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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 2 February 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf
Clay's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Fortenberry's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Slessman's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf
Wheldon's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Avenging Angel
Kim Smith
Red Rose Publishing
12065 Woodhull Rd., Forestport , NY 13338
9781604352764 $5.99

Aaron Paul Lazar, Reviewer

A great read doesn't have to be fancy, full of literary allusions or deep musings. Nor does it need a ritzy setting, plots that twist your brain into a pretzel, or elite protagonists.

What a great read does need is a story that moves, characters who linger in your mind, and a voice that calls you back to its pages. Avenging Angel by Kim Smith accomplished all three.

Smith has written a suspenseful cozy mystery set in the south in a small lazy town. Shannon Wallace, a spunky, smart, and all-American young woman, is at the brink of disaster. Dumped by her beau, fired from her job, and plunged into the middle of a killer nightmare, Shannon's pluck and smarts carry her forward in a tidal wave of terror that will get your heart pumping in this delightful page turner.

When Shannon's boyfriend is murdered hours after he breaks up with her, she discovers their private video collection is missing. Problem is, the star of the intimate show is Shannon, and she'll do everything in her power to retrieve the embarrassing disks.

The author knows how to write. But best of all, she knows how to write like she talks. It's not easy to accomplish, as most debut authors tend to fall into the trap of using words that sound good but don't fit, or making a sentence far more complex than it needs to be. Smith's simple, straightforward, and quite endearing style is what drives Avenging Angel forward, with hints of colorful Southern dialect and engaging dialogue.

That said, there are select moments of literary prose that shine, as in the following excerpt:

"August in the Mid-South is like summer in the tropics. The crepe myrtles bloom in fuchsia and pink, and old people perch like lazy flies on white wicker swings and cane chairs. In every neighborhood, folded fans gently wave at the heat, and everyone talks about the weather. No one moves too much, or too fast, thanks to the humidity, which turns the still air into a sauna-like atmosphere even before daybreak. The firmest hair spray is reduced to damp stickiness, the best-laid plans are set-aside until evening, and the most even-tempered person will contemplate murdering their friend."

By contrast, take a look at this wonderfully simple, yet engaging, segment:

"My dreams were a mish mash of colors and snippets from my life. I saw myself as a child, orphaned. I relived the pain that accompanied it until it nearly drowned me and woke with tears on my face. The birds of summer played somewhere outside the window and all the sounds of nature seemed intensified as though reassuring me I was still alive."

As much as I enjoyed the plot line-straightforward, tense, great suspense-it was the relationships between Shannon, Dwayne, Salvatore, her elderly aunts, and the broad cast of suspects that sold me.

I was most pleased that Shannon didn't fall into the arms of the handsome local detective, because that would have made the work too predictable, trite, or Lifetime Movie-ish. No, Shannon held her own, wasn't pushed around by the cops, and survived numerous attacks by a very frightening assailant. This woman-while she does show very real emotions that ring true-won't be bullied by anyone. And when Dwayne helps her buy and learn to use a handgun, it may be the key to her survival.

Smith, "a true blue southern gal who was raised on black-eyed peas and cornbread," promises sequels to her captivating world. See more at her website,

Ghost of a Chance
Kate Marsh
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, USA
9780451223241 $ 6.99

Amy J. Ramsey, Reviewer

Many years ago, at the age of 6, Karma Marx (half-human and half-polter) was unaware of the power she possessed, until a tragedy occurred resulting in the death of her best friend. The Akashic League sentenced her to a wergeld, an indefinite term of servitude within their organization. Now she specializes in house cleaning and extermination, but it's not your typical service. She doesn't do windows, floors, or dusting, not even the eradication of rodents or bugs. Her job is to banish unwanted spirits, beings and entities that reek havoc in the mundane world. Contrary to her father's (Mathew) beliefs, Karma has only vanquished one or two nasty beings. She usually takes them in as roommates, if unable to relocate them elsewhere.

Housing various creatures and forced into fostering a dysfunctional teen polter, Pixie, complicates matters further in her already strained marriage. Her husband, Spike, is a devious, conniving and cheating real estate agent, who detests and loathes otherworldly beings. When Spike offers to grant her a much desired divorce, she knew there had to be a catch, and of course, there was. He wanted her to clean one last house for him, the old Walsh's house, and if she did not comply, he would make things extremely difficult for her. Having no choice, Karma reluctantly agrees to his terms.

Upon entry to the house, Karma and Pixie were intercepted by Adam Dirgesinger, the home's former owner, and he's furious about undesirable strangers invading his home. The situation turns ghastly after Adam uses his supernatural powers and seals the place up, trapping everyone inside for an unbearable twelve hours. Just when Karma thought things couldn't get worse, her husband, Spike is found dead in the basement. Not only is Karma trapped in a house with an array of suspects, both humans and otherworldly beings, she is also locked-in with a murderer. Now, it's up to Karma and Adam to solve this case before the spell runs out and the murderer is released into the mundane world.

Ghost of a Chance will have you questioning your detective skills. Just when you think you know who the murderer is, the author throws in another twist. Kate Marsh has created a spirited and vibrant world, where the characters and plot join together perfectly for an absolutely thrilling and invigorating read. I personally can't wait for the sequel. This is a must read for anyone interested in Paranormal, Supernatural, and Mystery genres.

Kate Marsh grew up in a family where weekly library visits were a given. She spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book, usually a mystery. Kate started her career by writing nonfiction books about software, but her heart was always in fiction. After writing more than thirty romantic comedies as Katie MacAlister, she decided to indulge her passion for things mysterious and began writing about Karma Marx. Kate lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dogs, and can often be found lurking around online. You can also find her at and also

The Watkins Dictionary of Saints
Philip D. Noble
Watkins Publishing
Sixth Floor, Castle House
75-76 Wells Street, London W1T 3QH
9781905857203 $AU29.95

Rose Glavas

I remember when I received this book I thought that it was quite small for the topic it was covering… I was expecting a much bigger book considering the breadth and depth of the topic that was being covered. However, it covers a lot of ground.

Reverend Philip Noble is the Rector of St Ninian's Episcopal Church in Prestwick, Scotland and has spent most of his life in the Christian ministry. He has recently completed a doctoral thesis on ancient/future spirituality and relates post-modern discipleship to the themes of story, journey and encounter.

'The Watkins Dictionary of Saints' is the first book I've looked at of it's type, so I didn't really have any expectations. I have to say I really enjoyed reading about the various saints and learning about their lives.

In this title you will find succinct, easy to read information on the various saints in the main section where the saints are set out in A – Z order. In the various Appendices you will find the following: Heresies, Apostles Creed, Symbols of the Saints, Saints in Waiting, Alphabetical Index of Saints, Index of Feast Days, Index of Patron Saints, plus more. Again, looking through the information was interesting and it was very easy to find what I was looking for. I particularly enjoyed looking through the 'Index of Feast Days' which gave a listing of the various Feast Days in chronological order.

In summary this is a fabulous introduction into the very interesting world of the saints, and what it means to be a saint. Obviously if you wanted detailed information you could research this elsewhere. This would make a great reference book for anyone interested in theology, spirituality and/or historical figures.

Inevitable Sentences
Tekla Dennison Miller
Medallion Press
Independent Publishers Group
Order Department
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781934755013 $7.95 (800) 888-IPG1 (4741)

Connie Gotsch

Durango, Colorado author Tekla Dennison Miller's suspense thriller "Inevitable Sentences," published by Medallion Press unfolds as you'd expect it to. Predator Chad Wilbanks prowls his prison cell, plotting his escape and selecting the next woman he will murder. Cut to the Big Bay Point Light House on the shores of Lake Michigan on the Upper Peninsula. Celeste Brookstone has turned the building into a shelter for homeless women after the murder of her daughter, Pilar, by Wilbanks. Celeste's love interest, Max Whitefeather even knows a terrible secret about Chad from which he shelters Celeste, a secret that almost ends her life, and sends the women she has protected into a dangerous blizzard.

But while the plot of "Inevitable Sentences" follows a predictable course, the characters and situations that drive the story are far from run-of-the-mill two dimensional blood-and-guts bad guys and good guys usually found in suspense thrillers.

A former warden of two prisons in Michigan, Dennison Miller uses "Inevitable Sentences" to explore the psychology of women who fall in love with hardened criminals and are destroyed by them. Most of these women have suffered physical and sexual abuse, so Dennison Miller also examines why some escape this brutality and build new lives for themselves, while others do not, and what the larger society might do to increase a victim's chance to break out of her tragedy. The introspection makes "Inevitable Sentences" a moving and thought provoking read.

Vivid descriptions of action and location also make the story an exciting read. Consider the sentence "Sleet beat against the windows with such force it sounded like hundreds of stones assaulting the pane," or "Her head hung against her chest as though an anchor held it in place, " or "Max couldn't hold back any longer, and he broke down and cried, too." Who would not be drawn to a book full of that kind of language and imagery?

"Inevitable Sentences" takes us into a world that most of us will never inhabit. Still we realize the people that do live there are very much like ourselves--ordinary human beings thrown into horrible predicaments. A twist of good or bad luck, a proper or improper response to that fortune, the influence of decent or vicious people, and we end up like one or another of the characters in "Inevitable Sentences." That's a thought to chew on as we finish the last page.

Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth (Gaia Girls, Book 1)
Lee Welles
Chelsea Green Publishing
85 North Main Street, Suite 120, White River Jct., Vermont 05001
9781933609010 $12.95

Kasey Cox

"Young Elizabeth Had A Farm"

Elizabeth Angier is a fourth-grader who lives on a farm. She helps her parents weed the large vegetable garden, dye skeins of wool from their sheep, arrange wildflowers into bouquets to be sold at the farmers' market, and water the saplings that landscapers buy. Will, the high school boy from the dairy farm over the hill, comes over to help her dad on occasion. Elizabeth loves everything about growing up on the farm that has been in her father's family for many generations. But all this threatens to change: a company that runs "CAFO" (Concentrated Feeding Animal Organizations) pig farms arrives to woo struggling farmers into selling their farms and taking jobs with the large corporation. As Elizabeth's parents desperately research the effects of existing CAFO's on a community's air, water, commerce, and quality of life, Elizabeth herself discovers her own connection to the earth and the powers that gives her. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, appears to her as an otter, and begins to teach her.

That's just a brief synopsis of "Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth", recent winner of the 2006 National Outdoor Book Award, children's division. Although this is a fantastical novel that author Lee Welles has written for children ("ages 9 and up"), many parts of the story ring true for communities like ours. "Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth" takes place on a farm in upstate New York, near the Finger Lakes. Much of it reads like home, the beauty as well as the struggles.

Although I consider myself sympathetic to environmental activists, I am leary of being lumped in with folks who wear hemp and eat vegetarian because it's trendy. In sitting down to read Gaia Girls, I was a little afraid that the story would be heavy-handed on earth goddesses but skim over the true difficulties of living environmentally-aware. I am pleased to report I couldn't have been more wrong. "Three Oaks Farm" is an organic farm, but Welles makes it clear that this makes the Angier family and their products unusual for their community. They need to be very creative to be successful: they advertise their organic produce to upscale restaurants, who pre-order from the farm. Another way they make money is by selling many different products: wool, vegetables, flowers, young trees, honey. Though Elizabeth and her parents feel they live a happy life in a corner of paradise, Welles doesn't flinch from showing how fragile that existence is, and how much work it takes to maintain it.

Welles' writing is strong. At the beginning, I was reminded of Charlotte's Web. As I continued to read Gaia Girls, I realized I was in the middle of a wonderful new literary phenomenon. I see this book, and the series to follow, touching many as it touched me. Enter the Earth reminded me of environmental issues and earth science facts that I already know about, but made me feel more attached to them. Without being preachy, Gaia Girls helps the reader see the science behind farming methods that are good for the earth, and how it is healthy for the people who live there and those of us who eat the food grown there. With Elizabeth, we can connect to the farm, as she and the farm connect to the earth. I raced through the book, loved the story, and can't wait for more.

Ralphina, the Roly-Poly
Claudia Chandler
Leather Publishing
4500 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kansas 66211
9781585974627 $ 21.95

Reviewed by Liana Metal

Very Highly Recommended

Claudia Chandler is an author and illustrator who holds a master's degree in elementary education. She is also a photographer of nature and a passionate gardener living in Kansas. Learn more about her at her wonderful site at

Ralphina, the Roly-Poly, is a marvelous book for kids. It is about the story of a tiny insect, Ralphina, who needs a friend to play with. Eventually, she finds a human friend, despite the drawback of her size that makes her unnoticeable, and feels happy.

It is a great story highlighting friendship and educational facts about roly-polies, the tiny insects we hardly notice in nature. The author has created beautiful colorful illustrations that stimulate imagination and carry readers to the magic world of nature and fiction. It is an entertaining book for kids, but parents and teachers will love it too! Get it from, amazon and other online stores, as well as from the author's site at

Best Lesbian Romance, 2009
Edited by Radclyffe
Cleis Press
9781573443333 $14.95


Best Lesbian Romance has stories of romance for all readers to enjoy. It features stories by lesser known authors as well as stories by Jennifer Fulton, Karin Kallmaker, and Radclyffe. These are exceptionally well written and enjoyable stories which peak the reader's interest with great plots and well drawn characters.

In "Absinthe", Jennifer Fulton takes her readers to France, just at the beginning of the Second World War with a tender story of an innocent abroad. Karin Kallmaker deals with the struggles of a recovering alcoholic in "Last Call", and Shanna Germain's "Finding My Feet", shows readers that "the thing you want is right in front of you". Whether readers are looking for young love, mature love, or lost love, these stories will fill her need. This reviewer's only complaint was a desire for more, more, more!

The Black Swan
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Random House
9781400063512 $27.00

Stephen J. Hage

In this book Taleb uses the term black swan as a metaphor for the unexpected. He chose it because, before Australia was discovered, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white.

The bombing of the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11 is a perfect example of what Taleb means by the term black swan. Other examples are best selling books by unknown authors and insanely popular new restaurants. He also points out that another type of Black Swan is the highly expected event not happening.

The defining characteristics of black swans are puzzling; a combination of low predictability and large impact.

Taleb's central theme is since Black Swans are unpredictable we need to adjust to their existence and that trying to predict them is futile. The best way to do that is by focusing on antiknowledge, or what we don't know. This advice provides the grist for his engaging, thoughtful and thoroughly provocative expository mill.

Taleb is an iconoclastic polymath who lays bare the futility in our belief that we actually can predict the future with any degree of success. And he shows this to be true by demonstrating the abysmal track records of those high priests we rely on like stock market analysts of every ilk including the mathematical economists or "Quants."

The true and lasting value of this book is Taleb's ability to write by telling stories that deal with subjects that are complex, abstruse and difficult to understand. But, not to worry; the stories are easy to read, fun and highly thought provoking.

The subject matter deals with almost any situation imaginable and identifies techniques we can all use to protect against being hoodwinked by "experts" willing to advise us on how best to handle complex situations and how to position ourselves to collect serendipitous Black Swans of the positive variety.

I strongly recommend you read this book. And, if you do, I promise you won't be disappointed.

The Inside Story
Kathy Brodsky, Illustrations by Cameron Bennett
66 Prospect Street, Manchester, NH 03104
9780615235059 $19.99

Susan M. Andrus

It's hard to get people excited about recycling, but Kathy Brodsky's children's book, the Inside Story, uses emotion and excitement to tell how an envelope leaves its little box and travels through the mail containing a party invitation, finally ending up in the recycling bin.

Through poetry and clever illustrations, this picture book teaches about the workings of the post office, the recycling center, and through guided discussion questions, how to manage change in our lives.

Often books on self-improvement or psychology seem too focused on the lesson rather than the story, but this cute story keeps the reader wondering how it will all work out making the story lead the reader to the lessons.

Author Kathy Brodsky is a psychotherapist, poet and author living in New Hampshire. Illustrator Cameron Bennett paints portraits, and composes works for piano.

John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy
David S. Dockery and Roger D. Duke, Editors
B & H Academic
127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 37234-0120

Paul R. Waibel

In the history of denominations there is often one individual who is credited with having set the standards for those who followed. For Southern Baptists no one figure stands out more than John Albert Broadus (1827-1895), pastor, scholar and preacher extraordinaire. Much has been written about Broadus, so one may wonder why another book? John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy, edited by David S. Dockery and Roger D. Duke (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008) is a collection of essays by prominent Baptist scholars meant to provide the reader with a well-balanced view of Broadus' role in shaping the defining characteristics of what it means to be Southern Baptist.

In his brief Introduction to the volume, Timothy George points out that although Broadus was very much a southerner, he was equally at home delivering a lecture series at Yale Divinity School or preaching a sermon at the Charlottesville (Va.) Baptist Church, where he served as pastor during the 1850s. During the Civil War, he served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army. As his reputation spread after the Civil War, Broadus shared the same platform with the noted English Christian speaker Henry Drummond at D. L. Moody's annual Northfield Conference. None other than Charles Spurgeon called Broadus the "greatest of living preachers." The book's contributors demonstrate that many of what are often termed the "distinctives" of Southern Baptist faith were emphasized by Broadus.

Roger D. Duke explains how Broadus' popularity as a preacher was based on both his conviction that the art of preaching must emphasize making the deep truths of God's inspired word understandable to the congregation, in order that the Holy Spirit might use the sermon to bring the lost to a saving knowledge of the gospel. In his classic work A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (1870), Broadus quoted St. Augustine: "Make the truth plain, make it pleasing, make it moving" (72). But the exposition of truth was to be based upon a sound scholarly study of the Scriptures themselves and the best biblical scholarship of the day. Broadus was himself a scholar trained in the classic philosophers as well as in biblical Hebrew and Greek. He was also trained in the scholarly languages of his time--classical Greek, Latin, German and French. Richard Melick notes that as a "preacher-scholar" and a "pastor-teacher" Broadus was exceptional for his day. He also suggests that in his scholarship and preaching Broadus anticipated many of the issues that concern Baptists today.

In one of the most interesting essays in the book, "How to Preach Marketable Messages without Selling Out the Savior: Broadus on the role of Sensationalism in Preaching," Beecher L. Johnson shows that Broadus has some advice for seminarians preparing to pastor churches and preach the gospel in today's commercialized, media-driven world of middle class evangelicalism. Broadus spoke out forcefully in his day against the growing practice of sensationalism in preaching. It was not the legitimate appeal to the senses that Broadus criticized. In a lecture on the subject, he said: "Preachers must do all they can with propriety do, to make preaching attract attention–wake men up–compel them to listen, think, remember" (216). But Johnson notes that Broadus "also warned of the divisiveness of preaching on politics, the evil of promoting heresy to draw a crowd, and the shallow spiritual environment that too strong a focus on secular themes fostered" (219).

Broadus saw certain dangers in the use of sensationalism in preaching. Once employed, it would be nearly impossible to maintain the intensity, since the audience would expect a new "high" with each sermon. It also demeaned what Broadus felt was the sacred act of preaching. As Johnson points out, for Broadus the cross of Christ was the only legitimate draw, "the only thing that in the end would prove to be sufficient in leading men to Christ, transforming them, and keeping them in the faith." As Johnson concludes, for Broadus and those who shared his convictions, the pulpit was "no place for cuteness" (222). In short, Broadus feared that sensationalism in preaching would impair the listener's ability to discern the truth in a message, obscure the gospel, and at best, "inadvertently downgrade the message of Scripture to the level of life enhancement and the role of Christ to that of 'life coach'" (237). As a solution, Broadus urged the preacher to look to Christ as his model. He should use plain language intelligible to the audience in order that the truth of the Bible might be made available to the common man or woman, that the lost might be saved, and the kingdom of God advanced.

In his concluding essay, "Broadus's Living Legacy," James Patterson points to Broadus's timeliness on an issue that has drawn much attention among Southern Baptists today, that is, the role of Calvinism. Broadus was one of the founding faculty of Southern Seminary, and he, like his colleagues, "openly identified themselves as Calvinists." But it was not the dogmatic, five-point Calvinism associated with the Synod of Dort (1618-19). It was one that "upheld a robust view of divine providence, single predestination, a 'corrupt' Adamic sin nature, monogeristic salvation, and perseverance of the saints." In short, it was "an evangelical Calvinism that suitably balanced God's controlling hand in human history with an urgent sense of proclaiming the gospel to the lost" (245-246).

John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy should find its way onto the shelves of seminary libraries and into the personal libraries of ministers–especially but not only--Southern Baptists. It is both a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of Southern Baptist history and stimulus for a well informed presentation of the gospel message in a postmodern world.

Andrew's Bookshelf

Stealth Boat
Gannon McHale
Naval Institute Press
9781591145028 $24.95

For too many years, the activities of the American submarine fleet during the Cold War have been classified, and only recently have their exploits begun to be publicized.

Author Gannon McHale was one of those submariners. An enlisted man on board the USS Sturgeon, his book "Stealth Boat" is his memoir of his time in the Navy. Writing on the camaraderie of his fellow sailors as well as the missions they performed, McHale does an excellent job combining the human face – and humor – of his crewmen with the highly technical and extremely dangerous missions chasing Soviet nuclear boats in late 1960's.

McHale is a good writer with a fine eye for details. "Stealth boat" is far more than a dry re-cap of those forty year-old missions; it helps the reader get to know those young sailors who performed those missions with a professionalism and spirit that helped hound the Soviet Navy back to the relative safety of its ports.

The Devil's Alchemists
A.R. Homer
Lumina Press
9781595265036 $13.45

There are many fiction stories coming out the war in Europe, and "The Devil's Alchemists" is certainly one of the most unique.

A blend of fact and fiction, Author A.R. Homer presents a plausible situation where the Nazi's blackmail Jewish scientists to help them develop an atomic bomb prior to America. Homer skillfully blends the known facts of the Nazi atomic program – which was started by the many German Jewish scientists who fled to America - with the conceivable idea that the Nazi's could have blackmailed them by threatening to send their families to the death camps.

Homer is a good writer with a fine eye for detail. His characters are well-developed, and their dialogue accurately reflects society of that time period. Could the scenario "The Devil's Alchemists" presents have happened? The actual historical records of the time are brief enough that Homer's story could well be accurate. Sehr gut !

Quicksilver: A Greyhound at Sea
Cdr Jack Wells, USN, Ret.
Infinity Publishing,
0741440598 $19.95

Few readers today know what the Navy did off the Vietnamese coast in the 1960's, but "Quicksilver: A Greyhound at Sea" will quickly educate them.

Author Jack Wells, a retired Navy Commander, has written a historical fiction novel based on his time at sea during the Vietnam War. He's placed a crew of officers and enlisted men on a Gearing Class Destroyer and given the reader a front-row seat of their year away from home. Although Vietnam was primarily a land war, the Navy conducted multiple missions, and Wells brings both the tedium of sea duty interspersed with the exhilaration of combat.

This is a well-written book. A former mustang officer, Wells has an eye for detail and writes from the viewpoint of one who has "been there." His characters come alive and are believable; no small feat for a first-time author. With so few books on the market about Navy actions in Vietnam, "Quicksilver: A Greyhound at Sea" would have made an excellent memoir of a time, place, and actions that few people know occurred. Recommended !

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Our Longest Days
Sandra Koa Wing, editor
Profile Books
9781846680885, $15.95,

Eisenhower, Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin...all big players in World War II, all larger than life figures in their own right. But what about the every day common folk? "Our Longest Days: A People's History of the Second World War" takes a look at the social history of the British people during the troubling times of World War II and the constant bombardments from Nazi Germany. With well more than a hundred thousand casualties, England's home front has a battlefield in its own right, and "Our Longest Days" sings the praises of these unsung heroes of the World's bloodiest conflict.

Battling the Witch
Storm Kai
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432726454, $14.95,

There is one witch that forever stalks everyone - the witch of life. "Battling the Witch" is an inspirational and spiritual memoir from Storm Kai, a strong believer in new age philosophies. With much advice and suggestions for dealing with the many aspects of life and its treacherousness and general witch-like actions, Kai gives readers much to think on. "Battling the Witch" is a worthwhile read indeed.

The Revenge of the Rinellis
K. Lynch
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432728106, $11.95,

When money is involved, all bets are off. "The Revenge of the Rinellis: Crisis in Paradise" is the third book in the Revenge of the Rinellis series. Carol wanted to escape her old life, but the past connections want to stay connected. Soon, she finds her son kidnapped and it's up to her and a doctor friend by the name of Jack Eisner to save her family and bring peace back to the island Carol once called a paradise. An exciting thriller, "The Revenge of the Rinellis" is a solid read through and through.

Authentic Relations Therapy
Laura Poole
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159222, $14.95,

There's a lot about the everyday practices of people that doesn't make sense. "Authentic Relations Therapy" is composed by a psychotherapist who explains that this fact is what makes it hard for some people to function in today's world. An act of sorting out her own observations, Poole presents many enlightening thoughts during her examination of her patients and how today's world can be improved. "Authentic Relations Therapy" is poignant and excellent reading.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Supreme Courtship
Christopher Buckley
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave, New York, New York 10017
9780446579827 $24.99

Former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush and current editor of Forbes FYI, Christopher Buckley has authored thirteen books to date. His wicked wit has found a ready audience with the readers of The New Yorker magazine and 60 of his comic essays have appeared in the weekly publication.

Buckley is the recipient of both the Washington Irving medal for Literary Excellence (2002) and the Thurber Prize for American Humor (2004). In this latest novel the lauded humorist focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Miffed that his first appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court has been rejected by Congress, President Donald Vanderdamp next nominates someone so beloved by the public that the senators don't dare nix the nominee. Vanderdamp. is right, The star of the nation's most popular reality show, Judge Pepper Cartwright, is a shoo-in.

When the sexy Texan arrives in the capital everyone is in for a rollicking good time, including her colleagues on the bench of the nation's highest court who aren't quite ready for a woman with Pepper's innumerable "talents".

The indomitable new justice not only finds herself caught up in the middle of a constitutional crisis and a bizarre reelection campaign that the sitting president wants to lose, but she also finds her relationship with the court's Chief Justice extends beyond just legal jousting.

From the first paragraph, "Supreme Courtship" offers a delicious (some might say scandalous) romp through the halls of the most august legal institution in the land. There will be no mistrial declared here - Christopher Buckley is guilty as charged. His crime? Ridiculing the folks who conduct the country's business and satirizing life inside the Beltway!

The Good Thief
Hannah Tinti
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
9780385337458 $25.00

After her critically acclaimed collection of short stories entitled "Animal Crackers", it was only a matter of time before Hannah Tinti penned her first novel, "The Good Thief". This much anticipated debut is certainly well worth waiting for.

Tinti's twelve year old protagonist is an orphan, Ren, with a missing hand who has lived at Saint Anthony's Orphanage since he was an infant. Curious about how he lost his hand and who his parents were, Ren also worries about the day when he will have to leave the orphanage and live on his own.

The boy's life takes an interesting twist when a young man, Ben Nab, appears, claiming to be Ren's long lost brother. His tale explaining what happened to their parents and how Ren lost his hand convinces the monks who operate Saint Anthony's to release the youngster to Ben's custody.
Although he may or may not be a relative, Ben does hold the answers to the child's past. The two embark on an odyssey through New England that takes the boy on a hardscrabble journey where he meets am assortment of scam artists, grave robbers and petty thieves.

This haunting tale of a youth's unforgettable journey of self-discovery is one that you won't soon forget. It also underscores the fact that Hannah Tianti's considerable literary skill as exhibited in her short fiction is not a fluke. This very gifted writer has the uncanny ability of engaging, holding and surprising her reader in ways that few of her peers would think of.

Executive Privilege
Phillip Margolin
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061236211 $25.95

The basic premise of Phillip Margolin's latest novel may be totally outlandish but it certainly makes for a fascinating read. Imagine, if you will, a scenario where the man sitting in the Oval Office just happens to be a serial killer.

When Dana Cutler, a private detective, is given the assignment of following an attractive college student around the nation's capital to see where she is going and what she might be up to, Dana considers it just a routine assignment.

Then one evening, the young coed has a secret meeting with Christopher Farrington, the current resident of the White House. When the girl is found dead the next morning, Dana knows there is nothing "routine" about this turn of events.

Meanwhile, out on the West Coast a convicted killer sitting on Death Row claims that he was framed and didn't kill the young girl who worked for Oregon's governor. Who was the governor at the time? Yup, Chris Farrington!

Finding herself at the center of a hornet's nest of epic proportions, Dana Cutler has to convince people that something totally inconceivable has occurred. It appears that a clever killer has been elected to the highest office of the land and the comely Cutler must expose him. Unfortunately, her adversary has the power to make sure his dark secret is never revealed and, even worse, she could well be his next victim.

