could be but no one will be disappointed with 'Tyrannosaur Canyon.' It is easy to understand how Preston has become one of the central authors in the SF mystery/adventure genre.
Nirvana in a Cup
Tedde McMillen with Heather Hale
5375 SW Humphrey Boulevard, Portland, OR 97221
0978647505 $12.95 www.nirvanainacup.com
Tedde McMillen and Heather Hale tell the true-life story of their entrepreneurial success in Nirvana in a Cup: The Founding of Oregon Chai. When Heather and her mother Tedde discovered the wondrous taste of an ancient, spicy milky tea called "chai", they put together a classic kitchen start-up business to bring a drink no one had ever heard of to the American market and beyond. Nirvana in a Cup chronicles the growth pains of a small business, and the frantic pressure of never having quite enough cash or energy to keep up with a precipitous growth rate of 430%. Filled with lessons any budding entrepreneur would be well served to learn, and thoroughly entertaining in its own right, Nirvana in a Cup is a one-of-a-kind tell-all about working hard to make the American Dream come true.
John B. Romeiser, editor
Fordham University Press
2546 Belmont Avenue, University Box L, Bronx, NY 10458-5172
0823226751 $26.95 1-800-247-6553
Edited by University of Tennessee-Knoxville teacher John B. Romeiser, Combat Reporter: Don Whitehead's World War II Diary and Memoirs is the true story of two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Don Whitehead, who served the Associated Press in 1942 by covering the Allied drive against Erwin Rommel's tanks in North Africa, in Whitehead's own words. Collecting and organizing Whitehead's personal journal and unfinished memoir with the rare editor's note in brackets for clarity, Combat Reporter covers events that Whitehead witnessed from 1942-1943 in Cairo, Libya, Tunisia, and Sicily. Combat Reporter offers an evenhanded, front-lines view of the European Theater and an unforgettable self-portrait of a one-of-a-kind reporter. A foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Atkinson and an afterword by Whitehead's colleague Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Franklin (U.S. Army, Ret.) round out this highly recommended memoir.
Plumber's Handbook Revised
Howard C. Massey
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
1572181710, $36.50 www.craftsman-book.com 1-800-829-8123
Whether a do-it-yourself amateur or an experienced professional, this new and updated edition of Howard Massey's "Plumber's Handbook" is a very highly recommended instructional reference manual. Drawing upon his many years of expertise and experience as a plumber, a plumbing contractor, an inspector and plans examiner, Massey explains in simple terms how to install plumbing systems that will pass inspection the first time! Each chapter is profusely illustrated with diagrams, charts and tables that will insure the selection of the right material and correct installation. The "Plumber's Handbook Revised" addresses vents, waste piping, drainage, septic tanks, hot and cold water supply systems, wells, fire protection piping, fixtures, solar energy systems, gas piping, and so much more. Of special note are the chapters dedicated to the plumbing of mobile home and travel trailer parks and graywater recycling. An invaluable addition to personal, professional, school and community library reference collections, this newly revised edition is completely updated to conform to the International Plumbing Code (IPC) and the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) standards.
Financial Accounting: A Mercifully Brief Introduction
Michael Sack Elmaleh
12529 Molasses Road, Union Bridge, MD 21791
For the person who has no knowledge of accounting and wants to understand the very basics this book is indeed a good brief introduction. The author makes a good point of the fact that most introductory accounting texts spend a great deal of time covering the basics of transaction entry. In today's marketplace the software packages take care of these details of ensuring double entry occurs and the entries balance. When that information is removed you end up with the very basics of accounting including the basic accounting equation, cash and accrual accounting, receivables and payables, fixed assets, inventory, and financial statements. Explained at a level that a reader with no previous knowledge of accounting can follow the author does provide a mercifully brief introduction that is only the basics needed for everyday work.
After the Diagnosis
Donna Lee Pikula, D.D.S., M.S.
Books 2 Help You, LLC
P.O. Box 130, Hartland, MI 48353
So you, or a close friend, have been diagnosed with a medical condition; what do you do next? The purpose of this book is to answer that question. No matter what the diagnosis several things should be done for all medical conditions. This book walks the reader through the process of selecting a patient advocate, dealing with medical alert information, defining the specific disease or condition and it's current status, questions to ask after the diagnosis, medical terms, common medical tests and how to read the results, prescription abbreviations, provider abbreviations, medical and dental specialists, how to research your diagnosis, creating a plan of care, dealing with insurance, and other factors involved in taking charge of your care.
The book is well written in terms of both the patient's needs and the needs of someone else caring for a loved one. The text is easy to understand and follow and includes several simple forms to help you organize information and create your personal care plan. The only shortcomings are the lack of an index and the listing of resources for researching your diagnosis is by no means an exhaustive listing of all authoritative resources. On the other hand, such a listing of authoritative resources for all possible conditions would be a major work in itself and the limited listing is understandable.
All things considered, After the Diagnosis is an excellent resource for those diagnosed with a disease or medical condition. By providing a positive plan of action during a time when you might not be thinking at your best it allows you to take control of your health and treatment plan. After the Diagnosis is highly recommended.
Botanical Body Care
Karin C. Uphoff, M.S., M.H.
155 Cypress Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
A basic guide to using herbs for health purposes, this book contains many easy to make recipes for specific problems. The various body systems covered include intestinal, digestive, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, nervous, lymph, and the immune system. The author discusses each system, common problems and herbal recipes that can be used to treat various problems. A particularly interesting Appendix includes information on how to use herbs commonly found in most kitchens to benefit your health.
If you want a basic primer on using herbs that is not so complex as to make it impossible to comprehend and yet not so basic that it really is useless then this may be the book you are looking for. Author Karin Uphoff strikes a solid middle ground to make Botanical Body Care approachable to everyone from the complete novice to the intermediate level person interested in herbal recipes. Botanical Body Care is highly recommended to the home user interested in botanical remedies.
Building Powerful Community Organizations
Michael Jacoby Brown
Long Haul Press
10 Brattle Terrace, Arlington, MA 02474
Author Michael Jacoby Brown has created a book with very detailed information on how to organize, create, and lead a community organization. In it he clearly explains all the steps necessary to create an effective organization that can resolve problems. The various areas discussed include the theory of how a group should work, the chemistry involved, the seven basic steps for building an organization, developing a mission statement, goals, and objectives, designing the organization to last, recruiting others, mobilizing, raising money and taking action. Throughout the book are case studies and exercises to help you not only understand how it all works but also to help you work through developing your organization correctly. If you want to change the world and know you need help to do it then you will appreciate this book. Building Powerful Community Organizations is easily the best book on the market today on this subject.
Common Errors in English Usage
William, James & Co.
8536 SW St. Helens Drive, Suite D, Wilsonville, OR 97070
This is an excellent reference guide for the average person as well as the professional writer or editor. The various common errors are organized into logical groupings including lists of commonly confused words and the differences between them, commonly misused words and how they should be used, commonly confused expressions such as aural and oral or breach and breech. The author also includes common grammar, spelling, and style issues such as anyways and anyway or commas, capitalization, and accent marks. Other useful categories include sections on homonyms like site, sight, and cite, and commonly misspelled words like device, devise, miniature, or rapport. For those who don't seem to get things quite right there is a listing of commonly mangled expressions such as chomp at the bit compared with champ at the bit and a section of inexact words and phrases such as podium and lectern, or select and selected. There are even sections on pronunciation problems such as elicit and illicit or click and clique, redundancies such as added bonus or return back or time period, and commonly misused expressions such as critique and criticize or factoid. Common Errors in English Usage is a required reference for serious writers and an authoritative resource for those who want to improve the quality of their communication at any level.
Cool Creatures, Hot Planet
Encante Press, LLC
PO Box 850, Corvallis, MT 59828
From the title of the book I had expected this to be about some of the strange and wonderful creatures around the world. Although it does have some information on various creatures the author has encountered and even has a section of photographs of assorted creatures it is much more of a travelogue than anything else. Having said that, it is an excellent travelogue and written in a style that remains interesting throughout the book. The places where the author traveled in this text are Belize, the Amazon, Australia, Canada, Antarctica, Borneo, Europe, and Zimbabwe. Filled with fascinating facts it is a trip with the author where you feel you are there and part of the group. An interesting read Cool Creatures, Hot Planet is a recommended read for anyone interested in traveling the world through a book.
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
Ever since Novell purchased SUSE Linux there has been a whirlwind of activity, press releases, and articles everywhere about what they intend to do with it and where SUSE will go from here. In this book the author guides the reader through the details of the community distribution. The focus is on the desktop user who wants to migrate to SUSE but doesn't know much about Linux. Only minimal computer literacy is assumed and the author walks you through everything from the installation through setting up email, printers, network cards, users, and anything else you might want to configure on your desktop. The section on administration is well done and explains how to do things both from the command line and graphical interfaces. Other areas covered include graphics, audio, video, burning CDs and DVDs, installing and configuring on your laptop, package management, and network services including sharing files, remote access, configuring a web server, name resolution and everything else you would need to install and configure a small business server. SUSE Linux is highly recommended to those who want to learn the basics of this system as a desktop operating system. The server portion is useful for a small business server but for a high-demand server the proprietary version is preferred and not covered in this text.
LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell
Steve Pritchard, Bruno Pessanha, Nicolai Langfeldt, James Stranger, Jeff Dean
O'Reilly Media, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol, CA 95472
This exhaustive book of over 900 pages is one of the best organized and on-point books available for studying for the LPI Linux Certification. Beyond that it is a fantastic desktop reference guide that is easy to use and gets right to the point if you are trying to look up how to do something or use a command. This is not a book for the average peson to try to learn how to use Linux. It is nearly void or any simplistic information on how to use a graphical interface or similar information that you find in most books. Instead it is full of the detail information a system administrator needs to know.
The layout of the book is pretty much along the lines of the individual exam modules with each objective clearly explained and followed by detailed information on the subject. Each major section is followed by review questions, exercises, a practice exam and a great study outline section called a Highlighter's Index. LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell is highly recommended to anyone who is already familiar with Linux and wants to pursue certification or have an excellent quick reference handy for personal use.
The God Delusion
215 Park Avenue South, NY 10003,
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" (p. 31). Anyone who does not know that already either has never read a bible or is as rationally challenged as a great white shark with rabies. Anyone who disagrees after actually reading a bible should give serious consideration to a brain exchange with a cabbage.
In January 2006 Richard Dawkins presented a documentary about religion on British television titled Root of All Evil? He writes (p. 1), "I was delighted with the advertisement that Channel Four put in the national newspapers. It was a picture of the Manhattan skyline with the caption ‘Imagine a world without religion.' What was the connection? The twin towers of the World Trade Center were conspicuously present." If the connection between religion and 9/11 were less self-evident, that television program and this book would have aroused far less insane hatred among the self-inflicted brain amputees of the Christian Taliban.
Dawkins writes (p. 5), "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." But he recognizes the insurmountable difference between intention and expectation: "Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to arguments," due to "years of childhood indoctrination." But the impossibility of opening the eyes of those who choose not to see does not keep Dawkins from trying. If the human race still exists 300 years from now, despite religion's depraved adherence to policies certain to exterminate it (p. 288: Ronald Reagan's Interior Secretary based his policies on his belief that, "We don't have to protect the environment; the Second Coming is at hand"), he will be entitled to much of the credit.
It is axiomatic among disinformation peddlers: When you have no defence, attack. It was therefore not unforeseeable that theologians, persons who claim expertise in the thing that is not, and prelates, administrators of the thing that is not, would denounce Dawkins' The God Delusion with unreasoned vitriol. Analogous denigrations of reality were papal denunciations of Copernicus's claim that the earth orbits the sun, and episcopal denunciations of Darwin's claim that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. Popes saw Galileo's endorsement of Copernicus as a threat to their bread and butter. Bishop Wilberforce and his fellow mythologians saw Darwin's findings as a threat to their bread and butter. And the parasite caste currently exploiting the masses' belief in an imaginary Sky Führer see Dawkins as a threat to their bread and butter. Since religion pushers classify going with the evidence, instead of starting from predetermined conclusions and distorting the evidence to make it fit, as the ultimate heresy, they hate and fear Dawkins for the same reason Al Capone hated and feared Elliot Ness. And so they should. Dawkins is the parasites' worst nightmare.
Dawkins quotes a letter to Albert Einstein from an incurable god addict alleging that, "You do not seem to have learned that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope…. There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another's faith" and urging him to "say something more pleasing to the vast number of the American people who delight to do you honor." Dawkins comments, "What a devastatingly revealing letter! Every sentence drips with intellectual and moral cowardice" (p. 17).