This highly unconventional thriller is so mesmerizing that you'll find it all but impossible to set aside until you reach its totally unforeseen conclusion.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Churchill, Roosevelt and India
Auriol Weigold
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780415990028, $100.00 1-800-634-7064

Written by lecturer, researcher, and political historian Auriol Weigold, Churchill, Roosevelt and India: Propaganda During World War II is a scholarly analysis of Britain's propaganda campaign and America's involvement with it, during in the years leading up to Gandhi's emergence and India's independence. Exhaustively researched, Churchill, Roosevelt and India closely scrutinizes the messages that world leaders delivered to one another and the (sometimes drastically different!) messages they delivered to their subjects. Chapters cover "Cripps, India, and the Evolution of the Propaganda Campaign", "United States: Approach to Information Gathering", "What Britain Said about Cripps' Offer", "What America Heard about Cripps' Offer", and much more. A welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to college library political science reference shelves. "American information gained from Roosevelt's formal, official sources was generally not available to the British, and reports were based in behind-the-scenes knowledge of Cripps' negotiations".

Principle-Centered Financial Series
Matt Schoenfeld
Beacon Hill Press
PO Box 419527, Kansas City, MO 64141
$6.99 each 816-931-1900

Three paperback books in financial coach Matt Schoenfeld's "Principle-Centered Financial Series" teach readers of all financial backgrounds how to budget and grow their income. Although Schoenfeld offers financial advice from a Christian perspective, the guidelines here are emphatically practical, and useful to readers regardless of their personal religious faith. "Living Debt Free" (9780834123885) offers an easy-to-follow, ten-step plan to reduce and eliminate debt, improve one's credit, deal with creditors, lower interest rates, and avoid burdening oneself with excessive debt in the future. "Managing Your Money" (9780834123878) gives seven ways to immediately improve one's money management situation, and means to set up an effective money management system, avoid interest payments, and reap the benefits of automatic money management tools. "Learning To Invest" (9780834123892) suggests responsible ways to invest at low risk, explains the power of diversifying one's holdings, and features strategies for setting and reaching one's investment goals. All are top-notch, highly readable titles enthusiastically recommended for anyone responsible for the household budget.

Excel Saga: Volume 18
Rikdo Koshi
Viz Communications Inc.
295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
9781421521558, $9.99 1-800-394-3042

Presented in its original, "unflipped" format that has to be read right-to-left, volume 18 of Excel Saga continues Rikdo Koshi's black-and-white manga comedy adventure about two morally ambiguous individual's quests for power - and the loopy characters that serve them! In volume 18, the ever-enthusiastic Excel has become so competent and capable at executing the plans of Lord Il Palazzo that something must be drastically, terribly wrong - yet only Elgala realizes this! How can Elgala, who habitually speaks out her innermost thoughts, keep her suspicions a secret from Excel? Meanwhile, daily life is a struggle for survival among the minions of bureaucrat and master manipulator Dr. Kabapu - when the android Ropponmatsu II runs low on power she goes to Sumiyoshi for help... and in the process downloads his (questionable) dating simulation games that have a direct effect on her personality! Cover to cover hijinks and wacky over-the-top humor abound in this latest, laugh-packed festival.

InuYasha Ani-Manga: Volume 30
Created by Rumiko Takahashi
Viz Communications Inc.
295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
9781421516882, $11.99 1-800-394-3042

The long-running fantasy saga of InuYasha centers upon the alliance between InuYasha, a canine half-demon; Kagome, a young Japanese girl with the power to see invisible auras and travel through time; and their friends, against a murderously tyrannical demon lord. Volume 30 of the InuYasha Ani-Manga series continues this creative, full-color graphic novel adaptation of the animated television series based on Rumiko Takahashi's popular and beloved fantasy saga, using cels from the animated series as its art. Though ani-manga is an adaptation of an adaptation, the characters, art, and storytelling stye remain faithful to Takahashi's work. Volume 30 of InuYasha Ani-Manga features completely original stories in the spirit of the manga, from an encounter with the mischievous servants of a monkey god, to Kagome's bout with illness (and exams) in her home of present-day Japan, to the bond Kagome's little brother forms with Inu-Yasha as he works up the nerve to confess his feelings to a girl. InuYasha Ani-Manga volume 30 is highly recommended to fans of the series, but one doesn't have to have read the previous 29 volumes to understand and enjoy the contents of this one.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Farewell Alexandria
Derek Adie Flower
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781847534422, $30.50

Farewell Alexandria is a novel spanning multiple generations, set in Egypt, London, Paris, and New York, among other global locations. Following Julius Caspar, a billionaire oil tycoon from his work as a bank clerk in the Mediterranean to his attempts to win love at a young age to amassment of wealth and power, Farewell Alexandria is a tale of destiny, as well as reflection when old age and the shadow of death come to claim their due. An enthralling modern saga, highly recommended.

The Travels Of Annie T. Hastings
Patrick Egan
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435714168, $14.30,

Based somewhat on author Patrick Egan's mother's personal story, "The Travels Of Annie T. Hastings"is that story of 70-year old Annie Hastings who embarks upon a quest to locate her long-lost daughter. The girl was torn from Annie's arms as a newborn infant which Annie was forced to relinquish for adoption. What Annie now seeks is finding her daughter and obtaining understanding, forgiveness, love, and coming the healing of a heart-wound that has been with her for more than half a century. Armed with a gun and a typewriter, as well as being companioned by her dog, Annie encounters memorable characters, undergoes unexpected adventures, and best of all, engages the reader's rapt attention from first page to last making "The Travels Of Annie T. Hastings" an entertaining and highly recommended read which is at times as thoughtful as it is memorable.

The Southern Swamp Explorer
Irene Brady
Nature Works Press
PO Box 469, Talent, OR 97540
9780915965052, $19.95,

Swamps are wetland areas which provide home and habitat to a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Swamps are located throughout a wide swath of area spreading across the Southeastern United States from Texas to the Carolinas. The result of a decade long research project, "The Southern Swamp Explorer" is informatively written and profusely illustrated by Irene Brady who blends her impressively researched data with the skills of a natural story teller. The result is a compendium of information and facts about forty-six animals associated with these wetland ecosystems. Of special note is the engaging discussion of the characteristics of a swamp, how they are formed, the different classifications of swamps, and the types of plants and wildlife to be found in cypress swamps, as well as the hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, and scrub lands that surround them. Enhanced with a comprehensive four-page index, "The Southern Swamp Explorer" is appropriate as a curriculum supplement for environmental studies and highly recommended for non-specialist general readers ages 13 to adult.

Educando Hijos Exitosos
Rosina Mena Gallagher & James T. Webb
Great Potential Press
PO Box 5057, Scottsdale, AZ 85261
9780910707916, $9.95,

Co-authored by school psychologist and educator Rosina M. Gallagher and clinical psychology James T. Webb (who also founded the Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG), "Educando Hijos Exitosos" is Spanish language edition of Webb's 'Parenting Successful Children'. With an expanded text specifically formatted for an Hispanic readership, "Educando Hijos Exitosos" is a 36-page booklet packed from cover to cover with specific, practical suggestions for enabling parents to create and maintain positive, successful, influential relationships with their children. Offering more than twenty effective strategies that will strengthen parental communication skills, "Educando Hijos Exitosos" is highly recommended reading for Hispanic parents and a welcome addition to counseling center and community library collections catering to an Hispanic population.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

World of Goo
Brighter Minds Media, LLC
600 Lakeview Plaza Blvd., Suite D, Worthington, OH 43085

Rated E for Everyone by the ESRB, World of Goo is a creatively brilliant computer game on CD-ROM for the PC. Though World of Goo is a puzzle game that simulates physics, it is astoundingly easy to pick up and play. The player's goal is drag and drop endearing little goo-creatures (cute gooey blobs with eyeballs) to build structures that reach a mysterious exit drainpipe. Each goo distends one, two, or three limbs when so moved, forming semi-stable shapes that can be stacked upon one another - but the goos crawling up and down the structure have their own mass, and a stiff wind can tip over one's goo tower all too easily! A quirky charm reminiscent of Tim Burton and a sense of humor written into the guiding "signs" enhance this wonderfully captivating and addictive puzzle game, so easy to learn yet so difficult to master! A free mode in which one can build anything one desires with collected goos, and the option to join online rankings round out this brilliantly inventive game that shines all the brighter in today's era of endless video game sequels and clones.

Shrink Your Lawn
Evelyn J. Hadden, text and photos
LessLawn Press
16275 County Road 47, Plymouth, MN 55446
9781439217658, $28.99

Color photographs on virtually every page illustrate Shrink Your Lawn: Design Ideas For Any Landscape, a resource packed cover to cover with ideas for gardens that beautify and replace sections of one's lawn. From rain gardens to boulevard gardens, stroll gardens, herb gardens, and more, Shrink Your Lawn is filled cover to cover with tips, tricks, ideas, and instructions to beautify one's property. A wonderful book for property owners to browse for ideas. "Mowing the narrow strip of lawn adjacent to the alley or driveway is often work without reward. It is one of the best places to turn a negative into a positive and start shrinking your lawn... If you don't want to exchange the trouble of mowing for other chores like watering, use plants that need little care."

Lobbying and Advocacy
Deanna R. Gelak
PO Box 25706, Alexandria, VA 22313-5706
9781587331008, $57.00 www.TheCapitol.Net 1-877-228-5086

Lobbying and Advocacy is a solid, in-depth manual highly recommended for anyone seeking to lobby governmental officials or advocate public policy. Packed cover to cover with tips, checklists, and examples, Lobbying and Advocacy is intended to be a thorough reference and resource for lobbyists of all skill and experience levels. Major topics covered include "Legal and Ethical Considerations", "Develop, Never Devalue, Grassroots", "Multiply Your Influence: Coalitions and Partners" and much more. A wealth of appendices and an index round out this absolute "must-have" for any professional in the field. "Members of Congress and staff may never solicit a gift, or accept a gift that is linked to any action they have taken or are being asked to take. Members of Congress, their staff, and congressional officers are generally not permitted to accept gifts or meals from lobbyists, foreign agents, or their employing organizations, with certain exceptions... Do not offer any gifts or meals, plan congressional events, negotiate employment or arrange trips with policymakers unless you are absolutely certain that no rules are being violated."

ISP Certification
Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP, MBA
Red Bike Publishing
107 Ruskin Drive, Madison, Alabama 35757
9780981620602, $60.00

Written by a security consult of twenty-two years of experience in military intelligence, contracting and security, ISP Certification: The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual is a instructional resource created to provide career security specialists with what they need to know to protect our nation's secrets. The text offers practical advice for security professionals and a working understanding of the NISPOM and Presidential Executive Orders implementing the National Industrial Security Program, but the heart of ISP Certification is its four practice tests designed to probe the depths of one's knowledge. An absolute "must-have" for anyone in federal positions requiring a thorough knowledge of security procedures, and highly recommended for the libraries of federal agencies.

105 Great Stories
Dr. Rob Gilbert and Gary Pritchard
GJP Inc. Publishing
40 Monroe Street, Ramsey, NJ 07446
9780981858302, $24.95

105 Great Stories is a helpful resource for coaches, leaders, teachers, or parents to motivate people of all ages - or for any reader interested in a obtaining a little extra inspiration. Some of the stories are true; others are parables created to express a vital point. All are brief, spanning only one page, and have their moral stated in bold type at the bottom for extra reinforcement. These motivational tales are especially good for firing up a group in preparation for taking on a team challenge - whether in sports, an academic competition, or even a theatrical performance. For example, "Story 49: Act Differently Than You Feel" is about world-class marathon runner Tom Fleming. "Years ago, when he spoke to one of my classes at Montclair State University, he told my students that he used to train by running 125 to 150 miles per week. One of my students asked Tom if he always felt like running. Tom said, 'Most days I didn't feel like running until I start running!' 'Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.'"

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Fearless Fourteen
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312349516 $27.95

Number fourteen in the Stephanie Plum series finds Stephanie still embroiled in her triangular relationship with cop Joe Morelli and security expert/mystery-man Ranger. Morelli's cousin, Dom Rizzi, has just been released from prison for robbing a bank with three other men, and escaping with nine million dollars. The money has never been found and rumor has it Rizzi hid the money and has returned to Trenton to claim it. Word gets out that Rizzi buried the money on Morelli's property and people start digging up the yard and breaking in. Stephanie becomes involved when Rizzi's sister, Loretta, misses her court date and Stephanie needs to take her in to be rebonded. But Loretta mysteriously disappears and Stephanie's stuck with her son, Mario, who goes by the name Zook and is a serious gamer. One of Rizzi's partners is holding Loretta hostage for the nine million dollars and it falls to Stephanie to try to find the money and rescue Loretta.

Two things this reader can always count on from Evanovich: humorous scenes and wacky characters. Fearless Fourteen does not disappoint in this regard. All those wonderful zany characters are back, including Lula, who manages to convince Tank he asked her to marry him and is now heavily involved in planning a June wedding. Stephanie continues to be unable to make up her mind between Morelli and Ranger, and Grandma Mazur is now one serious gamer when she isn't going to viewings at the funeral home. The plot is fun and the humor comes at the reader fast and heavy, which makes the read all that more enjoyable.

It Happens in Threes
Denise Robbins
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX 77549
9781603180863 $18.95

In one day, Ruby Goodman loses her job and finds her fiance in bed with another woman. Ruby's philosophy being everything bad happens in threes, she escapes to her family's vacation home in Key Largo to await the next disaster in her life. There, she runs into her high school sweetheart, Michael Auguston, the man who's broken her heart twice before and seems intent on doing so again. Michael works for a government agency and is dealing with his partner's betrayal while gearing up to go after Nicholas LaRue, a Frenchman who hides his illicit involvement in money laundering under the guise of a computer security consulting firm. When Michael learns Ruby, an expert hacker, was mentored by LaRue, he brings her into his investigation. The two head to Hawaii, with the intention of hiring LaRue to consult for Michael's imaginary business while Ruby breaks into LaRue's system and tracks his funds. Instead, Michael and Ruby are drawn into danger from a source neither one expects.

It Happens in Threes is packed with scorching romance, nail-biting suspense, and nonstop action. The chemistry between Ruby and Michael sizzles and Robbins gives the reader quite the tease along with a lot of fun as she adroitly brings Michael and Ruby together only to pull them apart through their own misperceptions. The characters are engaging, from the sensual Ruby to hot-tempered Michael to the deliciously evil yet debonair LaRue. The story moves at a fast pace and keeps the reader entertained throughout. Consider this book one rollicking good read.

Never Tell a Lie
Hallie Ephron
William Morrow/Harper Collins
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061567155 $24.95

High school sweethearts Ivy and David Rose are married, living in their dream home and expecting their first child. Ivy's hormones are raging and she's in the mood to clean house so the couple clear out their attic and hold a yard sale. Melinda White, a former classmate from high school, unexpectedly shows up, looking as pregnant as Ivy. David and Ivy don't recognize her at first, but when they do, remember her as the oddball who never seemed to fit in. Melinda's strange behavior unnerves Ivy, so David offers to show Melinda their house, and from that point, Melinda disappears. When her blouse and pants are found in a trunk sitting on the Rose's curb waiting for garbage disposal, David becomes the prime suspect since he was the last one seen with Melinda. At every turn, more evidence turns up against David and he's placed under arrest. In Ivy's search to find out what really happened to Melinda, she discovers some unexpected secrets leading back to their high school years.

Although the plot is predictable, this well-written suspense holds the reader's attention. However, at times, the mannerisms of Ivy and her best friend Jody seem immature and the two are not that likeable. Ivy's past behavior, along with Jody's, tended to be bullying, and Ivy seems oblivious to anyone outside her world. Although the beginning tends to lag, the book picks up speed and by the end delivers the suspense it promises.

Past Due
William Lashner
William Morrow/HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0060508175 $24.95

Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl is broke, as usual, and his father is lying in a hospital bed near death. Victor's client Joey "Cheaps" Parma seeks Victor's advice about a murder he was involved in 20 years before of Thomas Greeley, a law student/drug kingpin. Soon after his confession, Joey's body is found on the waterfront, with his throat slit. Victor, always defender of the underdog, knows the police won't put too much effort into finding Joey's killer, so Victor commits to finding out why Joey was murdered. His investigation leads him back to Joey's youth, and on to the people surrounding Thomas Greeley, including a present Supreme Court jurist and his eccentric wife and her life journals which hold the secret behind Joey's death.

Victor Carl is perhaps the best character written today. His self-deprecating comments, inner turmoil, and reflections reveal a man whose demons from the past influence his present-day life. The relationship with his father, previously tumultuous, is now mellowing as his father's health deteriorates. Lashner delivers intriguing characters with real depth and dimension. Victor Carl's introspections are insightful and well-delivered and simply eloquent. The plot is a twisty one, and the read lengthier than most mysteries, but well worth the time.

The Vanished Man
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0743222008 $25.00

A music school student is murdered and the killer flees into a locked classroom with no way out. When the police break down the door, the killer has vanished. Criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs are called in to investigate. It doesn't take them long to figure out the police were duped by the killer, whom they name "the conjurer" due to his magical feats in escaping. The conjurer leads the police on a meandering investigation as he continues on his killing spree, leaving behind bits of evidence which they eventually learn are clues to deliberately misdirect them. Rhyme can't help but be impressed by the conjurer's skills at illusion and magic. With the aid of Kara, a student illusionist, Rhyme and Sachs attempt to catch their killer through their own planned misdirections.

Deaver writes an exceptional series with outstanding characters. Rhyme is a brilliant man frustrated with his physical disability who relies on Sachs's skills at gathering evidence and investigating onsite. The two make for one powerful team, aided by detectives within the New York Police Department. Kara is an intriguing character, a young woman talented in magic who despairs over the mental health of her mother and sacrifices much for her welfare. As always, deeper, underlying layers of Rhyme's and Sachs's personas are subtly unveiled. Deaver leads the reader through a complicated mystery, filled with twists and turns, the final one which the reader won't see coming.

Letting Go: An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Journey Of Healing & Transformation
Nancy A. Kaiser
Visual Impressions Publishing
80 Merrie Way, Waynesville, NC 28786
9780981463323 $21.95

With five short words ("I never wanted this house"), Nancy Kaiser's world came to a screeching halt. Nancy and her husband Bob had retired to North Carolina, where they planned to build their dream home on a mountain they chose as their special place. Before the house was finished, Bob said these words to Nancy, and from that point on, her world tilted and her life became off-balance. Alone, six hundred miles from family and friends, nothing seemed to go right for Nancy. On her own, she had to face the deaths of dear friends and beloved animal companions, as well as problems which kept cropping up with the house she moved into, all while dealing with the trauma of divorcing her husband.

Although the title describes Nancy as an "ordinary woman", perhaps a more appropriate nomenclature would be an exceptional person in tune with nature who not only understands the connection between animals and humans but is able to communicate with animals. A woman dedicated to finding her center through spiritual and cerebral means, pitting ego against soul, learning to love herself, trust her decisions, and focus on the positive instead of the negative. This outstanding book leads the reader through Nancy's soul-searching journey of transformation, from a woman filled with anger and rage and negativity to one who is at peace with herself and her feelings and has learned to let go of the things she cannot control. The reader will feel Nancy's pain as she struggles and rejoice with her as she begins to progress toward her life's goal. The lessons learned in this book are of great significance and will gift the reader with a better understanding of "self". Highly recommended.

Weather of the Heart: A Child's Journey out of Revolutionary Russia
Nora Lourie Percival
High Country Publishers LLD
Boone, NC
0971304599 $19.95

Nora Percival began her life as a pampered, well-loved child in Samara, Russia, on the banks of the Volga River. Her father was a businessman, her mother a talented pianist. Her early years were fun and happy, and Nora was a bubbly, curious child. Soon, though, upheaval overtook her life with the advent of the Russian Revolution. Nora's father, targeted by the Communist regime, escaped to America, leaving behind Nora and her mother, a woman in fragile health who suffered from depression. The two were forced to move in with Nora's grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins in a small apartment, where food and heat were scarce. Everyone, from the wealthy to the poorest, suffered during this time. Starvation was rampant and Nora's family became alarmed when first small domestic animals disappeared, then small children. Nora's father finally managed to get funds to the family, and eventually Nora and her mother sailed to America. But Nora's mother's homesickness sent them back across the ocean, only as far as England, where Nora's mother was hospitalized and Nora ended up first in a work house, then in a hostel for transmigrates, where she anxiously awaited word from her father and longed to be back in America.

What an interesting, wonderful story. Nora is a prodigious child who learns to read at an early age and teaches herself English. Her effervescent personality shines throughout the book, and one feels sorrow for such a young girl forced to live in horrific depravity, while taking on adult responsibilities and caring for her mother, whose depression never lessens. Percival excels at drawing the reader into her story with rich descriptives and prolific insight enmeshed within a period of history that is as fascinating as it is tragic. Historic buffs will appreciate a first-hand look at the events leading up to the Russian Revolution as well as those during and after. Excellent book. Highly recommended.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Diane Ackerman
W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
9780393333060 $14.95

This is the true story of Jan and Antonia Zabinski, zoo keepers of the Warsaw's Poland Zoo. They risked their lives to keep many Jews safe from the Nazi Holocaust. This epic tale is unusual because this couple was Catholic and safe from persecution. They took many risks to provide shelter as they were compassionate patriots.

Jan and Antonia managed the zoo and were well-known as having one of the greatest zoos in Europe. The zoo was bombed during the invasion which created massive destruction. Some of the animals were shipped to Germany to safeguard them from further harm. Then to make matters even worse, the Nazis came back to the zoo and they killed many of the animals for sport and cruelly shot them in their cages.

Jan and Antonina enlarged tunnels built under cages, erected false panels in the main house creating hidden rooms, and even zoo cages where made habitable. During this period almost 100 people, at any given time, were living in these secret places.

Antonina realized that if you hid people in plain view and acted as though nothing was amiss, the Nazis would not discover them. Even a housekeeper who cared for the home did not suspect anything, because the people, who were hiding, only came out at night! They all stayed in the tunnels or behind false panels during the day with a strict code of silence. Heightening the intrigue, the Nazis had an ammunition building on the property.

As a leading member in the Polish underground, Jan considered it necessary to gain entry to the Warsaw Ghetto, saving many Jews. There were times when Jan was able to use his skills as an animal handler to further help people in the Ghetto. He had convinced the Germans to allow him to raise pigs at the zoo in order to feed German soldiers. He also used the pigs to feed his "guests".

Diane Ackerman's research into this book enhances this remarkable story. This is a great read and would make a spell-binding movie; picture exotic zoo animals, people hiding in tunnels, and exploding bombs.

How to Make Colleges Want You: Insider Secrets for tipping the Admission Odds in Your Favor Mike Moyer
Sourcebooks, Inc.
9781402213670 $12.95

Whether you are a freshman or a senior in high school, this book is an eye-opener for you! Mike Moyer tells you the way to dramatically increase your chances of getting into the college of your choice. In How to Make Colleges Want You, he provides fresh approaches to getting your college application out of the maybe or no stacks, to the yes we want you stack. The book also contains references to Mike's website: where additional information and additions to the chapters are contained.

Mike tells you what he did to get accepted to the college of his choice by describing his unusual activity of raising homing pigeons while in high school. He took a homing pigeon to his first interview with the admissions counselor and sent a message to himself from the counselor! This NTA (non-teenage activity) got him recognized as special.

Getting into a competitive college requires a lot more than grades or regular school activities; it is a question of planning. Moyer makes suggestions to accomplish the goal of getting into a prestigious college with his inside secrets. A few are, attending a community college for a year or two to obtain better grades, transfer in to fill one of the vacancies left by someone who has moved on, and start in mid-year instead of competing with the freshman entry class.

Consider there are 43,000 high schools and an equal number of valedictorians who apply to highly competitive colleges. Their applications are your competition for admission to these colleges and even with good grades, you still are not in their strata. The techniques in this book are designed to raise your chances for admission by 10 to 20 per cent. When you apply Mike's ideas during your high school years, the odds are even better.

Mike Moyer is unique, as he not only provides this fairly inexpensive blue print for success, he lectures at high schools giving students a great heads-up on obtaining admission to choice schools. He has a highly informative lecture on CD which is available at his website: As a bonus, Mike offers a 25% discount to readers of this column who want to learn more. Enter the code "CLARK" for the discount.

A Beautiful Mine: Women Prospectors of the Old West
Chris Enss
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
9780762743728 $12.95

There's gold in them thar hills, and the women came to get it out! Chris Enss presents some of the finest snapshots of women prospectors of the old west and how they made their mark in history. When reading these marvelous tales of rough and tumble characters it is impossible not to get a feeling how our western states were developed.

There are many illustrations and actual photographs which depict how hard life actually had been for these women. Through the years they not only prospected, they found gold and had the mines to show for it. Side line businesses were started so as to fund their ventures in the hills. We learn about their restaurants, boarding houses, and managing skills. Yet, they gave charity to miners on the skids by giving them free food, bathing, and often staking to search for a new claim. Compassion was really the second name for many of these tough broads, but never cross them like Jamieson did when he shot and killed Charley (Charlotte) Hatfield's husband. She did a lot of searching for many years until she caught up with him by chance and shot him three times!

Author Chris Enss brings to this compilation of true stories, a keen eye for interesting anecdotes about each of these women of the old west. In 1905 Lillian Malcolm said "The grandest and healthiest life known is this rough pioneer life. And I don't see why more women are not in the hills." Early photographs are from many historical societies in the western states and you have to see them to really get this wonderful flavor of seeing a woman swinging a pick or sifting a pan for gold.

Chris has written for television, short subject films, live performances, and the movies. Her professionalism shines and you are easily transported to yesteryear in an old western motif. Past books have included The Doctor Wore Petticoats, The Lady Was a Gambler, Pistol Packin' Madams, and Outlaw Tales of California. A Beautiful Mine is a recommended exceptional read and a great addition for your bookshelf.

Clark Isaacs

Clay's Bookshelf

Where Do I Go?: A Yada Yada House of Hope Novel
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Inc
PO Box 141000 Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781595545237 $14.99

Gabby Fairbanks seems so lost. Her husband Philip insisted upon moving to Chicago to start his own business while her two young sons are still back in Virginia in private school and spending weekends with Philip's parents. With a struggling marriage Gabby has all but lost hope till she meets Lucy the old homeless woman and by a series of events comes upon Manna House a homeless shelter for women. Against her husband's wishes she applies and gets the position of program director at Manna House filling the empty need in her heart but Philip is full of ultimatums determined that him and his business must come first.

Based on the old song by Dottie Rambo,"Where Do I Go?" is an outstanding novel! A new series by the author Neta Jackson continuing from the world of the "Yada Yada Prayer Group". Believe me this reviewer was new to this group but if this novel is a showing of what Jackson writes you'll want to read all of her books! Your heart will pull for Gabby and possibly want to do Philip in as the characters are that much alive and real as you lose yourself in Gabby's world. A must read as we all struggle with the issues of faith, prayer and trust in God. Perfect for reader's groups or self-study and included are questions to ponder upon. So whether young or old alike don't miss this definite hit!

My Mother's Wish: An American Christmas Carol
Jerry Camery-Haggatt
WaterBrook Press a division of Random House
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400074051 $12.99

Eleanor Ellee Kumquat Crumb McKutcheon- Eleanor is her mother's name for her which she hates and Kumquat is just one of the many nicknames all of the vegetable variety that her dad calls her. But Ellee just wants to be known as Ellee not what anyone else wants her to be but who she is, which is not her sister Susan or her grandmother Eleanor but Ellee the carefree gypsy at heart.

Along the way she finds herself at the Comeback Cafe where she begins to put her life together to see where she belongs and the peace that transcends life.

An outstanding tale perfect anytime not just Christmas. Author Jerry Camery-Haggett is an excellent story teller as we all struggle to make others see who we really are. An easy carefree read only ninety-six pages a must read for a nice quiet day or as the storms of life rage. "My Mother's Wish" is one you may want to add to your own Christmas tradition each year as this is one book not to be missed that you'll want to read and reread again!

Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best Loved Books
Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014
9780143113365 $13.00

Take fifty all time best loved books and the intriguing stories behind each one and you have "Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?" Authors Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy have searched the stories behind the stories and the lives of the authors such as Jane Austen, Stephen King, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Margaret Mitchell, Mary Shelley and F. Scott Fitzgerald and this is just naming a few! This is an outstanding resource for literature lovers that will captivate you from cover to cover. Excellent also is the "Further Reading" section at the back of the book that lists three or more other books to research about each author if you wish to learn more. Just an example is the book "Carrie" by Stephen King you will find out it was published in 1974. You will learn a little about King's life up till the publishing than in the back of the book is three more books and the official Stephen King website to research even more. You'll see such great fiction books as "Valley of the Dolls", "The Color Purple", "Winnie-the-Pooh", "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Catcher in the Rye". Also excellent nonfiction books such as "Roots", "Scouting for Boys", "All the President's Men" and "Guinness World Records" which is the most stolen book from libraries! So whether you are an avid book reader or want to know more about the authors this is one book not to be missed!

The Cure
Athol Dickson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Ave South Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
9780764205200 $13.99

Riley Keep once reverend, missionary, than teacher, now several years drunk is afraid of his past; afraid of his future knows he has to return to his home – Dublin, Maine. But what will he find there? Surely his ex-wife and daughter won't receive him with open arms. He just knows he has to return with his friend Brice. Rumors abound in the bars, homeless shelters and anywhere else the homeless seek shelter that the cure – the cure for alcoholism can be found in Dublin. So Riley feels he has no choice or his friend will die. They must go back and find "The Cure" at what price remains to be seen….

What an outstanding tale! Author Athol Dickson has done it again! An amazing storyteller at his finest! Suspense, murder and mayhem Dickson pours out his God-given talent into his characters. Faith, hope and love are at the very core of this awesome novel. But not to be missed is the greed, corruption and homelessness that surrounds that very core that fights to snuff all the good out.

"The Cure" is definitely one tale not to be missed! It will grip the very heart of your soul and will hang on tight for an outstanding ride that all readers will not soon forget!

The Shape of Mercy
Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400074563 $13.99

Lauren Durough lives in two worlds, one she wishes to escape from the money of her family's and the fact she is not the son she thinks her father wanted. The other world is her choice of a state college instead of a prestige college. She is determined not to rely on daddy's money and sets out to find a job. She finds an intriguing job transcribing the seventeenth century diary of Mercy Hayworth wrongly accused and hanged during the Salem witch trials. The owner of the diary eighty-three year old retired librarian Abigail Boyles seems to have an interesting story as well as Lauren finds herself drawn into the life of Mercy and curious about the life of Abigail and how her life parallels the life of Mercy.

Throughout the course of transcribing the diary Lauren finds herself looking at her own life differently. She finds she judges people by outer appearances assessing attitudes and looks than to look within and see the real person on the inside. But can she come to change her prospective completely about people or will she miss out on possible relationships, friendships and possibly love? And when the time is right can she really make a difference in someone's life or remain the old Lauren?

What a totally amazing tale, a truly most awesome read for lovers of historical fiction! Author Susan Meissner draws you in so much into the world of Lauren that you find yourself lost in the lives of Lauren, Mercy and Abigail. The history is so accurate that you'll wonder if Mercy is fiction or did she play a part in the times of the Salem witch trials. Also included is a Reader's Guide perfect for reader's groups. But an awesome novel no matter how you read it. But watch out as you may find yourself looking at your own life a little differently!

Bon Appetit
Sandra Byrd
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400073283 $13.99

Alexandria "Lexi" Stuart's dream is coming true – or is it? She is in France attending a French pastry school and working for Monsieur Delacroix she finds life difficult as she struggles to make friends and to just fit in.

Slowly a friendship starts to grow with Annie one of her schoolmates but suspicions arise as it seems someone is sabotaging different students projects at school. Who can be trusted and who can't? It also seems Chief Desfreres doesn't like Americans or is it just Lexi's nerves getting the best of her?

Feelings arise with Philippe the widower son of Monsieur Delacroix and his young daughter Celine. But what of a possible future of continuing to fulfill her dreams and then there's Dan the man she left behind in Seattle. Homesickness abounds but what does the future hold – only time will tell as the homesickness and loneliness draws her closer and closer to God. As her faith in God grows Lexi can't help but wonder what the will of God is for her life.

Food antidotes and recipes abound! Ah "Bon Appetit" is amazing! Author Sandra Byrd has brought pastry alive in this her second installment of the "French Twist" series. Extra! (Wow!) This book is outstanding! This reviewer loved the antidotes before each chapter related to of course food! Be aware as you'll never look at the book of John (Jean) the same again and you may not see yourself the same either! So whether you like food or France or both you won't want to miss "Bon Appetit"!

Cyndere's Midnight
Jeffery Overstreet
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Boulevard Suite 200 Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
9781400072538 $13.99

The Keeper, descendants of Tammos Raak, the ale boy, Northchildren, Moon-spirits, beastmen, Cal-raven, Cyndere, Scharr ben Fray, Auralia all names that seem to rattle the mind. But these are just some of the outstanding characters in book two of Auralia's Thread. Author Jeffery Overstreet has done it again even more amazing than book one "Auralia's Colors" in this the blue thread "Cyndere's Midnight" we again see how the amazing colors of Auralia's lives on even after her death and how those outstanding colors affect those they come in contact with.

Here lies the many small tales woven into one. The ale boy determined to help others with the colors who moves in and out among the four houses once united now separated and at war with each other. The beastmen determined to kill all except Jordam who knew Auralia and was totally transformed to want to save and not destroy. And also the amazing Cyndere who after the death of her husband by a beastmen is determined to save and change the beastmen.

What an outstanding tale of fantasy that comes alive from the very beginning to the end! The story pulls you in so much so that20you'll not want to put this novel down. Definitely a continuation of book one but stands alone if you missed book one. You'll find out more of the history of the four houses and what happened to separate them. If you enjoy "Lord of the Rings" you'll not want to miss 'Cyndere's Midnight"!

Sinner: A Paradise Novel
Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000 Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781595540089 $24.99

Deep in the dungeons of the old monastery ancient history books were found by the children. But who knew the evil the children would unleash from those books. Today 13 years later Darcy and Billy know the power they process from those ancient books. But Billy blames himself for creating and unleashing Marsuvees Black the evil that plagues the earth. Johnny the outsider who wasn't one of the children and the third to receive powers uses his for good.

But all process gifts that can control the mind if people look directly into their eyes. Darcy can make people seem to do her will. Billy can hear and read the thoughts of people and Johnny is blind but can unleash a power that shows people the evil within them and then show them the light – the light of Jesus Christ. The world heads for a final showdown 3000 people called to the town of Paradise where this all began to stand against the evil in disguise of a new constitutional amendment which Darcy and Billy caused to happen concerning religion. The light and evil the greatest showdown of all time! Is it Darcy and Billy against Johnny or is there more at stake!

WOW! This novel will literally take your breathe away! In the final 20 days we know things will come to pass and this book will have you believing more with heart, mind, body and soul. Author Ted Dekker is an amazing wordsmith! This is definitely one book not to be missed. A definite must read for all teens and adults Christian or not. If you enjoy the books of Jerry Jenkins and/or Frank Peretti don't even think of missing the words of Ted Dekker! This one will have you questioning yourself – would you stand with the 3000 even if it costs you your very life!

Cheri Clay

Daniel's Bookshelf

The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy
Tom Chaffin
Hill and Wang
A Division of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780809095124 $26.00

My interest in the H.L. Hunley has grown with many readings by numerous historic writers. I recall its courageous voyages with the training of the two training trials, and preparing to sink the USS Housatonic that fateful day on February 17, 1864. I kept getting pieces of the whole story, and learned greater details, after its final recovery in 2000. I am sure more information will keep being discovered to record the entire history known to some future time-line. This book completes all the known history known now. The author Tom Chaffin writes an interesting narrative like his last book Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World-Odyssey of the the Confederate Raider Shenandoah in 2006.

The submarine H. L. Hunley with its crew of eight has the notoriety of sinking the first ship in history. The ship sank soon after a spar torpedo from the Hunley struck its side one fateful night for the Hunley's crew and the five aboard the Housatonic. The H.L. Hunley's was discovered in 1995. The submarine was located on the Atlantic ocean floor near Charleston, South Carolina, probably close to where she sank. Chaffin completes this tale of technological wonder with extensive interviews with Maria Jacobsen, senior archaeologist at Clemson University's Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where the Hunley is now being excavated. The account casts doubts upon many long-held assumptions particularly those concerning the boat's final hours. One of those including the storied blue light that it allegedly flashed to signal its triumph over the Housatonic. The H. L. Hunley-The Secret Hope of the Confederacy provides the definite history of this fabled craft.

I believe the distinguished Civil War-era historian Tom Chaffin has written a fascinating historic account of this legendary submarine, and presented the most thorough possible retelling of the Hunley's story. I agree this book is his best work and he keeps jumping over previous benchmarks on his scholarship and tales deep down into the uncharted fathoms of the Civil War. This book uses an extensive examination of primary documents which raises his contribution to better historic understanding. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history, and wants a better glance into this crafted and dramatic page turner of military history, that reads like a novel.

Lincoln and His Admirals
Craig L. Symonds
Published by Oxford University Press. Inc.
198 Madison Street, New York, NY 10016
9780195310221 $27.95 1-800-445-9714

I have read so many different aspects of Abraham Lincoln's life through so many books and magazine articles. I thought there could be nothing new or untouched in his life. Then by examining new books recently published, Lincoln And His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds was to be released in a few weeks. I spotted it shortly after on the bookshelf in one of my favorite bookstores. The author reveals an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now. Lincoln management of the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and the activities of the Union navy which ultimately affected the course of history.

Symonds begins with Lincoln's attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter which reflects heavily on our sixteenth President's inexperience and numerous errors in the handling of this effort. Symond continues to tracing Lincoln's steady growth as a wartime commander-in-chief. At that time Lincoln is absent a secretary of defense, so he would become de facto commander of joint operations along the coast and on the rivers. Lincoln had to learn how to deal with the personalities of the men who ran the navy. The cranky navy secretary, Gideon Welles, the quiet and reliable David G. Farragut, the flamboyant and unpredictable Charles Wilkes, the ambitious ordnance expert John Dahlgren, the well-connected Samuel Phillips Lee, and the self-promoting and gregarious David Dixon Porter. Symond showed how Lincoln was patient, but he learned fast on making decisions in a decisive manner. The momentum of various events made consequences of those decisions extremely evident. The lethargic actions of his senior naval officers were responded by Lincoln's disappointment, when he stepped into action and personally directed an amphibious assault on the Virginia coast. This lead to the capture of Norfolk. Lincoln's experience through commander under fire had created a great new naval strategist of his age.

This unique book has presented a startling look at Abraham Lincoln And His Admirals, where he admitted that he knew "little about ships." He came to preside over the largest national armada to that time. That was not eclipsed until World War 1. The book is written in an insightful narrative, and presents a much needed neglected dimension of Lincoln's wartime leadership. The account is very lively and informative. The Union navy and Lincoln's role in being commander-in-chief are both given the credit for playing an important part in winning the Civil War. One could hardly react differently after the reading of this definitive excellent book on this unexplored topic. I strongly urge all readers whose love of naval and wartime history to take a step into the exciting past. It contains one of our greatest president's roles with his naval officers and their definitive efforts.

American Rifle: A Biography
Alexander Rose
Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780553805178 $30.00 262-785-9000

Alexander Rose's book American Rifle caught my attention on the history of shoulder arms that the soldiers carried into battle and protected their homeland, comrades in arms, and when on foreign soil. His book covers all the known presidents, well known persons who used their own favorite rifle. Also the development by its inventors and eventually the mass production by the gun manufacturers, who produced the changes and numbers to outfit a war. Rose's biography parallels the American history from the American Revolution to the more recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rose draws from the words of soldiers, inventors, and presidents, and uses new research and gives a balanced entertaining history of this essential firearm to its proper status in American culture.

The Civil War proved to be costly to so many soldiers and the transition of the upcoming weapons came too few and too late to preserve more lives due to the proximity of the range along with the closeness of the enemy. The fortifications proved to be useful more than the open ground. An increase of sharpshooters proved to be valuable during the war and it's been argued that the muskets had their own problems during the conflict. This easy to read narrative outlines all the advances in rifle technology and ammunition which triggered did influence revolutions in military tactics. It even discusses ballistic tests which were kept secret and these firearms did determine the course of the entire war.

I strongly recommend the book mainly on the basis to understand the author's intent to give a concise history of an American phenomenon that being the word rifle. I concur that Alexander has presented a first of its kind book which is an American icon. The knowledge of understanding the shoulder arm used all through American history and the soldier's reliance on its fire and accuracy to protect himself and his comrades. Rose has considered possibly for his next project American Soldier and later on might do American Handgun / Pistol to balance his account of the rifle. American Rifle proved to be a must read for all of those interested the shoulder weapon including gun collectors, soldiers, along with anyone interested in our nation's history.

The Coming of the Civil War
Elizabeth R. Varon
The University of North Carolina Press
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517-3808
9780807832325 $30.00 800-848-6224

I learned many things upon reading this great book including the fear of earlier Americans about the word Disunion, and how it began early in America's history up to the period of the Civil War. Elizabeth R. Varon did heavy research and explored this topic to make it definitive book explaining the effect Disunion had upon the various political groups and the citizens from our founding fathers and later on. The author makes it clear the word was considered by Northerners and Southerners. The author stays balanced in her book and her presentation never strays to attack Southerners in her treatment. This enables the book to tell the whole story and its balanced history at its very best.

Abolitionists were the biggest users of the word, as they were disunionists. William Lloyd Garrison from Massachusetts edited the newspaper The Liberator and from 1831-1856 used moral persuasion views on his stand against slavery. Garrison wanted disunion because he thought it was best for the nation. Each major political event and many minor ones are examined with the right amount of detail, so we the reader never feels bogged down. I feel the book contains the right amount of information needed to understand the causes and motivations involved. There is a large amount of information in this book which gives more than adequate history available for learning. This book was geared for academia and is a struggle to read at times, it is engaging and not boring in any sense of the word. It helps explain why the war came and some of the decisions that followed in the year before it began and several years into the war.

It was a book that needed to be written and Elizabeth R. Varon did the task of verifying the material and consulting with friends and colleagues to place her book in a class of definitive solely on the topic. One needs to have this book on their bookshelf to refer later to remind them self of the history of the Abolition movement and race relations in the North and South. It is one great book to understand the history of this country and especially from its beginning to the time right before the Civil War.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Joe McDonald
Ovation Books
9780981453439 $12.95

Michael Collins isn't in the best place in life when Lotto opens: he's been drinking too much, his wife is divorcing him, and his position at work is tenuous. But when he finds himself holding a winning lottery ticket--good for 23 million--he's sure his luck has changed. It has--unfortunately for the worse. Winning the lottery isn't always all it's cracked up to be: a Google search will turn up lots of examples of big winners losing it all because they didn't handle their money wisely. Mike's story doesn't read quite like these hard-luck cases. He stumbles into trouble even before he's able to collect his winnings, one enormous lapse in judgment on his part leading to the manifold difficulties that subsequently plague him. We watch as Mike tries to cash in, harassed by his soon-to-be-ex among others, including armed thugs on two continents.

McDonald's debut novel is a decent read. The writing is transparent, the plot fun and well thought out. (It might translate well to film.) But McDonald's characters aren't particularly fleshed out. Mike is a mostly good guy, as we're given to understand in the book's first chapter, and his character develops a bit over the course of the story. But the bad guys he's surrounded by--his wife, his lawyer--are painted in broad strokes. Mike does encounter at least one person who's not motivated merely by greed, and his relationship with her takes off. But the transition in that relationship from acquaintance to love interest is, I think, too abrupt.

All in all, a pleasant light read. I look forward to seeing more from the author.

Gentlemen & Players
Joanne Harris
William Morrow
9780060559144 $24.95

Joanne Harris's Gentlemen & Players is told in the first person from two dueling perspectives. Roy Straitley is a classics teacher in his 34th year at St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, a private establishment steeped in tradition and resented by the locals who could never afford the school's tuition. The second narrator--who for much of the book is known by the alias "Julian Pinchbeck"--is a teacher who's new to the school but who, as a one-time townie, has a score to settle with St. Oswald's. Pinchbeck proves to be intriguingly evil, vengeful and misguided and jealous yet not wholly unsympathetic, a genius at deception. Readers may be reminded as I was of Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley, a sociopath and chameleon who is, like Harris' protagonist, self-hating and motivated in part by obsessive love. Pinchbeck, having once haunted the halls of St. Oswald's in youth, now conducts a campaign against the school that culminates on Bonfire Night with a pair of jaw-dropping surprises.

Gentlemen & Players is an intelligent and suspenseful book and it offers an unusual plot. Once released from the author's spell, one begins to think the story unlikely: it's hard to believe that Pinchbeck would go to such lengths, first to fit into the culture of St. Oswald's and then to destroy it (though I suppose going overboard is to be expected from an obsessive sociopath). Still, I had no trouble suspending disbelief when it mattered.

Steven D. Levitt; Stephen J. Dubner
William Morrow
9780061234002 $29.95

I'm late to the party reading Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's bestselling exploration of, well, a whole bunch of stuff. The book is based largely on research previously published by Levitt, an economics professor at the University of Chicago. And it is rendered into clear, accessible prose by Dubner, who writes also for the New York Times and The New Yorker. Levitt applies the tools of economics--the means by which economists sift and assess scads of data--to a variety of unlikely, non-economic subjects. The subjects addressed in Freakonomics include, for example, the factors that led to a dramatic decrease in crime in the U.S. beginning in the early 1990s, whether sumo wrestling is corrupt, and how Superman was instrumental in diminishing the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-20th century. Many of Levitt's conclusions are counter-intuitive, which is what makes the book fun reading. Throughout, the authors stress five fundamental ideas, outlined in their introduction:

1. Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.
2. The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
3. Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
4. "Experts"--from criminologists to real-estate agents--use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda.
5. Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.

This pretty much sums up what the authors have to say in general. What remains is simply how these ideas are manifested in the particular cases considered in the book.

As the authors themselves admit, Freakonomics is unlikely to change your life, though it may leave readers more apt, at least temporarily, to question their assumptions. That may be reason enough to give the book a look, especially as it's so easily digested.

An Incomplete Revenge
Jacqueline Winspear
Henry Holt
9780805082159 $24.00

An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth installment in Jacqueline Winspear's series featuring investigator/psychologist Maisie Dobbs. In this outing Maisie is asked to look into a rash of petty crimes and suspicious fires in the village of Heronsdene, where her client, James Compton, is hoping to purchase a large property. Maisie's employment coincides with hop picking season, and the village and its neighboring farms are consequently flooded with outsiders, migrant workers of a sort--Londoners, including Maisie's assistant Billy Beale and his family, who work the fields every fall to earn some extra cash. The gardens are also being worked by a family of gypsies who turn out to be integral to the story.

Winspear's plot is slow-moving but ultimately rewarding, as Masie comes to unravel the mystery of Heronsdene, the great secret that has wrapped the villagers in a sort of collective depression since the Great War ended. But one doesn't really read a Maisie Dobbs novel for the plot, at least not primarily. Nor are Winspear's characters the dominant feature of her books. Maisie may be a well-developed character--saddled as she is with the Great Unhappy Fact of her life, her beau's tragic injury in the War. But her concerns and sorrows fail to move me, I'm afraid. Winspear's series is more about the atmosphere of the books, the feel of England after the War, when people were still smarting from their losses, a time that was slower than ours but which had seen its horrors. The author pays a great deal of attention to period details--for example, her descriptions of clothing and room furnishings. But these can be overdone:

"She had only to knock once, and the door was opened by a woman in her early sixties, wearing a gray skirt with a blue cardigan and a floral sleeveless wraparound housecoat fastened with a length of cord around the waist. She wore knitted stockings that had gathered at the ankle and black lace-up shoes. Her hair was tied back in a bun so tight it seemed to pull at the corner of her eyes."

All this--and the woman's parlor is described at some length as well--about an unimportant character.

The book is a slow read, with small moments sometimes stretched too far by way, I suppose, of setting the mood:

"Maisie reached for her tea, which she had set down when the interview began. She sipped; then, continuing to rest the saucer in her hand, she held the cup to her lips but did not drink. When she sipped again, she looked directly at Sandermere."

That pace (just drink the damned tea, Maisie!), combined with the somber tone of the books--Maisie is herself wrapped in a bit of depression, tied with a length of cord around the waist--make for a moody read. That's not necessarily a bad thing: you'll just not be skipping merrily through Winspear's pages.

The Conjurer's Bird
Martin Davies
Shaye Areheart
9781400097333 $24.00

Martin Davies' The Conjurer's Bird wraps two stories around a handful of intriguing historical facts: A thrush-like bird, called here the "Mysterious Bird of Ulieta," was discovered on James Cook's second voyage of exploration (1772-1775). The bird was described by the naturalist onboard and drawn by his son, a draughtsman, and the specimen was stuffed and mounted and given to another naturalist, Joseph Banks, at the end of the voyage. No other example of the bird has ever been found, and the single specimen in Banks' possession has since disappeared. Banks himself, who accompanied Cook on his first voyage, failed to go on the second because of a last-minute disagreement about accommodations. But a certain "Mr. Burnett" had apparently not heard of the change in plans and was awaiting Banks in Madeira when Cook arrived there. Mr. Burnett was widely assumed to in fact be a woman.

In the modern-day segment of his novel Davies follows the efforts of a small group of acquaintances to locate the lost specimen of the Ulieta bird. Davies' focus is on Fitz, who teaches natural science and dabbles in taxidermy and who has a mystery of sorts in his own past--something painful and life-altering that's dredged up when an old flame seeks his help in locating the bird. While the others are after the specimen for profit, Fitz's motivations are more noble, and he becomes interested while investigating the bird's history in the human side of the story--the reasons for Banks' failure to join the second expedition, his affair with a certain Miss B___n. Banks' story--told largely from the point of view of his mistress--forms the second thread of Davies' novel.

The two stories Davies weaves together are both well told, and the author's solution to the mystery of "Mr. Burnett" seems to me ingenious. I also appreciate that Davies' modern story echoes that of Banks--but subtly; we are not beaten over the head with similarities between the two men and their situations. The book offers a clever plot and a good mystery, with bits of romance and history stirred in. A good read.

Debra Hamel, Senior Reviewer

Fortenberry's Bookshelf

Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex
Jeffrey Kluger
9781401303013 $25.95

This is a simple book on a complex subject. While a very nifty concept, this book is really a series of anecdotes and stories which never quite seem to rise to the occasion or gel into something greater than the sum. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, expecting something more complex. But, well, I was. At times the most exciting thing on the page was the italic X in the word Simplexity. Nice effect. "How does a single bullet start a world war?" was nice. So let's say this is a good read, just not a great read. The name and cover are very cool. The topic seems cool, but it simply is not explored in depth. It merely lacked depth and philosophy to become one of those powerful, old-styled, quite boring tomes of higher learning. As is Simplexity is a nice, easy, accessible overview of complex things. Hmmmm. Maybe it works after all. Depends on the target audience.

Dog Blessings: Poems, Prose, and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship
with Dogs
edited by June Cotner
New World Library
9781577316169 $16.00

Dog lovers, begin to salivate! June Cotner has rung the proverbial Pavlovian bell with her new edited collection of writings celebrating Mankind's Best Friend. Dog Blessings is simply adorable. I have read many of her anthologies over the years, but this one may well be the best. To mix some metaphors, she has not only thrown us our favorite ball with this wonderful read, but hit it out of the dog park as well.

You will find many a "Bunny-hop gallop / with dance-happy eyes, / Fly-swatting tail, / with glad-you're-home smiles, / Snort-like greetings, with padded-paw embrace, / Slobber-like kisses / planted all over your face" in these pages. (Thanks, Jean Marie Arbogast, for the wonder of your words.) Chock full of love, hugs, and beauty, this handsome and handy little volume makes a perfect gift for any animal lover.

Walk, no run -- no jumping, down, down, stop it! Sit. Good boy. Do yourself and all your friends and family a favor: Pick up extra copies of Dog Blessings for everyone you know. They will love you for it. But when you unexpectedly get licked in the face, don't say I didn't warn you!

Emily Post
by Laura Claridge
Random House
9780375509216 $30.00

This is an amazing biography of an amazing woman. The "Mistress of American Manners" is so much more than just an etiquette expert. This detailed examination of Emily Post's life and world illuminates a quite complex woman.

I love that Claridge provided so much more information than a mere recitation of facts and dates. She truly inhabits her subject's world and brings her to life. Her writing possesses a wondrous, poetic romanticism. Her innate lyricism elevates this story like a great novel and let's us experience Post's emotions for ourselves. For instance, by the time we reach the death and mourning so eloquently captured in her statement, "At no time does solemnity so possess our souls as when we stand deserted at the brink of darkness into which our loved one has gone," the silence falls in the room and we have to close and step away from this book out of respect. It takes some time and fortitude to return to further intrude upon the grace of such loss. Claridge understands how to get beneath the skin of characters and live via their emotions.

I highly recommend this invigorating biography.

Any Given Doomsday (Phoenix Chronicles, Book One)
Lori Handeland
St. Martin's
0312949197 $6.99

Handeland serves up the latest in the growing subgenre of urban horror/paranormal romance. Her book is full of action -- got to love those cliffhangers -- and has the prereq gobs of psychics/vamps/shapechangers, etc. But it is rather generic without a standout plot or character to make it unique.

It has lots of sex (beyond the normal action, I mean) which is never a bad thing, but it could stand for more of a set "world" to base it in. It seems a bit cliched and hodgepodge in its mythic basis -- with ancient Indians, Biblical endtime-ifications, and of course the usual array of movie monsters, etc. Kind of like those cheap, old Hammer films with that extra spice of eroticism thrown in to keep you watching.

Says this is the first of a series, so maybe it will get better and she will grow her world, settle her mythos, and develop her characters. As is, it is anything goes and who knows what will be next. Just turn on the blender and pour in everything you've ever seen or heard of in the horror realm.

Hopefully, the next books in the series will resurrect like their namesake and successfully fly off.

Secret Agent X: Volume One
edited by Ron Fortier
9781934935163 $24.95

There is more fun in the stories of this collection than Secret Agent X has disguises. I have to applaud Cornerstone for bringing back one of the great "lost" heroes of the Pulp Era. This is an old hero, but a new collection of new tales by new authors. Secret Agent X, a government agent whose mastery of disguises makes him The Man of a Thousand Faces, is one of the coolest characters I have read in years. Pure entertainment.

You can tell this will be the start of a limitless series, because there is no end to the kinds of trouble this master of masquerade can get into investigating crime syndicates and stopping some of the deadliest plots and most evil criminals around.

I look forward to future collections of Secret Agent X. I hope this resurrected series also spawns some new media spinoffs, be they comic books, computer games, anime, TV, or film. After a few decades off, Secret Agent X deserves the attention.

Vladimir Bartol
North Atlantic Books
9781556436819 $16.95

This new edition of Alamut is gorgeous. I was very pleased to find biographical and critical commentary included. North Atlantic has returned a Slovenian masterpiece to public attention.

I noticed some people put off by translation and the philosophical nature of the text. All translations are what they are (unless they hack out a third of the book like War And Peace and pretend otherwise) and none may fully capture the richness of the original tongue, but this is a fine English rendering. The content, well that is up to the reader's personal taste, I suppose, but this is a fascinating historical drama that triumphs in its exploration of modern themes.

Written in the growing shadow of fascism, it deftly explores the totalitarian state and mindset via the lens of ancient Persian society. This is why it is so sharp a treatise, currently, given the situation in the world. But place and time are irrelevant. Despotism is eternal.

Reading this book I was reminded of Umberto Eco's works, such as "Ur-Fascism," and also realized quite quickly that this castle Alamut is nothing more than one of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. In this light, it is perfect. As Abu Ali states in the text, "The poet of the Thousand and One Nights would be envious."

The Devil Can Wait (Sam Harper Mysteries)
Marta Stephens
BeWrite Books
9781905202867 $15.99

The latest Sam Harper mystery may leave the devil waiting, but not the readers. This gritty mystery series lies at the crossroads of crime and thrillers, both 87th Precinct and Davinci Code. Bodies of teenagers are washing ashore in an apocalypse of murder and intrigue spanning the dark dangerous world, from Vatican to Colombia to Harper's hometown of Chandler, Mass. Drugs to ancient religious secrets to serial killers, this book has it all.

But the book's unrelenting drama isn't what captures me. It is the character Sam Harper and author Stephens. She writes with a forensic authority that makes these pages bleed with real world angst. Detective Harper is a well-realized, no-nonsense cop, a streetwise guy who refuses to give up despite the odds. When the going gets rough, everyone else has given up, an easy option looms, and the race becomes overwhelming, Harper is just getting started. He is the original it ain't over guy. He literally pushes himself beyond physical collapse to solve crimes. He refuses to let any criminal escape on his watch.