Since the publication of The God Delusion, Dawkins is now in a position to make the same statement about his own detractors, including a physicist who wrote in Midwest Book Review, November 2006, "Dawkins is an atheist because he places too much confidence in the methods and ideas of science," and accused him of belonging to "a sect in the religion of science." That is the same as saying, "Dawkins is sane, intelligent and educated because he places too much confidence in the methods and ideas of reality." And while all godworshippers are by definition scientifically illiterate ignoramuses, anyone who can argue that science is a religion is clearly not sparking on all neurons.
Equally inane is an accusation by a Catholic apologist (London Review of Books, October 19, 2006) that Dawkins is "theologically illiterate." In other words, Dawkins knows nothing about the inner workings of something that does not exist. Theologians, in the apologist's view, do have expert knowledge of the inner workings of something that does not exist. No doubt the apologist could write a treatise on the metaphysical properties of a bunghole without a barrel.
The truly sad element of such assaults on reason is that it shows that the persons Dawkins is trying to cure of the mind-crippling virus of religion simply cannot be cured, because they are moral cowards who need the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief to overcome their terror of death and get them through the day without losing control of their bodily functions.
I was somewhat disconcerted when, early in his book, Dawkins quoted without comment the Big Lie that Adolf Hitler was an atheist, as if that explained why he was evil. Fortunately, he later devoted several pages to that unpleasant gentleman, citing the evidence that he lived and died a believing Catholic. As far as I am aware, no one has ever attributed Hitler's atrocities to his being a Catholic. And I was delighted when Dawkins mentioned "Ann Coulter who, American colleagues have persuaded me, is not a spoof invented by The Onion" (p. 288). I reviewed a book by Coulter for Humani, and suggested that she was exactly that.
Dawkins gladly accepts the designation, "atheist," provided it is defined as, "any person who does not believe in a god," rather than in the pejorative way the ignoranti habitually use the word to mean someone lacking the allegedly positive quality of "faith." He writes (p. 53), "I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon, Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further."
Dawkins is a biologist, not a biblical scholar. Nonetheless, his extensive bibliography includes books by G. A. Wells, G. Vermes, and Bart Ehrman. There are however, some notable omissions, such as Arnheim, Crossan, Harwood, Helms, Hoffman, Larue, Lüdemann, and Price, all of whom refute religion by demonstrating the fictional status of biblical fairy tales. Since Dawkins' approach is to contrast the benevolent-god hypothesis with observable reality, and show that religion is inconsistent with either known facts or any acceptable concept of morality, those omissions are perhaps excusable. And he cites sufficient biblical absurdities and self-contradictions to establish that he is not uninformed on the Bible's status as its own best debunker, as well as being the most obscene paean to evil ever written, with The Koran a close second and Mein Kampf a far distant third, with the Marquis de Sade's masturbation fantasies and Ann Coulter's verbal diarrhea fighting it out for fourth place.
Dawkins does not adhere to the politically correct practice of treating believers in superstitious hogwash as if their preference for fantasy over reality were analogous to preferring the Yankees to the Mets. He informed a mixed audience of theists and nontheists at the John Templeton Foundation that, "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we … are brainwashed into bestowing on religion," and described religious education as "brainwashing and child abuse" (International Herald Tribune, November 22, 2006). And his satirical essay on "geriniol" (anagram of religion) stated unequivocally that the 9/11 hijackers' actions can only be attributed to their being opiated by the deadly poison of geriniol.
If more educated persons would emulate Dawkins and acknowledge that religion is a contagious form of insanity, and devote as much attention to searching for an antidote as they are putting into finding an antidote for the less deadly virus of AIDS, the disease might be eliminated before it eliminates the human race. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen. Victims of AIDS would gladly allow themselves to be cured. Victims of the mind-AIDS of religion think it is the uninfected who are mentally crippled.
There are basically two ways of falsifying religion. Historians prove that religion is not true by tracing all claims of a god revealing its existence to the same Tanakh, Gospels and Koran that assure their readers that the earth is flat, and showing that, if the nativity tales in Matthew and Luke are both nonfiction, then Jesus was born ten years before he was conceived. Philosophers prove that religion cannot be true, by showing that, if the universe was produced and directed by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent overlord, then such evils as the 2005 tsunami and the AIDS virus could not exist. Dawkins shows that, for religion to be true, then humans and other animals could not have similar DNA inherited from common ancestors, the universe could not be old enough for the light from the most distant quasars to reach us for a further fifteen billion years, and the wasp that lays its eggs in the abdomen of living spiders (à la Alien) could not exist. Since religious dogma on such matters is observably wrong, it follows that religion's Big Daddy in the Sky is as imaginary as Mother Goose, and continued belief in his existence can be attributed to professional pushers who are either economically motivated or intestinally challenged.
The Gospel Hoax
Stephen C. Carlson
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place 97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
Stephen Carlson does not make an issue of Morton Smith's homosexuality, as if that circumstance alone could discredit Smith's claim to have discovered documents showing that Jesus shared his orientation. He simply cites it as a possible contributing factor in Smith's motivations. But he also concludes that Smith had no intention of permanently bolstering the hypothesis that Jesus was gay, by showing that he inserted puns into his fiction that sooner or later would have been recognized as an acknowledgement that Smith himself was the author of the documents he allegedly "discovered." In Carlson's view it was not scholarly ethics that caused Smith to make sure his hoax was temporary. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate how smart he was, able to deceive even highly reputed scholars into taking his hoax seriously, and that could not happen if the hoax was never exposed.
Such is Carlson's claim. The big problem with Carlson's interpretation is that to his dying day Smith vehemently defended the authenticity of his alleged discovery, and even on his deathbed did not confess that it was a hoax.
Bart Ehrman (Lost Christianities) offered five possible interpretations of Secret Mark, including its being a forgery from the 18th century or even as early as the 2nd or 3rd century. But his preferred explanation was that Smith himself was the forger. So Carlson was far from being the first to recognize that, intentionally or unintentionally, Smith had hoaxed the academic community. But Carlson is the first to combine the logical arguments of his predecessors with an interpretation and explanation of clues Smith allegedly inserted for the specific purpose of guaranteeing that his cleverness in pulling off such a swindle would eventually be recognized.
Practically nobody has ever viewed Secret Mark as a clue to the historical Jesus, for a good reason. At the very earliest it dates from a time when competing Christian sects already believed that the anonymous author of "Mark" was the John Markos who accompanied Paul on one of his missionary tours, and that Peter was martyred in Rome, a conceit invented in the late second century Acts of Peter. Even if Smith was not the author of the Clementine letter containing Secret Mark, neither was pseudo-Clement, who had never heard of the theory that Peter had died in Rome (letters and homily of Clement in Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures, pp. 167-200). While the Catholic Church accepts the historicity of propaganda first published more than a century after Peter' death (while simultaneously excluding the only source of that propaganda from the Christian canon), scholars do not.
Most of the evidence Carlson offers for Smith's authorship of his alleged discovery might be termed circumstantial or inferential. But as Carlson, a lawyer, is well aware, circumstantial evidence, when there is enough of it, is the best kind of evidence, since it does not depend on trusting the testimony of fallible individuals. While the reference to flowing salt in a letter allegedly written at a time when no such processed salt existed merely indicated forgery by a person unknown, the fact that the kind of salt described was first processed by a chemist at the Morton Salt Company points directly to Morton Smith identifying himself as the forger (p. 60).
Also, the handwriting of the Clementine letter shows signs of what is termed "forger's tremor," not definitive proof of forgery by itself, but a strong indication. The language of the letter has been described as "too" reminiscent of Clement's style to be true. Smith himself acknowledged that, "the letter is either entirely genuine or a deliberate imitation of Clement's style" (p. 51). Again, just as Mendel's claimed results in sweet pea crossbreeding conformed too closely to statistical probability to be actual observational results, so the Clementine qualities of the letter were too Clementine. And its inclusion of material clearly written for posterity rather than for the information of the intended recipient is another suspicious circumstance (p. 57).
Another clue that Smith was writing tongue-in-cheek was his declaration that a "multiple biblical allusion is typical of Clement and would be very difficult for a forger to imitate." Carlson's response is that, "such an illusion … could only be ‘typical of Clement' if Clement knew English" (p. 62). Could Smith have been so clumsy as to reach a conclusion based on linguistic properties of English that have no parallel in Greek? Almost certainly this was a further intentional clue to the Secret Gospel's true author. So is his treatment of a passage from Jeremiah that compares "Gnostics who had corrupted the Scriptures, to "every goldsmith [who] is confounded because of his graven images" (p. 63).
A further linguistic, or rather idiomatic, problem occurs in the scene between Jesus and a young man "wearing a linen cloth over his naked body" (p. 70). Secret Mark describes the encounter in terms that would be instantly recognized as euphemistic for homosexual relations in 1958—but would not have been so interpreted in the 2nd or 3rd century. As Carlson explains, "None of the professions of love between Jesus and the young man … would have defined Jesus' sexual identity to an ancient reader as easily as it would define it for the modern reader" (p. 68).
On the issue of handwriting, Smith dated a passage in another manuscript clearly written by the same author as the Clementine letter to the 20th century, and attributed it to one M. Madiotes. But Madiotes is not a legitimate Greek surname, and is derived from a Greek root meaning "bald" or "swindler." As Carlson explains, "Smith has thus preserved a lot more information about [the letter to] Theodore than previously realized. This person belongs to the twentieth century, this person is not a Greek orthodox monk, this person has a given name beginning with the letter M, and this person has a pseudonymous surname that means either ‘baldy' or ‘swindler.' This person bears an uncanny resemblance to Morton Smith himself" (p. 43). He added that, "Smith's own handwriting exhibits several of the idiosyncrasies of the scribe of the Secret Mark manuscript, and therefore confirms the veracity of Smith's concealed claim of credit" (p. 47).
On top of all of that, Smith claimed to have found the Clementine letter at Mar Saba. Yet his whole story bears an uncanny resemblance to the events in a 1940 novel titled Mystery of Mar Saba, strongly implying that Smith had read the novel. A scholar quoted by Carlson concluded that, "The fact that Secret Mark came from Mar Saba is either strong proof of the text's authenticity, in that nobody would have dared invent such a thing in the 1950s, or else it is a tribute to the unabashed chutzpah of a forger" (p. 20).
None of the inferential evidence Carlson cites, viewed separately, constitutes proof, not only that Secret Mark was a hoax, but also that Morton Smith was the hoaxer. But added together, they should convince any juror beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith concocted the most successful academic hoax since Piltdown man, not to enhance his reputation by a self-serving fraud, but simply for the gleeful satisfaction of demonstrating that he could do it. Carlson's identification of Smith as a hoaxer rather than a forger (pp. 78-79), the difference being the perpetrator's motivation, is fully justified.
In the Name of Heaven
Mary Jane Engh
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
Every person on this planet with a functioning human brain is aware that religion is the most anti-human perversion ever seen on earth. It has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for more than three thousand years, and is at this moment the motivating factor for practices that, if allowed to continue, will bring about the extermination of the human race before the year 2300 CE.
While Mary Jane Engh shows no evidence of being aware of that reality, she does demonstrate very clearly that man's religion-motivated inhumanity to man has been going on from the dawn of written history. Unfortunately, her definition of persecution includes actions that merely suppressed opposition religions, even when that suppression did not extend to physical violence against believers. Her opening chapter, on Akhenaten's suppression of all gods except his own, acknowledges that, "the records are too incomplete to show if he killed, tortured or imprisoned people who did not subscribe to the new creed" (p. 13). By Engh's definition, Germany's laws protecting its citizens from the profit-motivated confidence swindle called Scientology would constitute persecution. On the upside, starting from chapter 2, most of the persecutions she describes are more deserving of such a description.
In 621 BCE the Jewish spokesman (Hebrew: nabiya; Greek: prophetes) Jeremiah, pretending to be Moses, wrote in the book now called Deuteronomy (chapter 7), "When Yahweh your gods has settled you in the land you're about to occupy, and driven out many infidels before you … you're to cut them down and exterminate them…. You're going to exterminate them in a massive genocide until they're eliminated." In the adjacent area that the Jews did not intend to occupy themselves, those cities that surrendered were to be enslaved, while in those that refused to surrender the men and boys were to be killed and the women and girls enslaved (chapter 20). Since Jeremiah was writing six centuries after the events described, Engh correctly questions whether Joshua's obedience to Moses' alleged order, which, "if the biblical accounts were historically accurate … would be the earliest recorded genocide," actually happened. But she notes that, "at least some influential people in Israelite society wanted to believe that they did" (p. 25). And if such persecution was not in fact a part of pre-Deuteronomy Jewish history, it became so from that time on: "The Judean tradition that became dominant and was enshrined in the Bible promoted persecution as the will of God" (p. 27).