The Devil Can Wait is a good mystery. Sam Harper is a better cop. I can't wait to follow his next career move.

Thomas Fortenberry

Gary's Bookshelf

The Family Bones
Kimberly Raiser
Delvling Press
9780615246253 $15.95

Well, there is always a first time for everything. Writing reviews for thirty years, this has never happened until now. I've reconsidered my thoughts on what I originally wrote and have to admit I was wrong about this book. It is a very chilling horror thriller that falls into the realm of the old TV show "The Twilight Zone." The Weavers have inherited a property in Astral, Pennsylvania. Steven, Tara, Charlie, and Sara take a trip to see the home they now own. Once they are on the estate, a series of strange events occur. Charlie and Sara are separated from their parent's. Somehow they all come together and decide to leave to check out the town. But for some reason later they return and again circumstances become very strange. Also the easy going nature of Steven is much more aggressive. Tara also finds newspaper clippings on twisted murders that have taken place at or near the home through the years. Raiser has written a novel with a very rapid pace with believable characters in truly bizarre situations. The author ties up all loose ends with a conclusion that is warped. The tale leads the reader along with many twists and turns that will have the pages turning briskly. Raiser is a new name to add for enjoyable horror reading.

Call Me Zena A True Story into the Unknown
Sally Barnard
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
978143496839 $21.95

I've read numerous books of this type but never has one revealed so much in so little space. Barnard reveals her life from the beginning in England to moving to Florida. She tells her many years of painful incidents and how her personality was affected by all that happened to her. She then relates how she began to have out of body experiences, and that she suddenly had ability to write and draw. She points out that before any of this took place she had never written anything and could not even draw a straight line. She believes the writing and art are the result of her being tied into a woman who lived in England in the late 1800s who lived in the same area not far from Sally in England. She tells that their artwork is very similar, that the out of body happenings all occurred from three am to four am. She began to write poetry, then moved on to telling her story in this book and she is constantly striving to make her writing stronger. The poetry and drawings are interesting. She gives explanations for the pieces for those who would like to know what they are, according to her. I, on the other hand, prefer to not read them so that I can have my own interpretation The reading is easy and there is a lot many can learn from this fascinating work

Chateau E.I.E.I.O. presents Naming Your Pet
Donna Moore
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
97819344439 $11.95 1-800-247-6553

What's in a name? The author gives sound advice to the millions of pet owners who are undecided on what to name their favorite animal. She also gives information of where each name comes from and some definitions. Writers could use this as a resource for creating characters as well. There is also a coloring book and a sixteen month calendar. All three are great fun for any age.

Killing Castro
Lawrence Block
Hard Case
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843961133 $6.99

What if five people had gone to Cuba shortly after Castro took over the government to kill him. That is the premise of this novel that is back in print for the first time since it was first published one year before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Block wrote this one under another name that he only used once. It has been called the rarest of Block novels. Even though it takes place long ago the story is as fresh as ever and is a great thriller that is fast paced and filed with interesting characters.

Mounting Fears
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155475 $25.95

I've always liked Wood's novels and this one shows why he is one of the best thriller writers. President Will Lee is back along with several other characters. The situation has never been more critical than now. The novel begins with a nuclear explosion in Pakistan, then the vice president dies while undergoing surgery. Woods throws in Teddy Fay, the rouge CIA agent still on the loose, and a vice president nominee who has not been truthful with the president. Woods again moves the story along with tense situations and great characters to the final satisfying conclusion. Woods is in top form with this one.

Adventures With Edison and His Friends Vol 1 "Crab in a Basket"
Mark Mucha Illustrator Danny Cruz
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449 295 $11.95 1-800-247-6553

Edison, a penguin, travels around meeting new friends. Two of the characters he meets are a shrimp named Shrimpy, and a lobster named Rusty. They all sing songs and learn all about life. The book is witty and the combination of art and prose is very well done. Adults can have as much fun as kids singing the songs and reading the story that is first in a series.

Old-Time Television Memories
Mel Simons
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
9781593933197 $14.95

Mel Simons has the gift of gab with thirteen old time TV stars. Some of the people he interviewed are Larry Storch, Clayton Moore, Morey Amsterdam, Milton Berle, George Jessel, Soupy Sales, Gale Storm, Sheldon Leonard and Perry Como. He also tells about each person's background, and the interviews are very interesting. One of them reveals that Art Carney, who played Ed Norton on the "Honeymooners," was a jazz pianist. To some these names will have no impact, but for those of us who know these shows, this is a great way to know more about many of the stars of shows from long ago.

The Why Are You Here Cafe
John Streledky
Aspen Light Publishing
7512 Dr. Philips Boulevard
Suite # 50 PMB 270, Orlando, Florida 32819
097436200X $7.99

Certain books come along with a lot to say in a different way. This is one of them. The author makes you think about where you are in life and where you are going with his three questions that he asks throughout the work. I'm not sure where to classify the genre. I feel it ranks alongside "Jonathan Living Seagull" or it is very much like "The Greatest Salesman in the World." Streledky has written a very pleasurable tale that can have a positive effect on many people's lives.

The Apocalypse Directive
Douglas Mackinnon
Leisure Books
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843960884 $7.99

This one was very frightening because some of it is true. There are a group of officials from generals to politicians who believe that religion is the focal point of governing this country. This is a scary tale of how government can easily get out of control. The pacing is rapid with believable characters, written by a Washington insider that makes the novel all that more chilling. I think religious groups will be highly offended on how the author depicts the situations.

Michelle Obama Meet the First Lady
David Bergen Brophy
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061779909 $6.99

She's the new First Lady and this is her story. The author tells about her life as a child, how far she has gone in education, what she has been able to accomplish, and what it took for her husband to win the presidency. Written as a kid's book, the author tells a lot about a woman all of us can be very proud that she is our First Lady.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

And On the Surface Die
Lou Allin
Napoleon Publishing/RendezVous Press
178 Willowdale Ave., Toronto, CA M2N 4Y8
9781894917742 $15.95 877-730-9052

Holly Martin is an RCMP Corporal in Fossil Bay, located "on the wild south coast of Vancouver Island," Canada, an hour west of Victoria, British Columbia and a quick ferry ride away from Seattle. It is explained that "Southern Vancouver Island is Canada's Caribbean. Little if any snow, but deluges of hail, sleet and rain all winter," and in Fossil Bay itself, with its rocky beaches, and inhabited by 500 people in a dozen streets, they "don't have any stoplights, so nothing ever changes but the weather. Even the geese don't leave." The RCMP detachment is manned by three cops supported by a small volunteer staff.

As the book opens Holly gets a call about a 17-year-old girl found drowned at a spot called Botanical Beach – is it an accidental drowning, or is something more involved? [The dead girl was apparently a champion swimmer.] It had been an innocent-enough outing, a traditional one with chaperones and 45 members of the graduating class of a local Catholic school which Holly herself had attended years earlier, but often, as the author notes, "what looked perfect on the surface was a tangled mess behind."

Those of us from parts of the world other than North America and even from "the lower 48" may have to get used, as this reader did, to colloquialisms and local vernacular and even terminology of the area [i.e., the indigenous, aboriginal "natives" are referred to as First Nations, with the term "Indians" now considered not p.c.]

Holly is a very interesting protagonist. Never far from her mind is her mother, a social activist who just disappeared one day. Holly only recently reunited with her nearly-sixty-year-old father, a university professor nearing sixty who has never wanted to declare Holly's mother dead despite the passage of ten years. This book is the first in the Holly Martin series. I would surmise that this story line will be picked up in future books. One can only hope. It should be noted that the author has previously written five books in the popular Belle Palmer Series, which took place in the nickel-mining community of Sudbury, Ontario. [In case you were wondering, the title of the book is from a poem by Tennyson.]


The Fourth Victim
Tony Spinosa
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison WI 53703, 800-258-5830
9781606480090 $24.95

Joe "the Snake" Serpe is a former supercop, a disgraced NYPD narcotics detective forced to leave the job in disgrace. Now off the job for 7 years, he has formed an unlikely partnership with Bob Healy, himself formerly IAB and in fact the cop who pursued the case against Serpe years ago; as unbelievable it still is to the two men themselves, the once bitter enemies are now friends and partners in a home oil delivery business in the suburbs of New York City.

The bodies of five men have been discovered within a short space of time. They had many things in common: "They were all C.O.D. oil drivers who had been assaulted making night-time deliveries in high crime areas. They all had at least two thousand dollars in cash on their persons. They were all shot with the same 9mm weapon. They were all dead." A serial killer is suspected. What brings these crimes to the attention of Serpe and Healy is the identity of the eponymous fourth victim, another disgraced former cop named Rusty Monaco, a man who had apparently been just about to finalize the purchase of a Florida condo. More importantly, he had once saved Serpe's life when they were both still cops. Serpe feels he owes Monaco, and Healy feels he owes Serpe, thereby giving rise to their investigation into Monaco's murder and, by extension, those of the other four men as well. That investigation appears to hinge on a cold case, a murder which took place shortly after September 11, 2001, when the police department's attention was understandably focused on other matters.

The ensuing tale is one of "greed, blackmail, corruption, vengeance, racism, fear, and what righteous men do in the face of a world gone wrong" [to quote from the back of the book, on which description I cannot improve]. It is told in absorbing manner, with well-drawn characters, producing a solid and satisfying novel. This is the second in this series, the first being "Hose Monkey," which deals with the events which transform Serpe and Healy from enemies into friends, and which I will now seek out to read. I'm sure it will prove to be equally enjoyable.


The Other Side of Silence
Bill Pronzini
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780802717139 $24.00 646-307-5580

Rick Fallon, whose wife has filed for divorce after 11 years of marriage, has put up his house for sale and sought solace in the place that has always provided it: Death Valley, the perfect spot for him, "the one place he truly belonged . . . a place made for loners." For three years they had been mourning the death of their young son after he'd been in a coma for three weeks following an accident, and they had been unable to overcome the guilt and strain caused by that loss.

It is October – the perfect time of year to be in the desert. Its perfection is marred, though, when Rick comes upon an abandoned vehicle and, not too far distant, the nearly-dead body of a 32-year-old woman who had attempted suicide and, but for Rick, would have been successful. Rick puts his own life on hold long enough to investigate and try to resolve the source of her desperation: Her young son has apparently been kidnapped by his father. His background serves him well – he had been an MP in the Army before going into corporate security, where.he has spent the last dozen years. His investigation takes him to the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas ["a massive, amoeba-like creature slowly inching its way across the flat desert landscape, absorbing more and more of it in little nibbling bites," whose traffic the author compares to "bunched-together platelets clogging the creature's arteries"]. The result is a wonderfully written, suspenseful novel. [What else would one expect from Mr. Pronzini?]

The desert country becomes palpable in the hands, and words, of this author. Describing the differing needs of himself and his wife: She needed "cities, constant scurrying activity. She worshipped sensation and speed, needed to hear the steady, throbbing engines of civilization in order to feel safe, secure, alive. He needed none of these things, needed not to hear the engines. Silence was what he craved. This kind of silence, nurturing, spiritual, that let him feel as he felt nowhere else, at ease with himself and his surroundings. It was the other kind he hated, the cold, hurtful, destructive kind - - the loud, long silences of a shattered marriage, the empty silence of a child's grave. They were worse than the thunder of engines."

The title says a lot about what this author has done here, which is to make the reader look at silence, and its absence, from a slightly different perspective, just a bit of an angle off from the way one is used to seeing things. [The title, by the way, derives from a line by George Eliot.]

Highly recommended.

Nameless Night
G. M. Ford
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060874438 $7.99 800-242-7737

G. M. Ford's first standalone novel, after his two wonderful series featuring Frank Corso and Leo Waterman, opens with a startling scenario: The man known as Paul Hardy had been found near death in a railroad car, patched up as well as possible, his injuries so severe that he is described in the first pages as follows: "…he smiled, or maybe grimaced. With all that scar tissue on his face, it was hard to tell. Looked like somebody had crushed the front of his skull with a crowbar or something, pushed everything back so far it was both a wonder he was alive and a mercy he wasn't tuned to the same channel as the rest of humanity." He had been put in a group home for the adult disabled, almost completely unresponsive. Even his name is unknown – "Paul Hardy" was picked for him at random. Now, seven years later and probably in his mid-thirties, he is the victim of a horrific car accident.

The resulting surgeries [paid for by the anguished driver who had caused the incident] have completely altered his appearance and much more, to the extent that, as one of his doctors says, "this is a brand-new person, somebody who never existed before… six months from now, not even his own mother would recognize this guy." His already crushed face and skull have been radically changed well beyond plastic surgery. The person who had been called Paul Hardy is now a thinking, aware and questioning man with the tiniest fragment of a memory of his life before the past seven years, and determined to find out what that life was, and who he is. He embarks on a search for the answers to those questions, with unimagined and unimaginable consequences. That pursuit gives rise to a novel that is as well-written and suspenseful as anything that this author has previously written, and that is saying quite a lot.

The scenario that plays out after the scene described above seemed to me at first to be like something straight out of George Orwell, only to find that prescient soul's name invoked soon after. But of course Orwell's day didn't have current technology available nor a post-911 era to justify its ubiquitous use. And in no time at all, as the author's storytelling skills quietly assert themselves, this riveting tale, all about "memory" and "reality," has the reader completely in its grip. I loved the book, and it is highly recommended.

Small Crimes
Dave Zeltserman
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London EC1R 0JH,
9781852429713 $14.95

Joe's life had been in a tailspin, a miasma of gambling, booze and drugs, ultimately culminating with him stabbing the DA thirteen times in the face and leading to his imprisonment. Now, the local mafia kingpin, near death from cancer, is planning to make a deal with the D.A., seeking salvation in the afterlife, which would result among things in a deathbed confession implicating Joe and many of his former colleagues on the police force, among others. Joe is put in the untenable position of choosing between killing the Mafioso, or the DA. As he has frequently done most of his life, usually unsuccessfully, he comes up with a plan.

Mr. Zeltserman has written a suspenseful tale that is noir at its best and as it spins out to its conclusion picks up speed like a steamroller. Despite the fact that none of its inhabitants is sympathetic, which at times made me ambivalent about the book, it kept me turning pages and unable to look away, and is recommended.

Burn Out
Marcia Muller
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169, 800-759-0190
9780446581073 $24.99

Burn out is exactly what Sharon McCone is suffering from [or, more correctly, that from which she is suffering] - - she is in the throes of deep depression following her close call with death at the end of her last case, described in Ms. Muller's "The Ever-Running Man," and in a period of soul-searching. As such, she has gone to the ranch owned by Sharon and her husband, Hy Ripinsky, in the high desert country of California. Now in her early forties, her future and that of her highly successful investigative agency is uncertain.

The book is a distinct change of pace in the series, taking McCone back to the Bay area only for brief stops, the remainder of the time in and around small-town Vernon, California, where she plans to "rest, regain my perspective, and rethink my future." [Mid-life crisis, perhaps?] Instead, she reluctantly becomes involved in the disappearance of a niece of her ranch manager, a young woman of Northern Paiute heritage [Sharon herself is Shoshone] nearly eighteen years old, with whom Sharon has had only the briefest of encounters and yet feels a bond. Sharon commits herself to finding the girl, saying "cases change both the investigated and the investigator. Maybe one last effort would show me the way to the new life I was reaching for" - - her absolute last one, she vows.

Vernon, California, Sharon discovers, is virtually a Peyton Place for the present time [if that term hasn't completely lost any cultural significance as a reference point]. Small towns can hide a lot of things, causing Sharon to think "about the assumptions we make about people and how sometimes they're totally wrong." But Sharon's investigative skills are as sharp as ever, and the tale which unfolds is completely engaging as Sharon tries to find her way through her dilemma as well as find a murderer. Hy himself, busy with corporate reorganization, makes only short but always vital appearances here. The author has delivered another fast-moving, well-written novel, every bit as enjoyable as the prior entries in the series, and it is recommended.

Third Strike
Zoe Sharp
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312358976 $24.95 646-307-5560

Charlie Fox [nee Charlotte Foxcroft] is now living in New York City, away from the England of her birth, six months into her recovery from a near-fatal double gunshot injury. Both Charlie and her lover/colleague, Sean Meyer, are now working for Parker Armstrong's very exclusive close-protection agency in that city, alienating her even more from her parents. Charlie has an interesting background, as she describes it: "I had a fractured career dogged by scandal; an ability to kill without hesitation that even I shied away from exploring; no relationship with my parents to speak of; and a lover who'd been at least as damaged by this life as I had."

To her astonishment, one day Charlie sees her father, a highly respected and world-recognized UK surgeon, being interviewed by a local TV reporter who has elicited some stunning admissions certain to, at the very least, disgrace him and completely destroy his personal and professional reputation, including alcoholism and being complicit in the death of a man who was a patient and life-long friend. Disbelieving, and determined to get to the truth, Charlie and Sean take on the investigation when the resulting scandal directly affects not only her parents, but Charlie and Sean and the company they work for as well.

The title has a double meaning, as much for its use in the American criminal justice system as for the number of 'chances' her parents had given Charlie to, as they see it, find the error of her ways and come home, of course without Sean. She is still fighting to gain their trust and their respect, for him and for herself.

In an acerbic tone that seems to fit her perfectly, Charlie is a take-no-prisoners kinda gal [as is, one gets the impression, her creator]. The book is another fast-paced, well-plotted and winning entry in the series, which just keeps getting better. Recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Frozen Hell, The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40
William R. Trotter
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Post Office Box 2225, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27515-2225
9780945575221 $22.95

The Winter War is remembered, if at all, as a little war. It is lost behind the scale and killing of World War II. In 1939, Hitler invades Poland after a secret treaty is signed between him and Stalin. Stalin uses the treaty to take half of Poland as part of the Soviet Union. Stalin then absorbs the Baltic States between Poland and Russia. He insists on annexing control of portions of Finland. Finland balks at the request and Stalin invades in the winter of 1939 with a starting force of at least 400,000 troops backed by armor and cannons. Little Finland tries to pull together its force of about 150,000 lightly armed troops to counter the invasion. The fighting lasts till the spring. Before the fighting ends Stalin has committed over a million troops. He has to because most of the original 400,000 troops are gone or unable to continue fighting. Finally, Finland is forced to give up huge tracks of land to Stalin. But it is the only small neighboring state to stay independent of the Soviet Union once Stalin decided he wanted control of it.

Trotter analyzes the war with the luxury of someone who knows the results. He looks at the logic reasoning of the parties with the eyesight of the historian. He also examines the mistakes, genius, fear, incompetence, weaknesses and strengths.

There are a few problems in this book for the lay reader. More and better maps, more detailed information on the weapons used would help the average reader understand and follow the events in this complex war. A breakdown of troop numbers before and after each major battle would help keep the scale of events open for the reader. The biggest problem is the casualty numbers for the Soviet troops. Russia has always hidden the information. Trotter has tried to put numbers using accurate Finnish sources. But the real numbers have to be larger than the official tallies. Without those numbers all you know is that something remarkable happened but not exactly what.

Trotter has tried to give a balanced view of the war and the political events before and after. This makes Frozen Hell a key general summary of the Winter War. The Winter War should be better known and understood. This amazing story about a few holding out against the many is the Twentieth Century equivalent of the 300 Spartans holding out against the Persian Empire. The story is better in many ways because we have with the Winter War accurate information about the fear, terror and mistakes that have been lost over time with the story about the Spartans.

Frozen Hell is a must read for the military or World War II history buff.

Impossible Places
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey Books/Ballantine Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, NY
0345450418 $7.50

The short story was the mainstay in popular fiction when you could find a dozen different magazines in every newspaper stand and bookstore in the country. That is no more and the joy of fictional reading is much worse for it. The art of telling a short story is one that many writers can not do. It is a skill that the pulp magazine market nurtured and trained. Crafting a complete story in a minimum of words pinpoints the skill and quality of the written prose. Shorts also permit the writer to explore new, old or even strange ideas.

There is also a great deal for the reader to enjoy with this genre. It is a chance to explore without the larger investment of time required by a novel. It is a way to delight and escape into a story when your time is limited. Finally it is a way to stretch beyond your ordinary reading into the depths that a skilled storyteller can create without the boundaries of length.

Alan Dean Foster is a skilled short story teller. In Impossible Places, he gives you nineteen tales to enjoy. Because the genre encourages experimentation, Foster explores his limits. The extremes mean that a few stories will not click with an individual reader but it also means that a few will hit the sweet spot. This collection isn't as good as Foster's previous short story collections, With Friends Like These and ...Who Needs Enemies?, but it is a good collection of shorts that fills a huge gap in the reading market.

Impossible Places explores a challenging mix of horror, science fiction and speculative fiction. Sometimes the tales are creepy and nasty but mostly they have a humor Foster usually adds to his stories. Nineteen different stories are just too many to summarize so I will just try to cover a few of the more unusual ones. In We Three Kings, three men of today bring to life three classic monsters. They are released on Christmas Eve and encounter a bewildered cop and a holiday that even they know and respect. The Boy Who Was a Sea is a strange story about a human genetic misfit. It is a melancholy tale that refuses to be classified. The Kiss is a pure nasty horror short that is great for its compactness. Suzy Q is a personal favorite of mine. It is a speculative SF tale of a type that I have played with myself. I would tell you more but that would spoil the first few hundred words for the reader.

Impossible Places is a solid short story collection in a market where short stories are nearly impossible to find. This makes the book a must find for serious readers.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Shattering the Christ Myth
James Patrick Holding
Xulon Press
2180 West State Rd 434, Suite 2140, Longwood FL 32779
9781606472712 $22.99

Sixty years after the end of World War 2, there are still Jewish organizations such as B'nai Brith that have no function except to lay a guilt trip on Christians who were not even born in 1945, for the genocide perpetrated by that good Catholic Adolf Hitler. Since I object to blaming the living for the crimes of the dead, obviously I am not about to blame persons alive today for the fifty million murders committed by Christians in the conviction that they were obeying a Sky Fuhrer whom anyone who reads a Bible with his brain in gear must recognize as the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction. (And that figure does not include the forty million deaths from AIDS and starvation caused by the current and previous Catholic popes' self-serving prohibition of sane birth control and sane disease control.)

I do blame self-inflicted brain amputees of all religions for the anthropocide that they are actively causing and which will, if they are not stopped, exterminate the human race before the year 2300 CE. Without proselytizing apologists (euphemism for rabid canines) like Robert Turkel (JPH's real name) promoting hatred of the sane, the intelligent, and the educated, moderate godworshippers would be more willing to recognize that it is NOT safe to destroy planet earth as a human habitat by air and water pollution and overpopulation, because the deus ex machina whose second coming the brain amputees are promising for the day after tomorrow is totally, permanently, irreversibly DEAD.

A stopped clock is right twice a day. It therefore was statistically inevitable that even the most imbecilic sources have been known to get something right. The Flat Earth Society is right when it argues that the Judaeo-Christian bible states unequivocally in fourteen places that the earth is flat. Karl Marx was right when he declared religion the opiate of the proletariat, anesthetizing the masses into accepting mindslavery as the price of pie in the sky when they die. Sigmund Freud was right when he described religion as a compulsive neurosis that humankind would eventually outgrow. Immanuel Velikovsky was right when he concluded that Ikhenaton's wives included his mother, daughters, and cousin. That all of those fantasizers were wrong about everything else does not immunize them to the "stopped clock" syndrome. And Turkel/Holding is right when he states that there really was a historical Jesus. The Jesus of history was a psychopathic hunchbacked dwarf revolutionary who made a unilateral declaration of independence from Rome, and was promptly arrested and executed after a Ten Minute War between approximately one hundred Zealots and a whole Roman cohort. He was a historical nobody whom Paul of Tarsus posthumously converted into a somebody by arbitrarily choosing him, out of the dozen recently executed messiahs, to be the figurehead of his new, gentile mythology.

Where Turkel reveals his intellectual handicap, falling somewhere between Lenny Small and Sarah Palin, is when he argues that Jesus died and came back to life (although he got the "died" part right), that his mother was a virgin, and that he really did replicate the miracles previously credited to Elijah and Elisha. Turkel is a biblical literalist, part of a coven of hardcore unteachables who respond to the discoveries of scientists, that the universe is billions of years old and that humans evolved from earlier lifeforms, by quoting from a book that features a talking snake and a talking donkey, much the way an eight-year-old might respond to allegations that Toad of Toad Hall does not exist by quoting from Wind in the Willows.

Fundamentalist fanatics like Turkel who use the internet to reveal their mental inadequacy to the whole world do a useful service. An examination of postings to Tekton Apologetics, Tree of Life, and other websites for unteachables, provides unambiguous proof that persons who post comments supporting Turkel/Holding (or Sheila Rangslinger, as he also calls himself in order to conceal that the person agreeing with him is himself) are as eloquent, coherent, rational, educated, and intellectually endowed as B. F. Skinner's pigeons.

Scholars of the eminence of G. A. Wells, Robert Price, John Loftus, Farrell Till, and Dennis McKinsey (although Bart Ehrman declined to do so) have felt obliged to grant Turkel/Holding an underserved dignity by acknowledging his existence and rebutting his verbal diarrhea, for the same reason a surveyor who has had to plow through a cesspool hoses the excrement off his boots. Does that sound like a put-down? Actually I am leaning over backward to avoid using the vicious ad hominems that are Turkel's stock in trade. Turkel's intemperate, linguistically substandard abuse of the learned is not dissimilar to Adolf Hitler's denigration of Jews. Even other unteachables recognize that, "With a friend like Turkel, who needs enemies?"

Just as I do not subscribe to the theory that Ann Coulter is a parody created by The Onion, neither do I endorse the theory that Jiminy H Pickett is really a nontheist posing as a Christian, under pseudonyms such as Robert Turkel and J. P. Holding, for the purpose of showing the world just how unsane, unintelligent and Cro-Magnon religious fundamentalists really are. But I agree that, if the theory was correct, he would not be doing anything different from what he is doing now.

The First Prophet once described Robert Turkel, before he abandoned his real name in the hope of dissociating himself from his previously published verbal diarrhea, as a scum-sucking bottom feeder with a room temperature IQ and delusions of mediocrity. At the time I thought that was harsh. I now see it as unduly flattering. Turkel has no comprehension that he is an embarrassment even to other unlearned unteachables. While it is not definitively impossible, I seriously doubt that there is a nontheist anywhere on this planet whose every utterance, like Turkel's, is so transparently imbecilic that he strengthens the other side's case every time he opens his mouth. The kindergarten that gave such an ignoramus graduation credentials should be de-accredited.

Whether Turkel was born with the brain of a cabbage, or acquired it by transplant, will probably not be known until his autopsy.

Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion
Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016
9780195310726 $29.95

A theologian is a pseudo-scholar who studies the life and teachings of entities that do not exist, such as Mother Goose and her male equivalent, God. Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas are theologians. Oracles of Science was not written for the specific purpose of proving that theology is a mirror image of "flat earth science" that only a brain amputee could take seriously. That was just the way it turned out.

I have no patience with historians who try to write an objective biography of Adolf Hitler that will not offend Nazis. And I am sick and tired of rationalists who think that, in writing a book proving that a collection of fairy tales comparable with The Vampire Chronicles and Wind in the Willows has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for 3,000 years, they can avoid offending this planet's one billion brainwashed Christian Candidates.

That is why I was delighted to read the competent, intelligent, comprehensible, and ultimately irrefutable debunking of the god delusion by such scientists as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Jay Gould. Anyone who can read their arguments and remain unconvinced is less than rational. Anyone who can write an attempted rebuttal and seriously believe he has succeeded is guilty of not placing his brain in gear before engaging his word processor. Anyone who thinks the 93 percent of natural scientists who recognize god mythology as a failed hypothesis are wrong is not playing with a full cerebrum. Anyone who thinks that Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas are more capable of rational human thought than L. Ron Hubbard or Immanuel Velikovsky either has not read this book or is himself microencephalic.

In their Introduction, G & A write (p. 8), "What is surprising, however, is the remarkable hostility toward religion that characterizes so much of the writing we will be examining in this book." Would they have been similarly surprised by "remarkable hostility toward Nazism"? What is the difference? Religion is the most antihuman perversion that has ever existed. Is that not sufficient reason for anyone whose moral evolution exceeds that of Adolf Hitler to regard it with hostility?