Engh's third chapter, on Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War, makes my first undergraduate essay on the same subject look like a doctoral dissertation by comparison. Her equation of the prosecution of Alcibiades for vandalism (performing phallusectomies on statues of the god Hermes) with persecution is unmitigated drivel, although her treatment of the Socrates trial adheres more closely to her stated thesis. Execution for not believing in the gods the polis believes in certainly constitutes persecution, even if Socrates was guilty—and Engh suggests that he was not.
Chapter 4 covers Rome between the Punic Wars and the advent of the Caesars. Again, Engh's examples of religious persecutions are tentative at best. She describes the suppression of Bacchanalian rites, and cites the allegations that "young men were initiated by sodomy—voluntary or otherwise—and those who objected were tortured and sacrificed to the god. All initiates were bound by oaths to commit crimes of many sorts, ranging from fraud and forgery to rape and murder…. It was only a matter of time before the government itself was threatened. The rot must be cut out before it spread further!" (p. 40). In order to view such behavior as religious persecution rather than prosecution for crimes of violence, she suggests that the allegations may have been false. Perhaps. But in reporting that, "Initiates who could convince consuls that they had simply gone through the initiation ceremony and had committed no crimes were relatively lucky—they were merely imprisoned" (p. 41), she does make her point. Imprisonment for joining a proscribed religion is indeed religious persecution—unless voluntary membership indicated endorsement of a religion's violent treatment of outsiders, as membership of Hitler's Nazi religion (an extreme form of Catholicism) assuredly did, and membership of the Bacchus cult may well have done.
But it is the chapter (5) about Judea under the Maccabees that spells out Engh's appalling ignorance of history and documentary analysis in glorious technicolor. She shows no awareness that 1 and 2 Maccabees told the same stories from incompatible perspectives for the logical reason that one was written by a Sadducee who nowhere mentioned Yahweh, and the other by a Pharisee who made Yahweh the Maccabees' costar. She is unaware that the intra-Maccabee wars stemmed from one pretender being a Sadducee and another a Pharisee. She is unaware that Pompey was invited to arbitrate the dispute, and solved it by repudiating both claimants and making Judea a province of Rome. She reports that the Maccabees gave the inhabitants of Galilee and Idumea the choice of submitting to circumcision or having a similar operation performed on their necks, but neglects to mention that they thereby turned the pagan ancestors of Jesus and Herod into Jews. And she makes no mention of the Maccabees' extermination of all Ammonites in obedience to Jeremiah's vicious xenophobia spelled put in Deuteronomy chapter 23. And the big one: She misidentifies the Seleucid kings of Persia as kings of Syria, presumably because Syria became part of the Seleucid empire, while the area east of Susa was lost to the Parthians.
Chapter 6, which discusses Roman-Jewish relations from Tiberias to Hadrian, is best described as simplistic, a C+ at the middle school level but an F by undergraduate standards. In describing the Zealot uprising, Engh refers to Yahweh as "God." That could simply be a depiction of Jewish thinking, and therefore not a falsification. Certainly the Zealots "believed it was their religious duty to drive out the pagan Romans and establish an independent theocratic state" (p. 65). A hunchbacked dwarf psychopath from Judaized Galilee had been similarly motivated a generation earlier, and triggered a ten-minute war, compared to the seven years of the Zealot war.
But the chapter's most indefensible error is its account of Caligula's order to Petronius to install a statue of the mad emperor in the Jerusalem temple. According to Engh, Petronius convinced the emperor that his order was impolitic, and "Gaius agreed to a compromise" (p. 63). WRONG! Petronius informed Gaius Caligula that he had disobeyed the emperor's order, and Caligula immediately sent him an order to commit suicide. But Petronius learned of Caligula's assassination before the order reached him, causing thousands of observers to conclude that the Jewish god Yahweh had intervened to save him, and convert to Judaism in droves. Engh could learn much by reading my novel, Uncle Yeshu, Messiah, which covers the same period of Jewish history as this chapter. It is fiction, but that should not deter her, since her own writing style is in many ways more appropriate for fiction than history (although unlike Bob Woodward, she does not invent dialogue and even thoughts).
I wrote in Mythology's Last Gods (pp. 360-361):
The last persecution of Christians by a pagan Emperor was ordered by Diocletian in 303 CE. For the previous eighteen years of his reign Diocletian had granted Christianity the same toleration accorded the empire's dozen other resurrected-savior mythologies. But in 303 the Christians set fire to the Imperial Palace in an attempt to frame Diocletian's deputy, Galerius, a devotee of the deified Jesus' chief rival, Mithra. The plot failed and, realizing that his toleration had been misplaced, Diocletian outlawed the sect in an attempt to stamp out an antisocial menace once and for all. He executed perhaps two hundred Christians in the remaining two years before his abdication, while as many as an additional 1,500 or more were executed by his successor Galerius in accordance with Diocletian's edict.
Engh in Chapter 7 agrees that the "first and last deliberate Empire-wide persecution of Christians in Roman history" began with an act of arson. But her version is that the arson was ordered by Diocletian, and its object was a Christian church, although she does mention that, "Suspiciously soon after the demolition of the church at Nicomedia, a fire broke out in the imperial palace there" (p. 74). She declares that, "In Christian tradition it is rightly known as the Great Persecution" (p. 75). If that evaluation is justified, then the British East India Company's suppression of Thuggi also constituted a "Great Persecution." Few historians see it that way. In her "Sources" note for this chapter, Engh does acknowledge that, "Surviving sources are almost all written from an ardently Christian viewpoint" (p. 77).
Chapters 8 and 9 contain assertions I found to be questionable or misleading. For example, she confuses the distinction between Athanasians (Catholics) and Arians, identifying them as alternative forms of polytheism that differed only on the question of whether the god Jesus had always existed or was a later creation by Big Daddy, and on the status of the holy spirit. In fact the Arians were monotheists who accepted Jesus as what he had himself claimed to be, a purely human king of the Jews whom Yahweh had adopted as his son, in the same sense that David and his successors had become Yahweh's sons, when he was initiated by John the Immerser. To the Athanasians the Spook was their trinitarian god's third head, whereas to the Arians, "spirit of holiness" was a metaphor for a pious state of mind, as it had been to the Essenes and to the neo-Essene Jesus.
Other than that, there is nothing in the two chapters that I am prepared to state categorically is wrong—although Engh's citations of disparate descriptions of the Battle at Milvian Bridge do not include the interpretation, supported by even some Christian scholars (oxymoron?), that the emblem under which Mithra-worshipper Constantine encouraged his army to fight was not a Christian chi rho but a Mithraic labarum (see the entry on "labarum" in Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology). His politically expedient adoption of Christianity came later, when he was assured that his sins, including filicide, which the Mithraic Father of Fathers classified as unforgivable, could be washed away by Christian baptism. And since baptism was non-repeatable, and there was not yet any alternative sin-forgiveness ritual, he kept a priest by his side for the remainder of his life, under orders to baptize him as soon as it became evident that he was dying, thus enabling him to sin with impunity for many more years and still be admitted to the Christian Heaven after death without passing Go and without collecting $200.
From Chapter 10 on, Engh ventures into areas outside my field of expertise—and unfortunately, like the first nine chapters, equally outside of her own. Besides making statements that had me thinking, "That can't be right," she uses euphemisms such as "slept with" to mean "copulated with" (p. 103), and "Holy Land" as if that terminology itself were not a significant cause of ongoing atrocities (p. 137). She refers without comment to "the Virgin Mary," as if a virgin-mother were not the grandmother of all oxymorons (p. 115), and describes Christianity, with its three paramount gods, dozens of second-ranking gods called angels and devils, and thousands of third-ranking gods called saints, as a monotheism. And she echoes the delusion that Jews have always viewed Yahweh as "the only true god" (p. 252), unaware that Judaism only became monotheistic sometime after the Babylonian Captivity. Prior to that, Jews were monolatrists, worshippers of Yahweh alone but believers in the real existence of all of the gods of the hated goyim.
However, my primary (but far from only) basis for further criticism is the assumption that an author whose first nine chapters range from superficial to totally incompetent is unlikely to be any more reliable in the rest of her book. In Engh's favor is that there are none of the intentional wild speculations with which The Da Vinci Code is infested to the core, speculations designed purely to sell books.
Despite its multitude of weaknesses Ingh's chronicling of 3,000 years of religious persecution should be mandatory reading for Christians who think that the Inquisition was an aberration rather than simply the most publicized aspect of their religion's unbroken record of atrocities against anyone guilty of not believing in the gods the polis believes in. She shows that al Qaeda's murders of infidels differ in no way from Christianity's centuries of murders of heretics and heathens. And while the absence of the works of Ibn Warraq from her list of sources for the chapter on early Islam is cause for caution at the very least, her book should also be mandatory readings for Muslim apologists who deny or are unaware that Mohammed and his caliphs and enforcers were the same kind of terrorists and mass murderers as Osama bin Laden.
There is probably no real risk that quoting or distributing this book in Canada could lead to prosecution under that country's laws criminalizing the promotion of hatred. But even though its information was not new to me, simply reading its catalogue of centuries of unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by pushers of the god perversion in the name of their imaginary playmate generated anger in me that quickly turned to hatred of the bigoted, intolerant, subhuman evil fanatics responsible for such atrocities, and for their spiritual heirs, the theofascist fanatics of the Christian Taliban who currently constitute the government of Canada and the Executive Branch of the government of the United States.
In the Name of Heaven's details range from inadequate to indefensibly wrong. For example, Engh's account of the genesis and rise of Mormonism shows total ignorance of the findings of skeptical scholars, and parrots the cult's party line to such a degree that it could have been written by the current Head Mormon. And practically every chapter contains at least one piece of alleged history that gullibly repeats apologist propaganda. In toto, her book would probably qualify as a long honors essay at the undergraduate level, but not as a Master's thesis. But one thing the book does prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that religion is and always has been a crime against humanity. Caveat emptor, but by all means read it.
A Grey Moon Over China
Thomas A. Day
Black Heron Press
PO Box 95676 Seattle, WA 98145
0930773780 $25.95 www.blackheronpress.com
Winner of the publisher's 2006 award for social fiction, this science-fiction/futurist work deals with global conflict between major world powers over increasingly scarce energy sources. Japan and California battle the United States. In the complex plot, a group of disaffected persons who have stolen the plans for an energy device that would alleviate the energy crisis and end the conflict instead use it to extort from the warring powers a space flight to an abandoned space colony so they can be free of Earth. But the paradise they envisioned holds greater dangers for them.
With a background in the technology and computer fields in the areas of artificial intelligence and software development, Day writes with a technical knowledge giving the narrative a sense of realism and plausibility while at the same time draws credible characters evincing recognizable motives and behavior. The layers of plotting and unexpected turns make for an engaging, dramatic tale.
Wesleyan University Press
215 Long Lane, Middletown, CT 06459
0819567744 $26.95 www.wesleyan.edu/wespress 1-800-421-1561
Competitive ballroom dancing producing a "machine" the author labels "Glamour" has been around a long time. The change in its name to DanceSport in the 1980s tokened the effects several influences were having on it. Mainly, the new name was taken to give more visibility to the movement for this competitive dancing to become an Olympic sport. A former DanceSport competitor and now an assistant professor in the U. of Washington's dance program, McMains relates how such dancing has developed an "identity crisis" in trying to keep its aspects of art, entertainment, sport, and business in balance.
As many readers will know, competitive dancing TV shows have lately become highly popular. McMains not only goes into what is behind the changes over recent decades and the current popularity of DanceSport, but also from her own experiences, continuing interest in the field, and profiles of a number of leading competitive dancers gives readers an up-to-date, extensive picture of this longtime activity drawing passionate competitors and devotees which has recently burst into the arena of popular culture.
G. K. Chesterton
Stephen R. L. Clark.
Templeton Foundation Press
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
A late Victorian-era/early modern age author/thinker, some of whose writings were precursors to science fiction and others which are seen as reactionary and in some cases bigoted and narrow-minded, G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) is impossible to categorize. And Clark doesn't try. Rather than attempt to give a coherent, rational perspective of the prolific English author--an inevitably procrustean effort--Clark critiques many of Chesterton's diverse writings. Not only something of an exegesis of these writings, the critiques also entail putting them in a social context, noting their influence, and explaining what was controversial or provocative about them. Clark does not go so far as to be an apologist, but gives some background for a broader view of Chesterton's seemingly outdated and sometimes offensive opinions and remarks which have been called anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and anti-Darwin. As Clark--an English professor of philosophy--shows, all of Chesterton's writings and ideas, inspiring as well as irksome, grew out of his ingrained, vital, immense optimism. This optimism not only aroused him to be sharply critical of contemporary influences such as nihilism and science and progressive social developments such a women's suffrage and relativism, but also gave him a vision of ideal, desirable conditions for humanity.
The Philosophy of Neo-Noir
Mark T. Conard, editor
The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508-4008
0813124220 $35.00 www.kentuckypress.com 1-800-839-6855
Neo-Noir films incorporated the visual style, characterizations, and subject matter of the classic film noir of the 1940s and '50s. But this latter film genre was able to employ more advanced film techniques; and with the replacement of the moralistic Production Code with the more flexible modern ratings system, neo-noir film was able to add new dimensions of subject and visual matter. The 1974 "Chinatown" may be "the first authentic neo-noir," writes Richard Gilmore, professor of philosophy at a Minnesota college. The TV program "Miami Vice"--first program, September 1984--was set in the Great Miami area for its "cycle of decline, decay, development, and renewal (invariably followed by further repetitions of the cycle) [which] affirmed the indeterminacy and contingency of the postmodern noir," as Stevens Sanders, emeritus professor of philosophy at a Massachusetts university writes. Thirteen essays by these and other philosophy professors relate neo-noir films not only to the film noir which preceded them, but also philosophical thoughts and ethical perspectives of Sartre, Plato, Kant, Kierkegaard, Marx, and others. Blade Runner, L. A. Confidential, The Onion Field, Parallax View, Dances With Wolves, and Raiders of the Lost Arc are among the films analyzed as neo-noir or which contain elements of this genre. This collection of essays is a companion of the editor Conard's "The Philosophy of Film Noir."
I Little Slave
Eastern Washington University Press
705 West 1st Avenue, Spokane, WA 99201
1597660078 $21.95 1-800-508-9095
Khamkeo had editorial help from a few individuals in the writing of his book. The text is not awkward like the title. Khamkeo is able and fluent in English. His story both unique and representative maintains an engaging literary quality over the roughly 400 pages. Returning from France to his homeland of Laos after the Vietnam War was over with the intention of helping his country return to normalcy, the author was arrested and put into a prison camp in 1981 after an argument with an official of the communist Pathet Lao government. He was kept in prison until 1988. The lengthy memoir is about this whole time from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, with about half given to each period. The second half of Khamkeo's time in prison is naturally more gripping, and at times harrowing. But the first half has its own significant themes and drama as well--namely, the totalitarian, capricious, demanding rule of the Pathet Lao. Whereas the second part deals with how the author survived the hardships and threats of his years in prison, the first part deals with the more subtle, yet nonetheless engaging, informative, and at times suspenseful story of how he and others had to accommodate the rigid rule of the Pathet Lao while they were at the same time trying to bring improvements to a Laos which like the other nations of Southeast Asia, was disrupted and changed by the Vietnam War. "I Little Slave" brings to light these uncertain and hostile conditions in Laos following the Vietnam War; which have not received as much attention as those in Vietnam and Cambodia. After being released from prison, Khamkeo managed to flee Laos; and today lives in Oregon and works for a state health agency.
Social Life in Northwest Alaska
Ernest S. Burch, Jr.
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, 104 Eielson Building, Salcha Street, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
188996378X $65.00 www.uaf.edu/uapress 1-888-252-6657
The Inupiaq Eskimos live in an inhospitable region of Alaska where "the Arctic Circle crosses it about seventy-five miles (120 km) north of its Southern border." This is the area of northwest Alaska bordered by the Chukchi Sea. Burch is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institute who has written previous books on his specialty of Native American peoples of the Far North. He documents in detail the way of life of this particular Eskimo group which during the course of each year migrates to certain areas mostly along rivers and the coastline. Although as with practically every Eskimo group, the Inupiaq immemorial way of life and its customs are changing, Burch manages to make an accurate, complete record by "combining the information provided by the documentary and oral sources into a coherent whole." The Eskimo oral sources--mostly elders born in the late 1800s--were complemented by written accounts by Westerners so that they were "mutually reinforcing." For instance, each of the sources described earlier generations of Inupiaqs as "warlike"; each reported the growing scarcity of whales occurring about the same time, when foreign traders first appeared, and so on. The first three sections of Role Differentiation, Solidarity, and Economic Process have many detailed illustrations and maps. The other main sections are Political Process and Integration Process. This is a work of anthropology and ethnography based on the classic criteria of professional, scholarly research, scientific observation and detachment, systematic organization, and a thoroughness which cannot be outdone. Though the traditional Inupiaq way of life will inevitably completely die out, with this work of Burch's, one will always be able to have an idea of what it was like.
Start-up at the New Met
The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts
c/o Hal Leonard Corporation
512 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains,NJ 07444
1574671472 $49.95 www.amadeuspress.com 1-800-637-2852
This is the third volume by Jackson in his series on performances at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House. Starting in 1966, it was known as the "New Met" for a time for its move to Lincoln Center from its location at Broadway and Thirty-ninth Street since its establishment in 1883. Jackson is professor emeritus of music at Drake U., a one-time pianist for Metropolitan Opera singers who toured with them, and one-time manager of opera houses in Colorado. He is also a contributor to leading reference works on music and opera. The period covered in this volume is of particular interest not only because it covers the first years of the move to Lincoln Center, but also because of the major opera stars connected to the Met during this period. Placido Domingo, Richard Tucker, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, and Joan Sutherland are household names to opera lovers; and there were many other leading figures besides these luminaries. The tenure of the Met's legendary general manager Rudolf Bing carried over to the early years at Lincoln Center, where he had to deal with the added pressures of more complex production machinery, more new productions and more performances of each, and mounting labor problems with musicians. Jackson's chronicle is organized roughly around notable performances and top singers, with much material also on administration and management of the famous opera house. With either subject area, Jackson is both commentator and critic, rendering a magisterial work which is both a thorough historical record and an educational, illuminating text.
7915 W. McNab Rd. Tamarac, FL 33321
Beast is a story based on the real life experiences of a young, autistic boy named Nathaniel. With perseverance and single-mindedness, this nine-year-old boy was able to succeed at what he loved to do . . . play baseball.
The author, Dave Donch, is Nathaniel's father, but the story is written as seen through the eyes of Nathaniel's first baseball coach. It is a heart-warming and inspirational story I'm sure you'll enjoy. The story is well-written and edited and should appeal to many readers.
As I typically like to quote something from the subject book, I have chosen the following:
"Nathaniel's parents had no idea what the answers to their many questions were. There was no way of knowing what the future would hold. Many of their questions would be answered in the years that followed. The only thing they knew was that they cared deeply for their boy, and they were going to do everything they possibly could to give him the best chance at happiness and a good life.
"The following story is mostly written in first-person point of view, as if told by Nathaniel's Little League baseball coach; it is based on the memoirs of Nathaniel's parents and older brother, bearing witness to Nathaniel's success at playing baseball. It is the author's wish that this story will instill hope in others who share the same affliction or who are the parents of such a child, helping them to understand that kids like Nathaniel are capable of achieving great things and finding considerable happiness."
Dave Donch currently resides with his wife and four children in Auburn, NY. He loves to work as a volunteer youth baseball coach in his spare time, helping children build good character.
Winning or Losing - The Financial & Retirement Race
Robert Lamoreaux, JD
Devere Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 970965, Orem, UT
Robert Lamoreaux shares with us some of the knowledge he has acquired during thirty-five years of estate planning. This is a hard cover book written in a logical manner to help guide you through the complexity of working with your financial situation. It is a well-written book and touches on pertinent subjects.
I have read many such books and am always looking for new and updated information. If I were to make one constructive criticism of this book, it would be that it could have gone into more detail in general. Robert Lamoreaux recommends that you use the services of professionals for your taxes and accounting, etc., rather than try to learn, understand and do it yourself. Personally, I like to try and do it myself and believe what Bob Brinker, a well-known financial adviser, said years ago: "When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you're looking at the only person you can trust with your money. So, you'd better learn how to manage it." Good advice.
Winning or Losing will help you to get an initial handle on your financial situation and if you're not up to the financial challenge, then, by all means, find the professionals with whom you are comfortable to help you.
1023 4th Avenue #204, San Diego, CA 92101
Quoting from the back cover: "The year is 1921. The Great War is over, the Jazz Age has begun, and Lilly Harrison's husband has fled to New Orleans, leaving her to face the dangerous bootleggers and narcotics dealers of Tampa. With the help of her best friend and her courtly and kind father, Lilly begins to rebuild her life, but she has a decision to make–and an enormous price to pay."
Lilly's Ransom is a good little mystery and well written. It's believable and carries the reader right along. I can't say that the writing is anything exceptional, but it does work and that's what is important.
I certainly can recommend this little novel to mystery readers, particularly those who like stories that take place in different eras.
The Darkness of Mid Day
Joseph A. Wellman
2021 Pine Lake Road, Ste 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
If you want to know how three young men get away with rape and murder, read this book. If you want to know how a young girl became a rape victim and was sold into prostitution, read this book. If you want to know how she got out and reaped her revenge, read this book. If you like books all about sex, you'll probably like this book.
Joseph Wellman is a good writer and the book is well written; however, there are several issues for me: one, it's hard to believe that a woman could murder so many people, not be caught and go on to live a normal life, and two, although I enjoy books about sex, I felt some of Mr. Wellman's sexual scenarios were quite perverse, so be prepared.
Mr. Wellman is a retired high school teacher who taught sociology and psychology and currently lives in Elk Grove Village, Chicago.
Master of Gaul
Authors On Line Ltd
19 The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
0755201441 $14.95 www.authorsonline.co.uk
Quoting from the back cover: "This is the second in a series of five books that set out to tell the action-packed story of Julius Caesar's protracted battles in Gaul - modern France and Belgium - and his struggle to force the Roman Republic to abandon its obsession with ancient and superstitious traditions, a system of government that favoured only its racist, corrupt and all-powerful nobility. Caesar, a man way ahead of his time, was determined to change the Republic into a multi-cultural meritocracy, fit to govern its growing empire for the good of all its disparate peoples. Caesar's Tribune is a fictional character who is also way ahead of his time but in a very different way . . ."
In May of last year I reviewed the first book in this series, Caesar's Tribune -please refer to my May 2006 reviews. This series is wonderful, entertaining and educational. If you like learning about history and historical figures in novelized form, you'll enjoy how the author has taken Caesar's Commentaries and turned them into richly textured, contemporary, intriguing military novels.
John Timbers is a consummate writer, and you won't be disappointed in his style or the quality of his writing. The book is well edited and I highly recommend it, particularly to history buffs and readers who enjoy military strategy and intrigue.
Warriors and Goddesses: First Moon
1419650661 $15.99 www.booksurge.com
Allow me to quote from the back cover: "First Moon, the first book in the Goddesses and Warriors series, starts us on a journey to a new genre, a new vision filled with sex and seduction, intrigue, violence and compassion, romance, mystery and adventure as we follow Darkasan, Dieema, and the other Warriors and Goddesses on the exotic planet called Androgynous Prime."
It is indeed difficult to classify a book by one genre when it is filled with all of the above; however, it would be a stretch to classify Warriors and Goddesses as a ‘new genre'. Modern fantasy is inextricably entangled with science fiction as many authors write in both fields or use elements of both in one or the other forms. Science fiction deals with the possible (though not necessarily probable), being based, however tenuously, on scientific (hard or soft) knowledge; fantasy deals with the impossible, being based on magic or the supernatural. What fantasy and science fiction share is a preoccupation with "other" worlds–science fiction with a universe that predictably follows laws of nature; fantasy with a universe boundlessly extended by the author's imagination.
This is a story about tribes of women and tribes of men . . . fighting each other. It is indeed filled with all kinds of sex, seduction, and violence. If you enjoy reading sci fi/fantasy full of sex, you will most like enjoy this tale. Jerome Byrd is not an exceptional writer, but he is a good writer. I felt the theme was getting somewhat worn about two-thirds through and moved on to the end. Sex and the struggle between men and women is not enough to keep my interest for 339 pages, but keep in mind fantasy is not my favorite read.