The standard tactic of apologists for an indefensible belief system is, "When you have no defence, attack." That was what Alister McGrath did when he tried to refute the irrefutable logic of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. G and A describe McGrath as "one of the world's leading theologians," in other words a flat-earther acclaimed by other flat-earthers. They report (p. 9) that McGrath "has written a book-length response" to The God Delusion, but do not mention that it was so incompetent that a reviewer (me) described McGrath as, "an embarrassment to primates who has me wondering if my conclusion that incurable theologians are as dangerously insane as Holocaust deniers and Scientology proselytizers was too charitable."

G & A likewise attack because they have no defence. For example, in criticizing scientists such as Richard Dawkins for their alleged lack of expertise in theology, they report (p. 11) that, "Virtually no scientists take any more than an undergraduate survey course in philosophy, and even fewer take courses in theology." Newsflash! Persons with functioning human brains do not take courses in theology for the same reason they do not take courses in astrology, parapsychology, UFOlogy, Orwellian doublethink, homeopathy, or phrenology. Why should they? They can learn all they need to know about imaginative fantasy by reading Alice in Wonderland.

In their attempt to belittle Dawkins, the authors devote an inordinate amount of space to his "selfish gene" and "meme" concepts, not exactly the most defensible hypotheses he has ever postulated. When they do get around to his rebuttals of the God delusion, they write (p. 45), "Dawkins clearly holds no respect for his Oxford colleagues who somehow think that belief in God is different than belief in fairies. This should not surprise us, however, for Dawkins' idea of God is about as well developed as his idea of fairies." Since fairies do not exist and God does not exist, anyone who has a "well developed" concept of either is comparable with a little boy hanging up his stocking for Santa Claus. As for showing respect to persons who believe in God or fairies, simply because they are lecturers in deistic thought experiments known as theology, that requires the same kind of doublethink as rationalizing that anyone who could become President of the United States must be more in touch with reality than Tom Cruise.

Dawkins followed a millennia-long practice of asking how there can be evil in a world produced and directed by a god with the omnipotence to prevent evil and the omnibenevolence to wish to do so. The authors' response is to declare that, "Dawkins offers it up with the sort of enthusiasm that makes one wonder if he somehow thinks it is original with him." In other words they follow the standard procedure of brain amputees of ignoring an insurmountable problem in the pretence that by repeatedly doing so they have made it go away. They do mention the pathetic attempts to answer the "problem of evil" since Epicurus (341-270 BCE) first raised it, but offer no arguments of their own. Why should they, when they are writing for brainwashed addicts capable of swallowing the Big Lie that reality has been rebutted without needing to be told what the alleged rebuttal was? They do not even mention their bible's endorsement of slavery, since they regard themselves as the domesticated livestock of a petmaster in the sky who enslaves humans to feed its insatiable egomania the way humans enslave sheep and cattle.

The chapter on Stephen Jay Gould says nothing of significance, and even stops short of endorsing his imbecilic "non-overlapping magisteria" masturbation fantasy. But it does demonstrate that, like practically all apologists for the God hypothesis, the authors delude themselves that merely quoting a conclusion they dislike constitutes a rebuttal.

The chapter on Stephen Hawking is adequately biographical, but if G & A think they have in any way discredited his belief that "God" is an unnecessary hypothesis, they are even stupider than other theologians. Even godworshippers with sufficient rationality to recognize that, when Stephen Hawking and George W. Bush disagree, it is Hawking who is more likely to be right, can hardly fail to recognize this book as an insult to their intelligence.

On Carl Sagan, G & A write (p. 136), "Sagan typically did not argue against basic religious ideas; rather, he presented difficulties associated with the ideas." The chapter concludes (p. 157), "Sagan was very much a materialist himself and certainly made it clear in his writing that religion offers little of value in the development of a mature worldview. Fortunately, though, he put more energy into promoting science than demeaning religion." Fortunately for whom? Peddlers of "pie in the sky when you die" snake oil whose lucrative prevarications he might have more effectively exposed?

Nobel Laureate Stephen Weinberg wrote (p. 9), "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." As usual, G & A offer no response, hoping that readers lacking the ability to see through their vacuity will think that quoting constitutes rebutting. They declare (p. 178) that, "Weinberg's expectation that God should show up in the laws of physics or the steady advance of scientific explanation … were doomed from the start. Poorly conceived searches rarely find what they are looking for." But if God had any role in the laws of physics, solid evidence for his presence should be there—and is not. G & A know full well that a theologian looking for God in the real world is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there—and finding it.

Edward O. Wilson was the concoctor of the ridiculous pseudoscience of sociobiology. I have no intention of defending him, despite G & A attacking him for all the wrong reasons. He should have stuck to ants, an area in which he could cite empirical research to support his conclusions. If G & A included him as a straw man whose reasoning they hoped to demolish, then only their own incompetence prevented them from succeeding.

Giberson is a professor at a self-confessed "Nazarene" college. Artigas is a Catholic priest. Both know that reaching conclusions compatible with the evidence would jeopardize their bread and butter. But does that justify their Big Lie that it is the scientists they vilify who are not using a legitimate scientific methodology, when their own methodology, like that of all theologians, is to start from predetermined conclusions and distort the evidence to whatever degree is necessary in order to make it fit?

It does if they are secretly nontheists, and have written their book to prove just how insane incurable godworshippers really are. While Ann Coulter has long been suspected of being a secret opponent of the verbal diarrhea she spouts, demonstrating the imbecility of Republicanazi orthodoxy for the purpose of curing the real addicts, I seriously doubt that the authors of Oracles of Science are actually possessed of functioning human brains. They think a book featuring a talking snake and a talking donkey is nonfiction, because they are what is politely termed intellectually handicapped. It seems unlikely that even the priest is the same kind of conscienceless hypocrite as his Fuhrer in Rome, who in July, 2008, offered a crocodile-teared apology for the priestly sexual abuse of children that he as Grand Inquisitor personally ordered to be covered up.

Oracles of Science concludes with the observation (p. 235) that, "we must be on guard against intellectual nonsense masquerading as science." What the authors' admirers should be on guard against, but won't, is theobabble masquerading as thinking. When one person believes the childish fantasies propounded in this book, it is called insanity. When a whole gaggle of book-buyers believe it, it is called religion. To anyone who does not know the absurdities to which apologists for the god psychosis will stoop to further their agenda, and how subhuman stupid the apologists' rationalizations really are, this book can be recommended as the ultimate proof that theology is the most contagious form of insanity that has ever existed.

Even moderate religion is a form of insanity. I have never encountered anyone who has had the disease and recovered who does not know that. Anyone who was not insane before he started believing that mass murder was evil when Hitler did it with gas chambers but is not evil when his imaginary Sky Fuhrer does it with a tsunami or a cyclone or an earthquake, is certainly insane once he does acquire such a belief. I did meet a sane theologian once. His brother was a giant midget, and his sister was a healthy leper.

Anyone who can argue that a book featuring a talking snake and a talking donkey is nonfiction probably prays to Rat, Mole, and Toad of Toad Hall.

When Good Thinking Goes Bad: How Your Brain Can Have a Mind of Its Own
Todd C. Riniolo
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2197
9781591025863 $18.98

"When a person claims to have psychic powers, the ability to speak with the dead, or the ability to cure cancer with divine powers, critical thinking does not blindly accept the claim at face value but responds with 'OK, let's see your best evidence'" (p. 13). Anyone who disagrees with that self-evident truth should read no further, as he is not only intellectually challenged, but incurably so.

The cover of Todd Riniolo's When Good Thinking Goes Bad shows the inside of a room in which a man has literally painted himself into a corner. A more exemplary depiction of a usually good thinker not thinking well would be difficult to imagine. There are people who are incapable of good thinking, and they are not Riniolo's intended market. People who have the capacity for good thinking but do not always use it should pay close attention to the information in this book. It will not immunize them from cultural brainwashing, but it will make them more aware that not everything they believe can withstand critical examination. "Beliefs that are the result of objectively applying our critical thinking skills have a greater probability of approximating the truth than those that have not been rigorously evaluated but simply accepted at face value" (p. 15). Only persons who are subliminally aware that their security beliefs cannot withstand objective evaluation will disagree.

Riniolo cites a multitude of false beliefs that would not have come into existence, or at least not been widely disseminated and accepted, if persons with reasonable critical thinking skills in other areas had not amputated their skills when evaluating a belief that they found comforting.

For example, he cites sources that spell out the evidence that, "those who were recovering suppressed memories of trauma did so using techniques … that have been subsequently demonstrated to help create false memories" (p. 37). But his wishy-washy determination to avoid being accused of rushing to judgment comes through when he declares (p. 38) that, "If repression does occur, it is exceedingly rare (I am still unaware of a validated case) and is not a common response to trauma." If he was "unaware of a validated case" in which the sun stood still in the sky, would he be equally reluctant to affirm that it had never happened?

He asks (p. 23), "Is multiple personality disorder (MPD) a legitimate diagnosis, or is MPD a socially constructed phenomenon?" On Facilitated Communication (FC) he reports, with references, that (p. 53), "the facilitator's expectation controls the typing, not the individual with the developmental disability." On the successful marketing of subliminal suggestion tapes, he writes (p. 59) that, "If the subliminal tapes really worked beyond a placebo, a greater improvement should have occurred for those subjects that listened to the real tapes as opposed to the mislabeled tapes. That did not occur." On the necessity of double-blind procedures in testing improbable claims, he notes in connection with "Clever Hans" (p. 64) that, "Even a horse could pick up subtle nonverbal clues that give information about a correct answer."

In explaining why belief in psychic powers is widespread, not only among the media-manipulated masses, but even among self-proclaimed psychics themselves, he writes (p. 101) that, "One psychic prediction that comes true is latched onto (i.e., confirmatory evidence), while a thousand misses are not actively sought out." He recognizes (p. 197) that, "no genuine case of psychic abilities has yet been demonstrated." Yet he fails to mention that psychic prediction would be possible only if information can travel backward in time. Since he clearly does not believe that can happen, why is he unwilling to stand up and say so?

Riniolo is aware (p. 199) that, "many individuals with treatable illness who have relied upon faith healers have gone home to die because they temporarily felt better (i. e., a placebo effect) and believed they were cured." And he reports (p. 212) that, "critical thinkers have correctly challenged those who believe that distant prayer results in healing to provide the evidence. At this time none exists." Yet when citing children's "belief in fantasy figures (e.g., monsters, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy)," (p. 207) he makes no mention of the most widespread childish fantasy of all, that fellow "God."

Riniolo takes a neutral stand on the hypnotism delusion. He writes (p. 54), "Hypnosis is still an unresolved issue in psychology, as credible evidence exists for those who believe that hypnosis is nothing more than individuals responding to social influences and expectations (i.e., people are playing the role of being hypnotized)." But he cites experiments in hypnotic age regression "that found accuracy results … consistent with chance." And he apparently fails to see a connection with hypnotism when he notes (p. 57) that, "the placebo effect decreases neural activity," and that, "placebos (i.e., the power of expectation) have the ability to influence brain functioning." Surely that shoots down the claim of incurable believers that changes in brainwave patterns under alleged hypnosis proves that hypnotism exists?

Despite himself being a psychologist, Riniolo is able to ask (p. 23), "Does talk therapy have any benefit for patients beyond a simple placebo effect?" He acknowledges (p. 58) that, "I am unaware of any double-blind study using a comparable placebo control to demonstrate that 'talk' therapy with a trained therapist is any more beneficial than 'talk' with an untrained individual who has experience interacting with people but is believed by patients to be a trained therapist." I suggest that if talk therapy by a psychiatrist was compared with the sympathetic listening of a bartender, a taxi driver, or a hetaera, there would be no measurably different results among the different groups.

Riniolo observes (p. 72) that, "many examples exist in the history of psychoanalysis of distortions that do not match the historical record." The case of a patient whom Sigmund Freud called "Anna O," contributed significantly to the invention of the talking cure. But a follow-up of the remainder of Anna O's life reveals (p. 73) that, "the historical record, as opposed to the often repeated legend, indicates that Anna was not cured … to say the least." He is aware (p. 157) that, "when a Freudian therapist attempts to find a cause of a known outcome by searching the patient's past … no controls for alternative explanations are used." Yet he does not mention that, not only Freudian, but all schools of psychology are so incompatible with one another that, as in religion, for any one school or sect to be valid, all others must be imaginative fiction. Is he protecting his bread and butter in the recognition that, if he openly denounces Freudian theory, his own glass house is likely to be shattered by attacks on whatever branch of psychoquackery he practises himself? He does, however, distance himself from the "psychobabble crowd" (p. 211), but without specifying which school of psychobabble he means.

He compares and contrasts psychology and economics, and suggests (pp. 135-143) that Albert Einstein's failure to study either was the root cause of his ongoing defence of Soviet socialism long after he could not reasonably have been unaware that Stalin was as evil a mass murderer as Adolf Hitler. Is Riniolo not here practising the same non sequitur as the Freudians, trying to "find a cause of a known outcome by searching the patient's past"? Or is he emulating the theologians who have denounced Richard Dawkins for not bothering to study theology, alleged knowledge of the life and thinking of a creature (God) that does not exist? Theology is a meal ticket for humbugs, and so are psychology, economics, and political science (a pseudoscience Riniolo does not mention).

He does recognize (p. 201-2) that, "economics is a discipline in which everyone disagrees." But he argues that, "there is at least as much agreement (perhaps more agreement) among economists when compared with psychologists, so the contributions from psychologists to the thinking community would likely have to be abandoned as well." To that I can only ask, "What contributions?" But the comparison with economics is valid. In no legitimate scientific discipline is it possible for two dissertations so diametrically incompatible that for either one to be valid the other must be incompetent drivel, both to receive Ph.D.s from the same department of the same university in the same year. It can happen in psychology, and it can happen in economics. Also, while there are points in every legitimate discipline (with the possible exception of mathematics) on which experts disagree, in no legitimate discipline is there a lack of near-unanimous agreement on anything. Yet that is certainly the situation in psychology. In trying to legitimize economics, Riniolo only succeeds in illegitimating psychology.

Riniolo shares my contempt for the prostitute media: "If there is one thing that virtually all critical thinkers can agree upon, it's that the media is typically biased toward pro-paranormal explanations" (p. 69). Since pro-superstition propaganda will draw more viewers/readers, and thereby attract more advertisers and higher income, than critical reporting, then to hell with truth or objectivity. And since the Vast Wasteland is the primary source of (dis)information for most North Americans, it logically follows that the rest of the world is far ahead in scientific literacy. (Could Sarah Palin have been taken seriously anywhere else in the world?)

Everyone knows that Nancy Reagan invited an astrologer to the White House, and convinced her moron husband to base his foreign policy on his daily horoscope. According to Riniolo (citing references), Hillary Clinton did much the same thing (p. 174,), "when the First Lady of the United States invited a 'New Age guru' into the White House to help her 'channel' with the 'spirit' of Eleanor Roosevelt." So Hillary's affliction with the god psychosis is not her only manifestation of mind-AIDS. That is almost as frightening as Barack Obama's decision to have the invocation of his imaginary playmate at his inauguration chanted by the anti-Semitic, homophobic, Mormon-hating, fundamentalist, theofascist, pithicanthropoid, evolutionary throwback, Rick Warren. (Hillary's claim that her involvement with a channeler was nothing more than an exercise of the imagination lacks credibility.)

Riniolo raises points that, while I find them unconvincing, appear to have at least face validity. He argues (p. 210) that, "the Santa myth is a useful event for children to practice critical thinking on a widespread, culturally perpetuated myth." He cites Tom Flynn's The Trouble With Christmas, but instead of arguing against Flynn's position that gullible acceptance of the Santa myth conditions a child to gullible acceptance of media-promoted myths as an adult, he simply propounds his own alternative. Is he right? Does he believe he is right? Or is he promoting a hidden agenda?

The back cover contains balloons saying, "Global warming is happening right now," and, "There are psychics who can communicate with the dead," the implication being that both claims are equally questionable. He stresses (p. 29) that, in his pages, "the same standards used by the critical thinker when investigating a psychic claim will be applied to the global warming debate." While I attach greater credibility to the scientists who cite evidence that global warming is really happening than to politicians who offer contrary arguments, I do not dispute Riniolo's contention that the global warming hypothesis is not being subjected to the same skeptical examination as the claims of psychics. The real question is: Does it need to be, or does the evidence for warming so outweigh the contrary evidence that the issue can be considered closed? Again, is Riniolo promoting a hidden agenda?

There are other areas in which I question Riniolo's ability to practise what he preaches. He endorses (p. 86) the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology (previously called sociobiology) that could be a useful contribution to human knowledge only if history, anthropology, paleontology, biology, genetics, and several other sciences are not. He clearly has not subjected E. O. Wilson's mushroom fantasy to the same skeptical investigation he advocates elsewhere. And after correctly showing how parapsychology claims confirmatory evidence by counting the hits and ignoring the misses, he then declares (p. 101) that, "Natural selection, however, has resulted in all of us having this bias to confirm what we already believe." The delusion that learned behavior can be propagated by natural selection continues to be taught by sociobiologists, just as it was taught by Lamarck and Lysenko.

On most of the issues he raises, Riniolo's position is logical and well argued. On others he seems to be the poster boy for the observation that there are none so blind as those who will not see. For example, he denounces Isaac Asimov and Thomas Malthus for the false prophecy of warning that humankind will be unable to produce enough food to feed itself within a time limit that has already expired. He either does not or will not grasp that, while advances in technology have delayed the consequences of overpopulation, the warning is still valid. The Ockham's razor explanation for such inconsistency (of course there are others) is that he is godphuqt. William Dembski and Michael Behe use pseudo-secular arguments to provide a role for "God" without mentioning him/her/it by name. Riniolo may be a global warming denier and an overpopulation denier because he is secularizing a dogmatic belief that such anthropocidal behavior can be safely continued because his god (or equivalent) will never allow humankind to exterminate itself. The reality is that Malthus and Asimov were right, and new technology cannot continue to support increasing overpopulation indefinitely. Whether Riniolo recognizes it or not, no supernatural, metaphysical or paranormal deus ex machina is going to rescue us in the last act.

To say that Riniolo gets more right than he gets wrong would be faint praise indeed, since the same could be said of tealeaf readers and Oprah Winfrey. But what he gets right is more important than what he gets wrong, and that is the true measure of When Good Thinking Goes Bad. If he can deter readers from clinging to unproven beliefs, that achievement is not diminished by his Lamarck/Lysenko/Wilson explanation of why they cling to unproven beliefs. While not perfect, Riniolo's book is assuredly useful.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
Will Cuppy
Barnes & Noble
122 5th Avenue, New York NY 10011

I am a historian. That does not make me infallible. Persons calling themselves historians have disagreed with me so vehemently and dogmatically that I find myself wondering how they can remember to take their pants down to defecate. But as a general rule, a historian can read a book outside of his field of specialization and recognize whether the author is adhering to sound historical methodology and reaching conclusions that are compatible with the evidence.

That does not always work. I once read a book by a holocaust denier, in the expectation that I would be able to crush its bigoted author like a bug. Instead I found that, while every page of the book was a pack of lies that had been totally demolished by specialists in the same field, I was not personally able to differentiate between arguments stemming from incompetent methodology and those that had some face validity. I returned the book to the library without writing a review.

Historians specialize. I am not an expert in the life and times of all of the 30 subjects of Cuppy's wit. But I have sufficient general knowledge to conclude that his departures from historical accuracy are at most intentionally imprecise for humorous or satirical purposes. Since Decline and Fall does not pretend to be sober history, I have no problem with that.

The following is typical of Cuppy's writing style (p. 12): "Egyptologists say they have no idea what Khufu was doing when he was not building pyramids, since he left no inscriptions describing his daily activities, and they would give a good deal to know. Then they say he had six wives and a harem full of concubines. They do not seem to make the connection here, but you get it and I get it."

Among Cuppy's gem of wisdom are the following:

"Thutmose III was thus one of the earliest exponents of internationalism, or going into other countries and slaughtering the inhabitants" (p. 24).

"A correspondent asks why Socrates was always hanging around corners with a bevy of handsome young Greeks. He was waiting for a streetcar" (p. 37). That was as close as Cuppy dared come in the 1930s, when he was compiling this book, to acknowledging that, at a time when Zoroastrian taboos had infiltrated Judaism but had not yet reached Greece, Socrates was into "handsome young Greeks."

"He is known as Alexander the Great because he killed more people of more different kinds than any other man of his time" (p. 38).

"Aristotle … taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons" (p. 40). At the time of writing there was no collective name for those "certain persons." Today they are called creationists.

"James Anthony Froude held that the whole story of Caesar and Cleopatra was the invention of a later age. I forget how he explained their son" (p. 57).

"Philip was a great believer in diplomacy, or the art of lying. He fooled some of the people some of the time" (p. 110).

"Other kings let their ministers make their mistakes for them. Louis [XIV] insisted on making his mistakes personally" (p. 114).

"Pompadour's death had left his [Louis XV] life completely empty, with nobody in it but his wife and children" (p. 125).

In the reign of Peter the Great, "Bribery and corruption were forbidden, except to duly constituted authorities" (p. 136). So what else is new?

"Frederick got up a plan to partition Poland, with a little help from Russia and Austria. Maria Theresa didn't want to do it, so she only took 62,500 square miles" (p. 154).

While my main field is the origin and evolution of Western religion, I also have Master's degrees in Tudor history. If Cuppy had seriously erred in his segment on Henry VIII, I am confident that I would have recognized it. So I am assuming that when he wrote (p. 170), "Some of Henry's peculiarities may be traced to the amount of boiled cabbage he ate," he was being facetious. Likewise when he explained (ibid) that when "Henry legally murdered 62,000 people—mostly thieves" by dropping them into boiling water, it was because, "It was so much cheaper than boiling oil."

Queen Elizabeth "resembled her father in some respects, although she beheaded no husbands. As she had no husbands, she was compelled to behead outsiders" (p. 172).

"A chief in Cuba inquired whether there would be Spaniards in heaven. When told yes, he refused to be converted to Christianity" (p. 205).

The Mayflower pilgrims "believed in freedom of thought for themselves and for all other people who believed exactly as they did" (p. 213).

Chapters on Hannibal, Attila, Charlemagne, Lady Godiva, Catherine the Great, William the Conqueror, George III, and Lucrezia Borgia are amusing, despite lacking one-liners such as the foregoing. But in referring to "charges I do not care to repeat," Cuppy downplays the contradictory Papal Bulls, one of which acknowledged that Lucrezia Borgia's son Giovanni was sired by her father the pope, and the other that he was sired by her brother the cardinal. Cuppy even declares, "I am not at all certain that the natural child [born in Lucrezia's bedroom] was Lucrezia's." Historians tend to agree with Giovanni Sforza, Lucrezia's husband at the time, that the child was hers, conceived by the aforementioned inbreeding.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody is fact-based fiction. As such, its purpose is to amuse rather than inform, and it is far less misleading than the propaganda I was spoon-fed in my third and fourth grade history classes. It may even stimulate an interest in history for persons who have hitherto regarded the subject as cable channel soap opera. As light reading, for both the educated and the majority, definitely recommended.

50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Guy P. Harrison
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591025672 $16.95

Guy Harrison lists all of the reasons he has been able to find that godworshippers give for being incurably superstitious. He has rounded the number up to fifty by subdividing the eight or ten actual arguments into hairsplitting subdivisions. For example, even the ten reasons cited on his front cover include, "Better safe than sorry," "I want eternal life," and "I don't want to go to hell," that are essentially different wordings of the same rationalization of their moral cowardice. While believers indeed offer a variety of reasons for their mindset, there is in fact only one reason why anybody is able to mistake ancient fairy tales for reality: ignorance of the discoveries of historians, logicians, and natural scientists and the accuracy of those discoveries. Combine that ignorance with a pathological terror of death that can only be overcome by the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief, and the result is that 17 percent of the human race are not merely superstitious like the curable 50 percent, but incurably superstitious. This book is written, not for the 33 percent who have outgrown the god delusion, or the 17 percent who are incurable, but for the 50 percent who have never been motivated to consider the implications of their credulous apathy. And while Harrison rebuts 50 reason believers cite for their credulity, he sees only one reason for nontheism (p. 321): "Nonbelievers do not choose atheism. They arrive at it by thinking"—as much of the 50 percent are likely to do if they dare read this book.

Harrison takes the consistent position that, while religion addicts have not learned to think critically about their mythology, they are neither stupid nor insane. If he is referring to the 50 percent of the population of the Western world who are curable godworshippers, I would have to agree. But he appears to be including the incurable 17 percent. On that point, we must agree to disagree. If George W. Bush and Hillbilly Graham are not subhuman stupid, and Pat Robertson and James Dobson are not dangerously insane, then those adjectives are meaningless and should be purged from the English language. Harrison's position is (pp. 153-154), "For example, it can be a challenge for science-literate nonbelievers to keep a cool head when in the presence of a believer who insists that the world is flat [as the Bible states in 14 places] and ten thousand years old, or that angels and demons are all around us, or that life does not evolve. But this is no reason to belittle or abuse someone." If you say so, Mr "peace in our time" Chamberlain. The closest Harrison ever comes to telling it like it is, after describing the observable hatred practised by opposing cults that all claim to worship a god of love, is (p. 255), "Through the eyes of a nonbeliever, all of this bears a remarkable resemblance to insanity."

In the chapter, "I need my god to protect me," Harrison writes (p. 187), "The Indian Ocean Tsunami convulsed for eight minutes to launch a tsunami that killed more than two hundred thousand people—many of them babies and children…. It's likely that most if not all of the believers who died that day screamed out for help from their god as the waters consumed them. But they still died." That really says it all. But he adds, "I have heard from believers … that we are all 'deserve' disasters like tsunamis because we are all 'sinful.'" That was the response of more than one brain amputee when I wrote a letter to my local newspaper asking, "Where was that fellow 'God' while this was happening?" And in rebutting the conceit that, "My god created the universe," and that disagreement with that delusion constitutes dogmatism, Harrison points out (p. 75) that, "atheists who accept the big bang as a good explanation based on current evidence are unlikely to become enraged or feel emotionally devastated if overwhelming evidence turns up in support of a new "Little Burp" theory that overturns the big bang theory."

Under, "My god answers prayers," Harrison writes (p 110) of George Carlin's alleged practice of switching his prayers from God to Joe Pesci, "Praying to Joe Pesci, ridiculous as it is, is likely to generate a success rate that is similar to praying to Jupiter, Jok, Jesus, or any other god." Under "My god heals sick people, he advises (p. 128), "Visit the 'Why Won't God Heal Amputees?' Web site to read more about the gods' inability or unwillingness to heal people who are missing limbs." He responds to, "Atheism is just another religion," with the observation (p. 49), "The weirdest thing about calling atheism a religion is that some religious people say it as if it is an insult…. It sounds a lot like, 'You atheists are as silly as we are.'" Calling atheism a religion is like calling celibacy a form of sex, or baldness a hair color. And in the chapter, "A sacred book proves my god is real," he demonstrates that even people who make such a claim to not believe it (p. 94): "Doesn't their refusal to kill gay men demonstrate that they have higher moral standards than the god they believe in?" Can anyone really believe in a god less morally evolved than himself?

In response to the propaganda that "Religion is beautiful," Harrison answers (p. 245), "It wasn't beautiful when religion inspired the Crusades and the Holocaust." Most Christians acknowledge that the Crusades, like the Inquisition, was one of their religion's low points. But to this day many delude themselves that Hitler's Final Solution was inspired by atheism. Newsflash: Hitler was not an atheist. His Nazism carried his Catholic religion to its logical conclusion just as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda carried Islam to its logical conclusion.

Harrison in many places draws attention to the reality that, for any religion to be true, all others must be false. The chapter, "My religion makes more sense than all the others," stresses this point. But nowhere does he point out that Christians worship a hunchbacked dwarf psychopath who was nonetheless not so insane as to imagine that he was a god. Jews worship an extinct volcano in what is now Turkey whose last eruption, c 2800 BCE, buried Sodom and Gomorrah. Muslims worship a god created, or at least redesigned in his own image, by a megalomaniac terrorist. And Hindu sects such as the Thugs worship a genocidal goddess with whom Osama bin Laden would have felt right at home.