Meeting Our Multifaith Neighbors
Brice H. Balmer
616 Walnut Avenue, Scottsdale, PA 15683-1999
0836193393 $14.99 www.heraldpress.com 1-800-759-4447
Written by chaplain Brice H. Balmer, Meeting Our Multifaith Neighbors is a practical-minded guide to being respectful when engaging friends, neighbors, and associates of differing faiths. Chapters address how to move toward dialogue and imagine others' views, with solid, experience-tested guidelines for interfaith groups, such as "There should be no proselytizing", "No one religion should be in a majority", and "More than one person should represent each religion". An invaluable tool concerning proper manners and skills to cultivate in order to improve interactions with those of different beliefs, from interfaith Bible study to ordinary daily life. Highly recommended.
Chronicles of History and Worship
Patrick Henry Reardon
PO Box 76, Ben Lomond, CA 95005-0076
1888212837 $14.95 www.conciliarpress.com
Written by Patrick Henry Reardon (pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church), Chronicles of History and Worship: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Books of Chronicles is a faithful and serious-minded commentary on the Old Testament Books of Chronicles, written to promote Christian understanding of the Bible's history, the heritage of saints, and the central focus of worship in the believer's life. The main commentary proceeds chapter by chapter, from 1 Chronicles 1 to 2 Chronicles 36, condensing the essence of Biblical text into plain terms accessible to lay readers of all backgrounds, at times drawing upon historical record to fill in the gaps. Chronicles of History and Worship presents venerable Biblical truths as alive and meaningful in life and liturgy today.
Choosing a Bible
445 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
1596270438 $12.00 www.seaburybooks.com
Author Donald Kraus offers a condensed survey of his 20 years of experience professionally assessing, publishing, describing, and defending different Bible translations for readers of all backgrounds in Choosing a Bible: For Worship, Teaching, Study, Preaching, and Prayer. Covering twenty-five different Bible translations, from the Everett Fox translation of the Pentateuch and the KJV to the Moffatt Bible and The Message, Choosing a Bible discusses issues of source and target languages, original and contemporary audiences, and gives a quick guide to the defining characteristics of each translation. Choosing a Bible is an overview designed to help lay readers answer the question "Which Bible should I buy?" and does not go into extreme depth, but its list of recommended further reading will certainly point the curious in the right direction for advanced scholarly studies in Biblical translation. Recommended for anyone facing the conundrum of which translation of the Bible to acquire.
Quest for the Crown
Diana M. Johnson
Superior Book Publishing Co
16417 Superior Street, North Hills, CA 91343-1836
0966150422, $15.95 http://mysite.verizon.net/~billndi
Set approximately 1300 years ago, this novel is the story of Pepin the Short, one of the heirs of Charles Martel. After Martel's death, his kingdom (present-day France and Germany) is split between Pepin and Carloman, his older brother. A huge secret in the family is the very old prophecy that someone of this bloodline will become King of All Franks, a prophecy that Pepin would very much like to fulfill. Since the Merovingians have held the throne for the past several hundred years, public knowledge of the prophecy would upset many people.
Pepin can't exactly fight Carloman for the crown (Carloman is next in line), but he has no such problem dealing with anyone else who gets in his way, including a treasonous, younger, half-brother named Grifo. Years later, Carloman is racked with guilt over a cold-blooded murder he committed in the heat of battle. He is convinced that the only way to atone for his sin is to "give" Pepin the crown, and join a monastery.
Pepin is constantly on the move, consolidating and expanding his territory. With help from the Pope, he establishes the Divine Right of Kings. He takes an army over the Alps, and almost does not make it, to help out the Pope in Italy. The conquered Italian cities are donated to the Pope, and become the Vatican.
This novel is a first-rate piece of writing. As much as possible, it's based on historical fact, so it feels very plausible. It's well done, and is a fitting end to a really good trilogy.
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1413766137 $16.95 http://www.publishamerica.com
Set in the near future, Earth has been taken over by capitalism. Countries have become economic zones. There are lots of Little-Rich left, like entertainers and sports stars, but the world is run by five Super-Rich people, called Capitalists. Individually worth trillions of dollars, they each run a specific part of the world. Within their areas, they exert absolute control, and there is constant battle with the other four Capitalists. Techno-military updates occur at a furious pace, as each works to make sure that they are not the next to fall.
The world has experienced five Money Wars, to reduce the number of Capitalists to its present level. Those on the outside may not know that anything is happening, but, for those on the inside, they are short and brutal. A Capitalist's net worth can drop by tens of billions of dollars in minutes. One of the Capitalists falls, and is captured. Instead of being executed, she is intentionally kept alive so she can be tortured over and over.
Much of this happens because of mercenaries called Night Soldiers. Loyal to whichever of the Capitalists offers the biggest paycheck, they get rid of the"undesirables" (whatever that means). Quincy is one of them. He has a bit of humanity left in him (concepts like love and God, anything that doesn't involve money, are considered Old World, and have been thrown in the proverbial trash can). He understands that Money Wars are going to continue until there is only one Capitalist left, The only group that can stand up to the Capitalists are the Night Soldiers. Meantime, Raskolnikov, another of the Capitalists, on his way down, wreaks ultimate vengeance on the rest of the world.
This book is cool, very plausible, very high-tech and does quite well in the "strange" department. The author says that he has invented a new genre called Extreme Fiction. I would be very interested in anything else he writes in this genre.
Climate Change Begins at Home
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0230007546 $14.95 http://www.macmillanscience.com
Climate change can seem like a huge and abstract subject, a topic for politicians and scientists. This book attempts to bring things down to the level of the individual and the family.
There are the familiar predictions of life in the mid-21st century, if nothing is done about global warming. Sea levels will rise because of melting icecaps, flooding thousands of square miles of coastlines, displacing millions of people. Americans who live anywhere near the coast will find it increasingly hard, or impossible, to get flood insurance. Temperate climates will move north. Tropical climates will become hotter and more uninhabitable.
This book also visits the Carbone's, a typical family living in the American southeast. They own an SUV, and the two young sons live for video games and computers. The air conditioner is continually running all summer, the electronics are usually left on all day, and the SUV frequently has one occupant. The author looks at Mrs. Carbone starting an herb and vegetable garden in the back yard, Mr. Carbone becoming more environmentally aware at work, and the SUV being traded in for a smaller car.
The energy saving suggestions in this book may seem like common sense, but they bear repeating. Trade in your gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient car. If practical, consider mass transit. Start a vegetable garden, then start a compost pile. If your home or office computer needs to be on all day, use the monitor's Sleep mode. Use your town's recycling system. Keep in mind the distance traveled by produce to reach your supermarket, and buy local. Also, try vacationing closer to home. When a person has died, consider a biodegradable casket (isn't the intention that the body be returned to the soil?). Last but not least, buy items with less packaging or items made from recycled materials.
This book does an excellent job of bringing an abstract subject like global warming down to earth. It says a lot, in a very easy to read format. It is also pretty funny, too. What can I, or my family, do about global warming? Here is the answer.
Gary F. Russell,
100 South Street, #202, Sausalito, CA 94965
0970133111 $19.95 http://www.focuslifestyle.org
In today's working world, many people are unhappy. They know that their lives are out of balance, but they don't know how to fix it. This book gives one way to change that imbalance.
Told as a parable, this is the story of Jack Bedford, part of the financial industry. Married, with 2children, his workload has gotten overwhelming at one of those companies where the unspoken rule is: Don't Be The First Person Out Of The Office At The End Of The Day. The 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. He has gotten discouraged at work, and is too tired at home to take an active role in the family. He moves to another company, but, after a few months, it's more of the same. At a rare appearance at one of his son's soccer games, a stranger suggests that Jack attend a half-day lecture about something called Big Rocks.
Imagine a large glass bowl. In that bowl are placed 6 (no more than 6) large rocks on which are written the things that really matter in a person's life (spouse, children/family, personal health, education, etc.). Why do few people choose Work as one of their Big Rocks? Then fill up the bowl with small rocks, sand and water, representing things that fill up the day, but are not a "priority" (grocery shopping, shuttling children here and there, picking up dry cleaning, the latest weight-loss plan). What would happen if a person put in their Big Rocks last?
Next, a person has to decide how to fit their personal Big Rocks into their lives, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. For instance, "Spend more time with spouse" is too vague, but "Take spouse out to dinner (not fast food) at least twice a month" is much more doable.
After Jack's boss gives a lukewarm (at best) reception to Big Rocks, Jack starts job searching again. This time, he does his research the right way and takes his time.
This book should be required reading all over corporate America. It is especially recommended for those companies who think that Hours = Productivity and that their employees are happy to be there (they probably aren't). A happy and engaged employee is one that will stay, thereby reducing turnover and raising productivity. Here is an excellent way to help create happy employees.
Don't Believe It! How Lies Become News
The Disinformation Company Ltd
163 Third Ave, #108, New York, NY 10003
1932857060 $14.95 http://www.disinfo.com
This book looks at how, and why, so many scams, hoaxes and other falsehoods seem to make it into the news.
If there is such a thing as The Reason for such a state of affairs, it is that, in general, journalists don't bother to check a story's accuracy. In this 24-hour-news world, there is little, or no, time to be thorough. It is better to be first than right. If a story has been covered by some other media outlet, it must automatically be legitimate. Also, an increasing number of scam artists have learned to package their scams in a media-friendly way.
All of us have seen such stories in the news. Some people claim to have found disgusting things in their food, like needles in soda cans, or fingers in chili. During Gulf War I, there was the widely reported accusation that Iraqi soldiers burst into Kuwaiti maternity wards, took the babies out of incubators, left them to die on the floor, and took the incubators. A popular story is the one about a crime victim, or someone, especially a child, fighting some major disease. Whether or not the poor individual actually exists tends to be forgotten. What if the reporter is the one who says they are sick, but then it turns out to be a lie. How many of these stories turn out to be true?
Included are a list of questions that the media consumer can ask to help weed out the hoaxes. How well is the story sourced? Is the story over hyped? Is the rumor inflammatory or slanderous? Does this interview subject have something to gain by lying? Was a "friend of a friend" the origin of the rumor? Does the story rely on unnamed sources? In war zones, does one of the warring sides seem to have media training or have hired a public relations firm?
This book belongs in every home in America. It does a fine job of showing just how easily scams and hoaxes can become news, and helping the consumer to distinguish them from legitimate news. The writing is first-rate and it is really easy to read.
P.O. Box 577, Walterville, OR 97489
0975290614 $29.95 http://www.trineday.com
This book presents a very different view of American history, based on years of original research, not fantasy or speculation.
Some say that mankind came to North America by walking across the Bering Straits, when it was frozen, and heading south. Others say that mankind traveled across the Pacific from China or Polynesia, and across the Atlantic from Europe and the Mediterranean. If the Bering Straits point of view is "correct," then some questions come to mind. How could an Egyptian mummy, tested in 1992, test positive for cocaine and tobacco, both supposedly indigenous to America? How could the sweet potato be known throughout the Pacific Basin as early as 400 AD, when it too is supposedly indigenous to America? There are documented reports of stones found all over America, written in languages that pre-date Native Americans.
Think of "wandering bishops" as the religious equivalent of "diploma mills," schools that give diplomas to anyone. If a person can prove that their consecration as a bishop of the American Orthodox Catholic Church, or the Old Roman Catholic Church, for instance, is valid, then any rituals they perform will have just as much weight as that of a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox bishop. These "churches" have few, if any, parishioners; what they have a lot of are American intelligence agents.
Many other questions come to mind while reading this book. Why are there no Native American tribes indigenous to the state of West Virginia? Did you know that "Kentucky" means "dark and bloody place," and that the original name for Kentucky was going to be Transylvania? Was Sirhan Sirhan the world's first programmed assassin? Did you know that there is a section of Appalachia that is home to more than the normal number of serial killers, a sort of Bermuda Triangle for serial killers?
I really enjoyed this book (first of a series). Anyone who likes hidden history, or things that will not be found in regular history books, should read this book. It does a fine job of showing that American history has a pretty strong occult streak running through it. Very highly recommended.
Living the Dream
Dragonheart Publishing LLC
1093 East 3rd Avenue, Broomfield, CO 80020
0972329501 $26.95 http://www.thedragonheart.com
Many books have been written about the job search process, mostly from an intellectual point of view. This is not one of them. It takes a totally different path, looking at job searching from a spiritual and holistic point of view.