On the fantasy that, "Ancient prophecies prove my god exists," Harrison challenges believers to back up that claim. He asks (p. 258), "Don't prophecy believers understand that if just one of their prophecies were unambiguous and confirmed by credible unbiased sources, it would convince virtually everyone in the world overnight?" As an example of what would be unambiguous and irrefutable, he postulates the discovery of a document proven to have been written 3,000 years ago, that states, "In a year to be called 1969 by the people of tomorrow, two men named Neil and Buzz will ascend to the moon and walk upon its surface." The only biblical prophecies that come remotely close to such accuracy are those written ex post facto. It was not difficult for the anonymous author of Mark to put into Jesus' mouth a prediction that the Jerusalem temple would be totally destroyed, an event that happened in 70 CE, in a book written after 70 CE.

The chapter, "We would have no sense of right and wrong," spells out one of religion's more self-evident absurdities. Harrison's rebuttal (p. 198) is, "They are not perfect, of course, but hundreds of millions of nonbelievers are not robbing or killing. Meanwhile … many millions of believers are raping, robbing and killing as if there is no tomorrow." But after showing that the believers are obviously deluding themselves, he stops short of explaining how they are able to do that. Perhaps he is too polite to point out that they are projecting the moral bankruptcy they see in the mirror, in effect confessing that they would be incapable of telling right from wrong without an imaginary Sky Fuhrer to tell them the difference.

There is one big reason overlooked by Harrison for the widespread belief in the fairy tales of religion—although the chapter, "Someone I trust told me that my god is real" could be said to include it—and that is: The news and entertainment media, for the sake of sales and ratings, have godphuqt me and the rest of the world with religious propaganda 24/7 for as long as there have been mass media. Harrison himself has not escaped media brainwashing, or he would not have written as fact that there are 2.5 billion Christians on earth (actual figure, 1.1 billion), 1.5 billion Muslims (actual, 1.0 billion), 10 million Mormons (less than 2 million), and 0.75 billion nontheists (actual, 2.2 billion). And he would not have blandly parroted the Christian propaganda (p. 215) that, "the Jewish God Yahweh, Christianity's God the father, and Islam's Allah are supposed to be the same god," unaware that less than one percent of Muslims believe that or have even heard of such a theology, and that in fact Yahweh (a volcano), Godan (Father Goth) and Allah (a masculinized goddess) had independent origins in widely separated parts of the world. Nor would he have casually referred to "the Holy Land" as if such a designation were objectively real rather than religious propaganda.

Similarly, he would not have used the words "skepticism" and "cynicism" as if they represented alternative attitudes toward the same situation. Skepticism is the questioning of alleged facts. Cynicism is the questioning of an individual's motivations. They are not related. Nor would he have repeated the discredited theory that Homo erectus (actually an evolutionary dead end like Homo neanderthalensis) was an ancestor of Homo sapiens; that Mother Teresa was something other than a lying, swindling humbug (p. 87); that Mohandas Gandhi was a fighter "for justice" (p. 282, when he was really fighting for the legal entrenchment of a caste system that forced the descendants of toilet scrubbers to remain toilet scrubbers for all future generations; and that Jesus ordered his hearers to give to the poor (actually to "The Paupers," Jesus' name for his own Ebionite sect); and that, "scientists have failed so far to figure out the great mystery of life's origin" (p. 287 and several other pages). In fact the first step in the evolution from nonlife to life, in the form of self-replicating organic molecules, has been achieved in laboratory experiments.

But while not always recognizing the degree to which he has himself been manipulated by the media, Harrison is well aware of its pervasive influence, without which much of the nonsense he rebuts would have flushed itself away long ago. He writes (p. 290), "It reveals a lot about creationism and intelligent design when their leading advocates choose to fight battles in the news media and in schoolboard meetings rather than inside laboratories and on the pages of science journals." Since conscienceless, money-making disinformation-peddling by the Vast Wasteland is the reason there is so much belief in the pseudoscience concepts of a "medium," a "ghost whisperer" and "psychic detectives," as well as Harrison's own mistaken beliefs, can anyone doubt that the same prostitute media are morally culpable for widespread addiction to the god psychosis? Harrison clearly recognizes the media's role in deluding the masses that religion is not the source of ninety percent of all manmade evil when he writes (p. 325), "When Shiite and Sunni Muslims slaughter each other, it's not religious violence; it's 'sectarian' violence. When a Christian murders an abortion doctor or a Muslim blows up a building, it's not religious terrorism; it's just terrorism. When believers block the progress of medical science at the expense of suffering people, it's not a problem generated by religion; it's 'bioethics.'"

Since every media mogul enriching himself by peddling the Big Lie that religion is a force for good, is fully aware that he will be dead long before the consequences of that Big Lie become inescapable, he is unlikely to jeopardize his bread and butter for such a trivial pursuit as saving the human race from going the way of the dinosaurs. Nonetheless, getting the message through to the media who mold public opinion must be tried, since the only other way of neutralizing god-addicted fanatics that comes to mind is likely to produce the very outcome it is designed to forestall.

Harrison is not unaware (p. 156) that, unless humankind exterminates religion, religion will exterminate humankind [within 300 years]. But he believes that religion's ultimate atrocity, anthropocide, can be deflected most effectively by being scrupulously polite to the anthropocidists. While that opinion is widely shared, it is not universal. If executing the Vatican Fuhrer, naked and without a face mask on live television in prime time, would be more effective in preventing his 650 million mindslaves from pursuing policies incompatible with the survival of the human race than asking him to question the logic of his beliefs, then that is what should be done. Rebutting people's reasons for believing in the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction would be fine, "had we but world enough and time." But we do not. Perhaps we can't win. But we must try. And if Guy Harrison's politically correct approach had as much chance of succeeding as a snowflake on the sunny side of Mercury, that would be what we should try first. The big question is: Does it?

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Unsafe for Democracy - World War I and the U. S. Justice Department's Covert Campaign to Suppress Dissent
William H. Thomas, Jr.
University of Wisconsin Press
Madison, WI
9780299228903 $34.95 800-621-2736

Using scores of individual cases, the independent scholar Thomas records the varied ways U.S. Justice Department agents tried to intimidate dissenters and suspected traitors into silence during World War I and the years after it when Wilson was promoting the League of Nations. The more sensational Palmer raids rounding up masses of immigrants on the basis of little more than rumors or vague suspicions are known as the standard example of government wartime practices going to excesses. But the scale of these and related, long-lasting controversy obscured the widespread questionable practices Thomas relates in this work. The "focus on prosecutions had the effect of understating the scope of the department's activities. Far more commonly, department investigators watched, warned, and reprimanded suspected seditionists." In this, the Justice Department agents had a "tremendous degree of latitude" in making individual decisions about "speech [which] interfered with the war effort."

The latitude given to agents led to such practices as warnings on taking certain political positions, threats of arrest, entrapment schemes, approaching relatives or neighbors for damaging evidence, and impersonations. The wide, ill-defined net cast included clergy, African-Americans and other minorities, union members, and leftist activists and sympathizers. In most cases, these were Americans citizens simply exercising what they regarded as their right of free expression, association, or political activism guaranteed by the Constitution and taken for granted. In some cases, individuals were treated as dissidents simply for arguing that the War would last longer than the political leaders were saying it would.

The government excesses Thomas records could have been taken from newspapers in the months leading up to the Iraq War. For they are more or less the same as those used by the Bush Administration to stifle dissent and concerns over the Iraq War. By reaching back in history, Thomas informs or reminds one that such activities are not unprecedented, and in fact are predictable even in a democracy. Knowing about them, one can be on guard against them and in most cases prevent the institutionalization and unquestioned rationalization of them which would make them a permanent part of society.

Christopher Masters
London and New York;
9781858944487 $49.95

Masters widens understanding of the Renaissance by weaving together the variety and evolution of artistic styles found in painting, architecture, sculpture, and other arts; the range of subject areas from sacred carrying over from the Middle Ages to secular and scientific reflecting the rising humanism; and the intermixture of cultural influences, not only those of classical antiquity, but Byzantine and Middle Eastern from increased trade and other contacts. Considering echoes of the Renaissance in art by Manet, Ingres, and other 19th-century artists, Masters also broadens understanding of it through following ages.

The author accomplishes this broadened perspective on the Renaissance not as might be expected by an academic study or similar art history study, but by a gallery of notable, relevant Renaissance art works on nearly every page that is coffee-table book in size and appearance. One takes in the expanded perspective mostly by visual means rather than scholarly. The difference between this work and a typical, familiar art book displaying the highest achievements of Renaissance art is the organization, not the sum of the content. By its organization, this work goes beyond celebration and appreciation of Renaissance art to a grasp of the relationship between the art and varied areas of Renaissance culture.

Religious themes, domestic life, foreign lands linked by advances in transportation, warfare, the growth of cities, the natural world including animals presaging the science of following eras, largely idealized or romanticized images of classical times, changes in fashion, and a new humanism seen in anatomical drawings and realistic portrayals are the cultural areas Masters ranges over. The information and perspective is found mostly in short essay-like annotations for the categorized art works, mostly paintings. The annotation with Bellini's portrait of The Doge Leonardo Loredan (ca. 1500) relates, "The head of the Venetian Republic was the doge, who was elected for life on the death of his predecessor...he could exert influence as chairman of the decision-making bodies, the Senate..."; thus relating a succinct picture of the more democratic forms of government which were superseding monarchy. In Lucas van Leyden's painting The Last Judgment (ca. 1500), the "beautiful nude figures of the resurrected...recede into the far distance..."; thus bringing together the Renaissance celebration of the human form with fundamentals of Christianity. Such learned, succinct passages tied in with adjacent lavishly reproduced art works on glossy paper make the book a special treat for art lovers and art historians.

Australian Post-War Documentary Film - An Arc of Mirrors
Deana Williams
Bristol, United Kingdom/U. of Chicago Press, IL
9781841502106 $60.00

Williams cites the Englishman John Grierson as a seminal, though ambivalent and in some ways controversial, figure for the post-War Australian documentary film. Though called by some "the father of the British documentary film," Grierson was received coolly during a 1940 visit to Australia. The author does not delve into Grierson's varied, ill-defined, and ultimately ambivalent influences, but rather for purposes of this film study hones in on his "stylistic influences emanat[ing] from what was understood to be the social needs of a country like Australia" for Australia's assimilation and variations of such influences.

With Australia "envisaged as needing reconstruction as a nation" after World War II, documentary film was expected to play a major role in this "nation-building." Documentary film was particularly suited to covering social problems and how these were being dealt with by the government and parts of society. But to be effective, documentaries had to forgo the traditional "kangaroos, koala bears and fields of waving wheat" for marginalized groups, sparsely populated areas, aspects of Australia's history, and individual settings and individuals exemplifying the social problems. From such grounds in the 1940s, Australian filmmakers developed a distinctive neo-realistic style, counterbalanced and sometimes integrated various parts of Australian society, and dramatized elements of the nation's history. Williams explores these paths taken by the Australian film.

The documentary film is particularly important in Australian film as seen in the internationally-popular, critically-acclaimed films Picnic at Hanging Rock, Walkabout, and Rabbit-Proof Fence which, though not documentaries, are in the style of Australian documentaries Williams traces back to Grierson. Such films and others show a polished development of the basics of Australian documentary; notably the desolation of much of the continent, marginalized social situations, relationships between the white settlers and aborigines, and the realist subjects and visual style.

Examining particular directors and films and with frequent, often multiline quotes from film historians, critics, and academics, Williams discloses the origins of post-War Australian film and charts its development. He lays out the expanse of the particular field more than fashions a perspective or theory. In so doing, he also perhaps inadvertently, exposes the limitations of Australian film growing out of the documentary aim. For Australian film seems mostly left out of the globalized filmmaking now being done most notably by China and India in Australia's sphere of the world and the United States too. As one can surmise from Williams, Australia's films were of interest in bringing the "real Australia" to a growing globalized world. But in working to accomplish this and in so doing making a number of classic Australian and world-class films, Australian filmmakers and screenwriters have left themselves stuck in a sort of no-man's land between the films with violence, gaudiness, and romance appealing to the global masses on the one hand and on the other, the ethnic, somewhat "arty," movies (e. g., Iranian) also of interest to a worthwhile segment of this audience.

Mud, Blood, and Gold - San Francisco in 1849
Rand Richards
Heritage House Publishers
San Francisco, CA
9781879367067 $25.95

It was the spring of 1848 when gold was discovered in central California and reported in the newspapers. Almost immediately, men and some women started heading for the gold fields in droves. Yet it's hard to believe how San Francisco grew from an ordinary West Coast port city to the bustling, polyglot center it did in the following year. Williams relates how this happened. In keeping with his popular style, he uses mostly primary sources of newspaper accounts, journals, letters, and the like.

Most goldseekers and ones aiming to provide services for them came to California via ship around South America or by breaking the sea travel up by crossing Panama in Central America to board a second ship for the final leg. So San Francisco naturally became the gateway to the gold fields throughout central California. The city was not only a brief stop for goldseekers heading inland, but also a center for the varied services they required. Some of these such as food and building materials moved from the port to the gold fields. The port grew; but so did the city with the supply stores, doctors, hotels, assayers, investors, and others needed to sustain large and changing numbers of individuals in the gold fields. Inevitably, too, such a large number of unattached men, many with large sums of money from finds, drew prostitutes and gamblers. The social situation in 1849 was so mercurial though that "lawyers, doctors, and other professionals without clients sometimes had to wait tables, wash dishes, and black boots to make ends meet." Richards quotes from a letter from the owner of a draying business that he had recently hired a lawyer to drive a mule team.

Public officials including politicians were another type active in 1849 San Francisco. Though California did not become a state until 1850, during the Mexican War, U. S. military personnel assumed other government roles, such as customs officials. With California officially becoming U. S. territory with the treaty ending the War in 1848, regular U.S. officials moved in along with aspiring politicians. With so much wealth flowing through San Francisco, at first there was much corruption among the public officials. But the social situation was so fluid and the need for effective social services and city government so pressing so the wealth would not be lost or usurped by only a few that in the course of the single year, government improved considerably. City government particularly working with religious and educational organizations and institutions helped to bring the first "glimmers of civilization" to San Francisco.

San Francisco has never fully shed the raucous, ribald, freewheeling image it got from its brief time as a center for the California Gold Rush. Richards colorful account moving among notable individuals, memorable vignettes, panoramic views, and pithy summations relates how the city got this image.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Michelle Obama: An American Story
David Colbert
Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547249414 $6.99

National and personal history intertwine in a new children's biography about First Lady Michelle Obama. Perhaps even more than her husband, Obama's journey to the White House personifies the rise in the past 150 years of African Americans from oppression to positions of power. Author David Colbert does an excellent job of examining Obama's life from childhood to adulthood, but also in placing her experiences and those of her family members in historical context. Colbert takes her family history back to great-great-grandparents who were slaves in South Carolina before the Civil War. He touches on the likelihood that Obama's great-great grandmother was born from an illicit union between a slave and slave master. He talks about Jim Crow laws, segregation in Chicago during Obama's childhood, and her attendance at an experimental high school that drew African Americans and other ethnic minorities from throughout the city. He recounts her brush with the mother of a college roommate, who fought to remove her daughter to a different dormitory when she discovered Michelle was black. He doesn't shy from a discussion of institutional racism at Princeton University, where Obama received her undergraduate degree. Ultimately, Colbert carries the story through to Obama's adult relationship and marriage to future president Barack Obama, her earning of a Harvard law degree, the start of his political career and the birth of their daughters. More than three dozen photos add to the book that is geared for tween readers ages 8-12. A great introduction, especially relevant for young African American readers, to a First Lady who hasn't let society limit what she can accomplish.

Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763630850, $16.99

Coretta Scott King Honor recipient Charles R. Smith, Jr., tackles a multitude of issues in a complex story about urban African American boys on the cusp of manhood. In a style similar to screenwriter John Singleton's groundbreaking 1991 movie "Boyz 'n the Hood," "Chameleon" goes in many concurrent directions, with a lot happening at once, without settling on one overarching plot line. Both "Boyz 'n the Hood," and "Chameleon" are set in Los Angeles. The story is about 14-year-old Shawn, who during the summer between eighth and ninth grade must decide whether to attend high school in a more urban -- and more dangerous -- neighborhood where his best friends reside or in a safer more suburban setting where his mother lives. The story touches on just about every issue that could imaginably affect boys of this age, including gangs, drugs, sexuality, racism, divorce and alcoholism in the form Shawn's perpetually drunk aunt. The gang issues are particularly honed upon, with Shawn and his friends doing things like taking a daily "color check" to ensure their clothes are not colors worn by Crips or Pirus. Try as they might to avoid confrontation, they find themselves several times having to deal with significant gang violence. The boys also play a lot of basketball.

The sexual references are explicit at times, but nothing young adult readers can't handle. What is, interestingly, completely absent is any foul language. Gang members and other trouble makers are referred to by words like "knuckleheads." What's refreshing is that the lack of foul words doesn't hurt the story one bit. Although the lack of a firm plot at first makes the book feel disjointed, the approach ultimately works well, as Shawn must choose his future path based on the many challenging things going on around him. "Chameleon" is about growing up, forging your own way and choosing the path that works best for you, even if it's littered with obstacles.

The Pet Dragon: A Story About Adventure, Friendship and Chinese Characters
Christoph Niemann, author and illustrator
Greenwillow/HarperCollins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780061577765, $16.99

A sweet story about a girl's relationship with a baby dragon, and her search when it becomes lost, is just one dimension of this beautifully illustrated book. In a wonderfully creative way, author and illustrator Christoph Niemann goes the additional step of filling the bottom of each page with Chinese characters that relate to the unfolding plot. When the girl and her dragon meet new friends, the illustrations of a cow, sheep, worm and dog and accompanied by the Chinese characters for those. When she and the dragon play ping-pong, readers learn the character for "middle," as in the center of the table that the ball bounces over. In all, readers are introduced to nearly three dozen Chinese characters while enjoying a magical tale about the girl's encounter with a witch that carries her above the clouds where they find the dragon living with others of its kind. A great introduction to Chinese, presented not as an intimidating language lesson but as a fun romp that just happens to center on another culture and its way of writing. A great approach to language learning that is sure to appeal to children.

Karyn Saemann

Margaret's Bookshelf

Reckless Indifference
Julie Bigg Veazey
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439203255, $14.00,

No one ever got ahead being a saint. "Reckless Indifference" follows the story of Eric Nordblum, a law-abiding citizen of small town America. Eric's world is turned upside down when he finds himself the accused of a crime he didn't commit, and the web grows thicker as it seems the system wants to discard him as fodder for one cop's ambitions. A story of crooked cops and crooked systems, "Reckless Indifference" is a riveting story of the everyman's challenge against the world.

Necessary Heartbreak
M. J. Sullivan
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Yellow Lab Public Relations (publicity)
253 Main Street, #169, Matawan, NJ 07747
9780595518036, $12.95,

An almost entirely different world can have far reaching effects. "Necessary Heartbreak" is the first of Sullivan's trilogy, which opens with quite the proverbial bang. Michael and his daughter Elizabeth find themselves back in the first century after exploring a tunnel too deeply. They soon find biblical times are not the most friendly, dodging Roman soldiers who have plans for them that they don't agree with, and their only friend is a single woman named Leah. A riveting and spiritual tale, "Necessary Heartbreak" will make readers anticipate more to come.

A Tuesday Like Today
Cecilia Urbina
627 E. Guenther, San Antonio, TX 78210
9780916727475, $16.95,

Stories sometimes take on the shape of something much greater. "A Tuesday Like Today" is a story of stories. A group of travelers meet in a remote hotel in the Jungles of Cambodia, and exchange stories. But their stories, while meant to be a simple and amusing way to pass the time, soon begins to become something much more. "A Tuesday Like Today" is a fine work of fiction, and its award winning status is no surprise.

Life Lines
Jean Scarborough
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159321, $8.95,

Motherhood is truly one of life's challenges, and Jean Scarborough brings her own experiences to the table with "Life Lines". Poignant and down to earth, Jean addresses the concerns of many mothers, ranging from being a good mother and how they will be remembered. "Life Lines" is a work of the heart, highly recommended. "A Precious Gift": Hands behind his back,/ "Mama, close your eyes!/I've got something for you/and it's a surprise."//This hand-picked dandelion/Is special you see,/It's a symbol of love/From my little boy to me.

A New Dawn Rising
Patricia Marie Budd
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Star Treatment Publicity Services (publicity)
PO Box 133, Beaver Crossing, NE 68313
9781605280042, $19.95,

The black man's burden was no strange thing to this white man. "A New Dawn Rising" follows the story of John Connolley, a white man born into slavery at the turn of the nineteenth century. His life is a strange one, as a white slave, he is viewed as a bit of an oddity, and is used as such. In order to acquire his freedom, he has to acquire money, and that's not easy when one is considered property. A twist on views on slavery, "A New Dawn Rising" is a solidly recommended piece of historical fiction.

Book of Beasts
Kerry Shawn Keys
Presa S Press
PO Box 792, Rockford, Michigan 49341
9780980008142, $12.95

Despite the playful appearance of its cover art, Book of Beasts is most assuredly not a poetry book for children - the raw, severe emotion of its brief, free-verse poems is coarsely candid about the darker side of life and human nature. A vividly powerful reading experience, recommended for anyone who likes to experience poetry with a kick. "Hummingbird": A hummingbird's not as large as a heron, / nor as small as a gnat or a hornet. / Yet a hummingbird's prettier than a ribbon / and tastes many a flower with its shiny bayonet. / If a rainbow was a hummingbird, / and an oilslick its image on earth, / I fear it would hum its way back to heaven / and leave our vision a spectral stillbirth."

Peace, Love And Lemonade
Nancy Stampahar
Silver Lining Solutions
200 White Hampton Lane, Suite 920, Pittsburg, PA 15236
9780980092707, $14.95,

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste whether it is personal or national. Underscoring the truth of this observation is "Peace, Love and Lemonade: A Recipe to Make Your Life Sweeter" by organizational development consultant, trainer, and keynote speaker Nancy Stampahar who uses her own life experiences to illustrate that every difficulty is an opportunity, every tough circumstance, if dealt with intelligence, optimism, and creativity, can prove to be instrumental in achieving something worthwhile in life. Using such real-life examples as her own mother, a single parent welfare mom, whose perseverance and hard work resulted in the earning of a law degree, her intellectually-disabled brother's personal courage, and herself having been a highschool dropout, demonstrate that Nancy has 'walked the walk' as well as having 'talked the talk'. Highly recommended reading that is as practical as it is inspiring, "Peace, Love and Lemonade: A Recipe to Make Your Life Sweeter" is a welcome addition to personal self-help, self-improvement reading lists.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Jane Austen Ruined My Life
Beth Pattillo
Guideposts Books
9780824947712 $12.49

Emma Grant is on board an airplane en route for London where she will take her revenge on them all. Her last trip to London had been in first class with her ex, Edward. From that opening we travel with Emma, English professor, denied tenure based on the lies of a Teaching Assistant who was trysting with Edward, on a quest to find the rumored lost letters of Jane Austen supposedly destroyed in a fire.

It is during the reading of the prelude that we find our main character musing about how Jane Austen ruined her life, and her mother filled her head with notions of happily ever after, and her preacher father instilled the idea that God has a plan for everyone's lives. All of that was before she became a grown up and married a cheating man who proved that there are not always happy endings to every situation.

A dutiful daughter, Emma has always done everything her parents expected. Divorcing her husband, and facing a penniless future was not part of their expectations. Emma does not know how to tell her parents the true cause of the divorce, the scandal leading to her losing her job, or any of the rest of the heart rending trials she has experienced. So, she kept her own counsel and sets out for London in the hope that she might forget her own misery and somehow pursue research which if she is successful she just might reestablish her credibility and again begin teaching.

It was soon after her arrival in London that Emma discovered her old friend, once her best friend, Adam was also a house guest in the home of her cousin Anne- Elise. It has been a decade since she last saw Adam, entered into a marriage with Edward and has found herself newly divorced.

Her parents despair at the divorce is understandable given their own upbringing, Emma's compliant nature and their station in life. After-all Rev. Grant IS a minister.

The narrative moves quickly into settings in London, meeting with Mrs Gwendolyn Parrot who says she has the missing letters or at least some of them, Stanhope Gardens and school girls on the streets, a secret society devoted to the writer Austen, a picnic with Adam, meeting a debonair man over whom all the women tend to swoon, and a renewed sense of betrayal and loneliness, an offer of quite a huge sum of money and a clandestine kiss all boil down to one interesting, fast paced read.

Writer Patillo has both visited and studied in London and she brings the city and countryside into the story almost as a secondary character. The reader feels almost carried right into the locales where Jane Austen herself lived, stayed and penned her celebrated novels.

Emma Grant is a study in indecision based on great conviction. Her ex husband is an interesting, flawed character. Adam is a man we all hope to know, romantically or not. Emma's decisions at last to find peace with herself and her dreams are understandable, readable and noteworthy.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life is filled with wittiness, some deception and more than a little pathos. During her quest following the tasks set for her by Mrs Parrot before she can be found worthy to read the letters held by the secret society Emma realizes that every person harbors clandestine thoughts, deeds or beliefs that serve to fashion the personality, moral fiber or character of the person. We are each compelled to make hard choices. We each face a moment when we opt for principle over dishonor, choose actual affection based in respect over Machiavellian maneuverings, or decide on uprightness rather than trickery based on self enhancement, just because it IS the right thing to do.

Reader who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy descriptions of the various sites and locales Emma visits. Those who thrill to all things English will find the tapestry woven filled with elegant imagery of gardens and churches, bookstores and train stations, as well as descriptions of seaside resort neighborhoods to be more than stimulating.

The Strength of a Sparrow
Tim "Dr. Hope" Anders
Alpine Publishing, Inc.
9781885624659 $39.95

The compelling tale on the pages of The Strength of a Sparrow, based on a true story opens in a dim bar on Manhattan's Upper East Side where a lovely young woman sat across from a slender man in his thirties. It was Rao's Italian Restaurant where the aroma of marinara sauce filled the air. It was their first meeting, followed by an evening filled with good food, interesting conversation and Hughie Hewitt was completely infatuated.

The Strength of a Sparrow a fictionalized tale based on the true story centered on the writers parents, she, Bouvette –Boo- Sherwood, a successful producer and actress of New York Broadway, and Hughie Hewitt, who does not reveal that he is a Catholic priest who is one step from being an alcoholic.

When Hughie realizes he has fallen in love with Boo he asks his childhood chum for advice. Vicente Rao is more than a little taken aback but does offer the simple notion that Hughie must choose, he simply cannot continue as a priest AND have a sweetheart. It is one or the other.

The narrative is driven by the energy of Bouvette Sherwood, who is a successful New York Broadway producer and actress. As their romance develops into a tangle of anticipation, stratagem, betrayal, and romance Bouvette naively offers to become a Catholic so that the pair can marry. She is non Catholic and has no idea that priests not only do not marry; they do not have children.

The lives of Hughie, Boo, their children, Roxanne and Tim, as well as Boo's staunch ally, and Vincente Rao are all intertwined, set down and proffered for the reader to examine. Separation, Bellevue Hospital, a foster home, privation, mistreatment and worse, jail, a private detective, the wrath of a Monsignor bent on becoming a Bishop and will let nothing stand in his way, not a wayward priest, not two small children, not a woman he brands as Jezebel, and a final goodbye all move the narrative to a compelling end.

Writer Anders' mother often thought many years that she might write a book about her life in New York both that as a Broadway actress, and how she had fallen in love with a married man, a man who was married to his church, loved her, but could never leave his first love.

As a teen Anders and his mother discussed her life on Broadway and her relationship with his father. Anders praises his mother's buoyant, never give up mind-set as the motivation for his writing his Life Lessons series of children's books. Following his mother's death Anders determined he would write her story.

The Strength of a Sparrow is both a love story and a tale of the force held over priests by the Catholic Church during the 1940s. Somehow the notion that a priest might want marriage and a family was viewed as something so irrational the church leadership would do nearly anything to prevent it taking place.

Anders' account is based on the stories told to him by his mother filled in with a bit of romanticism and hope that may or may not have been part of the real story. The writer's descriptive account of the setting is compelling, draws the reader in to the setting, the relationship between Boo and Hughie is believable, albeit from the outset it is one that the reader knows cannot have a happy ever after type ending.

Writer Anders is a skilled author, presents his tale well, his characters are well fleshed and settings are clearly delineated. Dialogue is at times gritty, some sexuality included may turn away some writers.

Mesmeric and easily read The Strength of a Sparrow is presented as a tribute by a son for the love and relationship he wishes his parents had. We cannot help but commiserate with both Boo and Hughie to some degree, although I am troubled today that the leadership of the church during the 1940s seems to be far more distressed that the idea a priest might want marriage and family; viewing it as far more horrific than the child abuse which we now know was being carried out by members of the clergy. Easily read, hard to read. Happy to recommend for those who enjoy slice of life type narratives.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Kirk Alex
Tucumcari Press
P.O. Box 40998, Tucson, AZ 85717-0998
0939122340 $10.95

This is another volume in the story of Chance Register, struggling writer and former Los Angeles cab driver, now a resident of Tucson, Arizona.

He worked for a year or two in a warehouse that distributed pornographic films, until he could no longer take the backstabbing jerks with whom he was working. He is now almost 50 years old, unemployed and with only a few hundred dollars in the bank.

Nearly every day, he reads the local classified ads or rides his bicycle to the local state job center, looking for any type of work. Chance got rid of his car as a cost-saving measure, but it turns out to have been a bad move. Pedaling several miles to check out a possible job opening, then several miles back to his apartment, during an Arizona summer, when the temperature is over 100 degrees, is beyond brutal. When he gets to the company with the opening, they're closed, or they're not hiring, or the receptionist has an attitude problem, or the job looks really horrible. For Chance, the worst thing is when the hourly wage is at, or below, minimum wage (evidently, that's legal in Arizona). He seems to spend a large amount of his time cursing the evil, dishonest money-grubbers in this world.

The local cab company has openings, but Chance has no desire to even think about getting back in a cab. The biggest reason is that daily rent of the cab, and gasoline, comes out of the cabbie's pocket, so he has to make a certain amount of money each day, just to break even. At this point, a lesser man would be lying on the floor with a self-inflicted bullet in his head. The only thing that keeps Chance going is his desire to become a writer. He has one book already published, though it's not selling very well, and another book somewhere in the production process, that he would really like to become an actual book.

This is another well done, honest and heartfelt piece of writing from Kirk Alex. At one time or another, everyone can identify with Chance, being unemployed and very low on funds. It's short, easy to read, and well worth the reader's time.

Cradle of a Nation: A Story of Colonial Virginia
Diana M. Johnson
Superior Book Publishing Company
16417 Superior Street, North Hills, CA 91343-1836
0966150449 $16.95

Set in 1700s Virginia, this is one family's story in Colonial America, before words like "revolution" and "independence" sweep the land.

If there is such a thing as a "good" slave owner, that's William Daingerfield. Early in the book, he finds his white overseer mercilessly beating a slave without his consent. Not only does he stop the beating, and do what he can to nurse the slave back to health, he fires the overseer, and has him thrown in jail. This being a tobacco plantation, when harvest time comes, he is not afraid to get dirty in the fields, alongside his slaves.

This story is told by young Will Daingerfield, and Davy, his personal servant. Despite that master/slave wall between them, having grown up together, they are nearly inseparable. Will is sent to the William and Mary Grammar School to get an education, and Davy goes with him. Allowed to sit in on Will's classes, still as his personal servant, Davy ends up getting educated, and learning how to read. Later, Will asks Davy why he doesn't talk better, now that he's educated. Davy basically says that if other whites don't get on his case, and even threaten to kill him, for trying to "act" white, his fellow slaves will.

Back at the plantation, the years pass. Will becomes master of the plantation, and there are marriages, births and deaths, including both of Will's parents. Will's first wife, Catherine, dies in childbirth. A number of years previously, at a fancy ball, when Will was a teenager, he met a child named Apphia, who boldly said that one day she was going to marry Will. Well, "one day" has come, and as Wife #2, she bears Will several children. Years later, Will's son, and Davy's son, join the Virginia army to fight the French and Indians to keep Virginia's access to the Ohio River valley. Both Will and Davy realize that things have come full circle, that they are getting on in years, and, every day, hope and pray to see their sons coming up the road.

At the end of this book, the author mentions that the characters in this book were real people. The author still does her usual excellent job at making the characters and story feel real. It is an interesting story, and is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

George Ella Lyon
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780689869730 $16.99

"Sleepsong" is a marvelous book about the bedtime ritual. The top half of each 2-page spread contains colorful illustrations showing a little girl getting ready for bed. Across the bottom of those pages are dreamlike illustrations of lots of different animals sleeping. These enchanting images tell a story within a story. The simple, rhythmic prose, which can be read or sung, is the perfect accompaniment to the stories unfolding across the pages.

My 7-year old granddaughter read this book and loved it. Since she doesn't read music, she made up her own tune.

"Sleepsong" is a timeless bedtime story filled with reassurance that all is right with the world.

Tales From Outer Suburbia
Shaun Tan
Arthur A Levine Books
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10020
9780545055871 $19.99

Hidden away among this collection of 15 stories can be found this book's heart and soul and my favorite "Distant Rain", which ponders what becomes of poems scribbled on scraps of paper. The journey is told through illustrations of word snippets on scraps of paper, leaving readers with the impression that perhaps that is how this book of quirky tales came to be. In much the same way a brilliant inventor rummages through his workshop for a part from this and a piece of that to create something much greater and quite amazing. The kind of contraption that is spectacular by its very existence and nothing further is required. Pure art.

Each story combines common images of ordinary suburban landscape and lifestyle with imagination and a dash of fantasy, from "The Water Buffalo" in the vacant lot who always pointed people in the right direction, to annoying "Stick Figures" which appeared all over town, to the exciting "Our Expedition" to the edge of the map. Another favorite, "The Amnesia Machine" is laid out like a page from the newspaper. Surrounding headlines and bits of new stories add a fresh layer of satire to this recollection of a puzzling dream – or is it? "Alert But Not Alarmed" plays a brilliant game of "what if?" with the future. Open the pages and enter a world where anything can and really does happen.

Reading "Tales From Outer Suburbia" is like a playful romp through an art gallery while someone tells you fascinating stories to go along with the pictures. Shaun Tan has married words with illustrations and created magic.

The joy and inspiration found within these pages is indescribable. This is a book for all ages to be read over and over.

Resurrection Dive
Eva Batonne
Zumaya Publications
3209 S. IH 35 #1086, Austin, Texas 78741-6905
9781934135686 $16.99

What's not to love about curling up with a hard-boiled detective crime novel? Well get comfortable. Eva Batonne's "Resurrection Diva" does not disappoint.

LA Detective Joan Lambert is in the middle of investigating the young starlet, Autumn Riley's murder when everything goes haywire. Autumn turns up on the streets of LA and she's very much alive. Case solved? Not so fast. The landscape is littered with loose ends. Like the messy videotaped murder of Autumn's best friend Dani. There's Pancho the dog who's found at Autumn's home. But Pancho belongs to a missing boy named Tommy, whose disappearance is linked to a whole slew of missing persons.

Lambert's investigation begins with Autumn's boyfriend, the big shot Hollywood producer Glenn Addams. When she follows him to a private club she discovers his connections to a cast of bizarre characters like druggies Dewey and the Barb, the dangerous Taylor twins, mystery man Coastal Eddy, and creepy Hector.

Haunted by her own checkered past, Lambert is drawn into the mind-bending twists and turns of a dark underworld. In the process she unwittingly pulls back the thin veil that separates Hollywood's lofty heights of glitzy glamour from the gutters of porn and snuff films.

Gripping suspense, intriguing plot, and unforgettable characters make this delicious mystery one you'll devour in one sitting.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

The 5 Minute Miracle: Standing Out by Becoming Outstanding
Ed Delph
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427653 $15.99

Stories That Demonstrate Authentic Christianity

Ed Delph's "The 5 Minute Miracle" is filled with real life stories which demonstrate authentic, genuine Christianity and validate the power of God's Word in everyday life experiences.

The stories in this book are a compiled from articles taken from "The Church-Community Connection" Ed's newspaper columns published earlier in the Glendale Star and the Peoria Times. Each of the chapters is from one of Ed's columns and includes a story with an application the reader can apply in their own personal spiritual journey.

There are inspirational stories on meeting adversity. They reflect wisdom for helping the reader work through times of crisis. Many provide practical reminders: such as the difference between urgent and vital, or vignettes featuring real people who have demonstrated authentic Christianity in meeting their adversity.

Ed is a gifted writer and story teller. His writing is filled with wit and humor. He provides a comedic relief, entertainment, inspiration, encouragement, and motivation in each article. His stories are dynamic and life transforming. His subtle humor kept me smiling, grinning, and chuckling.

As I completed each chapter I stopped to reflect on the new insights, spiritual nuggets, and the life changing challenges opening up to me. A succinct phrase or meaningful verse from the Bible round out the day's reading. Each short chapter is relevant and engaging, providing spiritual insights, and applications for everyday life.

"The 5 Minute Miracle: Standing Out by Becoming Outstanding" has awakened a thirst for my more of Ed Delph.

Loving Our Kid's on Purpose
Danny Silk
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 1725-0310
9780768427394 $16.99

Guiding Our Children to Find and Fulfill God's Intent

"Loving Our Kid's on Purpose: Making a Heart to Heart Connection" provides guidelines for parents to help them instill in their children the principles of the Kingdom of God. Danny Silk presents new relational paradigms and straightforward advice and practical applications for parenting.

Silk attacks the root issues, relational barriers and social issues popular in today's culture. Danny is a natural story teller and incorporates stories that strengthen his emphasis on the core values stressed in the Word of God. He believes parenting to be a divine commitment. He offers suggestions for dealing with anxiety, stress, and worry. He gives examples of parents reconnecting with their children. He offers an outline for nurturing inner discipline in children while building their character.

The book is filled with good judgment, foresight, and purpose. Silk's writing is Biblically sound. He helps the reader become systematic in establishing principles of freedom and self control. He relates the experiences of families living in disorder and uncertainty, with hassles and frustrations. He addresses ways to move into fun filled family relationships. Danny encourages the reader to recognize that it is the responsibility of the parent to nurture and build a healthy environment in the home conducive to loving kids on purpose.

The chapters include a section called "Points to Ponder." These are straightforward, profound questions which help the reader incorporate and apply the material covered in the chapter into their parenting style. These points are an outstanding tool for a quick review of the material.

"Loving Our Kid's on Purpose: Making a Heart to Heart Connection" is recommended by pastors, Christian leaders, educators, parents, and professionals. Danny's writing is innovative, fervent, and enthusiastic. He offers no-nonsense, significant guidelines applicable to a new generation of parenting.

The Political Spirit
Faisal Malick
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427332 $17.99

Recognizing, Resisting, and Defeating the Political Spirit

"The Political Spirit" is written to equip the Christian to in recognizing that God is at work, preparing His Church to understand the spiritual warfare taking place around us in the political arena today so that He can align His Body, and empower His holy people to walk in the authority required to emerge victorious in these last days. Faisal Malick offers a fresh look at look at the sovereignty of God, the authority of the believer, and spiritual warfare.

Each chapter closes with a "Mediation Moments" section which challenges the reader to reflect and examine themselves in light of the material introduced in the chapter. These thought provoking questions offer practical suggestion for action steps that can be taken to better understand truth in light of today's political climate.

Malick explores the political spirit in the world today in light of the leaven of Herod and the Herodian dynasty and notes powerful parallels of the a hidden agenda, alliances, and the invisible mastermind that want to thwart whatever God is doing. Malick provides important and helpful insights into the characteristics of Islam and the five strategies of terrorism.

Keenly aware of the political maneuvers taking place throughout the nations of the world today Faisal warns the church to answer the call to be ready for the coming kingdom and offers hope to the Christian of the victory ahead.

"The Political Spirit" is informative, important and timely. This is a book that should be made available to political leaders and their constituents. Malick's writing is convincing, convicting, and relevant to these end times.

The Significance of One
Steve Vanzant
Destiny Image Publishers
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427349 $16.99

The Importance of Individually Facing the Unique Challenge of Making an Impact on Your World

Steve Vanzant's book "The Significance of One" evokes phrases like these: a gripping page turner, I couldn't put it down, captivating, a must read book, moving stories, straight forward, and life changing.

Steve writes of heart breaking tragedy and of the courage of people he has met and ministered to during his experience as fire department chaplain in Haltom City, Texas. He describes the ministry of presence, of being available. He encourages the reader to accept the challenge to be ready, willing, and accessible to meet the needs of their immediate community, their city, and the nation. Steve maintains there are opportunities unique to this generation, as we experience a rise in violence, the problems of drug and alcohol abuse, of sexual confusion, and terrorism.

Steve has a recurring theme of becoming "salt" in the community. I found the "Pass the Salt" applications to be especially rich in material for reflection and application in my own personal Christian walk.

A study guide is included in the book. The guide includes questions designed to help the believer discover practical, personal application of God's Word. This study guide can be used to meet individual needs, in a group setting, or in a combination of both to encourage spiritual growth and accountability.

Steve is a natural story teller and an anointed writer. His stories touch the heart, are motivating and offer hands-on direction for reaching out to others who are facing tough times, inner pain, or suffering. This is an amazing life-changing book.

The Champion in You
Dr. Kenneth C. Ulmer
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 1725-0310
9780768427417 $16.99

Developing Champions for Divine Deployment

"The Champion in You" is a book of inspiration and challenges. Dr. Kenneth C. Ulmer asks the reader to look within to discover the God given potential He has placed within, giving empowerment to become a champion. Dr. Ulmer provides keys for achieving this dynamic potential.

The book is filled with stories of champions, whose lives influence other people in ways that give confidence to and stimulate others to glorify God.

These are often individuals with humble beginnings, who were faced with barriers, yet they went on to prominence, received acclaim, and became champions.

The book is a no-nonsense guide filled with viable Biblical principles which lead to transformation and confidence. Ulmer directs the reader step by step in discovering God's intention and promise for the lives of the readers.

Dr. Ulmer is a gifted communicator and an articulate writer who models through his life and ministry the same strategic Christian leadership principles he advocates in his writing. He replicates the important attributes that make a champion. There is a deceptive simplicity in his writing style. His understanding of the scripture is profound. He brilliantly communicates these truths.

I found the lessons from the life of Jeremiah the prophet fresh and unforeseen. These were inspiring, noteworthy and surprisingly relevant for today. I thought the chapter end notes helpful as they expanded or gave background information on the ideas being talked about.

This is a book for believers at any stage of their spiritual journey. Kenneth Ulmer's writing is persuasive, thought provoking and inspiring. I highly endorse and recommend this book.

Parting the Waters
Jeanne Damoff
WinePress Publishing
P. O. Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781579219505 $12.95

A Haunting Story of Seeking God's Purpose in Suffering

As an avid reader I sometimes find a book that deeply touches my heart.

Jeanne Damoff's "Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness" is that kind of book. This is a poignant account of the trials and testing faced by the Damoff family when their fifteen year old son, Jacob, was left in a coma as a result anoxia in a near death drowning accident,

Jeanne describes the raw emotion and physical exhaustion she experienced throughout the years of Jacob's treatment, therapy, progress, set backs and victories. She candidly tells of her personal emotional pain, the absence of laughter in their home, and of how the family suffered with Jacob through his suffering. She writes of trying to banish fear and anxiety, while looking for a break through, a sign of complete restoration and healing.

Jeanne writes of the support of family, church friends, and of the community backing which enabled her with her husband George to focus on being with Jacob while health care professionals planned his treatment and therapy, during the time Jacob was in a coma as well as the months that followed. God graciously built a wall around Jeanne's pain as she persevered in prayer, pleading for a miracle while working through periods of resentment, anger, guilt, and desolation.

Beautiful testimonies from family members, caregivers, and friends tell of how they personally were touched and are being touched by Jacob's life. These words of affirmation add to the books authenticity and bring honor to God for the miracles seen in their own lives through the ongoing story of Jacob's simple, joyous faith, and his sense of personal contact with his God though worship. The book also addresses questions of God's purpose in suffering, His sovereignty, and His power to heal.

Any parent who reads book "Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness" will be touched by the under current of a deep faith and positive hope displayed by the Damoff family. I found an unexplained beauty in Jacob's story. It has deeply moved me and touched my heart.

Nurses Coffee Break Series: Colossians Prayer
Carrie M. Dameron Publications
Pleasanton, CA
9780615252339 $9.99

Life Giving Principles Applications for Nurses

Carrie M. Dameron MSN, RNBC has developed a devotional format designed for practicing nurses and health care professional using an informal coffee break setting. "A Devotional Prayer Book For Nurses Using Colossians 1:9-12" is the first in this series of studies. Carrie draws on her sixteen years of experience as a health care professional to introduce this holistic approach to incorporating the Word of God into the practice of nursing.

By using parallels from hospital setting Carrie blends together an inspiring narrative, a prayer from the Colossian passage, a short passage for memorizing, and a "Brewing Time" to reflect on a thought provoking application question or challenge from the day's devotional thoughts.

Each of the thirteen sections or chapters of the study take into account practical issues encountered by of nurses on a regular basis. Carrie uses Biblical principles to look at ethical issues, and the spiritual needs of patients or of colleagues. She stresses the importance of critical thinking in making decisions in light of this context.

Dameron offers practical suggestions for personally growing in the knowledge of God. She talks about how perseverance and spiritual conflicts like doubt, depression, and defeat can be turned around to help and encourage others facing these same hurdles. She urges the reader to share their faith in Christ and suggest a plan of being specific in prayer for colleagues or individual patients.

Carrie has a gift for getting to the heart of an issue in a few words. Her writing is heartfelt, compelling, credible, and inspiring. She makes you feel like you are visiting across the table while sharing a cop of coffee or tea in a conversational setting offering friendship and fellowship in a health care setting in an endeavor to find a common bond of support.

Collision of Angels
Michael Carver
7290 Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439209424 $20.99

A Political Thriller with a Christian Message

Retired Millionaire Silas Jackson and several of his associates are deeply disturbed about the lack of moral leadership in a politically corrupt world. They perceive our nation as divided with a congress deadlocked in the midst of ethical chaos headed for major spiritual warfare. Silas and his colleagues have made a pact to begin a faith journey that will provide a positive impact on the country and will influence the world morally.

Silas is certain that his son in law, Tony Campbell, is the man to successfully carry out a platform that will return the spirit of the nation to a focus on the Word of God as the guide for political, upright, and fiscal, and economic leadership as the president of the United States.

Michael Carver brings together Biblically sound doctrine as the foundation for a fictional account of spiritual warfare with an ingenious imagination. He has created dialog between angelic beings, both good and evil determined to impact Tony Campbell in his decisions.

The story hinges on Tony's acceptance of the invitation to run for president. Tony receives confirmation from an angel that this is a part of God's divine plan. This sets the pace for the spiritual struggles Tony and the team are faced with in the early stages of planning, setting up and implementing a campaign strategy. A sub plot reoccurs throughout the story of a father son relationship gone sour, the power of mentoring, and the promise of reconciliation.

Carver remains true to himself and his convictions by including a fervent gospel message using dialog between his characters to introduce a strong moral fiber in their Christian character and core values.

I was affected by the scenes which included heartfelt prayers for direction, understanding, and spiritual strength. These prayers were filled with thanksgiving and expressed genuine worship.

Michael has an extraordinary sense of timing, which creates suspense, emotions, conflict and resolution. He entices the reader to eagerly want more. "Collision of Angels" is inventive, idealistic, moving and skillfully written. I highly recommend this book as timely reading for this new era in American history.

Make Steady Money as a Travel Writer
Jack Adler
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759226 $14.95

How to Find Your Niche as a Travel Writer

Jack Adler, professional travel writer and columnist has now published key secrets as a travel writer in the book "Make Steady Money as a Travel Writer." The book is packed with suggestion for articles, marketing tips, and key steps on improving your writing skills or putting a new edge of excitement in your articles.

Adler talks about the changing world of travel writing. He shows the reader how to discover marketable topics, with suggestion for hundreds of themes. He discusses marketing, the value of entering contests, as well as how to organize travel writing as a business and important IRS issues.

There are dozens of sample articles included from the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun Times, and several popular magazines. These samples demonstrate how to organize an article and how to develop your own personal writing style.

I personally found the chapters on initiating a travel column practical and motivating. The tips on setting up and conducting an interview were also helpful to me. Another special interest was additional insight on queries and determining a special niche within the vast possibilities of travel writing.

A comprehensive resource list includes: Tourist offices, trade and travel associations, government service agencies, and a listing of other valuable websites for further exploration and research. A travel terminology glossary and an editorial glossary are extras that add to the importance of the book as a resource guide for future repeated reference.

Jack Adler writes with authority and clarity. "Make Steady Money as a Travel Writer" is a must for every travel writer's library.

If I Walked in her Shoes
Susan Salach
Xulon Press
2180 West State Street, Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781606476130 $14.99

Caregiving Relationships – Two Perspectives

"If I Walked in her Shoes" is a dramatic novel which captures the essence of struggles faced by families today as a result of an aging population. Susan Salach has carefully created a composite of characters made up with the needs and characteristics of real people she has connected with through bother her personal and professional experiences.

Salach's characters are easy to identify with as they exemplify the dynamics of aging parents and the underlying love that reinforce these relationships common to thousands of families today.

The story begins by introducing Sara, corporate executive in the midst of a flourishing career, a happily married, mother of two, who suddenly becomes caregiver for her elderly mother, Rose.

A recent widow and independent Rose lived in the family home of over 50 years until a serious fall required hip surgery. Her slow recovery and waning health sound evolved into a progressive reliance on Sara.

Rose and Sara represent a typical relationship created by the needs of the elderly parent and the nature of a dutiful daughter trying to meet the numerous demands of caregiving, a growing family, and a successful career. A sense of guilt, self-reproach, and a lack of sleep frustrated Sara as she attempted to accomplish all minutia of detail at work and at home until she is overwhelmed until she feels her world is crumbling around her.

Severe pain, loss of autonomy, and self sufficiency with no social outlet turn Rose from an sparkling individual to a dejected, resentful, demanding outsider.

"If I Walked in her Shoes" covers one day detailing the two perspectives, Rose, discontented, aggressive, and lonely, vying for Sara's attention, while she feels inundated, defensive, and self protective. Individually Rose and Sara become aware of the other's situation. They try to see a perspective from the other's viewpoint and ask the question: "What is it like to be in the others shoes?" or What If, I Walked in Her Shoes?"

Susan Salach helps her characters come to grips with the meaning and basis of family love as the foundation for an ongoing bonding relationship in times of calamity and shifting roles.

Susan Salach's writing is articulate, her characters genuine and believable, and her plot is engaging. Insightful, enlightening, and heart searching describe this remarkable tribute to caregivers everywhere.

The Bridegroom Comes!
Dr. Richard Ruhling
Book Surge LLD
7290 Investment Drive #B, Suite 16, North Charleston, SC 29418
1439221359 $9.95

A Timely Warning an Alternative Interpretation

"The Bridegroom Comes" introduces an important alternative interpretation to the recent popularly accepted teaching and in the fictional stories of end time prophecies, which combine scriptural truths with contemporary characters and complex fictional plots. Dr. Richard Ruhling offers the reader a straightforward answer to the question "How Not to Be Left Behind."

Newspaper headlines today alert their readers of the signs of the times, with headlines of war, rumors of war, and earthquakes. Astute Christians are being drawn to the message of Biblical prophetic theology. Scholars offer their opinions with the warning that we are living in end times.

Dr. Ruhling provides insight into the importance of sharing the warning of a coming crisis. He produces evidence that the solar system, alignment on Mary 5, 2000 is a sign of the nearness of the end and a reminder of coming judgment, as in Noah's day.

Ruhling prudently points out that there is a diversity of opinions on the interpretation of the White Horse in Revelation chapter six as well as the often misunderstood message concerning the rapture of the church.

Advanced Biblical students will expand their knowledge base and find new insights into these truths as they reflect on Ruhling's conclusions. New Christians and others not familiar with end-times teaching and the different interpretations will find this work a helpful resource tool for further study.

The chronological appendix and the practical considerations is helpful in visualizing an end-times sequence and time-line. This is a two in one book which includes Dr. Ruhling's book "America in Prophecy" which deals with end-time issues in Daniel and Revelation.

Dr. Richard Ruhling expands on the Biblical message of the signs of the nearness of the end-times with a warning of judgment to come. His writing communicates a genuine concern for his reader and their response to this warning message.

Mediterranean Madness
Andrew J. Rafkin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432720384 $21.95

Another O. R. C. A. Adventure Action Thriller

"Creating Madness," Andrew J. Rafkin's earlier book details the origins and operations of the Oceans Reconnaissance Commission (O.R.C.A.) Rakin combines an intricate plot, genuine characters and advanced technology to build a fast moving, intriguing, action and adventure story in his new book "Mediterranean Madness."

O.R.C.A.'s success in providing protection against terrorism and drug trafficking, in the coastal and worldwide ports, has infuriated the North Korean Hon family. They have augmented their personal settling of scores and continue to retaliate against Reef Johanssen and Alexis Mikos of O.R.C.A.

The Hon brothers conscript the support of a prosperous Iranian, corrupt mercenaries, and the Russian Mafia in a heinous plot to use biological and nuclear warfare to terrorize the world. O.R.C.A.'s team is called on to thwart their plot before the entire population of the world is filled with terror.

A multifaceted plot takes the O.R.C.A. team around the world while matching wits with the Hon family and their sinister plans to terrorize the peoples of the world with the threat of biological warfare. O.R.C.A. has been called to solve the unaccountable mystery of dying fish throughout the waters of the Mediterranean.

Rafkin maintains his reader's attention in this page turning adventure with a balance of suspense, conflict, emotional involvement, and romance. "Mediterranean Madness" is must reading for all get pleasure from a techno-thriller with spellbinding action, a multifarious plot and true to life characters. Rafkin continues to raise the standard of his own writing with his perfect timing of technical know how and breathtaking adventure and action

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
David Arnold
Creation House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599794853 $7.99

Finding God's Grace through Suffering, Distress, and Frustrations

David Arnold offers the reader help in understanding "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People." His book is filled with a remarkable compilation of intensely stirring stories and inspiring quotes that give evidence of the truth of God's blessing on the life of his children during times of disillusionment, hardship, and strife.

Arnold illustrates ways that sometimes explain why bad things come into the lives of good people because of godliness, external circumstances, or willful disobedience. He maintains that often there are lessons God wants us to learn. These may deal with feeling compassion, recognizing pride or growing in humility. These difficulties are sometimes used to make our faith stronger and cause us to be more dependent on God by putting out trust in Him.

The pages of this compact book are packed with deep thoughtful quotes from inspirational writers, Christian leaders, well known sports personalities, ministers, evangelists, and Biblical scholars.

Arnold also uses illustrations from Scripture which reinforce the truths he has introduced. This is a book for reading, for study, and for reflection. It is filled with thoughts for contemplation, for meditation, for application, and assimilation into the life of the reader.

"Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" is not a theological dissertation. It is designed to provide expectation, and hope. It is to help the reader find the needed strength from Christ to see them through the hard times. David Arnold has created a beautiful treasure trove of inspiration in his book.

But God
Phil Pringle
Christian Life Publishers
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793672 $14.99

Adding the God Factor to Your Circumstances

When overwhelmed by financial matters, feelings of guilt, in times of illness, or in the middle of failing relationships, Phil Pringle's "But God" will make life easier to deal with as you devise ways to create an atmosphere of the miraculous in your life.

"But God" contains thirty eight short chapters which combine art, photographs, and short inspirational thoughts and stories which bring hope and encouragement to everyday calamity. The design of the book encourages the reader to invite God into individual life challenges so that He is able to turn your testing into victory.

The amazing color photos, paintings, and images attest to the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words." Pringle's artistic talent enables him to touch the heart through visual images that add powerfully to the inspiring challenge and encouragement of his writing.

The descriptive chapter titles help the reader use the table of contents as a tool for finding the exact reading to meet a specific need. The topics include ideas for facing choice, meeting temptations, and dealing with crisis head-on, as well as many other fundamental life concerns.

"But God" is an excellent choice for gift giving when a friend needs encouragement. It is also the ideal book for that non Christian friend facing trouble, and needing direction. The book can be used as a coffee table book effectively providing conversation starters for meaningful uplifting discussion and inter action. Each short chapter of "But God" can be beneficially read again and again. This is important addition to anyone's personal devotional library.

Bill Wiese
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599793399 $15.99

The Biblical Reality of Hell

Bill Wiese, New York Times best-selling author of "23 Minutes in Hell" has written a follow up book to his first book, simply titled "Hell." In this his second book he provides answers to the most frequently asked questions he has been asked on hell and the afterlife. He explains in more detail some of the things he personally experienced, as described earlier, in light of scriptural teaching and interpretation.

Wiese depicts hell as more than separation from God. He gives a vivid explanation the weakness he felt, the extreme problems he encountered with breathing, the disgusting odor of sulfur and brimstone, the anguish of being in presence of demons, and more details regarding his momentous experience.