If your (ex-) employer offers the services of a job coach, take it. The person can, at minimum, point the job seeker in the right direction. One of the first things to do is to let go of any negative feelings toward your employer, then learn to accept yourself the way you are. The accompanying CD has several guided visualizations for assistance. Learn to trust the universe/the great spiral (or insert your preferred term). The job seeker needs to come up with answers to a number of questions about themselves. What do you do when you are not working? To what does your spirit call you? What is your internal guidance system telling you? Have you examined the patterns in your life? What is your passion? What if money were not an issue? Last but not least, who are you?
The author has not ignored the more familiar parts of the job search process. She looks at the resume, the cover letter, networking, the interview, the job offer, and what to do once you are in your "dream"job. There are also those days when, for whatever reason, it is not working, and giving up looks tempting.
The author spent many years in the corporate world, before turning to the holistic world, so she understands job searching. This very interesting book is helpful for those who have been laid off, and those who are thinking about a career change. Maybe some people just need to a different approach to find their passion. This is an excellent place to start.
Pen of the Writer, LLLC,
5523 Salem Avenue, Dayton, Ohio 45426
Powerful Heartwarming Stories of Blended Family Relationships
Valerie Coleman has edited and compiled this anthology of heart warming and heart breaking stories. Each story illustrates in a unique way the complexities of making blended families work successfully. Each author or contributor has provided practical pointers which represent every aspect of blended families.
Award winning Christian authors reinforce the importance of the book through their contributions and strengthen and augment the principles shared by the other contributors. I was deeply moved by Vanessa Miller's fictional account of the Biblical story of Hannah's prayer for a child. I appreciated Kevin Wayne Johnson's challenge to a commitment to fatherhood. Dr. Vivi Monroe Congress presented an excellent working definition of blended families, illustrations from Biblical families, and a summary of God's design for the family.
Coleman provided a first-rate write up of the case study done by Dr. Brenda Mc Kinney, M. S., L. S. W., high lighting the idiosyncrasies and innuendos that reflect relationship dynamics in the blended family setting. "Blended Families" provides Biblical principles and practical examples to explore as you prepare for or are already positioned in a single parenting or blended family relationship. Money issues, custody issues, and extended family relationships are all important concerns covered in this comprehensive, well organized anthology.
This anthology is a valuable resource, with a Christian emphasis, for anyone contemplating becoming a part of a blended family or already deeply involved in the process of working out these complex relationships. Coleman's work is moving, practical, well articulated, and heart warming.
Janet Muirhead Hill
Raven Publishing, Inc.
Stages of Grief for Children
Janet Muirhead Hill has written a fictional story of ten year old Danny as he works through the stages of grief after the death of his father in the Iraq war. Danny and his other family members all deal with their personal grief and ensuing healing in different ways in this dramatic account of death and family loss as the result of war.
The loss of the family "breadwinner" the resulted in financial crisis and made it necessary for Danny's mother to sell their farm in Montana. The relocated to Denver to be closer to her parents, Danny had to adjust to a new school and a new way of life. An Iraqi classmate and neighbor befriended Danny. A special classroom study a group was formed around Danny, his new friend and some rowdy boys. The class was designed to be a bridge building experience to help the boys understand other cultures and individual differences.
As the boys worked out their differences through classroom activities and after school sports team participation, Danny found healing from his grief. Hill has captured the pain and sorrow of a child processing grief. Janet Muirhead Hill is a gifted as a communicator and story teller. Her message is important and timely. I was deeply moved as the plot concluded with a climactic surprise ending.
This book is an important resource tool for counselors, teachers, and anyone dealing with the issue of grief. It is especially helpful when dealing with grieving middle school children. The book opens the way for introducing important dialog. "Danny's Dragon" is a book that should be available in middle school libraries. It is an excellent addition for suggested reading lists provided by crisis counselors.
Brian J. Bieler
Little Falls Press,
7000 North 16th Street, Suite 120, #489, Phoenix, AZ 85020-5547
Empowering, Enlightening Steps Success
The powerful essential career skills Brian J. Bieler presents in this book are the result of business and workplace strategies learned from his own career of thirty years as a successful entrepreneur and corporate leader. Illustrations from contemporary industry icons bring another dimension to this fast moving, easy to understand, step by step resource. These stories from real life will inspire beginners and old timers alike.
The examples and illustrations provide the background for each of "Ten Powerful Steps" for motivating, you, the reader on your own personal path to developing your full potential. The summary steps to success included in each chapter are invaluable principles and help the reader assimilate and incorporate important guidelines into immediate use.
I especially appreciated Brian's "motivational principles". His "key ideas to motivate others" as well as his "secrets to successful thinking" are also important steps to incorporate in a well rounded success formula. The chapters on communication, relationships, and persistence are suburb.
The pointers included on risk taking help insure success in new and competitive ventures. Brian provides strategies for outwitting and outsmarting your challengers.
Brian has combined the core of Napoleon Hill's, "Think and Grow Rich" and Dale Carnegie's secret for influencing people with contemporary examples of today's industry leaders. The book is destined to become a timeless masterpiece.
Is Your House making you Overweight, Sick or Tired?
Margaret Rouse Shontz
Basic Truth Publishing
P. O. Box 503, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
The Impact of Your External Diet
After the family was plagued with recurring illnesses, breathing problems, headaches, and various hospitalizations Margaret Rouse Shontz determined to find the cause of their symptoms. Through her research she discovered the relationship of improper electricity to stress, insomnia, ill heath, and weight gain. As a result of her study she has written the book "Is Your House Making You Overweight, Sick or Tired?" In her book Shontz set out to alert the reader that an improper external diet has a big effect on the human body.
He twenty year study and the observations she made in her research brought her to the conclusion that the major cause of ill health is from external causes. The book is dedicated to getting the reader to think about how these externals affect and impact your health and well being.
Shontz includes a disclaimer to make the reader aware that she is not an electrician nor a technician or a health professional. Much of the book is devoted to experiences that demonstrate how the body works electrically and the related symptoms which may result with improper electricity. Although the book is often quite technical I found myself engrossed in reading the concepts being considered.
"Is Your House Making You Overweight, Sick or Tired?" is a valuable resource tool and provides proactive steps to be taken in light of the "External Diet" and insuring a proper electricity to insure health. This is truly remarkable approach to alternative medicine. Margaret Rouse Shontz may be ahead of her time in bringing this valuable information to the forefront.
Robert Reed Publishing Company
Dynamic, Motivational, Inspiring
"Running Home" is more than a how to manual on sports and fitness. It is a book about focus. The book is made up of 35 meditations based on character qualities and affirmations. These stories captivating and grab the reader's attention. They are designed to encourage runners to carry the satisfying experience of running into an enriching and deepening growth in their personal and professional life. These short inspirational chapters are equally appropriate for any chosen sport.
Estler writes from his heart with a rare combination of the sportscaster, a poet, and a spiritual sports chaplain. Estler relates the joy of running to accessing the inner essence of man's spirit.
I appreciated Toby's willingness to be vulnerable as he shared his flaws, his struggles, and successes to demonstrate how enhancing his running efficiency helped him find creative solutions in different areas of his life. He then adapts the lessons he learned to cultivate the reader's understanding of the relationship of running to the events of the day. This understanding can create peace, calmness, and a spiritual awareness, in finding personal wholeness.
Remarkable as a communicator, Toby Estler masterfully articulates how running has transformed his life, empowering him to overcome his past. As he shares these experiences it is his hope that others will turn their lives around and move toward bigger goals and more rewarding behavior.
Richard R. Blake
Cave of the Painter's Mind
P.O. Box 201, Des Moines, Iowa, 50301
0977295001 $14.95 www.RingBoltBooks.com www.amazon.com
Mark Hillberry is quite unsettled with recent experiences of deja vu and the man in the black suit. Mark's paintings have always been dark, but now he finds himself painting insane images of events that have not yet happened. Is he slowly losing his mind from all the rain or has he developed the power to see the future?
Mark is a painter who is looking forward to the day when he realizes his dream of selling his paintings. His wife Gina is pulling away with complaints about how Mark needs to leave his low paying job at the art store to get a job that will allow them to achieve her dream of buying a home. Gina is unhappy with their small apartment, Mark's lack of physical activity, his unhealthy smoking habit, and most especially with his dark paintings. Mark knows his big break will arrive any moment, but Gina is tired of waiting. Mark hopes his marriage can survive, but Gina may already have moved on.
Joe Dennis delivers an incredible stream of consciousness novel. The realistic first person dialogue is uncomfortable at the start, but it quickly yanks the reader into Mark's life and the reader can't help but become a part of the story.
This debut novel by Joe Dennis is a thought provoking and detailed literary work with many layers. The novel is dark, well-written, and impossible to close once open. It is not for the weak of mind since the reader is led into the caves of the mind without a hand to hold or a flashlight to light the way.
Cave of the Painter's Mind is refreshing, unsettling, and impossible to put down. This is a highly recommended read, especially for anyone who has experienced deja vu and wondered how it could happen. Review by Lisa Haselton, Allbooks Reviews.
Capital Crime Press
Box 272904, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Claudia Rose, handwriting expert and amateur detective does not believe her old friend Lindsey committed suicide. Lindsay was too self absorbed, too much in love with herself to take her own life. Lindsey's partner, Ivan hires Claudia to determine if the handwriting on the suicide note was Lindsey's or that of her murderer, however, as she investigates deeper and deeper into the case, two of her friends become suspects. In her efforts to prove her friends' innocence she becomes embroiled in the twisted life of sex, drugs and perversion that Lindsey inhabited. When Ivan is brutally attacked, Detective Joel Jovanic is assigned to the case.
Joel Jovanic is determined, pragmatic and handsome. Will the two of them overcome their caution and work together to solve the case? Is the attraction they feel for each other real? Does Claudia put herself in danger? You will have to read this intense mystery to find out.
Sheila Lowe is a world- renowned handwriting expert and the author of two best selling books on the subject. Her expertise adds greatly to the reality of the settings. She lives in Ventura California. Poison Pen is her first mystery but not her last. We look forward to the entire Claudia Rose series and the next book, Written in Blood.
Sheila Lowe has a talent for suspense, intrigue and character development. Lowe's writing style feels like a conversation with a companion, easy and flowing. She makes the reader feel that they are part of the action being experienced by acquaintances rather than characters in a book. Ms. Lowe joins a host of talented mystery writers being published by Capital Crime Press.
Well written, filled with action, excitement and romance, this one is highly recommended by reviewer.
The Making of #A0210208
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424152623 $15.95 publishamerica.com www.amazon.com
This short statement sums up the story of Jayne Dough's life. A victim, pregnant teen, a drug dealer, a prostitute and an addict rolled into one, she relates her story in a concise, emotionally charged style that has the reader spellbound. Written in the first person, readers will experience the world of drugs, sex and brutality on a scale of epic proportions. Vulnerable and desperate, the heroine becomes the cynosure of drug dealers, abusers and violent personalities. The fact that this is a true story makes it even more heart-wrenching.
Our protagonist finds herself in an abusive relationship, pregnant and alone. The author alternates between the life of the child and the life of the adult. Was the child a victim of an abusive parent? Was she exposed to drugs in her own family environment? Thus the life of an abused adult; the answer is NO. This child had a loving mother that she worshiped and although the family was poor, the parental support was there. Her childhood was spent exploring the flora and fauna of countryside like any other youngster. So how did this young teen end up in such a violent, threatening situation? Pick up a copy and you will learn the answers to this and many other questions. No one can read this book without coming away with a much deeper understanding and empathy for those caught up in the world of drugs and alcohol, the homeless and the lost.
Jayne Dough is a pseudonym for the author. Because of the tragic nature of the story, she wishes to remain anonymous. She is a talented story- teller with an insight into a world that most of us choose to ignore or turn a blind eye to. It is my hope that her life has turned around and she will pursue her writing career. I look forward to more of her work.
Well written, filled with intense emotion, true- life trials and tribulations and a haunting story- highly recommended by reviewer.
Shirley Roe, Reviewer
Beneath the Metropolis
Carroll & Graf Publishers
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
245 West 17th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10011-5300
0786718641 $29.95 1-800-788-3123
Profusely illustrated with beautiful color photos, this handsome, slightly oversized volume is the history and current status of the underground infrastructure of 12 major cities around the world. From water and sewer systems to aquifers, bedrock, subways, malls, retail stores, even living quarters and air raid shelters, the underground of cities such as San Francisco, New York, Mexico City, Paris, London, Tokyo, Moscow, and five others are fascinating to read about.
A couple of these communities are sinking faster than Venice, Italy. Some are going dry; others have too much water underneath. Each major population center is different yet has many similarities.