The book includes uplifting accounts, stories, and testimonies of how individual lives have been radically changed for eternity while reading Bill's earlier book.

Wiese's work is thoroughly researched and well documented. His writing is Biblically sound, strong in appeal and convincing in presentation. The book is an incredible compilation of substance and data on the subject of hell. The collection of quotations by Biblical scholars, expository preachers, and devotional writers is imposing.

The appendix is comprehensive and includes a complete list of all the scriptural references on hell and destruction. This addition makes the book a valuable reference resource for Bible teachers, pastors, and laymen for lesson and sermon preparation or for further personal study and future reference.

Bill Wiese's book "Hell" should be on reading lists of seminary and Bible School students and ought to be required reading for every ordained minister. This would help insure that the message of heaven and hell are brought back into the pulpit ministry of our churches.

Richard R. Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

Love and Other Natural Disasters
Holly Shumas
Grand Central Publishing
5 Spot Paperback Original
9780446504777 $13.99

When one says their husband has had an affair, the first thing that comes to mind is "sex." However, that is not always the correct definition of affair. One can have an emotional affair like Jonathan, the husband of LOVE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS main character, Eve.

The premise of the book is whether an emotional affair is just as bad as a sexual one. Can Eve forgive Jonathan's betrayal or will she begin a new life without him? The book describes Eve's own emotional turmoil as she deals with Jonathan's betrayal of their marriage. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that Eve is pregnant with their second child. She kicks him out of his home and he takes refuge at the home of his mother. A mother who has never accepted Eve as part of her family. Moreover, Eve insists that Jonathan seek counseling if she is even to consider taking him back into their home. He contacts a counselor immediately, begs Eve's forgiveness sets in place a plan to regain Eve's trust.

The dilemma of whether an emotional affair is as serious as or even more serious than a sexual one makes for some interesting reading. Jonathan shared his deepest feelings in the affair, which makes Eve question everything about their marriage. Things he once shared but no longer shares with Eve were shared in this affair. Has their marriage always been a falsehood?

This book would make great summer reading, a book to read in front of a roaring fire or one that would make a lazy afternoon even more enjoyable. This is Holly Shumas's second novel and this reviewer would guess it will not be her last.

Little Pink House
The True Story of Defiance and Courage
Jeff Benedict
Grand Central Publishing
9780446508629 $26.99

The case of Kelo v. New London was a history making case, which reshaped the eminent domain laws and the way the laws are administered. Little Pink House, The True Story of Defiance and Courage by Jeff Benedict is a book that any homeowner should read and keep for reference material.

Susette Kelo, a former EMT who eventually put herself through nursing school and obtained her ultimate dream of becoming a nurse shines in the role she plays in this story. She has performed courageous acts and has been forced to give up much in her fight to retain the home of her dreams, a small home facing the ocean in New London, Connecticut.

Living in an unfulfilling marriage, Kelo decides to purchase a small home with a dock and a stretch of beach facing the ocean. She does so with borrowed money and without the knowledge of her husband. She spends every minute of available time outside of work fixing up the property, filling it with antiques and even paints it pink. It was her house and she didn't need to seek the opinion of others in the choices she made with her new home. She had raised five sons, given her life to the others and now sought to find some happiness for herself. However, her new found happiness is short lived with the forming of the NLDC (New London Development Corporation) who headed by Claire Gaudiani, president of Connecticut College attempts to buy all properties in the depressed Ft. Trumbull neighborhood of New London. The NLDC convinces Pfizer to build a research facility in the area once the properties are purchased and demolished. The only problem with this scenario is the fact that Susette Kelo and the majority of her neighbors don't want to move. Many are elderly owners who have spent their lives in the Ft. Trumbull area. With Susette at the helm, the decision is made to fight the purchase and demolishing of their properties. When Claire Gaudiani meets opposition from the property owners, she convinces the authorities to take the property by eminent domain in the name of improving the city's growth and finances.

This is not a book for the weak at heart. Susette Kelo stands out, as a pillar of strength that moves beyond what she believes is her own capabilities.

Benedict has managed to do an admirable job in compiling the facts from all parties involved. The content is a factual and moving account of this Supreme Court case and how it affects the lives of everyone involved. Congratulations Mr. Benedict on a well-written, moving accounting of a very difficult subject.

Annie Slessman

Theodore's Bookshelf

Last Rites
John Harvey
Bloody Brits Press
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3671
9781932859614 $14.95 866-300-7426

Charlie Resnick, the intuitive, low-key Detective Inspector, is embroiled in two separate cases which become intertwined. To begin with there is the shooting of a key drug distributor by a rival, and the chase to find the missing weapon and proof of the perpetrator's guilt. Then there is a murderer who receives permission to attend his mother's funeral and escapes from his keepers.

Both these situations occupy Resnick amid fears of an escalating drug war between various factions: find and recapture the escapee, and keep a lid on the volatile situation in the streets. Resnick smoothly pursues both goals while enjoying his love of music and trying to make sense of his own love life.

Tenth in the series, the novel is simply told and written with polish. The story moves fluidly and the suspense builds to an explosive climax. The characters are portrayed in a realistic manner, and while the two elements of the story are unrelated, the author meshes them believably. Recommended.

Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345495136 $27.00 800-726-0600

The latest Alex Delaware mystery makes no bones about a serial killer who buries victims in a pristine marsh with a hand chopped off. All clues point to one suspect and Milo Sturgis and Alex, accompanied by a neophyte LAPD detective, are led by the nose by planted clues until the final pages.

The story is kind of too pat, even for the typical novel in the series, and the customary psychological insights which contribute to the reader's knowledge are few and far between. On the other hand, the suspense is sustained and the reader is supplied with sufficient clues along the way to unravel the mystery. Like Alex and Milo, we are led to concentrate on the obvious without any roadmap to the denouement, which is merely 'plugged in' to finally draw the novel to an end.

These observations are not meant to downgrade the novel, which is well-written, logical and enjoyable. Alex Delaware (and Milo Sturgis) have stood the test of time, and other characters in the book are well-portrayed, and the book is recommended.

Flesh House
Stuart MacBride
St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312382636 $24.95 646-307-5560

In this bizarre and macabre novel, Stuart MacBride introduces us to a serial killer murdering and dismembering victims and distributing body parts into the food chain. The Aberdeen police are at their wit's ends in identifying and capturing the perpetrator.

They do apprehend a man they believe to be "the Flesher" (he was captured and convicted 20 years before, but recently released on a technicality]. While they have him in custody, the murders go on. Then members of the original investigation decades earlier begin to disappear and DS Logan McRae starts to think in new directions, despite the usual antics of DIs Insch and Steele.

Written with panache, the novel is fairly long and the reader is treated to all sorts of information about abattoirs and meat processing, perhaps more than one might wish for. But as murder mysteries go, this novel is right up there with the best of them, and it is highly recommended.

Trigger City
Sean Chercover
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061128691 $23.95 800-242-7736

Wrapping up this novel, Chicago-based PI Ray Dudgeon asks: "What is going on?" The answer is complicated. The same could be said for the plot of "Trigger City." It is a mystery with dark political overtones featuring what former President Eisenhower termed the military-industrial complex. Only the story is updated to today's excesses of overcharging for military equipment and supplies, as well as companies like Blackhawk (thinly disguised as Hawk River).

Initially, Ray is retained by a "grieving" father to discover background on his murdered daughter. There is no dispute as to who shot her. In pursuing the case, Ray discovers she recently resigned from Hawk River, and was scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee. Thus begins the quest for truth, rather than the "obvious" facts.

Mr. Chercover writes a fast-paced, hard-boiled tale, with lots of action. The characters are overwhelmed by forces implicit in today's society: The war on terrorism, government secrecy and the like. It raises the question of who are the bad guys and who are the good (and who is really running the show). Highly recommended.

Hardly Knew Her
Laura Lippman
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061584992 $23.95 800-242-7737

This collection of short stories and an original novella demonstrate Laura Lippman's versatility and ingenuity as an author. The topics vary, although murder seems to be a solution in many of the stories. The settings, however, are varied, from New Orleans to Ireland, while most, of course, are based in the author's home territory of Baltimore.

Of the 16 short stories, only two are devoted to the popular protagonist Tess Monaghan. These give Ms. Lippman an opportunity not only to wax nostalgic about Baltimore and its supposed attributes, but to include a biography of Tess, giving details about her "life" and personality. Other topics range from baseball to prostitution, infidelity to loyalty. The prostitute turned madam plays a central role in the novella, carrying on from a previous short story. It is a tale of murder with a strong twist.

Each story stands on its own and the characters each have their own distinctive voice. Most, especially the novella, explore deeply into human emotions and relationships, as well as the minds of the characters. The writing is fluid, the observations keen. Highly recommended.

The Tenth Case
Joseph Teller
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778326052 $7.99 416-445-5860

Jaywalker, that's what Harrison J. Walker calls himself. He is a defense attorney with an enviable record, winning over 90 percent of his cases when lesser lights are happy with a batting average of .500 or less. And he has a penchant for histrionics, rule-breaking and worse, so that he now faces a three-year suspension of his law license for various infractions. He begs permission to complete any outstanding cases and is granted leave to complete ten.

Having put to rest nine, Jaywalker is faced with his last before his imposed "retirement." And it is a whopper: Previously, six years earlier, he represented Samara Moss, wife of one of the richest men in the country, in a DWI for which she received a slap on the wrist. Now, she has been arrested for the murder of her husband. All the evidence is stacked up overwhelmingly against her.

The author, who practiced as a defense attorney for 35 years, demonstrates his extensive knowledge in the novel, both in observations about the legal profession and in trial practice, certainly in writing about his protagonist's client's trial. The final parts of the plot are somewhat contrived, but not wholly unexpected. Written with smoothness and a light touch, Jaywalker certainly is an interesting character. Apparently, he can be expected to make another appearance later in 2009 in "Bronx Justice," and we'll be looking forward to it. Recommended.

The Gate House

Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446533423 $27.99 800-759-0190

In an interview in The New York Times, Nelson DeMille said "Gold Coast" was never meant to have a sequel, nor did he want to write one. After reading "The Gate House," I'm inclined to agree with his initial inclination. "Most authors stay away from sequels," he said, because they put you into competition with yourself and open you up to a lot of scrutiny." Truer words . . .

The plot is pretty simple and straightforward: Attorney John Sutter returns from London after a hiatus of ten years (following his ex-wife's murder of her Mafioso lover and subsequent divorce and notoriety) to attend a funeral and complete the decedent's estate settlement. While there he meets his ex-wife and they take up where they left off. Meanwhile the murdered Mafioso's son has moved into the adjoining estate and gives an indication of wanting revenge for the murder of his father.

A potboiler of a story, more like a soap opera. The only saving grace: the amusing asides uttered by John throughout, commenting on various other personages. The conclusion is relatively easy to figure out. "I'm glad I did it," DeMille stated, "but I was very sorry while I was writing it."

Many may find it enjoyable [after all, soap operas have large audiences], and apparently many have, placing it, and keeping it, on the bestseller lists.

Rough Weather
Robert B. Parker
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155192 $26.95 800-847-5515

Spenser (and Hawk and Susan and Healey and Epstein) are back and up to speed in this latest caper filled with all the anticipated excellent dialogue and witticisms associated with a novel written by Robert B. Parker. It is, of course, no less than we would expect from a novel in this outstanding series.

Spenser is hired as sort of a bodyguard to the mother of the bride at a fashionable society wedding on an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts. Uninvited comes the Gray Man, by helicopter, with six armed henchman. Spenser's old nemesis promptly kills the island's security detail, shoots the minister and bridegroom in the head and kidnaps the bride. When no ransom note arrives, Spenser begins to wonder. But more importantly, he feels responsible for finding the kidnapped bride. And he won't stop, as usual, until he successfully solves the mystery.

Needless to say, the novel is up to the high standards of past entries in the series, and the characters and verbal interchanges are as amusing as ever. Highly recommended.

Martha Grimes
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515,
9780451225894 $15.00

Andi Oliver, in a previous novel, underwent various traumatic experiences, and now suffers from amnesia. She remembers nothing of her previous 19 or 20 years, except for the past two years. She does remember shooting a man and running away, walking across three states, with short stopovers for waitress jobs to earn a few dollars, then continuing on her journey.

Walking down a dirt road near Kingdom, ND, she sees a mistreated donkey by a fence. She liberates it and treats various sores, afterwards taking it into town. Andi befriends a local widower who offers her a part-time job and room and board. Later, with time on her hands, she takes on another part-time job at a hog "factory farm," as well as at a nearby slaughterhouse, where she witnesses untold acts of cruelty toward the animals. These observations allow the author to feature her own beliefs in animal rights and vegetarianism.

Another element of the plot is the two men trailing Andi (who knows what her real name is? She adopted her current moniker from the initials "A O" on her backpack) across three states, one of whom seeks information from her past, which she can't remember. As in the previous novel that introduced Andi, "Dakota" is tender and appealing, as well as informative. One can assume we will be seeing Andi again, a good thing to be sure.

The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780316166294 $26.99 800-759-0190

What could be better than the "Lincoln Lawyer" and Harry Bosch in the same novel? That's what happens in "The Brass Verdict" when their paths cross in more ways than one. Mickey Haller, however, doesn't operate out of the back of one of his Lincoln Town Cars this time. But he is back, in a high profile murder case after two years away getting over an addiction to pain killers.

Just as he was about to return to the practice of law, Mickey Haller's former colleague, Jerry Vincent, is murdered, and the Lincoln Lawyer inherits all his cases, including the high profile defense of a rich movie mogul accused of shooting his wife and her lover. Harry Bosch is seeking Vincent's murderer and he and Haller sort of work together in solving the crime. Meanwhile, we are greatly entertained with an interesting trial and a surprising verdict.

The intricate plot includes the fact that Haller and Bosch are half brothers, so we may expect to see them teamed up again (and then again, maybe not). More importantly, the premise of the book is that everyone lies (and expects to be lied to), whether juror or lawyer or judge. These two favorite Connelly protagonists are matched evenly (in fact, they may be a match made in heaven). Each provides the author with a uniqueness and the ability to write so many unexpected twists, that the reader can't stop turning the pages. Highly recommended.

A Most Wanted Man
John le Carre
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 800-223-2336,
9781416594888 $28.00

Having successfully put the Cold War to rest, John le Carre has now turned his attention to the War on Terror. In many ways it is an interesting book; in others it is unsatisfactory. Well-written as one would expect of this author, it really skirts the issue of Muslim militancy and terrorist acts. It is more symbolic than a penetrating insight into the subject, as has been previously demonstrated in his espionage fiction.

The characters are wooden puppets, symbols in a preconceived plot. There is a has-been banker, an idealistic young female lawyer, a Muslim illegal from Chechnya who escaped prison and torture in Russia and Turkey by way of Sweden and Denmark, and all kinds of representatives of German, British and American intelligence services: all playing a role in a drama that is only barely explained.

The story takes place in Hamburg, the city from which (a) the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers was plotted and (b) at least one mastermind left for New York City. The setting is selected to demonstrate that steps must be taken to counteract acts of terrorism. But, however harsh these steps may or not be and whether or not they are necessary, the novel addresses the problem in a perfunctory manner. Not up to the usual le Carre standards, but a fairly good read nevertheless.

Hell Bent
William G. Tapply
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312358303 $24.95 646-307-5560

Brady Coyne, Boston family lawyer, takes on a new client when his old flame, Alexandria ["Alex"] Shaw, asks him to represent her brother, Gus, in a divorce suit. Gus, an outstanding photojournalist, has recently returned from Iraq, where he lost his right hand, and is suffering from PTSD. Then within days, Gus is found dead of a head wound, an apparent suicide.

Alex doesn't believe that Gus killed himself, and prevails upon Brady to undertake an investigation to determine the truth. He travels all around Boston and its environs, meeting with various people in an effort to learn more about Gus and what he saw in Iraq, where he supposedly took many revealing pictures. Were they connected to his death?

Tapply writes about Boston with a fervor equal to that of any Patriots fan. He addresses the losses of loved ones in the Iraq conflict with deep insights, and keenly addresses the frustrations and bitterness of veterans. The story is told with a hard-boiled attitude, when necessary, and is softened by the ups and downs of Brady's love life. A tale well-told and very much worth reading, and recommended.

The Beautiful Sound of Silence
Paul Charles
Brandon Books/Dufour Editions
P. O. Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19415-0007
9780863223778 $34.95 610-458-5005,

The ninth DI Christy Kennedy mystery begins with a huge bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day. Amid the tons of wood fueling the fire is the body of retired police superintendent (and Kennedy ex-colleague) David Peters. How did it get there - - - and why?

That is the task Kennedy and his team face. There is no lack of suspects as they go about their investigations. They review all Peters' cases and there are plenty of suspects, especially when they discover his lack of restraint in making arrests, ignoring procedures and suspects' rights. Moreover, they soon discover that Peters was a dirty cop, taking rewards on the side. He also lived a double life, married to one woman for decades, while living with his mistress and having flings besides.

The story moves forward with a certain degree of quiet elegance, reflecting the character of DI Kennedy. He goes about his investigation quietly and smoothly, intuitively gathering facts leading to a solution. At the same time, the author delves into the characters with deep insights.


Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

It's Worth the Struggle: Inspiration for Contemporary Writers
Edited by Sharon Stanford, Cathryn Williams & Barbara Pattee
Aquarius Press
PO Box 23096, Detroit, MI 48223
9780981920801 $14.00

This inspiring book addresses most every writer's fear of failure and success. Its essays are penned by women writers who share their feelings, trials and tribulations with us.

One writer discusses writing a novel and how in the end it was not the finished product that gave her so much pleasure as the process of creating it. Other writers discuss how their writing is tied to their religious beliefs. While that's not something I find interesting, there are many I'm sure who will like hearing the words of "a writer of faith."

I enjoyed the essay "Writing through the Pain," by Debraha Watson. Personal experience is what many writers draw upon in their writing, no matter how painful. It takes bravery to expose that suffering to the world and can help free one from the past.

It's Worth the Struggle helps give courage, inspiration and insight to writers in all stages of their journey. It gives us the gentle nudge we all need at some point in our careers. For more information go to

Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan
Suze Orman
Spiegel & Grau
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385530934 $9.99

I was looking for some good advice on how to navigate these troubled times, when I stumbled across this book. Let's face it, with the stock market's steady downward trend and all the cries of gloom and doom given out by the media, most of us are ready to go hide our heads in the sand.
Suze Orman is a well-known expert financial adviser who often appears on Oprah and I figured if anyone could point me in the right direction she could.

What does one do to protect their finances? This book lays out some good advice on the actions one should take to help secure their future. Most of it is common sense, a term I find amusing because it's anything but common and sadly lacking in many people's lives.

Ms. Orman tells you what to do about credit card debt, college loans, approaching retirement, and more. Much of the book targets younger people with families, but I did find information in the book that was helpful to me and my life.

This is a book that is worth reading and should probably be read by most of the adult population of this country. Check out her website at:

The House of Pendragon Book I: The Firebrand
Debra A. Kemp
Amber Quill Press, LLC
PO Box 265, Indian Hills, CO 80454
9781592798834 $17.00

This is a tale with a refreshing twist from the usual Arthurian fare. It begins after the Battle of Camlann and Arthur's death. His warrior daughter, Helin or Lin as she's called in the story, has become the new Pendragon. But, left with no army and little support Lin feels forced into hiding. The years pass and now she, along with her husband and children, returns to an abandoned Camelot.

There Lin relates the story of her early years to her oldest child, Bear. She tells him about her life as a slave on the Isle of Orkney. How her captors branded and abused her in every possible way, and how Modred, the son of Morgause singled her out. Lin's pride and strength and the love of
her brother Dafydd were all that kept her going. Her tale is one of great courage, horrible brutality and life lived on the edge of hopelessness.

Well written and entertaining, The Firebrand gifts us with an eye-opening glimpse into Britain's past. The Recruit is the second book in the series. For more information you can go to the author's website at:

Victoria Kennedy

Wheldon's Bookshelf

Over the Wide and Trackless Sea: Inspiring Lives of Pioneer Women
Megan Hutching
HarperCollins (NZ)
31 View Road, Glenfield, Auckland 0627, New Zealand
9781869507060 $39.99

Summary: An introduction into the fascinating lives of women who journeyed to New Zealand in the 1800's.

This book offers a valuable insight into the lives of twelve pioneer women who suffered, endured and triumphed in New Zealand.

Their journey by boat from Europe to New Zealand was a long and sometimes perilous one. The European explorers had previously been certain that their destination existed, mainly because they abhorred a vacuum, and couldn't believe there could be such a vast expanse of ocean without the existence of a great land. Some also believed that without a land mass south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the world would be tipped upside down, while others were fearful they would burn up whilst crossing the equator, a myth finally dispelled by the Portuguese voyaging around Africa.

Dutchmen Willem Jansvoon discovered Australia and Able Tasman discovered New Zealand, although Tasman thought New Zealand was a promontory of Terra Australis and, as a consequence, interest in New Zealand languished for more than a century because it was considered part of the rather inhospitable Australia.

Captain James Cook put that to right, sailing his ship The Endeavour around New Zealand, discovering an extraordinarily beautiful land that has been termed God's Own. It became a colony of the British Empire, and thousands came to seek their fortune, or to escape the harshness of their home countries.

Much has been written of the immigration to New Zealand, however the stories of women are still not prominent in published literature. Over the Wide and Trackless Sea, written by acclaimed historian Megan Hutching, provides us with a valuable insight into the lives of twelve of these pioneer women.

Their stories are wonderfully varied, including the privileged of Wellington, the landed gentry of Canterbury, gum diggers and whalers. They are mostly stories of hardship and hard work, of armed conflict and the loss of children. But they are also the stories of wonderful accomplishments and much love and friendship.

Woven together they make compelling reading and provide a multi-layered perspective of the colonial history of New Zealand.

Tohunga Whakairo: Paki Harrison. The Story of a Master Carver
Ranginui Walker
Penguin Group (NZ)
Private Bag 102 902, North Shore Mail Centre, Auckland 0745, New Zealand
9780143010067 NZ$40.00

Star rating: 4.5
Buy: Yes
Borrow: Yes

Summary: An invaluable insight into the ancestry, life, art and politics of one of New Zealand's greatest master carvers.

It was an inspired choice that Ranginui Walker was commissioned to write this book. He successfully places the extraordinary character of master carver Paki Harrison into an historical, cultural, academic and political context, whilst never letting us forget that this almost mythical genius is very much a man with his personal conflicts, successes and devotion.

Kaupapa Maori is a term used to describe a plan of action, expressing the aspirations and particular Maori values and principles. Throughout history it has meant the values and plans of action decided by Maori, or the values and action plans which express a set of deeper cultural values and worldview. Today Kaupapa Maori is often used as a strategy, or a plan of action to allow Maori to find a voice, particularly within academic institutions. It is also used in relation to transformation and cultural liberation.

For Paki Harrison, a man well versed in tradition, and privileged in his receiving of the knowledge of history, carving and bushcraft, Kaupapa Maori is central to his work and existence. Whenever approached to create, he would discuss and research the history of the people of the land, their tribal affiliations, and the purpose of the work within the social and political environment.

His questions were at their most searching when invited to Te Awamutu College to work on Te Otawhao. Saddened and challenged by the sight of Maori young people on the streets, those who had been failed by their elders and the education system, he recruited fourteen young men and seventeen young women with no educational qualifications for on the job training for the marae project.

Harrison so believed in this project that he accepted the work without a salary, just the provision of a basic house, food and petrol. It is a story of resourcefulness, working on a dump site to construct a magnificent structure with extraordinary carving and art that inspired a community and provided skills for alienated school dropouts.

This book may be about one brilliant man, but through his life, art and battles, Walker offers an invaluable insight into the treasures of New Zealand and a way of seeing the world that will inspire and challenge readers.

Searching For A Better God
Wade Bradshaw
Authentic Publishing
978934068007 NZ $14.99

Star rating: 3.5
Buy: Yes
Borrow: Yes

Summary: Wade Bradshaw addresses the challenges to an orthodox interpretation of God by a society that is increasingly redefining the role and morality of God.

This book outlines the charge against Christianity in modern Western society: that God, if he exists, is not a good God, and his morality is inferior to that of a human.

This challenge is further compounded by the modern ambiguity of the term God. When surveys are conducted in the United States, the majority believe in some Supreme Being, but this may not resemble the traditional God of the Bible. An increasingly common definition is that God is all good, a goodness that is defined by modern society's relativist and inclusive morality.

Socrates famously challenged Euthyphro by asking if an act was pious because the gods love it, or do they love it because it was pious? Traditional Biblical Christianity argues that God only loves an act if it is good, and that the good act is to be loved because its goodness is derived from Himself. God only loves what is good, and only does what is good, as defined by himself because he is the origin and definition of good. In modern society, however, many are arguing that this logic is flawed because the Creator as defined by the Bible is not good. It is further claimed that the God of the Bible, the Father of humanity, has a remarkable number of similarities to the classic symptoms of an abusive spouse. This charge is backed up by the various crimes of abuse committed by leaders of the church over the previous decades.

The argument concludes that if the Bible represents a God who is not good, then God needs to be redefined. The result is that the God of the Bible is discarded in favour of a more humane, increasingly inclusive, accepting and non-judgemental god.

Wade Bradshaw takes these statements in his stride. He argues that the church should not succumb to such arguments. Instead, it needs to make what he terms the Old Story more comprehensible and relevant to the modern world. In doing so, the God of the Bible is not weakened or changed, but presented in such a way that the modern mind can connect and understand Him.

Bradshaw repudiates many of the charges laid against God and puts forward a number of solutions. He does tend to talk around a subject rather than clearly outlining the issues and potential solutions. Nonetheless, he puts forth many excellent arguments to support God's goodness in response to the accusations of God's immorality, anger, distance and bullying.

Searching For A Better God will leave you with an understanding of the moral challenges facing the contemporary church, and provide you with a comforting sense that God is in fact good, and that there are excellent arguments to support this claim.

Church As A Safe Place. A Handbook Confronting, Resolving And Minimizing Abuse In The Church
Peter R. Holmes and Susan B. Williams
9781860246036 NZ $16.99

Star rating: 4
Buy: Yes
Borrow: Yes

Summary: An indepth, thought-provoking description of how abuse occurs in a church environment, followed by easy to implement suggestions on how to resolve and minimise this abuse.

Peter Holmes (MA, PhD) and Susan Williams (MPhil, PhD) draw on their research, their experiences as co-founders of Christ Church Deal (UK), and their work in Rwanda, to present a handbook that deals with this difficult subject in a personal and positive way.

New Zealander Kevin Biggar decided to push himself to his boundaries by rowing the Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race. In his book, The Oarsome Adventures of a Fatboy Rower, he describes how eighteen months before the race, he had no experience in rowing or navigation, and he didn't have a boat or the second member of his crew. He had to learn, and learn fast, and not only how to get the boat built, raise sponsorship and row well for three months non-stop, but what to do when things went wrong. He had to learn everything there was to know about his boat, the systems on board, the ocean, the weather and a million other things. It was only by preparing for the very worst that he felt confident. It is a testament to his thorough preparation that Kevin and Jamie, his rowing partner, won the race by battling through vast storms and surviving being capsized and losing their navigation equipment.

Maintaining a successful Western church in the 21st century is an even greater challenge given the issues of the decline of church attendance and the prevalence of scandals involving finances and abuse by church leaders. It doesn't mean, of course, that it is any way insurmountable. In the same way that even a novice rower can survive the vast waves of the Atlantic, the church will, undoubtedly survive.

The awareness of potential problems is central to the book. It outlines how all members of a church, given the fallen nature of humanity, and the scars inflicted by modern society, have the potential to create an abusive environment. Their research reveals many of the most common types of abuse and their causes. Holmes and Williams argue that what is required is an awareness of the potential disasters, and an insistence that all members of a church community are treated as valued individuals whose unique gifts and life-stories are sensitively acknowledged as they contribute within a church community.

Out of this framework, they then propose in detail how their Tomorrow's Church would resolve the challenges of abuse and describe the measures that could minimise the likelihood of its occurrence. These largely resolve around collective processes and an insistence on prioritising the person ahead of a given church or doctrine.

The book's lengthy introduction explains that some of their potential solutions may not be in agreement with those holding different perspectives on the Christian faith and the authority of the Bible. However, they offer such a wide variety of opportunities to strengthen the role of all church members and minimise potential abuse, that their principles can be adapted to a Church regardless of its particular theological persuasion.

Wheldon Curzon-Hobson

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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