Reading this book will make travel to these metropolitan centers much more enjoyable. And after perusing the volume, readers will definitely put these unique underground sites on their sightseeing plans.
"From the lost secret chambers of a first-century religious cult under the streets of Rome," writes Marshall in the book, "to the steel and glass trains that whisper through the Paris Metro, and the murky rivers and streams that run under London--these subterranean regions reveal a city's character--its purpose, its past, and perhaps its future. Life below the street tells us how cities survive, grow, and change; of engineering brilliance, political upheaval, and hidden history--a DNA imprint of what goes on aboveground."
Alex Marshall also wrote HOW CITIES WORK: SUBURBS, SPRAWL AND THE ROADS NOT TAKEN. He holds academic degrees from Columbia University in New York and from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Currently he's a Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association in New York City. He and his family live in Brooklyn, New York. Highly recommended.
25 Days to Better Thinking & Better Living
Dr. Linda Elder & Dr. Richard Paul,
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
0131738593 $16.99 www.mcp.com 1-800-428-5331
Here's a brief guide to critical thinking. The premise is to practice one of 25 principles, such as"...empathize with others, ...catch yourself being selfish, ...think for yourself, ...stop blaming your parents, ...critique the news media, ...be a citizen of the world," each day for a total of 25 days. Then, you can concentrate on each principle for a week through a total of 25 weeks. You should then be a critical and independent thinker. And this will improve your life.
In the introduction, the authors write, "This book shows you how to use your mind to improve your mind. Each of the ideas in this book can help you take command of the mind that is controlling your thoughts, emotions, desires, and behavior."
Dr. Linda Elder, an Educational Psychologist, is an official of The Foundation for Critical Thinking. She does a lot of public speaking on the subject of this volume, which is one in a series of books from this publisher on critical thinking.
Dr. Richard Paul serves as Chair of the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. He has written nine books on this subject. Recommended.
What We Believe but Cannot Prove
John Brockman, editor
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0060841818 $13.95 www.harpercollins.com 1-800-242-7737
Here are answers to the question "What do you believe but can't prove?" from 109 scientists, thinkers, and intellectuals. All are brief, some only a few words, others are four pages long; but most area page or two in length. If you, dear reader, like ideas, science, and/or philosophy, this book's for you.
Ray Kurzweil, for example, one of the responders says "We will find ways to circumvent the speed of light as a limit on the communication of information." Then he goes on to explain how he thinks, but can't prove, it will occur. Richard Dawkins discusses his belief that, "...life on this planet is shaped by Darwinian natural selection... [and] the same is true [though he can't verify it] all over the universe, wherever life may exist." Jared Diamond holds forth: "[...] they [humans] reached North America around 14,000 years ago, South America around 13,500 years ago, and Australia and New Guinea around 46,000 years ago, and that within a few centuries of those dates humans were responsible for the extinction of most of the big animals of those continents."
This compilation of intriguing opinions from today's most innovative thinkers on a wide variety of matters is taken from the web site entitled EDGE (www.edge.org). Created in 1997 for such intellectuals to express and debate opinions about matters of interest with others like themselves. This is the eighth annual report on those comments.
John Brockman, the editor, penned this volume's Preface. He and a friend, James Lee Byars, now deceased, collaborated on this concept. Highly recommended!
Thumbs, Toes, and Tears
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011
0802715273 $25.95 www.walkerbooks.com 1-800-289-2553
Here's the story of homo sapiens' special characteristics, thanks to evolution, that makes this species different from others. Contrary to the apeswhose thumbs were helpful for swinging from trees, mankind's thumbs straightened out and became opposable. Now we can use our thumb with one or more digits on our hand to grip with. As a result, we can make and use tools and do things apes cannot do.
"How did we become human beings?" asks Walter. "All living things are unique. The forces that drive evolution make them so, honing each down to the razoredge of itself, providing it with a handful of qualities that distinguish it as the animal of its kind. The elephant has its trunk. Bombardier beetles manufacture and precisely shoot boiling hot toxic chemicals from their tails. Peregrine falcons have wings that propel them unerringly through the air at seventy miles an hour to their catch. These traits define these creatures and determine the way they act. But what unique traits shape and define us?"
Our toes straightened, for instance, and allowed us balance to walk upright on the ground rather than maneuvering in trees. And although apes can walk upright, they have to assist themselves with their knuckles.
We are the only animals to speak, to cry, to kiss, and to laugh, making us unique. The way these elements came about is delved into deeply. Some of this is still unknown. But natural selection, not to mention sexual selection, helped our evolution.
Perhaps most unusual in homo sapiens is his or her ability to think to dream, and to be conscious of oneself. Of course, other animals have a brain, too. Even a few other animals seem to have an awareness of themselves.
Chip Walter, as a science writer, has written for Discover, The Economist, and Scientific American magazines. Previous to penning this volume, he authored Space Age. Walter has, further, co-written a book entitled I'm Working on That. He resides in Pittsburgh PA. Recommended.
Calling the Dead
6470A Glenway Ave., #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211-5222
1594263523 $11.00 www.mundania.com 513-598-9220
Deputy Tempe Crabtree is confronted by two situations, both of which, she is told by her superior, is no business of hers. Stick to your patrolling and supervision of the volunteers, she is warned. Nevertheless, Tempe can't ignore either.
First is the death of a young woman. Was she pushed or did she jump to her death in a river off a bridge? Tempe, who is part native American, solves the mystery by relying on traditional Indian methods to converse with the dead woman to learn what really happened.
The second involves one of her volunteers who also is a parishioner of Tempe's husband, Hutch. The woman's husband dies suddenly and Hutch is suspicious, setting Tempe off on another unauthorized investigation. This short novel speeds along to an exciting conclusion. It is a fast read and entirely enjoyable
The Dirt Brown Derby
6470A Glenway Ave., #109, Cincinnate, Ohio 45211-5222
1594262322 $12.00 www.mundania.com 513-598-9220
Frank Johnson, a hard-boiled PI, one of a long line tracing their ancestry back to Mickey Spillane, makes his debut in this novel, the first of what promises to be a series - the second is scheduled for 2007. Right at the start of the story, he is confronted by violence, attacked by roughnecks in the Virginia horse breeding country, on the way to meet a client, a rich widow whose daughter died of a crushed head attributed to a fall from a horse on which she was riding. The mother believes she was murdered.
The rest of the plot, consistent with the genre, chronicles Frank's attempts to unravel the mystery of the death, while experiencing all kinds of mishaps and mayhem. Lots of shooting, physical violence and other diversions. One has to like this kind of plot and character. If in keeping with one's taste, it is amusing and interesting. If not…
1745 Broadway, 24th fl., NY, NY 10019
0440242827 $6.99 www.randomhouse.com 800-726-0600
Matt Worth is a cop in Omaha. He is on probation for messing up—the latest incident: punching a detective who is sleeping with Matt's ex-wife. As punishment he is assigned to the graveyard shift at a local supermarket that has been robbed a couple of times. To keep busy, he bags groceries and becomes friendly with a checkout clerk.
The clerk has a boyfriend who bashes her around one time too many. She clobbers him to death. Matt becomes involved when she asks his help. He undertakes a cover-up of the murder, taking the body in the victim's car to his ex-con brother's junkyard in the next state. There, the brother incinerates the corpse and chops up the car—but not before discovering a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
From this point on the plot evolves in all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. At each step of the way, it looks like Matt is going to be discovered. But each time he develops a new subterfuge, half-truth, fact or excuse. The action continues unabated right down to the final page, and so should you. Recommended.
Dust: A Richard Jury Mystery
375 Hudsn St., NY, NY 10014
0670037869 $25.95 www.us.penguingroup.com 800-847-5515
This is the story of two "L's:" Lust and Literature. It begins with Inspector Richard Jury in the throes of post-coital rapture. His girlfriend, a Scotland Yard pathologist, is in the shower. Then the telephone rings, ruining the mood. A man has been murdered in a posh hotel and off-and-running the pair goes to the scene. So much for libido, so far.
There, Jury meets Lu Aguilar, the lead detective. When they leave, Jury and Lu fall into more than rigorous sex at his home. Twice in a few hours. What a man.
The second "L" is more literary. The murder victim was in residence at The Lamb, home of Henry James--references to his work are sprinkled throughout as quasi-leads or clues (although Jury lacks clues almost until the end).
In sifting through the victim's past, there are numerous conflicting and false leads. It takes all kinds of assistance and analysis for Jury to track the mystery of these "clues." Enigmatic Harry Johnson reappears from the previous novel in the series to provide Jury with more doubts and thrown curves while they drink wine at Dust, a trendy bar at which the murder victim was last seen before going to the hotel.
As excellent as any in the series, the book draws the reader back and forth—just as Jury is—without a real clue to solving the case (or his love life). It's no surprise that in the end, Jury and his off-beat assistants come to an unusual conclusion, but doubts remain on his romantic future
Translated by Laurie Thompson
1843432633 16.99 Brit. Pounds
Be forewarned: This is not an Inspector Wallender novel. It is a standalone depicting a Swedish naval officer during the First World War. He is a despicable character, and the story is one of deceit and lies, and comes to a tragic, but, perhaps, fitting end. He is assigned to measure depths along the coast to chart new shipping paths, and while performing his task, he encounters a barren skerry [a rocky isle along a coastline] on which a woman lives. He becomes fascinated with her and destroys his life and his wife in the process.
The writing is powerful, and Mankell delves deeply into the man's psyche The story keeps the reader on the edge of the seat until its conclusion. Highly recommended. [This book is only available in or through the UK and Canada at this time; hopefully it will be available in the US before too long.]
The Deadly Bride
Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, editors
Carroll and Graf
245 W. 17th St., 11th fl., NY, NY 10011-5300
0786719176 $16.95 www.avalonpub.com 212-981-9919/800-788-3123
Not only does this volume feature 22 crime and mystery short stories, but the annual feature highlighting an overview of the year in criminal fiction--from a comprehensive list of award winners to essays on the subject to obituaries of those lost in the last two years.
This collection features such writers as Jeffrey Deaver, J.A. Jance and Rick Mofina and a host of others. The subjects vary, but the quality of the writing and stories is up there with the best. If only for the yearbook, the volume is worth the cover price. The short stories are icing on the cake.
How to Seduce a Ghost
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
044661601X $6.99 www.hachettebookgroupUSA.com 800-759-0190
Having read the sequel before this, the initial entry into the series, I got the feeling that the main character, Lee Bartholomew, a 40-year-old ghostwriter, was a complete professional in her business life, but a somewhat flighty and mixed-up person in her personal life. After reading this novel, that belief has been confirmed. In this opening tale, we find her in the midst of an eight-year relationship with Tommy, her long-time boyfriend, but passionately attracted to the husband/manager of her new client, a soap opera star. Both she and Tommy have affairs, the result of their on-again/off-again association. Frankly, Lee's love life really doesn't contribute much to the over-all story in either of the novels, both of which are, however, interesting.
In "Seduce," the mystery begins with the arson murder of a television personality in a house near to the one Lee lives in rent-free in London (it is owned by her parents who split up in this tale but come together in the next). Then a small summer home behind Lee's is burned and later the house itself is set on fire with Lee and her client asleep in it. The client's husband is one of the suspects. (He batters his wife regularly, providing her with a reason to have a book written on the subject of battered wives.)
Well-written, the novel is a little too cutesy for this reviewer when it comes to Lee's personal life. The mystery in both "Seduce" and the second in the series, "How to Marry a Ghost," are well-plotted and carry the reader forth. Now, if the conclusion of the next book in the series leads to some maturity in Lee's romantic life, a third story might be even more enjoyable.
Death of a Dreamer
M .C. Beaton
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0446618136 $6.99 www.hachettebookgroupUSA.com 212-364-1100/800-759-0190
This long-standing series, set in the Scottish Highlands, finds Constable Hamish Macbeth surrounded by several females, all providing some kind of romantic interest. Then one of the women (not romantically linked to Hamish) is found dead up in the mountains. The official police decision is suicide. But Hamish isn't sure, and persists. Indeed, it turns out to be a case of murder. Later, another woman is murdered.
With a few of his former girlfriends distracting him, Hamish fumbles around, but in the end, reaches the proper conclusion. As in previous novels in the series, the writing and color are in keeping with the setting, and the story and characters charming. The next in the series is to be published in February, 2007. Look forward shortly to our reading of Death of a Maid..
Death of a Maid
M. C. Beaton
1271 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0892960108 $23.99 www.hachettebookgroupUSA.com 800-759-0190
The customary elements of this long-standing wonderful series remain in place: Constable Hamish Macbeth's romantic life remains in flux, he is content to solve crimes in the little fishing village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands but give credit to anyone else because he doesn't want a promotion and wants to remain there with his dog and tamed wild cat.
In this case, a cleaning woman famous for gossiping and fairly poor work is discovered by Hamish outside the home of one of her clients with her head bashed in, apparently hit with her own cleaning pail. The list of suspects includes all five of her clients because Hamish suspects that while cleaning, the woman discovered secrets and blackmailed the clients.
It is a simple tale, but Hamish's investigation is anything but. As in past entries he doggedly pursues clues right up to the end. As usual, the book is well-written, the plot well-staked out and Hamish's love life more than complicated. A delight to read.
Water Like a Stone
10 East 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
0060525274 $24.95 www.harpercollins.com 800-242-7737
Scotland Yard Inspector Duncan Kincaid and Metropolitan Police Inspector Gemma James and their respective sons (they're still not married in this long-running series) are on a Christmas holiday at his family's home in Cheshire, but it turns out to be a busman's holiday. Soon after their arrival, Kincaid's sister, while renovating a barn for a client, discovers a mummified baby behind a mortared wall. Soon after, a retired social worker is found with a bashed-in head on a towpath near her boat by a canal. Previously, a teenaged boy was drowned in the canal. Are they separate incidents or related?
While the local police have the case, Kincaid and James become involved, especially since his family is involved. The investigations proceed without any real clues. But, of course, Gemma sees some parallels, and the mysteries of the intertwining lives of the victims and the Kincaid relatives are unraveled. It is an intriguing story, which keeps the reader on edge, especially the hair-raising finish. Highly recommended.
The Rex Stout Reader
Introduction by Otto Penzler
Carroll & Graf
245 W. 17th St., 11th fl., NY, NY 10011
0786718625 $16.95 www.avalonpub.com 800-788-3123
Nero Wolfe fans beware: this volume contains two novels and a short story that preceded Rex Stout's creation of the armchair detective. Her Forbidden Knight, Stout's first novel, was serialized in 1913, and not published in book form until 1997. A Prize for Princes, his third, was serialized in 1914 and published in book form in 1985. It wasn't till 1934 that Nero Wolfe was born, but not before Stout had authored other novels, honing his craft.
The two novels in this volume are a product of the times, heavily influenced by 19th century writing and the demands of the reading public of the times. Much of the writing, by modern comparison, could be called stilted, but it is in keeping with the style of the publication, and characters and story lines.
Forbidden Knight follows the fortunes of a pretty telegraph operator in a New York City hotel under the "protection" of several hangers-on in the lobby. She falls in love with a stranger who is under a cloud in his hometown and is passing bogus currency in the Big Apple. It is more of a romance than a crime story.
Prize, while full of romance, comes with murder and mystery and intrigue. A young American rescues two women amid a brutal Turkish assault on a convent and falls in love with one, a beautiful but dangerous woman who is accused of poisoning her husband, unbeknownst to him. She schemes and plots to rise to marry the Prince of Marisi, poisoning two others along the way.
The short story, Out of the Line, is more modern and is a tale of pathos. A bored woman, widow of a rich man to whom she was married for seven years, celebrates her birthday by giving money to homeless men on lower Broadway. One of the men is a former lover who she presumably wronged. Invited to visit her, he rejects her in no uncertain terms.
It was interesting reading Stout's early works even if it does not appeal to the modern eye. As a forerunner of his later accomplishments, the novels and short story certainly are indicative of what was yet to come. If only for that reason they are worth reading. But there is another: they are well-written and enjoyable
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312306342 $16.95 www.stmartins.com 212-674-5151/646-307-5560
Yenta the Matchmaker has nothing on Stephanie Plum, who in this short novel trades in her bounty hunting skills for making four couples a great Valentine's Day. The reason is that the mysterious Diesel (as opposed to the mysterious Ranger) shows up unexpectedly offering her a deal: in exchange for Stephanie playing matchmaker, he'll trade Annie Hart, a relationship expert who skipped out on her bail bond for armed robbery.
With Valentine's Day only a few days away, Stephanie has her work cut out for her. A series of amusing situations arise, and she has to apply lots of ingenuity to solving the problems, not the least of which is that of a gangster who has captured Annie.
The story is somewhat different than others in the series, but, after all, it is a Valentine's Day saga rather than a light-hearted mystery novel. Of course, it is equal in quality to the preceding entries in the series, a fast read and kind of cute.
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0440242800 $12.00 www.randomhouse.com 800-726-0600
In this highly readable novel, David Umber is caught up in a web of intrigue that so complicates his life that he just drifts away into oblivion from a promising career as an historian. He is working on his PhD on an obscure topic—the Junius Letters—written in the 1700s by an unidentified person critical of the King, when he is promised a look at a rare edition of the bound volumes prepared for the author. He is to meet the person in Avebury, but instead is witness to the kidnapping pf a two-year-old girl and the hit-and-run murder of her sister.
As a result of the tragedy, David befriends the nanny who was in charge of the children, ultimately marrying her. They leave England, but his wife never really recovers from the incident, and leaves him when she discovers a clue as to the identity of the missing child years later. She is then found electrocuted in her bathtub in England, while David is shilling away his days in Prague, living from hand to mouth.
A retired detective, originally on the case, seeks Umber out and convinces him to assist in investigating the truth of the incident, even though a convicted sex offender had confessed to the kidnapping. Soon after, the confessor is murdered in prison. Their efforts proceed, and the theory arises that David's wife also was murdered. The trail leads to Jersey, where the little girl's father, now remarried, and her brother now live. The detective is framed and placed in jail for drug smuggling and the brother commits suicide.
Meanwhile, David identifies the missing girl, now in her twenties, when he accidentally discovers the clue that sent his wife off on her quest. [None of this constitutes a spoiler, BTW—reference to much of it is to be found on the back outside cover.] The Junius volumes play a key role in the mystery, and David's expertise is essential in unraveling the mystery. The twists at each phase of the story keep the reader on edge. And the denouement is so wholly unexpected that the reader is left in awe. Highly recommended.
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
0743281632 $25.95 www.simonandschuster.com 800-223-2336
Robert Crais plunges the reader into the action from the first pages of The Watchman. In a well-plotted novel which brings the welcome return of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, the book reverses their usual roles, with Cole, the p.i. who calls himself the World's Greatest Detective, playing back-up to Pike, ex-cop and former mercenary, who has been hired to protect a 22-year-old girl who is in Witness Protection before an impending grand jury investigation. The body count starts to mount early and rapidly. Joe Pike is on the case, and Robert Crais fans will be pleased. Several attempts are made on the life of the girl [a Paris Hilton-type rich girl, described as the ‘classic LA wild child'], three before Pike is hired and two more in the first 24 hours since, and then the bad guys come after Pike.
Mr. Crais has in this novel has somewhat self-consciously given the reader insight into what makes Pike, variously described here as a "monster" and a man whose skills include the ability to rise "with the slowness of melting ice," tick. He is, as always, enigmatic [though a bit less so in this book, with background details filled in this time], self-sufficient, but then again, classic Joe Pike.
The book is set for the most part in Southern California, including the Echo Park area most recently inhabited by Michael Connelly, an author with whose writing Mr. Crais' is frequently compared, not without reason. My overriding thought as the book got closer to the suspense-filled conclusion: This just keeps getting better. Recommended.
1745 Broadway, 24th fl., NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9008/800-726-0600
055380345X $26.00 www.bantamdell.com
Eve Duncan is in the throes of her latest reconstruction, emotionally at a high pitch, when she receives a telephone call with the one temptation to make her throw caution to the winds: a promise to find the remains of her kidnapped, and presumably murdered, daughter, and her killer. The deal is made by a reclusive arms dealer in Colombia who wants her to reconstruct the skull of his wife who was murdered by an arch enemy. Of course, her long-time lover is dead set against her going to perform the task.
She ignores everyone and decides to go and finds herself in the midst of intrigue and pitted against a sadistic killer. She has to use all her talent and skills to fulfill her mission, and then save her paramour and a good friend who followed her from certain death. The story moves ahead with deliberate twists until the final pages, keeping the reader in a state of suspense. Recommended.
A Case of Two Cities
An Inspector Chen Novel
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
0312359853 $24.95 www.stmartins.com 212-674-5151/646-307-5560
Inspector Chen is caught up in the web of inscrutable Chinese politics. He is appointed to investigate corruption by a high official of the party, and given a blank check for authority. The investigation involves an individual and his family who have fled to the United States, but may also involve many party cadres, bureaucrats and others.
How to proceed against the institutionalized Chinese system? Chen wends his way alone seeking leads from various sources. One of them is raped and murdered before giving him information. As he begins to learn more, he is suddenly appointed chairman of a literary delegation leaving for Los Angeles in a couple of days. Was the appointment an effort to sidetrack the investigation, or really deserved (after all he is a respected poet and translator)?
Before leaving on his new mission, Chen deputizes his assistant to carry on the investigation in Shanghai. In the United States, Chen continues his efforts and gains assistance from U.S. Marshall Catherine Rhon, with whom he previously worked in Shanghai.
Like its predecessors in the series, this novel provides deep insights into contemporary China, while giving the reader a crime story that is compelling. Recommended.
Whispers from the Grave
Coachlight Press, LLC
1704 Craig's Store Road, Afton, VA 22920-2017
0971679053, $15.95, 276 pages
This story grabbed my interest from the start. It's one of those books that are almost impossible to put down. I had to keep flipping those pages to solve the mystery of Margaret, Geoff and the strange happenings around the old Virginia Plantation of Poplar Ridge.
Christine Olson, or Chris as she likes to be called by her friends, is in the process of visiting her old friend from college, Judith Cameron. On the way down the rustic road to the plantation her car gets a flat tire. Unfortunately her cell phone is dead and she can't call for help. A short while later, a handsome blond man with striking blue eyes and a goatee shows up to change her tire. He's Judith's brother Geoff. Chris appreciates his southern manners and is instantly attracted to him.
Judith is delighted to see her old friend but something strange happens while the two are drinking brandy in front of the fireplace. Chris feels as though she just came back from a carriage ride and is drinking a cup of apple cider. Judith brings her back to reality, but Chris questions her about a black stallion with a white star on its forehead. Judith tells her that she's never had a horse like that and Chris is puzzled. She can't seem to remember where she saw the horse.
Chris begins witnessing scenes from the plantation's past. She is hesitant to tell her friend Judith of these strange happenings and having never been a believer in ghosts begins to doubt her sanity.
In the meantime, she and Geoff start to grow closer; it's as if they've always known each other. Chris is falling for Geoff, but does he feel the same way? She's found out his secret, one that Judith has kept hidden from her, but wonders what other secrets still lie within the walls of the old plantation?
Visions of the past are becoming all too real for Chris as their frequency increases. Why is the strange woman she sees so angry? What has Geoff got to do with any of it and how does she fit in? These are all questions that will keep you reading to find the answers.
I enjoyed the passion and romance along with the glimpse into an era of American history that has always fascinated me, The Civil War. If you enjoy romance and mystery with a little of the paranormal and history thrown in, I recommend that you read this book. I'm glad I did.
Kim Murphy has written Honor & Glory, Glory & Promise, and is currently working on the sequel to Whispers from the Grave.
Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living
Shawn M. Talbott, PH.D.
P.O. Box 310, Springville, Utah 84663-0310
097114074X, $16.95 www.currantbook.com
This book drew my attention as I am always searching for health information both for myself and my family. Several family members currently have to deal with muscle and joint pain and my heart aches to see them suffer. I may be dealing with the same problems myself before long. If there's help out there not involving drugs or surgery, I want to know about it.
Dr. Talbott's book provides us with pages of useful information on supplements explaining what they are and how to use them. It has a simplistic and easy to follow diet plan which includes a few healthy recipes to get you going. Several stretching exercises are also included. Dr. Talbott's approach is a holistic one that relies on an integrated path to pain relief.
If you're interested in learning how to keep your bones, muscles and joints healthy, this book is for you. If you're looking for ways to attain relief from aching joints, stiff muscles and other related ills, read the book, I don't think you'll be disappointed, you might just find yourself feeling a whole lot better. The book is an interesting and informative read. I would recommend it to anyone seeking natural alternatives to drugs.
Dr. Talbott has also written: The Health Professional's Guide to Dietary Supplements, Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis, The Cortisol Connection, The Cortisol Connection Diet, and A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements. Dr. Talbott has a website with lots of info at www.supplementwatch.com
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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